A Review of Progress on the Pennsylvania

This 1953 booklet is mainly about freight for shippers, but it includes a photos of passenger trains and stations. The Pennsylvania (no need to add the word “railroad” in those days) was still riding high after the war, so it is somewhat disconcerting to realize that the beautiful New York Penn Station featured on page 17 would be demolished in a decade and the railroad itself only had 17 years to live (though it might have survived if the merger with the New York Central had not put it in the hands of incompetent managers).


Click image to download a 16.9-MB PDF of this 24-page booklet.

A hint at one of the things wrong with many railroads in the 1950s is given in the proud statement on page 4 that “We now have in service 316 passenger and freight road diesel-electric locomotives, in addition to 1,032 diesel switching locomotives.” Why did it take more than three switching locomotives to serve each road locomotive? The answer is that too much of the railroad’s work dealt with moving a few carloads at a time–work that was easily captured by truckers.

The Completely New Jeffersonian

Previously featured here, the all-coach Jeffersonian was the St. Louis version of the New York-Chicago Trail Blazer. The latter train was inaugurated in 1939 and was successful enough for the Pennsylvania to begin operating the Jeffersonian in 1941. After the war, the railroad reequipped both trains, and this booklet is similar to the one issued for the post-war Trail Blazer.

Click image to download a 51.2-MB PDF of this 16-page booklet. Click here to download a 15.2-MB version that has a slightly lower resolution.

This booklet devotes several pages to the Jeffersonian‘s recreation car, which featured a movie theater, game room, children’s playroom, and a buffet-lounge. This apparently wasn’t successful in attracting passengers to the train, which was discontinued in 1956. Continue reading

100 Years of Transportation Progress

This booklet is full of self-congratulations, and at the time it probably seemed well-deserved. The Pennsylvania Railroad was at one time not only the largest company in the world, it had a bigger budget and employed more people than the United States government. By 1946, it was still the largest railroad in the country and held the record for the longest string of annual dividend payments (a record it holds to this day).

Click image to download a 5.8-MB PDF of this 16-page booklet.

According to this booklet, in the company’s first hundred years, it paid more than $1.2 billion in dividends, $1 billion in interest to bondholders, and $10 billion in wages to employees. More interesting to the traveling public, in 1946 it operated 1,340 trains a day. Many of these must have been commuter trains as the 48-page, 1946 timetable doesn’t have room to show that many trains.

The Havana Special

As indicated on the letterhead, the Havana Special was a joint Pennsylvania/RF&P/Atlantic Coast Line/Florida East Coast train that went from New York to Key West, where it met a steamship that took a six-hour journey to Havana. The Labor Day Hurricane of 1935 wiped out Florida East Coast’s tracks to Key West, and the railroad did not rebuild them, so after that date the train terminated and met a steamship (and later a plane) in Miami. Despite the slightly truncated route, the train was even more popular in 1936 than 1935 and often ran with extra sections.

Click image to download a 213-KB PDF of this letterhead. Click here to download a 139-KB PDF of a matching envelope. Scans of this letterhead and envelope were contributed to Streamliner Memories by a reader.

Since Key West is mentioned on the above letterhead, it must be from 1935 or before. Below is an envelope from the collection of Florida International University with a picture of the train at dockside next to the steamship in Key West. The postmark dates this to 1933 and the penny stamps commemorate Chicago’s 1933 Century of Progress fair. Continue reading

New York Central June, 1951 Timetable

By 1951, New York Central had its post-war fleet of trains going at full strength, and due to declining ridership it probably did not place many orders for new passenger cars other than the ultra-lightweights of 1956. Instead of new trains, the front-cover ad (again, the cover shown below is the back cover) focuses on destinations such as New England, Niagara Falls, and the Adirondacks.

Click image to download a 38.7-MB PDF of this 52-page timetable.

