Around the Country in Railroad Art

As the weather starts to warm up, perhaps you’ve been thinking about vacation. There are plenty of cool spots that one can visit, all by train. As we’ve certainly covered on the blog before, America’s railroads had in their employ both painters and illustrators to create works to entice travelers. Leslie Ragan is certainly one of my favorites – he worked for the New York Central as well as the Budd Company – and about this time last year we were posting some of his spring-like imagery.

This time I thought it would be fun to take a tour of the country through railroad art. There are countless examples of awesome posters and ads, but these are some of my favorites. Perhaps it will even give you some ideas on places to travel this year.

Maybe a nice shorter trip will be in order? Cape Cod, New England, Atlantic City and even Washington DC are all possibilities. Artist Sascha Maurer designed for both the New Haven and the Pennsylvania Railroads. The New England and the Atlantic City art below was designed by Maurer. Ben Nason also designed an array of posters for the New Haven Railroad, including the Cape Cod poster below.


Maybe you’d like to travel to a different city, a litter further away? Maybe you should visit Cincinnati!

Despite the fact that I’m not a big fan of the Pennsy, you it is impossible to not love this poster by Mitchell Markovitz.

Chicago is always a lovely place to visit!

Did I say tour the country? I lied. Maybe a visit to Canada is in order?

Now who doesn’t love a nice trip to America’s National Parks, the Pacific Northwest, or even California? Maurice Logan, William and Kenneth Willmarth designed some of these lovely views of the western United States.

Maybe a nice jaunt to the southwest? Artists Don Perceval and Oscar Bryn created these lovely posters for the Santa Fe.

Are mountains more your thing? Austrian artist Gustav Krollmann worked on these lovely designs…

Oh forget it, let’s just go everywhere! The awesome Amtrak posters designed by illustrator David Klein in 1973 make me want to see the entire country. Klein has a large body of work that is travel-themed, stretched over his entire career. His most known works were for Trans World Airlines, but he also produced work for Holland America Cruises and travel website Orbitz. Klein’s undeniably gorgeous work made railroads once again appear glamorous, just as they were in yesteryear.


Now that we’ve traveled around the country through railroad art, are you planning to take a vacation to some interesting locale? Are you going to go by train? Let us know in the comments!

Read More

Niagara Falls and the Falls Incline Railway

At some point during my whole Africa trip, I’ll be visiting Victoria Falls. I’ve been warned that the area is utterly commercialized. After having visited Niagara Falls last year, I’m hardly surprised. The whole thing I think was a shock for me, after having visited Iguaçu Falls in Brasil. Brasilians like to claim that Eleanor Roosevelt said that Iguaçu made Niagara look like a “leaky faucet,” but I’ve seen no evidence as to whether she actually said that, or it was a mere story. Either way, Iguaçu is pretty big, and it is also pretty wild. I remember lots of jungle, being warned that onças (I had to look this up – Jaguars) have been sighted in the area, and there were plenty of quatis (small, racoon-type mammal) wandering around as well. The jungle surrounding the falls is a national park, and thus preserved.

And if you’ve ever been to Niagara Falls, well, you know that it is totally the opposite there. The area surrounding the falls is commercialized to the extreme – casinos, shops, arcades, fun houses, restaurants – hell, they even put neon lights on the water at night, and shoot off fireworks. I think I almost felt a little dirty by being there – a whore partaking in the rampant consumerism. I’m not sure how Victoria Falls is going to be, but somehow I can imagine that it is somewhere in between these two extremes. The touristy hotel I’ll be staying at, within walking distance of the falls, seconds as a casino – oh lord.

