The Santa Fe introduced the streamliner on June 6, 1954; it was Santa Fe’s last new streamliner and its first direct train from Chicago to the San Francisco Bay Area via Fresno and the San Joaquin Valley.
- Like the other Santa Fe passenger trains, the streamliners Golden Gates serving the San Joaquin Valley, the San Francisco Chief ran to Oakland, California (Richmond, California after 1958), with a bus connection across the bay to San Francisco, California.
- The Santa Fe streamliner carried the numbers 1 (westbound) and 2 (eastbound) and was the only Chicago–San Francisco train to make the entire journey on one railroad. At the train’s inauguration Taptuka, a Hopi chief led the ceremony.
- The new express train joined Santa Fe’s other legacy trains: the Chief, Super Chief, and El Capitan.
- Santa Fe passenger trains and service was always
- , competing with the Southern Pacific’s City of San Francisco and Western Pacific’s California Zephyr.
The San Franciso Chief offered First Class Pullman Sleeping Car and Chair Car accommodations. Santa Fe maintained great on-time schedules and superior services to competing lines.
SAN JOAQUIN VALLEY AND FRESNO GETS NEW SERVICE TO CHICAGO
- San Joaquin Valley cities such as Stockton, Fresno, and Bakersfield now had streamliner service to Kansas City and Chicago with connections to Houston, New Orleans, Boston, New York, Philadelphia, and Washington D.C.
- The Valley’s largest city, Fresno, made use of the San Francisco Chief. Heading East and commuting to San Francisco.
- Besides coach services, business people from Fresno, Merced or Modesto, could secure a day seat in the Pullman Cars.
- Enjoy the Pullman lounge.
- They could have breakfast on their way to the Bay area, business meeting, even lunch at the Fairmont, and return in the late afternoon, enjoying dinner in the diner.
The Union Pacific and Southern Pacific operated the joint City of San Francisco and the latter provided a bevy of regional services such as the Lark, Starlight, Shasta Daylight, and San Joaquin Daylight reaching the Bay Area, Santa Fe felt there was room for competition.
- They were right and the San Francisco Chief soon became the best train east out of the Bay Area.
- The train was christened in a manner that had become rather standard on the Santa Fe with an Indian ceremony led by Hopi Chief Taptuka using holy water from the San Francisco Mountains of Arizona.
THE BEST EQUIPMENT AND SERVICE ON THE SAN FRANCISCO CHIEF
- The streamliner featured a Big Dome Car, a luxurious, full-length dome view car with upper and lower lounges, including a bar, and seating capacity of 103; deluxe dining and coffee shop cars; full-carpeted chair cars, with new fully-adjustable, reclining leg-rest seats; and complete Pullman facilities, with berths, roomettes, duplex roomettes, bedrooms, compartments, and drawing rooms.
- Plus a lounge bar car for Pullman passengers. All passenger cars were wired for radio, and wire-recorded music.
- There was a stewardess nurse aboard every regular trip of the San Francisco Chief as part of the crew.
- A non-extra fare train, the streamliner service emphasized luxury and comfort.
- The railroad also spent lavishly to advertise its new Chief. One particular piece noted that “Eastbound from San Francisco. Westbound to that storied city of the Golden Gate.
- “Here’s the brand new way to go. Santa Fe all the way. San Francisco Chief!” It went on to discuss all of the amenities the train offered along with the unparalleled beauty afforded during the trip.
THE HI-LEVEL SAN FRANCISCO CHIEF
Two years later in the summer of 1956, the railroad took delivery of more noteworthy equipment.
- Known as “Hi-Levels” these double-decked, streamlined cars acted as full-length domes by providing another means of panoramic scenery from high above the train.
- These would eventually make their way to San Francisco.
The Santa Fe railroad spared no expense in making sure its premier transcontinental trains were the epitome of luxury both inside and out, matching or exceeding anything the competition had to offer.
- After nearly four decades of service, it never wavered from this belief and continued with modern equipment, accommodations, and service, with trains that were always on time right up until Amtrak took over intercity operations in 1971.
- For instance, the Santa Fe held its Super Chief to such high standards that it kindly asked Amtrak to stop using the name after a few years citing declining service.
When the Pullman closed in 1969 the Santa Fe handled all their own sleeping car services on the San Francisco Chief and their other important long-distance trains.
- The railroad, of course, was unflinching in its high service standards and the San Francisco continued offering Hi-Levels, a diner, Big Dome lounges, and a trio of sleepers (a pair serving Chicago-Los Angeles while the others ran the entire route) in its final years.
The San Francisco Chief made its final run on April 30, 1971, when Amtrak took over.