The Westbound Train

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The Westbound Train is a short story by Willa Cather. It was first published in Courier in September 1899.[1]

Plot summary[edit]

Mrs Johnston stops at Cheyenne, Wyoming train station to collect a ticket for her next train to San Francisco. She has come all the way from New York City to join her husband, a railroad official. However, the Station Agent claims he has already given her ticket to a Mrs Johnston, with confirmation by telegram from Mr Johnston, and that she might write her a note. The other woman's reply says that her name is actually Johnson (without a 't') and that Mr Johnston is coming to pick her up at Cheyenne so they can travel to San Francisco together. Infuriated, Sybil decides to take a train back to New York City; she thinks her husband has been cheating on her, and that this is the ultimate insult. However, she is met by her husband and he explains Sally is a friend whom she had met at a wedding sometime later. The couple make up and meet the other woman.


  • Reginald Johnston, 'a railroad official'.
  • Sybil Johnston, Reginald's wife. Her maiden name is Ingrahame.
  • Station Agent
  • Messenger Boy
  • Mrs Sally Johnson. Her maiden name is Toppinger. Her husband died on a boat excursion. She is blond and blue-eyed; Syvil deems her 'common'.
  • Margaret Villers
  • Alberta Frick
  • Cicely Fanshawe
  • Marchesi

References to other works[edit]

  • Sybil fancies Sally and her husband to gossip about her as characters in novels by Honoré de Balzac do.

References to actual history[edit]

  • Sybil dismisses Sally's letter as Volapük, a trendy language at the time.


  1. ^ Willa Cather's Collected Short Fiction, University of Nebraska Press; Rev Ed edition, 1 November 1970, page 393

External links[edit]