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Early Amtrak timecards

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I found some relics in my collection. One is a timecard of Santa Fe trains operated under contract by Amtrak dating from 7-12-71.

Chicago-Los Angeles services was provided by trains #17 & 18. No train name.

 

The second timecard dates from 11-14-71. It covers former Santa Fe service. It refers to Chicago-Los Angeles service as trains #3 & 4 and by name---Super Chief/El Capitan.

Why the change in train #'s?

 

A third timecard dating from 6-11-72 essentially is the same as the 11-14-71 timecard except it shows the additional summer-only trains #19 and 20 on the Chicago-Los Angeles route. I rode #20 from L.A. to Albuquerque in August 1972.

 

I did not ride #3 until my grand Railpass circle trip of fall 1976.

 

 

 

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When Amtrak started out the trains which were kept retained the original train numbers from the host railroad. The Santa Fe Super Chief operated under train numbers 17 & 18, so the Amtrak continuation of this service did as well. A few months later Amtrak renumbered all of its trains with its own number system, as it is to this day.

 

When Amtrak first started, they intended to eliminate all train names and use only numbers to distinguish between them. This flew like a lead balloon and the train names were back in short order.

 

There was enough summer patronage on the Santa Fe line in those early years...and enough serviceable Heritage equipment...to justify a second train which operated as the Chief for a season or two...I'd have to check out timetables.org to see just how many.

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"When Amtrak first started, they intended to eliminate all train names and use only numbers to distinguish between them."

 

@ehbowen: That was interesting information. Personally, I've always loved the romantic train names in North America. In my opinion it's nicer to say "I'm on the Coast Starlight to Seattle" than "I'll take the #14 to Seattle." But that's just me.

 

Also, you write "This flew like a lead balloon". Does that mean there were objections from the public, or was there internal criticism at Amtrak? Just asking because I'm interested in Amtrak's history.

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I'm not old enough to really remember the history; I've just collected the timetables and such. But I do get the sense that popular opinion was along the lines of, "There ought to be good passenger trains...even if I'm not going to ride them myself!" which resulted in general support for Amtrak. However, Americans also loved the heritage of the train names and when the "new era" Amtrak management took over and eliminated them, there was pushback...not just from the public, but from the private railroads who were still operating them (in those early years, the train service crews were still railroad employees operating under contract to the new Amtrak). Roads such as Santa Fe and SCL who had given up their premium passenger trains, somewhat reluctantly, were saying things along the lines of, "We just gave you the finest passenger train in the world...and now you're simply calling it #17?"

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