When I was a kid, and there was a train coming, I always wanted it to be a Chessie System train. I didn’t live near tracks so I had to be on the road with my parents to get a chance. I would hear my Dad sigh when the crossing signals started but I wanted to see it and would even count the cars.
I think, in my entire life, I have only seen one complete Chessie System paint scheme train. I remember the sleeping cat logos just kept coming, on that yellow train, on all cars, hoppers and even the caboose. I know it was this marketing of the Chessie kitten that hooked me as a child to love that paint scheme.
The Chessie System, Inc. was a holding company that owned the Chesapeake & Ohio Railway (C&O), the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad (B&O), the Western Maryland Railway (WM) incorporated in Virginia on February 26, 1973.
The C&O line had been known as The Chessie System since the 1930’s when their head of marketing saw the kitten in a 1933 newspaper, a sketch by Viennese artist Guido Grünewald., that was titled “Sleep Like A Kitten”.
He was able to buy the rights to the artwork for $5.00 and started advertising the C&O air conditioned cars with the drawing. They named her Chessie and made the famous logo with her head buried in the pillow, under the covers. In advertising, they gave her a mate, Peake (get it, Chesapeake), who was father to her two kittens Nip and Tuck.
During World War II they had Chessie selling War Bonds working on the home front while Peake was off to fight for his country. Advertising continued until 1971 when Amtrak took over passenger travel. The Chessie System name was retired in 1986.