Streamliner & Pullman History: The City of Los Angeles was a streamlined passenger train between Chicago, Illinois, and Los Angeles, California via Omaha, Nebraska, and Ogden, Utah. Between Omaha and Los Angeles it ran on the Union Pacific Railroad; east of Omaha it ran on the Chicago and North Western Railway until October 1955 and on the Milwaukee Road thereafter. The train had number 103 westbound and number 104 eastbound.
From East LA, the last stop before LA Union Station, Union Pacific buses carried passengers to towns throughout the LA area.
This train was the top-of-the-line for UP, which marketed it as a competitor to the Super Chief, a streamlined passenger train on the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway, and the Golden State, a streamlined passenger train jointly operated by the Rock Island and Southern Pacific railroads. As with the City of Los Angeles, many of the train’s cars bore the names of locales in and around its namesake city.
CNW / UP used one of two three-unit sets of EMC E2 locomotives as motive power beginning in 1937. The UP scored a public relations coup in the mid-1950s when the City of Los Angeles was featured in two episodes of the popular television series I Love Lucy. In 1955 the Milwaukee Road assumed the service, replacing the Chicago and North Western between Chicago and Omaha. Actor Ronald Reagan often traveled on this train and even did a full page print ad for it that appeared in the National Geographic magazine. In a cost-cutting move, the City of Los Angeles was combined with the City of San Francisco in 1960.
Video of Union Pacific Streamliners in the 1930s. Scene 1: CITY OF DENVER arriving in Chicago after making the 1,048 mile trip from Denver in 16 hours. Scene 2: E-2 diesels in 1938 pull the CITY OF LOS ANGELES passenger train in Los Angeles.
• May 15, 1936: City of Los Angeles makes its first run between Chicago, Illinois and Los Angeles, California. One trainset, so leaves each terminal five times a month.
• 1938: 14-car 791-ton train powered by E2s enters service alongside the older trainset, allowing departures ten times a month.
• 1941: New train powered by E6s enters service, replacing the articulated trainset; frequency remains ten departures per month. The Hollywood, a lounge car built for use on the City of Los Angeles, is the first passenger car whose interior is built entirely out of synthetic materials, which featured the newly invented materials formica (plastic) and naugahyde.
• 1947: City of Los Angeles begins running daily.
• 1955: Astra Dome dome cars are added to the City of Los Angeles. The Milwaukee Road takes over operation of the City of Los Angeles from the Chicago and North Western Railway between Chicago and Omaha.
• 1956: Challenger and City of Los Angeles are combined and operate on the City of Los Angeles schedule. (The Challenger operated on its own schedule during a couple of summers thereafter.)
• 1970: Dome dining cars retired and replaced with standard flat top cars.
• May 1, 1971: Amtrak takes over long-distance passenger operations in the United States.
• May 2, 1971: UP-operated long-distance rail service ends when the City of Los Angeles arrives at Los Angeles Union Station.
In 1979 Amtrak created the Desert Wind, running mostly on the City of LA route from Los Angeles to Ogden, Utah where it connected to the Oakland-Chicago train. (After a year or two some of its cars ran through to Chicago.) The Desert Wind ceased operation in 1997.
A Brief History of Union Pacific’s Passenger Trains:
Passenger service can be traced back to within a few decades of railroading’s first appearance on the American scene in the late 1700s. Passenger travel via train began in the 1830s in eastern markets, reaching midwestern lines in the 1860s. Union Pacific inaugurated its passenger service in July 1866.
Lounge Car aboard a Union Pacific Streamliner in the 1950s.
THE CITY OF LOS ANGELES – on final run when Amtrak took over in 1971… Adios to deluxe rail travel..
The Union Pacific M-10000 City of Salina and the Burlington Zephyr 9900 Pioneer Zephyr at Kansas City Union Station, late 1930s. Photo credit: Union Pacific Museum
The first passenger trains were undeniably crude; they seldom travelled more than 20 miles per hour and meals were eaten quickly in station dining halls. Wooden benches were the standard seating accommodations and wood stoves furnished heat, while air conditioning was unheard of until the 1930s.
The City of San Francisco
In the beginning, there were even occasional wrecks, until the intricacies of traffic control were figured out. However, improvements and innovations soon began. George Pullman’s famous “hotel” sleeping cars were in service before the golden spike was driven, and dining cars followed soon after. Regular train service from Omaha to San Francisco was launched just five days after the driving of the golden spike on May 10, 1869, and before the turn of the century, innovations in design had produced a number of significant advantages in passenger travel.
One of the finest Union Pacific passenger trains was the Overland Limited. This luxury train, inaugurated in 1890, made the run between Omaha and San Francisco in just 71 hours. In 1921, passenger revenues reached an all time high. However, as the Twenties progressed and the automobile gradually came to be viewed as a necessity rather than a luxury, Union Pacific decided to take some drastic steps to bring ridership back to the rails.
The City of Salina
In the 1930s the introduction of the lightweight Streamliner passenger trains set a new standard for luxurious train travel. The equipment you enjoy today is a remnant of those lightweight passenger trains that began operation in 1934 with Union Pacific’s City of Salina. The Streamliners’ opulent furnishings, impeccable service and total comfort combined to lure customers back to the rail. Air conditioning, reduced noise, and a better ride distinguished these trains from the conventional steam-powered models. Over the next seven years, nine more streamliner sets were added to the passenger fleet.
Additional equipment and enhanced service notwithstanding, 105 years of carrying passengers came to an end for Union Pacific on May 1, 1971. The end of passenger service for UP was not final, however. In 1992, commuter rail services put UP back in the business of hauling passengers once again.
Partial List of Union Pacific Passenger Trains
Overland Limited (in service 1897)
Los Angeles Limited (in service 1905)
Columbine (in service to Chicago and Denver, beginning in the 1920s)
Portland Rose (in service between Chicago and Portland, beginning in the 1920s)
Challenger (in service beginning 1935)
Streamliner Passenger Trains (in service from 1934-1971):
City of Salina (1934-1940)
City of Portland (from 1934)
City of Los Angeles (from 1936)
City of Denver (from 1936)
City of San Francisco (from 1936)
City of St. Louis