Streamliners on parade
When the first edition of this book was published almost twenty-five years ago, it was generally believed that the American railroads had reached the peak of development in their passenger trains, that the "last word" had been spoken in fine passenger service. The heavy trains of all-steel cars, drawn at a speed of sixty to seventy miles an hour by huge steam locomotives , or in some places by electric engines, seemed to provide everything that could be desired in the way of speed, safety, convenience, comfort and luxury.
But there came a time when progressive railroad managers began to realize that the passenger service of the steam railroad would have to be improved. This conviction was due, in a large measure, to the appearance of other means of transportation . New vehicles began to appear in significant numbers early in the twentieth century, and their development has never ceased. The private automobile, manufactured by mass production methods, became so cheap as to come within the reach of millions of Americans. It soon took large numbers of passengers from the railroads. Then came the buses, which took still more. Together the buses and the private automobiles drove the electric interurban railways almost out of existence , and they also brought to an end the operation of hundreds of urban electric railways, just as they forced the discontinuation of many local and through passenger trains on the steam railroads. The highway automotive vehicles were not the only new agencies of rapid transportation to cut into the business of the railroads. After them came the fast flying airplanes, giving service between distant points at a speed which no land vehicle could ever hope to match. The railroads, which so long had possessed a virtual monopoly of commercial land transportation, not purely local in character, found themselves at last faced with competition, the competition of new forms of transportation, rivals that were capable of giving land service as good as that of the railroads, at a lower rate of charge, and an air service ever so much faster than that of the railroads, at a charge which was little if any greater. The railroad managers began to feel keenly the need for improvements , the need for trains which would move more swiftly and which could be operated at a lower cost than the heavy all-steel equipment they had so long been using. When railroad managers realized what had to be done, they set about doing it. They began to plan "Tomorrow's Trains." and then began to build them, trains faster than any ever known before, trains more comfortable and luxurious, but trains that were still safe. Roadbeds were improved and curves elevated for these faster trains.
So "Tomorrow's Trains" arrived, something new, something daring, something magnificent, a tribute to the imagination and vision of the architectural and mechanical engineers of American railroads and of the manufacturers of American railroad equipment. These trains are now "Today's Trains." While the Second World War necessitated some curtailment of their service, and even the temporary discontinuance of some of them, not to speak of the total stoppage of their manufacture, they are now rolling over the countryside again, and new ones are being constantly added. They are the pride of America's railroads. They are the finest and best equipped passenger trains in the world. The record they have achieved gives abundant promise that the trains to come in another "tomorrow" will be something even finer.
The designers of the new trains planned three things. First, the new trains were to be much lighter than the passenger trains of yesterday. They were to be made of alloys of aluminum , of stainless steel, or of low-alloy, high-tensile steel, materials just as strong as the long familiar open-hearth carbon steel, but much lighter. Secondly, the new trains were to be streamlined. Experience with automobiles and airplanes had shown that it was possible to design body shapes which would offer much less resistance to air pressure while moving at speeds of 55 miles an hour or more. This meant more speed with less expenditure of power. Moreover, it was felt that a properly streamlined train, with a decorative exterior, would present a more handsome appearance, with greater appeal to the passenger. Finally, the power for pulling the new trains was
to come from internal combustion engines of the Diesel type, or from steam locomotives capable of higher sustained speeds than those previously built.
There are so many of these fine trains today that we shall not describe the train of any one railroad. Instead we shall see a train put out a year ago by the General Motors Corporation , as a sample of what is best and most up-to-date in passenger trains. The engine of the train was built by the ElectroMotive Division of General Motors, in its plant at La Grange. Illinois. The cars, though planned and designed by General Motors engineers, were built to order for that company by the Pullman-Standard Car Manufacturing Company.
This train, planned in 1944, and built during the following two years, had its first test run on the Monon Railroad, May 26 and 27, 1947, on a round trip between Chicago and French Lick, Indiana. The following day the train was formally "dedicated" at Soldier Field, Chicago's great municipal stadium , before a throng of more than a thousand invited business and civic leaders of Chicago, who had previously been guests at a luncheon at the Palmer House, with General Motors as the host. The train was placed on public view for a few days, after which it was taken for a six-month, nationwide tour, covering forty-two states, with stops for public visit and inspection at 86 key cities.
It should be pointed out that this train was not exactly a "new" train. It had only a few features that had not been used previously on other trains. But in it was assembled for the first time virtually all the improvements in passenger train equipment that had been introduced and developed dur ing the preceding fifteen years.
The train consisted of a 2,000 horsepower Diesel-electric locomotive and four cars, a coach or day chair car, a diner, a sleeper, and an observation-lounge car. The outstanding feature of the cars was that they all had domes, though some General Motors official, who probably had known "small Latin," had devised the name of Astra Dome for them, to differentiate them, in name at least, from the Vista Dome, introduced by the Burlington Railroad more than a year before. All things that were mentioned in the previous chapter on passenger cars were to be found on the cars of the Astra Dome train. They were built of high-tensile steel, with frames specially designed to meet the requirements imposed by the domes. The frames had been subjected to numerous tests to show that their strength was equal to that of the frames of cars of the ordinary kind. The finest air conditioning equipment, the latest lighting fixtures, the best upholstering materials, trucks of latest design, rubber truck mountings, shock absorbers , electro-pneumatic brakes, hot bearing detectors, wheel slide control, wheels as delicately balanced as those of a fine automobile, finger-touch doors, self-contained Diesel power plants beneath each car, with an auxiliary unit for the dining car to provide the extra amount of current needed for cooking and refrigeration in the all-electric kitchen—all the products of the modern car builder's art and skill were present.
