Aboard the Hi-Level El Capitan

Click image to download a PDF of this luggage tag.

Passengers checking baggage on the hi-level El Capitan were given colorful baggage tags advertising the train. However, unless you had a lot of luggage, it wasn’t necessary to check it as the cars had huge baggage racks on the lower level.

Click image to download a 2.3-MB PDF of this brochure.

Once on board, passengers were encouraged to read this brochure to learn such things about the train as how their reclining seat worked and how much meals in the diner cost. A complete dinner with a charcoal-broiled steak cost $2.75, about $22 in today’s money, which is a bargain considering that a similar steak dinner on the City of Los Angeles cost about $4.50 at the time.

Click image for a larger view.

Rather than Heywood-Wakefield seats, Santa Fe elected to go with seats made by a company called Dwight Austin Products. The seats were extremely comfortable for overnight passengers, and were a clear step up from the Heywood-Wakefield Sleepy Hollow seat. The extra height also insulated passengers from the noise and the extra weight of the cars gave them very smooth rides. Although they didn’t have as good views as true dome cars, they were some of the most comfortable cars ever designed.

Click image to see a larger view.

As a vague homage to the Southwest jewelry, the seat upholstery and much of the trim in the cars was turquoise in color, though nowhere near as bright as an actual piece of turquoise jewelry. I can’t find any color photos of the interior, but the following two-page ad shows turquoise paneling in all of the cars. Note also that the Kachina Coffee Shop in the lower level of the lounge is decorated with Kachina doll paintings similar to those in the Big Domes, no doubt painted by Pearson Berlinghof.

Click image for a larger view.

Coincidentally, Dwight Austin, the founder of the seat manufacturing company, once designed and built bi-level buses, some of which were once owned and operated by Santa Fe Trailways, the Santa Fe’s bus subsidiary. Though the buses competed with Santa Fe’s own trains, the company’s real goal was to compete with Greyhound, which owned ten of the sleeper buses.

An overnight bus designed by Dwight Austin that was owned and operated by Santa Fe Trailways between Kansas City and Los Angeles. Like a Pullman car, the bus had compartments in which seats by day converted to beds for 25 by night.

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