MP Air Conditioning

These blotters from the Dale Hastin collection tell a story of the progressive installation of air conditioning in MP’s passenger fleet.

This blotter is from early in the air conditioning era as it indicates that only diners and lounges were air conditioned. That would put it around 1932, the year before the Sunshine Special was fully air conditioned.

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A Service Institution

Before World War II, the Missouri Pacific loved to use the thrilling and completely meaningless motto, “A Service Institution.” These blotters all appear to be from the pre-air conditioning era, which would put them in the 1920s or early 1930s. All are from the Dale Hastin collection. Click any image to download a PDF of that blotter.

Inaugurated in 1915 to connect St. Louis with Texas cities, the Sunshine Special was Missouri Pacific’s premiere train until introduction of the Texas Eagle in 1948. The train connected with Mexican trains at Laredo and with Southern Pacific trains at El Paso.

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Colorado by Missouri Pacific in 1930

Where the Burlington and Union Pacific reached Colorado in Denver, and the Rock Island in Denver and Colorado Springs, the Missouri Pacific extended to Pueblo. So it isn’t surprising that the maps on pages 24 and 26 of this booklet make it appear that the Pueblo gateway to the West provided the most direct, least circuitous route, at least from St. Louis.

Click image to download a 20.0-MB PDF of this 28-page booklet.

The book has numerous black-and-white photos, trimmed in cyan, of a variety of Colorado scenes. Near the back of the book are also some photos of Salt Lake City and California, all accessible via the Scenic Limited and other trains that traversed the MP, Rio Grande, and Western Pacific, railroads once held together by George Gould.

The Southern Belle

Completed in 1897, Kansas City Southern‘s line from Kansas City to Port Arthur, Texas, may have carried a lot of freight, but it didn’t attract many passengers. However, in 1939 KCS merged with the Louisiana & Arkansas Railway, creating a through line from Kansas City to New Orleans. To take advantage of this route, on September 2, 1940, KCS inaugurated the Southern Belle, whose average speed over the route was 40 miles per hour.


Click image to download a 340-KB PDF of this postcard.

Although advertised as a streamlined train, initially at least it was only partially streamlined, as the sleeping cars were rebuilt heavyweights. The 1941 Pullman advertisement below makes it appear that Pullman built an entire train including cafe, bar, and lounge-observation cars, when in fact they were all the same car. Altogether, Pullman built only eight cars for the initial two train sets: a baggage car, two coaches, and the diner/observation car for each set.

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Gulf, Mobile & Ohio 1962 Timetable

Gulf, Mobile and Ohio achieved streamliner fame in 1935 with its Rebel, which provided service between New Orleans and Jackson, Tennessee–later extended to St. Louis. In 1947, GM&O purchased the bankrupt Chicago & Alton, which ran as many as seven trains a day between Chicago and St. Louis.

Click image to download a 1.4-MB PDF of this two-page timetable.

This timetable cover pictures the Rebel cruising by some southern bayou, but GM&O discontinued that train in the 1950s. The only GM&O passenger service left in 1962 were four Chicago-St. Louis trains on the former Alton route and a bus from Springfield to Jacksonville, Illinois, a distance of about 35 miles. The timetable shows that the overnight Midnight Special had sleeping cars and the southbound Abraham Lincoln left Chicago with a sleeping car that went through to Little Rock and Hot Springs, Arkansas on the Missouri Pacific. The northbound connection was with the Midnight Special.

Alton & GM&O Blotters

The Chicago & Alton (whose name was changed to simply the Alton Railroad in 1931) offered as many as seven trains a day each way between Chicago and St. Louis. The following blotter advertises its premiere train: the Alton Limited. This train was reequipped in 1924 with new cars including an observation car with a Japanese tea room, so this blotter must be from about that year.


Click any image to download a PDF of each blotter; most are around 0.5-MB in size but this one is only 230-KB.

The next blotter mentions the daytime Alton Limited and the overnight Midnight Limited. Since the blotter mentions air condition for the former but only “pre-cooling” for the latter, it must be from around 1934 or 1935, when railroads were still adding air conditioning to many of their passenger cars. This and the remaining blotters are from the Dale Hastin collection.

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MKT 1938 Timetable

As previously noted, the Katy’s main line went from Kansas City to Texas cities, with a meandering branch to St. Louis. In 1938, Katy had two daily trains, the Katy Limited and Katy Flyer, between Kansas City and San Antonio, with a third, the Sooner, from Kansas City to Oklahoma City. It also had two trains, the Texas Special and Bluebonnet, that went over Frisco’s route from St. Louis to Vinita, Oklahoma, then the Katy to Dallas.

Click image to download a 13.5-MB PDF of this 20-page timetable.

In addition, the Bluebonnet had a section going to Kansas City while a portion of the Katy Flyer split from or joined with the main train at Parsons, Oklahoma, to serve Katy’s own route to St. Louis. The St. Louis section of the Katy Flyer took 13 hours to get from St. Louis to Muskegon, Oklahoma, while the Texas Special and Bluebonnet took less than 10, though part of the difference may be due to fewer stops along the way.

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Frisco 1965 Timetable

At 32 pages, Frisco’s 1964 timetable was the same length as in 1959. But in 1965, the page count dropped to just 20. Worse, just two of those pages were sufficient to list the timetables of all of Frisco’s remaining passenger trains. The booklet actually had more pages devoted to freight schedules than to passengers.

Click image to download an 10.9-MB PDF of this 20-page timetable.

The Meteor had been replaced in St. Louis-Oklahoma City service by a train called the Oklahoman. The Kansas City-Florida Special was gone and the Sunnyland–a secondary train on the same route that only went as far as Birmingham–had been replaced by, or at least renamed as, the Southland. The Oklahoman and Southland met to exchange cars in Springfield, so most of the remaining passenger timetables are devoted to taking some combination of the two trains from one point on one of the trains to another point on the other train. The only other passenger train Frisco ran was a mixed train between Kansas City and Clinton, Missouri, that left KCity at the convenient hour of 3:30 am.

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Frisco 1964 Timetable

The Kansas City-Oklahoma Firefly, Frisco’s first streamliner, bit the dust in 1960. While the Meteor was still on the timetable in 1964, it no longer went as far as Lawton, Oklahoma, terminating instead at Oklahoma City. The Meteor had also lost its dining car service sometime since 1959.

Click image to download an 18.1-MB PDF of this 32-page timetable.

The Kansas City-Florida Special still had a dining car, but only on the Southern Railway’s portion east of Birmingham; Frisco provided just a “chair-lounge-buffet” car on its portion of the route. The only other food service Frisco still offered on any train appears to have on on the Sunnyland, the railroad’s secondary train from Kansas City to Birmingham, and then only in a chair-lounge-buffet car on the Kansas City-Springfield portion of the trip.

Frisco 1959 Timetable

From 1954 through 1965, Frisco timetables were graced with this beautiful painting of what is probably the Meteor pulled by E8 locomotives (or possibly E7s minus the stainless steel fluting). The idyllic scene on the cover disguises the contractions in service that were taking place on the pages inside.

Click image to download an 18.8-MB PDF of this 32-page timetable.

In 1959, for example, Frisco withdrew from its joint operation of the Texas Special, mainly because deferred maintenance on the Katy had led to late trains and declining service. Dallas-bound passengers from St. Louis could take Frisco’s Will Rogers to Tulsa and then the Black Gold to Dallas. Katy’s line to St. Louis was apparently in no condition to run competitive trains, so Katy rerouted the Texas Special to be a Kansas City-Dallas-San Antonio train.