The interior of the cars presented a picture of luxurious comfort. There was a different color scheme for each car, it being difficult to tell which of the combinations selected from the thirty-seven colors used had the most pleasing appearance. The coach or day chair car seated 72 passengers, 24 in the dome, 16 in the forward section and 12 in the rear section. Unlike the first Vista Dome, the central, depressed part of the Astra Dome was used for passenger occupancy. It had three small compartments, or booths, not fully enclosed, two with seats for seven persons each, and one with seats for six. The: rest rooms for men and for women were at the rear end of the car. All seats were reversible, had adjustable footrests, and the backs reclined to any one of nine different positions.
The sleeping car had three compartments, each with two lower berths; two drawing rooms, each with two upper berths and one lower; and eight duplex roomettes, each for the occupancy of a single passenger. All berths ran lengthwise of the car. The compartments were in the central, lower part of the car, the drawing rooms forward, and the roomettes at the rear. The two drawing rooms could be thrown together, if desired, to form one large room. All berths folded away in the daytime , or were converted into comfortable sofas. Compartments and drawing rooms had upholstered lounge chairs. The seats in the dome, which were like those of the coach, were reserved for the sole use of the passengers who occupied the sleeper.
The dining car had tables on three levels, even the dome having tables. The kitchen occupied one end of the car, and a serving pantry took up part of the space beneath the dome, the rest of this space being occupied by a reserved private dining room, seating ten persons in two groups of five. The main dining room at the forward end of the car had seats for 24 persons, triangular tables on one side, each with seats for two, and square tables on the other side, placed diagonally, with two seats fixed to the car wall and two movable chairs on the aisle. The waiters in the dome did not have to go up and down steps with their trays, but received the food for their patrons on a dumb waiter connecting with the serving pantry. All cooking in the kitchen was done with electricity, and there was a complete assortment of the electrical conveniences of the modern kitchen, including a juice extractor, a dishwasher, and a contrivance to grind garbage into small bits, to be dropped along the railroad track.
The lounge car had 68 seats, more than half of which were comfortable, movable chairs. The observation lounge, oval in shape, with large windows that gave a field of vision in all directions except directly forward, was at the rear end of the car. The depressed center section under the dome had a small cocktail lounge for ten persons and the bar. The seats in the forward lounge room were built in, the seats in the dome were like those in the coach and sleeper.
Carpeting, upholstering and draperies were of rich materials and many pleasing color combinations. Table tops were of synthetic material resistant to staining or burning. Wall coverings, likewise, were of materials difficult to stain. The glass of the domes contained heat absorbing, glare resisting materials, and tests had shown that its shatter-proof quality was such that it was less susceptible to damage by flying stones or other objects than the steel used in the roof of the car on either side of the dome.
The train had a complete telephone system for communication between all its parts. It had also a radio, public address and wire recording system in each car, over which station arrivals and other information could be announced, radio programs broadcast, or recorded music played. Finally, there was a two-way radiotelephone, by means of which connection could be made with any regular telephone switchboard, and conversations held with any telephone subscriber, even when the train was in motion. During the train's first journey a telephone conversation was maintained for a half hour with the great Cunard liner, the Queen Elizabeth, which was speeding on its way in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean.
Just a few words about dimensions. The locomotive was 71 feet long, with a loaded weight of 318,000 pounds. Each car was 85 feet in length. The top of each dome was 15 feet, 6 inches above the rails. The cars weighed from 141,000 pounds, the weight of the observation car, to 160,000 pounds, the weight of the dining car. The exterior of the train consisted largely of shining steel and glass; the painted portion was done in blue and silver, the combination giving the entire train a strikingly handsome appearance.
Such, as briefly almost as it can be described, was the General Motors Astra Dome Train of Tomorrow. During its countrywide journey it was visited and admired by more than a million persons. Thousands of people, for the first time, became aware of the great progress which passenger transportation on American railroads had been making. Now let us go back and sechow this Train of Tomorrow came into being. What were its forerunners, and what were some of the landmarks in the development of the modern passenger train?
It all began back in 1934, when, on February 12, the Pullman -Standard Car Manufacturing Company delivered to the Union Pacific Railroad a strange, new passenger train, the like of which had never before been seen. This was the first, fast "streamliner," though it did not exactly fit into the later pattern, for it had neither a steam nor a Diesel locomotive. This train, known officially as the M l0000, but sometimes called "The Streamliner," consisted of three units, a power car and two coaches. The three cars were articulated, or jointed, in such a way that they gave the appearance of being a single long car, with flexible joints between the separate units. There was a truck at the front and rear of the train, and a truck beneath each joint, a single truck supporting the adjoining ends of two units. The engine of "The Streamliner" had spark plugs, like an automobile engine, though instead of gasoline for fuel it burned a distillate, a low grade fuel distilled from petroleum, not so volatile as gasoline. The material employed in the construction of the train body was a tough, strong, aluminum alloy. The inside fittings were luxurious and beautiful.
