I've just discovered a Web site about cruise ships and ocean liners of the past which also has, buried in its content, some wonderful tales and photos of streamlined rail transit during its glory days. It's called "Cruising the Past, the Award Winning Cruise Ship, Ocean Liner, Travel and Social History Website." The only problem is that the home page doesn't offer links to its non-cruise ship pages, but more about that in a moment.
While glancing at the photos of classic ships in the golden age of ocean liners I was immediately drawn to the publicity photo seen above. It features Canadian Pacific’s S.S. Princess Marguerite steaming from Victoria, BC, to Vancouver and what captivated me is that I once sailed on that very ship. It was in the late 1950s and I was working as a news announcer in Victoria's CJVI radio station. I needed to spend a couple of days in Vancouver and the only way to get there was via the Princess Marguerite, which offered first class overnight accommodations on the downtown-to-downtown service.
Unfortunately I couldn't afford the price of a stateroom but early in the voyage I met a young lady who was attracted to me, as I was to her. It didn't take long to establish a romantic relationship, for this was one of those love-at-first-sight happenings. Okay, okay, maybe it was lust-at-first-sight but, heck, we were young and eager. Part way into the evening we agreed that a stateroom would be a more comfortable place to cuddle than our bench on the deck and we agreed to share the cost.
Sorry to disappoint you, folks, if you were looking for a sexy end to this tale, but when we pooled our resources we lacked sufficient funds. And so we spent the rest of the night on deck.
The Princess and her sister ships provided service between Vancouver, Victoria and Seattle. They were the finest coastal liners on the Pacific coast, breaking all intercity speed records between Vancouver, Victoria, and Seattle and established an enduring reputation for elegance and beauty.
As mentioned, the site also includes fascinating articles and photos about classic streamlined trains and other forms of transit but you won't get to them from the home page. I found this story of the Santa Fe Super Chief by Googling the artist's name. Leland Knickerbocker was a General Motors artist (GM built the diesel engines) and the Super Chief's classic “Warbonnet” livery is arguably the most beautiful paint scheme ever to be applied to a passenger train. It was often referred to as "the Train of the Stars."
The Super Chief was legendary, not only for cutting 15 hours off the Chicago-Los Angeles run, but also for its beautiful exterior and Navajo-inspired interiors. It's maiden voyage began at Chicago's Dearborn Street Station at 7:18 PM on May 18, 1937. Thirty-nine-and-three-quarter hours later it arrived in Los Angeles. Passengers usually included Hollywood stars, corporate big shots, and politicians, willing to pay extra for fine food and service. For example, those who wanted fresh trout the second night would place their orders, which would be telegraphed ahead. The fish would be caught the next morning and served that night as the chef's specialty: Colorado Mountain Trout Grillade.
Forty hours on a train, even with a private compartment, may not appeal to today's in-a-hurry business people. But for service like that plus superb scenery at ground level, they'd arrive in a much better mood. Now known as Amtrak's Southwest Chief, it still runs, though without the glorious paint scheme.