Many railroads had a theme they used–year after year, sometimes decade after decade–in their passenger advertising. The Santa Fe’s theme was “all the way,” meaning that only the Santa Fe could get you all the way from Chicago to the West Coast without changing railroads (which wasn’t really an issue when many trains ran seamlessly across two or more railroads). The Southern Pacific’s theme was that it had “four scenic routes” to California, allowing Eastern or Midwestern residents to see one part of the U.S. on their journey west and another part when returning east.
Click image to download a 30-MB PDF of this 36-page full-color booklet.
That’s the theme of this undated booklet that the SP probably published just before the war. The color photos are lavish and picture the streamlined City of San Francisco and Coast Daylight, but other trains are heavyweights. A photo of Timberline Lodge, completed in 1938, and a sketch of Shasta Dam “now under construction”–construction took from 1937 to 1945–helps to date the booklet to about 1939 to 1941, after which war restrictions would have prevented SP from issuing such an expensive advertisement.
The booklet dedicates four pages each to the Sunset, Overland, and Shasta routes, but for some reason six pages to the Golden State route, and (without fanfare) two pages to the Daylight and one to the San Joaquin route. I don’t really understand why the Golden State route gets two extra pages, since the Sunset route–the only one people could take “all the way” from the Mississippi to the Pacific on the Southern Pacific–was usually most heavily promoted by the railroad. Maybe it just figured that more people were likely to go through Chicago than New Orleans.
Click to download a 1.3-MB PDF of this 1940 menu.
Page 26 has an interior photo showing a dining-car patron holding a Southern Pacific menu similar to the one above. (I have one like this in my collection, but the one above is from the New York Public Library’s menu collection, which includes thousands of railroad menus scanned at high resolutions.) Pages 26 and 30 also show Prairie-Mountain Wildflower china, a pattern made especially for the Southern Pacific that is today collected by many railfans. Below is a vegetable-sized plate from my collection.
Click image to see a larger view.
The more disturbing part of this booklet is the photo of the “good-natured Mammy” peeling potatoes on page 5, a reminder of a time when blacks were supposed to serve the white customers of great corporations such as the Southern Pacific. Perhaps the railroad publicity department just wanted to show the colorful clothing worn by people in Louisiana, but more likely it wanted to assure eastern customers that blacks in the South “knew their place.”