The Naming of Trains

Discussion in 'Amtrak Rail Discussion' started by Woodcut60, Sep 30, 2018.

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  1. Sep 30, 2018 #1

    Woodcut60

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    Woodcut60

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    Who came up with all the names of the North American trains? I know that Amtrak inherited a lot of names from the freight railroad companies pre-1971, and I also know that e.g. the Missouri River Runner’s name was the result of a competition. And that the Southwest Chief was a result of merging the names Southwest Limited and Super Chief. I’m interested in the history of all those romantic names. Has this disappeared in the mists of Time or do we actually know where all these names came from, as well as when in the history of the railroads? It would be nice to have a comprehensive thread where the origin and history of the names is being discussed.
     
  2. Sep 30, 2018 #2

    ehbowen

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    Well, I think that a productive way to approach that is for us to chime in on the individual trains/railroads which we do know some details about. So, as to the Chiefs....

    Background: We complain about Amtrak's leisurely scheduling today, but a hundred years ago the trip often took twice as long. I've got an Official Guide (scanned electronic copy, paper originals are very rare from this period) from March 1916; it shows that on the run-of-the-mill trains such as the Navajo and the Scout (the early Scout; in the Depression years the name would be re-purposed for an economy coach travelers' train) which offered sleeping and chair car (coach) service the trip took four full days! On the Scout you would depart Chicago at 10:30 in the evening on a Sunday, and be scheduled to arrive into Los Angeles at 8:45 a.m. Thursday...that's 84 and a quarter hours! The Navajo was even worse; you left Chicago more than 12 hours earlier at 9:50 on Sunday morning but only arrived Los Angeles less than two hours before the evening Scout did, at 7:10 a.m....a 95 hour schedule!

    Of course, if your time was valued at a premium there was an alternative. The California Limited was Santa Fe's premium daily offering; all-Pullman sleeper passengers only and a dining car all the way (the two trains above stopped for meals at Harvey Houses west of Kansas City). That train would leave Chicago each day at 8:05 p.m. and be scheduled to arrive into Los Angeles at 2:40 p.m. three days later for a 68-1/2 hour schedule which was competitive with the best that Union Pacific could offer (the Los Angeles Limited). Santa Fe, which had held a practical monopoly on traffic between Chicago and southern California until the UP-controlled Los Angeles & Salt Lake began operations in 1905, wanted to take a step to assert dominance in the market. So, in 1911 they created the Santa Fe De Luxe...a super-premium winter season only train between Chicago and California which featured perhaps the very first "air conditioned" (using an ice bunker and circulating water) dining car. It ran only once a week on what was for that time a blazing 63 hour schedule, and it charged a princely $25 extra fare...at that time, almost as much as an average working man could expect to make in a month.

    The De Luxe was well received by its target clientele, but with the United States' entry into World War One it was deemed an unnecessary luxury and withdrawn. For a number of years the U.S. railroads were controlled by the U.S. government via the USRA, but when it was finally dismantled and the capitalists were fully in control and the Roaring Twenties began to really roar, Santa Fe looked to revisit and build upon its earlier success. By this time (in 1926) Santa Fe had installed automatic block signalling on most of its transcontinental main line and locomotive technology had advanced a full generation. They began planning a new, daily version of the old De Luxe which would operate on the same 63 hour schedule...still a full five hours faster than the still-premium all-Pullman California Limited and its 1926 competitors. Union Pacific and Southern Pacific apparently got wind of the effort at the same time; I still don't know for sure who was first but I do know that an upgraded CNW-UP Los Angeles Limited as well as a RI-SP Golden State Limited were inaugurated with exactly the same 63 hour schedule as the new Santa Fe train on exactly the same date: November 14th, 1926.

    But Santa Fe did not choose to restore the "De Luxe" moniker. At the turn of the 20th century Santa Fe was suffering a bit of an identity crisis; affecting an effete French character in some areas (19th century advertising shows the road as the "Santa Fe Route", as well as the aforementioned De Luxe train name) while honoring its route through the southwest in others. By the mid-1920s the road had made the decision to fully embrace its southwestern heritage, dropping the old "Santa Fe Route" badging entirely while adopting the famous "circle and cross" logo. In keeping with this decision, the new 63 hour extra fare (but only $10 in this incarnation) train would be named the Chief.

    The new Chief was an immediate success. Incremental improvements were made in running time throughout the next decade, but it was with the introduction of Diesel technology and streamlining that a generational change was made possible. Union Pacific, flush with success with its M-10000 series streamliners, began planning the train which would become the new Diesel-powered City of Los Angeles. Santa Fe was almost caught flat-footed. Almost. They had a boxy, proto-EMD twin-unit Diesel locomotive set on order which would be called "Amos & Andy" and they went to the Budd company to place an order for what would become possibly the single finest trainset ever constructed for delivery in 1937. But 1937 was still a year away and the UP's new streamliner was heading into service right now, so Santa Fe rounded up the finest heavyweight Pullman equipment it could find and placed it in service behind Amos & Andy between Los Angeles and Chicago once a week (Edit To Add: On a 39-3/4 hour schedule) as the Super Chief until the new Budd equipment which more rightly suited the moniker could be delivered.

