Phoebe Snow

Phoebe Snow had been the face of advertisement for the prominent Delaware, Lackawanna and Western (DL&W) railroad company. The company transported and used clean-burning anthracite, a clean form of coal.

The DL&W found itself in competition with big name railroads because they had the advantage of a quicker more direct route get from New York City to Buffalo. Long distance travel on passenger rail, though, was usually very hot and uncomfortable. Passengers would open windows to cool off, but by the end duration of the trip their clothing would be covered in black soot. This is where Earnest Elmo Calkins created an advertising campaign that became a cultural icon for DL&W and anthracite coal.

With an abundance of anthracite around DL&W’s lines they could provide a more enjoyable ride for their passengers and guarantee that their clothing would remain clean for the duration of the trip. Lackawanna railroad’s “Phoebe Snow” promoted the use of anthracite coal. She was designed by Calkins, a NYC advertiser hired by DL&W, and she based on a young woman who regularly traveled by train. She was portrayed wearing a stylish long white dress, with a matching white hat, gloves, and shoes. Advertising posters of Phoebe Snow where often accompanied with a catchy rhyme: “Says Phoebe Snow, About to go, Upon a trip, To Buffalo; “My gown stays white, From morn till night, Upon the Road of Anthracite.””  Phoebe sold a clean ride that was extremely successful, challenged the norms of women riding the rails on their own, and boosted the DL&W’s ridership almost immediately. She is by far one of these most effective advertisement campaigns during the turn of the century.

Ridership boosted drastically. DL&W hired actresses to dress as the eminent Phoebe Snow to as they rode the rails of anthracite.

The campaign came to a halt with the beginning of World War I, when anthracite was greatly needed for the war effort and was illegal for railroads to use. The face of anthracite said farewell with this last jingle: “Miss Phoebe’s trip, without a slip, is almost o’er, Her trunk and grip, are right and tight, without a slight, Good bye, Old Road of Anthracite!” Phoebe Snow was gone, but not without leaving behind a legacy. On November 15, 1949, the Lackawanna Railroad revived her when they inducted a new streamlined passenger train named, Phoebe Snow.

The Snow was a beautiful streamlined train featuring lightweight equipment that traveled through breathtaking scenery, and gave the train a “down to earth” feel. This charming and classy train evoked emotion in its passengers, and its marketing campaign of a beautiful, young Victorian lady dressed in all white promoted the passenger rail to its peak. But Snow struggled to survive with all the new transportation competition.

In 1960, after the merging of the DL&W and Erie Railroad, the Phoebe Snow could be salvaged due to the decrease popularity of rail transportation. Passengers sought more efficient ways to travel and thus another magnificent train was lost. Passengers would never again experience the beauty of the land while riding a beautiful train.  On November 28, 1966, another classic American passenger rail, Phoebe Snow, retired.


Transit Day

On Tuesday, March 10 – Indiana Crossrails partner Indiana Citizens Alliance for Transit (ICATS) hosted Transit Day at the Indiana Statehouse.  An Indiana Crossrails team interviewed a few of the key players.

Importance of Mass Transit

Current State of Mass Transit

Get Involved

Future of Mass Transit


On Location in the Station – Part 4: The Spot

The photo is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license by Ingfbruno.

By: Nathan Wilson

Opening in 1913 the final terminal in this series covers 48 acres and is home to 44 different platforms (the most in the world). Platforms below ground serve 41 tracks on the upper level and 26 different tracks on the lower levels. The total number of tracks along platforms and rail lines is above 100.

Properly called Grand Central Terminal and affectionately called Grand Central Station (name of previous station) this magnificent beauty plays host to 750,000 riders daily. During the holidays the number of daily riders can exceed 1,000,000.

In 2011, Travel + Leisure named Grand Central Terminal the sixth most visited tourist attraction in the world. The award came from the 21.6 million visitors that the terminal sees annually.

The terminal is known for hosting great works of art, most famously the celestial ceiling of the zodiac. The painting contains 2,500 stars unfortunately the view is backwards.

Grand Central Terminal has been used in a plethora of films and you can see most of them in the following clip:


On Location in the Station – Part 3: The Cave

By: Nathan Wilson

Formerly known as the Randolph Street Terminal this major commuter rail terminal serves over 18,000 riders daily. Millennium Station not only serves the Metra Electric line to University Park, Blue Island, and South Chicago, but also the South Shore line to Gary and South Bend, Indiana.

With the terminal under construction from the mid 1980’s to 2005, the station became affectionately known as “The Cave” due to it being gradually placed more underground. The terminal now serves as a nexus of Chicago Pedway by connecting hotels, restaurants, residential buildings, and office buildings.

With its daily ridership of over 18,000 riders, the trains are on a pretty tight schedule. The terminal has a frequency of two departures a minute.

