The Oriental Limited

The Oriental Limited was the Great Northern’s premiere train from 1905 through 1929, when it became secondary to the Empire Builder. The Empire Builder himself, James J. Hill, always had his eye on the Orient, briefly owning steamships Dakota and Minnesota that connected Japan with his trains in the Northwest.


Click image to download a 5.6-MB PDF of this brochure.

The Depression forced GN to cancel the train in 1931, but the railroad revived it in 1946 to carry the large numbers of anticipated post-war passengers. When the Empire Builder was streamlined in 1947, the Oriented Limited covered secondary stations skipped by the faster train, including Glacier National Park. The name “Oriental Limited” was finally retired in 1951 when the streamlined Empire Builder was replaced with all-new equipment and the 1947 train became the Western Star. About half of the above 1948 brochure is devoted to describing the train, while a quarter entices readers to Glacier Park and the rest briefly covers Seattle, Portland, and Spokane.

One More Reiss Menu

GN used one more of Reiss’ full-sized portraits on a menu, this one of two Indians named Many White Horses and Eagle Calf. The original of this 80″x36″ painting recently sold at auction for $187,000, and was only the second-most expensive Reiss painting in the sale. (The most expensive was “The Drummers,” a 52″x30″ painting that went for $313,600.)


Click image to download a 1.9-MB PDF of this menu.

This dinner menu is undated, and like the previous Reiss menus I suspect it is from the 1930s as I’ve seen many Reiss menus dated in the 1940s, but all are breakfast and lunch menus while dinner menus are in the Glacier Park series. The prices and meal selections on this menu are about the same as on the 1941 Glacier Park menu, but instead of listing a choice of four entrées for the “Number Two Plate Dinner,” the Reiss menu just offers “Meat (Fish if desired).”

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Another Reiss Menu

Today’s lunch menu features two Blackfeet Indians, After Buffalo (also known as Peter After Buffalo) and Nightshoots (or Night Shoot). After Buffalo was born in 1863, which would make him 54 years old when Reiss painting this portrait. Nightshoots may have been a few years younger, as he had a daughter named Josephine Night Shoot who was born in 1901.


Click image to download a 2.3-MB PDF of this menu.

Reiss did at least two other portraits of Night Shoot, one of which was purchased by the Great Northern and distributed with its Blackfeet Indian prints. In this painting, he is wearing a tall hat similar to that worn by Riding Black Horses in the photo.

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Overland Limited Lunch Menu

In October, 1947, when this menu was issued, the City of San Francisco had long replaced the Overland Limited as the premiere train on the route. The Overland was no longer an extra-fare, all-Pullman train, and UP/SP had mixed streamlined coaches and a few streamlined sleepers with the heavyweight diners, club cars, and sleeping cars.


Click image to download a 1.5-MB PDF of this menu.

The menu includes four “luncheon suggestions” all of which came with dessert and beverage: a chef’s salad; tomato stuffed with chicken salad; club sandwich; and boiled ham hocks. The club sandwich is most expensive at $1.85, nearly $20 today.

The a la carte side was a little more extensive, offering sirloin steak, lamb chops, roast beef hash, various egg dishes, five salads, five sandwiches, and an assortment of desserts and beverages. The charcoal broiled sirloin steak is $2.25, about $24 today.

More Overland Stationery

Unlike yesterday’s stationery, this one lists the Chicago and North Western as the connecting railroad from Chicago to Omaha. It also has a nice little graphic of the sun setting behind the Golden Gate, entrance to San Francisco Bay.


Click image to download a PDF of this letterhead.

Today, anyone picturing the Golden Gate would include the bridge of that name. This makes me suspect that this letterhead is from before 1937, when the bridge was completed, if not before 1933 when bridge construction began.

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On-Board Stationery for the Overland Limited

This piece of on-board stationery seems to be from an early incarnation of the Overland Limited. At some point, the railroads started calling it the San Francisco Overland Limited, as hinted on this stationery, even though the only other Overland Limited was the Santa Fe’s short-lived Chicago-Los Angeles train that ended in 1915.


Click image to download a PDF of this letterhead.

What really distinguishes this letterhead is that it does not name the railroad providing the Chicago-Omaha leg of the trip. According to some sources, the Chicago & North Western began operating the train to provide through service to Chicago in 1889 while the Milwaukee Road (then known as the St. Paul Road) operated that leg of the Overland Flyer before 1889.

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The Overland Limited

“With the single exception of its eastern counterpart The 20th Century Limited,” wrote Lucius Beebe, the Overland Limited was for a period of time “the most radiant and celebrated train name in America.” Where the Century survived as a premiere train well into the streamlined era, however, the Overland was eclipsed by the City of San Francisco and became a secondary train even after some of its equipment was streamlined.


Click image to download a 5.3-MB PDF of this 16-page brochure from 1930.

Today, the Overland Limited is so little known that it doesn’t even rate its own page in Wikipedia–or, rather, the Overland Limited page in Wikipedia describes a Chicago-Los Angeles Santa Fe train that briefly borrowed that name in the early 1900s. In the 40 years between 1899 and 1938, however, the Overland Limited was the premiere train to California, most of that time having an all-Pullman consist with an extra fare of $10–as much as $250 today.

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SP 1940 Lunch Menu

Here’s a menu that was probably used on a Southern Pacific heavyweight train in December, 1940. The menu’s small size (5-1/2″x8-1/2″) was typical of SP’s menus other than those used on the City of San Francisco, which were sized the same as UP City train menus (typically about 6-3/4″x9-1/2″).


Click image to download a 0.9-MB PDF of this menu.

The lunch menu offers five table d’hôte entrées: fresh fish du jour, fried oysters, veal cutlet, lamb chops, and half a sautéd chicken, ranging in price from 90 cents to $1.35 ($15 to $22 today). The a la carte side also includes club steak, tenderloin steak, and sirloin steak, various cold meats, salads, and three or four sandwiches: chicken, club, and “ham, cheese or tongue” which makes me wonder if it was ham & cheese or tongue; ham & cheese or ham & tongue; or ham & cheese or tongue & cheese. The sirloin steak was the most expensive item at $1.50 ($25 today).

On-Board Stationery for the Argonaut

The Argonaut was a secondary train to the New Orleans-Los Angeles Sunset Limited that began operating in 1926. Discontinued in 1932, it was revived in 1936 and continued operating until 1958, after which it was a New Orleans-Houston train. A 1955 timetable shows that it left New Orleans about 12 hours earlier than the Sunset Limited and stopped at many more places, requiring 10 to 11 hours more to make it to Los Angeles.


Click image to download a PDF of this letterhead.

Some of the Argonaut’s heavyweight coaches may have been replaced with streamlined cars in the last years of the train. But this 1958 consist suggests that the sleeping cars, at least, were still heavyweights, as “8-5” and “10-1-2” sleepers designate heavyweight types. “8-5” means 8 sections and 5 double bedrooms; “10-1-2” means 10 sections, 1 compartment, and 2 double bedrooms.