This train, which we shall not describe in detail, attracted wide attention. Its first long journey was to the national capital, where the President took a short ride in it. From Washington it was taken on an extensive tour of the United States, from coast to coast, traveling over 14 different railroads in 22 states. It crossed mountain ranges and deserts; it was driven through storms of snow, and of rain, and of dust; it was operated in weather that was intensely cold, and in weather that was intensely hot. The group of engineers who traveled on this experimental train were highly gratified with its performance. After the tour ended the train was placed on exhibition for a while at the Century of Progress Exhibition in Chicago. Later it was placed in regular service on the Union Pacific between Kansas City, Missouri, and Salina, Kansas. Like the old piece of Union Pacific track thai represented the completion of our first transcontinental railroad , "The Streamliner," or "City of Salina," as it came to be called, fell a victim to the war needs of our country. Early in 1942, in the great drive for much needed metals, it found its way to an aluminum scrap pile.
While the Pullman and Union Pacific engineers were designing and building the M-10000, the Edward G. Budd Manufacturing Company of Philadelphia was building one of "Tomorrow 's Trains" for the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad. This train, christened the "Zephyr," was completed in April, 1934, and it attracted as much attention as the M-10000, if not more, for to it belongs the distinction of being the first of the new trains to be driven by a Diesel-electric motor. It was a three-car train, of shining stainless steel, with
fittings of striking attractiveness. It, too, was taken on a long exhibition tour through 24 states. On May 26, 1934, it made a record non-stop run from Denver to Chicago, a distance of 1, 015 miles, in thirteen hours and five minutes, an average speed of 77.6 miles an hour. On Armistice Day, November II, 1934, it was placed in regular service between Kansas City, Missouri, and Lincoln, Nebraska, by way of Omaha, gaining the added distinction of being the first of "Tomorrow's Trains" to operate on schedule, as a "regular train." The operation of these first experimental trains was so highly satisfactory that the two railroads which were responsible for their construction, as well as numerous other railroads, began at once to make plans for other trains of a similar kind. A new day had dawned in American railroad passenger service.
The Union Pacific Railroad ordered from the Pullman manufacturing company a train twice as large as the M-10000. It had six units, three of which were similar to the three which made up the first streamliner; the other three were sleeping cars. It differed in one important respect from the M-10000 in I hat its power was provided by a Diesel-electric engine, similar to that employed in the Burlington Zephyr. In October, 1934, this train, called the M-10001, ran from Los Angeles, California, to New York City, a distance of 3,248 miles in 56 hours and 55 minutes, the fastest transcontinental journey ever made by rail in the United States. During the course of the trip the M-10001 established several new railway speed records , attaining a maximum speed of 120 miles an hour. It ran from Cheyenne to Omaha, 507 miles, in six hours, an average speed of 84.49 miles an hour, and in several stretches of its long journey it averaged 100 miles an hour. Between Chicago and New York it ran on the New York Central tracks. On this part of its run no effort was made to attain the greatest possible speed, but even so, it made better time than the Twentieth Century Limited. Had the new train done its best, it could have shortened the record run across the contintent considerably more.
During the following winter the M-10001 was enlarged by the addition of another unit, and its power plant was improved by the substitution of a 1200 horsepower Diesel engine for the 900 horsepower engine previously used. The reconstructed train, now named "The City of Portland ," was placed in commercial service between Chicago and Portland, Oregon, its first run starting on June 6, 1935. Its schedule between these cities, including twelve stops called for an average speed of 57.1 miles an hour, the journey of 2,272 miles being covered in 393^ hours. Between Chicago and Omaha it passed over the Chicago and North Western tracks.
"The City of Portland" was of striking appearance. Its rounded nose and its sides were painted a bright yellow, while the top and bottom were a golden brown. It did not stand as high as an ordinary train, and its weight was so distributed that its centre of gravity was close to the rails, enabling it to go around curves at high speed, without danger of derailment. There were no projections whatever along its sides, not even from doors and windows. Its seven units were so closely articu lated that they seemed to be all of one long piece, resembling in appearance a great golden-brown caterpillar, but a caterpillar having the speed of a flying bullet.
The first unit of the train was the locomotive. Its 1.200 horsepower Diesel engine drove an electric generator, and the current was fed to four motors mounted on the front and rear trucks of the power car. This locomotive also contained two oil burning boilers, which provided the steam for heating the train. There were two 110 horsepower Diesel engines driving generators which supplied the current for lighting the train, for running the air compressors, for operating the air conditioning equipment throughout the train, and for transmitting signals between the power car and the other units of the train. Altogether there were some 36 small electric motors on the train, varying from i/2 to 12 horsepower. A large storage battery , charged by the auxiliary generators, provided power for starting the engine and for operating the electrical equipment of the train when the engines were not running. The second unit of the train was used for the carriage of mail and express. It also had a small compartment containing a water tank which held the water for the steam boilers in the power car.
The third unit was a diner-lounge car, containing a kitchen , a dining room which seated 24 persons, a small card room, which could also be used for dining service, and a
lounge having a desk, a table, nine portable chairs, receptacles for magazines and stationery, and a built-in radio. The next three units were Pullman sleepers, each having eight sections, one compartment, one bed room, and washrooms . The berths in the sections were six inches longer than those found in the ordinary standard sleeper, and, in addition to curtains, each section was equipped with sliding aluminum panels by which each berth could be made into a small enclosed compartment. The seventh unit of the train was a coach with reclining seats for 54 passengers. At the rear of this unit was a buffet from which light meals could be served to passengers in their seats.
