The Story of Phoebe Snow

The booklet is less about the train named Phoebe Snow and more about the advertising icon for which the train was named. At the turn of the 20th century, the Delaware, Lackawanna and Western Railroad burned anthracite coal to power its steam locomotives and advertised the cleaner coal with a series of ditties about Phoebe Snow, a fictitious woman who wore white when riding the trains. This booklet is a compendium of those ditties, such as, “Says Phoebe Snow about to go/Upon a trip to Buffalo/”My gown stays white from morn till night/Upon the Road of Anthracite.”

Click image to download a 3.3-MB PDF of this 24-page booklet.

After railroads Dieselized, the cleanliness of fuel was no longer an issue, but the Lackawanna capitalized on the good will generated by this advertising campaign by naming its chief streamliner the Phoebe Snow. Lackawanna had the shortest of four main rail routes between New York City and Buffalo: about 400 miles vs. 425 on the Erie, 435 on the New York Central, and 448 on the Lehigh Valley. The Lackawanna, however, didn’t actually go into New York City, instead having a terminal at Hoboken. At the other end, Lackawanna didn’t continue on to Chicago, though the Phoebe Snow had through cars to Chicago on the Nickel Plate.

Click image to download a 463-KB PDF of this postcard showing the Phoebe Snow.

The Phoebe Snow was inaugurated on November 15, 1949. In 1960, the Lackawanna merged with the Erie to become the Erie Lackawanna. The booklet doesn’t have a date but must have been published between these two dates and probably from the earlier part of that era. The above postcard is unused, but I have an example of a used one that is postmarked 1956.

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