Riding the Rails Through the Great Depression: Train Travel in the 1930s

In the 1930s, train travel was still a popular mode of transportation, but it faced significant challenges due to the economic depression and competition from other forms of transportation. The rail industry struggled to maintain profits, and many rail lines were consolidated or went bankrupt.

Despite these challenges, the rail industry continued to make improvements to the trains and infrastructure. Steam engines were replaced by more efficient diesel engines, and electric engines were also introduced. This made train travel faster, more efficient and more reliable. The trains themselves were also updated with more modern amenities, such as air conditioning and on-board restrooms.

However, due to the economic conditions, train travel was less affordable for many people and the number of passengers dropped. To attract more passengers, trains began offering more affordable prices and promotions, such as lower fares for children and senior citizens.

The rail industry also faced competition from automobiles and buses, which were becoming more affordable and accessible. This led to a decline in the number of passenger trains, and the rail industry focused more on cargo transportation.

During the 1930s, The government implemented policies to support the rail industry, such as The New Deal programs, which provided financial assistance to railroads and helped to improve the infrastructure. However, the rail industry continued to make improvements to the trains and infrastructure, and the government implemented policies to support the industry. Despite these challenges, train travel remained a popular mode of transportation, but the focus shifted more towards cargo transportation.

#1 Reception room of the Mexican presidential train presented at the World’s Fair of Chicago, 1933.

#2 View of the taxi and passenger drop-off ramp at Cincinnati Union Terminal, Cincinnati, Ohio, 1933.

#3 View of people as they line up to view the Burlington Zephyr (which was later renamed the Pioneer Zephyr) at the Century of Progress International Exposition (or the Chicago World’s Fair) Chicago, Illinois, 1934.

#6 American comedian Bob Burns shares a meal with comedienne and vocalist Martha Raye in the dining car of a train

#8 The London & North Eastern Railway was the only company to use cinema coaches.

#9 Skyline view of Manhattan’s financial district that shows an elevated train line and, at the right, 1930s

#10 British musical comedy actress Evelyn Laye is pictured arriving by train, 1938

#11 A table in the Pullman dining car of New York Central System

#14 Passengers sitting at a table in the observation car of New York Central System, 1938

#15 Passengers sit at a table in the Pullman dining car of New York Central System, 1938

#16 A general view of of New York Central System’s, 1938

#17 Passengers sit at a table in the observation car of New York Central System’s

#18 W C Fields kisses the hand of American writer, actor and comedian Mae West (1893 – 1980) while sitting aboard a train

#19 Streamlined – steam locomotive of the Friedrich Krupp

#20 Farewell of German recruits of the air force ‘ Luftwaffe ‘ at a train station in Berlin

#21 Adolf Hitler in a special train during the Polish campaign, 1930s

#22 Reginald Foort traveling on the foot plate where he is seen adjusting the microphone, in an endeavour to secure local colour and time sound of which he will bemaking a gramaphone record of the popular “Choo Choo” train effects foxtrot.

#23 Charlie Chaplin arriving at Paddington Station in London, 1930s

#24 English playwright and novelist, J. B. Priestley at Waterloo railway station, London at the start of a trip to the USA, 11th February 1931.

#25 Film star Miss Pola Negri pictured upon arrival at London’s Victoria train station

#26 American actress Miss Tallulah Bankhead pictured waving as she leaves Waterloo Station on a train, en route for the USA, 1931

#28 Pierre Laval on a visit to the USA, in the train from New York to Washington. From left: Pierre Laval, Henry Lewis Stimson and interpreter Marriner having lunch

#29 Pat & Patachon’s Arrival at the Stettiner railway station in Berlin, 1931

#30 King Boris III of Bulgaria raises his hat to greet the crowd who came to wish him a good trip when he left by train to visit his fiancée in Italy on October 16, 1930

#31 View of the 34th Street spur of the elevated train looking towards Third Avenue that was torn down by the city of New York.

#32 Railway bridge over the Viennese Danube Canal, 1930s

#33 Author Eddie Cantor in the train compartment with his wife and three of his daughters, 1930

#34 A film director giving instructions to his actors on a train

#35 bAmerican photographer James Abbe traveling in the train, 1930s

#36 The seats of train in Wellington, New Zealand are slanted to counteract the slope of the hills that the cars ride.

#37 Platform level waiting Hall of Milan Railway Station, 1930s

#38 Rail passengers listening to the radio through personal headphones in the dining car of a train, 1930.

#39 Passengers listen to a radio gramophone on a LNER train carriage in 1930.

#40 Passengers listen to the wireless on board a train on the Canadian Pacific Railway, September 1930.

#41 Family enjoying Christmas dinner in the Flying Scotsman restaurant car, 1931.

#42 Midland And Scottish Railway train restaurant, 1932.

#43 Passengers have lunch on North Coast Limited’s restaurant car, 1934.

#45 The dining car on the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific Railway Company’s Hiawatha line, which at the time of its debut was boasted as being “the largest single unit of any dining car in service,” 1935.

#47 Passengers dine in the Art Deco-style car of the New York Central Railroad’s Mercury train, 1936.

#48 Passengers in a first-class railway carriage smoking compartment, 1936.

#49 Children enjoying a festive party in an LMS dining car while traveling home for Christmas, 1938.

#50 The luxurious and spacious dining of the new, streamlines Twentieth Century Limited, crack New York Central Railroad flyer showing the passengers at their meals during the “preview” run to New York City, 1938. The new train, first all-room train in America, will go into service between New York City and Chicago June 15th, on a 16-hour schedule.

#51 Passengers play cards in a Great Western Railway (GWR) dining car, 1938.

#52 Cleaners at work in the luxurious coach ‘Minerva’ in 1938.

#53 A corridor buffet car built for the new electric main line from London to Bognor Regis, Chichester and Littlehampton districts on show at Waterloo station, London in 1938.

#54 Waiters bringing food to passengers in the dining car of a Canadian Pacific Railway train during a three day journey across the country, 1939.

#55 Night scene in a First Class compartment of Blue Train, ca. 1930s

#56 Night scene in a First Class compartment of Blue Train, ca. 1930s

#57 Night scene in a First Class compartment of Blue Train, ca. 1930s

#59 No sweats or hoodies here. Employees of Messrs Carreras peer out of their railway carriage window prior to departure from Charing Cross Station, London, in 1934.

#60 Traveling was an event. Employees of Messrs Carreras waving from the platform prior to departure from Charing Cross Station, London, in 1935.

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Written by Aung Budhh

Husband + Father + librarian + Poet + Traveler + Proud Buddhist. I love you with the breath, the smiles and the tears of all my life.

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