Thanks to post-war updates, some of the coast-to-coast sleeping car services have improved time since the 1947 timetable. In 1951, the Lakeshore Limited sent a car to San Francisco every day, but it would go on the Overland Limited every other day and the California Zephyr every other day. The Pennsylvania sent a car on these trains on the days the New York Central did not, so coast-to-coast passengers had their choice of routes even if they couldn’t take each route every day.

NYC New Fall Schedules, 1948

This 4-page brochure announces new schedules for the new trains advertised in yesterday’s timetable. The back page includes condensed schedules for 21 trains between New York/Boston and Chicago, St. Louis, Cleveland, and other major cities.

Click image to download a 2.9-MB PDF of this brochure.

Nearly a whole page of this brochure is given to the “all-new” 20th Century Limited, which is described as “America’s only all-private-room premium-fare train between the Heart of New York and the Heart of Chicago–overnight every night–with never a business hour lost!” Pennsylvania’s post-war Broadway Limited wouldn’t arrive until 1949, but even the 1938 edition of that train was an all-private-room train, so I wonder in what way the Century was the “only” train that fit the brochure’s intricate definition. I also question the “never a business hour lost,” as the eastbound train did not arrive in New York until 9:30 am.

New York Central 1948 Timetable

The full-page ad on the front cover of this timetable (the back cover is shown below) announces “28 new streamliners for 1948.” This translated to fourteen pairs of trains, ranging from new all-Pullman 20th Century Limiteds and Commodore Vanderbilts to all-coach Pacemakers, working down to a Chicago-Cleveland streamliner that didn’t have a name.

Click image to download a 38.9-MB PDF of this 52-page timetable.

The ad brags that this is “the largest equipment order ever built for any railroad,” but it was actually multiple orders from multiple car makers including Budd and Pullman. Including cars ordered for other trains, the ad continues, these cars would form a train five-and-a-half miles long, which (at 85 feet per car) means about 340 cars.

New York Central 1947 Timetable

During his proxy battle to take over the New York Central, Robert Young famously said, “A hog can cross the country without changing trains–but you can’t.” But that wasn’t quite true. As shown on page 2 of this timetable, New York Central sleeping car passengers from New York had at least five ways to travel to Los Angeles or San Francisco without changing cars, albeit the cars would change trains.

Click image to download a 38.4-MB PDF of this 52-page timetable.

The best option in 1947 was to leave New York City on the 6:00 pm 20th Century Limited, which had a car continuing on the Santa Fe Chief. Someone who left New York on Friday would arrive in Los Angeles at 8:30 am on Monday, thus losing no business time. Even better, timewise, was to take the Chicagoan, which left New York at 11:30 pm and had a sleeping car that connected with the Golden State, arriving in Los Angeles at 8:45 am. The prestige of these trains was not as great as the previous pair, but that was made up for by lower fares and a shorter layover in Chicago. (The combinations of trains were slightly different eastbound.) Continue reading

New York Central Harlem Division 1912 Timetable

The Harlem division was the first track of what became the New York Central. Starting in downtown Manhattan, it began as the world’s first streetcar line (powered by horses) in 1831 and reached Chatham, New York, by 1852. Although a route along the Hudson River eventually became the New York Central’s main line, NYC subsidiary Boston & Alban ran trains over the Harlem Division through to Albany.

Click image to download an 8.7-MB PDF of this timetable.

This timetable shows nearly 50 commuter trains a day from Grand Central Terminal to White Plains, with some going beyond White Plains but only five reaching as far as Chatham and four going on to Albany. Sunday schedules were far less frequent but Saturday was considered a weekday, as the five-day work week had not yet become common. Continue reading

Wartime Guide to Grand Central Terminal

This brochure opens up to show a cutaway view of New York Central’s greater terminal. I’m not sure what is different about it that makes this a wartime view except for some of the numbers of travelers and telegrams that increased during the war.

Click image to download a 6.1-MB PDF of this brochure.

The brochure has no explicit date but obviously was from sometime around 1942 through 1945.