The entire train was 454 feet, 11 inches, in length and weighed, without a load, 265 tons, less than many steam loco
motives. It had a total seating capacity for 157 persons. It was, of course, air conditioned throughout. One of the most interesting places in the train was the motorman's cab, which was just above the rounded nose of the power car. The motorman sat behind large glass windows, through which he had a clear view of the track. Near his left hand was the controller of the electric motors which drove the train. At his right hand was the air-brake valve, which was equipped with the so-called "dead-man control." If the motorman does not hold this control with his hand or his foot, while the train is in motion, the engine throttle closes and the brakes are automatically applied, bringing the train to a stop. There was an instrument board resembling that of the automobile, its dial showing what the engines and motors were doing, and the speed of the train. Two electric signal lamps on this board showed the signals given by any one of the train crew in the other cars.
The two pioneer streamlined, light-weight trains of the Union Pacific became immensely popular at once, and more than justified the confidence of their designers and builders. They were reliable, they were fast, they were comfortable, they were pleasing in appearance, they were safe. The Union Pacific immediately ordered additional trains of the same general type, but larger, and with more powerful motors. The City of Los Angeles and the City of San Francisco began operation in 1936, the former in May, the latter in June. Each train consisted of 11 units, two of which made up the locomotive which had a rating of 2,100 horsepower. Both trains easily maintained a schedule of 39.% hours between Chicago and the two California cities. The same year, 1936, the Union Pacific began the operation of two Diesel-powered light-weight trains between Chicago and Denver.
So rapid was the progress in the design of the new type of train, that the original City of Los Angeles and City of San Francisco were found to be outmoded within less than two years, and were replaced by two much finer trains, one going into service on December 27, 1937, and the other on January 2, 1938. Each train had a three-unit locomotive of 5,400 horsepower , and 14 cars. The first City of Los Angeles, rebuilt and re-equipped, and provided with a 2,400 horsepower two-unit engine, was returned to service in August, 1938.
In 1941, the Union Pacific installed still another City of Los Angeles and City of San Francisco, each with a 6,000 horsepower Diesel-electric engine. The cars on each train were fourteen in number, the same as in the trains put in service in 1938, but again the fittings and equipment were more luxurious . These two additional trains made it possible to provide streamliner service every third day from Chicago to the California cities. With the installation of service by these trains, the original City of Los Angeles was assigned to the Chicago-Portland run, replacing the original City of Portland, the first Union Pacific Diesel-powered streamliner.
The favorable reception given the light-weight, fast trains of the Union Pacific was matched in every respect by the popular approval accorded to the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad's Zephyr, the first Diesel-electric passenger train. Originally consisting of three units, the initial Zephyr was soon converted into a four-unit train, and the Burlington ordered more Zephyrs. Two of these, the "Twin Zephyrs," were put into service between Chicago and the Twin Cities, Minneapolis and St. Paul, early in 1935, while a fourth Zephyr, the "Mark Twain," began daily service between St. Louis, Missouri , and Burlington, Iowa, on October 28, 1935. The "Mark Twain," passed through Hannibal, Missouri, on its daily run, the city that was the birthplace of its famous namesake.
These first Burlington Zephyrs were either three or four unit, closely articulated trains, fully streamlined, and built of glistening stainless steel. They were used only for daylight travel and had no sleeping cars. Four more Zephyrs were added by the Burlington in 1936. Two of these, the Denver Zephyrs, established overnight service between Chicago and Denver. Each train had twelve cars, of which five were sleeping cars. Their two-unit Diesel-electric locomotives developed 3,000 horsepower. On October 23, 1936, one of these trains ran from Chicago to Denver, 1,017 miles, in twelve hours, twelve minutes, and twenty-seven seconds , an average speed of 83.33 miles an hour, a performance that has never been matched for that distance by any other train.
The ninth Zephyr, the "General Pershing," was placed in service in May, 1939, running between St. Louis and Kansas City. It showed several improvements over the earlier Zephyrs. Its air-conditioning equipment controlled the humidity of the air in the cars as well as the temperature. The power for lighting, heating and air conditioning the cars was supplied by small Diesel-electric power plants, one beneath each car. Perhaps the most interesting innovation in the "General Pershing" was its disk brake. It resembled an automobile brake more closely than the conventional railroad car brake. This type of brake had no iron shoe which pressed against the tread of the car wheel. Instead, it had a durable composition brake shoe which pressed against disks attached to the inner hub of the car wheel.
A brief description of the fourth Zephyr, the "Mark Twain," will show that in appearance and equipment it was indeed a new train. It was 280 feet long, and, with a supply of fuel and water, it weighed 287,000 pounds, which was not much more than the weight of the heaviest all-steel Pullman sleeper. It had five trucks. one under each end of the train, and one under each joint where the cars were connected. The first unit of this Zephvr contained a power compartment and two compartments for mail. The power for running the train was a 600 horsepower, Diesel-electric engine. The electric motors which drove the train were mounted on the leading truck.
The second unit of the "Mark Twain" was a baggage car. The third unit consisted of a kitchen, a 16-passenger dining compartment, and a 20-passenger coach compartment. The fourth and last unit had a 16-passenger lounge. The train was steam-heated, and air-conditioned throughout, with thermostatic controls which kept the car interiors at constant temperatures .
In appearance, in the detail of their construction, in riding comfort, and in speed, all the early Zephyrs represented in every respect the revolution that was taking place in the passenger service of American railroads. They developed amaz
ing speed. On one of its test runs, the "Mark Twain" reached a speed of 122 miles an hour. In April, 1935, the "Twin Zephyrs" were put on a schedule calling for 6i/2 hours between Chicago and St. Paul. In May of 1939 the speed of these trains was again increased, the "Morning Zephyr" covering the distance of 431 miles in 6 hours, at an average speed of 71.9 miles an hour, while the "Afternoon Zephyr" made the same distance in 614 hours.
