Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Old Postcard Wednesday—The Famous Santa Fe Streamlined Fleet

Some history below, from Streamliners: The Legendary American Passenger Train (highlighting is mine):
In terms of the history of rail travel and its "Golden Age," streamliners were a relatively late concept and lasted for only about forty years under private ownership until Amtrak was created in 1971 (and for several years Amtrak featured more "boxy" locomotive and car designs before returning to the streamliner concept in the 1990s). For the first 100 years passenger trains were merely a means of traveling from Point A to Point B, fast and efficiently (and, for the most part, safely). During that time few luxuries or conveniences were added to trains as most merely included coaches with straight-back seats which were hardly, if at all, comfortable (something similar to school buses today). And, likewise, few of the trains had names and most were not famous.

However, that all began to change in the early 1930s when a new concept emerged, streamliners. Their existence came about for a few reasons; first was the fact that railroads were beginning to lose market share to other modes of transportation (such as automobiles) and were looking for an innovative way to bring passengers back to the rails; and second was the fact that railroads were also looking for a way to bring those passengers back so that they not only wanted to ride the rails but also wanted to do so in style, comfort, and relaxation.

The streamliner concept also got a boost just prior to its launching when the contemporary and artistic Art Deco movement took off in the 1920s. It’s form and function was quickly applied to streamliner concept including the first two to debut, the Union Pacific’s M-10000 and soon-to-follow, the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad's Zephyr 9900. . .

Countless spin-offs of the streamlined trainset concept would follow the two trains from UP and Burlington . . .

However, all of these designs quickly found themselves with a problem of practicality. The Achilles heel of articulated trainsets is that if a problem occurred with a single car or the power car the entire train was sidelined until repairs were completed. . .

What railroads needed was a conventional passenger train setup with individual cars pulled by an ordinary locomotive, yet with everything streamlined like these new trainsets. In 1935 this setup debuted . . .

By the late 1930s the streamliner concept was off and running and nearly every popular railroad had some kind of streamlined train operating before World War II...

Numerous railroads, such as the PRR, NYC, B&O, SP, and others would follow the Milwaukee Road and introduce traditional passengers trains which were streamlined and led by a matching streamlined steam locomotive. However, in 1937 the Electro-Motive Corporation (EMC) unveiled the EA Model (and a matching cabless booster, the EB), the first in a long line of passenger diesel locomotive designs which would come to be known as the E series. Powered by two 900-horsepower, 12-cylinder 201-A Winton engines the EA was a completely self-contained diesel locomotive and featured elegant streamlining.

Again, the B&O, along with the Santa Fe, were the first railroads to purchase this strikingly beautiful new model. The Santa Fe was the first to introduce the EA, equipping it on its premier Chicago-Los Angeles passenger train, the legendary Super Chief. Introduced to compete with the Union Pacific’s City of Los Angeles it was instantly successful and featured a striking paint scheme of red and yellow with stainless steel matching streamlined cars, and the entire train was modeled after the Native American tribes of the Southwest. . .

If you would appreciate a dvd about the Santa Fe Super Chief, you can find one available here. This is a .47 second clip of the video:

If that short clip whets your appetite for a full-length film featuring/filmed on a train, here is the list of the top 10 greatest train movies ever (selected in 2010 by Trains magazine, which now has a digital version as well):

10. “Murder on the Orient Express” (dir. Sidney Lumet)
9. “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid” (dir. George Roy Hill)
8. “The General” (dir. Buster Keaton)
7. “Brief Encounter” (dir. David Lean)
6. “High Noon” (dir. Fred Zinnemann)
5. “La Bête Humaine” (dir. Jean Renoir)
4. “The Lady Vanishes” (dir. Alfred Hitchcock)
3. “Twentieth Century” (dir. Howard Hawks)
2. “North By Northwest” (dir. Alfred Hitchcock)
1. “The Train” (dir. John Frankenheimer) 

I have seen #2, #6, #9, and #10. How about you?

I'm ending this post with a poem about a train, but not a Santa Fe Streamliner or any other American train. One of my most faithful Old Postcard Wednesday readers is the dear, clever British blogger who authors
Don't Feed the Pixies. This poem is for his enjoyment, but I am sure he won't mind if you and I enjoy it too (frankly, I already did!).

