History Buff: How Railroads Changed the Way We Travel – A Visual History Through Vintage Posters

Vintage Train Posters

The Sante Fe Railroad, 1895. Click here to see our entire collection of Original Vintage train posters.

Historians often draw on the expansion of steam engine trains as the greatest example of how the Industrial Revolution changed the world. Train travel allowed the middle and lower classes the ability to leave their remote town, head into a city, or escape from it as needed. Vacations became a notion that the general public could partake in; affordable weekend escapes in lieu of expensive months-long excursions reserved only for the aristocracy. With this widening pool of people on-the-go, trains also changed the way we perceived the passing of time. Small towns between major cities became bustling centers that could be explored between train transfers, and entire sub-industries such as modern hotels and cafes began to spring up in formerly remote regions.

This growth in travel via train was a trend that continued through the first half of the twentieth century. During the period of the eighty year boom in train travel, countless posters were created. Often bright, exciting, and highlighting the possibilities of new places to explore, these posters are a snapshot of a time of industrial growth.

Below we visually trace the history of train travel by region; through the United Kingdom, France, and the Wild West of the United States…

THE UNITED KINGDOM: LONDON-MIDLAND-SCOTTISH RAILWAY

Midland Railway poster

Midland Railway Poster, c1910. This poster pre-dates the incorporation of LMS into one company. Click on the image to learn more about it.

The London, Midland and Scottish Railway (LMS) was one of the largest British railway companies. It was formed in 1923, during a period of economic rebuilding in the wake of the Great War. It was formed as a merger between the major railroad companies in and around London, the Midlands, and Scotland, as well as part of Ireland. The resulting company was an unwieldy construction, with numerous interests other than railway operations. Besides being the world’s largest transport organisation, it was also the largest commercial undertaking in the British Empire and the United Kingdom’s second largest employer, after the Post Office.

original vintage cassandre poster

LMS Bestway by Cassandre. Click on this image to learn more about it.

British Railways poster

This landscape illustrates the Synchant Pass in Wales (Dry Stream or Dry Valley in Welsh), which today is part of a National Park in Britain. The Pass runs near the coast, and before the railroad was built, certain areas were more treacherous and slow-going at high tide. Click on this image to learn more about it.

FRANCE: CHEMINS DE FER DE PARIS A LYON ET A LA MEDITERRANEE

San Salvadour was a resort located on the French Riviera. During the time that PLM (Paris-Lyon-Méditerranée) railways commissioned Ernest-Louis Lessieux to create this poster, the area was a popular tourist attraction. It was known for water that contained lithium salts, which were used as a treatment for arthritis, particularly gout, at the time. A castle and the beautiful countryside of Provençe was also part of the allure. Click on the image to learn more.

San Salvadour was a resort located on the French Riviera. During the time that PLM (Paris-Lyon-Méditerranée) railways commissioned Ernest-Louis Lessieux to create this poster, the area was a popular tourist attraction. It was known for water that contained lithium salts, which were used as a treatment for arthritis, particularly gout, at the time. A castle and the beautiful countryside of Provençe was also part of the allure. Click on the image to learn more.

The Compagnie des Chemins de Fer de Paris à Lyon et à la Méditerranée (usually known simply as the PLM) was a French railway company founded during the initial growth of train travel, around 1859.

The PLM operated chiefly in the southeast of France, with a main line which connected Paris to the Côte d’Azur by way of Dijon, Lyon, and Marseille. The company was also the operator of railways in Algeria.

PLM commissioned now famous poster artists such as Roger Broders. PLM would sponsor these artist’s travels to the Côte d’Azur and the French Alps so that they could visit the subjects of their work and depict them in the most accurate of tempting detail.

PLM was absorbed by a larger company right before WWII, but continues to this day to symbolize the beauty and wanderlust of early train travel.

This vintage travel poster was created to entice winter travelers to the French Alps resort of Mont-Revard by Roger Broders. Click on this image to learn more about it.

This vintage travel poster was created to entice winter travelers to the French Alps resort of Mont-Revard by Roger Broders. Click on this image to learn more about it.