Director Christopher Nolan used part of the Millennium Park concourse in his film The Dark Knight, which can be seen by clicking on the following link.

(Start at 1:36 if you would like to just see the Millennium Station portion)


On Location in the Station – Part 2: The Ghost

The photo is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution 3.0 Unported license by Winter4368.

By: Nathan Wilson

The second station in this series opened in 1913 and was once one of the most used stations in the United States. With more than 200 trains departing daily at the beginning of World War One and employing more than 3000 people in its tower, Michigan Central Station was one of the iconic stations in the United States.

During the height of use in the 1940’s, the station saw more than 4000 people go through during their daily commute. After World War Two, the station started to see a decline in usage. The placement of the station, away from downtown in hopes of creating development in other places, started to be a downfall. With no large parking facility and the interurban service being discontinued, the station had a harder time bringing people in.

In 1956 the station was put on the market for only five million dollars. The asking price was only 1/3 of the total price of construction in 1913. The station was not purchased and was once again put on the market in 1963 with the same outcome as in 1956.

Things looked to be on an upswing in 2000 when the station was turned into an intermodal freight facility, only to decline again when the facility closed in 2004. The station has since been proposed to become a trade processing center, a convention center and casino, headquarters for Detroit Police, and the headquarters for the Michigan State Police. These proposals did not pan out and the station continued to sit vacant.

In May of 2011 the Ann Arbor firm of Quinn Evans was made to oversee restoration of the station. In June of that same year, asbestos abatement began on the first floor of the station. In June of 2012, electricity was restored to the interior of the station. Finally, in June of 2014 $676,000 worth of rehabilitation work began in the facility on the roof and windows.

While the building has been vacant, it has been very useful for the film industry. Films such as Transformers, Eight Mile, The Island and Four Brothers have used the station for parts of their productions.


On Location in the Station – Part 1: The Untouchable

By: Nathan Wilson

Located on the west side of the Chicago river between W. Adam’s Street and W. Jackson Boulevard sits a train station that is 9.5 city blocks in size. Chicago Union Station was opened in 1925 and is the only intercity rail terminal in Chicago. With the rank of being Amtrak’s fourth busiest station, filming can get a little hard to accomplish.

The station went through some changes in 2011 when the lighting system was replaced with a new system that reduced the station’s carbon footprint by 4 million tons annually. The American Planning Association (APA) also named the station one of America’s “Great Places” in 2012.

The station has been home to multiple films, but is most known for iconic scenes in the 1987 film, The Untouchables about mobster Al Capone. The following is a clip from the film:


Chessie the Railroad Cat

Photo: Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 by JessSvoboda

By: Ariel Wagner

Chessie the cat was the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad advertiser used to promote comfort and luxury passenger rail.

In 1933, a picture of a sleeping kitten first appeared in an issue of Fortune magazine with the slogan “Sleep Like a Kitten.” The etching was created by Viennese artist Guido Gruenwald. The magazine article caught the readers’ eyes, particularly Lionel Probert.

Probert was an assistant to the C&O president, and in 1933 he was an official in public relations and advertisement when he was enthralled with Gruenwald’s sketching. Probert gained permission to use the picture and was later credited for the advertisement, and thus began the popular character that riders began to “yarn” for.

Probert derived the slogan “Sleep Like a Kitten and Arrive Fresh as a Daisy in Air-Conditioned Comfort,” to popularize C&O’s new air-conditioned sleeping cars. The cat was named ‘Chessie’ as a derivation of the railroad’s name.   Chessie won the hearts of the Americans, and became the darling of the company. Chessie became the main advertisement for the company, and ridership began to increase along with her popularity.

Souvenirs became very popular: calendars, clothing, and even two children’s books. In 1935, Chessie acquired two kittens named Nip and Tuck, and in 1937 she even got a mate named Peake.

Chessie was always involved in the nation’s difficulties, the people could relate to her. During the beginning struggles of World War II Chessie gave the feeling of goodness and contentment. Chessie promoted the selling of War Bonds during WW II. Chessie was shown working on the home front while she supported Peake who was fighting in the war. Chessie gave up her Pullman compartment for traveling soldiers. She helped bolster the American spirit of the depression-ravaged people. People could relate to Chessie because she had to make sacrifices just like the rest of the country.

Chessie advertisement continued until 1971 when passenger rail travel was consolidated under Amtrak because of competition. Chessie was one of the most successful corporate symbols in American history. Although, she no longer appears in advertisement she nevertheless is still alive in the hearts of those who loved and remember her.

She will always be known as “America’s Sweetheart,” and always be most remembered for promoting the “purr-fect transportation” experience for passenger rail.

In 1971, the C&O, Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, and Western Maryland Railroad merged to form the Chessie System.  It adopted the “Chess-C” logo with the silhouette of the Kitten, helping sell their freight service. The Chessie System later merged with other railroads and became the CSX.


