No Broadway play or Hollywood film may have been named after it, but the Burlington Zephyr was one of the most famous trains of the 1930s. Streamlined, diesel-powered and relatively lightweight, the Zephyr ran between Denver and Chicago. In May 1934, the Zephyr showed its speed by traveling the 1,015.4-mile journey -- non-stop -- in just 13 hours, 4 minutes, 58 seconds, at an average speed of 77.61 mph.
Perhaps Carole Lombard rode the Zephyr at one time or another. But did she ride it in December 1936, and in fact buy a ticket in Omaha, Nebraska? More important, did she sign a rail ticket? Somebody believes so, and just shelled out more than $51 to acquire it, the sixth and final bid at an online auction.
Here's what the ticket looks like from two angles:
Is the signature Lombard's? When e-mailed copies of the pictures, Carole Sampeck of The Lombard Archive, who is knowledgeable on the star's autograph, tersely responded: "That is NOT her signature."
Here's a sample of a bona fide Lombard autograph:
The same autograph, in close-up:
Something else to consider: Why would a celebrity ride coach? True, Lombard was famous for her lack of pretense, but one would think she would have traveled in a bit more luxury (unless the sleeper cars were all sold out).
And a note to all of you from Omaha: Lombard probably passed through your town a number of times on trains between Los Angeles to Chicago. In fact, Omaha was one of the stops on what would be her final train ride, as she headed to Chicago in January 1942 to receive preparation for her war bond rally in Indianapolis. (However, she rode the City of Los Angeles train from Union Pacific.)
This should be yet another lesson why one needs to be careful about buying autographed items.
P.S. The same person is also selling a purported Clark Gable autograph on a 1949 state of Wyoming map. After seeing it, Sampeck (who also has some familiarity with Gable memorabilia) commented, "Total (equine droppings). Not even close." Caveat emptor!