The Arizona Limited

The Arizona Limited was a kind of semi-train: semi-streamlined, semi-daily, operated only half the year (actually just three-and-one-half months), and by two railroads using two train sets for only two years. Each Pullman-only train set consisted of a heavyweight Rock Island baggage car, a heavyweight Rock Island diner, two streamlined sleepers with two drawing rooms, four compartments, and four double bedrooms, two streamlined sleepers with five double bedrooms and ten roomettes, and an observation car with one drawing room, one compartment, and two double bedrooms.


This postcard shows the two heavyweight cars at the front, four sleepers, and a stainless steel observation car, Muskingum River. Click image to download a PDF of this postcard, which is not railroad issue.

The train was a 1940 attempt to turn Phoenix into a winter vacation destination. On its 1,124-mile segment of the trip, Rock Island powered the train with Diesels, while SP used semi-streamlined steam locomotives for its 803 miles. The schedule averaged about 50 mph, which was pretty good for a pre-war overnight train in the West.


This postcard shows the two-tone grey observation car, American Milemaster, in the Phoenix depot. Click image to download a PDF of this postcard, which is not railroad issue.

The sleeping cars and one of the observation cars, American Milemaster, were painted two-tone grey, which was Pullman’s choice of colors for its pooled streamlined cars. In the 1940-1941 season, the other observation car, Muskingum River was unpainted stainless steel, the only stainless steel observation car ever built with smooth sides rather than flutes. In the 1941-1942 season, Pullman replaced the stainless steel car with its articulated sleeper-observation car originally built as Advance and Progress but renamed Bear Flag and California Republic for use on the Treasure Island Special in 1939 and 1940.


The cover of a 1940 brochure advertising the train. Click image to go to a Wikipedia view of the entire brochure.

The image of the brochure above provides a case study of why Wikipedia isn’t always reliable. Someone copied the images of this brochure from an ebay ad and posted them on Wikipedia. Though the brochure was clearly marked “11-40,” they misread the date as “11-49” and used it to claim that Southern Pacific and Rock Island attempted to revive the Arizona Limited after the war. (I’ve corrected some of the errors, but not all could be publicly edited.)

In fact, the train ended after 1942 because of wartime restrictions on seasonal (meaning vacation-oriented) trains and was never revived. The breakup of Pullman into operating and manufacturing companies and sale of Pullman’s pool cars to the railroads meant that a pool of cars for seasonal services, such as Sunbelt trains in the winter and Northwest trains in the summer, was no longer available. Apparently, Phoenix could not support being a terminus for a year-round train, so had to be satisfied with being a stop on the Golden State.


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