Chapel Car 5 Messenger of Peace masthead

Messenger of Peace home
Short history of the car
Living in the chapel car
Car 5 travels
Saving car 5
Moving to Snoqualmie
Funding the project
References and more

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A short history of the Messenger of Peace

The American Baptist Church’s fifth chapel car was dedicated May 21, 1898 in Rochester, New York.   It was an undertaking of the American Baptist Publication Society. Described as the brightest, biggest and lightest of the cars, the Messenger of Peace was destined for a long life of service to the church.  Constructed by Barney and Smith in their Dayton, Ohio works, the car was furnished with an oak interior and was austere when compared to other cars of the day, although this conservative appearance was not untypical for the Baptists.

The Messenger of Peace was nicknamed “The Ladies Car” because it was funded with donations from 75 Baptist women who each contributed $100 towards The Barney and Smith Car Company’s $7,500 purchase price. That was a signicant sum of money in 19th Century America, but railroads were considered cutting edge technology in much the same way aviation is today. 

Barney and Smith Car Company magazine ad

Barney and Smith ad, circa 1908. Northwest Railway Museum collection.

In the difficult economic times following the panic of 1893, rail car orders were rare.  While under construction in early 1898, the Messenger of Peace was one of just four passenger cars on the order books.  Notwithstanding, Mr. Barney was a lay Baptist minister and was sympathetic to the cause.  So this and other chapel cars were built at a substantial discount from regular coach prices.

The car had a colorful and varied service life carrying the church’s word to at least 11 states including West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Colorado, Missouri, Kansas, Iowa, Idaho, Montana, California, Oregon, and Washington. 

Moody Bible Institute connection

In November 1899 Moody Bible Institute founder Reverend Dwight L. Moody was in Kansas City conducting a campaign at the Bales Baptist Church. During the engagement, he was already exhausted from the pressures of his work and the recent loss of a grandchild, but continued to work until he was so exhausted he could no longer work.

Preacher Neil was assigned to the Messenger of Peace and was participating in the campaign too. When Moody took ill, Neil offered to continue the Reverend Moody's preaching. Meanwhile, D.L. Moody began his trip home to Northfield, Massachusetts. On the first part of the journey, Moody traveled in the Messenger of Peace from Kansas to St. Louis. Unfortunately, the Reverend Moody did not recover and his trip on the Messenger of Peace was his last railroad journey.

1904 World's Fair exhibit

Car 5 was a feature exhibit at the Louisianna Purchase World Exposition in St Louis from April 30 - December 1, 1904. It was included in the Palace of Transportation, a sprawling 15 acre structure where it was exhibited along with locomotives and other marvels of railroad technology. It received first prize for a railroad car exhibit, but much to the church's disappointment this was in a tie with a beer company's car!

The chapel car was put to practical use during the fair too. On May 26, 1904, a young couple was married on the Messenger of Peace. To maintain the railroad theme, they reportedly held their reception in a nearby Pullman parlor car.

While on exhibit, it got the attention of the Catholic Church Extension Society when Father Francis Kelly toured the car.  As a result of that exhibition, the Catholics soon had three chapel cars to carry their word to communities across the country too.

Messenger of Peace in Washington circa 1922, image courtesy of the American Baptist Historical Society, Atlanta, GA

A calling for the Railroad YMCA

In 1910 and 1911 the car was assigned to the service of the railroad YMCA.  It traveled the country (primarily in Virginia) espousing the virtues of the Christian lifestyle and advocating establishment of Railroad Ys at railroad divisional points.

A Railroad Y was a place where a railroad worker could get an inexpensive room, a good meal and a hot shower, but also address their educational, spiritual and recreational needs. Alternatives often came with significant temptations.

While in the service of the YMCA, Messenger of Peace traveled east to participate in The World of Boston, a Protestant missionary exposition that ran from April 24 through May 20, 1911. That fair highlighted great missionary movements both in the United States and abroad.

A calling for Washington

The Messenger of Peace was notable for its many years of service in Washington State.  While other chapel cars also played an important role in the settlement and development of the region, no other car could boast the length and breadth of service. In King County alone, the car visited dozens of communities.

Some specific local significance was documented in 1917, a contentious year for America.  The US had entered WW I and with it came seizures of alien (German) property.  The Messenger of Peace was visiting Issaquah in January 1917 during a particularly difficult time for that community.  Count Von Albensleben was president of the Superior Coal Mine and was planning to build a chemical plant that was expected to bring jobs and prosperity to the region.  Unfortunately the Seattle Bank that was backing the mortgage had failed and then the federal alien property custodian had arrived on the scene to seize any remaining German investment.  So in the midst of coal mine layoffs and a failed plan to build a chemical plant, the Messenger of Peace revived the Baptist Church.  The car also helped revive the local Methodist Church during this time.

When the chapel car finished its work in Issaquah, it made a short visit to North Bend.  Arriving March 4, 1917 during “fearfully bad weather,” the Messenger of Peace with Reverend T. Gale and wife revived the Baptist church there. That church continues today but is now known as the North Bend Community Church.

The Messenger of Peace continued to serve the church until 1948 and was the last of the American Baptist chapel cars to be retired.  It had a significant impact on the lives of people throughout the Northwest and visited towns and villages in nearly every county in Washington.

Messenger of Peace letterhead


Messenger of Peace preservation, rehabiliation and interpretation are programs of the Northwest Railway Museum
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