Tuesday 15 August 2017

Santa Fe Railroad Advertising

The Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe (routinely shortened to Santa Fe) was one of the three major railroads operating trans-continental passenger routes across the USA. The others were Union Pacific (Road of the Streamliners) and the Burlington Route (Vista-Domes and Zephyrs). The Santa Fe comfortably outperformed its competitors in terms of publicity – consistently more imaginative and eye-catching. Santa Fe played up its connection with the Native American traditions over whose lands its tracks passed. And when it came to named trains Santa Fe had by far the most extensive portfolio – including the Super Chief, El Capitan, California Ltd, the Grand Canyon, and San Francisco Chief. While the competition offered Domeliners, Astra Domes and Vista-Domes, Santa Fe tempted travellers with the louche delights of Pleasure Domes. The on-board catering was supplied by the Famous Fred Harvey and ranged from “beefsteak or brook trout to pheasant à la Périgueux”. From 1937 Santa Fe painted its fleet of streamline diesel locomotives in what became known as Warbonnet livery, as seen above. A Native American Circle and Cross motif was displayed on the loco front together with the name of the railroad on a bright yellow ground, itself surrounded by a bright red wrap that extended on to the loco sides in the form of a bonnet. A designer at General Motors (Leland A Knickerbocker) came up with the concept and it was eagerly adopted to great effect by Santa Fe. Competing railroads had trains that were every bit as visually spectacular as Santa Fe’s but their stodgy advertising and publicity was no match for Santa Fe’s bold and colourful offerings. An earlier post featuring Santa Fe advertising can be seen here.

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