Amtrak Marketing in 1971 and Today

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Amtrak’s marketing was pretty simple during its first year of operation. Shown above on the left is a page from the Nov. 14, 1971, timetable.

The full-page advertisement features an Amtrak passenger representative holding an oversize model of a passenger car standing in the middle of a railroad track with the slogan of the time, “We’re Making the Trains Worth Traveling Again.”

Despite the fact that some railroads — the Santa Fe being a notable example — still provided very good service, the public perception in the early 1970s was colored by reports about travel on trains offered by Penn Central and other railroads that were described as dirty and unpleasant. If you read the text of the advertisement above, you will find in talking point No. 2 that Amtrak was pledging to operate cleaner trains.

In the early 1970s, travel by train was in decline and Amtrak claimed to be seeking to reverse that.

Contrast that approach to that taken in the advertisement published in the last system timetable that Amtrak printed early in 2016.

In the second decade of the 21st century Amtrak perceives its primary competitor to be the private automobile. It now sees itself as having long since “arrived” and n ow living an urbane existence. Its advertisements are slicker looking and more stylized.

It was an increasing reliance on private automobile travel that led to the decline of intercity train travel that Amtrak was assuring the public that it was seeking to address back in 1971.

More than four decades later, Amtrak is still battling the convenience of the private automobile. The ways that Amtrak fights that battle has changed, but not the battle itself. (click on the image to enlarge it).

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