Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Santa Fe Lines (1955)

Good morning!

As my birthday weekend approaches (I know, I know, it's really only one day, but can you fit all the fete-ing necessary into a twenty four hour period to celebrate the life of a girl like I? Dint think so), Matthew and I are thinking about taking a trip to Louisville to nose around at antique stores and have the famous Hot Brown at the Brown Hotel. That most indulgent of indulgent Bab is one of the best people I know to take a trip with, because when things go wrong I feel like I'm in less of a hostage situation and more of a Jack Lemmon series of events in one of his movies. And even when thing don't go wrong, we still have a darned tootin' time! Matthew's old Honda recently bit the dust after a prolonged, prolonged period of being-on-its-last-legs (i.e., since I met him a little more than four years ago), and he had the luck to make a pretty good deal on a 2009 Nissan Cube to place in its driving stead! Now, before the haters start hatin', it's really one of the most ergonomically designed cars I've ever ridden in-- and six feet tall people with legs gangling all over the interior passenger compartments of mid-sized vehicles will know exactly what I'm talking about. My knees are free! My head clears the roof with so much room to spare! We could fit a forties' slipper chair in the backseat! It really is a beautiful thing. I'm actually excited about driving up there. The only way we could travel in more style and comfort seems to be the bygone option of travel-by-rail. So you can see how my seeing this pictures of westward ho'ing from 1955 would make me a little nostalgic for railroad passenger cars in general.

Take a look at some of the pictures from that midcentury campaign-- they're almost like postcards!

To go with the whole southwestern theme, a lot of the cars carry Native American style decorative motifs on the passenger car seats, walls, in framed hangings, etc. This picture's taking it to a whole other level with an actual Native American pointing out mesa scenes to Mr. and Mrs. Everyman and children. "See? See, that's where we built the fireworks wholesaler. After the government changed the zoning on our reservation. We used to have a gas station there, but it burned down. I'm thinking about opening a totem-pole themed car lot at the edge of the next valley. I'm thinking our business cards could say 'We Tote-m the note-m'. What do you think, not bad, huh?" I wonder if they actual had Native Americans or people dressed as Native Americans on the line to provide sightseeing information (of a more historical bent, naturally).

Here's the famous "Turquoise Room" dining car on the iconic Santa Fe Super Chief. I was a little disappointed that the Turquoise theme wasn't taken more to heart in the interior design of this room-- there seems to be one sad little framed example of the beautiful native jewelry making techniques at the head of the car, and then beige as far as the eye can see. At least the flatware is gold. I realize that a railway car is not the most commodious or spacious of spaces, but even taking that into consideration, doesn't this room look a little cramped? When Cary Grant's having luncheon in the dining car of a train in a movie, he always seems to at least be able to put his well-turned elbows out, rather than scrunch them to his sides for fear of waylaying a passing attendant.

Now this is what I'm talking about when I say traveling in style. Could you die? This looks exactly like something from out of Lost in Space to me...the curved, diminished perspective of this enormous passenger car, with plenty of head room, people having a gin fizz or eight while traversing the two thousand miles from the east to west coast. The large glass windows looking out on the landscape-- it's funny how modern and quaint the whole scene can look at the same time. I want my hair to do that insouciant little flip the woman in the red striped pull-over is rocking, by the way.

Why do 90% of the men in 50's ads bear some resemblance to Rex Harrison? That guy in the blue shirt may be an unacknowledge illegitimate of the My Fair Lady actor. Look at his weird face! Right to the left of "Jim Harrison", you can see some of the southerwestern motifs I was talking about earlier. And all around him you can see people wearing cool clothes. The couple in the front get my vote for "best dressed" (imagine what they would look like seated on the couch from Monday's post! MIND. BLOWN). Harrison's traveling companion has cute coral capris and a button up shirt featuring a coordinated watermelon design. I told you guys, I need to get one the color pants bandwagon.

Besides how armed-services-official the logo looks, I love the little inset the ad men have added to the Santa Fe shield, answering the question "But how are we going to get around once we get there?". "WHEN YOU GET THERE...RENT A CAR." Can I help but read this as a withering riposte to railway naysayers? I cannot.

In 1956, the ads switched to these, somehow more old fashioned looking illustrations below. They're still cute. Recognize the Turquoise Room on the left? It wasn't nearly that blue in the real picture. Also, I want the  orange ad lady's outfit. BAD. Turtleneck plus wiggle dress? LET'S DO THIS.

Have you ridden/did you ever ride in a passenger car? Was it anything like in the movies? Do they even have any of these anymore outside of the ones that will take you in a circle for historical purposes (I think they used to have one like that here in Tennessee, but the memory is too vague for me to Google it)? Any tips about Louisville? Let a gal know!

That's all she wrote for today-- see you guys tomorrow!


  1. Hey Lisa,
    Growing up in the fifties myself... We traveled from Shreveport to Houston several mom and five kids...can you imagine? We roamed the train, but were parent believed in the switch! Also, the schools in Shreveport sponsored several train grade school we were bussed to Marshall, TX and rode back to Shreveport on a passenger train...and in the 8th grade, we went to New Orleans and back on a train, with all sorts of sight seeing...a Riverboat ride, dinner at the Court of Two Sisters (where I had my palm read), Jackson Square...and then the piece de' resistance of train rides. In 1974, a Pullman ride from Nueva Larendo in Texas to Mexico City! All sorts of sight-seeing there and a plane trip back home...Gosh! I've had a lot of fun!

  2. Louisville is a blast! Y'all have loads of fun! : ) There are excursion trains here. I think that's what you're thinking of. Mister and I went once and it was really fun. We did the one that goes to the Watertown town-wide yard sale. The yard sale was complete bunk but the train ride was awesome. I'd like to go on the Fall foliage one. One of the train cars has the domed glass ceiling like in one of your pictures! You have to pay more but I bet it would be worth it. Here is the link:

  3. Oh baby, MC just re-read me The Great Gatsby, so I suddenly have a very romantic, aristocratic image of Louisville in my mind, and the gorgeous train fantasy is only helping! YOU SHOULD GO!!! :D

  4. I have ridden a train and it was nothing like a movie (unless you count that episode of Sex and the City when Carrie and Samantha take the train all the way to California, not that I went that far--just from DC to Colonial Williamsburg).

    However, for your birthday (Happy Birthday!), I will suggest that we travel back to 1955 (stopping by 1971 on the way to pick up Ralph), pick up some coral capris and watermelon blouse for you and I'll grab either the outfit worn by the lady in red and white in the lounge car or the plaid blouse/mustard capris combo. We'll jab waiters with our elbows in the Turquoise Room at every meal. It would totally be the best birthday ever. Although, going to Louisville and having a Hot Brown sounds nice, too.

  5. see if there are any movies showing at the louisville palace when you are there! we are going up the 25th to see some like it hot! the theater is AMAZING. i would even go to a showing of 2 fast 2 furious just to go inside.

  6. My great grandfather was an engineer on the Santa Fe. I wish we had at least some ephemera from his days on the rails, but no such luck. I think I could live in the turquoise room just string out at the scenery racing by. Aside from the theme park variety, I don't think I've ever had a proper train ride; that will have to be remedied in short order. Have fun on your birthday weekend extravaganza!!!



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