A striking feature of the Zephyrs, which, from the beginning of their operation, appealed strongly to railroad managers , was their operating economy. The cost of operating one of them was less than the cost of operating a steam train of the same passenger capacity. They made substantial profits for the Burlington road, which is something that many passenger trains do not do. The first cost, that is, the cost of building and equipping a Zephyr, was about double the first cost of a steam train, but the lower cost of operation more than made up for the difference in the cost of construction. The original Zephyr, during the first year of its operation, gave 177,000 miles of service. Out of 365 days, it ran every day except 11, and of these days three were spent in adding the fourth unit to the train.
As was to be expected, the experience of the Union Pacific and the Burlington with the new type of train made a deep impression upon officers of other railroads. Within a comparatively short time, many lightweight high speed trains were placed in operation on other railroads, and manufacturers of the new type of railroad equipment were receiving numerous orders. Some of these new trains were drawn by steam locomotives , but most of them were pulled by Diesel-electric engines. The increasing demand for Diesel engines led the older locomotive manufacturing companies to embark in the production of this type of motive power. New manufacturing companies were organized to take part in making oil-electric engines. The Electro-Motive Corporation, one of the several subsidiary companies of General Motors Corporation, built a huge new plant at La Grange, Illinois, devoted almost entirely to the manufacture of Diesel-electric engines.
The names of new trains soon became familiar throughout the country and railroad advertisements in newspapers and magazines described in glowing terms the luxury and the magnificence of modernized passenger service. On the Boston and Maine Railroad there was a "Flying Yankee" to show that New England was represented in the growing parade of streamliners , while in the South, the Gulf, Mobile and Northern (now the Gulf, Mobile and Ohio) lined up with some "Rebels," which now connect New Orleans with St. Louis and Mobile. The New York, New Haven and Hartford Railroad gave its patrons a "Comet" to ride between Boston and Providence . The "Rockets" of the Rock Island Railroad increased
to fifteen in number; on the Alton Railroad, now a part of the Gulf, Mobile and Ohio, the "Abraham Lincoln" inaugurated that line's Diesel-electric service between Chicago and St. Louis, while the Illinois Central established a rival service between the same cities with the Diesel-electric "Green Diamond ." In 1937 the Alton added a second Chicago-St. Louis streamliner, the "Ann Rutledge." In December, 1938, the Seaboard Air Line began service between New York and Florida with a Diesel-powered Orange Blossom Special." It has since been discontinued.
but the "Silver Meteor," also Diesel-powered, which began operation in February, 1939, still runs in two sections daily between New York and the east and west coasts of Florida. Originally, the "Silver Meteor" was an all-coach train, but it now carries sleeping-cars also. Running parallel with it on the Atlantic Coast Line are the "Champions." Between New York and Washington, these through Florida trains run over the Pennsylvania tracks, drawn by powerful electric locomotives. The "Silver Meteor" was one of the earliest long distance, allcoach streamliners, and its coaches are still a most attractive part of the train, providing nearly as much comfort as a sleeper, and affording a service from New York to Florida that has a strong appeal to persons who want a brief vacation in the sunny South but are not able to travel in the most expensive manner. In the Middle West the "City of Miami" another Dieselpowered streamliner, began operation in December, 1940, and still starts out every third day from Chicago, making its way to Florida over a long route made up of the Illinois Central, Central of Georgia, Atlantic Coast Line, and Florida East Coast.
Along with the "Chief" and the "Super-Chief", both equipped with sleeping cars, the Santa Fe, on February 22, 1938, on the same day the "Chiefs" became streamliners, began to operate "El Capitan," a Diesel-powered all-coach train, whose run of 2,227 miles from Chicago to Los Angeles is still the longest run of any of the streamlined all-coach trains. These trains were among the earliest Diesel-electric streamliners . But it must not be forgotten that some of the first well-known streamlined trains were drawn by steam locomotives . Numerous railroad executives, who were willing to have their lines join the parade of fast streamliners, preferred, at least for a time, to stand by the old steam engine, though in nearly all cases they dressed it up with capes, skirts and aprons in such a fashion that it would not have been recognized as the old-fashioned steam locomotive.
One of the earliest steam-powered streamliners was the "Hiawatha," the crack train of the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific, which operates a route between Chicago and the Twin Cities in competition with the Burlington. The "Hiawathas"—there were two trains—were fully streamlined, both the locomotive and the cars. Operated the first time in May, 1935, they were completely re-equipped with new and finer cars in October, 1936, and again in September, 1938, a few months before the streamlined "Morning Hiawatha" was put in service. Coaches, diners, drawing-room parlor cars, beaver-tail parlor-observation cars and post-office cars made up these fine trains. Simple in line, tastefully decorated, fully air conditioned, the cars were attractive in appearance and had such excellent riding qualities that they justly took a place among the very finest American passenger trains. A third railroad, with a direct route between Chicago and the Twin Cities is the Chicago and North Western. In 1935 its
"400" was a fast train of standard type, with a swift oil-burning steam locomotive, which made some impressive records for speed. It was streamlined throughout in 1939, and at the same time, as we have said, "went Diesel," with a Diesel-electric locomotive of 4,000 horsepower, capable of a speed of 117 miles an hour.
