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Cruise the Past: Before Amtrak – The Golden Age of American Passenger Trains

Cruise the Past: Before Amtrak – The Golden Age of American Passenger Trains

Premiere Passenger Trains during the 1930s, 1940s, and 1950s  were the finest in the world.

  • With excellent meals, suburb Pullman service, dinner in the diner, club lounges, train secretaries, barbershops, cocktail bars, observation cars… trains like the Super Chief, 20th Century Limited and the California Zypher were world-famous.



New York Central’s streamlined Mercury

  • One of New York Central’s two Class K-5a Pacifics (Nos. 4915 and 4917) that the road streamlined in 1936 for the Chicago–Detroit Mercury appears to have the train well in hand. Famed industrial designer Henry Dreyfuss created the “upside-down bathtub” styling.


The Mixed Rio Grande Diesels on the California Zephyr

  • Two Denver & Rio Grande Western Alco PA’s and an EMD F3B twist through South Boulder Canyon east of Pinecliff, Colo., with the California Zephyr in mid-1951. The Alcos had a short-lived silver-and-orange paint scheme. W. H. Mitchell photo


1937 Hiawatha parlor car

  • The Milwaukee Road’s 1937 Hiawatha parlor cars featured fully rotating and reclining seats as well as small drop-leaf tables below the windows. MILW photo.

  • A great 1950’s publicity film from the Santa Fe RailRoad about “the Super Chief” luxury passenger train which ran between Chicago, Illinois and Los Angeles, California.
  • The Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway (ATSF aka “Santa Fe”) was one of the larger railroads in the United States.

20130410Texas Chief ready to leave Chicago

  • In October 1951, Santa Fe’s Kansas Citiyan (left) stood ready to depart the dreary trainshed of Dearborn Station, Chicago, as inbound passengers, probably just arrived on the Texas Chief (right), stream past.
  • Meanwhile, two F7’s arrive with a Chicago & Eastern Illinois train. Linn Westcott photo


Boarding the Texas Chief

Inaugurated in 1948, Santa Fe’s Texas Chief provided attractive, well-patronized service for decades. Here it boards passengers at Chicago’s Dearborn Station while Monon’s streamlined Hoosier waits to the left. Bill Wight photo


Chief and Super Chief at Albuquerque

At Albuquerque, N.Mex., Santa Fe No. 17, the Super Chief (at left behind E units) has caught up to a late-running train 19, the Chief, at 4:20 p.m. on a spring day in 1946. The Super left Chicago 7 hours after No. 19 and was scheduled to arrive in Los Angeles 1 hour 15 minutes earlier. Fred N. Houser photo

Our thanks to CLASSIC TRAINS MAGAZINE.  For a  view of America’s passenger trains, please visit their website and subscribe to their magazine along with their online services. 

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