The Challenger Domeliner

The Challenger was Union Pacific’s answer to the Santa Fe’s El Capitan: an all-coach train on the same timetable as the all-Pullman City of Los Angeles. When UP added dome cars to its trains in 1955, the Challenger received a dome-coach and a dome-observation car. According to the ad below, the dome-coaches were added “on or about January 9, 1955,” while the dome-observations were “coming soon.”

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UP partner Chicago and North Western was particularly reluctant to support dome-car purchases and services. Under agreements for “equalization” of passenger car traffic, the North Western already owed UP $1.1 million in December, 1954, before domes were added to the City trains. The C&NW also had to spend $50,000 modifying the train sheds on its Chicago station so that they did not scrape the domes. Based on the C&NW’s lack of enthusiasm for passenger trains, in late 1955, the Union Pacific made the momentous decision to route its City trains over the Milwaukee Road instead.

This brochure for the Challenger is dated 1960 and shows a train with two dome cars. Yet after 1956 the Challenger operated on an identical timetable with the City of Los Angeles. It is possible that, during the summer months, the two trains were operated in separate sections a few minutes apart. Click to download a 2.5-MB PDF of this brochure.

As a part of this transfer, the Milwaukee agreed to provide 37 passenger cars that met Union Pacific’s standards, including painting those cars in Union Pacific colors instead of Milwaukee’s orange and maroon. Ultimately, the Milwaukee repainted all of its passenger cars Union Pacific yellow and grey.

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