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A few weeks ago I thought it would be fun to find a promotional token from Union Pacific's M-10000 Streamline train inauguration just like the one shown on page 37 of the book The Union Pacific Streamliners by Ranks-Kratsville.  That’s when I discovered there was more than one version available and nobody online had compiled a history of these pre-war promotional items.  While researching the following information I ended up buying all the different versions.   So, enjoy the short story below and photos of my new collection. :-)



Lucky tokens were a common give-a-way item during the Great Depression era.  As an example, at Chicago’s Century of Progress World Fair held from May 27th 1933 to Oct 31st 1934 more than 18 different exhibitors passed out lucky token to visitors.  According to the Token and Medal Society, Union Pacific’s 1st version of this aluminum lucky piece was produced in 1933.  My research found this first token could have only been produced after June 10th of that year when the M-10000 drawings were submitted to Union Pacific.  Another indication of this first token’s timeline is the front image shows wheel shrouds over the trucks.  These wheel shrouds were troublesome and were removed about a year after the train went into revenue service.  There are two variations of this first aluminum token. These 1933 versions can be easily identified because neither have a year stamped on front.

1933 a. In the earliest variation there is no small letters on the back side’s bottom curve.

1933 a front1933a back

1933 b.  Later in 1933 the tokens die was modified to include the small letters “GREENDUCK CHI” along the back side’s bottom curve.  These letters represent the Green Duck Company out of Chicago, Illinois who produced the tokens.  In case you are wondering about the shield, ALCOA stands for the Aluminum Company of America.

1933 b front1933b back





On February 12th 1934 during a trial run of Union Pacific’s streamliner M-10000 from the Pullman Manufacturing plant to Michigan City, Indiana press and newspapermen onboard the new streamline train were given a 1934 version of this lucky token.   This newer promotional token had the year stamped on front and was attached to an aluminum foil covered menu with blue ribbon.  It was used as an example of the lightweight aluminum alloy, just like the passenger car bodies they were riding in.  After that trial run the M-10000 train went on a 12,625 mile 65 city tour of the United States.  Throughout this 65 city tour visitors that boarded the train were given this 1934 version lucky piece to increase public awareness of the new type of metal alloy that’s used in the train.  On top of that, the M-10000 train had 565,922 visitors walk through it between May 13th and July 12th 1934 at Chicago World’s Fair while it was on display.   Union Pacific’s public relations department said they had given away about 1 million of these aluminum lucky tokens and estimated about 5 tons of aluminum used.   On January 1st 1935 the M-10000 streamline train entered regular revenue service.  

1934

1934 front1934back





In 1939 a 3rd aluminum token was created to coincide with the Golden Gate International Exposition World’s Fair.  This International event opened on February 18th 1939 and was held on the newly created Treasure Island in the San Francisco Bay.  Union Pacific’s public relations department was ready and on the front of this new token were images of the Bay, Tower of the Sun building and the Bay Bridge.  The newly designed backside displayed UP’s premier Streamline train with an image of an EMD E2 diesel locomotive.  The two emblems on the diesels nose is a clue it’s meant to represent the City of Los Angeles locomotive. On the left side of the UP Overland shield was the Challenger train for value minded travelers.  Union Pacific even created a special all-Pullman train from May 22nd to September 25th between Chicago and San Francisco just to handle the extra traffic for the fair’s summer visitors.  This all-Pullman train was named the Treasure Island Special.

1939 a.

1939 a front1939a back

A 4th aluminum token was also produced in the year 1939 promoting the May 5th Cecil B. De Mille motion picture “Union Pacific”.  It was a major box office hit and Union Pacific issued a commemorative token.   The front was redesigned highlighting the Cecil B. De Mille movie. The backside stayed the same as the earlier 1939a token showing the Overland shield flanked by Streamliner and Challenger trains.

1939 b.

1939 b front1939 bback





A 5th and final aluminum advertising token was produced by Union Pacific’s public relations department in 1940.  The front has the words 1940 lucky piece, displays the Union Pacific Overland shield and an image of the Challenger train for coach and tourist class travelers.  The backside image shows one of Union Pacific’s Streamline E2 diesel locomotives.  Although, the wings on the diesels nose and arrangement of portholes is an indication that it’s probably meant to represent Union Pacific’s exclusively owned E3 diesel locomotives LA-5 cab and LA-6 booster built in 1939 by EMD.  The Overland shield is placed above information about the aluminum used in the trains.

1940

1940 front1940back




At 3.4 grams these aluminum promotional tokens are incredibly light when compared to a silver dollar of that time that weighed a whopping 26.73 grams (pre-1964).  After holding a silver dollar and then picking up one of these aluminum tokens it makes perfect sense why Union Pacific used them to educate the public about their new fleet of lightweight passenger cars.

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If you are a fan of streamline trains this is a fun slice of pre-war advertising history to show your visitors.  Collecting railroad memorabilia like this doesn’t cost a lot of money, doesn’t take-up much room and there easy to find on eBay.

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In closing, do any OGR forum members have a guess on what class of steam locomotive was used on the 1939 & 1940 tokens?   I’m not great at identifying steam locomotives and hoping an expert like @bob2, @Hot Water or @Norton can jump in and help solve this mystery.  Maybe images of a Mountain class or something similar that would have pulled the Challenger passenger trains?

1939 steam 1940 steam

Let me know your thoughts so it can be added to this thread!

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Last edited by T.Albers
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@T.Albers posted:
In closing, do any OGR forum members have a guess on what class of steam locomotive was used on the 1939 & 1940 tokens?   I’m not great at identifying steam locomotives and hoping an expert like @bob2, @Hot Water or @Norton can jump in and help solve this mystery.  Maybe images of a Mountain class or something similar that would have pulled the Challenger passenger trains?

1939 steam 1940 steam

Let me know your thoughts so it can be added to this thread!

If I were hazard to guess a VERY CRUDE representation of the FEF-1 Northern.

Rusty

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