On the Baltimore and Ohio the "Royal Blue" trains, between Jersey City and Washington, joined the parade of Diesel-electric streamliners in 1935, running on a schedule comparable to that of the fast trains of the electrified Pennsylvania.
The New York Central and the Pennsylvania, two of the best known and busiest railroads of the Eastern States, with a conservatism which was thought befitting their dignity and prestige, were a little slow in joining the parade of streamliners , reluctant to be "the first by whom the new is iried. Nor yet the last to lay the old aside." But in time they too got in step, and quickly caught up with the rest of the procession.
On June 15, 1938, at the Grand Central Station and at the Pennsylvania Station in New York City, and at the LaSalle Street Station and at the Union Station in Chicago, several thousand interested spectators witnessed ceremonies similar to those which take place when a ship is launched or the cornerstone of a great building laid. These ceremonies may have called to the minds of spectators who knew railroad history , the celebration which had taken place at Baltimore one hundred and ten years before, when Charles Carroll of Carrollton laid the first stone of the first steam railroad built in the United States. The New York Central and the Pennsylvania were christening, launching—what is a good word to use? —at least, they were dispatching on their first journeys some of the finest high-speed, steam passenger trains that this country had ever seen. On the New York Central a modern "Twentieth Century Limited" was starting its first run between New York and Chicago; on the Pennsylvania a new "Broadway Limited" was pulling out, and also a new "General " and a new "Spirit of St. Louis."
For two days previously the new trains had been on exhibition , and more than a hundred thousand persons had passed through the shining cars and admired their decorative schemes, their comforts and conveniences, and their splendid equipment . Numerous distinguished guests were present at the inauguration ceremonies: railroad presidents, railway equipment
manufacturers, army officers and public oflicials, and even a few popular moving picture stars. The stations were gaily decorated with flags and banners, there were speeches and music, the trains were christened with champagne, just as ships are christened when they are launched, and it was possible for stamp collectors to have mailed to them post cards and letters with the cancellations of stamps showing they were carried on the first "runs" of the new trains. In Chicago a message from the heavens gave the signal for the Twentieth Century to start. At the Elgin Observatory, at Elgin, Illinois, a giant telescope was trained upon the stars, and when the exact moment for the train to start arrived, a signal was electrically transmitted from the observatory to the LaSalle Street Station. The Mayor of Chicago waved his hand, and the new Century got under way for New York.
When the Erie Canal was finished in 1825, the message announcing its completion was transmitted by the successive discharges of cannon placed a few miles apart along the length of the canal. When the Union Pacific railroad was joined to the Central Pacific at Promontory, Utah, in 1869, a telegraph operator ticked off the news to hundreds of telegraph offices throughout the United States, and when he signalled that the last spike was driven, the completion of the first transcontinental railroad was celebrated in many places. But on June 15, 1938, when the new trains were started, millions of people were able to hear the speeches and the music and listen to a complete description of all that took place. For the ceremonies were broadcast by radio. Perhaps the time is not far distant when television will give us an opportunity to see as well as hear the ceremonies which accompany the inauguration of the services of a new streamlined train.
So the parade gathered in numbers and strength. Some trains steam, some Diesel-electric. The same week in 1940 that the Illinois Central's "City of Miami" made its first appearance on the run between Chicago and Miami, the Pennsylvania 's "South Wind" and the Chicago and Eastern Illinois' "Dixie Flagler" also began operation between Chicago and the great Florida winter resort. All three of these trains finish their journey on the Florida East Coast, though they follow different routes between Chicago and Jacksonville. In the South, the Southern Railway, in cooperation with the Pennsylvania, started the "Southern" between New York and New Orleans in March, 1941, and also put on a half-dozen twocar , unit Diesel-electric trains to give local service on various parts of its weblike system. The Kansas City Southern's "Southern Belle," which made her debut in September, 1940, brought back memories of the Old South. Farther westward the Rock Island put more "Rockets" to work, some of them operated jointly with the Burlington. The Burlington acquired more "Zephyrs," among which were the "Ak-Sar-Ben Zephyr" (reverse the spelling to find the origin of the name) , and the "Silver Streak Zephyr." The Missouri Pacific put on its fast flying "Eagles." Before the end of 1942 the North Western had added to its "Twin Cities 400" five others, the "Minnesota 400," the "Peninsula 400," the "Shoreland 400," the "Capitol 400" and the "City of Milwaukee 400."
The electrified Chicago, North Shore and Milwaukee, not to be outdone by the steam railroads, showed the public a fine fleet of "Electroliners" in February, 1941, all-electric, air conditioned , luxury streamliners, giving five trips daily between Chicago and Milwaukee. The first "Hiawatha" of the Milwaukee became the "Afternoon Hiawatha" to distinguish it from the new "Morning Hiawatha," also operating between Chicago and the Twin Cities, and in 1940 a "Midwest Hiawatha" was rolling between Chicago and Omaha. In the Far West the Southern Pacific's steam driven "Daylights," "Lark," "Sunbeam " and "Hustler" fell in. The "Morning Daylight" and the "Noon Daylight," giving daytime, and the "Lark" night service between Los Angeles and San Francisco, acquired deserved fame as being among America's best passenger trains, and were often patronized by tourists, eager to obtain, if possible , a glimpse of some Hollywood star who might be a fellow passenger.
