19. The 20th Century Limited became a tourist destination of its own
The flagship train of the New York Central Railroad, in 1921 the 20th Century Limited drew riders from New York to Chicago who made the trip simply for the prestige of using the train. For just over $50 ($650 today), riders received a Pullman sleeping birth in a community car, separated by a curtain and attended by a porter. Private compartments cost considerably more. They also had access to a dining car, a smoking lounge car, and a club car, as well as their seat in a passenger coach. The train, which earned international renown for its service and ability to meet its schedule, became a symbol of prestige, and tourists often rode it simply to say that they had.
Competing railroads offered similar flagship trains. The Pennsylvania Railroad ran the Broadway Limited in direct competition with their New York Central rival. None caught the attention of the public as did the 20th Century Limited. It became the subject of songs, musical plays, and eventually films. It appeared as a plot device in books. The red carpet on which its passengers walked to board the train gave birth to the phrase “red carpet treatment” in the English lexicon. Arguably no other train in history earned such high regard among its riders than the 20th Century Limited. It earned its greatest profits during the 1920s, the Golden Age of American Railroading. In 1967 the train which connected La Salle Street station in Chicago to Grand Central Station in New York ran for the last time, an event unforeseeable in 1921.