What was the 2nd highest grossing train in America from 1930-1960?

1351 views
24 replies
1 rating 2 rating 3 rating 4 rating 5 rating
  • Member since
    April, 2018
  • 652 posts
What was the 2nd highest grossing train in America from 1930-1960?
Posted by Jones1945 on Saturday, September 22, 2018 6:20 AM
Dear All:
 
According to the Wiki page of NYC's 20th Century Limited, citing the source from New York Times, December 3, 1967, p. 31: "In 1928, the peak year, the train earned revenue of $10 million and was believed to be the most profitable train in the world" I do not subscribe to New York Times so I cannot confirm this from their archive. Assume that this is the fact, what was the second highest grossing train in America and the world from 1930 to 1960? I understand that it would require months of research to find the answer, so I don’t expect an absolutely accurate answer. Please feel free to share your thought or take a guess in this post. Yes
 
Starting from train in America. According to the book “The Routledge Historical Atlas of the American Railroads” by John Stover and The Railroads of Kentucky During the 1940s & 1950s” By Charles H. Bogart, In 1950PRR’s passenger revenue was $142 million (Freight revenue was $686 million), NYCs passenger revenue was $117 million (Freight revenue was $545 million), Santa Fe was $44 million (Freight revenue was $422 million). Other RR's passenger revenue: SP ’s $39 million, UP $33 million, B&O and IC $22  million, CB&Q $20 million, MILW $18 million, Southern  $16, C&O $8 million, N&W $5 million etc.(The above data is not a top 10 list; some RR's data is omitted)
 
 After 4 years of postwar decline, PRR still earned the most revenue income from passenger services in 1950, followed by NYC and Santa Fe. The Broadway Limited was famous enough but its ridership didn’t surpass the Century until it became the only all-Pullman trains between NYC and Chicago, so I guess the 20th Century Limited remained as the highest grossing train until late 50s. Other train like PRR’s Congressional, MILW’s Hiawatha, Santa Fe’s Super Chief, SP’s City of LA and City of SF were also famous and popular, but it is really hard to tell which train was the 2nd highest grossing train in different time period  without in-depth research. What do you think? 
 

 

(Wiki)

 TOOL: The Inflation Calculator
https://westegg.com/inflation/


Potential Candidates ( will update constantly) :

  • MILW Olympian Hiawatha          $3.3 million in 1959
 "According to the ICC’s official statistics from 1959......Milwaukee earned $3.3 million in passenger train revenues for the Olympian Hiawatha, alone, while the Northern Pacific earned just $6 million in revenues for its entire passenger train fleet and the Great Northern $10 million"
 

Southern Pacific Passenger Trains By Brian Solomon
  • SP Morning Daylight          $2,973,930 (1948)

(Data from http://streamlinermemories.info of 1939)
  • CB&Q  Denver Zephyr        $2,088,938
  • MILW  Hiawatha                  $1,337,898
  • Santa Fe Super Chief            $794,358

(Date from the book "Pennsy Streamliner"1940 )
  • PRR the General                    $2,560,000 (appox.)
  • PRR the Trail Blazer              $2,260,000
  • PRR the Broadway Ltd            $443,956 (appox.)

(To be continue) 

 

  • Member since
    August, 2018
  • 304 posts
Posted by Trinity River Bottoms Boomer on Saturday, September 22, 2018 10:43 AM

...then came the airlines, Interstate highway system, and Amtrak...?

  • Member since
    May, 2003
  • From: US
  • 15,007 posts
Posted by BaltACD on Saturday, September 22, 2018 9:52 PM

Don't have the answer.

Would be interesting to see the most profitable trains from the Pullman Company perspective.

         

Never too old to have a happy childhood!

  • Member since
    September, 2013
  • 3,421 posts
Posted by Miningman on Saturday, September 22, 2018 9:55 PM

Well somebody was #2 but it may never be known. UP's City of Los Angeles had its moment in the light as did Santa Fe's Hollywood star filled Super Chief. The California Zephyer briefly. Hiawatha's definitely very popular and had their day. The Panama?, but not sustained. 

Even something obscure as Canadian Pacific's Chicago Express Montreal/Toronto -Chicago was always packed with businessmen, never tailed off and huge howls of protest when CPR cancelled it in 1960. It always ran with 2 full sections minimum, sometimes 4 or 5...lots of parlour cars! CN/GT never had the panache to match and replace the alternative competitive service, it remained pedestrian. 

