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Home / 1940s / California’s famous all-Pullman SP streamliner LARK served San Francisco and Los Angeles
California’s famous all-Pullman SP streamliner LARK served San Francisco and Los Angeles
LtoR: Lark heading toward San Francisco: SP's name trains morning arrival in Los Angeles - Golden State, Owl, Lark and Sunset Limited.

California’s famous all-Pullman SP streamliner LARK served San Francisco and Los Angeles

Southern Pacific’s deluxe streamliner Lark was the premiere overnight passenger between San Francisco, San Jose, Oakland and Los Angeles. A favorite of businessmen and movie stars.

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CW: Lark Ad; Pullman Accommodations; Dining Car in the Lark Club.

  • The Lark rivaled such famed overnight all-Pullman trains as the 20th Century Limited, Broadway Limited, Capital Limited and Panama Limited.
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CW: Lark morning arrival at San Francisco SP Station (Third & Townsend); Observation Lounge; Lark in the late 1960s; Lark Observation Car.

  • Premiering on March 2, 1941, the Lark was a streamlined train with cars in two shades of gray pulled by the same locomotives that pulled the famed Coast Daylights.
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CW: Boarding the Lark; Lounge Car; Dining Car; Pullman sign.

THE LARK CLUB

During the 1940s and 1950s, the train was very popular and sold out. Service was deluxe featuring the Lark Club, a three-car articulating restaurant and lounge (kitchen/crew dormitory car, dining room car, and tavern-lounge car from front to rear).

The Lark Club was known for business transactions over a full dinner menu, a place to share a nightcap, and in the morning, offered a full breakfast menu.

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CW: The Lark Club’s lounge and bar; The SP Lark; The Lark Club’s dining car.

Deluxe dining with extensive menus and all the food preparation was done onboard the Lark.

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LtoR: Dinner Menu; Breakfast Menu.

JUDY GARLAND TAKES THE LARK

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CW: Judy Garland in Observation Lounge heading home to Los Angeles; Ads for the Lark.

Judy Garland had hurt her ankle in San Francisco. She was staying at the Fairmount Hotel and the hotel’s owner drove Judy to the SP’s Third and Townsend Station just in time to board the Lark.

ALL ROOM TRAIN

Accommodations included Roomettes, Bedrooms, Compartments and Drawing Rooms.

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CW: Lark ad in the early 1960s; Diesel Engine; The Lark Club.

  • Late-night refreshments were also offered in the sleeper-buffet-lounge-observation car which had two bedrooms, a compartment, and a drawing room and carried the illuminated Lark drumhead on the rear (and formed the Oakland Lark).
  • Northbound and Southbound the Oakland Lark section, including two Pullman cars and the Observation Pullman Car, split at from the main section of the Lark at San Jose.
  • If passengers going from Los Angeles to San Francisco couldn’t get accommodations on the San Francisco Lark they could take the Oakland Lark and then cross comfortably by Ferry to San Francisco.
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CW: The Lark Club ad; Boarding the Oakland Lark; Lounge Car; Lark logo; Introducing the Lark.

  • The train’s namesake, the Lark, though neither nocturnal nor native to the New World, has historically symbolized the arrival of a new day, mainly through Chaucer (The Knight’s Tale of The Canterbury Tales) and Shakespeare’s sonnets which describe the lark’s singing at first light.

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CW: LARK in the 1950s; At Glendale taking on passengers for San Francisco; Heading into Los Angeles; Heading north to the Bay Area; Morning arrival in Los Angeles unloading passengers.

COMPETES WITH PSA and the ELECTRA JET

In the late 1950s, more businessmen were leaving the train for the airlines. On July 15, 1957, the Lark was combined with the Starlight, an overnight chair car train.
  • The Lark kept its name and number but was no longer was all-Pullman.
  • The late 1960s saw the removal of the triple-unit diner/lounge and the replacement of the two-tone gray color scheme by silver with a red stripe.
  • The “Daylight” colors were also gone from the locomotives, replaced by dark gray with a red nose.
Southern Pacific, Lark, the Lark, all-Pullman, train, sleeper. pullman company, pullman porters, sleeping cars, pullman sleepers, los angeles, san francisco, oakland, 1950s, 1940s, streamliner, overnight trains, cruise the past, michael l grace, cruising the past, travel the now, judy garland

CW: Lark ready to leave Los Angeles April 8th, 1968 for the last time; Boarding the Lark at Glendale; Last Southbound Lark heading into Los Angeles; LA Times announces the end of the Lark; Southbound Lark heads to LA from San Jose for the last time.

THE MID-SIXTIES

By the mid-sixties, an average of fewer than 100 passengers was riding the train.

  • The Southern Pacific tried to discontinue the Lark in late 1966 but public outcry and newspaper editorials urged the California Public Utilities Commission to order service for one more year.
  • By the end of 1967 the Lark was down to a baggage car, one sleeping car, a couple of chair cars, and an Automat car, pulled by a 3,600-hp EMD SDP45.
  • The train was still numbered 75 and 76.
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Top to Bottom: Los Angeles Union Station; Southern Pacific Third and Townsend Station San Francisco; San Jose Southern Pacific Station.

LAST RUN FOR THE LARK

  • The Lark was finally discontinued on April 8, 1968.

Communities served: San Francisco, Oakland, Burlingame, Palo Alto, San Jose, Salinas, Paso Robles, San Luis Obispo, Santa Barbara, Ventura, Oxnard, Glendale (Hollywood, Beverly Hills) and Los Angeles.

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