RED CARPET TREATMENT STARTED WITH THE 20TH CENTURY LIMITED –TRAIN OF TYCOONS AND STARS THAT RAN NIGHTLY BETWEEN NEW YORK AND CHICAGO
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.
Travel time was less than sixteen hours each way between the two cities during its streamlined years.
If leaving from New York, you departed at 6 p.m. and arrived the next morning in Chicago at 8:45 a.m. Settling in for the evening, after boarding the Century in downtown Manhattan, you enjoyed cocktails in the observation car, dinner with views of the Hudson, a good night sleep and then with breakfast in bed or in the dining car. Dress was business formal with no room for baseball caps. Standing in line for security, enduring a long cab ride or enduring hours on the tarmac because of bad weather were not included in your first class Pullman fare.
The glamorous departure aboard New York Central’s 20th Century Limited was equal to a sailing on the Queen Mary, Liberte or United States. This was still the only way to “cross the pond” from New York to Europe into the 1950s and Pullman was the only way to travel overnight by train in America.