George Francis Train (1829-1904) was an author, orator, businessman, and larger-than-life financial promoter. Train’s connection to Nebraska resulted from his interest in the building of the transcontinental railroad through the state. Train served as an assistant to Thomas Durant, who used him to help in the financing of railroad construction, and he was much in evidence while it was being built, doing publicity for a buffalo hunt by Union Pacific officials and engaging in countless other activities. He had the Cozzens Hotel built in Omaha, reportedly because he thought that the manager of the Herndon House hotel had insulted him. Train claimed to own five thousand lots in Omaha, one thousand in Council Bluffs, and seven thousand in Columbus, and promised to make each town the leading city of the Midwest.
Born in Boston in 1829, he moved with his family to New Orleans shortly thereafter. When Train was four, his immediate family died of yellow fever, and he was returned to his grandmother in New England. In early manhood he became a successful merchant and shipping magnate and opened his own business in Australia. He helped finance clipper ships to California in 1849 and introduced street railways into London and other European capitals.
Train had political as well as economic ambitions. In 1872 he ran as an independent candidate for president against Republican Ulysses S. Grant and Democrat Horace Greeley, making numerous campaign speeches throughout the country.
He was also a world traveler. His first trip around the globe took two years. His second in 1870 took eighty days, serving as what many believe was the inspiration for Jules Verne’s Around the World in Eighty Days. In 1890 he traveled around the world in sixty-seven days (to beat Nellie Bly’s 1889-90 record time of seventy-two days); and in 1892 he circled the globe in just sixty days.
During his last years, George Francis Train lived almost in seclusion at the Mills Hotel in York City. In 1902 his autobiography, My Life in Many States and in Foreign Lands, was published. He died in 1904.