The "Golden State Limited" (its name since changed) was streamlined, and many other trains, while they could not, because of the war, be fully converted into streamliners, were equipped, at least in part, with coaches, sleeping cars, and lounge-observation cars of modern design. In the East the New York Central's famous "Empire State Express"—both the Cleveland and the Detroit train—in December, 1941, became stainless steel, fully streamlined trains. The "Empire State"
had been preceded in January by the "James Whitcomb Riley" running between Chicago and Cincinnati. One of the most notable of the early steam-powered streamliners, also of glittering stainless steel, was the Reading Railroad's "Crusader," which began its mile-a-minute schedule between Jersey City and Philadelphia in December, 1937.
More of the streamlined, modernized all-coach trains came along in the wake of "El Capitan" and the "Silver Meteor," providing overnight, long distance service at lower rates than passengers had to pay in sleeping cars. Among the most famous of the new coach trains were the Pennsylvania's "Trail Blazer" and the New York Central's "Pacemaker," both of which began service on the same day in July, 1939. When the lightweight streamlined trains were first introduced , enthusiastic admirers predicted that there would probably be as many as fifty of them in operation within ten years. In seven years there were approximately 100 streamliners op
erating on American railroads, and it was possible to ride in streamlined comfort and luxury from coast to coast. Even the most ardent enthusiasts had not been able to foresee the strength of the popular demand for the new kind of railroad passenger transportation, and they had also underestimated the ability and willingness of American railroad managers and manufacturers to respond to popular demand.
It has been pointed out before that the Second World War put an end to the building of streamlined trains, and even caused many of them to be discontinued. Moreover, because of the need to economize on railroad equipment and get as many miles out of every car as it was humanly possible to get, streamlined cars soon became mixed, on all passenger trains, with older, standard equipment. Many of the well-known streamlined passenger trains, which previously had looked so sleek and so uniform in shape and color from engine to observation car, looked more like freight trains, with their odd mixture of cars of many different patterns, shapes and colors. As the end of the Avar came in sight, and even before the shooting stopped, railroad managers were planning for the restoration of their streamliners. Not only that, they were planning changes—new motive power, and new and better cars. Railroads which had not joined in the parade of the streamliners prepared to get in line.
The years since the close of the war have been fruitful ones, witnessing many changes in older trains, as well as the addition of some notable new ones.
There has been a steady tendency for the steam locomotive to give way to the Diesel-electric as the power plant for the streamliner. This tendency was noted even before the war made it impossible to bring about many changes. It has already been told how the North Western's "Twin Cities 400" "went Diesel" in 1939. Today only one of the North Western's "400's," now six in number, still has a steam locomotive. Of the "Hiawathas," now four in all. three have been Dieselized. The Great Northern's new "Empire Builder" and the Northern Pacific's "North Coast Limited" both have Diesel power. One of the most striking changes came when the New York Central's "Twentieth Century Limited" and the Pennsylvania 's "Broadway Limited" switched from steam locomotives to Diesels. This happened some time late in 1946 or in 1947. Like little boys fearful of being discovered playing with daddy's razor, these roads were both using Diesel power on their best trains long before the general public was made aware of it. Even the Chesapeake and Ohio, the most outspoken and stubborn champion of the coal burner, yielded to the attraction of the Diesel, when it put its fine "Pere Marquettes" in service between Detroit and Grand Rapids in August, 1946.
Some more of the new streamliners should be mentioned. The year 1946 saw the parade extended by the addition of the "Meadowlark" and the "Whippoorwill" on the Chicago and Eastern Illinois. The Illinois Central put on its own "Daylight " between Chicago and New Orleans. The Louisville and Nashville started its "Humming Bird" flying between Cincinnati and New Orleans, and shared with the Nashville, Chattanooga and St. Louis the "Georgian" between St. Louis and Atlanta. The Southern Pacific added another "Daylight" to run between San Francisco and Lathrop. The Norfolk and Western recalled the name of a famous early American with the "Powhatan Arrow," and the Wabash and Union Pacific joined to operate the "City of St. Louis" between St. Louis and Cheyenne, the westbound train being broken up at the latter city and its cars dispersed to Los Angeles, Oakland and Portland.
The year 1947 was even more productive of new streamliners , most of them, but not quite all, Diesel-powered. The Santa Fe added the "Grand Canyon," bringing the number of its streamliners to eight. The Baltimore and Ohio inaugurated a new fast service between Washington and Cincinnati with the "Cincinnatian." "Man o' War" and "Nancy Hanks" appeared on the Central of Georgia. The Burlington did not enlarge its fleet of "Zephyrs," now grown to eleven, but it participated in providing the route taken by the Great Northern's "Empire Builder" and the Northern Pacific's "North Coast Limited" between Chicago and Seattle. The Monon. all of its trains now Dieselized, made the Hoosier State happy with the "Hoosier" and the "Tippecanoe" between Chicago and Indianapolis. The Rock Island converted the "Golden State Limited" into a newly equipped "Golden State," which reaches Los Angeles on the tracks of the Southern Pacific. The Illinois Central celebrated with five new streamliners. There can be no doubt of the significance of the name of one of them, the "Land o' Corn" running between Chicago and Waterloo, Iowa. Three of the new trains had the name "City of New Orleans," built to operate on various parts of the Illinois Central system, and "Miss Lou," in keeping with the fashion of the year, got a complete new look and stepped out as one
of the most stylish trains in the Middle West. The Nashville, Chattanooga and St. Louis came along with a streamliner all its own, the "City of Memphis," between Memphis and Nashville , while the Pennsylvania and the Seaboard Air Line, joined by their bridge line, the Richmond, Fredericksburg and Potomac, brought out the "Silver Comet" to run between New York and Birmingham.
