“White Christmas” movie: History behind the passenger trains

“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 New York and Vermont the final destinations. This train trip was completely doable in 1954 when the movie was released. Here’s how it would have worked and what rail travel was like in real life.

1950s Passenger Train Travel

In 1954, there were 2,500 intercity passenger trains in the United States. Today there are approximately 300 Amtrak trains in operation, so it was much easier to travel around the country by rail in the 1950s.

However, passenger train travel 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 New York (and Vermont) in 1954

Original New York Penn Station

There were several different trains that traveled between Florida and New York City in 1954. In the movie, the characters continue to Vermont, which would have required a transfer to a different train at New York Penn Station (pictured above). In 1954, the extremely grand station had not yet been torn down. Although the movie does not show the train transfer, this is where rail passengers would have changed trains to continue to Vermont.

Below are the list of passenger trains that were options for travel from Florida to New York City and New York City to Vermont in 1954:

Florida-New York Routes

Vermont Routes

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

  • North Wind (1950-1955)
  • Valley Express (1948-1957)
  • Vermonter (1940-today)

Vermont Stations

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, the aptly named Vermonter Amtrak route travels through the state today. View the Vermont Amtrak Stations to learn more and plan a trip. Some attractions near the stations include:

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