Railroads at Work in 1954

The Association of American Railroads published this educational (i.e. propaganda) booklet for school children, but their cover graphic is somewhat strange. What are those trains doing up in the air, flying beside those smokestacks? Why is the sky behind the freight train white? Why does the smoke coming out of the steam locomotive’s stack form a straight line aimed towards the lefthand smokestack?

Click image to download a 38.7-MB PDF of this 44-page booklet.

Inside, the booklet has dozens of photos of trains, most of which have been carefully edited to remove the railroad names and logos. This creates a fun challenge to see if we can correctly identify the railroads in each photo. For example, the inside front cover shows a bridge under construction that we know is from the Great Northern. I’m less familiar with eastern roads, but the photo on page 4 looks like C&O, B&O, or N&W.

Named Trains

In 1952, the Association of American Railroads estimated that there were 13,000 daily trains in the United States, including “local and suburban [i.e., commuter] trains,” but not subway or other urban transit trains. Of the 13,000, about 650 were distinguished enough to deserve names, and this booklet lists those names, the railroads that operated them, where they went, and whether they were powered by steam, Diesel, or electric locomotives. Canadian trains such as the Continental Limited and Dominion are included as well.

Click image to download a 14.1-MB PDF of this 28-page booklet.

Romantic names including the Empire Builder, Orange Blossom Special, and Twentieth Century Limited are all listed here, but there were plenty of trains with less distinctive names. Two different railroads had trains called the Chicago Express, one of which also ran a Chicago Limited. Two other railroads had trains called the Chicago Night Express, while a third had a Chicago Daylight Express. Then there was a Chicago Mail, a Chicago Special, and two different railroads with trains called the Chicagoan. While the Southern Pacific made the name Daylight famous, at least four other railroads ran at least six other trains with the word “daylight” in their names.

Rock Island 1966 Timetable

Consisting of twelve pages that are half the size of a regular timetable, this timetable uses the same amount of space as the 1961 condensed timetable. Not surprisingly, however, several trains are missing, mostly in the form of reduced frequencies.

Click image to download a 4.1-MB PDF of this timetable.

Perhaps the biggest gap is trains 39 & 40. Once called the Imperial but unnamed and down to coaches only–no food-service cars–in the 1961 timetable, these were the secondary trains on the Chicago-Los Angeles Golden State route. But with this timetable they only went between Kansas City and Los Angeles, and Chicago passengers had to change trains at Kansas City and Davenport, Iowa. Continue reading

Rock Island 1961 Condensed Timetable

The 1961 condensed timetable is only three-fourths as large as the 1957 edition. All of Rock Island’s train schedules (except Chicago commuter trains) fit on three 4″-by-9″ panels, whereas it took seven in 1957.

Click image to download a 2.1-MB PDF of this timetable.

The only 1957 route that was no longer served in 1961 was Kansas City-Goodland. But frequencies were reduced on numerous routes, including Chicago-Des Moines, Chicago-Peoria, Minneapolis-St. Louis, and Minneapolis-Dallas routes.

Rock Island 1957 Condensed Timetable

Rock Island’s 1957 system timetable was a respectable 20 pages long. But the condensed version fits into the equivalent of just four pages. One whole page shows Chicago-Colorado, with five trains a day to Peoria, four to Des Moines, two to Omaha, and one to Denver-Colorado Springs.

Click image to download a 2.7-MB PDF of this timetable.

Chicago-Los Angeles, which only had two trains a day, got two-thirds of a page, with the rest going to an expanded version of the five Chicago-Peoria trains. Memphis-Los Angeles and Minneapolis-Houston get a half page each, and Minneapolis-St. Louis shares a half page with Kansas City-Goodland Kansas. The last train theoretically could provide a connection for people from St. Louis to take the Rocky Mountain Rocket, but it doesn’t–instead, Rock Island left the St. Louis-Kansas City market to Missouri Pacific and the Wabash.

