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The locomotive on this tag is based on the units that pulled the New York Central Railroad's Mercury.
The streamlined steam locomotive was designed by Henry Dreyfuss. He also designed the 20th Century Limited, which was one of the most famous trains in the United States.
In the mid-1930s, the New York Central launched an experiment to enhance its passenger traffic in the midwest. The goal was a new streamlined service focusing on speed and innovation. "Mercury," the name of the Roman god of messengers, was chosen for its connotations of speed. The new train was marketed as the "Train of Tomorrow" (not to be confused with the General Motors concept train of the 1940s), reflecting the emphasis on innovation.
In 1934, Dreyfuss had gained attention for the New York Central with his streamlined design for the Commodore Vanderbilt locomotive. This was his first railroad design; he was best known for his work on consumer products like telephones, fountain pens and vacuum cleaners. In 1935, the Central asked him to take on the new project.
Here is his description of how the plan developed:
"The final designs were approved ... but when they were put out for bid prices were so out of line that the project was canceled. It was a heavy blow when I received the bad news, for the trains had been a major effort for our office. I decided to take the rest of the day off, and I boarded a train for the country. En route, traveling the railroad yards of Mott Haven, I saw the answer. I got off the train, returned to New York and suggested [to the Central president] that some of the used cars in the yards might be converted."
Out of them the successful Mercurys were built at one quarter of the original figure. The Mercurys have been called a turning point in railroad design. They were the first streamliners done as a unit, inside and out, integrating everything from locomotives to dinner china.
Locomotive and Exterior
Of Dreyfuss's railroad designs, the locomotives got the most notice, so much so that his work on passenger cars is often overlooked entirely. For the Mercury, he achieved a streamlined appearance by covering the exterior pipes, whistles, and other fittings in a smooth "bathtub" cowl. The sides of the cowl were cut away to show the driving wheels.
"The ... drivers sported centers painted in aluminum with a black band separating the aluminum discs from the aluminum rim and tire. Dreyfuss had installed three 50-watt and two 15-watt lamps under the cowling on either side to illuminate the drivers and rods. The effect at night was most striking. It has been said that, "As opposed to [some of his] contemporaries, Dreyfuss was not a stylist: he applied common sense and a scientific approach to design problems." However, it can be seen from his treatment of the driving wheels that Dreyfuss was not above paying close attention to merely stylistic, non-functional details.
The exterior of locomotive and cars was medium gray with brushed aluminum trim. On each side, the passenger cars displayed the Mercury logo in the form of a silver medallion, showing the god Mercury in traditional representation with winged cap and sandals.
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