Sleep Going to Keep Going: Pullman War Ads, Part 1

When I started researching for the story I posted a few weeks back about how the Nazis didn’t actually plan on attacking a substation at Grand Central during World War II, I amassed quite a lot of information about the railroads during the war. There are many facets to the story – from the gigantic posters that were installed in Grand Central to raise money with war bonds, to the movement of troops and materiel during the war—with railroads carrying 90% of the military’s freight, and 98% of its personnel, trains were an integral operation on the home front.

As a graphic designer, advertisements have always captured my interest. Wartime advertisements are something that have appeared on the blog before, with this post about the New York Central’s war ads. Although almost, if not all, of the American railroads published ads depicting their contributions to the war effort, there is a particular rail-related company that has a massive body of work when it comes to wartime ads which is rather impressive.

The Pullman Company, most notably known for their sleeping cars and porters, was extremely active during World War II. Despite being broken up in 1944 due to an antitrust case, Pullman advertised throughout the entirety of the war, often promoting the fact that their cars were one of the primary means of transportation for soldiers to get to their ship-out points, and later for their returns home.

Other advertisements asked the public to either refrain from riding trains or in sleeper cars unless absolutely necessary (at one point sleepers were restricted from operating over routes under 450 miles, yet public ridership was also up due to the rationing of gasoline), or to make sure that if unable to make their reservation they don’t just no-show, but cancel in advance so no space is left unfilled. In one case, an ad shows a furloughed soldier stuck in a station unable to return home to see the birth of his child as the train was sold out. Thankfully, someone cancelled their reservation last minute, allowing the soldier to return home. Another ad asks whether a soldier will make it to his own wedding, complete with a picture of an exasperated bride. This soldier likewise waits for a last minute cancellation on a sold-out train. My favorites, however, may be the ads containing the corny catchphrase, “Sleep Going to Keep Going.”

At the outset of the war troops moved in the standard Pullman sleepers that had been serving the general public prior. Eventually new sleepers were produced, devoted solely to troop transport. Riding the train as a soldier could be quite a claustrophobic experience—the New York Central operated cars with three-tiered foldable bunks, accommodating a total of 39 men. Besides the soldiers, additional riders may have included a higher-ranking military man designated as the “Train Commander,” a Pullman porter, or a railroad employee operating as an escort and liaison to the Commander. Another car operating as a field kitchen served three or four troop transport cars—initially out of baggage cars converted for that purpose, and later in specially designed troop kitchen cars.

As part of my collection of advertisements and timetables, I have a rather large assortment of Pullman ads—large enough to split it into multiple posts. Enjoy a little look back with the first part of my collection of digitally-restored Pullman advertisements below.

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Planes of the New York Central – The Railroad’s WW2 Combat Bombers

While the New York Central’s famous trains are legendary, it seems that few know of their planes. Believe it or not, the New York Central and its employees raised the funds to purchase two planes, claiming to be the only railroad to have done so, and donated them to the war effort. Each plane was painted with the name “New York Central” and was flown by Army Air Force crews in World War II. At this time, the New York Central’s company magazine, The Headlight, was filled with photos of railroad employees off at war, and updates on their sponsored planes were always a highlight. In some instances, the crews were in fact railroad employees, or family members. And in a perhaps-not-coincidental twist of fate, several of the bomber’s targets were essential German infrastructure – its railroads.

Dedication of the "New York Central System" bomber
Dedication of the “New York Central System” bomber, attended by railroad president Frederick Williamson (left). Photo from the October 1942 issue of the Central Headlight.

The first New York Central sponsored plane
The first New York Central-sponsored plane. Photo courtesy b26.com.

The New York Central’s first twin-engine bomber, named simply “The New York Central System” was purchased with the funds raised by the railroad and its employees – $170,062.06 in total, money delivered on April 2, 1942 to the US Treasury. The idea was conceived by the employees of the Electric Locomotive shop in Collinwood, Ohio, who proposed small paycheck deductions from willing participants in order to fund the purchase. Nearly 90% of the Central’s workforce donated to this and other wartime fundraisers. Sadly, the bomber was shot down in February 1943 over North Africa after only 13 missions. However, determined railroad employees decided to raise further funds and purchased a replacement bomber, which was named the “New York Central II.” Though it was not unheard of for a group to sponsor a plane, this was the first time a group had come together a second time to purchase a replacement after the first’s loss.

(more…)

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Happy Independence Day from I Ride the Harlem Line!

Our previous post featured some of the menus from the New York Central’s most famous train, the 20th Century Limited… but I left one out, as I felt it was appropriate for today. Printed in 1943, World War Two raged on, and much of the country’s resources were devoted to the war effort. Not only did the railroads move troops and materiel, they heavily advertised war bonds on timetables, menus, and even on a giant “billboard” in Grand Central. This particular 20th Century Limited menu featured a large American flag (the 48 star variety, of course) on the back with a little story about what our flag represents. It felt perfect for today! Happy Independence Day from I Ride The Harlem Line!

Wartime Menu

Wartime Menu

Wartime Menu

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