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Grolier Club Exhibitions

The Progressive Era: Railroads Brought to Heel

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New York Central Railroad.
Valuation Drawing of Grand Central Terminal.
New York: The Company, 1918.

This is one of thousands of valuation drawings and maps created during and after 1918 by the railroads of the United States. This sheet depicts one level of Grand Central Terminal in Manhattan. It shows tracks, platforms and other infrastructure in the building that would have been part of determining the railroad’s tax bill under the Railroad Valuation Act of 1913.

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Casey Jones’ Whip-or-Whill Call.
Unknown manufacturing location, ca 1895.

This whistle is from the locomotive assigned to Illinois Central engineer John Luther “Casey” Jones. Jones had this whistle built from boiler tubing to give his engine a distinctive call. He died April 30, 1900, near Vaughn, MS, while running another engineer’s locomotive. Jones’ co-workers removed this whistle from his normally assigned locomotive and presented it to his widow.

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National Railway Publication Company.
The Official Guide of the Railways and Steam Navigation Lines of the United States, Porto Rico, Canada, Mexico and Cuba.
New York: National Railway Publication Company, 1867-present.

Anyone traveling by rail in North America at the turn of the 20th century would have consulted, or had a professional consult, The Official Guide of the Railways, more commonly called The Official Guide. This book listed nearly every passenger train in the United States and their schedules. It was an indispensable reference work for the prolific railroad traveler or travel agent and remained so until the 1970’s.


United States Railroad Administration.
General Orders.
Washington, DC: United States Railroad Administration, 1917-1920.

This is a bound edition of all the general orders issued by the United States Railroad Administration, formed in 1917 in response to railroad problems during the early months of America’s involvement in World War I. It served as the umbrella of nationalization of the railroads of the United States and would continue to do so throughout the First World War and two years afterward.

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United States Postal Service.
Railway Mail: The United States Railway Mail Service at the New Post Office and Pennsylvania R.R. Station, New York City.
Washington, DC: Office of Supt. Railway Mail Service, 1910.

At the turn of the 20th Century, the Pennsylvania and New York Central Railroads were competing for dominance of New York passenger traffic. The Pennsylvania built Pennsylvania Station in 1907 as part of its Hudson Tunnels project. In conjunction with the station, a large new post office was built and began operation in 1910. This document explains all of the improvements and innovations applied to the structure and how they would speed mail along its way.


Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad.
The Fertile Lands of Colorado and New Mexico.
Denver: The Company, 1912.

The passenger department of the Denver and Rio Grande Western published this work to encourage the continuing development of the West. With the discovery of various mineral and agricultural opportunities, settlers continued westward. The D&RGW wanted to capture as much traffic as possible and steer settlers to land that would benefit the railroad. This pamphlet was one of the many promotional efforts to meet these objectives.

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Missouri, Kansas & Texas Railroad.
Special Timetable for President Roosevelt’s Train.
Place of publication unknown: The Company, 1905.

Despite Theodore Roosevelt’s adversarial regulatory relationship with railroads, the MK&T provided timetables to individuals who would want to see the President as he traveled through Texas to a reunion of “The Rough Riders.” These pieces were collected by former MK&T President John W. Barriger III.

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Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad.
Fred Harvey Meal Service, ca. 1935.

The Fred Harvey Company was founded in 1876 to provide meals for passengers on the Santa Fe Railroad. The railroad used the quality meals and excellent service provided by Harvey to help market its passenger trains. This brochure shows all of the “Harvey Houses” on the Santa Fe and the meal services available on certain trains between Chicago and the Southwest.

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Missouri, Kansas & Texas Railroad.
Railroad China, ca. 1910s.

Dining cars on passenger trains were well established by the 20th century. The railroads sought to provide excellent service and quality food to their passengers. This set of china, from the MK&T, shows the quality of presentation that a diner would see at their table. Railroad china had to be both attractive to customers and durable for the needs of the company.

The Progressive Era: Railroads Brought to Heel