Silly Johnny is Dead! Page 1

(Wx4's inter-dimensional department spanning the ether between the Grab Bag & Harmonic Convergence )

Really Weird and/or Cosmic RR Ads & etc.
Page 2


A warning to non-railroaders The following was created by a guy (me) who spent a career in one of the most negative working environments known: railroading. Thus, true "professional railroader humor" is sarcastic, cynical and often biting. I created these pages more than a decade ago, before retirement gave me some perspective on this, so I now caution you non-rails that you may find the following to a bit disturbing. - EO, 7-2021

I generally think of my fellow rails as practical, no-nonsense types, most of whom also possess varying degrees of cynicism. This page offers empirical evidence to the contrary - there apparently are many fruit loops in our midsts (not counting Foamers, even), and occasionally they hold positions of influence. As you will see, this is not a new thing. In fact, based upon the following historical data, one could make a strong argument postulating that the New Age movement originated on the nation's railroads. Ultimately, I don't know where we're going to wind up, here, but note that I collect this stuff, which says something about my personal place in railroad cosmology, I suppose. - E.O.

Couldn't afford it on eBay
Johnny was silly...Johnny is dead...
Our namesake exhibit comes courtesy of British Rail, circa 1966. It's a doozie, don't you think? Maybe my former railroad employer could use the following as a basis for an Americanized safety campaign:

Dead Dumb-Ass Johnny...

Johnny was a dumb-ass...Johnny is toast.
Johnny bought it big time...Johnny is a ghost.

It sings, doesn't it?

$8.55 on eBay? I don't think so!
Caution in the Colonies

While I judge that Dead Silly Johnny makes England the clear-cut leader in tasteless railroad advertising, we colonials also are giving it a good go. Witness this fine Metra poster, what? Sadly, it was withdrawn after the traveling public complained that it was inappropriate. Gad, are Chicagoans more sensitive than the English? Mayor Daily, say it ain't so!

Incidentally, a train (or more accurately, a boxcar) hit me in San Jose's College Park Yard many years ago, and plenty of people have met me since then (see the story in the Grab Bag).

I liked this so much, I bought it on eBay, for $3.99!
A Toilet of the North???
Your average Californian probably knows more Klingon words than French ones. So it is with me. Thus, I have to speculate about this goofy Northern Pacific ad. I'm guessing that, while the literal translation of L' ETOILE DU NORD is "The Toilet of the North", the idiomatic equivalent might be "We have indoor plumbing at our depots". After all, this convenience was still somewhat of a novelty in 1900. Alternately, NP might have been touting the virtues of one of it's lesser (toilet) line-side communities, say Tacoma.

Further research, some days later: OK, so I figured that a quality site like Wx4 ought to provide accurate data, so I plugged L' ETOILE DU NORD into Babbelfish and came up with "The STAR OF NORTH ".

This does little to improve my comprehension, but still, in this lack of clarity there is revelation. Look at all of this - French words, stars, Indians and general confusion. Yep I can only conclude the obvious: With this advertisement,

the Northern Pacific spawned the New Age Movement!

Northern Pacific, the nation's Magic Mushroom, Indian jewelry and fusion music industries salute you!

Update, 1-20-04: An alert viewer has revealed to Wx4 that L' ETOILE DU NORD is the official slogan of Minnesota. I apologize to you Minnesota-ites out there for not knowing this, but while I have your attention: Is Minnesota a state or province?

No way that I'd pay $3.99 for that. No, I mean the ad!
High Times on Santa Fe
In the mid 20th Century, The Santa Fe put out some gorgeous, tasteful ads. This one did not make the cut.

Here we see some typical Santa Fe customers gathered in the lounge car, passing around a rather large bomber , and experiencing a group hallucination of historical proportions.

Lady on the left: "Joe dear, you're not paying attention to the group hallucination. What are you looking at?"

