Postcards by Fred Harvey

The Santa Fe was unusual if not unique in that–at least until 1963–it didn’t operate its own dining cars. Instead, it contracted them out to Fred Harvey, who also operated restaurants in many Santa Fe train stations and hotels in many Santa Fe destinations.

This postcard of Indians selling jewelry to tourists at the Albuquerque train station dates from before the streamlined era. The back of the card notes that all Santa Fe trains stop in Albuquerque for 25 to 30 minutes, but the streamlined trains stopped for only five minutes.

Harvey started the nation’s first restaurant chain in 1875 with eating houses that were soon associated with Santa Fe trains. In 1893, Harvey began operating dining cars on the Santa Fe’s California Limited.

This card is also obviously from the pre-streamlined era, but I’m including it here to contrast with the card below.

Although I said that Santa Fe contracted its dining operations to Fred Harvey, in fact Harvey did not believe in contracts and operated on a handshake basis. I’ll present some Fred Harvey menus and more history of the company in future posts.

Both this card and the previous one are at Raton Pass, New Mexico. Although this is supposed to be a streamliner, the illustrator has not done the train justice. Moreover, where is the baggage car?

Naturally, Fred Harvey sold souvenirs such as postcards as well as meals. These are all linen postcards and probably all date from the 1930s, which means they are based on black-and-white photos and then hand-colored by illustrators whose work is sometimes fairly crude.

No baggage car on this train either and the locomotives are pretty crudely drawn.

As far as I know, every Santa Fe passenger train through Arizona and New Mexico would have had baggage cars, yet they are absent from most of these pictures. I suspect the illustrators just painted windows on all the cars to make the trains appear more hospitable to passengers.

At least this train has a baggage car.

One thing the illustrators could not, or at least did not, imitate was the dazzling stainless steel used on all Santa Fe streamliners. Instead, an unsuspecting recipient of one of these cards would just imagine the cars were painted white or, perhaps, light grey.

Now we’re missing a baggage car again.

Leave a Reply