While on the hunt for old maps to feature on the Transit Maps blog, I came across this fantastic one from 1959 (link) that shows all Class I railroads in the USA and Canada. Railroads in North America are classified according to their operating revenue, and Class I is the highest level. Currently, there are just 11 Class I railroads in North America, but in 1959, there were at least 90 (as shown on this map) and quite possibly even more (the map seems to omit Mexican railroads).
The map itself is a fantastic and beautiful example of late 1950s cartography, but what really struck me was the border, which had the logos (or “heralds”, as they’re called in the railroad world) of all 90 companies shown. It’s not often that you get to see so many contemporaneous historical logos from the same industry, so I extracted them from the scan of the map and cleaned them up in Photoshop to make this poster that showcases only the heralds.
Circles. Railroads really liked like circular logos back then, with roughly one-third of all the logos being one. For the most part, the logos are very traditional in form, with few “modern” redesigns. Canadian National Railways (logo #13) is still a year away from acquiring its famous Allan Fleming-designed “worm” logo, but the New York, New Haven & Hartford (#61) has a modernist “NH” logo designed by Herbert Matter.
Other logos of note include the Long Island Rail Road (#52) – then a separate company, not part of the MTA – featuring a very harried-looking businessman rushing to catch his train; the Union Pacific (#86), still looking much as it does today; and the Denver & Rio Grande Western (#27), which has pretty much everything you like to see in a 1950s railroad logo.
The worst logo? The Georgia & Florida (#35), which doesn’t even look like they tried at all.
So, take a look (click on the image to view a larger version) and let me know which logos are your favourites!
I’m also pleased to announce that I’m selling posters of this project in a variety of sizes and variations – both square and rectangular. Head on over to my store to check it out, and larger images of each of the variations can be seen in the gallery below. Prices start at just $22 plus shipping.