Monuments and Amenities in Charlotte, NC

By: Yorgo Douramacos

Often times, monuments are tributes to past achievements. But they can just as often be resounding statements of purpose. In the center of downtown Charlotte, on the four corners where Trade and Tryon streets cross, are four sculpted pillars. One is labeled “industry,” another “fortune,”  a third “transportation,” and the fourth has a figure of  mother and child symbolizing “future.”  The message seems to be that these elements are equally harnessed and uniquely combined in Charlotte.

It is easy enough to make civic gestures and build eye catching monuments. But Charlotte has managed to put dollars and development into animating the principles espoused by these statues. Down only two blocks from the intersection of Trade and Tryon is a much more tangible and dynamic symbol of industry, fortune and future. It is the latest development in the city’s transit system, a sleek, frequent light rail line. Emblematic of the confluence of the forces invoked by the four statues, it connects the nation’s 3rd fastest growing city with its self.

It took persistence and repeated statement of public desire for this improvement, to get the rail line up and running. A referendum was passed by a greater than 60% majority in 1998 raising the sales tax by a half percent to put toward the planning and installation of light rail. After nine years of struggle and hard work, another referendum was put forward to defund the project. This was defeated by a greater plurality than had passed the original measure. So on November 24th 2007 the LYNX Blueline began service.

Today attractive housing and boutique shops are rising along the Blueline route. And even though city officials stos well short of claiming this development as a direct result of the train line, it is certainly symptomatic of the same determination and cultural momentum that resulted in this unique transit amenity. Charlotte seems to be pushing ahead, offering both its present and future population options and a reason to be optimistic.

Photo: corner of Trade and Tryon streets in Charlotte, North Carolina.


Thurmond, West Virginia

By: Yorgo Douramacos

Thurmond, West Virginia is a stark example of the economic power of transportation. The settlement was first established beside The New River in the 1840s. It remained small and unincorporated until 1892 when a rail line was negotiated to pass through the nearby land.

Currently Thurmond boasts only 7 full time residents but it was once a healthy and thriving destination. Never a large city it had the supporting business of coal, the railroad and a nearby spa and resort. Today the remains of the town and the still active rail line sit facing the wide and rushing New River. Its early 20th century building fronts look eerily quiet, as though someone swiped the years across them in a single instant. To glance at the National Bank of Thurmond, derelict for the better part of 90 years, you might expect a well dressed bank manager to exit its doors and wave hello.

Thurmond was so reliant on its railroad access that no paved street ever connected the town. It can only be accessed by train or across a single lane bridge crossing over the river. The station is open for a season each year to those interested in the local history and the whole area has been marked as a national heritage site since 1984.

Trains still rumble through Thurmond like echoes from days when the living made common cause with trains. But those days came to an end in 1931 when the spa and resort, which was what drew outsiders to the secluded town and brought it a necessary influx of money, burnt down and was not rebuilt.

Unconnected to the emergent current of automobile traffic, and no longer featuring anything to particularly entice passenger train fares, Thurmond quickly ossified and passed away, flash frozen at its moment of death.

It stands without residents or road, a reminder that access is the life’s blood of any community. In its time innovations in transit brought a shock of life to Thurmond and then almost as quickly left it isolated and lost. The requirements of access must be anticipated and pursued or the fight can be easily lost.


Connecting Indiana with a Better Tomorrow

By: Yorgo Douramacos

A man is cutting a path through thick growth with towering trees over head and the eerie sounds of ancient life all around. This intrepid wanderer exploring the wilderness comes across a wide and rushing river. The flow of goods and the growth of an economy may not be the first thing on his mind in that moment. But more than an obstacle, more than a source of water or food, once a city takes hold in that very place, the river will mean transportation and connection to the outside world. Connection is the way a settlement becomes a city and the way a city thrives.

When Indiana first became a state its capitol sat on its southern periphery at Corydon, along the Ohio River. When it was decided in 1820 that the capitol should be moved to the center of the state it was under assurances that interior waterways could be made passable. This turned out not to be the case but the change had already happened. Contrasted with the lone pioneer coming upon a river without apprehending its significance, now an entire seat of government was stranded in a relative wilderness, left to concoct a means of connection with the rest of the state and the country.

Today Indiana is widely known as the Crossroads of America, its avenues of transit merge in Indianapolis and radiate outward to the entire country. This did not happen easily or all at once merely because it had to. It required generations of decisions and ideas. This question of transit, how to get where we need to go, how to make and maintain viable connections, has been central to the whole development of our state. It is a problem that was not solved once and then laid to rest. Even today it remains the business of individuals, businesses and legislators to dream and imagine better solutions.

The call for connection has changed over time from rivers, to cross country rail, to highways and back again. In this age the imperative is for mass transit. Modern day Hoosiers need that same spark of inspiration that turned rivers into lifelines and a remote town into a world class city. A better future cannot be un-connected future.