Completed in 1897, Kansas City Southern‘s line from Kansas City to Port Arthur, Texas, may have carried a lot of freight, but it didn’t attract many passengers. However, in 1939 KCS merged with the Louisiana & Arkansas Railway, creating a through line from Kansas City to New Orleans. To take advantage of this route, on September 2, 1940, KCS inaugurated the Southern Belle, whose average speed over the route was 40 miles per hour.
Although advertised as a streamlined train, initially at least it was only partially streamlined, as the sleeping cars were rebuilt heavyweights. The 1941 Pullman advertisement below makes it appear that Pullman built an entire train including cafe, bar, and lounge-observation cars, when in fact they were all the same car. Altogether, Pullman built only eight cars for the initial two train sets: a baggage car, two coaches, and the diner/observation car for each set.
The trains were led by General Motors E3 locomotives. Although the locomotives were painted bright yellow with a red stripe above and a very dark green stripe below, the passenger cars were almost entirely dark green with narrow yellow and red stripes below the windows.
To promote the train, Kansas City Southern held a beauty contest in which 18-year-old Margaret Landry, of Baton Rouge, was selected as “Miss Southern Belle.” Her image was used on the train’s rear drumhead, as shown above, as well as in various advertising such as the luggage sticker below.
As indicated on the blotter below, the Southern Belle joined KCS’s existing train, the Flying Crow, which had begun serving the Kansas City-Port Arthur route in 1928. The train was Dieselize in 1938 and a section sent to New Orleans after the Louisiana & Arkansas merger. The romantically named trains 9 and 10 also served the Kansas City-New Orleans route.
In 1967, Kansas City Southern officials proclaimed that “we have no intention of going out of the passenger business.” However, after the Postal Service ended the movement of mail by train later in 1967, KCS discontinued its passenger trains in 1969.