While I was at Niagara, I did manage to take a few photos of the Incline Railway there. Incline railways have existed along the Niagara for over 200 years, but for the most part have now been replaced by elevators. Most of the incline railways were to take people down to the water level, but the solitary remaining one transports people from a parking area to the “main level” where tickets are sold for the various tours and boats – how wonderfully commercial. Called the “Falls Incline Railway” – it claims to be the slowest incline railway in the world, an appropriately stupid claim-to-fame for an attraction in that city (you can find other moronic record holders in the Ripley’s museum and the Guinness World Records museum in town). The top speed for this bad boy is 190 feet per minute, and the track is 170 feet in length with a gauge of slightly over six feet.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to post some images and work on my record for running the slowest mile in the entire world…


Read More

Photos from the Toronto Railway Heritage Centre

A few weeks (months!) ago I began going through all of my yet-unposted photographs, and presented some shots from the old roundhouse in Toronto. That roundhouse is currently occupied by three different organizations, the brewery which I previously featured, a furniture store, and the Toronto Railway Heritage Centre. The TRHC is a relatively young organization, and the first part of their museum proper, in Roundhouse Park, opened in May of last year. I got a chance to visit the place at the start of their opening season, and took a ride on their mini railway. I also took lots of pictures – and procrastinated in posting them. So a few months shy of a year, here they are.

Volunteers are still working hard to make Roundhouse Park a great museum devoted to rail history in Canada. The significant feature of the park, the John Street Roundhouse, was completed in 1931, and used by the Canadian Pacific Railway up until 1986. It was eventually donated to the city of Toronto. A 60,000-gallon water tower exists in its original location (the water tower had to be moved during construction of the parking garage for the Convention Centre, which is underneath Roundhouse Park. Portions of the roundhouse were also dismantled and then reconstructed), now painted with the Steamwhistle Brewing logo.

Also located in the park are Don Station and Cabin D. Don Station was constructed in 1896 and was originally located alongside the Don River. The station was relocated to Roundhouse Park, and serves as a point to purchase tickets for the 7.25″ gauge miniature railway. Cabin D was also originally built in 1896, by the Grand Trunk Railway, and it coordinated track switches and signal lights. It was also relocated to Roundhouse Park.

All of these facilities in the park are beginning to look amazing, and the miniature railway serves as a fun way to tour the grounds. Don Station once again serves as a station, as opposed to the boarded up shell it once was before being moved to the park. Writing about places like the Railway Heritage Centre, the Milton on Hudson station, and even the Danbury Railway Museum, I’m always amazed by the sheer determination of rail-interested volunteers. The Toronto Railway Heritage Centre is certainly shaping up to be quite a wonderful place, and if you ever happen to be in the Toronto area, I highly recommend it.


Read More

A visit to the Gare du Palais, Quebec

If you’ve ever seen a driver from Quebec, you may be familiar with the motto of the province: Je me souviens – which appears on the license plate. The motto translates to “I Remember” – the underlying meaning of which is open to interpretation. Most likely it refers to the rememberance of Quebec’s unique history as a colony of New France, and its current status as the sole French-speaking Canadian province. Considering this motto, the design of Quebec city’s Gare du Palais train station (saying train station is a bit redundant, as the gare portion of the name is French for station. du Palais translates to the Palace.) is incredibly appropriate. The building is more than just a simple train station, it is a reflection of Quebec’s history, and is full of symbolism.


The Gare du Palais was completed in 1915, designed by American architect Harry Edward Prindle. Prindle was born and studied in New York, but moved to Canada in 1912 to work for the Canadian Pacific Railway, establishing himself in Montreal. The Gare du Palais was modeled stylistically after the Chateau Frontenac hotel, which was also designed by an American – Bruce Price. Frontenac itself was also built for the Canadian Pacific Railway as a destination for wealthy, luxury rail travelers. The two buildings typified the chateau style, a revival of French Renaissance architecture.