Too disturbing to bid upon on eBay.
When the hallucinations stop...
Yep, see the country by train! That's what you can do when your stash of Acapulco Gold gives out:

"Look, there's a cute little Indian lad, who is glad to see us even though he grew up so malnourished that his legs are bowed. What say we toss him some coins? More importantly, is the dining car open yet?"

Hey eBay - I'll bid 50 cents for it. Shipping included.
Inter-railroad cooperation explained
It's readily apparent that the textbook 'drugs and women' technique - as seen in the second above - failed to gain Santa Fe a plant site, because here we see the same Joe Industrialist later on, down South eyeing yet another dish. Horny devil, ain't he? Oh Joe, JOE! That humongous doobie that you sucked down is still messing with your head! She ain't real like the one in the lounge car, buddy.

Don't you think it's nice that the Santa Fe turned Joe over to the Southern, safe and sound, rather than threaten him with that photograph showing him chained in bed with a hooker at the Hotel Albuquerque? Ahh...simpler times. Big business isn't so ethical, these days.

Should I have bid on this one on eBay?
The Wide World of Sports
The Santa Fe certainly is fertile ground, eh? Can you please tell me what the illustration has to do with outdoor sports? To me, this lady looks sort of PO'ed for having been drug outdoors in her finery; and look at that pale complexion, would you...Oh now I GET IT! These folks are going to drag race their carriage.

Funding for eBay purchase courtesy of NOW.
Women's Solidarity Knows No Class Lines, By Golly!
While scratching my head raw over the last entry, I came across this equally curious exercise in relativism. Could it be that Santa Fe's adMEN (see the Milwaukee Road ad a couple of entries down) were so sophisticated that my resulting sore head is exactly what they intended to accomplish: extended contemplation of an inexplicable ad?

Hah! Objectively, have you ever seen genius in the railroad industry's portrayal of itself? The Friendly Southern Pacific campaign surely flew like a cow (especially amongst employees), didn't it? Remember when John W. Ingram, decided to gloss over Rock Island's decaying infrastructure and labor unrest with a coat of blue paint? I rest my case.

Rather, what we see here is an early forbearer of Santa Fe's insensitivity in the see people and places campaign (3rd above) mixed with the downright irony that they displayed in the previous Outdoor Sports example - truly a masterwork. Kudos, Uncle John!

Likewise, here we see more historical evidence of the kind of stuff that constantly gets we men in trouble with the squaws, er, women. The lovely Indian gal depicted here ( please note: California Indians did not dress this way; in fact many of them largely did not dress at all during fair weather) has no more to do with outdoor sports than the lusciously curved Victorian beauty depicted above. Thus, we can rightly suppose that the innuendo in these ads deals with indoor sports; that exploitation of women knows no class lines.

The real question is, then: How did all of this sell tickets? I mean, if a guy in Topeka is feeling horny, is he going to tolerate a tortured train ride out to California, or merely take a timely trolley ride over to the wrong side of the tracks?

- yet another hooked ball into the sandtrap of American advertising.

Drat, I forgot to bid on this one on eBay.
Quickie marriage at Tijuana's Jurassic Park, Mexico?
This 1904 KATY ad features some wonderful artwork, but nevertheless it leaves me rather unsettled. What exactly is going on, here? Is this another one of Joe's hallucinations? He surely gets around.

It's on the way to me in the mail. Thanks, eBay!
and while on the subject of women, YIKES!
IT'S THE ATTACK OF THE FIFTY FOOT WOMAN! Cripes, Milwaukee Road, what were you thinking? At least you boys came up with something less-salacious than the movie poster, although that was a nice touch with the two little guys staring at her butt.

At this juncture, I think that it's fair to conclude that women have never produced a piece of railroad ad copy.

Since we posted the above, the original arrived from eBay: click here for a larger version.
Wx4's Poster Boy
Gad, where's Betty Grable? Did Johnny ever think of women? Probably not.

