Friday, March 2, 2012

Varieties of Railroad Travel Posters

This book about North American railroad company travel posters mentioned that early posters tended to feature locomotives, but by some time around 1915 the emphasis shifted to destinations offered by lines. Between these extremes must be a middle ground where voilĂ  ! trains and destinations appear on the same poster. And voilĂ  ! once more, there can be posters showing trains on their way to destinations passing by intermediate points of interest that the lucky tourist will be able to see if he rides the line in question.

This high-level theorizing leaves me breathless and my head woozy, so let's move on to viewing some examples.


By Leslie Ragan for New York Central - 1938
Ragan created many fine poster illustrations for the New York Central. I selected this one because it features a locomotive to the exclusion of its setting.

By Walter Greene for New York Central - 1928
The New York Central railroad correctly boasted that it was the line that had the lowest level between New York and Chicago; competing lines had to deal with mountainous terrain in places en route. A 20th Century Limited would depart from New York's Grand Central Terminal and head north along the east bank of the Hudson River, crossing to the west side shortly before reaching Albany. From Albany it would proceed along the Mohawk River and then surmount a small crest near Utica to enter the Great Lakes drainage basin. From Syracuse through Buffalo and Cleveland to Chicago was a matter of traveling over fairly flat land.

The scene in the poster shows a train heading south along the Hudson at a point just north of West Point, where Storm King mountain looms on the river's west bank, a sight for passengers to enjoy if they were sitting on the right side of the coach. Storm King is certainly a large hunk of rock, but I suspect that Greene slightly dramatized it.

By Leslie Ragan for New York Central - c.1940
Here we find locomotives at a destination, Chicago in this case, with the Board of Trade building as the backdrop. Ragan depicts four locomotives, three steam powered and one new diesel engine (second from the left). At the far left is an ordinary non-streamlined locomotive. The engines at the right are steam powered streamliners; I wrote about them here.

By Edward Eggleston for Pennsylvania Railroad - early 1930s
Not a train in sight, but who would care about that if there was a lovely swinsuit-clad lass beckoning you to join her on the beach near Atlantic City's fabulous boardwalk? The Pennsy's main routes ran from New York to Philadelphia and then on to Chicago or St. Louis; to reach Atlantic City, one had to catch a spur line from Philadelphia.

1 comment:

Hels said...

oohhh I love travel posters.

But I tend to disagree with the chronological order i.e that the early posters tended to feature locomotives, but by some time around 1915 the emphasis shifted to destinations offered by lines.

From your three train posters, it seems that the passion for speed, dynamic shapes and technological progress came in the Deco period (largely from 1925 on).