The red carpet is back at Grand Central, right where it belongs: leading visitors down Tracks 34 and 35 to the door of the 1947 observation car of the 20th Century Limited and to fifteen other vintage sleeper, dining, and lounge cars that once traveled the New York Central rails and other lines all over the United States between the 1920s and 1950s.
An unexpected treat was being greeted by former “Century Girl” Joan Jennings Scalfani, who politely posed for photos with admirers and talked about the 1960s when she represented the brand to celebrities such as Frank Sinatra, Bess and Harry Truman, Ernest Hemingway, and Lena Horne.
Besides the streamlined 20th Century observation car, we visited the leather lounge of the 1923 Kitchi Gammi Club (Pennsylvania Railroad), the 1949 Babbling Brook observation car (New York Central), and the refurbished Broadway Limited baggage car that has transformed into a luxurious private-dining experience, Dover Harbor.
All sixteen cars were brought to New York for the Parade of Trains in honor of GCT’s 100 anniversary – the largest convergence of private rail cars ever assembled at one time in the City.
Small crews of people serve up meals and make guests comfortable whenever the rail cars are booked for parties, getaways, and dinners. Rail clubs, crews, and owners welcomed us in every car we visited, including the fully stocked barbershop aboard the Overland Trail, which once ran on the Southern Pacific.
Due to the crowds, not everyone who came to Grand Central was able to walk through the halls of long-distance travel history, so we’re providing a closer look at the luxury, design, and history on our Flickr feed.
To accommodate the overflow crowds who weren’t able to make it onto Metro-North Tracks 34 and 35 before the afternoon cut-off time, MTA provided a train made up of three vintage subway cars, which shuttled between Times Square and Grand Central – the 1948 R-12 car that was still equipped with wicker seats and whirring fans, the red 1950 IRT R-15 (the first subway to be air conditioned) with its iconic “portholes” in the doors, and the R33-S “World’s Fair” car which took visitors to the 1963 fair in style.