Aboard the Early City Trains

Like the overnight Chicago-Denver trains, the two-night Chicago-Pacific Coast City trains were timed to minimize the loss of business hours. This worked especially well westbound, the direction in which time zones work in the traveler’s favor. During the late 1930s, both the City of Portland and the City of Los Angeles left Chicago at 6:15 pm and arrived at their namesake cities at 8:00 am of the second day.

Click to download a 4.1-MB PDF of this 20-page booklet about the City of Los Angeles.

This brochure describes the amenities travelers could expect to find aboard the City of Los Angeles. The brochure is dated 1950, but it states, “on some units of the ‘City of Los Angeles’ there is an observation-lounge on the rear of the train.” This tells us that the the M-10002 was still likely to be working the Los Angeles route, as this train, unlike the later ones, did not have an observation-lounge.

The third-generation City of Los Angeles included an exciting lounge car called the Little Nugget club. Designed by painter Walt Kuhn, it looked like an 1890s bar and featured such things as velvet drapes on the windows, red plush upholstery on the chairs, and a mechanical canary in a gilded cage. Except for the City of Denver’s Frontier Shack (also designed by Kuhn), the lounges on the other city trains were much more sedate. Fortunately, the Little Nugget has been preserved in a Los Angeles rail museum and has been designated a Los Angeles Cultural Monument.

This detail from a piece of on-board stationery shows a winged turret-style locomotive of the M-10000 to M-10002 series streamliner. Click to download a PDF of the full first page of the stationery.

If you rode the City of Portland before the war, you would have had the opportunity to use a piece of stationery showing a turret-style winged streamliner, rather than the automotive-style used in almost all other winged streamliner logos I’ve seen.

Click to download a PDF of the full menu.

The Union Pacific had a greater variety of menus than any other railroad. Unfortunately, almost all of mine are either from the 1920s or from after 1950. The above menu, which dates from 1946, shows a Kaiser shipyard and might be typical of UP menus during the war years, though it looks very different from almost any other UP menu I’ve seen. Unfortunately, the inside has an ala carte menu on the left side but the right side, which would normally have the table d’hote menu, is blank. A page that had been paper-clipped to the menu is apparently lost.

Click to download a PDF of the full menu.

This children’s menu dates from 1957, but I’ve seen a nearly identical menu from Sun Valley’s Challenger Inn dated 1947. So it is likely that the Union Pacific had similar children’s menus aboard the early City trains.


Aboard the Early City Trains — 2 Comments

  1. OK, who was the great mind at the UP who thought “Pureed prunes” was going to be a big seller on the kids menu? On the other hand, the menu is much more healthy than many kid’s menus, or McDonald’s these days.


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