From the outside, the Gare du Palais is quite an imposing structure. The station’s high-pitched roof is made of copper, and the building is composed of granite, Deschambault limestone, and brick. The front facade features a clock eight feet in diameter, and a large metal-framed window twenty-five feet long and forty feet high. The window is divided into seven panels, each displaying the coat of arms and representing seven men important to the history of Quebec:
Charles Jacques Huault de Montmagny, 1599 – 1654. Served as a governor of New France, and negotiated a peace treaty with the Iroquois.
Marquis Alexandre de Prouville de Tracy, 1603 – 1670. Served as Lieutenant General and acting governor of France. Fought against both the Iroquois and Mohawk nations.
Louis de Buade de Frontenac, 1622 – 1698. French soldier, served as the Governor General of New France.
Jean Talon, Comte d’Orsainville, 1626 – 1694. Served as the first Intendant of New France.
Charles de la Boische, Marquis de Beauharnois, 1671 – 1749. Served as a governor and intendant of New France.
Louis-Joseph de Montcalm, 1712 – 1759. Soldier and commander of the French and Canadian forces in the French and Indian War. Killed while his troops were retreating after being defeated in the Battle of Quebec.
Major General James P. Wolfe, 1727 – 1759. Officer in the British army, defeated Montcalm’s forces in the Battle of Quebec. Although killed in this battle, he is remembered as the “Conqueror of Quebec”.


The seven coats of arms are repeated throughout the building, even as little details on the station’s chandeliers. Various other coats of arms can be found inside, including Quebec’s over the outer door, and Britain’s displayed in the form of a clock over the entranceway to the waiting area. Additional symbols can be found interspersed throughout, like the floral emblems visible on the brickwork: the Tudor rose, representing England; the thistle, representing Scotland; the shamrock, representing Ireland; the fleur de lis, representing France; and the maple leaf, of course representing Canada.


I would definitely include the Gare du Palais on my list of most beautiful train stations I’ve visited. Although significantly smaller than other stations like Grand Central or even Toronto’s Union Station, it does include various restaurants and a few little shops. The city’s bus station is also connected to the rail station, although it is a newer building not part of the original station. For a Saturday morning the station didn’t look like it got too much traffic, but of course it gets far more than the years it lay dormant between 1976 and when it was reopened in 1985.

Anyways, here are a few more photos of the station. Unfortunately there are no photos of any trains, as without a ticket they were not permitting to go into the area the trains were at.


*A historical note about this post: information regarding the history of the Gare du Palais is very lacking on the internet, at least in English. The majority of the history found in this post derives from a little piece of paper hung up by Via Rail on the wall of the station’s Panorama Room. A copy of that document can be viewed here.

Read More

A visit to the Hôtel de Glace, Quebec

I’m pretty sick of this winter weather and snow, and I can imagine most people out there are feeling the same… especially if you’re a New Haven Line rider. Knowing that, even I have no clue why exactly I thought it would be intriguing to head up to Canada for a night in an ice hotel, and to partake in the festivities of Quebec’s Winter Carnival. I can assure you that my strange desire to sleep outside in the winter, in essentially an igloo, has been satisfied. For the rest of my life I will probably cling to my most favored possession – my electric blanket. But survive the winter’s cold I did, though I will admit I did have the assistance of some heat packs and hand warmers. Despite the cold I participated in quite an array of wintertime activities, from ice and snow slides, to browsing a few galleries of snow sculptures, and even a little dogsledding. Though not train related, I thought it would be cool to post up some pictures from the anchor attraction of my trip – the ice hotel. Typical of me, however, I did visit Quebec’s train station, called the Gare du Palais, and I’ll also be posting photos of it soon.

The Hôtel de Glace is made entirely of snow and ice, has 32 guest rooms, as well as an ice bar, and ice chapel, and an entrance room with an ice slide. In the evening everything is illuminated with colored lights, and it is absolutely gorgeous. Upon my arrival the ice bar was filled with folks drinking out of cubed glasses made completely of ice. I was rather cold much of the time, but it was quite the intriguing, and beautiful adventure.

In other news, right about now I am totally ready for summertime.


Read More

The Brewery in the Roundhouse: Steam Whistle Brewing

Beer-loving railfans, rejoice! I’ve found the perfect place for you to visit… It has been quite a few months since I’ve come back from Canada (I went in June), and I have such a backlog of photos that I had intended on posting, but never got around to. Some of my Toronto photos managed to get up here a bit ago, but so far I’ve left out one of the nicer places I visited there, including the Toronto Railway Heritage Centre.

