Ronald Reagan advertising the Union Pacific Domeliner City of Los Angeles



This was before he was governor, before he was president. The ad appeared in the National Geographic in the mid ’50s. The City of LA was also the train featured on the I Love Lucy episode where Lucy kept pulling the emergency brake.




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Santa Fe Hi-Level El Capitan

In the post card below, the train is seen in Cajon Pass. I’m guessing that it’s eastbound and this shot was taken when the all-coach El Cap left LA at 1:45 in the afternoon. Soon it would be put on the same schedule as the all-Pullman Super Chief, so the trains could be combined when the loads were light. Both trains then left LA at 8:00 in the evening.



Santa Fe didn’t offer the lavish train brochures that Union Pacific did. To my knowledge, in the fifties El Capitan was the only train to get its own promotional folder, produced below.


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The other side of the brochure is a schematic, of which I’ve produced only one panel. The cars would be familiar to anyone who has travel Amtrak Superliner, which sprung from Santa Fe’s Hi-Level equipment. Note that in El Capitan lounge car, the windows didn’t reach lower than ordinary train windows, unlike those in Amtrak’s sightseer lounges. If you’ve been in the Pacific Parlour Car on the Coast Starlight, you’ve been in El Capitan’s lounge car, literally. Ironic that a car that lived its pre-Amtrak life as the lounge on an all-coach train should end its life as a sleeping-car passengers only diner-lounge.

The back of the brochure lists agents, a feature of a pre-Internet world.

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Santa Fe did produce “welcome aboard” informational flyers for most of its trains. Below I reproduce one for El Capitan and the cover of a revised El Capitan “welcome aboard” brochure. Note that the latter, dated 1967, says that El Capitan has been re-equipped, something few railroads would have done at that time. The re-equipping allowed for the addition of Hi-Level coaches to the San Francisco Chief. Eventually  Hi-Level coaches would also be assigned to the Texas Chief.

Santa Fe was the public’s favorite railroad between Chicago and LA, as evidenced by the fact that on the busiest nights during the sixties, 3 trains left LA at 8:00 pm: an 8-sleeper Super Chief, an 8-coach Super Chief “Chair Car section” for those who booked after El Capitan was full, and an 8-Hi-Level coach El Capitan. Since El Capitan coaches carried 68 or 72 seats, this meant El Cap carried 560 passengers. The Super Chief “Chair Car section”–8 legrest coaches, 2 lunch counter diners, and a lounge car–was, in fact, identical to the pre-Hi-Level El Cap with one exception: the Super Chief “Chair Car section” didn’t carry the observation coach that the old El Cap had. But on El Capitan that car had been mostly a coach (40 seats instead of 44 in the other seven coaches), so this difference wasn’t as great as it might seem.

To give you an idea of Santa Fe’s share of the Chicago-LA market, while Union Pacific’s City of LA matched the Super Chief’s 8 sleepers in high season, UP’s all-coach Challenger left LA with 10 coaches, 3 of which would be dropped in Omaha. And remember, Santa Fe also ran the coach-and-Pullman Chief, leaving LA at midday. I saw it depart with as many as 7 coaches and 4 sleepers.





Below, a baggage claim tag and a drawing of El Capitan in a Budd ad in National Geographic.


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New York Central Christmas ad, Milwuakee Road snowbound, and the California Zephyr on a New Year’s Day

Wishing each of you happy holidays and safe travels.


The ad above appeared in a National Geographic magazine.

The Milwaukee Journal photo below was taken during the blizzard of January 29, 1947. The photo is reproduced here from the book Milwaukee Road Remembered, Jim Scribbins.

The photo at bottom is from a promotional flyer in my private collection. It is captioned:

“At the dawn of a New Year, a dazzling winter wonderland unfolds for passengers on the Vista-Dome California Zephyr, en route to California via Rio Grande’s scenic main line through the Rockies.”





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Pennsylvania Broadway Limited, 1948

As a kid, I wrote to railroads and asked for pictures of their trains. A stamp on the back of this photo says: “Kaufman and Fabry Co., Commercial Photographers, Tel. HArr 7-3135, 425 So. Wab. Ave., Chicago.” Penciled in on a blank marked “No.” is “48-1347.” I surmise it was taken in 1948. That it is the Broadway Limited is merely an educated guess.


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The Wabash Midnight and its St.Louis-Chicago competitors, the Gulf, Mobile & Ohio Midnight Special and the Illinois Central Night Diamond


You’re a Washington University student heading from St. Louis home to Chicago for Thanksgiving 1951. Wabash doesn’t have a day train after the noon Banner Blue, but you could catch the GM&O Ann Rutledge at 4:30 or the IC Daylight at 4:45, only your part-time job keeps you in St. Louis till 9:00. So you’ll take an upper berth. You can choose between the Wabash Midnight, the GM&O Midnight Special or the IC Night Diamond, all leaving St. Louis close to midnight and getting you to Chicago before 7:00 am, in plenty of time for the holiday.

I spent a number of Thanksgivings commuting from Washington, DC, to New York City, and on a few of those northbound Wednesday journeys I opted for what Amtrak called the “Executive Sleeper,” a car dropped at New York in the middle of the night by the DC-Boston Night Owl. I could stay in my roomette until 7:00 in the morning. I’m grateful that I had the chance to experience that kind of short-hop sleeper service and for my memory of the holiday feel as I boarded a Night Owl that included three sleepers filled with Thanksgiving-bound travelers.

My November 1951 Official Guide doesn’t give car numbers for the St. Louis-Chicago sleepers, but my June 1954 Guide does. At that time, ten sleepers left each city for the other, 4 on Wabash, 4 on GM&O, and 2 on IC. The Wabash Midnight also carried a Decatur set-out sleeper to and from Chicago, and the GM&O and IC alternated month-to-month in carrying a Springfield, IL set-out from Chicago.

The photo above, a September 1960 shot of the Midnight arriving St. Louis, is from Wabash in Color, David R. Sweetland.

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Amtrak Thanksgiving 2014 timetable, front and back covers

I depart from “streamliner memories” because I thought those of you not on the corridor might not see this holiday timetable with its pleasing photographs.



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Baltimore and Ohio all-coach Columbian, late 1940s/early ’50s

As a kid, I wrote to railroads and asked them to send me pictures of their trains. This came from B&O, along with an interior shot of a coach with snack bar, a system map, and other less interesting, more child-oriented stuff.


Note the low-profile Strata-dome car, a dome lounge on the Columbia. Until the 1960s, when the every-other-day Chicago-Florida City of Miami and South Wind began carrying domes from Northern Pacific and Great Northern, B&O was the only railroad in the East to operate dome cars.

Few trains in the East or West carried dome cars in the late 1940s, yet at that time you could cross the country on trains with domes by taking B&O’s Capital Limited or Columbian to Chicago, and from Chicago the Super Chief to LA, California Zephyr to the Bay Area, or Olympian Hiawatha to Seattle.


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