The Western Star

When the Great Northern purchased equipment for a second transcontinental streamliner, it decided to retire the name Oriental Limited. This had been the railway’s premiere train from 1905 to 1929 and its secondary transcontinental from 1929 to 1931, when it was cut due to the Depression, and from 1946 to 1951. To name the new secondary streamliner, the railway held a “name-the-train” contest in 1950.

And the winning entry in the contest was . . . the Evergreen! That name was good enough to earn the contestant a prize, but apparently not good enough to actually use, as the GN instead named the “new” train the Western Star. Note that the train’s logo uses a five-pointed star with two points hollowed out so that it does dual-service as an arrowhead.

Continue reading

Rio Grande Prospector

In November, 1941, the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad inaugurated the Prospector, a pair of Budd-built two-car trains that went overnight between Denver and Salt Lake City via the Moffat Tunnel. Unfortunately, the trains proved inadequate for the job: with only 44 seats and 18 beds, demand exceeded capacity; while the little 192-HP Hercules Diesels were insufficient for getting the trains over the mountains. Within eight months the Rio Grande returned the trains to Budd and they were scrapped.

Click image to see a larger view.

After the war, the Rio Grande reintroduced the Prospector name using General Motors Diesel locomotives pulling heavyweight passenger cars painted yellow with four black pinstripes. In 1950, the train was fully streamlined, though photos of the train show that heavyweights were still used from time to time.

Continue reading

Aboard the 1951 Empire Builder

When in service, the tables on the Empire Builder’s dining car were covered with beautiful white tablecloths into which was stitched a delicate pattern representing sheaves of wheat and the railroad’s initials. I’ll show one of these here if ever I figure out how to scan it. In the meantime, no tablecloths were used in the more plebeian Ranch Car; instead, patrons made do with these colorful placemats showing the kinds of foods grown along the route of the Great Northern many of which were served aboard the train.

Click image to download a 1.4-MB PDF of this placemat used in the Ranch Car.

While the 1947 Empire Builder had very colorful menus, by 1954, when this menu was issued, the Great Northern had adopted a more sedate menu cover for the Empire Builder. The back of the menu had a photo of the railway’s founder, James J. Hill, a smaller version of the same photo which glared at the dining car’s staff from one end of the diner.

Continue reading

The Ranch Car

Easily the equal of Union Pacific’s pre-war Little Nugget or Frontier Shack cars, the Ranch car was the most distinctive car on the 1951 Empire Builder, which made it (in the early 1950s at least) the most distinctive car on any Northwest train. The Great Northern published this 16-page booklet just to describe all of the features and decorations in the car.

Click image to download a 5.6-MB PDF of this 16-page brochure about the Ranch car.

One prominent feature was the branding irons in the partition between the dining tables and lunch counter and the images of those brands on the walls of the car. The brochure notes that the Great Northern applied for and received its own registered G-bar-N brand, which was given special prominence in the car.

Click image to view a larger version of this ad.

The car also featured wall murals by noted western artist Nick Eggenhoffer. Other intriguing decorations could be found in every nook and corner of the car.

Click image to download a 0.8-MB PDF of this article from American Car & Foundry’s company magazine, Wheels.

ACF was so proud of this car that it featured it on the cover and in more than half of a six-page article in its company magazine. The article also discusses the diners, observation car, and short-distance coaches.

Click image to view a larger version of this ad.

The Mid-Century Empire Builder

Having streamlined the Empire Builder in 1947, the Great Northern Railway demonstrated an optimistic view of passenger traffic when it completely re-equpped it in 1951. This allowed the railroad to use the 1947 trains as a secondary train along the same Chicago-Seattle route.

Click image for a larger view.

The 1947 train was twelve cars long, consisting of a baggage-post office car, four coaches, four sleepers, and three “feature” cars–diners and lounges. The 1951 train added three cars to this consist: a baggage-crew dormitory car and two sleepers. In 1949, shortly before ordering the 1951 Empire Builder, the Great Northern had ordered additional sleeping cars for the 1947 version, so both trains were nominally the same length except for the additional baggage-dorm on the 1951 edition.

Continue reading

The 1947 Jeffersonian

Just one month after re-equipping the Trail Blazer, the Pennsylvania Railroad introduced new equipment to the Jeffersonian, which connected New York with St. Louis, in February 1947.

Click to download a 1.0-MB JPG of this advertisement from the March 15, 1949 Look magazine.

The Jeffersonian featured an unusual “recreation car” that was more than just a lounge. As shown in the advertisement below, it had a game room, a children’s playroom, and a small movie theater.

