This advertisement (found at the Library of Congress site) may look boring but I have been staring at it for an hour and now you can do the same. It is in fact a cornucopia of information about travel in 1857. First consider:
If you want to travel by rail from Manhattan to St. Louis you will find not one or two but eleven possibilities. Chose the rail company you want to start with, which of four stations you prefer, and whether you want to set out at 6 a.m., 6 p.m., or sometime in between.
Of course you will be changing cars. In fact, you will have to get out of one train and onto another train in Buffalo, Cleveland and Cincinnati. Or maybe, if you prefer, Philadelphia, Pittsburg, Columbus and Cincinnati. Or Philadelphia, Pittsburg, Parkersburg, Marietta and Cincinnati. With all your luggage, in your heavy traveling costume.
But then you will be in Cincinnati, where you can board the Ohio and Mississippi Rail Road (as they spell it) which will take you to St. Louis — and you won’t have to change trains again. Though of course the train will be stopping in Cairo, Vincennes, Evansville, Louisville and Madison before you get to St. Louis. To make up for that, you will enjoy especially WIDE CARS and even BROAD GAUGE SALOON CARS.
You want to know what a saloon car was? Good question, but no obvious answers. I do know that there were no dining cars at this point, nor were there berths or friendly porters to make up the berth into a comfortable bed.
If St. Louis is not your destination, your friendly ticket agent can book for you a Missouri River Packet Steamer, a seat on the Pacific Rail Road (which as far as I can tell, was not operational in 1857) or a Mississippi River Steamboat that will take you to Memphis, Vicksburg, Natchez or New Orleans.
There are two questions on your mind, two crucial questions: how long will all this take, and how much will it cost?
No answers on this advertisement.