The Golden State

This colorful brochure describes the Golden State, the streamlined train that replaced the heavyweight Golden State Limited in January, 1948. The inside back cover of the brochure is marked “1-53,” suggesting it was printed in 1953, the last year the train had the bright orange-red paint scheme. Partly because the paint faded to pink in the Southwest sunlight, the orange was removed and the train painted in Southern Pacific’s red stripe above the windows.

Click image to download a 6.5-MB PDF of this 16-page brochure.

As previously noted, the Golden State was originally going to be the Golden Rocket on a 39-3/4-hour schedule to compete with the City of Los Angeles and Super Chief/El Capitan between Chicago and Los Angeles. However, the ICC rule requiring advanced signaling for trains faster than 79 mph convinced the Southern Pacific to cancel the train and operate the Golden State on a 45-hour schedule.

By this time, the Rock Island had already received one Golden Rocket trainset, so it relettered the cars “Golden State” and included them in the Golden State pool. These are the cars featured in this brochure, but as six trainsets were needed, travelers had a mere 17 percent chance of riding in these cars. As a result, the description of the train in the brochure is unusually vague.

For example, the brochure describes the observation car as “a haven for relaxation. . . . The modern motif, the inviting furnishings, the cheerful color harmonies all combine to provide a most satisfying ‘retreat.'” This could describe any streamlined observation car in America.

The drawing of the observation car in the brochure shows that the last four windows are extra tall for viewing scenery, similar to the tall windows on the 1948 Twentieth-Century Limited and Mid-Century Empire Builder observation cars. This is La Mirada, the car built for the Golden Rocket. Observation cars used on the Golden State didn’t have such tall windows; some probably had blunt ends. The only external photos I can find of La Mirada were taken at the 1948 Chicago Rail Fair.

Click to download a PDF of this insert.

When inaugurated in 1948, the Golden State left Chicago late in the evening, and Los Angeles early in the afternoon. The compiler of this timetable says the train took 45 hours in each direction, but I calculate 46 westbound and 44 eastbound.

The above brochure included a small flyer advertising the Rocket fleet and giving the October, 1953 schedule for the train. This shows that the train’s schedule was changed to 44-1/4 hours in both directions. The eastbound schedule was relatively unchanged, but the westbound departure from Chicago was moved almost nine hours earlier from 10:15 pm to 1:20 pm, moving the L.A. arrival eleven hours earlier from late afternoon to early in the morning.


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