1936 Rexall Drug Store Train That Toured United States and Canada

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(Picture above from Bert Daniels …. the engineer)

An old train that has always interested me was the New York Central Rexall Train.

The engine was an L-2 Mohawk #2998 or #2873 (I have conflicting stories). It was the predecessor to the L-3a dual purpose Mohawks (4-8-2’s) 3000-3024. The NYC used 4-8-2 Mohawks for fast freight service on the water level route hence the name Mohawk not Mountain. The Mohawks started in the 2500 and 2600 L-1 class and moved to the L-2 2700,2800 and 2900 classes. These were all freight engines with 69″ drivers. I believe the Rexall engine and one other were rebuilt with 72″ drivers and counter balance for higher speeds. The 3000 series L-3 class had several subseries (a, b, and c) that were built by Alco and Lima. The 3000-3024 were the only dual purpose engines. The last series of Mohawks were the L-4a and b 3100 series engines. These were real brutes and all were dual purpose engines. These were the final extension of the 4-8-2 type on the NYC and the 4-8-4 Niagara 6000-6025 S-1a, S1b and 5500 poppet valved S-2 were built in 1945-46.

I do know that Bert Daniels, who was road foreman of engines for the NYC, was the engineer on this train which ran from September 15, 1936 until November 21, 1936. From the news clippings it appears that this train was some kind of Convention Special tour train. The articles state that it was a 12 car train with air-conditioning which had a streamlined engine identical to the Commodore Vanderbilt engines that pulled the 20th Century Limited at that time. It also had an auxiliary booster engine on the trailer wheels that gave an additional 15,000 lbs. of tractive effort in starting. Was this engine a precursor to the Niagara type engines? The article states that the engine had 4 drivers to a side instead of the customary Pacific type. The only photos of the engine are mostly frontal and seem to show a 4 wheel leading truck. The train was nicknamed “Old Roxie” and from the schedule that is included in the book appears to have traveled from Boston to Albany, NY then through PA, Ohio, Ind, Ill, Iowa, Ky, W.Va, Va, NC, SC, Ga, Tenn, Miss, Ala, Fla, and ended up in Chicago then on to Seattle. The book states that this train covered 29,000 miles overall. At one point while on the NorthWestern it had covered 14,000 miles without being shopped. The only thing that had been done to it was inspections. It was also an oil burner because coal wasn’t available in the Southwestern area. Instead of a “Johnson Bar’ it had a wheel reverse gear and also had automatic train control.

Pictures and info on the Rexall Train appear in Arthur Dubin’s “Some Classic Trains” (or “Some Classic Trains II”). It was an exhibition train which Rexall (United Drug Company) packed with demonstrations and exhibits of all of the company’s wares and took around the country to show to its many pharmacy franchisees.

Rexall Train of 1936. These rolling drug stores exhibited common Rexall products, and offered new and improved “suggestions” on how to configure local Rexall stores to a “common plan” using the latest and most modern materials, including adding soda fountains. The Rexall train was intended primarily for the annual Rexall Druggists Convention of the era, and was their show piece. It was primarily a demo train for the druggists, and not a retail store for the public. The public still had to use the “in place” Rexall stores in their immediate areas. It is interesting to note that the term “druggist” was used back then. Today,we call them “pharmacists” or “pharmacy technicians”. “Rexall” seems to have gone away. The last time I saw a Rexall store was in the mid 60s. Since then, well, a different named drug store is on every corner these days. Never heard of a Walgreens, Hooks, Rite Aide Longs, Eckerds, or CVS train yet.

The engine was NYC 2873, a Mohawk 4-8-2 converted to burn oil for this use on the train and the streamline cowling was inspired by the Commodore Vanderbilt Hudson 5344. The locomotive lost its streamline cowling after use on the Rexall train and converted back to burning coal.

I picked up a lot of information frpm New York Central online forums.

The train was painted blue and white, with red lettering on the locomotive, white lettering and black roof on the cars. The cars were all fairly stock Pullman cars (mostly parlors) which received rounded roofs and full width diaphragms to create the appearance of a streamliner. Other than the streamlined roof and the diaphragms little was done to modernized the cars, though most interiors were stripped.

The cars used were as follows and all cars were Pullman owned at the time that the train ran. The first name is the car’s Pullman name, the second (in quotation marks) is its Rexall name, the car’s previous configuration and dispositions are also provided:

Whitney, Rexall “Kantleek”, baggage-club – to Alton 419, to GM&O 419.

Haldeman, Rexall “First Aid”, 16 section sleeper – to Pullman tourist sleeper 4278, to SPMW 5554.

Lanesville, Rexall “Ad-Vantage” , 36-seat parlor – to PRR coach 1205 (1942)

Norwich, Rexall “Research”, 36-seat parlor – to PRR 1204 (1942)

Bolton, Rexall “Bisma-Rex”, 36-seat parlor – to PRR 1202 (1942)

Halifax, Rexall “Cara-Nome”, 36-seat parlor – to PRR 1203 (1942)

Hadlyme, Rexall “Klenzo”, 36-seat parlor – to Tourist car 6070, to MP (1950)

#22 ex-Wanakena, Rexall “Symphony”, originally a 16 Section sleeper rblt. to a dining car – to ACL

Hingham, Rexall “Adrienne”, 36-seat parlor – to Tourist car 6071 – to MP (1950)

Montwait, Rexall “Mi-31”, 36-seat parlor – to Tourist car 6072 – to MP (1950)

Ridgeville, Rexall “Joan Manning”, 10 Compartment sleeper – to Royal American Shows (1958)

Newport, Rexall “Puretest” – to NP business car 4 (1941)

Kentleek (originally Pullman Plan 2415H) was configured as a generator – workshop – storage car, probably one of the earliest examples of head-end power being used. The generators were needed for powering the AC, lights and display motors. Not open to the public.

First Aid, built to Pullman Plan 2412F, retained its 16 Sections for the Rexall crew and staff and was not open to the public.

Ad-Vantage, Research, Bisma-Rex and Cara Nome, all were stripped of their interiors and set up for displays, with Ad-Vantage also featuring a soda fountain. All four cars were open to the public and featured the many products that Rexall made.

Klenzo, built to Pullman Plan 2916, was stripped of its interior and set up as an 88-seats lecture car which doubled as a dance hall after hours. The Rexall band accompanied the train on its tour and provided music for the staff, as well. This car was not open to the public, only to pharmacist and druggists.

Symphony, originally built to Pullman Plan 2412C it was rebuilt by Pullman into a Plan 4004 dining car, which served the crew and staff of the train, as well as feeding druggists lunch, but not open to the public.

Adrienne, built to Pullman Plan 2916, was also stripped of its interior and set up as an 88-seats lecture car. This car was not open to the public, only to pharmacist and druggists.

Mi-31, built to Pullman Plan 2916, was stripped and converted to a bar-lounge-dance hall car, where store owners and druggists were entertained. The car was not open to the public.

Joan Manning, built to Pullman Plan 2416, retained its compartment configuration and was used by the train’s crew and staff. The car was not open to the public.

Puretest, built to Pullman Plan 2502B, was a 4 Compartment private observation car, was said to be used by the Rexall president.

I believe the shroud material removed from the locomotive at the end of its tour and stored at West Albany for a few years, probably going into one of the scrap drives during WWII.