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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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The Tennessean

I’ve been covering post-war streamliners lately, but here is what I think is a pre-war brochure for a pre-war train. Inaugurated in May, 1941, the Tennessean was a Southern Railway train between Washington and Memphis that also used Norfolk & Western tracks for the 200 miles between Lynchburg, VA and Bristol, TN. Coaches on the train connected at Washington with an all-coach Pennsylvania Railroad train to New York City, while sleeping cars to New York connected with an all-Pullman Pennsylvania train.

Click image to download a 6.7-MB PDF of this eight-page brochure.

The brochure calls the train “the most beautiful train in America,” but it wasn’t even entirely streamlined. Budd built the coaches, baggage cars, diner, and observation cars of stainless steel, but the sleeping cars were heavyweight Pullmans painted silver. Nor was the train very fast, averaging less than 40 mph between Washington and Memphis.

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On Board the Sunset

The on-board stationery I have for the Sunset Limited uses old English lettering, suggesting that it dates from the heavyweight era. The envelope even says “San Francisco-Los Angeles New Orleans,” showing it is either from before 1930 or between 1936 and 1942, the years the route extended as far as San Francisco.

Click to download a PDF of this on-board stationery.

Click to download a PDF of this envelope.

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Advertising the Sunset Limited

As with the Shasta Daylight and Golden State, the Southern Pacific sent out a mailer to travel agents and others in the industry featuring the ad below. The ad itself was placed in Saturday Evening Post, Time, Holiday, and National Geographic magazines. The mailer mentioned SP’s other recent streamliners and bragged that it had “America’s most modern trains.”

Click to download a 3.5-MB PDF of a mailer that Southern Pacific sent to travel agents that featured this ad announcing the streamlined Sunset Limited.

Over the next few years, the railroad placed a steady series of ads in such magazines as National Geographic and Holiday. The later ads tended to be black-and-white and most focused on the SP’s assumption that most of the magazines’ audiences were on the East Coast, and thus encouraged them to go via New Orleans instead of Chicago on their next “Western trip.”

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