mmmmmmmmman old codger's lament:mmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmmGrab Bagmmmmmmm

>>>>>"I just don't see the art in RR design anymore…".<<<<<

I mean, how can one look at the lines of an Amtrak P42 and not moan in disgust? F59's…PTOOEY! And the MPI MP36PH-3C boat anchors that plagued the latter part of my career? They look like freaking suppositories!

It wasn't like that in the '30's, '40's and '50's, by golly! Trains had style then! Who can look at the Pre-War efforts of Kuhler, Dreyfus and Lowrey and not say that they produced some remarkable mobile art? Raymond Lowrey's Pennsy Art Deco 6-4-4-6 and knife-nosed 4-4-4-4 prototype, in particular, were about as good as it ever got: Buck Rogers on wheels. Yes, they were mechanical duds, but we're talking style, here.

After the war the march of sheet metal towards the future continued a phrenetic pace, but got a little loopy in the early 1950's, perhaps due to the effects of radiation poisoning. The '50's were a curious time. We alternately cowered in bomb shelters whenever an air raid siren malfunctioned, yet worshipped the wonderful promises of benign nuclear power - atomic-powered cars, airplanes, swizzle sticks and, of course, trains.

Luckily, atom-powered trains never got off of the drawing board (see below). It would have been a little unsettling of witnessing a nuclear-powered locomotive - along with a large collection of swizzle sticks in the lounge car - blow to smithereens near one's backyard.

A multiplicity of other avant-garde designs of a more conventional nature also surfaced over the years. It seemed that everyone had a 'concept' train up their sleeves. Some of them like the Aerotrain actually plied the rails, and were remarkable both for their wealth artistic excellence and their poverty of practical application. Others, as with the atomic trains, only existed in artwork. Frank Kinsley drew some lulus (one shown below) for Mechanics Illustrated and Modern Mechanix (aside: apparently Amtrak later adopted Modern Mechanix's spelling conventions). To hype their wares, railroad suppliers of such glamorous devices as fuel pumps, cylinder liners and Pullman poop shoots, hired advertising artists, who produced spectacular, drug-induced examples of art and pie-in-the-sky.

For some time and for no good reason I've been amassing examples of the Railroading-Gone-Wild! design school, which although goofy, nevertheless stylistically beat the heck out of anything that has physically debuted on the rails in the last 50 years. Where has our imagination gone? Below are twelve random examples. - EO

1) beyond Buck Rogers - these would have made wonderful pull-toys

2) AAR goes atomic


3) The Zepplin inspiration

4) Rocket train, 1950's

5) Encapsulated atomic train

6) Encapsulated atomic train plans

7) Kusan "Atomic Train" toy, c1960

8) "Atomic Train of the Future" toy

9) Santa Fe goes atomic, w / commentary from the Dome's Silly Johnny is Dead

10) truly inspired design of 1946, albeit drug-induced


11) 1954 Nash Metropolitan w/flanged wheels

12) unknown wag’s Photoschlocked interpretation of what GM’s Aerotrain would have looked like if Chevy execs had their way

13) the legacy: this comparatively modern B-movie arguably took what little energy that remained out of the atomic train movement;
note the early 1950's Fairbanks-Morse locomotive adorning the poster - to this day this anachronism drives rivet-counter railfans nuts