George Francis Train was born in Boston, Massachusetts in 1829, son of Oliver Train and his wife Maria, née Pickering. Oliver Train was a wealthy shipper who had founded a line of packet ships. When George was four, he and his older sister, Adeline, were orphaned in the yellow fever epidemic of 1833 in New Orleans, which killed their parents and three sisters when the family was visiting the southern port.
The children were raised by their strict Methodist maternal grandparents, the Pickerings, in Boston. They hoped George would become a minister. He did not go into the ministry as he sought more adventure in his life. He did remain a life-long total abstainer from alcohol and tobacco. At the age of 16, he went to work for his father's cousin, Enoch Train, who ran packets to Liverpool, England.
In 1843, his sister, Adeline, married Seth Dunbar Whitney, a wealthy merchant who, at 39, ws twenty years older than she. They lived in Milton, Massachusetts,where they raised their family.She wrote mainly for young girls and supported conservative values. She promoted the message of the era that a woman's happiest place is in the home, the source of all goodness. She opposed women's suffrage, and took no part in public life (in accordance with the traditional approach for women expressed in her books.)
George Francis Train was 32 years old when the Civil War began.
On October 5, 1851, at the age of 22, he married Wilhelmina "Willie" Wilkinson Davis, the daughter of G.T.M. Davis, a railroad executive.
He formed his own company and in 1853 headed with his wife to the gold rush town of Melbourne, Australia, where he was shipping agent, merchant, and insurance man and became involved in building the port facilities. He also was a correspondent of the Boston Post. He described his travels back to the United States via Asia and the Middle East in articles for the New York Herald.
Train's wife returned to Boston in 1854 and gave birth to a daughter. He decided to rejoin her and left Melbourne in early November next year, travelling by way of the Orient and the Middle East. His accounts of the trip were sent to the New York Herald, were published in 1857 with his Australian letters as An American Merchant in Europe, Asia, and Australia … and were so well received that Freeman Hunt of the Merchants' Magazine sent him to Europe to report on economic and social conditions.
In 1860 he went to England to found horse tramway companies in Birkenhead and London, where he soon met opposition. Although his trams were popular with passengers, his designs had rails that stood above the road surface and obstructed other traffic. In 1861 Train was arrested and tried for "breaking and injuring" a London street.
During the American Civil War, he gave numerous speeches in England in favor of the Union and denounced the Confederacy.
Train was involved in the formation of the Union Pacific Railroad (UP) in 1864 during the Civil War. The federal government chartered the railroad for construction of the portion of the Transcontinental Railroad west of the Missouri River. Train was involved in setting up the shadow finance company for the project, the Crédit Mobilier of America, whose principal officers were the same as those of UP.
|Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton|
|Phileas Fogg, Illustration for Jules Verne's Novel|
Train made a fortune from real estate when the transcontinental railway opened up settlement and development of huge swathes of western America, including large amounts of land in Council Bluffs, Iowa, and Omaha, Nebraska. He was responsible for building the Cozzens Hotel. The 120-room hotel cost $60,000 to build. The hotel was widely regarded as the finest hotel between Chicago, Illinois and San Francisco, California when it was constructed.
|Cozzens House Hotel, Omaha, Nebraska|
|Credit Mobilier Scandal: "Injured Innocents" cartoon in Harpers Weekly|
That year he was jailed on obscenity charges while defending Victoria Woodhull for her newspaper's reporting the alleged affair of Henry Ward Beecher and Elizabeth Tilton, each of whom were married to other people. The district attorney ordered him tried for insanity, but several "experts" found him a monomaniac but not insane, and the jury declared him sane. After that, he assigned his assets to his wife, and lived apparently apart from her in New York.
|Cartoon depicting Victoria Woodhull|
as propnent of "Free Love"
He was the primary financier of the newspaper, The Revolution, which was dedicated to women's rights, and published by Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton.
|George Francis Train, later in life|
Train was accompanied on many of his travels by George Pickering Bemis, his cousin and private secretary. Bemis later was elected as mayor of Omaha, Nebraska.
|George Pickering Bemis|
|George Train with children |
in Central Park
|George Francis Train Autograph, 1896|
|Mills House No. 1 , New York City|
|Gravesite of George Francis Train|