From the collection of Ron Ziel, photo by Bettina Winston from Trans World Airlines. Shared by Justin Rivers, The Eternal Space
We’ve been preparing for our upcoming tour, The Remnants of Penn Station, led by Tamara Agins of New York City Department of City Planning and Justin Rivers, of the play The Eternal Space. In addition to tracking down remnants of the original Pennsylvania Station, rarely shown photographs of the station and its demolition from personal collections will be shown, like the above. While many people are familiar with the Redstone rocket that was displayed in Grand Central Terminal, this is the first we’ve seen of the airplane in Penn Station. And the story gets even better…
In 1929, an air-rail service was launched between New York City and Los Angeles, whereby passengers could take a train to Columbus, Ohio, fly from there to Waynoka, Oklahoma, train to Clovis, New Mexico, and fly from there to Los Angeles. This may seem like a rather roundabout way to get across the country, but keep in mind the transportation fever that had taken the country by storm. Adventure was in the air and the railroads wanted to get in on the airplane obsession in any way possible–Lindbergh had flown the Spirit of St. Louis solo across the Atlantic in 1927, and Amelia Earhart did it a year later.
The Pennsylvania Railroad partnered with the Santa Fe railroad and Transcontinental Air Transport, Inc. to offer this passenger service and enlisted a number of celebrities to inaugurate it, including Lindbergh, Gloria Swanson, and Mary Pickford. According to Lorraine Diehl in The Late Great Pennsylvania Station, in New York City, Amelia Earhart would break a bottle of champagne on the propeller of a Ford trimotor airplane displayed in the main waiting room of Pennsylvania Station. She led the first 19 passengers to the train for the first leg of their cross country journey. It has been said that the plane couldn’t fit in the entrances so it had to be disassembled and then reassembled inside the waiting room.
The cross-country air-rail service was short lived however, weather and missed connections made it more of an adventure than even the early adopters were ready for, and the Great Depression hit the railroad industry hard. Pennsylvania Railroad sold its shares just a few years later to Transcontinental Air Transport, which would become TWA.
We’ve just added a new date for this sold out tour. Get tickets to our April 11th tour at 2pm:
Next, take a look inside the TWA Flight Center at JFK Airport.