Illinois Central Railroad ads through the years. Service from Chicago to New Orleans.

illinois central railroad

Panama Limited postcard, 1930s

Illinois Central Railroad

Riding on the City of New Orleans
Illinois Central Monday morning rail
Fifteen cars and fifteen restless riders
Three conductors and twenty-five sacks of mail

The song is arguably the best advertising the Illinois Central Railroad had for their Chicago-New Orleans train line. While Arlo Guthrie did a lot for the railroad, they also spent money to promote their trains in print.

Chicago-Los Angeles

illinois central railroad

Ad for through service, Chicago to Los Angeles, 1896

This 1896 ad promoted getting out of the Chicago cold. Passengers rode the Panama Limited, Chicago to New Orleans. Their Pullman cars connected with the Sunset Limited as it traveled west.













Illinois Central Railroad

1950s ad for the Panama Limited

The song romanticized the City of New Orleans train. It wasn’t the only one IC ran to New Orleans, though. While the City of New Orleans offered coach service, the Panama Limited was All-Pullman service. The Panama Limited ran faster. It made fewer stops. So, passengers paid a higher ticket price. The IC ran the City as a “local”, with stops in small towns. It had nothing but coach cars. So, Guthrie paid less for his ticket and stayed up playing cards to pass the time.

Illinois Central Railroad

1940s ad for the Panama Limited

Railroads promoted limited trains like airlines promote business class flights So, the focus was on business travelers. IC boasted 15 hour transit from St. Louis to New Orleans. The railroad stretched advertising beyond Chicago-New Orleans. They appealed to business travelers along the route to hop on the train.

Selling New Orleans

Illinois Central Railroad

1950s IC ad promoting travel to New Orleans

Illiniois Central Railroad sold New Orleans as a magical destination. The warm winters teased Chicagoans. They battled wind and snow. So, they wanted a break!


Illinois Central Railroad

Ad for Amtrak’s City of New Orleans

Amtrak absorbed IC passenger service in 1971. They continued the City of New Orleans as a daytime train. They dropped the Panama Limited. The City was involved in a fatal derailment on June 10, 1971. So, Amtrak changed the train’s name in November of 1971. They restored the Panama Limited. They operated the train as overnight service. The train left New Orleans in the afternoon and arrived in Chicago the next day. Amtrak changed the name back to City of New Orleans. They retained the overnight schedule. You can catch the City of New Orleans daily, at Union Passenger Terminal. It departs at 1:45pm!



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