Texas and Pacific Texas Eagle: the last train on which you could cross the country without changing trains


It wasn’t advertised and I don’t know that anyone did it, but after the late 1950s saw the end of the transcontinental sleepers that were switched from train to train in Chicago, you could still go coast-to-coast without stepping off the train. Because for the short distance between Dallas and Ft. Worth, The Texas Eagle carried a sleeper from New York and one from Washington (the former via Pennsy, the latter via B&O, to St. Louis) and a Dallas-LA sleeper (to be switched to the Sunset Limited in El Paso). If all three sleepers were off-road, imagine seeing the Eagle pass with a tuscan Pennsy, a blue-and-silver or blue-and-gray B&O, and a red-and-silver Sunset Limited sleeper.

As late as August 1961 I know this service still operated, so, after the LA sleeper was added at Dallas, you could carry your things to your room there before your sleeper from New York or Washington was dropped at Ft. Worth. It wasn’t the fastest way to cross the country–if you left the East Coast on, say, Friday, you would be in LA on Monday afternoon around 4:00, rather than at 8:00 that morning when the Super Chief arrived.

The next timetable for T&P that I have is my 1964 Official Guide, and by then the Eagle no longer carried through cars from the East. (But in 1964 the Eagle still carried the Dallas-LA sleeper and also a St. Louis-Mexico City sleeper.)

To give you a feel for your Texas Eagle trip, I found the two photos below, one of a dining car built in 1948 for the St. Louis-Ft. Worth Eagle and another of the bar in a 1940 diner-lounge. The first photo is from Arthur B. Dubin, More Classic Trains, the second from Mike Schafer and Joe Welsh, Classic American Streamliners.



Below is my 1960 T&P schedule, followed by the only T&P promotional brochure I have and the letter that accompanied them and the photo above when they came to me, as a kid, in the mail.



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Union Pacific Streamliner City of Las Vegas in winter sun on Cajon Pass


Photo by L.W. Donat in Dick Donat, Trackside Around Southern California 1954-1963 with Dick Donat. The City of Las Vegas, later called the Las Vegas Holiday Special and for a period a GM Aerotrain, was limited in its success by that fact that you could drive from LA to Las Vegas in 4-5 hours, whereas the train took 7, owing to the mountains. Still, it looks fine in Donat’s photo, and as a kid I always enjoyed seeing it pass through Pomona in the morning on its way east. I never saw it with more than a single diesel and six cars, often shorter in my memory. I have a brochure or two about it, which I’ll post when I come to them. They aren’t the full-color photographic marvels that UP published for its other trains.

I love this photo because it’s unusual (the City of Las Vegas was not widely photographed, to my knowledge) and because it showcases winter in Southern California, where I grew up and now spend most Christmases (usually traveling one-way to or from the East Coast via Amtrak and savoring the history of the rails I ride over).

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It depends where you are in California: Southern Pacific City of San Francisco snowbound

The caption to the photo below, from Yenne, Bill, ed., All Aboard! The Golden Age of Rail Travel, reads in part: “In January 1952, a monstrous blizzard trapped passengers aboard the City of San Francisco for four days.” Somewhere in my collection I have a newspaper account published on the 50th anniversary of the incident and my recollection is that helicopters were used to drop supplies to the train, after it stopped snowing and helicopters could fly. Then the rails had to be cleared and the train dug out.


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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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