Cruising the past looks at the streamliner SOUTHERN BELLE.
American deluxe rail travel, 1920s to 1950s, unrivaled anywhere to the present, the epitome of style, in transport, which gave travel its sense of occasion, combined with the right degree of urgency and speed.
A small train, with diner, observation-lounge and Pullman service ran overnight between Kansas City and New Orleans.
When the Southern Pacific’s service deteriorated in the 1960s – Santa Fe would put their passengers aboard the Super Chief from Los Angeles to Kansas City where they would connect with the first class SOUTHERN BELLE.
YOUTUBE VIDEO: A recent poromotional video from the Kansas City on their restored version of the Southern Belle – the railroad’s business train. The train is used for railroad executives, public relations and entertaining shippers and politicians along its route.
The Southern Belle was a named passenger train service offered by Kansas City Southern Railway (KCS) from the 1940s through the 1960s, running between Kansas City, Missouri and New Orleans, Louisiana.
The Southern Belle began, interestingly enough, as a publicity campaign by the Kansas City Southern. Looking for a beautiful young lady to model for the train as “Miss Southern Belle” the winner eventually chosen was Margaret Landry.
The train itself was inaugurated on September 2, 1940 and Miss Landry traveled on the train during a 10-day publicity tour to showcase the new service. She briefly became a screen actress, being most famous for her cameo as Teresa Guadalupe in The Leopard Man (1943).
The route the Belle followed was north-south connecting Kansas City with New Orleans, a bit unconventional as far as rail operations are concerned, which usually travel east-west. In any event, this mattered little as the train turned out to be quite successful being that the southern regions the Belle traveled through offered little in the way of reliable roadways.
The coming of World War II only increased passenger traffic for the Kansas City Southern between New Orleans and Kansas City, which was partly helped by the fact that the railroad served a number of bases between the two cities.
Interestingly enough, the region and Belle proved to be so lucrative for the KCS that the railroad continued to order new equipment from Pullman-Standard through 1966 (passenger traffic had actually jumped during the mid-1960s from its levels at the beginning of the decade), the last purchase of passenger equipment by a private railroad before the days of Amtrak, which began in the spring of 1971.
The tavern-observation cars rounded out the ends of the two consists. One of these cars is presently on display at the Gulf Coast Chapter NRHS, AKA The Houston Railroad Museum.
It would be the discontinuance of the US Postal Service’s mail contracts, along with a cutback in feeder trains to the main line services that ultimately did in not only the Southern Belle but nearly all passenger trains offered by KCS. In just three years since the railroad had ordered new equipment from Pullman it discontinued the Bell on November 2, 1969.
The “Business Train” Kansas City Belle leaving Kansas City.
Today, however, you can still catch a version of the Southern Belle in the way of the railroad’s business train, which has brought back its old livery and pulls the train with a matching A-B-A set of FP9s (all units, of which, are ex-Canadian National).