Project Thunder was a plan by Philip Morris to build and operate a custom-made, luxurious 20-car Marlboro train as a promotion for Marlboro cigarettes. The plan was to give selected smokers the "trip of a lifetime" on a "deluxe train through Marlboro Country." The train would consist entirely of double-decker cars and would feature amenities such as a hot tub car, massage rooms and gambling. The train was apparently going to be used for only one season, from May-September 1996, at an estimated cost to PM of $44 million. Plans for Project Thunder can be viewed at http://legacy.library.ucsf.edu/tid/neg36e00
PM was aware that if they painted the Marlboro logo on the outside of the train, they would have to also have the Surgeon General's warning painted on the rail cars as well.
In a planning document called Train Emergencies, PM listed ways to handle various emergencies that could potentially occur when operating the train. The list includes steps to take in case passengers caused on-board fires by smoking in bed, and what to do if the engineer has a heart attack or stroke. PM planned to "make contact in advance with local politicians...to discuss circumventing and/or controlling" protester activity along the route. The plan anticipated vandalism to the train "especially due to PM's controversial nature." In case of "overzealous protesters" along the route, the windows of the train would be bullet proof. In case a passenger dies while taking Marlboro's "trip of a lifetime," the plan says "train carries a body bag."
PM initially conceived of having such impractical amenities on the train as a dance hall and a pool table car, but was talked out of these items by the rail car manufacturers.
Only about 2,000 would be able to ride the train during its use as a cigarette promotion. PM held a sweepstakes (open to smokers) to select smokers to ride on the train.
Ultimately, the train never happened. Difficulties occurred during construction and the project ran far over budget. PM pulled the plug on construction of the train after investing hundreds of millions of dollars in the project.
Documents on Project Thunder
- 940713 MEETING SUMMARY Contains plans about building and operation of the train
- 7-page document about handling train emergencies
- June 3, 1996 list of problems ongoing with construction of the train
- November 1996 press release announcing delays in Marlboro train trips being rescheduled due to construction delays
- Marlboro Unlimited Fact Sheet - Get on Board Promo description
<tdo>search_term="Project Thunder"</tdo> Additional search terms: Marlboro train