This simple card lists 1938 fares from Portland to Chicago on the Empire Builder. The one-way coach fare was $39.50–more than $500 today. A lower berth in tourist class was $56.96, or about $750 today, while a lower berth in Pullman class was $80.89, well over $1,000 today.
The average American traveled about 400 miles per year by intercity train in 1920. Thanks to automobiles, this had declined to about 200 miles per year by 1929. The Depression cut this in half by 1932. By 1938, it had recovered to 136 miles per year. The 1920s may have been the Golden Age of rail travel, but with fares like these, it is no wonder that rail travel was so little used and people welcomed the automobile instead.