20th Century Limited – Greatest train in the world – When everything old is new again, or could be … on today’s New York Social Diary …


Ready for departure in 1947 from Chicago’s La Salle Street Station the opulent Twentieth Century is 16 hours from Grand Central Station, New York.

My latest contribution to New York Social Diary – is a profile of New York Central’s 20th Century Limited.  Considered the greatest train in the world.  Until the 1950s, this all-Pullman streamliner was the only way to travel between New York and Chicago. Stars, moguls and socialites filled the train’s daily passenger list.  Departure every evening walking down a train length red carpet from Grand Central Station was like sailing on the RMS Queen Mary.


By Michael L. Grace – New York Social Diary

Have you wondered where the much-overused phrase “the red carpet treatment” originated?

It all started with the 20th Century Limited.

It was a “Magic Carpet” high speed overnight Pullman commute between New York and Chicago as pitched in this Time Magazine advertisement.

The “Century” was an express passenger train operated by the New York Central nightly from New York to Chicago. From 1938 until the last run in 1968, passengers walked down a crimson carpet to their waiting cars. This was only done for the departure from New York. Stretching from the observation car to the engine – the football field length rug was specially designed for the Century – thus, the “red carpet treatment” was born.

Link here to read the full article in today’s NEW YORK SOCIAL DIARY and discover the background of “red carpet treatment.”

Cary Grant and Eva Marie Saint as seen in Alfred Hitchcock’s “North By Northwest.” They are dining in the Century Club with views of the Hudson River in the background. They soon would head for Saint’s Pullman Drawing Room. Sleep would be easy since the Central’s route to Chicago was “water level” – along the Hudson and Lake Erie.



About Michael L. Grace

During the mid-80s, Michael Grace worked as a writer on the TV Hit Series THE LOVE BOAT. He wrote many of the two hour special featuring great stars of the past, including Lana Turner, Claire Trevor, Anne Baxter, Ethel Merman, Alexis Smith, etc. The public’s access to these stars, in familiar dramas and comedies, made them want to go on a cruise. They could see the stars in an ordinary world as “regular” people. The phenomenally successful series was responsible for creating the cruise industry as we know it today. By the time he was writing for Love Boat, the great steamship companies and their liners were flying hand me down foreign flags, painted like old whores, scrapped or doing three day cruises to the Bahamas. He had sailed on over thirty ships and liners with his parents, aunt and grandmother in late 50s to early 70s. The very successful CRUISING THE PAST website has been an outgrowth of Michael’s strong interest in cruise and social history. Drawing on his own knowledge and a vast maritime and social history collection, he is able to produce a very successful website. Michael is part of the award winning team that created the internationally performed award winning musical SNOOPY, based on PEANUTS by Charles M. Schultz. He has written for television and films. Read more by going to "About" (on the above dashboard) and clicking "Editor"…

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