    When the Super Chief entered service as, originally, a weekly and then twice-weekly train, the daily Chief continued in operation. The public response to the new streamlined equipment was so overwhelmingly favorable that Santa Fe soon re-equipped the original Chief with similar equipment as well. Then, after World War II, they expanded the name into a franchise. The Texas Chief began operations between Chicago and Galveston via Kansas City, Wichita, Oklahoma City, Fort Worth and Houston in 1948, and the San Francisco Chief was placed in service via Topeka, Waynoka, Belen and Barstow in 1954. There was also a Kansas City Chief for a while, but it was not nearly as successful as the transcontinental flagships.

    When Santa Fe joined Amtrak after much soul-searching in 1971, they alone among the major passenger carriers reserved the right to withdraw the use of their trademarked train names if Amtrak did not meet their standards of service. And Amtrak did not, and so in the mid-70s the Santa Fe forced them to change the name of the former Super Chief/El Capitan to the Southwest Limited and that of the Texas Chief to the Lone Star. The Lone Star was lost during the 1979 Carter cuts (regrettably), but Amtrak lobbied Santa Fe repeatedly for the return of the Chief trademark for trains 3 & 4. With the arrival of Superliner equipment, better food service, and on-board movies and other amenities Santa Fe agreed to allow them to rename the train as the Southwest Chief...by which it is still known today.
     
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  3. Sep 30, 2018 #3

    Skyline

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    Now that the food service isn't as good, and many of the other amenities that prompted Santa Fe to allow use of "Chief" have disappeared, does BNSF care? Could they withdraw the right for Amtrak to keep the name the Southwest Chief?
     
  4. Sep 30, 2018 #4

    ehbowen

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    It appears that BNSF management is far less motivated than ATSF management was, unfortunately.
     
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  5. Sep 30, 2018 #5

    railiner

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    Agreed...that was pretty much a 'John S. Reed' (former CEO) thing....
     
  6. Sep 30, 2018 #6

    MikefromCrete

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    Once John S. Reed died, so died Santa Fe's (and BNSF's) interest in passenger train names.
     
  7. Sep 30, 2018 #7

    Palmland

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    Amtraks Silver service has its roots back in 1939. That year the Seaboard railroad, impressed with Santa Fes El Capitan, ordered a new all coach streamliner to operate every third day. As a result of a naming contest it was called the Silver Meteor. It was so popular additional cars were ordered so that it could run daily. Then in 1941 heavyweight Pullmans were ordered. Afte the war and the lifting on restrictions on buying new passenger cars, the Seaboard began its Silver fleet in earnest. The latest lightweight equipment, including sleepers and lounges, was ordered and enabled two new trains: the Silver Star and Silver Comet. They began in the winter of 1947. I recall riding those trains in the 60s and they often ran to 18 cars. Amtrak obviously continued to use the names of the Meteor and Star.

    Sadly the service is a far cry form the days of the Seaboard operations. With a little marketing effort and operational help by CSX the potential is there to grow that market. The reality is neither is likely to occur. The best hope would be if SEHSR every occurs and the old Seaboard route is rebuilt and upgraded.

    Thanks to Larrry Goolsbys excellent book on SAL passenger service for much of the information.
     
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  8. Oct 1, 2018 #8

    cpotisch

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    BNSF is a very different entity than ATSF was. Maybe they theoretically could, but both Amtrak and AT/BNSF are so different now that I don't think it would really matter in the slightest to either.
     
  9. Oct 1, 2018 #9

    LookingGlassTie

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    Which routes are Amtrak-native (not inherited from other railroads)?
     
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  10. Oct 1, 2018 #10

    LookingGlassTie

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    In my neck of the woods, the Mountaineer used to stop in Norfolk near Lambert's Point Terminals. Of course, it's now the Northeast Regional stopping in Norfolk near Harbor Park Stadium.
     
  11. Oct 1, 2018 #11

    blueman271

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    Where was the old Amtrak station? I live in Hampton Roads but never knew there was a previous station on the south side beside the current one.
     
  12. Oct 1, 2018 #12

    railiner

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    From the 1975 timetable: 2200 Redgate Avenue, Lamberts Point, 23507

    Basically the freight yard...
     
  13. Oct 1, 2018 #13

    railiner

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    Probably the oldest continuously named train is the Sunset Limited...the name dates back to 1894.
     
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  14. Oct 1, 2018 #14

    ehbowen

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    Well, one for sure would be the Coast Starlight, which amalgamated a number of predecessor trains. Most prominent was the all-coach Coast Daylight which had run from L.A. to San Francisco, but then there was also the Lark, its companion sleeper train, the overnight Cascade between San Francisco and Portland, and the Burlington/Union Pacific pool service between Portland and Seattle. Through service between Seattle and southern California without a connection or break in San Francisco or at least Oakland was an innovation entirely Amtrak's own, to the best of my knowledge.

