Railroad company logos, 1845-2000

Designer Christian Annyas has assembled a gallery of "100 logos from American and Canadian railroad companies," dating from 1845 to 2000. They show a microcosm of a century and a half's worth of evolution in design sensibility, but they also show just how lovely and evocative many of the logos of these forgotten railroads once were.

Railroad company logo design evolution (via Kottke)



    1. I’ve always wondered that myself – Why do all logos, image characters, and graphic design in general suddenly turn to “boring” en masse following the 50s?

  1. They all kinda melt into the same undifferentiated genera until you hit Alan Fleming’s design for the Canadian National Railway, in the shape of a train – the beginning of modernity.

  2. Coincidentally, a few minutes ago I was arranging my collection of pins & such and came across two railroad company logo pins I forgot I had, including a Canadian Pacific one (a slight variation of the 1946 logo seen at the link, not the superior older one seen here). I don’t remember where I got them – it must have been back in high school.

  3. 0) Someone on that page clarified that railroad logos are called ‘heralds’.
    1) Strange that the Northern Pacific Railway (1900) uses the yin-yang symbol as a central element. Anyone know the story behind that? Were Chinese workers involved with this rail line?
    2) I didn’t realize Rock Island Line was a real railroad. I’d only heard the Lead Belly (and Johnny Cash) song. Seems that it covered some of the mid-west from Missouri and Illinois down to Texas and Louisiana.

  4. The Frisco logo is now used by the city of Frisco, TX which is where the railroad got the name. It’s emblazoned onto street signs, cars and water towers there

  5. So, were vector fonts created in 1960?

    Does anyone know what “via Luray Caverns” signifies in the Shenandoah Valley Route’s logo (or herald)? Seemed like there were a few logos which touted natural wonders. I’m assuming those railroads offered passenger service?

    Also was surprised to learn that there are still 11 major railroads left in Canada and USA. I imagine that someday soon, the CNUPBNSF will decide to shorten its name to a single Unicode symbol.

  6. I came across this blog about London railways yesterday, and the news that Blackfriars Railway Bridge has been restored.  There isn’t a good close-up picture of the whole (set of?) “cartouche(s?)”.

    From here but I found the source.

  7. Actually, the name Frisco came about as an easy contraction of the full name of the railroad: Saint Louis and San Francisco Railway. The town was actually named for the railroad.

    The logo here looks a bit stretched. Back in the mid 90’s I drew the logo in AutoCAD from the original Frisco blueprints. I found ’em in my archive and uploaded them to an S3 bucket for all to see in splendid early web style: http://frisco.watch4rocks.com

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