The Art Of The Streamliner

Header Photo: Drew Jacksich

Another excellent book covering the history of the streamliner which I have used for research purposes in writing this website is The Art Of The Streamliner written by Bob Johnston, Joe Welsh, and Mike Schafer. The latter two authors also have published another book on the subject entitled, Streamliners: History Of A Railroad Icon, which is somewhat more detailed. However, The Art Of The Streamliner is another excellent publication to have in your collection if you have any interest in the subject. The book is published by MetroBooks, originally printed in 2001, and covers more than 140 pages of information. Just as with the Welsh and Schafer book, the collaboration with Johnston covers a similar theme; providing a forward history of how the streamliner craze kicked off and then going into a more detailed background of various trains that operated in different regions around the country, all of which is covered in seven chapters.

Even prior to the first chapter of The Art Of The Streamlinerthe book delves into the a quick overview and history of streamliners with the forward and introduction, which are a page in length each. The forward, written by former Trains Magazine editor Kevin P. Keefe, discusses what can be found within the book and gives a quick overview of the sleek trains. The intro is particularly interesting as Mike Schafer discusses how the streamliner era began, its connections to the wildly popular Art Deco movement of the period, and its downfall through the 1950s and 1960s. In any event, the first chapter entitled "The Genesis Trains" highlights the trains that pioneered the new movement; the Union Pacific's M-10000 unvieled in February, 1934 and the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy's Pioneer Zephyr two months later. The opening chapter is only 10 pages in length but gives an excellent history of these trains.

The book's second chapter entitled, "Fledgling Streamliners", is sort of a spinoff from chapter one. Here, the authors discuss some of the earliest trains, which were inaugurated soon after those mentioned above in the late 1930s including more of the Burlington's Zephyrs, Union Pacific's City fleet, the New Haven's Comet, the Boston & Maine/Maine Central Flying Yankee, Gulf Mobile & Ohio's original Rebel, and the Illinois Central's Green Diamond. All of these trains were permanently articulated trainsets but they were not the only such streamliners to hit the rails that decade and just prior to World War II. Some of the very well known, conventional and/or home-built trains of the period included the Baltimore & Ohio's Royal Blue, Milwaukee Road's original Hiawatha, and the New York Central's Mercury.

One of the most interesting aspects of this chapter is all of the original flyers, advertisements, and timetables that are presented in the book (all in color). It really helps you understand just what it was like for the general public when these streamliners first hit the rails, and some railroads went to great lengths in promoting the new trains with elaborate artwork and colorful foldouts. Moving into the third chapter, entitled "Metropolitan Pathways", The Art Of The Streamliner looks at the famous trains that served the east coast and Chicago, as well as points in between. Most of the chapter discusses the NYC's "Great Steel Fleet" (i.e., the 20th Century Limited) and the Pennsylvania Railroad's "Fleet of Modernism" (i.e., the Broadway Limited) but also details the trains of the B&O, Chesapeake & Ohio, Norfolk & Western, and even the more regional operations of the Nickel Plate Road.

The fourth chapter of the book is entitled "Sunbelt Streamlining" and through its twenty pages highlights the trains that served the southeast as well as the deep south. The streamliners covered in this section include the Seaboard's Silver Meteor, Atlantic Coast Line's Champion, Illinois Central's City of Miami and Panama Limited, the Southern's fleet, and the Kansas City Southern's Southern Belle. Once again, throughout this chapter the book features some of the beautiful artwork and advertising the railroads used to promote these trains. In the next chapter, entitled "Western Dreamlining", Johnston, Welsh, and Schafer provide a general coverage of streamliners west of the Mississippi. For instance, this includes the Santa Fe's famedSuper Chief and Union Pacific's last versions of its City fleet as well as the Pacific Northwest trains of the Great Northern (Empire Builder), Milwaukee Road (Olympian Hiawatha), and Northern Pacific (North Coast Limited).

The final chapter in the book discussing the history of streamliners is "Regional Specialties", which coincidentally is also one of the book's longest. Here, the The Art Of The Streamliner looks at those streamliners that served a particular region or area such as the Chicago & North Western's 400s, the Lehigh Valley's lone Black Diamond, and the local fleets operated by the Southern Pacific (Daylights), New Haven, and Rock Island. There is even mention here of interurban Chicago, North Shore & Milwaukee's Electroliners. It is one of the more interesting chapters just because of the lesser known trains that are presented. Finally, chapter seven entitled "Renaissance Streamlining", provides a look at how the classic streamliner has returned to the rails in some fashion with today's passenger trains.

Overall, this title is quite similar to another book written by many of the same authors, Streamliners:  History Of A Railroad Icon. However, while each covers the same general topic and for the most part, many of the same trains, they do provide additional information about a particular streamliner that the other does not. If you are interested in the history of these trains I would certainly recommend adding this book to your collection. For myself, I use both titles as reference material when researching streamliners and have found them both useful.