The Toronto Railway Heritage Centre is a relatively young organization, and the first part of their museum proper, in Roundhouse Park, opened in May of this year. I got a chance to visit the place at the start of their opening season, and took a ride on their mini railway. I’ll be posting up some pictures of the actual Heritage Centre a bit later, and today focusing on another resident in Roundhouse Park: Steam Whistle Brewing.

The John Street Roundhouse in Toronto was completed in 1931, and used by the Canadian Pacific Railway up until 1986. The 32-bay roundhouse was later donated by the railroad to the city of Toronto. The grounds around the roundhouse building became known as Roundhouse Park, and it is just adjacent to the Rogers Centre, and practically underneath the enormous CN Tower. Underneath the park and roundhouse is a parking garage, and part of the Convention Centre – when these were constructed, a portion of the roundhouse had to be dismantled. It was later put back together, and has been nicely restored.

Steam Whistle Brewing has taken up residence in bays 1 through 14 in the old roundhouse. Although the name of the beer sounds perfect for a business in an old steam engine roundhouse, it isn’t related to trains. The steam whistle it refers to is the 5 o’clock whistle – marking the end of the work day.

If you ever get the chance to visit Toronto, you can take a tour of the factory, see where the beer is made, and see the old restored roundhouse. And of course, get some free samples of beer (my brother thoroughly enjoyed this – being 20 he can legally drink in Canada, but not here in the States).


Read More

Riding the TTC: Toronto’s Streetcars

Across the country there were once many streetcar systems, even in New York. Many of those have over the years been removed, in a few cases because the streetcars added to the difficult traffic conditions in the cities. Though Manhattan’s trains were moved underground, the streetcar systems in San Francisco and New Orleans have still survived. New Orleans’ system has been forever written into the public consciousness by Tennessee Williams’s play A Streetcar Named Desire, and is one of the two North American streetcar systems that has operated with little changes in route. The other is Toronto Transit Commission’s streetcar system, which is the largest in North America.

I’ve gotten the chance to ride on all three of the mentioned streetcar systems, though most recently Toronto’s system. The TTC operates 11 streetcar lines, and has an averages 285,600 riders daily. Although mostly operating above ground, there are several underground connections, like the one I photographed below, at Union Station.

I didn’t really travel very far on the streetcar. I pretty much wanted to be able to say I rode it, and get some photos :D

Read More

Canadian Adventures: Toronto’s Union Station & Skywalk

While I was in Toronto I had the chance to visit the busiest train station in Canada, Union Station. It is a great example of the Beaux-arts style (like Grand Central) in Canada. Via Rail, Amtrak, Ontario Northland, the Toronto Transit Commission (TTC) all operate trains out of the station (and in the case of the TTC, Streetcars as well). Construction on Union Station was completed in 1920. It was designed by Ross and Macdonald, HG Jones and JM Lyle, and opened in 1927.

The central area of the station is called the Great Hall, and is quite beautiful. I must admit, though, I am biased… it pales in comparison to Grand Central. I would have loved to take more photos of the station, but with the G20 Summit approaching security was being heightened, and I was asked to not photograph any more. The first photo is the one that I got in trouble for. Though I think it turned out pretty nicely, so it was worth it. In hindsight, I was rather dense to start taking photos right in front of the security office.

Stretching above the streets from Union Station is a Skywalk, which extends to the convention center, and close to the CN Tower and Toronto Railway Heritage Center (which I’ll be posting pictures of soon). Other than being a pretty cool looking walk way, the Skywalk also extends over the railroad tracks, so it is a nice vantage point for photography. All in all I really enjoyed Toronto, and I’d highly recommend visiting Union Station and the Railway Heritage Center for anyone in the area. And once the Summit is over, I’m sure the cops will not be quite as strict regarding photography.

Read More