by: Gene Hull

By the time the second World War was over, the railroads were well developed and a growing economy made it possible for a large portion of the population to visit the scenic wonders and the enticing great cities of America. The east coast of Florida became the most popular playground of America. Railroads also served the government-provided playgrounds - the magnificent National Parks.

As the young, expanding nation grew, it created a vacuum. Inhabitants were needed to sustain it, and make ti realize its full potential. Home-seekers and investors eagerly took the chance of a lifetime - they headed west. The railroads welcomed this land-hungry horde.

The era of train-riding flourished and the nation’s magazines and newspapers took advantage of it. The illustrations for this article are a few from my collection:

No. 1 - This is a copy of the Mena, Arkansas STAR newspaper for August 26, 1896 describing the area of western Arkansas made available by the Kansas City, Pittsburgh & Gulf (KCS) railroad.

No. 2 - This small card was issued by the Wabash Railroad in the early 1930s to promote business for its dining cars during those difficult economic times. In these days of NO dining car service, the price of a modest, but adequate , breakfast would get you one-fourth cut of coffee, without the pleasant atmosphere of a dining car in motion.

No. 3 - The Missouri Pacific issued this public timetable on October 9, 1938 with an illustration of a magnificent steam-powered passenger train that could very well be the famous SUNSHINE SPECIAL.

If you wish to nit-pick, you could say the illustration did Not show the ‘SHINE, or even the Missouri Pacific, because of the two spruce trees showed above the observation car. The Missouri Pacific did not run in spruce tree county (northern or western states at a higher elevation than that of the Gulf Coast Lines or International-Great Northern. It is possible spruce trees could be found along the Missouri Pacific near the termination of the MoP at Pueblo, Colo.)

No. 4 - During the time of “See America By Rail”, the Southern Pacific provided the tourists with the light-weight aluminum streamline train SHASTA DAYLIGHT - “The Million Dollar Train With The Million Dollar View.” For the first time travelers could see the entire Pacific coast from a train window Portland to San Francisco by daylight for only $21.60.

No. 5 - Not willing to be left behind, the Rock Island “got in on the act” with its fleet of stainless steel ROCKETS between 1937 (TEXAS ROCKET) and (GOLDEN STATE) 1948. This illustrated envelope for safe keeping your ticket was issued in December 1952.

No. 6 - The early days of people-hauling railroads were days of decorum when ladies traveling alone were carefully sheltered from the crude and rude general public, especially those of the male gender. To accommodate those tender, gentle travelers, the New York Central provided fo them the comfort of and privacy of a “Ladies Lounge”, with comfortable movable chairs. This lounge was located in the observation car. The railroad published ths information on 3" x 6" cards, which were made available to proper passengers.

No. 7 - “Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from there swift completion of their appointed rounds”; these famous words were attributed to Herodotus, the Greek historian known as the Father of History. They have been associated with carriers of the U. S. Mail.

In the 1930s, the New York Central used them in a sincere tribute to all of America’s railroads and the men who ran them. In those days when people of America rode trains, a railroad man was looked upon with honor and respect. Children often regarded the engineer in a locomotive cab with a sense of awe, respect and almost reverence, often more so than for the president of the nation.

No. 8 & 9 - The popular magazines of the 1940s and 1950s often used railroads as subjects of interest in their cartoons.

Yes, indeed, in the times when people rode trains, railroads played a truly important part in the daily lives of millions of people. Have you ever known the momentary pleasure of standing on the patterned red brick platform at a depot when a mighty, hot, noisy steam locomotive pulled a train of heavy steel passenger cars to a smooth stop? As the engine sat there, panting after many miles of exertion, have you looked at the faces of people staring back at you, and you wondered where they had been, where they were going; what their emotions were? For just a moment you were in touch with a tiny segment of the vast world in its mad rush to eternity. Sadly, people of the present age have never known the soul-satisfying pleasure of such an experience.

What a contrast this experience was to the days when railroads did most everything they could to discourage people form riding their trains.

Yes, there is AMTRAK. They are making an effort to bring back the thrilling experience of yesterday with the equipment, methods and people of today. It just ain’t gonna happen.