Rock Island 1938 Timetable

Ranging from Chicago to Denver and from the Twin Cities to Galveston, the Rock Island Railroad had an extensive network of Midwestern rail lines. The equipment pages of this timetable list 18 named trains and at least a dozen more trains important enough to deserve descriptions, though admittedly a couple are just motorcars.

Click image to download a 28-MB PDF of this 36-page timetable.

Railroads usually numbered their most important trains 1 & 2, but the Golden State Limited was numbered 3 & 4 so that it could have the same numbers on both the Rock Island and Southern Pacific (which reserved 1 & 2 for the Sunset Limited). Rock Island applied numbers 1 & 2 to an insignificant train between Kansas City and Rock Island, Illinois.

Trains 5 & 6 were the Chicago-Colorado Springs Colorado Express and 7 & 8 were the Chicago-Denver Rocky Mountain Limited. Leaving Chicago about 10 hours apart, these trains followed exactly the same route until Limon, Colorado, when they split to their respective terminal cities.

Trains 9 & 10 connected Chicago and Des Moines; trains 15 & 16 were the Short Line Express connecting the Twin Cities and Kansas City. Train 14, the LaSalle Street Limited went from Des Moines to Chicago; La Salle Street was the location of Rock Island’s Chicago station. The train’s counterpart was number 23, the Iowa-Nebraska Express, went from Chicago to Omaha via Des Moines. Between Chicago and Davenport, this train was combined with 43, the Californian.

Trains 17 & 18 were the Mid-Continent Special. Promoted in this timetable with a full-page ad on the cover, they connected the Twin Cities with Fort Worth. From Ft. Worth, a portion of the train went on to Dallas as numbers 217 & 218. The Texas Rocket, which went from Fort Worth to Houston, was also numbered 17 & 18, but was a completely separate train that required an across-the-platform transfer.

Trains 19 & 20 connected Chicago and Sioux Falls, while 23 & 24 connected St. Louis with Kansas City. Between Davenport and Chicago train 20 was combined with the eastbound Californian, train 44.

Trains 31 and 32 were called the Firefly and went between Kansas City and Ft. Worth. That must have been a catchy name, as the year after this timetable came out, the Frisco Railway started its own train named the Firefly between Kansas City and Oklahoma City.

Trains 41 & 42 went between Memphis and Little Rock, while 43 & 44–as mentioned, the Californian–joined the Golden State Limited on the Chicago-Los Angeles route. The Hot Springs Limited, trains 45 & 50, connected Chicago with the Arkansas resort town, while the Choctaw Limited, trains 51 &52, connected Oklahoma City and Dallas.

The Twin Cities Express, trains 61 & 62, connected its namesake with St. Louis. Finally, among major steam-powered trains, were trains 111 & 112, the Memphis-Californian, which went between Memphis and Tucumcari, NM, where it joined with 43-44 Californian.

This timetable also lists the first five streamlined Rockets, four of which were numbered in the low 500s: twice-daily Chicago-Peoria (501-504), Chicago-DesMoines (505-506), Twin Cities-Kansas City (507-508); and Kansas City-Oklahoma City (509-512). As previously mentioned, the Texas Rocket between Ft. Worth and Houston was numbered 17 and 18. Twice daily service between Bureau, Illinois and Peoria were also called Rockets but were really just motor cars connecting Peoria with the railroad’s main line between Chicago and Kansas City.

In addition to all of the above trains, the timetable lists dozens of local trains, branch line trains, mixed trains, and motor cars. While not offering the number one train on any of its major routes, it is clear that the Rock Island was one hopping railroad in the 1930s, and it is unfortunate that circumstances led to its dissolution in 1980.

Leave a Reply