Obscurity of the Day: Railroad Red

Railroad Red, the tale of a railroad company detective, was a delightful strip, well-drawn, full of action and fast-paced. It is also uber-obscure, having appeared in only two papers that I’ve ever found (Detroit News and Arizona Republic, specifically). A lot of newspaper editors really missed the boat not buying this one. Considering the number of people still looking for these strips 60-some years later (they really appeal to railroad aficionados), the strip’s lack of success is a real mystery.

Railroad Red was distributed by Bell Syndicate as a daily and Sunday strip. It was first advertised in the E&P syndicate directory in 1940, but no one has yet found it starting any earlier than February 24 1941. The strip failed to make its first anniversary, ending on December 21 1941.

The creator was a fellow by the name of Beaumont Fairbank. There was a cartoonist at the Brooklyn Eagle in the teens who signed himself Fairbank with the same style of signature, but I don’t know for sure that they’re the same person. However, according to John Malcovsky in an article in The Funnies Paper, the art was actually handled by David Marshall – I don’t know if I buy this since I’ve never seen an example signed by him. In any case, the art, which has a wonderful Joe Shuster feel to it, is a delight.

What a shame that ol’ Red didn’t stick around longer.

17 comments on “Obscurity of the Day: Railroad Red

  1. Wah-huh?


    Love to see more. Can you post the entire series?

    Seriously, Allen, the larger view doesn’t appear when I double-click the graphic.

    Thanks for finding and posting this LOST Jem.

  2. Hi John –
    Sorry, I only have a few samples, and this is the only one that’s easily accessible at the moment.

    Is anyone else having trouble seeing the full-size image? It’s working ok for me.

    And Jay Maeder writes privately to say that the strip also ran in the Miami Herald — thanks Jay!


  3. Works great now.

    One of the reason’s for the “Wha-huh?’ was that this is the first strip built around a railroad that I’ve seen. Lots of avation strips, but trains must have been passe by the ’30s and ’40s.

    Thanks again.

  4. Yup, not too many train strips out there. Only other one that comes to mind that’s not super-obscure is “Spur Line”. And it’s pretty darn obscure.

    Certain logic to it, tho. Drawing trains in the space of comic strip panels would be tough.


  5. Allan:
    I agree. There seems to be only the two RR strips.

    I think I might have a copy of the entire run of Spurline and I have some RR Reds in daily and Sunday strips. I will have to research my notes and strips to see why I made that statement in an article that someone had me write. In addition, I think I can name other papers that RR Red appeared in.

    Thanks for bringing both obscurities to light. I am still looking for the original strip or copies of same in order to complete the story line and share it with others.

  6. Beaumont Fairbank was indeed the creator and did the art for Railroad Red. How do I know? He is my Great Great Grandfather. I have one of his sketchbooks and a few of his strips. To your reference of the Brooklyn Eagle, it’s quite possible that it was him. His sketchbook contains quite a few drawings of Brooklyn, Bayshore and Rockeville Centre. Thanks for posting this!

  7. Hi Ryan –
    Thanks for posting! Can you tell us anything more about your g-g-grandpa’s career? I for one really think he had a great style and wonder what he was doing between the two times he pops up on my radar — in the Brooklyn Eagle 1912-17, then doing Railroad Red in 1941. Surely someone as talented as he was has other credits!

    Best, Allan

  8. I don't know of any other mainstream works that he created. However, I do have several pencil drawings including a sketchbook from the late 1800's as well as an oil-on-canvas railroad painting that is signed.
    I've tried to find any other reference to Railroad Red but to no avail.

  9. Do you have any further information about David Marshall – and the Railroad Red strip? He's my husband's father, and I'd love to provide him with more information!

  10. David Marshall made a career of writing about model and real railroads. A review of one of his books begins: "David Marshall. Model Railroad Engineering (1942) Marshall was the model railway editor for Popular Science."
    Some stories attributed to Marshall in the late 1930s:
    Though I can find nothing connecting him to Railroad Red.

    Fairbank was a railway artist before Railroad Red. Here's a 1938 cover by him:

    Toward the bottom of the front page of The Mount Vernon Daily Argus is a piece promoting the February 24 debut or Railroad Red in that paper.

    And the February 24, 1941 strip from that paper:

  11. On January 27, 2020, most, if not all, of the strips were uploaded to Facebook in “The strip collectors swap group.” Here’s some information I gathered from those strips:
    It appears that the daily strips are from the Patterson (NJ?) News, and the Sunday strips from the Baltimore Sun.
    The daily strips started on February 24, 1941. The first 24 were numbered (#1-24), with the first dated strip appearing on March 24.
    The Sunday strip started April 6. The April 13 strip as a “2” at the bottom of the last panel, but none of the other Sunday strips are numbered (if, indeed, the “2” means it’s the 2nd Sunday strip).
    The last daily strip was from Friday, September 19. I don’t know if the Saturday strip exists, or just wasn’t uploaded.
    The Sunday strips continue to October 26. The last panel of the last Sunday strip has Railroad Red being fired.
    Reading the last several Sunday strips, I don’t see any obvious omissions that could be caused by lack of daily strips.

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