Measuring just five by three and one-quarter inches, Welcome To The Southern Pacific is 20 pages of information for the railroad company’s “passengers in uniform”, i.e. military personnel:
We hope, too, that some day you will come this way again as a carefree, peace-time tourist — so we can really show you this western land — and give you the smooth, efficient train service that is now so difficult to give under war conditions.
If that seems a bit whiny, F.S. McGinnis, Vice President of System Passenger Traffic for Southern Pacific Company explains on the back cover:
If when you travel on leave or in a small group on one of our regular passenger trains, and you have to wait for a seat in one of our dining cars — or if some other feature of our service doesn’t seem as fast or as good as it should be — don’t think it’s because our hearts aren’t in the right place.
We’d like to give you a fast trip, quick service in our diners and the best of everything. But it looks like that kind of railroad service is out for the duration.
Sometimes the coaches you may ride in may seem of an antique variety. But we’re having to use whatever we have in order to carry the load. Civilians aren’t faring so well either.
We’re not going to cry on your shoulders but we do want to point out what the railroads are up against. With less equipment and fewer men than we had in the boom year of 1929, we are carrying the biggest load of freight and passengers in our history.
In spite of a shortage of men, cars and locomotives, the railroads have done a fine job hauling the raw materials of ware, and the finished products for you to use. If our passenger service has suffered, it is only because the other job is more important.
Our best wishes go with you, and we promise you that every one of us will do our best to back you up. And “you” in uniform include over 10,000 Southern Pacific men (January 1943). That’s another reason why we, on the railroad, will do the best we can.
And McGinnis wasn’t exaggerating. According to Erle Heath, editor of The Southern Pacific Bulletin, no American railroad met greater wartime responsibilities than did Southern Pacific.
[N]one moved its unprecedented volume of traffic with greater success. World War II brought to the company, as it did to other railroads, the greatest transportation job in all history. How vital the railroads were to victory is emphasized by the fact they handled throughout the country during the war about 97 per cent of all organized troop movements and about 90 per cent of all Army and Navy freight and express.
Along with detailing train routes and providing diagrams and information for identifying locomotives (steam locomotives and the “strange looking” Diesel-Electric Switchers or DES), this bit of railroad ephemera serves as a translator for railroad signs, brakeman and block signals, and even railroad slang.
I consider the railroad slang the best part. A “reefer” and a “trick” are not what the wholesome WWII soldier — or you — might think they are. Whether you’re taking a Quantum Leap or writing a historical novel, you’ll want to get that stuff right and not embarrass yourself.
At first glance, this vintage booklet may appear to be missing its cover. But based upon intense scrutiny of the staple binding, and the fact that the page inside the front cover is marked page two, I’m satisfied that this is exactly how the booklet was originally issued. After all, it was wartime. Luxuries, like fancy colored covers on brochures and booklets, had to go away, as Mr. McGinnis said, for the duration.