Nothing matched the 20th Century with its red carpet, mystique and legends. Perhaps the Super Chief but only for a brief time. 

Probably 6 of the top 10 revenue producers were NYC trains.

  • Member since
    April, 2018
  • 652 posts
Posted by Jones1945 on Saturday, September 22, 2018 11:11 PM

BaltACD

Don't have the answer.

Would be interesting to see the most profitable trains from the Pullman Company perspective.

I would give it a try searching if there is any Pullman Company's annual report available online.  Smile
  • Member since
    April, 2018
  • 652 posts
Posted by Jones1945 on Saturday, September 22, 2018 11:35 PM

Miningman

Well somebody was #2 but it may never be known. UP's City of Los Angeles had its moment in the light as did Santa Fe's Hollywood star filled Super Chief. The California Zephyer briefly. Hiawatha's definitely very popular and had their day. The Panama?, but not sustained. 

You are right! In terms of fame and popularity, the Century was really hard to beat since it was the most welcomed train connecting two most important commercial hub of America. I guess the total annual revenue income of the #1 and #2 might had a large disparity! My guess at the moment is Santa Fe Super Chief or The Congressional of PRR, one served between the Hollywood and Chicago, one connected the finance center and political center of the States.
 
  • Member since
    May, 2012
  • 3,494 posts
Posted by rcdrye on Sunday, September 23, 2018 7:57 AM

Santa Fe's El Capitan was a contender, running full during most seasons (though combined with the Super Chief) and running as a separate train in peak seasons.  It was important enough to rate new equipment (hi-level coaches) in 1964.

  • Member since
    April, 2018
  • 652 posts
Posted by Jones1945 on Sunday, September 23, 2018 9:55 AM

Thank you, rcdrye. I do believe the 2nd most profitable train would be a train of Santa Fe or the most popular train serving Chicago to Westcoast. Without years of studies, it is quite difficult for me to determine which one was the #2 though. I guess If I ask this question 40 years ago in a Railroad Club, I might got the answer more easily.

Source: Streamliner Memories

  • Member since
    May, 2003
  • From: US
  • 15,007 posts
Posted by BaltACD on Sunday, September 23, 2018 11:33 AM

Are we actually speaking profit or gross revenues?

         

Never too old to have a happy childhood!

  • Member since
    October, 2008
  • From: Calgary
  • 1,771 posts
Posted by cx500 on Sunday, September 23, 2018 11:46 AM

And how many fully allocated costs were considered?Devil

  • Member since
    May, 2003
  • From: US
  • 15,007 posts
Posted by BaltACD on Sunday, September 23, 2018 4:06 PM

cx500
And how many fully allocated costs were considered?Devil

With life and Tax codes being simpler - I suspect, but don't know that the accountings used in those days were much more straight forward than such accounting is today.

         

Never too old to have a happy childhood!

  • Member since
    April, 2018
  • 652 posts
Posted by Jones1945 on Sunday, September 23, 2018 4:16 PM

BaltACD

Are we actually speaking profit or gross revenues?

Gross revenues. But if our forum member willing to share other figures relate to the topic, different trains, different definition of "Profitable", it's always welcomed! Smile, Wink & Grin
 
(P.S I am searching for the  Interstate Commerce Commission report right now)
  • Member since
    April, 2018
  • 652 posts
Posted by Jones1945 on Sunday, September 23, 2018 7:13 PM
The first phase of trying to find the answer is that I will put data I found on web here for reference; no matter what trains, which time period (not earlier than 1930), title also changed, I am going to focus on 1930 to 1960. Any updates will be put on the first post.

Your participation is always welcomed! Welcome Thank you.


 
  •  Olympian Hiawatha          $3.3 million in 1959
 
"According to the ICC’s official statistics from 1959......Milwaukee earned $3.3 million in passenger train revenues for the Olympian Hiawatha, alone, while the Northern Pacific earned just $6 million in revenues for its entire passenger train fleet and the Great Northern $10 million"
 
Source: https://www.cruiselinehistory.com/1950s-on-the-super-dome-olympian-hiawatha-americas-first-great-train-to-be-a-victim-of-air-travel/
(Data from http://streamlinermemories.info of 1939)
  • CB&Q  Denver Zephyr        $2,088,938
  • MILW  Hiawatha                  $1,337,898
  • Santa Fe Super Chief               $794,358

(Date from the book "Pennsy Streamliner"1940 )
  • PRR the General                    $2,560,000 (appox.)
  • PRR the Trail Blazer              $2,260,000
  • PRR the Broadway Ltd          $443,956 (appox.)
 
