Passenger Railroads of the 1930's-1940's in North America

The Author of these pages is sight limited. Please forgive errors

Click on an open link below or go to the Railroad Index to Locate a Railroad
Chicago Chicago
Eastern Midwest
Southeast Southern Southwest Western

Some other interesting links to 30's and 40's railroad memories are:
Home Railroad
Big Seven
City to City

Nowadays, most of us probably know very little about the wonderful old railroad trains that took us to most anywhere we wanted to go in the U. S. of A. Before the advent of large airliners, and the growth of the interstate highway system, rail travel was a great way to go, and the number of railroads providing this opportunity was very large.
The 1930's and 1940's were the glory years of luxurious rail travel. Competition was heavy, and diesel-electric locomotives were beginning to take over from steam locomotives. It was an exciting time. A great way, for the average person, to view the railroad scene, as it then existed, is to study the railroads and trains in each geographical area, especially in hub cities, like Chicago. We can view the competition as it was then, with many railroads and luxury trains fighting for business, before the decline of passenger rail began.
We can also look at the efforts our under funded national passenger carrier Amtrak is making to maintain a semblance of passenger rail service in the U.S. Amtrak is to be complemented on its efforts.
We can look at the battle royale between steam and diesel that occurred from the 30's to the 50's, with the ultimate victory of the diesel-electric power/
We can also take a peak at some of the public timetables which graced the racks in hotels and railroad stations back then. This is where we are going on this trip. We will start with Chicago.

C.B.& Q.

Baltimore & Ohio
B.& O.

CHICAGO - Our initial focus will be on the Chicago Railroads. Chicago was and is the acknowledged hub of railroad traffic in the United States. Back then, there were no less than 27 railroads that offered passenger rail in and out of Chicago. Luxurious trains went to all corners of the USA, including New York, Miami, New Orleans, Los Angeles, Seattle, Portland, St, Louis, Kansas City, Denver, Detroit, Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and many other destinations.
The competition was fierce. The speeds on some of the Chicago "racetracks" were high. The diesel-electric replacement of steam locomotives was inevitable. We want to show you some of these things, in this romantic era in this great town.
Chicago is the place to start.

CHICAGO CONNECTING Railroads- Another group of railroads did not enter Chicago directly, but carried passenger trains or cars that originated in Chicago on part of their journey to places like Miami, Los Angeles, and San Francisco. This has been the next group of railroads to study.

RAIL INDEX - The Rail Index will list all railroads we have covered. It is in alphabetical order so that any railroad can be reached without regard to its area grouping. .

MIDWEST - This group of railroads round out much of the passenger railroad scene, in the Midwest, including railroads, without an entry into Chicago, or a continuation of trains originating or terminating in Chicago.

EASTERN - Railroads whose primary location is in the Eastern or Northeastern United States that are not included in any other grouping. Included in this group would be some fairly large systems such as the Boston and Maine and the Reading.

SOUTHEAST - Railroads in the southeastern states which are not included in another group. Two very interesting roads in this group are the Clinchfield and the Virginian.

SOUTHERN - Railroads in the southern states which are not included in another group. Here we will find the Gulf Mobile and Northern and the Mobile and Ohio that morphed into the Gulf Mobile and Ohio,

SOUTHWEST - This group of railroads were primarily carriers in the southwest region of the U.S. that did not include roads which originated in Chicago or carried cars from Chicago passenger trains. Included in this list is the Kansas Coty Southern which morphed into one of today's Big 7.

WESTERN - Mountain west, far west and northwest railroads not included in any other group. Although the Southern Pacific, the Union Pacific, the "Hill" roads, and the Santa Fe, all included in other groups, grabbed most of the western trackage, we have some interesting lines in this group such as the Northwestern Pacific, the Spokane International and Utah interurban lines.

ALASKA/CANADA - Alaska and Canadian Railroads not included in any other group. The Alaska, the Copper River and Northwestern and the White Pass and Yukon have interesting stories.

Railroad Timetables

A study of Chicago Railroads of the 30's and 40's would hardly be complete without a mention of the colorful variety of timetables which graced the racks in railroad stations and hotel lobbies back then. Now we see brochures for balloon rides, tourist attractions, zoos, etc. but very few timetables. A serious passenger rail buff would certainly have accumulated a set of timetables. We will show you a few examples here, and a little story is included below.

Collecting Timetables

My friends and I, from the Railroad Club of Chicago, spent quite a bit of our time in railroad station waiting rooms and on train concourses. Back in the 30's and 40's these racks held copies of railroad timetables for the many major railroads serving the area, or making connections to railroads serving the area. It was quite natural for us train buffs to raid these racks to get copies for ourselves whether or not we were going to use them for planning a ride. We also found these timetable racks in hotel lobbies in all major cities. With twenty seven railroads serving passengers from Chicago depots and many connecting railroads tables readily available we soon had built a nice collection of public timetables. We then learned that the ticketing employees in the railroad terminals used an “official guide”, a very thick book, which showed current schedules for all the railroads in US and Canada, even the very small ones. We obtained copies of the official guide and wrote to railroads to request a copy of their public timetable. The response was overwhelming and we soon had collections of over 100 different railroad public timetables.

This was the early 40's. During the war years, I was off in the Pacific and my timetable collection was lost during a family move. The next encounter with timetables began in 1978. At that time I was working in Pennsylvania. All regular use of steam locomotives to power passenger service on railroads had been discontinued by that time and only a few steam excursion trips were offered. (Actually, I was a part of the demise of steam, having spent 21 years at Electro-Motive building diesel-electric locomotives which proved the death knell of steam).

We heard about a steam excursion from Pittsburgh to Altoona around Horseshoe curve on the old Pennsylvania main line. We jumped at this one. On the way we noted that all the old steam locomotive water towers were long gone, and to give the excursion steamers their needed water it was necessary to borrow a local pumper fire engine and begin a long slow process of filling the tender. Oh, now back to the subject of public timetable collecting.

On the excursion train there was a baggage car that sold soft drinks and sandwiches, and which also had some bins full of timetables for sale. Reprints were very cheap but old originals were very expensive, so, I bought three reprints of 1940's timetables. The budding of a new collection!

I also discovered, about that time, an association called the National Association of Timetable Collectors (NAOTC). I joined and became acquainted with several dealers in old timetables. One in particular, Jack Jareo, from Dayton, Ohio, sold many of the vintage 30's-40's tables I was interested in and I began to increase my new collection. Every so often, the NAOTC, or others, would sponsor a group gathering where many railroad items were set up for sale in auditoriums or convention halls. I attended many of these shows and purchased more timetables. I lived in the Chicago area and an annual show was held at the DuPage County fairgrounds. I would attend these regularly. Here I met Steve Mazanek, who helped sponsor some of these shows but also sold timetables. Steve and I developed quite a seller buyer relationship and he helped me grow my collection further. It was at these shows that I learned about buying employee timetables whenever I could not locate a public table for the road I was interested in. For now let's stick with the public timetables. I have built my public timetable collection to about 267 different railroad names.

Our Sources
Private Collection of Richard R. Parks(rp)
Wikipedia the free Encyclopedia [web](wik)
The Official Guide of the Railways-Various dates
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Copyright © Richard Parks, April 21 , 2009