See also: the Milwaukee Road Vintage Advertisements Page

I surely couldn't pass this up on eBay.
REA vs. The Flying Saucers
UFO's were hot topic in the 1950's, something not lost upon the film industry. When I recently first saw the 1953 Railway Express ad at left, it looked mighty familiar.

Given that there are few original ideas in the world, I'm certain that REA inspired the makers of one of my all-time favorite sci-fi movies, 1956's Earth vs. the Flying Saucers. The producers really should have appropriated "SPINNING CIRCLES THAT NOTHING STOPS!", don't you think? I wonder if anyone ever did a masters thesis about "REA's Cinematographic Influence on Ed Wood."

Hey! Is that Washington Union Station that the saucer is crashing into? Also, does anyone else hear a Theremin, or is it just me?

My $2.20 bid wasn't enough.
Pillsbury Siamese Twin Doughboy/girl
This is a genuine advertisement, honest! People must have been real sickos back in 1906 when this frightening image appeared in Harper's Magazine. Jeez, a morbidly obese boy with a none-to-skinny girl growing backwards out of the side of his belly. At least they are happy little dumplings: here they are, grinning as they flop yet again due to their unwieldy torso arrangement (conclusion: RR's make fun of the mentally infirm - tsk tsk). Also note that there's a shovel impaled into part of the boy-girl thing. Sicko!

That this monstrous image sold train tickets tells me all that I need to know about our society a century ago. (Shame on your insensitivity, great grandpa!) Worse, it appears to be a trend-setter, given that some years later Santa Fe used the malnourished Indian lad (see above) to hawk tickets.

I also wonder if the SP/RI's ad agency was the one that came up with the Pillsbury Doughboy, an obvious rip-off. Ad Executive: Just separate the twins, Bob, and make the pitch to Pillsbury. Too bad that they didn't keep the girl-part, since the later in-kind rip-off of the Doughboy - the monster Sta-Puff Marshmallow Man in Ghostbusters - would have been absolutely killer as a Siamese Twin.

...hmm, interpretations can be wrong. This merely may be some super-crappy artwork that slipped-by E.H. Harriman. Fie on your inattention, Mr. Harriman!

Another eBay success!
N.P. spawns the New Age (II)
Somewhere above I speculated on the Newage (rhymes with sewage) nature of Northern Pacific's 1900 Toilet of the North ad, but, subsequent investigation on eBay has revealed that their ads subsequently came into full flower the next year, with the arrival of this yin yang masterpiece. By way of influencing the New Age movement, I reckon that only Hieronymus Bosch's Garden of Earthly Delights does more, but perhaps only because the N.P.'s offerings haven't received as prominent display at the Museo del Prado (aside: when in Madrid, see Bosch's painting - it will counterbalance miserable Spanish food and manners).

I likewise suspect that the influence of N.P.'s ad ranged far afield from the quartz crystal culture. In a bit of cosmic countervailence, this ad seems to be the direct forefather of a stupid trend on Madison Avenue: bury the point of an advertisement so that it is almost indecipherable. Surely you've repeatedly scratched your ass pockets trying to figure out why those nubile twenty-somethings spend a minute prancing around your TV screen - apparently to no end - only to realize much later - after the fifty-third repeat - that the ads are pushing designer jeans. By the time you get the point, you want to wring somebody's neck...and you have become too old to wear jeans.

N.P.'s offering probably did not evoke such a strong backlash, but I'll bet it left folks choked with laughter. Oh yeah; Have you found the real point of the ad?
At the very bottom you'll note a miniscule announcement for the premier run of the North Coast Limited, a train that would remain as N.P.'s flagship for the rest of the railroad's existence. Surely they didn't think that the history of N.P.'s monad in a six cent promotional booklet was more noteworthy than a the premier of their new luxury limited, no? But on the other hand, maybe...

In all, this ad is such a tribute to general flakiness that I feel it is my duty to update it to reflect its contributions to the 21st
Century psyche. I hope that the original ad's creators enjoy my contribution as they dine with the angels on sprouts and hummus up there on planet XK29.

on to Page 2!