Trains Of The Summer

Travel has long been associated with the summer months. In the age before air-conditioning, individuals of all ages and all walks of life went to great lengths to cool off. Whether it was for one day, a weekend or an extended vacation, people took to the rails to find relief from the brutal heat of summer. Railroads recognized that demand and creatively marketed both their passenger and freight service to maximize their profits.

In an era where 50 to 100 miles from home was considered a respectable outing, railroads would work in concert with picnic parks, amusement parks, and local resorts to schedule excursion trains to transport hot passengers to more temperate destinations. Since much of that activity took place on weekends, railroads relied on their dormant fleet of commuter coaches that were principally in weekday service to support that weekend market.

Between 1900 and the mid-1930s railroads competed with local trolley lines in urban areas and high-speed interurban railroads that offered clean electric service on a larger regional basis. That sector was a constant source of agitation for the railroads since the electric lines or “traction lines” frequently offered lower fares and passengers welcomed a break from the shower of cinders associated with steam-hauled, non-air-conditioned passenger trains.

Both the East coast and West coast were major centers for that type of service but in between, many regional networks developed to help people escape the heat.  In the East, the Boston & Maine, Long Island Railroad, Jersey Central, Pennsylvania and later the Pennsylvania-Reading Seashore Lines provided service to Atlantic Beaches and resorts off Long Island, down the Jersey Shore and the Chesapeake Bay.  New York Central served the Finger Lakes and competed with the New York, Ontario & Western to serve the Catskills.

In the West Southern Pacific held the ace with its famous coat line between San Francisco and Los Angeles.  All the Western railroads also hauled passengers inland to cooler mountain destinations. Several Colorado railroads offered special excursions to regions that had an abundance of wildflowers to passengers could detrain and pick fresh flowers to decorate their tables at home. Like their eastern counterparts, western railroads faced competition from the trolleys and interurbans.  Traction lines were more vulnerable to highway competition and most vanished by the late 1930s.

Railroads also provided an extensive offering of long-distance trains for extended vacations. Families constituted the greatest traffic volume and accordingly overnight coach trains and tourist sleeping car service were favored by that sector. Trains that served regional routes included The Royal Blue, The Hiawatha, the 400, and the Challenger, The Scout, and The Imperial served long-haul western routes. Readers wishing to get a more detailed description of that service should look up the long-running series in the old Railroad Magazine titled “Trains that are Making Good”.

Freight service changed in summer months with expanded consists of refrigerator cars that moved at passenger train speed, many dispatched by Fruit Growers Express (jointly owned by the Southern Pacific and Union Pacific). But fresh fruits from the South as well speed to major distribution centers during summer months.

All of that history offers a modeler endless possibilities that extend from the actual motive power and rolling stock to structures and scenery. Operating sessions as well can be ramped up to accommodate seasonal traffic. So, while contemplating that record take time to consider your own railroad operation and our product offerings, and save 10% all week long on our fantastic selection of locomotives!

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