Wednesday, 3 August 2011

Aboard the 20th Century Limited!

Climb aboard!  Can you hear that whistle blow? I wouldn’t want you to miss it!  Let's  journey back in time aboard the famous 20th Century Limited...


I was seven when I first heard tales of the New York Central Railroad.  It was just before the era of the train had come to an end in the late 60’s.

My great- grandfather was still alive then and he would  tell  me stories about his time working as a brakeman along the dusty and busy tracks of the NYCR.

It was  on June 17th 1902 that the 20th Century Limited launched the New York Central's newest Luxury train. The Limited ran the Water Route between New York and Chicago.

On leaving LaSalle Street Station in Chicago, she went racing along the shore of the southern part of the Great Lakes skirting along Lake Michigan and Lake Erie.
She soon passed  through Cleveland and then Buffalo before descending south again through Albany in the Empire state and then along the Hudson River that led into New York and her awaiting terminus at Grand Central station on the island of Manhattan..

While always considered a train of prestige and opulence she broke several NYCR speed records in her time, eventually achieving a record time of sixteen hours in 1935.

She was a train that carried the wealthy and the powerful, the famous and infamous, all mingled freely and enjoyed the elegant surroundings and fine cuisine. Like a five star hotel on rail;  a train that equalled even the great Orient Express.

It was not uncommon in her heyday to see  celebrities aboard the Limited like Theodore and Franklin Roosevelt, Enrico Caruso, Charlie Chaplin as well as tycoons like J.P. Morgan and John D. Rockefeller. The list just grew bigger as her fame grew and the brightest Hollywood stars could be found on the Limited. Those travelling to California could catch the Rock Island Lines' Golden State Limited that left from Chicago and headed west.

In 1920 a roundtrip ticket with Pullman sleeping accommodation from New York to Chicago cost approximately $51.30 - this however did not include meals. Extras included a standard meal for $1.75 including Russian caviar!  However,  you could splash out and spend up to $2.35 for a meal of Lobster or Filet Mignon!

The expression Red Carpet treatment was first used in 1938 in connection with the 20th Century Limited. Passengers embarking on the train in New York were greeted by a luxurious crimson  carpet emblazoned with the words 20th Century Limited.

It was the industrial designer Henry Dreyfuss that gave that Limited its iconic art deco look where the shape and even the colors of blue and grey were to give it a stream-lined look, so that the trains subsequently became known as Streamliners.

 All Aboard- for a journey of elegance and sophistication!