Sunday, November 13, 2011

The Art of the 20th Century Limited

Having just written in my previous blog post about the 20th Century Limited, the premier passenger train run by the New York Central Railroad, I thought I might share a couple of iconic poster images of this train made by the well-known graphic artist, Leslie Ragan. Ragan was born in Woodbine, Iowa in 1897 and trained at the Art Institute of Chicago. He taught there for awhile and later moved on to New York and then Europe. During the 30s and 40s, Ragan did quite a bit of commercial illustration for the NYC RR. But Ragan's poster images of the streamlined Hudson locomotive - with industrial design by Henry Dreyfuss - stand as icons of what we today call the Machine Age. These images seem to exude the power of the mighty locomotive at its pinnacle of success.

Poster from 1938
Poster from 1946
Railroad posters fell out of favor after WWII. The automobile took over the medium and  long-distance travel that use to be the domain of the railroads. The advent of the interstate highway system in the 50s was the final nail in the passenger train coffin.  But the images live on and give us a sense of what once was - or more accurately - what we like to think once was.

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