The Pony Express

From 1926 to 1954, Union Pacific operated an overnight train between Denver and Salt Lake City called the Pony Express. This 1937 brochure describes the features of this train, including the diner, the club-observation car with its “curly maple” woodwork and “natural mahogany” cocktail lounge. A barber/valet would cut hair for 50 cents (about $6.50 today) and press a suit for $1. Passengers had a choice of reclining seat coaches, tourist sleepers, sections, and drawing rooms or compartments, all air conditioned, of course.

Click image to download a 3.7-MB PDF of this 28-page brochure.

UP’s 1937 timetable advertised that the Pony Express was the fastest train between the two cities, leaving Denver at 5:45 pm and arriving in Salt Lake City at 7:35 am for a journey of less than 14 hours–an average of about 45 mph. The westbound train included through sleeping cars to San Francisco on the Overland Limited and Los Angeles on the Los Angeles Limited, while the eastbound train included a sleeper to St. Louis (over the Wabash).

The combined Pony Express-Portland Rose enters Denver on February 13, 1950 in this photo by George Trout. Click image for a larger view.

After the war, the train was combined with so many other trains that it had almost lost its identity. One page of the 1951 timetable lists it as the “Gold Coast-Pony Express.” Another shows the “Portland Rose-Pony Express.” (A third page shows the “Gold Coast-Portland Rose.”) The equipment list shows the train’s observation car went between Denver and Los Angeles, but coaches and some sleepers went between Los Angeles and Kansas City or Los Angeles and Chicago. At least one coach went to and from San Francisco on the San Francisco Challenger and other cars went to/from Portland on, of course, the Portland Rose. The Denver-Salt Lake portion of the trip is still about 14 hours, while the streamliner City of St. Louis does this same stretch in less than 12 daylight hours.

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