Dozens of the older streamliners were completely done over, with new cars and new, more powerful locomotives. One of the most notable events of railroad history of 1948 was the first run on September 17 of the New York Central's new "Twentieth Century Limited." This famous train had been reequipped many times, but this latest edition was the finest, most luxurious of all. Costing $2,000,000 each, the two "Centuries " more than sustained the reputation of the New York Central for being in the foremost of railroads providing the best passenger service to be found anywhere in the world. The superb train which left New York on its first run, September 17, was dedicated the previous day, with impressive ceremonies , General Dwight D. Eisenhower, President of Columbia University, and former leader of the great European Army of the Second World War, making the principal address. With accommodations for 253 passengers in its 137 rooms and roomettes , this ten-car train, with its 4,000 horsepower, double-unit Diesel-electric locomotive, presented a striking contrast to the original five-car, steam-powered "Century," which made its first run on June 15, 1902.
Everybody knows, of course, that many American passenger trains, and a few freight trains too, are "named" trains. The same thing is true of numerous passenger trains in other parts of the world. Some of our trains have names which are not exactly official, and are not published by the railroads themselves . Many years ago there was a passenger train in northern Indiana, which, because of its meandering route and crawling speed, was locally referred to as the "Punkin Vine Express." The late Keith Preston, long before he became famous as a humorous poet and keen, witty columnist, was occasionally a passenger on this train. He wrote a little jingle about it, which probably can not be found in any of his books of verse or other printed works.
"The Punkin Vine pulls out at eight,
One battered trunk, one box of freight,
One bag of mail, and two or three
Unhappy passengers like me."
There are doubtless other such "express" trains to be found in the United States, but unhappily their names do not appear in the booklet recently issued by the Association of American Railroads, giving the names of all the "named" passenger trains in the United States, Canada and Mexico, and telling whether they have streamlined or standard equipment, and the kind of power employed to pull them. This booklet is a most interesting document, and the Association promises to issue a companion booklet giving a list of the named freight trains of America.
The total number of named trains given is 704, of which 118 are streamliners. Since some trains with standard equipment also use Diesel-electric locomotives, the number of trains which have Diesel power during all or a part of their journeys is 261. The others use steam or electric power, or a combination of the two.
The names which have been selected for trains are highly interesting. There is not much in the way of astronomy, biology, history or geography that has not been drawn upon for names, and there are many names from other sources. Among American statesmen represented are Washington, Jefferson and Lincoln. Other figures famous in our political and military history, whose names are given to trains, are Roger Williams, William Penn, Paul Revere, Nathan Hale, Sam Houston, and General Pershing, while beloved literary figures of recent years are remembered in such trains as Mark Twain, James Whitcomb Riley, Irvin S. Cobb and Will Rogers. Present dignitaries in Washington are represented anonymously with a President, a Speaker, a Senator, and a Congressional, but as might be expected, one looks in vain for a Vice-President . There are not many names of men famous in railroad history, though Commodore Vanderbilt, Asa Packer and Henry M. Flagler have their trains. There is hardly a state or large city in the country, which does not have a "limited" or an "express" added to its name, though state nicknames seem to be favored more than real names, as shown by Empire State.
Badger, Blue Grass, Grand Canyon, Prairie State, Pine Tree. Bay State, Old Dominion, Beaver, Keystone, Palmetto, Buckeye , Centennial State, Cracker, Golden State, Gopher, Hawkeye , Hoosier, Lone Star, Sooner, Sunflower and Wolverine. Well known regions appear in such names as Blue Ridge, Copper Country, Corn Belt, Dixie, Everglades and half a dozen "coasts"; and regional allusion is apparent in Pilgrim, Mayflower and Yankee Clipper. Rivers, oceans and lakes provide many geographical names. That railroad men know their birds and flowers is indicated by the presence of Blue Bird. Humming Bird, Cardinal, Eagle, Flamingo, Lark, Red Bird, Meadowlark, Pelican, Partridge, Whippoorwill and too many Owls to count, along with a Camellia, a Goldenrod and a Poinciana.
The heavens were appealed to for Comet, Mercury, Meteor, North Star, Rainbow, Star, Sunbeam, Sunset, Sundown and Sunshine. Of the four winds of heaven only three respond, the west wind, which to many is the best wind, for some reason being omitted. No names are more truly and definitely American than Hiawatha, Black Hawk, Chickasaw, Chippewa, Iroquois , Narragansett, Onondaga, Powhatan, Pocahontas, Seminole , Sinissippi, Sioux nd Tuscarora.
The story of American passenger train progress is an amazing story. We have mentioned several times the kind of trains your grandparents rode in. What would your grandparents have said fifty years ago if some one had told them that the time was soon coming when a passenger traveling on a train speeding along at seventy miles an hour or more could hear news reports, speeches, songs, music and other kinds of entertainment coming from places hundreds, even thousands, of miles away? But if they would have shaken their heads in polite derision at that prediction, what do you suppose they would have said if told that the same passenger would be able to see, faithfully and accurately presented on a luminous screen, the actual moving picture of some event taking place at the same
time many miles away? On Thursday, October 7, 1948, a group of passengers and guests on the Baltimore and Ohio's Marylander, speeding from Washington to Jersey City at eighty miles an hour, saw by television the second baseball game of the World Series. Perhaps no other incident in recent railroad history illustrates so well the wonderful changes that have taken place in railroad transportation during the twentieth century.