Cover image for Travel by train : the American railroad poster, 1870-1950
Travel by train : the American railroad poster, 1870-1950
Zega, Michael E., 1955-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Bloomington : Indiana University Press, [2002]

Physical Description:
xi, 140 pages : illustrations (some color) ; 29 cm
General Note:
Maps of the routes of the railroads on lining pages.
Before 1900. Early poster antecedents ; The rise of competition ; The lure of the place ; 1890s: "Reason why" advertising ; The lithographed display poster ; Oscar Binner's gigantic images.-- 1900-1909. Advertising revolution ; 1900: urban display windows ; Design in the new century ; Car cards.-- The teens. Emerging corporate imagery ; The power of the symbol: Louis Treviso's Santa Fe posters.-- The 1920s. Railroad advertising transformed ; Santa Fe and Sam Hyde Harris ; Southern Pacific and Maurice Logan ; Back East: the New Haven begins ; New York Central's art posters ; Hernando G. Villa and the Santa Fe Chief ; The Canadian Pacific and others.-- The 1930s. Depression-era innovation ; Leslie Raga ; Snow trains ; The streamliner image ; The Southern Pacific studio ; Sascha Maurer: the appeal of the machine ; Ragan's streamliners.
Added Author:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
NC1849.R34 Z44 2002 Adult Non-Fiction Non-Fiction Area-Oversize

On Order



Between 1870 and 1950, America's railroads produced a body of poster work significant both for the artists involved and for the range of images created. The railroads used this visual medium from their founding, first in the form of broadsides, dominated by text and intended to convey practical information, and then, during the 1890s, as vivid lithographed display posters. For the next 50 years, American railroads commissioned posters designed to spur the popular imagination and thereby encourage travel. Images of compelling intensity included Maurice Logan's icons of the 1920s overland limiteds passing in the West; Adolph Treidler's wonder cities; Santa Fe's Native Americans; and Leslie Ragan's and Sascha Maurer's machine-age steamliners.

Although a great deal has been written about European railway and travel posters, their American counterparts remained in the shadows. Travel by Train focuses on the artists, railroad men, and advertising agencies that created and produced the work. It presents the posters in the context of the historical trends and competitive strategies that shaped the development of the railroad industry. The book also follows the development of the advertising business and graphic design in the U.S. and Europe. It features approximately 160 poster images (many in color), personal photographs, and sketches, many of them never before published.

Author Notes

Michael E. Zega has researched and written about railroad advertising and promotion for the past decade and contributes to many magazines, including Vintage Rails, Classic Trains, and Journal of the Southwest. He lives in New York City.

John E. Gruber of Madison, Wisconsin, is president of the Center for Railroad Photography and Art and editor of its magazine, Railroad Heritage. He is contributing editor to Classic Trains, preservation columnist for Trains, and co-author of Caboose (2001).

Reviews 1

Library Journal Review

From the proliferation of competitive railroad lines across the continent in the second half of the 19th century to the decline in passengers after World War II, this book conveys the excitement involved in train travel by reproducing 120 poster images, photographs, and sketches from the time before most people were driving or flying to their destinations. The coauthors know their subject well: Gruber is president of the Center for Railroad Photography and Art, editor of its magazine, contributing editor of Classic Trains, and recent editor of Vintage Rails; Zega is a regular contributor to the two latter magazines, among others. Their extensive research proves fascinating, and the colorful posters still maintain their visual appeal. Five chronologically arranged chapters interweave information about the artists and how the characteristics of their commissioned designs serve the advertising purposes of the railroad lines they worked for. A large number of artists, both well known (N.C. Wyeth, John Held Jr.) and not so well known (Maurice Logan, Leslie Ragan), are included in the discussion, with reproductions of their designs. Recommended to both academic and public libraries for their transportation history, graphic design, or advertising history sections.-Anne Marie Lane, Univ. of Wyoming, Laramie (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Table of Contents

Chapter 1 Before 1900
Early Poster Antecedents
The Rise of Competition
The Lure of Place
""Reason Why"" Advertising
The Lithographed Display Poster
Oscar Binner's Gigantic Images
Chapter 2 1900-1909
Advertising Revolution
Urban Display Windows
Design in the New Century
Car Cards
Chapter 3 The Teens
Emerging Corporate Imagery
The Power of Symbol: Louis Treviso's Santa Fe Posters
Chapter 4 The 1920s ""Sell Them Scenery, Not Plush Chairs.""
Santa Fe and Sam Hyde Harris