Rail Travel Inspiration – 1950s New York

Rail travel inspiration offers fertile ground for writing ideas

rail travel inspiration

New York Central poster for the 20th Century Limited, 1948.

Rail travel inspiration

I wrote an article for NOLA History Guy last week on “Hickory Creek,” a 1948-vintage railcar built for the New York Central’s “20th Century Limited” train. The car operates in charter service, pulled behind Amtrak trains. I saw it leaving New Orleans, behind the Amtrak Crescent. The Crescent travels from New Orleans to New York City. I included the poster above, as a bit of a flashback. It flashed to me, even if nobody else follows along!

Grand Central Terminal in the 1950s

My thoughts go back to 1950, but not necessarily to the New York Central. While Grand Central Terminal was A Big Deal to the railroad, their trains connected Chicago to New York, not the South. So, for the South, it’s Southern Railway and Louisville and Nashville. They brought the Crescent and other trains up from New Orleans. Replace the 20th Century Limited in that poster with the Crescent and it’s a New Orleans story! Additionally, a story doesn’t have to be limited to a single train trip.

The romance of train travel

rail travel inspiration

New York Central poster featuring a streamlined 4-6-4 Hudson locomotive.

This New York Central poster shows a 4-6-4 “Hudson” steam engine, pulling the 20th Century Limited. While most steam locomotives presented a lot of exposed rods, gears, and machinery, the railroad covered all that up for their signature train. So, the streamline look of those engines increased the romance aspect of a trip to Chicago.

Switching to diesel continues rail travel inspiration

rail travel inspiration

New York Central poster from the 1950s, featuring diesel engine and “streamline” passenger car.

The railroad switched the 20th Century Limited to diesel locomotives in 1945. The Electro-Motive Division of General Motors sold “E” units to the New York Central. The railroad ordered new cars, “trainsets” as well. Those entered service in 1948. That’s where Hickory Creek comes in.

Imagine a regular traveler on the 20th Century Limited, settling into a sleeping compartment in one of those new cars. Or, maybe a couple from Jersey, taking a trip to the Lake Michigan shore. While those visuals aren’t Southern, they’re still inspiring! So many possibilities!