In this c.1905 poster by Alesi, uses a number of tourist destinations and landmarks to entice travelers, including the Moorish architecture of Granada, the Sierra Nevada Mountains, the Rock of Gibraltar, and Malaga and its Gibralfaro, or Lighthouse Hill. Click on this image to learn more about it.

In this c.1905 poster by Alesi, uses a number of tourist destinations and landmarks to entice travelers, including the Moorish architecture of Granada, the Sierra Nevada Mountains, the Rock of Gibraltar, and Malaga and its Gibralfaro, or Lighthouse Hill. Click on this image to learn more about it.

This poster advertises travel to the area in eastern France known as Hauteville Lompnes. At the start of the 20th century, the area was known for its state of the art hospitals.  The poster uses the quaint, picturesque view of the quiet hillside town to encourage railway passengers to visit.

This poster advertises travel to the area in eastern France known as Hauteville Lompnes. At the start of the 20th century, the area was known for its state of the art hospitals. The poster uses the quaint, picturesque view of the quiet hillside town to encourage railway passengers to visit.

SWITZERLAND: THE VENICE-SIMPLON LINE

Shortly after the opening of the first railway in Switzerland, each region began to favor a separate north-south link through the Alps towards Italy. Western Switzerland supported the Simplon route, which followed a natural valley through the Alps. In 1878, the Compagnie du Chemin de Fer du Simplon was created to promote the project. The Italian King Victor Emmanuel III of Italy and the President of the National Council of Switzerland Ludwig Forrer opened the tunnel at Brig in 1906. Work on a second tube of the tunnel started in 1912, and opened in 1921.

The artist of this poster is Otto Baumberger, considered a master Swiss poster artist of this period. Depicted in the background are the Medieval castles Valère and Tourbillon, which look down on the city of Sion in the canton of Valais in Switzerland. Click on this image to learn more about it.

The artist of this poster is Otto Baumberger, considered a master Swiss poster artist of this period. Depicted in the background are the Medieval castles Valère and Tourbillon, which look down on the city of Sion in the canton of Valais in Switzerland. Click on this image to learn more about it.

THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA: SANTA FE RAILROAD, PENNSYLVANIA RAILROAD, AND OTHERS

The Santa Fe Railroad was one of the larger railroads in the United States during the times of the “Wild West”. Chartered in 1859, the railroad reached the Kansas-Colorado border in 1873 and Pueblo, Colorado, in 1876. To create a demand for its services, the railroad set up real estate offices and sold farm land from the land grants that it was awarded by Congress. Despite the name, its main line never served Santa Fe, New Mexico, as the terrain was too difficult.

Sante Fe - The Chief Way Vintage Poster

Click on this image to learn more about it.

Click on this image to learn more about it.

Click on this image to learn more about it.

Click on this image to learn more about it.

Click on this image to learn more about it.

Click on this image to learn more about it.

Click on this image to learn more about it.

Empire Builder RR Poster

Click on this image to learn more about it.

The Pennsylvania Railroad was founded in 1846. Commonly referred to as the “Pennsy,” the PRR was headquartered in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The PRR was the largest railroad in the U.S. for the entire first half of the twentieth century.

Philadelphia Poster

Click on this image to learn more about it.

Washington Vintage Poster

Click on this image to learn more about it.

The Southern Pacific Company was a major railroad system that operated along the West Coast of the United States. It extended from New Orleans through Texas to El Paso, across New Mexico and through Tucson, to Los Angeles, through most of California, including San Francisco and Sacramento. It also included lines that extended east across Nevada to Ogden, Utah, and reached north through Oregon to Portland.

This was an award winning poster created by a young artist of 22 years of age named Stanley Brower. Mr. Brower went on to design many other wonderful images during the remainder of his career. A most interesting and attractive train image for the Southern Pacific rails. Click on this image to learn more about it.

This was an award winning poster created by a young artist of 22 years of age named Stanley Brower. Mr. Brower went on to design many other wonderful images during the remainder of his career. A most interesting and attractive train image for the Southern Pacific rails. Click on this image to learn more about it.

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About The Ross Art Group

Specializing in original vintage posters, The Ross Art Group opened its doors over 18 years ago, and founder Mickey Ross has been collecting original posters for over 25 years. What started out as a hobby, sparked a true passion and developed into a thriving business.
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