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Grolier Club Exhibitions

The Challenges of the 20th Century

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Leslie Ragan.
For the Public Service.
New York: The New York Central Railroad, 1945.

Leslie Ragan’s painting of New York Central trains in Chicago shows the technological prowess of the railroad industry at the end of World War II and the optimism felt by railroads as they saw the war winding down and passengers returning to the rails. Unfortunately, this optimism would be misplaced as Americans began to embrace automobiles and airplanes at the expense of trains. In 10 years, passenger trains would be on the way out and airliners on the way in.

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James Bingham.
Meet Mrs. Casey Jones.
Philadelphia: Pennsylvania Railroad, ca 1942.

This poster celebrates women’s contributions to the railroad industry during World War Two. Here, “Mrs. Casey Jones” personifies the thousands of women who entered the workforce in formerly male-oriented jobs. While no women were over-the-road engineers on U.S. railroads, they made significant contributions in yards and maintenance facilities to help keep the trains in operation.

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Victor Beals.
The Super Chief.
Chicago: The Santa Fe Railroad, ca 1950.

Victor Beals was a studio artist who worked for many corporate customers. This image is part of a set of posters ordered by the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad to help promote travel to the Southwest after World War Two. Pictured here is of the line’s premier passenger train, The Super Chief, which operated between Chicago and Los Angeles.

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Frank A. Munsey Co.
Railroad Magazine.
New York: Frank A. Munsey Co., Various Dates.

Railroad Magazine began as Railroad Man’s Magazine, which folded in 1919. It was revived as a pulp magazine under this title in 1929. The articles tended more towards human interest stories and legends rather than business or technical aspects of railroading. Stories covered a variety of popular topics including accidents, heroic railroaders, and train robberies.

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Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad.
Burlington’s New 12 Car Denver Zephyrs.
Chicago: The Company, 1936.

The Denver Zephyr was one of the first streamlined trains in America. It was built by the Budd Company of Philadelphia and The Electro-Motive Company of Cleveland for the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy, who had worked together to create The Pioneer Zephyr in 1934. This advertisement showcases the improvements and amenities offered by the train, in addition to its speed, to help passengers reach their destinations quickly.

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Streamline Cruises.
Brochure: Affordable Luxury.
Chicago: The Company, ca 1935.

Streamline Cruises was a travel agency based in New York, NY, which promoted rail tours across the United States. This brochure uses images of one of the Union Pacific’s streamline diesel locomotives which was popular with the traveling public. The railroads heavily promoted rail travel during the 1930s to maintain their market share versus buses, cars, and airplanes.

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Boston and Maine Railroad.
You and the Big Truck: The Essentials of the Highway Competitive Situation.

Boston: The Company, 1951.

The increased proliferation of over-the-road trucks, and a push for highway improvement, alarmed the freight railroads during the 1950s. They began publishing booklets to argue against increased highway development to keep freight on the rails. The Boston and Maine was particularly concerned as Americans embraced the automobile and passenger traffic declined in the Northeast and across the nation.

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Pennsylvania Railroad.
Pennsylvania Railroad Rail Trailer Freight Service.
Philadelphia: The Company, 1954.

When it became apparent that interstate highways and trucks were not going away, railroads like the Pennsylvania sought ways to move truckload freight and stem the loss in traffic. This brochure is for the company’s service that loaded trailers onto flat cars for long distance movement. This service was a success, as it allowed multiple trailers to travel together via a single train rather than having to pay drivers to cross the country with them.

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The Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway Company.
The Railroad at War.
Chicago: The Company, 1943.

Railroads across the country produced many of these promotional booklets containing material from their public relations departments or industry magazines like Railway Age. They were distributed to community groups and the public at large to promote the railroad’s contributions to the war effort and explain disruptions that the traveling public may be experiencing. They were also effective at maintaining public support for continued private operation of the railroads rather than temporary nationalization during the war.

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General Motors-Electro Motive Division.
EMD Instruction Manual: Diesel Freight Locomotives.
La Grange, IL: The Company, 1944.

This is an operator’s manual for the “FT” model diesel freight locomotive built by EMD during World War II. The FT was the first successful diesel locomotive for over-the-road freight service in the United States. EMD presented their customers with these specially made manuals. Each customer’s manual had a special cover to match the paint scheme of their new FT Locomotives. The FT’s would last in service into the 1950s, when they would be replaced by newer locomotives.

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Interstate Commerce Commission.
New York, New Haven & Hartford Railroad Co. Trustees, Discontinuance of All Interstate Passenger Trains.
Washington, DC: Government Printing Office, 1966.

With the steep decline of passenger traffic on railroads, it became necessary to eliminate entire passenger trains from operation. This document shows how such a process would be completed. Petitions were filed to the Interstate Commerce Commission to eliminate or discontinue a passenger train, and testimony would be collected. At the end of the process, the commission would present a decision allowing or denying the request.

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Great Northern Railway.
Consolidation: Key to Transportation Progress.
Saint Paul, MN: The Company, 1961.

This small pamphlet from 1961 outlined the proposed merger of the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy, Great Northern and Northern Pacific Railroads. The merger had originally been proposed by railroad titan James J. Hill at the turn of the 20th century but was denied by the Federal Government. This latest merger was born out of survival, as railroad traffic declined due to road and air competition. The merger would finally be completed in 1970 with the founding of the Burlington Northern Railway.

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Richard Avedon.
“A. Philip Randolph” in Rolling Stone.
New York: October 21, 1976.

This issue of Rolling Stone contains a photographic essay by Richard Avedon titled “The Family.” This image shows the former head of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, A. Philip Randolph, at age 87. Randolph was leader of the BSCP from 1925 until 1968. During his tenure, he advocated for equality and civil rights for African Americans and was an early organizer of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom.

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Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters.
Report of the Proceedings of the…Biennial Convention, 1942.
New York: The Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters, 1942.

This is a copy of the proceedings of the first wartime meeting of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters. It contains a report from A. Philip Randolph on the activities of the union during 1942. If President Franklin Roosevelt had not intervened, it would have also covered the March on Washington that Randolph had wanted to organize, until a presidential appeal for wartime unity convinced him to call it off.

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American Flyer.
The President’s Special, ca. 1927.

This piece is a wonderful example of pre-World War II tinplate electric trains. Made of lightweight shaped metal over a heavier frame with an electric motor, this set represents a New York Central electric locomotive and several passenger cars. After World War I, electric train sets became popular with hobbyists and families as a way for young people, and people who liked trains, to bring railroading home.

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Atlas Model Railroad Co.
Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad Locomotive, ca. 1970.

This model of a Chesapeake and Ohio diesel is one of many thousands of plastic model trains made after the end of World War Two. With the post-war baby boom, models like these found ready customers as new parents, especially fathers, bought trains for their children to enjoy, just as they did before the war.

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Greenberg Publishing Co.
Lionel Catalogs, 1954 and 1958.
Sykesville: Greenberg Publishing Co., 1975.

Greenberg Publishing specializes in material relating to the collecting of toy trains made by various manufacturers, including the Lionel Corporation. These two reproduction catalogs show Lionel’s marketing for the baby boomer generation. Note how the father and son imagery is used to encourage parents to purchase trains for their children as an activity for the whole family.