In 21st century America, train travel isn’t seen as very futuristic. But in the years after World War II, trains were right up there with airplanes as the coolest in luxurious transportation of tomorrow.
And in 1947 Americans got a peek at what was promised to be their train-bound future.
It was called the Train of Tomorrow, first conceived by General Motors in 1944 simply as a scale model promotional tool.
But after the war, people working on the project were excited enough that GM contracted with Pullman to actually build it.
The train went out on a 28-month tour of the U.S. and Canada and became a symbol of postwar promises for the future of getting around.
Nearly 6 million people walked through the train as it toured, though a much smaller group got to actually travel on it.
The website Streamliner Memories has uploaded a fantastic color brochure of the train from 1947. Many of the images below come from that brochure.
The GM Train of Tomorrow had a brief existence touring North America and most of the cars that comprised it sat dormant after 1950, until they were finally sold off for scrap in the mid 1960s.
But thanks to the magic of internet™ we can get a taste of what it must’ve been like to ride the train of the future.
A print from around 1882 depicting a futuristic view of air travel over Paris as people leave the opera.
Many types of aircraft are shown including flying buses, limousines and, what are presumably, police vehicles.
On the latter are mounted strangely un-futuristic sword-carrying officers that wouldn’t seem out of place on the Opera’s stage itself.
As far as the get-up of the normal opera-going folk, things don’t seem to have progressed too radically, though many of the men seem to be sporting the same bizarre military-esque hat.
To the left of the scene, amongst the flying vehicles, we can see a restaurant, which like the Opera building itself, is elevated to an enormous height above the vaguely discernible city below.
In the distance we can make out the Eiffel Tower, which seems to have some enormous structure emerging from its top about which buzz more flying vehicles.
One other interesting thing to note is that women can be seen driving their own aircraft.
The print is the creation of the French illustrator, etcher, lithographer, caricaturist, novelist, and all around futurologist,
Albert Robida. Editor and publisher of La Caricature magazine for 12 years, Robida also wrote an an acclaimed trilogy of futuristic novels imagining what life would be like in the 20th century.
He foretells many inventions in his writings, including the “Téléphonoscope”: a flat screen television display that delivered the latest news 24-hours a day, the latest plays, courses, and teleconferences.
Michael Kerbow is an artist based in San Francisco who works in a variety of mediums including painting, assemblage, drawing and digital photography.
Of particular note are his large oil and acrylic paintings that depict surreal and at times nightmarish visions of the future, where industry and human development has grown without regulation or care for the environment.
My work explores the way in which we engage with our surroundings and the possible consequences our actions have upon the world in which we live. Through my work I attempt to question the rationale of our choices, and try to reveal the dichotomy that may exist between what we desire and what we manifest.
Recently my work has focused upon the mechanisms that power our society and examines how they may influence the construct for a possible future.
What does space travel look like? Even now, in the 21st century, very, very few of us know first-hand. But we’ve all seen countless images from countless eras purporting to show us what it might look like.
As with anything imagined by man, someone had to render a convincing vision of space travel first, and that distinction may well go to 19th-century French illustrator Émile-Antoine Bayard who, perhaps not surprisingly, worked with Jules Verne. Verne’s pioneering and prolific work in science fiction literature has kept him a household name, but Bayard’s may sound more obscure; still, we’ve all seen his artwork, or at least we’ve all seen the drawing of Cosette the orphan he did for Les Misérables.
“Readers of Jules Verne’s early science-fiction classic From the Earth to the Moon (De la terre à la lune) — which left the Baltimore Gun Club’s bullet-shaped projectile, along with its three passengers and dog, hurtling through space — had to wait a whole five years before learning the fate of its heroes,” says The Public Domain Review.
When it appeared, 1870’s Around the Moon (Autour de la Lune) offered not just “a fine continuation of the space adventure” but “a superb series of wood engravings to illustrate the tale” created by Bayard. “There had been imaginary views of other worlds, and even of space flight before this,” writes Ron Miller in Space Art, “but until Verne’s book appeared, these views all had been heavily coloured by mysticism rather than science.
Trying to categorize or summarize the genre of Alex Andreev’s digital paintings is nearly impossible.
Part science fiction, part dystopian future, the scenes are equally disturbing and beautiful, his characters inhabiting a world Andreev tells me is deeply influenced by Soviet-era literature, music and movies.
Photograph: George Orwell at work on his trusty old typewriter. (Public Domain).
The effect of Nineteen Eighty-Four on our cultural and linguistic landscape has not been limited to either the film adaptation starring John Hurt and Richard Burton, with its Nazi-esque rallies and chilling soundtrack, nor the earlier one with Michael Redgrave and Edmond O’Brien.
Apart from pop-culture renditions of some of the novel’s themes, aspects of its language have been leapt upon by libertarians to describe the curtailment of freedom in the real world by politicians and officials – alarmingly, nowhere and never more often than in contemporary Britain.
George owes his own adjective to this book alone and his idea that well being is crushed by restrictive, authoritarian and untruthful government.
Big Brother (is watching you)
A term in common usage for a scarily omniscient ruler long before the worldwide smash-hit reality-TV show was even a twinkle in its producers’ eyes. The irony of societal hounding of Big Brother contestants would not have been lost on George Orwell.
Some hotels have refused to call a guest bedroom number 101 – rather like those tower blocks that don’t have a 13th floor – thanks to the ingenious Orwellian concept of a room that contains whatever its occupant finds most impossible to endure. Like Big Brother, this has spawned a modern TV show: in this case, celebrities are invited to name the people or objects they hate most in the world.
An accusation often levelled at the current government by those who like it least is that they are trying to tell us what we can and cannot think is right and wrong. People who believe that there are correct ways to think find themselves named after Orwell’s enforcement brigade.
See “Thought Police” above. The act or fact of transgressing enforced wisdom.
For Orwell, freedom of expression was not just about freedom of thought but also linguistic freedom. This term, denoting the narrow and diminishing official vocabulary, has been used ever since to denote jargon currently in vogue with those in power.
Hypocrisy, but with a twist. Rather than choosing to disregard a contradiction in your opinion, if you are double thinking, you are deliberately forgetting that the contradiction is there.
This subtlety is mostly overlooked by people using the accusation of “doublethink” when trying to accuse an adversary of being hypocritical – but it is a very popular word with people who like a good debate along with their pints in the pub.