  • Member since
    March, 2016
  • From: Burbank IL (near Clearing)
  • 10,864 posts
Posted by CSSHEGEWISCH on Monday, September 24, 2018 10:24 AM

You provided us with the gross revenues, please provide us with the gross expenses, solely related expenses will do.

The daily commute is part of everyday life but I get two rides a day out of it. Paul
  • Member since
    April, 2018
  • 652 posts
Posted by Jones1945 on Monday, September 24, 2018 2:02 PM

CSSHEGEWISCH

You provided us with the gross revenues, please provide us with the gross expenses, solely related expenses will do.

I would like to, but I am afraid I can't provide such detailed information with limited resource and time. I don't even have the data of revenues and expenses of the 20th Century's Limited in any year. The main goal of this post, as stated, is to find out if there was any named train in America or outside America ever beat the historical record of $10 million a year (assume this figure is gross revenue) made by the 20th Century Limited, I didn't expect an very accurate answer with very detailed calculation and data supported.
 
Some book stated that SP claimed their Daylight was the most profitable train since 1937 to postwar era, I think I would focus on this claim and see if it was true or not. Coffee
  • Member since
    September, 2003
  • 6,375 posts
Posted by Overmod on Wednesday, September 26, 2018 12:13 PM

You need to change the title a little more.  Profit and 'gross revenue' are only peripherally linked ... and some of the expenses of the Twentieth Century Limited (as Beebe indicated*, always spell out The Name, just like this, even if some of its own drumheads abbreviated it) were known to be more extravagant than other Steel Fleet trains ... take the flower bill as a case in point. 

What you're asking is how much money the railroad made off the train, not how much it spent to create buzz in general at a cost that didn't have to be justified to stakeholders or whatever.  And I suspect that even in 1928 that number might have been higher for less extravagant trains, perhaps including some on the NYC itself. 

Reminds me of what William H. Vanderbilt said surrounding the 'public be damned' quote -- he'd really prefer operating nothing but relatively slow trains, and not compete with other roads just to go faster, to maximize the revenue to the stockholders.  Just a little while later Daniels came into his own and revolutionized how things were done...

 

*Did we not quote the entire text of the poem somewhere back on a Forum thread somewhere?  I can't find it, and someone ought to put it here... the one with the refrain 'The Twentieth Century must go through'...
  • Member since
    April, 2018
  • 652 posts
Posted by Jones1945 on Wednesday, September 26, 2018 2:08 PM

Overmod

You need to change the title a little more.  Profit and 'gross revenue' are only peripherally linked ... and some of the expenses of the Twentieth Century Limited (as Beebe indicated*, always spell out The Name, just like this, even if some of its own drumheads abbreviated it) were known to be more extravagant than other Steel Fleet trains ... take the flower bill as a case in point. 

Thank you for the suggestion, Overmod. Would you mind providing a meaningful title for this post? What I am trying is to find out is if there was another single named train's gross revenue ever beaten the record set by the 20th Century in 1928 or any other years.

If I replace it to "net income", this post will probably sink to a place even deeper than the wreck of the RMS Titanic. If I replace ’gross revenue' to “2nd most popular train”, every forum member would have a different answer mainly base on personal preference…… CoffeeHmm

  • Member since
    September, 2003
  • 6,375 posts
Posted by Overmod on Wednesday, September 26, 2018 8:46 PM

Jones1945
Would you mind providing a meaningful title for this post?

Needs nothing more than to substitute something like 'highest grossing' for that word 'profitable' that means something different from what you mean it to mean.

  • Member since
    April, 2018
  • 652 posts
Posted by Jones1945 on Thursday, September 27, 2018 10:21 AM

Thanks for the suggestion, Overmod. Title updated. 

  • Member since
    April, 2018
  • 652 posts
Posted by Jones1945 on Friday, September 28, 2018 11:27 AM
Yesterday I reviewed an article from Classic Trains :"The Broadway's best years" written by Joe Welsh, (Reader could download it free via this link: http://ctr.trains.com/rapid/2018/03/penn-central-and-its-predecessors)  It gave me a more clearer picture about the competition between The Broadway Limited and The 20th Century and corrected some wrong impression in my mind.
 
