“White Christmas” movie: Is the train trip real?

White Christmas” is a classic holiday movie featuring Bing Crosby — and an epic train trip. Early in the movie, the lead characters board a train in Florida with Vermont the final destination. This train trip was completely doable in 1954 when the movie was released, but not how it was depicted in the film. Here’s how it would have worked.

1950s Passenger Train Travel

To set the stage, there were 2,500 intercity passenger trains in the United States in 1954, so it was easy to travel by train. However, passenger rail in the United States began declining in the years after “White Christmas” was released. Interstate Defense Highway Act of 1956 spurred the development of roads across the country, making car travel an option instead of rail. Additionally, airline advertising spending doubled in the early 1950s, and government assistance went to airports and interstates and not the railroad industry (source).  

Florida to Vermont in 1954

In the 1950s, there wasn’t a passenger train that traveled directly between Florida and Vermont. You could travel from Florida to New York City and transfer to a Vermont-bound train at the 1910 New York Penn Station (which was torn down in 1963). Although this transfer isn’t shown in the movie, if you pay close attention, you’ll notice that the lead female characters (Betty and Judy Haynes) are in a Pullman bedroom when the train departs from Florida, but upon arrival in Vermont, are in a bunk area with just a curtain for privacy. It’s a subtle indication that the movie characters did indeed change trains.

So what trains were they on? Here is a list of passenger trains that could have been used to complete this trip:

Florida to New York City Routes

Rail fan Kevin Keefe makes a good observation that the Havana Special had a late night departure from South Florida, which is when our movie characters board the train. As a result, this route might be the one that the movie is based on. Today, only the Silver Meteor and Silver Star routes are still in operation, which travel between Miami and New York City (with stops in between).

New York City to Vermont Routes

The below routes provided service between New York City and Vermont in 1954:

If you want to recreate the trip today, the Vermonter Amtrak route is the train to book.

Pine Tree Station

Pine Tree is the fictional town in Vermont where the “White Christmas” cast ends up, so the train station in the movie is not real. However, there are still many active train stations in Vermont today. You can even plan a similar winter rail getaway as in the movie and visit a ski resort. The Montpelier Amtrak Station is your best bet. Rent a car at the nearby Enterprise (they will pick you up with a reservation) and drive to Smugglers’ Notch, Bolton Valley, Stowe Mountain, Mad River Glen or Sugar Brush resorts.

Happy holidays!

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