It’s hard to grasp now how much the introduction of railroads and railway services during the late 18th century and early 19th century forever changed the way we commute, travel, and transport our stock and goods.
It was a grand leap of faith into a new future, similarly to how the picture changed decades later with the introduction of commercial flights. In both cases, the world went faster, stronger, better.
Depending on the decade, different combustible resources such as timber, coal, or oil helped power the locomotive machinery.
During the 20th century, the appearance of the first streamliner locomotives, which are now the epitomes of the era, was of utmost importance.
Of the thousands of streamliners that entered services across America, only a small fraction were employed for passenger train operations. Their sound boomed from the one end of the continent to the other.
Streamliner Trains – America’s Beautiful Locomotives
The Hudson 4-6-4 locomotive is now recognized as a classic of the New York Central Railroad. (4-6-4 refers to it’s wheel arrangement of four leading wheels, six driving wheels, and four trailing wheels.) Its design was out there by the mid-1920s but the new machine had to wait at least a decade before it officially started operations.
The Hudson model developed because the New York Central was in dire need of a stronger and more powerful steamliner, one which could more efficiently move the ever-growing number of travelers from the east to the west. Devising the Hudson was no mistake by any means and the company added almost 300 in its inventory. They hauled the railroad’s flagship trains including the 20th Century Limited and the Empire State Express.
With the supersonic trains we have today, the Hudson locomotives may seem to be of little use. Except they treat us with their beauty and allow us to muse on everything they symbolized back in the day: progress, faith in technology, civilization, and new journeys.
Model trains on display at Red Mountain Library
There were other models that were introduced by the New York Central Railroad after the Hudson, such as the 4-8-2 Mohawk steam locomotive. This one looked as if it were a twin of the 4-6-4 type and it was also initiated.
The Milwaukee Railroad was widely praised when they introduced the first Hiawatha streamliner in the spring of 1935. The Hiawatha became the Milwaukee Railroad’s success story, and dozens of these were employed for its services. The machine was able to maintain an average speed of 80 mph.
The streamliners snaked across the country, fast enough that they are even credited with helping the Allies win World War Two. Their usage continued well after the war.