Thursday, January 22, 2015

AIR CONDITIONING & THE QUEST TO BE FIRST

Introduction by Dave Shackelford 
Today we expect a certain level of comfort when we travel. Whether it’s by plane, train, or automobile, we take for granted having access to Wi-Fi, the Internet, comfortable seating, perhaps a movie (or travel DVD player), but essential to most is heating in the winter and air conditioning in the summer. Museum volunteer John Geist came across several tid-bits of information relating to the all-important quest to be first, and the public relations and advertising rhetoric of comfort used by railroads to promote their service. During a time when the majority of Americans traveled by train, any edge was an important selling point for choosing your route.
Who did it First?: Introducing Air Conditioning to Railroad Passenger Cars
by John Geist, Museum Archival Volunteer

The B&O's air conditioning test shed originally located behind the Museum's 1884 Passenger Car Roundhouse
Over the years, questions have arisen about which railroad first introduced air conditioning to passenger service. Let's look at what is known based on what the railroads said.

1. May 24, 1931: The B&O introduced air conditioned passenger cars on its Columbian, an all coach train that operated between Union Station in Washington and the Jersey City Terminal at the fast time of 4 hours and 28 minutes. (Source: Baltimore and Ohio Magazine, June 1931, page 8)


 2. April 20, 1932: The B&O introduced air conditioning on the all Pullman National Limited train operating between New York, Washington and St. Louis. (Source: Baltimore and Ohio Magazine, May 1932, inside cover)

3. May 22, 1932: The B&O introduced air conditioning on the Capitol Limited a sleeping car train that operated between New York, Washington and Chicago. (Source: Baltimore and Ohio Magazine, May 1932, inside cover)

4. April 1932: President of the C&O Railway, J. J. Bennett, stated in the C&O employee magazine that "The air cooled and air conditioned cars of The George Washington are truly unique - there is nothing just like them on any other railroad." (Source: Chesapeake & Ohio Employee Magazine, April 1932, page 2)

5. April 24, 1932: The C&O introduced air conditioning on The George Washington a train with both coach and Pullman service that operated between Washington, DC and Cincinnati OH. "It was the second fully air-conditioned long-distance train in the country, following the B&O's National Limited by only one week." (Source: C&O Dining Car 965, Gadsby's Tavern, brochure issued by the Chesapeake and Ohio Historical Society in fall 2009 at the celebration of the 100th anniversary of Washington's Union Station)

Conclusion: While the C&O's president probably intended his claims about The George Washington's uniqueness on the basis of not only air conditioning and other features, it appears quite clear that the B&O was a recognized leader in air conditioning and first to offer it on both sleeping and coach trains.

7 comments:

John Terry said...
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John Terry said...

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John Terry said...


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