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Court of Railways: 1939

"New York World's Fair (1939-40) railroad exhibit. Historic locomotives at Court of Railways." 35mm color transparency by Gottscho-Schleisner. View full size.

"New York World's Fair (1939-40) railroad exhibit. Historic locomotives at Court of Railways." 35mm color transparency by Gottscho-Schleisner. View full size.


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Raymond Loewy

Industrial Designer Raymond Loewy's work, if I recall correctly.

He also designed the Studebaker Avanti, the Greyhound Scenicruiser bus, and the Coca Cola bottle, among many other famous innovations.

Amazing guy.


For some it will be Too Much Information but for the railroad connoisseurs, aficionados or the just plain RR Nutsies aboard the Shorpy Express it will be an occasion to break out a premium six pack or vintage bubbly along with bowls of popcorn as they delve deep into the tender cars of the historic locomotives at the Court of Railways in the 1939 New York World's Fair railroad exhibit.

PRR No. 3768

Pennsylvania Railroad No. 3768, the leftmost locomotive, is in the K4 "Pacific" series, which were used until the late 50's. The streamlining seen here was only fitted to 6 locomotives in the series. The shrouds impeded maintenance, so they were removed later in the locomotive's life. Want to see this one at work, still in its streamlined glory? It's easy to find the film noir mystery "The Great Flamarion" on line. There are a few moments of 3768 hard at work at about 21:40 in the film; the time will vary a bit, depending on what copy of the film you find. No. 3768 was retired in October 1953, and was sold for scrap.

in the family 2

Grandfather was an engineer for the NYCS, I worked for Conrail briefly and pulled the "put in service plate" off the side of an engine dated within his work history, still have it. The NYCS and Nickel Plate Road tracks ran a quarter mile from our house, late at night the "ringing" of the wheels could be heard along with the "clickity-clack".

Please educate me

Perhaps someone will explain to me why this photograph looks like a painting.

[Color-shifting. - Dave]

Rolling Romance

It is perhaps lamentable that our high-tech age has largely forgotten the powerfully romantic appeal that railroading held for earlier generations, as the steam goliaths of yesteryear stirred a wanderlust and thirst for adventure among millions of young Americans -- not to mention a passion among countless fascinated boys for all things mechanical.

While well represented in popular songs such as "The Atchison, Topeka, and the Santa Fe," "Sentimental Journey," and "Chattanooga Choo Choo," the railroad's place in the American heart was perhaps best expressed by the poet Edna St. Vincent Millay:

The railroad track is miles away,
And the day is loud with voices speaking.
Yet there isn't a train goes by all day
But I hear its whistle shrieking.

All night there isn't a train goes by,
Though the night is still for sleep and dreaming,
But I see its cinders red on the sky
And hear its engine steaming.

My heart is warm with the friends I make,
And better friends I'll not be knowing.
Yet there isn't a train I wouldn't take,
No matter where it's going.

Some Family Ties to the 1939 New York World's Fair

My paternal grandparents first met at the '39 World's Fair in New York. My grandfather was a recent graduate of Georgia Tech. In 1939, Granddaddy was working for the Atlanta Journal newspaper and covered the fair. My grandmother was in her senior year at Columbia University. Amazingly, they were both from Georgia.

Grandma and Granddaddy likely saw the trains that are pictured. Back in the 1980s, when I was a kid, I wish I had asked them more about that fair. I wish had asked them, both, more about a lot of things!

Boom Times in Charleston

Rightmost: A replica of the 1830 locomotive "Best Friend of Charleston". The original engine's working life ended in a rather spectacular way on 17 June 1831 when the engineer felt annoyed by the sound of steam released by the safety valve and decided to solve the issue by simply closing the valve. The result was a 4th of July fireworks slightly ahead of schedule.

Fortunately, the 1928 replica seen in this photo is not known for detonations.

The World of Yesterday

Historic, as in "history", sums it all up: within a decade-and-a-half steam would be all but dead on the country's rails.

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