California Zephyr refurbished


In the late 1950s through the first half of 1960 the three railroads that ran the pre-Amtrak California Zephyr refurbished the train’s cars that had been functioning since the late 1940s. Above is the refurbished cocktail lounge beneath the dome of the observation car.

The above photo and those below are from the brochure issued about the newly decorated cars. (Most of the brochure is identical to the original brochure, issued near the train’s inauguration and reproduced here on in an earlier post.)

The first photo, below, is the inside of the observation lounge looking toward the stairs to the dome. Next is the “Cable Car Buffet Lounge,” also a dome car. Below that is the cover of the brochure and the two pages of photos and text that differ from the original brochure. The back cover of the new brochure, also different from the original, is featured in the post below this one.


Note the writing desk in the upper right corner. It was stocked with stationery, a sample of the letterhead reproduced below; at the stationery are the three railroad names.




Below is a lunch/dinner menu from The Cable Car Room buffet lounge. Below that is a breakfast menu from the buffet lounge before it was redecorated and named The Cable Car Room.









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California Zephyr in the Colorado Rockies


The back cover of brochure issued in March 1961 after refurbishing of the Burlington-Rio Grande-Western Pacific train.

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Chicago to LA by train in the early ‘fifties–via the film Narrow Margin


The railroad and train are fictitious (although it takes the Santa Fe route), the station scenes when it’s boarding in Chicago are filmed at LA Union Station, and the external shots of the train vary from Pennsy steam to SP Daylight steam, yet the 1952 noir film Narrow Margin takes place almost entirely on the train and gives an accurate feel for the trip in the late forties/early fifties.

The lounge car below is on Union Pacific, but the lounge on the film’s train brought this picture to my mind. In the film one of the characters says, “Meet me in the club car.” I recall my grandmother talking about club cars on trains, and some timetables used the term club-lounge all the way up to Amtrak time, 1971.



The closest I can come to a real train that might match the one in the movie would be the Santa Fe Chief, when it left Chicago in the afternoon and arrived LA on the second morning. It was sometimes hauled by steam post-war, although most if not all of its cars were stainless steel streamlined whereas many of the cars shown in the film are heavy-weights.

Ad above from a 1952 National Geographic. 1948 photo below by Charles H. Kerrigan, reproduced here from a Vanishing Vistas post card, shows one of Santa Fe’s few streamlined steam engines.


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Canadian Pacific Canadian in the Rockies in its original streamlined color-scheme



Photo by Roger Burrows reproduced from a postcard published by Steamscenes of West Vancouver. The caption reads, in part: “Canadian Pacific Railway: The Canadian as it used to be. dressed in maroon and gray. In March 1964, eastbound No. 2 crosses the Pipestone River after stopping at Lake Louise, Alberta.”

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Santa Fe “Travel the Chief Way” brochure, 1960

Santa Fe didn’t produce lavish brochures for each of its streamliners, as Union Pacific did. Instead, Santa Fe published one color brochure for its Hi Level El Capitan and the brochure, shown below, which covers all of its trains.

The first picture below is of the full-length dome cars (called Big Dome lounge cars, as opposed to the Super Chief”s small Pleasure Dome lounge car) which ran first on El Capitan and on the newest of the Santa Fe streamliners, the San Francisco Chief. When in 1956 El Capitan became Hi-Level (all two-story cars, the forerunners of Amtrak’s Superliners), its Big Dome lounge car was transferred to The Chief. When The Chief was discontinued in 1968, the Big Dome lounge cars were transferred to the Texas Chief.






The Turquoise Rome, in the Pleasure Dome lounge car, could be reserved for private parties. In the late 1940s, when these cars were added to the Super Chief, not all of the Hollywood elite had turned to the airplane yet.

Next, below, are the front and back of the folder.


We might assume that the dining car shown is on the Super Chief, although I don’t know that the diners on the Chief or San Francisco Chief were different. The sleeping car rooms might have been on any of the Chiefs.  Note the care taken with the view out the windows.




The train below, with the sleepers on the end, including one in two-tone gray, is either the Chief or the San Francisco Chief.




The three drawings and photo below are advertising El Capitan.






The brochure includes several scenes of places a person might go to on the Santa Fe. Below are most of the brochure’s photos of destinations. Note that each caption, save one, mentions Santa Fe.



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Canadian Pacific streamliner Canadian, predecessor of VIA’s Canadian: photos from 1950s ads


The reproductions above and below are from small photos in National Geographic ads. The quality leaves much to be desired, but nonetheless they give a wonderful feel of the interior of the train. I also have a brochure CP produced to promote the Canadian and will later post it. The brochure uses drawings, rather washed-out color-wise, and doesn’t capture the interiors as well.





Dining cars in two color schemes.



Observation lounge.




Cocktail lounge beneath the dome in the observation car.



Coffee shop car, which was the second dome car on the train.



Reclining seat leg-rest coaches and a sleeping car room.







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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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