    Others which have now gone on would be the San Francisco Zephyr which combined Burlington's Denver Zephyr, UP's City of Kansas City between Denver and Ogden, and the UP/SP City of San Francisco between Ogden and the west coast (the transition between the latter two trains is fuzzy as they operated combined between Cheyenne (Borie) and Ogden in UP's latter years). Also, the North Coast Hiawatha which complemented the Empire Builder for a few years in the 1970s was a conglomeration of the Milwaukee Road's Hiawatha route between Chicago and the Twin Cities and the former North Coast Limited from there to Spokane/Seattle/Portland (For What It's Worth, the current Empire Builder also uses the Hiawatha route Minneapolis-Chicago...as a private operation it used BN's former Burlington line which might have been a bit more scenic (more Mississippi running) but which missed Milwaukee entirely.
     
  15. Oct 1, 2018 #15

    jis

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    The current Capitol Ltd is also a mix of previous routes with a little innovation on the Pittsburgh - Cleveland section thrown in.
     
  16. Oct 1, 2018 #16

    ehbowen

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    Absolutely correct, but my take on the prior question was the train names which were original with Amtrak. The Capitol Limited draws its name directly from its Baltimore & Ohio predecessor. Amtrak has a number of trains which bear classic names but which have been rerouted.
     
  17. Oct 1, 2018 #17

    jis

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    The weirdest name that Amtrak came up with using previous names was the George Washington/James Whitcomb Riley which eventually transmogrified into the Cardinal in 1977.
     
  18. Oct 1, 2018 #18

    Bob Dylan

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    Right off Hand I can think of the Lone Star ( sort of a hybrid Texas Chief ) and the Inter-American which ran from Chicago on the current Texas Eagle Route and split in Temple with #21/#22 running to San Antonio and Laredo and a Houston Section #23/#24 which ran to Houston. Discontinued in 1981 after the Carter Cuts/Today's Texas,Eagle to San Antonio with no Houston Section.(Thruway Buses runs Longview-Houston-Galveston)
     
  19. Oct 1, 2018 #19

    jis

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    Say what? I thought it was the Texas Chief that got renamed the Lone Star. At least that is the train I traveled on.
    The Inter-American and the Eagle had some intermingled history that I don’t fully know, so can’t comment on that. But you may be talking of the short interregnum between 1979 Carter Cuts, when the Lone Star went away and its Houston section was pasted onto the Eagle/Inter American until 1981 or so when the Houston section went away replaced by a bus. Not quite sure about that 1981 date though.

    I am riding the Meteor at present and don’t have the convenience of easy access to all the history at home. So I am winging it from memory.
     
  20. Oct 1, 2018 #20

    Bob Dylan

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    Thanks jis. I was winging it too, and my old mind can play tricks. I looked up the info on Wiki-Pedia which we know is Soooo accurate!
     
  21. Oct 1, 2018 #21

    cpotisch

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    I'm checking Wikipedia and it seems to say exactly what jis said:

     
  22. Oct 1, 2018 #22

    Bob Dylan

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    Sorry for the confusion, my Bad! You are correct about the Chief/Lone Star but the Inter-American info is correct even if confusingly presented! Thanks guys!
     
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  23. Oct 2, 2018 #23

    railiner

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    The Amtrak version of the National Limited did not use any of the original B&O National Limited rails.
     
  24. Oct 2, 2018 #24

    JRR

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    I used to ride the JWR from Chicago to Cincinnati. The crew was really proud of the train and it was always announced as “the crack train, James Whitcomb Riley!”
     
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  25. Oct 2, 2018 #25

    zephyr17

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    It also was nothing like the original National Limited route, Amtrak's being a KC-NY train.

    Similar to when they renamed the Super Chief to the Southwest Limited when Santa Fe withdrew the rights to the name. The original Southwest Limited was an NYC train to St. Louis. That train came nowhere near the AT&SF.

    Then there's the City of New Orleans. Yes, it is on the ex-IC route, but the City of New Orleans was a coach day train (long day) between Chicago and New Orleans. The overnight train was the Panama Limited. Originally, Amtrak retained the Panama Limited name for the train, but renamed it to the City of New Orleans pretty much in response to the popularity of Arlo Guthrie's cover of the song.

    I don't mind Amtrak not keeping the train names with the original route, mashing them up (Coast Starlight, North Coast Hiawatha), or creating new ones (Desert Wind). I am just glad they are keeping names. Via dropped all of their names except the Canadian and the Ocean. Named trains are traditional, are colorful and stand out in comparison to airlines and buses. Now I just wish the trains themselves had their own distinct personalities to go with the names, as they did years ago. You could tell the CB&Q/D&RGW/WP California Zephyr from the GN Empire Builder at a glance. But that is wholly unrealistic nostalgia.
     
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