On March 21, 1937, the Southern Pacific inaugurated the Daylight between Los Angeles and San Francisco. Like the Milwaukee Hiawatha, the SP elected to go with steam power, in this case a semi-streamlined 4-8-4 locomotive manufactured by Lima, the smallest of the nation’s three major steam locomotive makers. The cars were built by Pullman and included several articulated coaches, an articulated diner/lunch counter car, a parlor car, and a parlor-observation car, with a total capacity of 444 revenue passengers.
Click the image to see a larger version of this postcard. Click here to download a PDF of the front and back of this postcard.
At an average speed of 48 mph, the Daylight was not a speed demon like the Hiawathas. But it was probably competitive with California roads at the time.
Click the image to see a larger version of this postcard. Click here to download a PDF of the front and back of another postcard showing the Daylight along the Pacific Ocean.
Most memorably, the Southern Pacific painted the locomotive and train in gorgeous orange and red stripes, with black roofs, and few argued with the railroad’s claim that the Daylights were “the most beautiful train in the world.” This beauty was enhanced by the train’s route, which included more than 110 miles along the sunny Pacific Ocean.
Click the image to download a PDF of this 2.3-MB brochure detailing the sights along the route of the Daylight.
By 1939, the Daylight was the most profitable passenger train in the country, followed by the Milwaukee Twin Cities Hiawatha. The train was so successful that the Southern Pacific added a noon Daylight (which arrived in San Francisco or Los Angeles at about 10 pm). In 1941, the railroad started the San Joaquin Daylight, which connected Los Angeles and Oakland via California’s Central Valley.
Click the image to see a larger version of this postcard. Click here to download a PDF of the front and back of this postcard and here to download the a PDF of a postcard featuring just the locomotive.
Another train in the Daylight family was the Sunbeam, which connected Dallas and Houston on a 4-hour, 25-minute schedule. It competed with Burlington’s Sam Houston Zephyr, which did the same trip in four hours. The Sunbeam was powered by 4-6-2 (Pacific) locomotives that had been semi-streamlined in the railroad’s shops.