20th Century Limited Streamliner Debuts
In June 1938, the New York Central introduced new locomotives and Pullman cars. Their breathtakingly bold streamlined design was the handiwork of an industrial designer whose work would become iconic -- Henry Dreyfuss. Streamliner trains were able to achieve greater speed on the storied New York to Chicago run due to engineering improvements that lightened the steel framework and increased the locomotive power.
THE NEW YORK TIMES, JUNE 10, 1938
New Steam Train Has Test Journey
To demonstrate that steam remains supreme in railway transport, the New York Central Railroad operated from Albany to New York yesterday a streamlined edition of its Twentieth Century Limited behind a locomotive which, in trial runs, had attained a speed of 123 miles an hour. Described as a "luxury liner," the train consisted of light-weight steel cars.
Built at a cost of $6,162,000, the train was an expression of the best engineering talent of the railroad and of the Pullman Company. When it goes into regular service on June 15 it will cut the present minimum running time between New York and Chicago by a half hour, making the run sixteen hours. This schedule is to be maintained at relatively low cost as a result of engineering improvements...
...New York Central engineers aboard the train asserted that neither electric nor Diesel-electric locomotives could surpass the rating of the new Twentieth Century engine. Although the new locomotive has a power rating 15 per cent ahead of its predecessor types, it weights two and one-half tons less.
THE NEW YORK HERALD TRIBUNE, JUNE 10, 1938
Modern 20th Century Limited Demonstrated by N.Y. Central
The luxuries of modern railroad travel were demonstrated yesterday for newspaper men and railroad officials on a special run of the New York Central Railroad's new streamlined Twentieth Century Limited from Albany to Harmon, N.Y. Four sections of the new train will be placed in operation between New York and Chicago on next Wednesday, June 15, the thirty-sixth anniversary of the Twentieth Century's operation.
The black exterior so long customary on New York Central trains has been dropped and the new Century is decorated in two shades of gray, with aluminum and blue striping running its entire length...
...The interior of the new train is decorated in harmonizing shades of blue, gray and rust with leather upholstery in the public cars. Open berths have been eliminated, and sleeping accommodations are provided in suites, double bedrooms compartments and roomettes, each equipped with complete toilet facilities.
The two dining cars, which can serve sixty-eight persons at one time, are equipped with radios, automatic record changing phonographs and lighting systems by which the cars can be either brightly or dimly illuminated. In the observation car, which also has a radio, a speedometer has been installed for the speed fans.
The decoration and interior layout of the train are by Henry Dreyfuss, in co-operation with Pullman Company and New York Central engineers. Indirect lighting and air conditioning are used throughout.
The new train will be displayed here Monday and Tuesday on tracks 36 and 27 in Grand Central Terminal. It will leave New York on its inaugural run Wednesday at 6 p.m., Eastern daylight saving time.
TIME MAGAZINE, JUNE 20, 1938
The Flash Gordon zip and gleam of modern, streamlined, air-conditioned railway travel have been taken for granted for years by cinemaddicts, toy makers, and U. S. travelers in the West. Last week Eastern railway passenger travel suddenly got Flashed up when two of the nation's most famous trains, New York Central's Twentieth Century Limited and Pennsylvania's Broadway Limited, were streamlined to the last rivet and brake beam and made into the first all-room Pullman trains in the U. S.
Tie-for-tie competitors for 36 years, the Century and Broadway, now alike in contour as a brace of eels, glided off this week on the Manhattan-Chicago run in what looked like another dead heat. Each was scheduled to make the run in 16 hours, a half-hour faster than before. This meant that Central's blue-streaked, silver Century must cover its 960 miles in 960 minutes, the gold-banded, Tuscan-red Broadway its 908 miles in the same time...
...The new Century and Broadway are composed of company-owned baggage and public cars coupled with matching all-room sleepers built by Pullman Co. Each has eight all-room Pullmans, accommodations including snug roomettes, single and double bedrooms, compartments, drawing rooms. Each has two diners. The Century's, informal but sober, stick to rust tones and grey. The Broadway's, more splendiferous, have a speak-easy style midsection with side-seat nooks. Each has a bar-lounge, the Century's, mannish, leathery, the Broadway's, like an intimate cocktail room.