Chicago-St. Louis Pre-War Streamliners

Four railroads competed for business in the Chicago-to-St. Louis corridor: the Illinois Central; Alton; Chicago & Eastern Illinois; and Wabash. At least two of them acquired streamliners before the war. I’ve already mentioned the Illinois Central Green Diamond, which was built by Pullman and somewhat resembled the later M-1000x trains except for being coach-only and painted green.

The Green Diamond was a five-car articulated train with a 1,200-HP Diesel in the first car. The remaining cars were a mail-baggage car; a 56-seat coach; a coach-diner with 44 coach seats and 16 diner seats; and a diner-lounge with 22 parlor seats and 8 diner seats. Like the second-generation City trains which it resembles, the Green Diamond was built by Pullman, but was made of Corten steel rather than aluminum.

The locomotive used on the Abraham Lincoln as it looked when it was delivered from GM to the Baltimore & Ohio in 1935.

The Alton Railroad, which from 1931 to 1942 was owned by the Baltimore & Ohio, competed with the Green Diamond using a streamlined train called the Abraham Lincoln. The locomotive that powered this train has the distinction of being the first General Motors-manufactured locomotive–as opposed to railcars made by Pullman, Budd, or another manufacturer with a GM Diesel built in–sold to any railroad. The original engine had a boxy body, but the B&O had applied a semi-streamlined shovel nose. The locomotive still exists, sans shovel nose, in a St. Louis transportation museum.

A postcard showing the Abraham Lincoln, with the addition of a slight shovel nose to the locomotive, in operation.

The train itself had eight aluminum cars built by American Car & Foundry (ACF), a long-time competitor of Pullman. This train, which was probably the nation’s first non-articulated streamlined train, was for some reason built with government assistance in 1935 and initially used on the Baltimore & Ohio’s Royal Blue route between Washington and Jersey City.

The Abraham Lincoln leaving St. Louis in 1940; photo by Otto Perry.

The Report on Streamline Trains indicates that the Alton train was far more popular than the Green Diamond. In the first half of 1938, the Abraham Lincoln carried more than 2 million passenger miles per month, compared with less than 1 million for the Illinois Central train. The Alton also ran a second train each day called the Ann Rutledge that was steam powered but was able to go from Chicago to St. Louis in the same amount of time as the Abraham Lincoln. The Ann Rutledge carried almost as many passenger miles per month as the Abe Lincoln, and more than the Green Diamond.

Pre-war trains on competitors Wabash and C&EI took at least a half-hour longer than these streamlined trains and are not included in the Streamline Trains report. After the war, the Wabash would run the only dome-car trains between Chicago and St. Louis, which I hope to cover in a future post.

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