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Planes, Trains but not Automobiles

In the 1987 movie Planes, Trains and Automobiles, Steve Martin’s character is desperately trying to get home for Thanksgiving.

Railway Guide 1879

While working at the Library of Congress, I have answered many questions which might have interested Steve Martin’s character, from how people traveled, to how much a trip cost, to how long a certain trip was in miles or time. I often find myself using a source I love, the Official Railway Guide.  While I have used this source many times, recently I discovered two interesting things that I had never noticed before.

You may know or guess that this title includes train schedules and rail lines maps, but in the 1951 edition there were several pages devoted to a “List of Cities and Towns Observing Daylight Savings Time.” Of course, it makes sense that the guide would have this information because railroads were very concerned about time, but I would have not thought to go to the Railway Guide for daylight savings time information and found the very specific listing of places interesting.

Poster for the Cunard Line monarchs of the sea steamships Lusitania and Mauretania, 1907.

Ledkote. TWA plane at La Guardia hangar. July 27, 1956

I was also surprised to see the schedules for ocean liners and airlines. Then it occurred to me that the reason this information was included, was because travelers may have needed to sync their train travel with other forms of transportation to get them to overseas destinations.  For instance, someone traveling in 1951 from the United States to Europe did not have as many convenient options as we have today.  If they didn’t live in a city with an airport, they could travel by train to a city with air or ocean liner service and then travel on to England.  In 1951 a traveler could get to New York by train to board the Cunard ship Media sailing to Liverpool, or they could travel to Chicago to board a flight on TWA to London.

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