U.S.: Christmas holiday ads and images from Amtrak and its railroad ancestors

An early Amtrak stock image as part of a nicely-done company holiday and travel image library Amtrak created for use in company advertisements and publications as well as for use by travel agencies and other related organizations. Internet image.

By J. Bruce Richardson, Corridor Rail Development Corporation; November 29, 2022

People who are in the know are aware that the Christmas retail and celebrating season officially began on Thanksgiving Day when Santa Claus in his sleigh was – as is traditional – the last float in Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade in New York City. This must be true because in 1947 20th Century-Fox released Miracle on 34th Street in movie theaters, and it went on to win three Academy Awards. The movie starred Maureen O’Hara, John Payne, a venerable Edmund Gwenn (who won an Academy Award for his presentation of Santa Claus) and a very young and precocious Natalie Wood. Even though today’s Macy’s locations around the country have been decorated for Christmas for weeks now, at least now that Thanksgiving weekend is over, it really is the Christmas season.

Edmund Gwenn as Santa Claus in the 1947 original film, Miracle on 34th Street. Internet image.
Movie title from 1947 in glorious black and white. Sadly, when the movie was released in 1985 for home media, the movie was colorized, but later releases have been returned to the original and artistic black and white. There have been several remakes of the movie for television and other media. Internet image.
Original movie poster. Internet image.
File illustration.

Passenger trains and the Christmas holiday season have always been closely intertwined. Today’s Amtrak is no exception. Below are images of the Christmas season as presented by Amtrak as well as a series of Christmas season travel ads in mid-century magazines and newspapers presented by Amtrak’s ancestor passenger railroads. The series of ads range from 1946 to 1957 and are from the collection of the Duke University Library Repository Collections and Archives.

When railroads and their passenger trains competed seriously for passengers, the early advertising and marketing departments were critical elements of the company. Enjoy the mid-century creativity.

Note: Be sure and read the last entry at the conclusion of this article. It’s fascinating.

An Amtrak Christmas Tree ornament. Internet image.
Circa early 1970s Amtrak had special Christmas season dining car menus. Internet image.
Contemporary image from the internet.
Kansas City Union Station, 2019. Internet image.
Front entrance to Washington Union Station with traditional giant wreaths. Internet image.
Washington Union Station interior. Internet image.
Denver Union Station’s annual holiday lights are known worldwide. Internet image.
Internet image.
This one has nothing do with holiday travel, but it’s great fun that Southern Pacific’s Vice President, System Passenger Traffic was “scolding” airline executives because Southern Pacific thought the airlines were misrepresenting railroad passenger trains in airline advertising. This is a “must read.”
Please share with others