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Public Radio's Environmental News Magazine (follow us on Google News)

Almanac/All Aboard!

Air Date: Week of

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This week, we have facts about the 20th Century Limited. The last of the luxury trains made its final journey from New York City to Chicago in 1967.


[MUSIC: Speedy West & Jimmy Bryant “Flippin’ The Lid” STRATOSPHERE BOOGIE: THE FLAMING GUITARS OF SPEEDY WEST & JIMMY BRYANT (Razor & Tie - 1995)]

CURWOOD: If you were looking to ride in style in 1949, you couldn’t do better than the swanky 20th Century Limited express train that made a daily run between New York and Chicago. Howard Zane, from Colombia, Maryland, was just a kid when he rode the Limited for the first time.

ZANE: And it was 1949, I was 11 years old when I rode that thing with my dad. And I can remember my father because his eyeballs were coming out of his head. Why? Not because of the food, but because Lana Turner was on the train, the movie actress. And he couldn’t get his eyes off her, nor could I. I was 11 years old and she was a beautiful woman.

CURWOOD: And as Mr. Zane remembers, you didn’t have to be a movie star to get first class treatment.

ZANE: And inside the service was fabulous, you had a lounge and a barbershop, you had a secretary on board, the conductors would always travel in pairs of twos to take your tickets, I remember.

CURWOOD: And don’t forget the food. Bisque of Crab Cardinal. Roast Long Island Duckling. And coconut pudding to top it all off. But by 1967, the automobile became the primary means of getting from one place to another for most Americans and 20th Century Limited rolled out its red carpet for the last time that year. President Dwight Eisenhower had pretty much sealed the fate of luxury trains when he created the Interstate Highway system in 1956. But according to Mr. Zane, nothing beats taking the train.

ZANE: Getting there was half the fun. And we have forgotten that. Because everyone is in such a hurry right now to get somewhere. And it was just the most beautiful train in the world. Nothing ever compared to it.

CURWOOD: And for this week that’s the Living on Earth Almanac.

[MUSIC: Speedy West & Jimmy Bryant “Flippin’ The Lid” STRATOSPHERE BOOGIE: THE FLAMING GUITARS OF SPEEDY WEST & JIMMY BRYANT (Razor & Tie - 1995)]



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