Advertising a Historic Railroad

The beginning of “red carpet” treatment

Your railroad print dates to the 1920s and is by the noted American illustrator Walter L. Greene. The print depicts the New York Central Railroad’s 20th Century Limited train at LaSalle Street Station in Chicago. 

Walter L. Greene was born in Schenectady, New York, in 1870 and studied drawing and illustration at Massachusetts State Normal School Academy of Art in Boston (now called Massachusetts College of Art and Design). He went on to travel to Europe where he studied in Italy and France. When he returned in 1903, he became the art director for General Electric; in the 1920s, he also began working for the New York Central Railroad. Greene was instrumental in developing advertising calendar projects for both companies.

The New York Central Railroad has early beginnings with the start of the railway system in the United States. Railroad magnate Cornelius Vanderbilt consolidated many railroads, including the New York Central Railroad, which he acquired in 1876. Eventually, the New York Central Railroad became one of the most important railroad lines due to its steam-powered engines and monopoly of railroad tracks. 

Your print depicts the 20th Century Limited train, one of the most famous and celebrated lines of the New York Central Railroad. The 20th Century Limited ran from Grand Central Station in New York City to LaSalle Street Station in Chicago starting in 1902 and running through 1967. This express passenger train also coined the term “red carpet treatment” because, when passengers entered and exited the train, a red carpet literally was rolled out for them. More than just red carpets, the line also offered private sleeping compartments, food, cocktails, and even a barber shop. The journey from New York to Chicago took less than 20 hours and the fare with sleeping accommodations would cost around $50.

Your print by Walter Greene is a great example of an artist working with companies to advertise and celebrate American pride of industry and transportation. Greene created a series of these for the New York Central for calendars, posters and magazine advertisements.

I would estimate your print at $50.


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