Santa Fe: Along the Route

SFEalongtheroute1 SFEalongtheroute2I have multiple copies of┬áSanta Fe’s booklet, “Along the Way.” The most recent, published in 1960, managed to look older because only the first few pages were updated. Above are the front and back covers.

Only small black-and-white photos appear in the booklet, at the top of its pages. I reproduce, below, those train-related: LA Union Station, the Chief in the mountains of New Mexico, Kansas City Union Station, Santa Fe’s bridge over the Mississippi River, the portal of Raton Tunnel, and a San Diegan along the ocean.

During the streamliner era, Santa Fe produced only two color brochures that I know of: one about the Hi-level El Capitan and the other about Santa Fe passenger trains in general. For each of their Chiefs and El Capitan, they produced a “welcome aboard” brochure that provided details of a train’s features and its schedule.

Union Pacific was much more lavish in its advertising. Yet I believe most people would say that Santa Fe provided the best service of the three railroads mainly responsible for LA-Chicago trains. Santa Fe certainly carried the most passengers, easily twice as many as Union Pacific. The difference was in the details. For instance, Santa Fe carpeted all of its long-distance coaches, whereas Union Pacific carpeted only its handful of dome coaches. Carpeting made a coach feel more luxurious. Also, Santa Fe provided a better ratio of dining seats per passenger. I once traveled on Union Pacific’s Challenger with 16 coaches and only two 32-seat coffee shop-lounge cars for food service. Meals on the Challenger were not by reservation. You took a number and stood in the small lounge section of the car or in the next coach and waited for your number to be called. I loved it all, of course.

SFEalongtherouteLAUSTS SFEalongthewayCHIEF SFEkansascitystation SFEmissriverbridge SFEratontunnel SFEsandiegan




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Union Pacific dome diners: two interior color schemes




Both photos from Union Pacific ads in the National Geographic, latter half of the 1950s. These cars ran on the City of LA and City of Portland.




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Los Angeles Union Station ticket sales wing

DSCI1465Today this wing of the station is reserved for special events, including, I believe, filming for movies and commercials.

When I was a kid, each of the three railroads’ names appeared in sedate chrome or gold-colored metal lettering behind their series of ticket sales windows. The tickets that passengers carried away came in folders and envelopes as illustrated below.

The photo, which I took in June, 2014, belies that fact that, owing to the number of Surfliners, Metrolink trains, and transit lines serving Los Angeles Union Station, the beautifully-preserved station is busier than at any time in its history.









The diesels pulling the trains were painted as illustrated below, but for only about ten years because by the late fifties SP went to its cheaper gray and red color scheme; also, while the post card, “distributed by Souvenir Color Card Company” was from a “Union Pacific Railroad color photo,” the color is off: Union Pacific trains were never such a yellow shade of yellow. The back of the card reads, “Three streamliners lined up for departure from Union Station.” One wonders by what trick the passengers were going to get on the middle train. Of course, they aren’t really three trains lined up for departure, but the numbers on the SP and UP engines suggest one will pull tonight’s Sunset Limited and the other the late afternoon’s City of Los Angeles.



No longer in print, but available used, is The Last of the Great Stations, which includes the Donald Duke photo, bottom, of the main waiting room, essentially unchanged today.



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Budd rail diesel car ad, late 1940s



From the National Geographic ad reproduced below.


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Union Pacific City of Los Angeles in Wyoming

UPcalifCITYOFLAFrom the Union Pacific booklet “California”

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Union Pacific City of Los Angeles Redwood Lounge Car

UPredwoodlgeFrom the booklet “California,” from which the text about Union Pacific’s California trains is produced in a post below.

My memory is that this car also contained 6 double-bedrooms. It was designed to run behind the dome diner, between the dome diner and the sleepers, so passengers would have a place to stop for a cocktail on their way to dinner. This was during the brief years (approximately 1955-1960) when the flat-end dome observation lounge ran on the rear of the train. Once the dome observation lounge became, instead, a dome center-of-the-train lounge, the Redwood Lounge either wasn’t run or, when the train operated as all-sleeping car during summers and Christmas season, was positioned on the opposite side of the dome diner from the dome lounge.


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Union Pacific City of Los Angeles, Challenger, City of St. Louis leg-rest coach



From the booklet “California,” of which text is reproduced in a post below.

Leg-rest coaches were the norm on Chicago-California trains. On Union Pacific, only its dome coaches were carpeted and were also otherwise much more striking in decor. This picture is from the fleet of flattop coaches.  The same coaches ran interchangeably on all of the Cities trains and on the Challenger.

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