A Mind's Journey to Diss
                by: SIR JOHN BETJEMIN

Dear Mary,
Yes, it will be bliss
To go with you by train to Diss,
Your walking shoes upon your feet;
We'll meet, my sweet, at Liverpool Street.
That levellers we may be reckoned
Perhaps we'd better travel second;
Or, lest reporters on us burst,
Perhaps we'd better travel first.
Above the chimney-pots we'll go
Through Stepney, Stratford-atte-Bow
And out to where the Essex marsh
Is filled with houses new and harsh
Till, Witham pass'd, the landscape yields
On left and right to widening fields,
Flint church-towers sparkling in the light,
Black beams and weather-boarding white,
Cricket-bat willows silvery green
And elmy hills with brooks between,
Maltings and saltings, stack and quay
And, somewhere near, the grey North Sea;
Then further gentle undulations
With lonelier and less frequent stations,
Till in the dimmest place of all
The train slows down into a crawl
And stops in silence.... Where is this?
Dear Mary Wilson, this is Diss.



Rob-bear said...

When I hear the word "train," my mind goes to the "City of New Orleans" — now only a memory. But thanks for the history, and the poem.

naomi dagen bloom said...

Excellent in so many directions. Yesterday we took the 30-minute train from the Oregon Zoo through Washington Park...cooling trip through tall trees. Five year old NYC granddaughter loved the ride, being able to see the engine as we turned corners.

The clip reminided me of long-ago travel from St. Louis to LA via train and many, many travels that slower way. Thanks for all your thoughtful input to life via the rails.

goatman said...

Very nice. We took the Alaska RR from Anchorage to Fairbanks awhile back and it was a beautiful way to travel through the mountains.

By the by, who is that doing her nails in the desert there at the top?
A clever shot.

Fireblossom said...

When I was five, I traveled to California with my parents to visit my maternal grandparents. We took the Santa Fe, and I remember that red and yellow crest on the silver train. We waited beside the track, and it looked enormous to me as it approached. It was exciting!

Fireblossom said...

PS--I've seen #7 and #8. I don't think any train movie best-of list is complete without "Narrow Margin", starring Gene Hackman and Anne Archer. It was a remake of an earlier film, but I have never seen the original.

Fireblossom said...

PPS--"Brief Encounter" is really good.

Don't Feed The Pixies said...

Train enthusiasts are a strange bunch. I can understand the fascination with old trains - they are rather beautiful. But about 40 miles away from where i live there is a steam railway run by enthusiasts - and i know of one of my mum's friends who refuses to go and visit it because the track is the wrong gauge

takes all sorts...

Lydia said...

Rob-bear~ I love that song. Thanks for reminding me about it, as I will listen tonight.

naomi~ Wonderful for you to create such memories with your granddaughter. As many years as I've been here I have not taken that zoo train. Your description of the ride through the trees made me realize it is something I would love to do.
From St. Louis to LA.....that must have been so very special.

goatman~ The train in Alaska sounds marvelous. I think I'd like it better than a cruise up there, although my next-door neighbor did the cruise a few months ago and he raved.
Silly, I am not doing my nails in that header shot (see in top right corner some info). I actually had a tablet in my lap and a pen in my hand. :)

Fireblossom~ You are probably the only person I know who rode the Santa Fe as pictured in this postcard. What a stunning machine it was! I love that story of you taking the train to your grandparents'.
"Narrow Margin".....I will look at imdb for info on that one. And the bit I read at imbd for "Brief Encounter" yesterday made me want to see the film, most definitely!

Pixies~ Hmmm. Seems there are train enthusiasts, and then there are train purists...and you mother's friend belongs in the second category. He sounds like he is very engauged in his hobby. :)

mythopolis said...

Another movie: TransSiberian with Woody Harrelson. A nice murder mystery that takes place on the ride from Beijing to Moscow in the dead of Winter along the Trans-Manchurian rail line.

I love trains!

Lydia said...

mythopolis~ Hmmm, never even heard of that movie and it sounds right up my alley (or track!). Thanks for the tip.
I love trains too.

susan said...

It's very ho here this evening and the laptop isn't helping but I wanted to tell you I loved this post. They really should bring back trains.

Lydia said...

susan~ I agree. Let's bring them back!
Weather weird here. Doesn't seem very hot until you try taking the dog for a walk and realize everyone is absolutely miserable. Resolved by shortening the length of the walk. :)



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