Railroad advertising/pin up girls?

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#1
I’ve been doing some research on advertising (posters & signs etc.) from the so-called ‘golden age’ of railroading and stumbled across these attached images. (This is only a small sample by the way). I’d never seen them before and they set a few alarm bells ringing in my head. I did a bit of digging and found a website selling them as signs with the description, “these…are reproductions of vintage designs from World War II and the 1950s, while others mimic the style with art by contemporary artists.” That made me think that they may be fakes?!!! They seem a bit risqué – especially for the 1950s.
So, can anyone shed any light on whether these might be genuine railroad advertisements from the golden age? Any comments or help gratefully received. Or can anyone point me to railroad adverts from the golden age that did use attractive women to promote the product?
Laura

25af05460030d9305d00dbbb400af3f5--railway-posters-travel-posters.jpg 5061788.jpg ha022-pennsylvania-electric.jpg
 

Bill Anderson

Well-Known Member
#2
I think they are not copies of original ads and artwork for several reasons. From a railfan perspective, a Western Pacific F unit is coupled behind the Union Pacific E unit in the first photo. I cannot imagine any circumstances in which the UP would borrow a WP unit, and they would certainly not have it appear in an advertising poster. I would bet that the original photo of those diesels was taken at the Feather River Railroad Museum in Portola, CA.

The Kansas City Southern unit is numbered KCS 1, which would not have been a practice back in the 40's and 50's. I think that three unit set is currently used on KCS business and special passenger trains. If one wanted to take the time and effort, you could would probably find that all of the engines depicted in the ads are restored units currently being run or placed on exhibit.

From a historical perspective, I cannot recall Vargas style WWII "pinup girls" being used in any railroad ads. Railroad ads of the 40's and 50's sometimes used glamorous paintings, but they were of people using passenger trains for business travel and family vacations. An internet search of railroad ads appearing in magazines such as Life and National Geographic or the railroad paintings of artists like Howard Fogg will give you a feel for what genuine railroad artwork looked like.

I went to the company's website and found the same model in the first ad used in other ads. I think it is simply a matter of a company creating products they hope will sell.
http://pasttimesigns.com/catalogsearch/result/index/?cat=717&q=trains
 
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Bill Anderson

Well-Known Member
#3
I queried "Nartional Geographic Railroad ads" and found images which are typical of those appearing in national magazines when passenger trains were a popular means of travel. Paintings were used in the 30's and 40's, giving way to photographs in the 50's and 60's. As you can see, many of the paintings depicted glamorous people, but not pinup girls. The closest I could find to a pinup girl was a black & white photo of young woman in a modest one piece swim suit posed by a swimming pool in southern California.

https://www.google.com/search?q=Nat...OV2NrYAhUL9WMKHc-cBS0QsAQIKw&biw=1722&bih=947
 

Bill Anderson

Well-Known Member
#4
Life magazine railroad ads:

ttps://images.search.yahoo.com/search/images;_ylt=A0SO81EyDF1awNAAjnpXNyoA;_ylu=X3oDMTEyYTN1MDl1BGNvbG8DZ3ExBHBvcwMxBHZ0aWQDVUkyQzNfMQRzZWMDc2M-?p=Life+magazine+railroad+ads&fr=yfp-t

You can see that real railroad ads used either paintings or photos, but not a combination of the two like the thrree "ads" you posted up.
 

Bob

Forum Host
Staff member
#6
Thanks for the replies. You've confirmed my suspicions - that these are, indeed, fakes.
You are correct that they're not actual railroad advertising signs. However, I'm not sure I'd call them "Fakes", as I don't think there's an intent to mislead anyone, at least not by the manufacturer.

Schrader's Railroad Catalog has a large assortment of these, all featuring scantily clad girls in various provocative poses. They're sold as novelty decor for train rooms etc. They do also sell true reproductions of vintage signs as well, so that's probably what you found in the description you mention. They're kind of a mishmash of railroad art and world war II bomber airplane nose art.

They sell for about $20, and that's reasonable in my opinion.
 

Bob

Forum Host
Staff member
#7
From a historical perspective, I cannot recall Vargas style WWII "pinup girls" being used in any railroad ads. Railroad ads of the 40's and 50's sometimes used glamorous paintings, but they were of people using passenger trains for business travel and family vacations. An internet search of railroad ads appearing in magazines such as Life and National Geographic or the railroad paintings of artists like Howard Fogg will give you a feel for what genuine railroad artwork looked like.

I went to the company's website and found the same model in the first ad used in other ads. I think it is simply a matter of a company creating products they hope will sell.
http://pasttimesigns.com/catalogsearch/result/index/?cat=717&q=trains
I totally agree, these have no basis at all in authentic railroad advertising. Purely a fantasy item inspired by vintage art. I don't see a problem with it, as long as they're honest about what they're selling.
 
#8
You are correct that they're not actual railroad advertising signs. However, I'm not sure I'd call them "Fakes", as I don't think there's an intent to mislead anyone, at least not by the manufacturer.

Schrader's Railroad Catalog has a large assortment of these, all featuring scantily clad girls in various provocative poses. They're sold as novelty decor for train rooms etc. They do also sell true reproductions of vintage signs as well, so that's probably what you found in the description you mention. They're kind of a mishmash of railroad art and world war II bomber airplane nose art.

They sell for about $20, and that's reasonable in my opinion.
Yes, I should probably have called them 'not authentic' rather than 'fakes'! I think this is more the sort of thing I'm looking for:
5a7cdaee8601cd6eea27e78e9d8e0a40.jpg 9746def61317c85abe06f389a330bcfb.jpg c6b0b3416769649039b25e4964a75c0f--art-vintage-vintage-travel.jpg
 

Bob

Forum Host
Staff member
#9
Yes, I should probably have called them 'not authentic' rather than 'fakes'! I think this is more the sort of thing I'm looking for:
View attachment 134417 View attachment 134418 View attachment 134419
The new signs are hard to classify, as they're not even "reproductions" since there were never originals like that.

As for the ones you posted, I don't know that they were ever done as signs. I don't recall seeing any, though I'm far from an expert on collectibles. Those were typically done as posters and/or ads in magazines. They are easy to find on ebay and the like, and you used to be able to buy old copies of Life Magazine and National Geographic etc that would have them in the issue. Typically those sold pretty cheap. Then you can matte and frame them for a nice decor element.

I think there may be reproduction metal signs of those as well. What I don't know for sure is whether there were any metal signs done of those by the railroads themselves. It's pretty obvious that the middle one never was done as a metal sign, as it has a section for you to cut out and mail in to get a brochure about their passenger trains. Hand me my tin snips! LOL.

If I wanted a metal sign, I'd look for things like railroad logos. Those were often made in metal. Railway Express Agency signs were also common. It's easy to find reproductions of those as well. You can find originals, though it's harder. I have no idea what the pricing is like these days, so I won't venture a guess there.
 
#10
Sorry, I wasn't assuming that these three were metal signs, more likely posters - but, as you correctly point out, the middle one has a section to cut out and mail in so can't even have been that! There seems to be quite a few adverts/posters (or whatever) for the Hiawatha. I'm guessing that some railroad companies (such as the Milwaukee Road) had better publicity/marketing departments than others?
 



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