- Chicago, IL
- Site Type:
- Mass Transportation, Infrastructure and Utilities
- New Deal Agencies:
- Public Works Administration (PWA), Public Works Funding
- Pullman Car & Manufacturing Corp.
- Quality of Information:
- Very Good
- Site Survival:
- No Longer Extant
In early November, 1934, the Illinois Central (I.C.) Railroad contracted with the Pullman Car & Manufacturing Corporation to build the I.C.’s first streamline train, consisting of a 1,200 horsepower Diesel-electric locomotive, a mail & baggage car, two passenger coaches, and a lounge car. Then, on November 26, 1934, the I.C. requested the Interstate Commerce Commission approve a $2 million loan from the Public Works Administration (PWA), a portion of which was to finance the new streamliner (the PWA had awarded this loan in October). The loan was approved sometime thereafter, probably in early 1935.
The “Green Diamond” cost $425,000 to construct and was delivered to the I.C. on March 27, 1936. It then went on a 7,500-mile “good will” trip across many parts of the country. Hundreds of thousands of Americans came to see and tour the train, part of the overall excitement that streamliners generated during the 1930s. When the Green Diamond stopped at Shreveport, Louisiana, “Nearly 20,000 persons went through the train… Newspaper reports, radio broadcasts and visitors’ comments were unanimously appreciative of the many unusual features of the new train” (Gibson City Courier, 5-14-1936).
On May 17, 1936, in Chicago, Illinois, 14-year-old Audrey Louise Jones smashed a champagne bottle across the nose of the Green Diamond, thus christening the streamliner. Her grandfather, Jesse Jones, head of the Reconstruction Finance Corporation (RFC), was also in attendance, and said: “The ‘Green Diamond’ is a direct result of Illinois Central’s co-operation with the federal government in providing work for men” (Fort Worth Star-Telegram, 5-18-1936). (Like the PWA, and often in conjunction with the PWA, the RFC provided financial support for the railroad industry.)
Shortly after Audrey Jones christened the Green Diamond, the streamliner took off for St. Louis, Missouri, a 294-mile, 5-hour trip it ran for 11 years. In 1947, the Green Diamond was renamed the “Miss Lou” and served a route between New Orleans, Louisiana and Jackson, Mississippi. It was scrapped in 1950.
In 1996, prominent railroad author Mike Shafer described the Green Diamond’s appearance as “homely” (Classic American Railroads). However, when the Green Diamond first hit the rails the assessments were far more exuberant. Journalist Margaret T. Whiteman wrote: “The train itself is a masterpiece of workmanship and beauty, and has every possible comfort to offer its passengers” (Clinton Daily Journal and Public, 3-31-1936). The Clarion-Ledger newspaper (Jackson, Mississippi) called the train “the magnificent queen of the I.C. fleet” (4-16-1936). And Railway Age magazine reported: “The exterior of the train is smartly styled. Striping lines are used to express speed and raciness; curves and masses are handled to give an impression of dynamic power and strength” (4-11-1936).
Like the other streamliners of the 1930s, the Green Diamond was fast, reaching speeds well over 100 mph, and incorporated the latest safety and suspension technology. Meanwhile, inside the train, passengers enjoyed air-conditioning, sound-dampening windows, indirect lighting, radio speakers, wider than usual coach cars, and meals that were served both in the lounge car and “direct to passengers in their seats” (Introducing the Green Diamond, 1936 fold-out brochure).
It has been noted that many of the streamliners of the 1930s had relatively short lives (such as the Green Diamond’s) because they were victims of their own success. The excitement that surrounded them greatly increased ridership on the rails, but the engines were designed to pull only a very limited number of cars and passengers. Unfortunately for these trains, that meant handing their success over to newer and larger trains. Still, the streamliners of the 1930s sparked technological innovation, helped bolster the rail industry, and their sleek, futuristic designs are legendary among train enthusiasts.
49th Annual Report of the Interstate Commerce Commission, December 1, 1935, Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, 1935, p. 152.
“More ‘Bullet Trains’: Railroads To Get PWA Funds To Build Streamline Units,” Associated Press, in The Birmingham News (Birmingham, Alabama), October 29, 1934, p. 8.
“Illinois Central To Run Five-Hour Train To Chicago,” Associated Press, in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch (St. Louis, Missouri), November 3, 1934, p. 3.
“Illinois Central Asks Additional PWA Loan,” Brooklyn Times Union (Brooklyn, New York), November 26, 1934, p. 8.
“New Streamliner Delivered to Illinois Central,” Railway Age, Vol. 100, No. 13 (March 28, 1936), pp. 534-536.
“‘Green Diamond’ I.C. Streamline Train, On Special Trip,” Clinton Daily Journal and Public (Clinton, Illinois), March 31, 1936, p. 1.
Illinois Central Railroad, Introducing the Green Diamond (fold-out brochure), Chicago, Illinois: Rand McNally, 4-1-1936.
“Illinois Central High-Speed Train Goes On Extensive Tour,” Railway Age, Vol. 100, No. 15 (April 11, 1936), pp. 608-617.
“Little Texas Girl Christens Train,” Associated Press, in the Fort Worth Star-Telegram (Fort Worth, Texas), May 18, 1936, p. 2.
“P.W.A. Railroad Loans Net Profit to Government,” Railway Age, Vol. 101, No. 21 (November 21, 1936), p. 769.
Mike Shafer, Classic American Railroads, Osceola, WI: MBI Publishing Co., 1996.
Bob Johnston, Joe Welsh, and Mike Schafer, The Art of the Streamliner, New York: Metro Books, 2001.
Site originally submitted by Brent McKee on February 21, 2023.
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