Fiesta Car Dinner Menu

Here’s the dinner menu Rock Island used at the 1948-1949 Chicago Rail Fair. Dinner was $3, or about $30 in today’s money.

Click image to download a 1.2-MB PDF of this menu.

The entrées included breast of guinea hen (the same hens that donated legs to the lunch menu?), beef mignon, chop grill, and braised veal. These came with soup or fruit cup, appetizer, lobster Newburg, potatoes and vegetables, salad, a choice of seven desserts, and beverage. I suspect this was a more elaborate meal than Rock Island planned to serve on the ill-fated Golden State Rocket.

Fiesta Car Lunch Menu

The Rock Island offered lunch and dinner at the Chicago Rail Fair in its replica 1880s diner and modern Golden State Rocket Fiesta diner. Despite the Southwest theme of Rock Island’s exhibit, this menu didn’t have a particularly Southwest flavor.

Click image to download a 1.2-MB PDF of this menu.

For $2–about $20 in today’s money–fair goers could get a lunch of brook trout, legs of guinea hen, tenderloin tips, or cold Virginia ham with appetizer, potatoes, vegetables, fruit salad, a choice of five desserts, and beverage. It isn’t clear whether this menu is from 1948 or 1949, but they probably used the same menu in both years.

Rock Island’s Rocket Village

At first glance, this brochure appears to be a guide to Rock Island’s exhibit at the 1949 Chicago Rail Fair. But actually only one fourth of the brochure is about that exhibit; the 1949 Rail Fair program actually said more about the exhibit–that it had a square dancing pavilion, Southwest-themed live music, a replica of an 1880s dining car as well as the Rock Island’s latest diner, and a movie theater–in one-quarter page than this entire brochure. Rock Island was one of several railroads at the fair that offered food services in their own diners.

Click image to download a 3.1-MB PDF of this brochure.

The rest of this brochure advertises the Rock Island railroad: passenger trains, freight trains, operations, scenic destinations, and the latest right-of-way improvements. The connection between rockets and the Southwest was made in a note that New Mexico is the location of the White Sands Proving Grounds where “scientists are experimenting with aerial rockets” even as Rock Island’s “Diesel-powered Rockets are a down-to-earth reality.”

Golden State Limited Dinner Menu

This menu is undated, but the fact that it is for the Golden State Limited tells us that it from before 1947, as the train’s name was changed to just Golden State in that year. The prices on the menu are too high for 1946, but are about right for 1935 to 1940, so I suspect it is from that era.

Click image to download a 1.4-MB PDF of this menu.

Rock Island and Southern Pacific had pretensions of the Golden State Limited competing against Union Pacific’s Los Angeles Limited and Santa Fe’s Chief, but the Golden State Limited was a distant runner-up to the other two trains. The Los Angeles Limited always had a sirloin steak dinner on the menu in addition to two or three other meat entrĂ©es and salmon or trout. This menu has veal and Lake Superior whitefish but no top-grade steak. The fact that the railroads kept the same menu cover for decades, even after changing the name of the train, indicates a lack of care or desire to keep up with the times.

Land of the Turquoise Sky: 1935

Whether because of the Depression or because Rock Island marketers wanted to simplify the printing process, this is a brochure rather than a booklet. Though that means less space–approximately the equivalent of 12 pages of the Under the Turquoise Sky booklets–it also means that multiple colors could be used on every panel at little extra cost.

Click image to download a 6.7-MB PDF of this brochure.

The fourteen photographs, many of which were used in previous Under the Turquoise Sky booklets, are still in black and white. However, these photos are supplemented by many color illustrations showing people horseback riding, hiking, fishing, camping, golfing, and other recreational activities. Similar color graphics show the interiors of the Rocky Mountain Limited or another Rock Island train. The use of bright, primary colors rather than the dull colors often found in lithographs accompanying railroad ads of the era underscores the theme that Colorado is a bright, exciting place.