MOVIE PALACES, TRAINS, CLASSIC CARS, SPORTS, DEPARTMENT STORES
Just the names conjure up memories:
Pullman, Zephyrette, Domeliner, the Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe
1952 - A Last Hurrah for Streamlined Passenger Trains
Beautiful, innovative post-war trains with streamlined equipment, dome cars, and faster schedules combined with old-fashioned, comfortable service made American trains the finest in the word in 1952. Passenger trains were the mode of choice. Long distance automobile trips were challenging as construction of interstate highways had not yet begun and air travel was for the more adventurous. It was the best time in history to ride an American passenger train, but the streamliner craze would last only a few more years.
Train travel had a magical element. The journey began at a majestic station. The arrival of the massive trains was exhilarating and the traditional ‘All Aboard’ built momentum for the gentle acceleration as the train left the station. The cityscape was replaced with a countryside displayed through a private window to the world.
Railroads competed with each other to lure passengers with newer trains, newer features, passenger comforts, and evermore attention to outstanding service. Every large city was served by a dozen or more long distance passenger trains with stations in the city center.
As the 1950s progressed, the railroads watched helplessly as passenger traffic plummeted and not even new equipment and promotional advertising could entice passengers. In 1950, long distance passenger trains and the domestic airlines each handled 16 million passengers. By 1953, streamliner passengers declined to 13 million while airlines increased to 26 million. The convenience of the interstate (the Interstate Highway System was created in 1956) and the speed of the airplane (Domestic jet service began in 1958) would replace streamliners as American’s mode of choice and eventually defeat the private railroad passenger train.
Santa Fe’s Super Chief, Pennsylvania Railroad’s Broadway Limited, and the Illinois Central’s Panama Limited were the last all-Pullman passenger trains in the United States as railroads slowly began to bow out of the weakening passenger market. By the 1960s most of the celebrated trains were mere shells of their former selves and railroads were desperately looking for a way out of their government obligation to provide passenger service. On May 1, 1971 this wish became reality with the creation of Amtrak, which took over most intercity rail travel operations throughout the United States.