Base on the data provided from this article, The Broadway’s revenue had risen 525% and was earning a healthy $3.94 per mile since PRR eliminated the extra fares of the trains in 1943. The article also mentioned that by 1947, the revenue per train-mile of the Pennsy’s east-west fleet increased 217% since 1940. In May 1954 the Century carried an average 119 passengers per trip while the Broadway carried 140.
 
 The article didn’t provide any figures of gross revenue of both trains, so I wouldn’t say the Broadway was the “2nd”(before 1954) we are searching for. I can't assume the Century was the highest grossing train or the highest grossing train must be a train served in East Coast without any data in hand. One of the important massages of the article is that the Broadway were running with great expense, it is not hard to imagine that the Century or any other famed trains encountered the same situation......
  • Member since
    March, 2016
  • From: Burbank IL (near Clearing)
  • 10,864 posts
Posted by CSSHEGEWISCH on Saturday, September 29, 2018 10:04 AM

In a similar fashion, it was determined that the "California Zephyr" would show red ink on its balance sheet even with a full load.

The daily commute is part of everyday life but I get two rides a day out of it. Paul
  • Member since
    December, 2005
  • From: Cardiff, CA
  • 2,930 posts
Posted by erikem on Saturday, September 29, 2018 11:43 AM

The 1968 Trains article on the Chessie mentioned that the load factor would have to have been 125% for the train to break even. This was ca 1948.

  • Member since
    April, 2018
  • 652 posts
Posted by Jones1945 on Saturday, September 29, 2018 5:24 PM

CSSHEGEWISCH

In a similar fashion, it was determined that the "California Zephyr" would show red ink on its balance sheet even with a full load.

Not sure about the "California Zephyr" but I have data of SP's Morning Daylight in hand: total gross revenues was $ 2,973,930 (1948) , expense was $1,182,275, operation loss of Dining Car was $191,625, thus net revenues was $1,600,030 (53.8% of gross revenues) which was $4.65 per train-mile. 

 

  • Member since
    April, 2018
  • 652 posts
Posted by Jones1945 on Thursday, October 04, 2018 5:56 PM

Another reference about the grossing of the 20th Century Limited by Classic Trains: 

http://ctr.trains.com/railroad-reference/great-passenger-trains/2013/05/nyc-articles

In the articles "The Twentieth Century", from July 1942 Trains magazine, the first subheader says "40-year-old first class extra fare train has earned 150 million dollars for New York Central” In the article, it stated that the 150 million dollars was gross revenue, exclusive of dining-car receipts. This imply the average annual gross revenue of the trump card of NYC by 1942 was $3,750,000 per year which would cost $57,342,666.42 in 2017. The demise of this named train in early 50s probably didn't change the fact that Century was the highest grossing train IN America or maybe even in the world.

Searching of the 2nd highest grossing train will continue. CoffeeSmile, Wink & Grin

 

  • Member since
    April, 2018
  • 652 posts
Posted by Jones1945 on Sunday, October 14, 2018 9:48 AM

A little update on this topic. According to the article ”Super Streamliners: Dazzling passenger trains from the classic era of rail travel" by Joe Welsh from Classic Trains Magazine, the author mentioned Milwaukee Road Hiawatha "Carrying over 800 passengers a day for three years, the Hiawathas by 1938 had become some of the most famous and successful trains in the world. They consistently ranked second in earnings among all U.S. passenger trains, behind only Southern Pacific’s beautiful Coast Daylight between Los Angeles and San Francisco, also steam-powered." 

Although the author didn't provide too many detailed figures; "second in earning" could have different meanings, but I inclined to believe it means net income. It is an important info as reference at least. It is a little bit surprise for me to know that the NYC's 20th Century wasn't the top ranked trains in this case, but It is not hard to understand a short distance coach trains earned more money than a long-distance all-Pullman train. 

The full article can be downloaded from the Classic Trains "Free Download" section:

http://ctr.trains.com/rapid/2017/08/super-streamliners

http://ctr.trains.com/photo-of-the-day/2008/11/profile-in-speed#45

SUBSCRIBER & MEMBER LOGIN

Login, or register today to interact in our online community, comment on articles, receive our newsletter, manage your account online and more!

FREE NEWSLETTER SIGNUP

Get the Classic Trains twice-monthly newsletter