Continue reading

The 1947 Trailblazer

In the 1930s and 1940s, the 20th Century Limited and Broadway Limited were distinctive for only picking up and dropping off passengers in New York and Chicago (including one suburban station in each city). Passengers with intermediate origins or destinations would take one of the two railroads’ many other trains operating in the same corridor. For example, in addition to the Broadway, a 1954 Pennsylvania timetable lists the following New York-Chicago trains:

  • The Manhattan Limited, which left mid-day and arrived early the next morning after making about 22 stops en route;
  • The combined General and Trail Blazer, which left mid-afternoon and arrived the next morning with about 16 stops en route;
  • The Admiral, a coach-and-Pullman train that left in late afternoon and arrived around noon after about 23 stops;
  • The Pennsylvania Limited, whose coaches and Pullmans left about an hour after the Admiral and arrived a few minutes after the Admiral making 14 stops en route;
  • The Gotham Limited, which left late at night and arrived in early evening after about 20 stops;
  • Trains 44-74, which included coaches and parlor cars and left at nearly midnight and took nearly 24 hours to serve 24 cities en route.

Click to download a 7.7-MB PDF of this 20-page brochure.

Though combined in 1951, the General and Trail Blazer were originally separate trains, with the General (like the Broadway) carrying just Pullmans and the Trail Blazer carrying only coaches. I’m not sure about the General, but the Trail Blazer was inaugurated in 1939 to compete with the New York Central’s all-coach (and Budd-built) Pacemaker. The Trail Blazer was re-equipped in January, 1947, and this brochure describes the new features on the 1947 version of the train.

The 1949 Broadway Limited

The 20th Century Limited may have been “the most famous train in the world,” but Pennsylvania’s Broadway Limited was physically equal to it in every possible way. So it is no surprise that the Pennsylvania reequipped its flagship train in March, 1949, just six months after the New York Central inaugurated a new 20th Century Limited.

Click image to view a 1.0-MB JPG of this advertisement from the April 30, 1949 Colliers magazine.

Like the Century, the Broadway had twin-unit diners, with one car serving as a kitchen/crew dorm and the other as a 68-seat diner. Though the all-room trains had a capacity of only about 200 passengers, compared with more than 300 for many coach or coach-and-Pullman trains, the two railroads apparently believed that the extra-fare passengers riding their top trains shouldn’t be kept waiting to sit in the 36-seat diners that were typical of the time. Prior to the twin-unit diners, the railroads often ran two separate diners in the trains’ consists.

Continue reading

Advertising the 20th Century Limited

Like its 1938, steam-powered version, the 1948 20th Century Limited was built entirely by Pullman and was partly designed by Henry Dreyfuss. The train maintained the distinguished grey-on-grey exterior color scheme of its predecessor, but featured a light grey window stripe on a dark grey background instead of the reverse in the 1938 version. The premiere car on the train was the “lookout lounge” observation car, whose extra-tall windows allowed passengers a better view of the Hudson River during the few daylight hours that the train operated.

Click image to see a larger version.

The New York Central proudly advertised that it was introducing 28 new streamliners in 1948. In addition to the 20th Century Limiteds (which counted as two trains, one for each direction of overnight travel), these included the all-room New York-Chicago Commodore Vanderbilts; the all coach New York-Chicago Pacemakers; the all-room Boston-Chicago New England States; the all-room New York-Detroit Detroiters; and other trains from New York to St. Louis; New York to Cleveland; New York to Cincinnati; New York to Buffalo; Chicago to Cleveland; Chicago to Detroit; and Pittsburgh to Buffalo. The ad says “five and a half miles of new cars,” which would be about 350 cars, cost $75 million (including the locomotives), which is about $700 million in today’s dollars.

Continue reading

The 1948 20th Century Limited

The New York Central liked to say that its New York-Chicago 20th Century Limited was the most famous train in the world. To commemorate the 1948 edition of that train, the railroad put out what has to be the creepiest brochure in my collection. While the cover, with its flock representation of the red carpet that was rolled out for trains departing from Grand Central and La Salle Street stations and its cut out giving a glimpse of a larger picture on page 3, is attractive enough, many of the interior pictures are rather strange.

Click image to download an 11.6-MB PDF of this 20-page brochure.

First of all, the brochure has several images of happy-go-lucky blacks smiling brightly at the thought of serving the master race of whites who form the exclusive customer base for this exclusive train (see especially pages 5, 7, and 16). This is not the only rail advertising that features blacks serving whites, but the wide smiles on the faces of the blacks seem more than a tad unrealistic.

Continue reading