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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.