Tag Archives: train

Ad Campaign – 20th Century Limited, 1951

The Time: 6 P.M., any night.  The Place: Grand Central Terminal, New York. The Star: you, stepping from the crimson carpet to the magic carpet that is the famous 20th Century Limited.  It’s the New York Central’s luxury hotel on wheels, your overnight vacation between New York and Chicago, first night on your coast-to-coast week end.

If you love old magazines, then I bet you are like me, always lamenting the total lack of glamour in travel today.  I don’t think it would be so bad if not for these reminders of how travel itself was once an experience to be savored.  Unfortunately, travel today is more likely to just be endured, especially travel by plane.  But even trains are not the luxurious and relaxing places they once were.  But in our busy lives, it is often time that is the luxury, and the speed of modern travel does allow us more time when on a trip.

I’m writing this several days in advance, because when it is published I’ll be on a trip, with two of my dearest friends who knew I needed a change of scenery.  Maybe this post should have been about friendship instead of travel.

I bet you can guess where I am!



Filed under Advertisements, Proper Clothing, Vintage Travel

Post WWII Travel

After five or so years of very limited domestic travel due to the war, Americans in the late 1940s and into the 50s were ready to hit the road, and the rails, and the air and the water!  To go along with the renewed interest in travel was a new travel magazine, Holiday.  Several  years ago I ran across a big stack of these magazines from the yearly years of its publication.  The ads alone were worth the buck each I paid for them.

After spending untold hours browsing through these, I came to the conclusion that travelers in the post war years had more options than we have today.  Train travel was still a major part of travel, especially for those who were traveling to the American West.  Busses were an alternative to trains, especially for shorter trips.  The auto was becoming the American-conveyance-of-choice.  Ships were not just for pleasure cruises – they actually took you to a destination, and air travel was moving up fast.

The train ads tend to push the long distance trip, and for many Americans that meant a trip to the West.  As you can see, the ads focus on convenience and pleasure.  The trip itself was part of the adventure.

My husband and I actually made one of these train trips to the west back in 1995.  Of course that trip did not live up to my expectations of 1940s glamorous train travel, partly because we opted for a small compartment and were stumbling all over each other for two days.  That, compounded by the fact that the air conditioning was non-functioning, and the “club car” sold beer for only 30 minutes every evening…

But Lin at Vintage Voyager made a similar trip recently, and had quite a difference experience.  I’m almost ready to give it another try.  But only if the children are as well behaved as the little girl in yellow below, and  if there is a “dress code” like in the 40s, and if we pack a few  bottles of gin and vermouth…





Posted by Em:

The adverts are beautiful. I have always had romantic notions about a train trip in Canada or maybe one through the national parks. 

Monday, August 2nd 2010 @ 4:00 PM

Posted by Hollis:

Lizzie, I’m with you. If they are all dressed in 1940s gabardine and snappy fedoras, I’m there! 

Monday, August 2nd 2010 @ 5:57 PM

Posted by Tej Kohli:

Such a Great Post and Images , I love That 

Tuesday, August 3rd 2010 @ 2:54 AM

Posted by Terry Banderas:

Just saw your stuff on Flickr also. Love these advertisements. 

Tuesday, August 3rd 2010 @ 5:39 AM

Posted by Beth:

My husband and I keep thinking about doing a train trip but mostly just think. I did do a bit of research on it. We do travel a bit in our tiny camper. 

Tuesday, August 3rd 2010 @ 7:34 AM

Posted by Lin:

what *fantastic* ads! I’m trying to remember my outfits… i think I kept it snappy but my memory is bad. You know, I have to admit, that long trip on the Southwest Chief I made on my own, so I had plenty of room. I must say the service was fantastic, but I do get the impression that the staff may get let down by the aging equipment every now and then. 

There’s definitely an upswing of tourist traffic on these trains now, and it really is well worth it. I only wish I could have got off to explore. Tip: I found the tickets on the City of New Orleans to be among the cheapest to pre-book. We fitted two of us in that cabin and it was a great trip!

One plus to the economic downturn: less freight, and all the trains running more or less to schedule!

Wednesday, August 4th 2010 @ 1:35 PM

Posted by Lin:

ps. definitely pack the gin. And a mixer. The wine is a bit expensive by the glass with dinner *cough* 

Wednesday, August 4th 2010 @ 1:37 PM

Posted by Lizzie:

Lin, I’m sure you were the snappiest woman on the train! 

Next up: Bus ads! Stay tuned…

Friday, August 6th 2010 @ 5:06 PM

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Roll out the Red Carpet

Here’s another one of those old train ads that makes one long for the fashionable past of train travel.  From 1948, you don’t actually get to see inside the 20th Century Limited, but the red carpet says it all.  In fact, the “roll out the red carpet” saying probably originated with this train.  The special carpet was rolled out at all stops, and since the Limited was mainly a first class train, the saying came to mean “to get first class treatment.”

The 20th Century Limited left New York’s Grand Central and arrived in Chicago in about 15 and a half hours.  It was an express train which made very few stops.

Why the sudden fascination with the 20th Century Limited?  It probably has something to do with the fact that I watched Albert Hitchcock’s North by Northwest on TCM last week.  A lot  of the movie takes place on the Limited, and scenes were actually filmed using the train (although interior scenes were filmed on a set.)  It’s a great movie, whether you like trains, or not.

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Sunset Limited, 1940

This ad for the Sunset Limited comes from a 1940 Vogue .    About 10 years ago my husband and I did just what the ad suggests – we took the Crescent to New Orleans, stayed a few days, and then took the Sunset Limited on to Tucson, Arizona.    It was something we had talked about doing for years, as train travel always looks like so much fun in old movies.

If you’ve never taken a long train trip, let me enlighten you.  Unless you really like to sit, it probably isn’t for you.    You can get up and walk around, of course, but you can only walk up and down the aisle so many times. The club car was nice for meeting people, but it was small and crowded, and they served beer (no wine or liquer!)for only 30 minutes every evening.   The food, actually, was pretty good, but the menu was very limited.    So I suggest that if you really want to take a trip by train, make it a short one. And if you are taking an overnight trip, take the largest compartment available.    Take a good book or a large stack of magazines, or a portable DVD player. And don’t forget the whiskey!

The luxurious 20th Century Limited:


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