The Texas Chief

In April, 1948, the Santa Fe introduced the Texas Chief, which connected Chicago with Houston and Galveston via Ft. Worth. Passengers to Dallas had to take a bus from Ft. Worth. The train took 25 hours to get from Chicago to Houston for an average speed of about 54 mph.

The Texas Chief in Oklahoma in 1956. Click image for a larger photo.

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Aboard the Golden State

The logo for the Golden State was a cluster of oranges, and the SP-RI used this on the drumhead on the back of the train, stationery, menus, and other items. It looks very nice on the on-board stationery, which is creamy white.

Click the image to download a PDF of Golden State stationery. Click here to download an image of a Golden State envelope.

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Marketing the Golden State

Both the Southern Pacific and the Rock Island jumped the gun in advertising the 39-3/4-hour Golden Rocket before SP cancelled the train in 1947. I’ve already shown the Southern Pacific’s ad; here is the Rock Island ad from 1946.

Click image to download a larger version.

When the 45-hour Golden State began service in 1948, the Southern Pacific placed color ads in many magazines. I’ve already shown one of them; here is a slightly different one that faced the inside front cover of the May, 1951, National Geographic.

Click image to download a larger version. Click here to download a 9.5-MB uncompressed jpg of the ad.

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The Golden State

With the advent of the Super Chief and City of Los Angeles, passengers had a choice of carriers that would whisk them from Chicago to Los Angeles in under 40 hours. But there was a third route between the second- and third-largest cities in America: the Rock Island out of Chicago met the Southern Pacific’s like from Los Angeles at the little town of Tucumcari, New Mexico. Before the war, these two railroad were content to offer the heavyweight Golden State Limited on a 63-hour schedule.

After the war, the two railroads agreed to meet the competition, so they planned and advertised a three-times-a-week train called the Golden Rocket that would equal the Super Chief’s and City of Los Angeles’ 39-3/4-hour timetable. The railroads ordered two streamlined trains from Pullman, one that would be owned by the Rock Island and one by the Southern Pacific.

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Pine Tree Stationery

Where the Empire Builder’s on-board stationery had a bright letterhead on creamy paper, the streamlined North Coast Limited took a more subtle approach. The paper itself was light green, almost transparent, with a rough surface.

The logo on the letterhead, which was also used on the envelopes, said “North Coast Limited” in gold script, and the same gold was used to stand-in for the yellow pine tree on the locomotive nose. Tiny letters credited the Northern Pacific Railway, Burlington Route, and Spokane, Portland & Seattle Ry.

Click each image to download PDFs of the stationery.

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An Uninspiring Paint Scheme

The streamlined North Coast Limited’s boring interior was matched by an uninspiring exterior paint scheme. While the Milwaukee Hiawatha trains were flamboyantly decorated in maroon and orange, and the Empire Builder was Pullman green and orange, the Northern Pacific elected to paint its new streamliner two tones of fairly dark green relieved only by thin yellow pinstripes.

Click image to download a PDF of the front and back of this postcard.

The NP paint scheme was derived from the colors used on the first NP FT Diesels. General Motors painted the Diesels black with yellow stripes, in what became known as the “pine-tree” scheme because of the shape of the stripes on the nose.

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The Streamlined North Coast Limited

Coming in a distant third after the streamlined Empire Builder and Olympian Hiawatha, the Northern Pacific’s streamlined North Coast Limited appeared in stages in 1948 when heavyweight cars were replaced by new streamlined cars as they were delivered by Pullman. Not only was the train later than its competitors, it was relatively uninspiring.

Click image to download a 5.2-MB PDF of this eight-page brochure.

For one thing, the Northern Pacific did not immediately speed up its premiere train to a 45-hour Chicago-Seattle schedule adopted by the Empire Builder and Olympian Hiawatha, instead leaving it at the older, 59-hour timetable until 1952. This put it at a huge disadvantage to both of its competitors.

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City Trains Go Daily

The Union Pacific managed to scrounge up enough streamlined cars to put the City of Portland on a daily basis on February 15, 1947. The City of Los Angeles went daily on May 14, and, as previously noted, the City of San Francisco went daily on September 1, 1947.

The City of Portland led by an E6 locomotive; looks like Utah or Idaho between Ogden and Pocotello.

Going daily allowed the Union Pacific to send out a new flurry of advertising. This newspaper ad from 1950 subtly points out that passengers can take the City of Portland from Chicago and take a connecting train to Seattle in about the same time as it would take to go direct from Chicago to Seattle on one of the Northwest trains.

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Aboard the Hiawathas

Here are a few items passengers might encounter on board one of the Olympian Hiawathas. First is a sticker that someone might apply to their luggage, more as a souvenir than as an identifier.

Here’s a postcard of the Olympian Hiawatha in Washington’s Cascade Mountains. Click the image to download a PDF showing the front and back of this postcard.

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Brooks Stevens’ Distinctive Sky Top Cars

The SkyTop observation cars for the Olympian Hiawatha have been fittingly described as among “the most distinctive cars ever built.” I say “among” because, at first glance, the six Olympian cars resemble four observation cars built for the Twin Cities Hiawatha.

This image, which one photo caption says is from 1959, shows the interior of a Twin Cities SkyTop car. The interior of an Olympian SkyTop car would have similar, though a little larger. The man in the center resembles, and may have been, Brooks Stevens.

The main difference (aside from the fact that the Twin Cities cars were built in the Milwaukee shops and the Oly cars were built by Pullman) is that the Olympian cars contain eight double bedrooms while the Twin Cities cars have one drawing room and 24 parlor seats.


Top: The SkyTop car for the Twin Cities Hiawatha. Bottom: The SkyTop car for the Olympian Hiawatha. Click either image for a larger view.

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