"In Remembrance of the Phoebe Snow"

A friend, newspaper man, railroad buff & contributor to this website - Richard Palmer - receives our thanks for sending the pictures below of his hobby....marked appropriately, "In Remembrance of the Phoebe Snow".

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Phoebe Snow was loved in Allegany County.  She rode proudly through the County.
The real Phoebe Snow ended in the merger between
the DL&W and the Erie in 1961. The name was later
revived briefly during the E-L days, but it was not the
same train.
Phoebe Snow was the invention of the advertising department of the Delaware, Lackawanna, and Western Railroad, which has long since been merged into Conrail, etc.  She was created in 1900 and her name and garb--always white from heat to foot--were chosen to symbolize the cleanliness of DL&W trains, which burned "smokeless" anthracite coal instead of the soft bituminous coal used by most other roads at the time. The ad campaign--a very famous one--also employed actresses who appeared as Phoebe at special events and civic celebrations  as well as jingles that eventually became so popular they were sung from the Broadway stage:

"Says Phoebe Snow about to go
Upon a trip to Buffalo
My gown stays white from morn 'til night
Upon the road of anthracite."

(If the truth be known, the Lackawanna Road burned hard coal not just because of its cleanliness or for passenger convenience, but because its mines yielded an abundant supply of hard coal for which, before the invention of automatic furnace stokers, no market existed. During the 1880s, the Reading Railroad had devised a method of burning this waste coal. Thus the Lackawanna managed to economize by turning a waste product into locomotive fuel, and then further capitalized on the practice by advertising it as a virtue that would benefit the traveling public.)
The Phoebe Snow was more then just the marquee train for the DL&W, she was the image of the railroad. Even during the time that the train wasn't running, the name and face still appeared in advertising and on box cars.

When the government prohibited the use of anthracite coal in steam locomotives during World War I, Phoebe was retired, but she reappeared in white military garb during World War II to dramatize the Lackawanna's contributions to the effort. In 1949 the DL&W inaugurated its first streamliner passenger run--Hoboken, N.J. to Buffalo, N.Y.--and the train was named the Phoebe Snow. After merger with the Erie railroad in 1960, Phoebe's run was extended to Chicago; she died of the disappearing railroad blues in 1966.

(Researched & Submitted by Richard Palmer).


Binghamton Press

June 24, 1931


Phoebe Snow Still Remains in Public Mind


     Name Used by Lackawanna

   21 Years Ago to Advertise Road




   Series of Jingles Built Around

     Character by Colton


   "It beats all how an impression lasts with people."

     J.L. Smith, division passenger agent for the Lackawanna railroad, was talking to a visitor in his office in The Press Building.

   In his hand he held a letter. He rolled his cigar around in his mouth, then handed over the letter, with, "Read that."

     The visitor read - "Miss Phoebe Snow, care of Lackawanna Railroad, Binghamton, N.Y."

     "Who was Phoebe Snow?" asked the visitor.

     Mr. Smith swung his chair back to a position where he could sit easier nd with another roll of the cigar, said:

   "Now then you have started my memory going back to about 21 years, I'd say." Then because he saw a questioning look in the visitor's eyes, he continued:

     "You know, Phoebe Snow to my mind was one of the most advertised personalities that the American public ever knew.

   "I believe it was in 1904 that Walter P. Colton was doing the advertising for the Lackawanna railroad. He was a Yale graduate and on one occasion went to New Haven to join a class reunion.

   "While he and a companion were walking along the street, Mr. Colton saw walking on the opposite side, a young girl. She was dressed in white, but wore a bouquet of blue violets.

   "Her appearance was striking, so Mr. Colton asked his companion if he knew the girl.

   "'Certainly," we both know her,' was his reply. "'We both lived at her parents' home when we came to Yale; she is Marion Murray.'

   "It was then," continued Mr. Smith, "that according to the story told by Mr. Colton afterward, was born the idea of Phoebe Snow for an advertisement depicting cleanliness in travel on the Lackawanna railroad.

   "Mr. Colton went from New Haven to New York and put his idea before W.H. Truesdale, then president of the road.

   "The idea went over and Mr. Colton returned to New Haven and obtained permission of Miss Murray's parents to take a series of photographs of the girl - dressed in white.:

     Mr. Smith said that Mr. Colton planned a series of advertisements, in all of which Phoebe snow was the central figure and around her was built a series of jingles, simple, but catchy.

   "Here is one of the first I recall," said Mr. Smith, handing over a card on which these lines were printed:

    It's time to go

     With Phoebe Snow

     And view the scenes

     She loves to show,

     Each mile is quite

     A new delight

     Upon the Road of Anthracite.

   "For a number of years," Mr. Smith said, "Phoebe Snow was almost a living personality of the Lackwanna railroad. Cards flourished in every coach and Pullman and in stations and along highways and in magazines, with Phoebe Snow, spotless in her white dress, with the ever changing jingles written about her and some scene of the Lackawanna route.

   "I recall that when young girls of that day planned dances, we received numerous requests for photos of Phoebe Snow, so that they could copy her costumes.

     "A few years after her creation, she was put on the payroll and remained there until the World War when the railroads were taken over by the United States government.

     "Mr. McAdoo did not believe that one railroad should be different from another and all were standardized. The Lackwanna burned anthracite coal, hence the cleanliness of Phoebe Snow as she traveled the road. On Mr. McAdoo's orders our locomotives were transformed to burn soft coal and with that transformation Phoebe Snow lost her job.

   "I recall about the peak time of her popularity, the tubes were built from Hoboken to Thirty-third street and the Lackawanna felt Phoebe Snow could be used with a fitting jingle to tie in with that renovation.

   "We offered a prize of $50 for the best jingle and a street car conductor won it with this one," and he handed out a car on which these lines appeared:

     Now Phoebe Snow

     Direct can go

     From Thirty-third to Buffalo,

     From Broadway bright

     The tubes run right

     Into the Road of Anthracite.

     Mr. Smith said he does not believe Phoebe Snow will ever be reincarnated, but he is sure she will live in the memory of older Lackawanna officials and the public of 1904 to 1918 as an outstanding personality.

     "It may be," he said, with a whimsical smile, "that the present generation will associate our road more closely with the song 'Where Do Ya Worka John,' and John's answer, 'I work on da Delaware Lackawan,' but old timers will never forget Phoebe.

   Mr. Smith then recalled that Miss Murray, in her dress of white with the corsage of violets, visited Binghamton in the summer of 1906 as the guest of the Binghamton Press Club and rode about the city on the Arthur M. Signore tallyho to assist in advertising an excursion which the club ran to Syracuse on July 4.