More Trains of the 1940s

More Trains of the 1940s

More Trains of the 1940s

See what it took to bring victory during World War II and how the postwar economic boom led the railroads to look ahead with confidence.

United States
Kalmbach Publishing Co. - Magazines


a decade like no other

For so many Americans, the 1940s was a decade of emotional highs and lows, prosperity and privation, sacrifice and selfindulgence. A long, deep economic depression was only sluggishly lifting when Pearl Harbor thrust manufacturing into overdrive. Sixteen million men and women entered the armed forces during World War II — and more than 400,000 never returned to their families. After V-J Day, as the nation reveled in its victory, Americans embraced the good life of shiny new automobiles, full supermarket shelves, and suburban living. For the railroads, it was no less dynamic a time. The rising tide of diesel locomotives and streamlined passenger trains was largely stilled by the exigencies of war. The conflict thrust unimaginable traffic, both freight and passenger, on the railroads, pushing employees and equipment to the limit.…

all-american beauty

America at the end of World War II was a nation of steel and chrome. The economy was running at full tilt, and its products — and our capacity to produce them — were the envy of the world. Consumer goods were built to last, but “utilitarian” didn’t necessarily mean “plain.” Manufacturers recognized that style mattered, and products that looked good sold better. Consider locomotives. Few diesels then or now evoke the same feeling of time and place as American Locomotive Co.’s 2,000 h.p. passenger cab diesel, eventually called “PA.” Even someone who gives railroads just a passing glance recognizes its powerful lines. It’s a design aesthetic that announces it belongs at the head end of a crack passenger train. While Alco’s PA might be instantly recognizable, the man responsible for its…

milwaukee railroad town

Milwaukee has railroad blood in its arteries. The men who founded the city also founded a railroad which began operations in 1850 but would grow into a 10,066-mile transcontinental system. After early consolidations, in 1874 it officially became the Chicago, Milwaukee & St. Paul, and soon the popular moniker became “the St. Paul.” After completing its Pacific Extension to Tacoma and Seattle, Wash., in 1909, it added “& Pacific” to its corporate title and gradually came to be commonly called for its home city: the Milwaukee Road. Reporting marks became MILW. Its principal shops always have been at Milwaukee and are among the largest railroadowned carbuilding plants in the country. Hundreds of steam locomotives bearing Built West Milwaukee Shops plates are still in use. And, right out where you can see…

heroes of the home front

It is well-nigh time that we Americans began to give a little thought to the magnificent job being done by our railroads toward the winning of the war. The man in the engine cab or the gangling youth making his unsteady way over the top of swiftly moving freight cars or swinging his coupling stick in a yard in the dead of a winter’s night may not be as glamorous a figure as the lad in khaki or in blue, but he is no less earnest, no less hardworking. Laboring in a northern railroad yard in a blizzard is not much easier than standing on the deck of a tossing, rain-swept destroyer or grinding it out on the burning sands of North Africa. It is a war job just the same.…

philly’s personality trains

Picturesque, early colonial yet starkly modern Philadelphia is fed by a network of rail lines much as an octopus is nourished by its outstretched tentacles. The industry and commerce of this metropolis is carried on by the thousands of people who every day speed in and out of the Quaker City by train. The nation’s third largest city, Philadelphia is blessed with excellent rail service. The trains of three major railroads range from the quick, nervous electric M.U. cars of the Pennsylvania Railroad and Reading Company commuter lines to those roads’ intercity expresses and the gliding, diesel-powered mainliners of the Baltimore & Ohio. Some of these trains have gained a distinct and individual personality, reflecting the customers who ride them. Most striking are PRR’s “clockers,” which leave the wooden platforms of…

midwestern time freight

Minneapolis sleeps while diesel switchers are busily engaged in making up time freight 20 in Cedar Lake Yard. But Cedar Lake never sleeps, for it is the very nerve center of the Minneapolis & St. Louis Railway. Down in a hollow tucked away at the edge of the city is the 19-track yard, the company’s shops, roundhouse, and operating headquarters. True, the buildings are dark, for it will be a good three hours before the office force is at work. Not so the yard, however, for it is aglow with switchmen’s lanterns bobbing up and down, to say nothing of moving headlights as yard engines come and go. Time freight 20 pulls out for Peoria, Ill., at 5:20, regular as a clock, every day of the year. It and its counterpart,…