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.