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City of San Francisco, 1941-1949

City of San Francisco (“tenth train”), 1941-1949

Fred Klein, 2003, 2010, 2016

The first City of San Francisco streamliner, and its sister the City of Los Angeles, were introduced as fully articulated trainsets in 1936.  These trains made 5 round trips per month between Chicago and their name cities.  In 1938, the City of San Francisco was replaced with a new train (the “eighth” train) that ran with the same frequency.  The noses of these trains were very bulbous and distinctive.  The power units of the 1938 train were SF-1-2-3.  The 1938 COSF was derailed on August 12, 1939 on a section of vandalized track near Harney, Nevada, and 5 cars were destroyed and later replaced.  The culprit was never found.


Another complete COSF train was added to the schedule in 1941 (the “tenth” streamlined train) for a total of 10 monthly “sailings”.  The 1938 (eighth) and 1941 (tenth) trains shared the route, and were similar but distinct trains.  The trains had distinctive lettering with the train name in the letterboard, but the 1941 COSF used the now familiar armor yellow and harbor mist gray with red pin striping.  Accommodations ranged from coach seats, standard Pullman curtained sections to elegant drawing rooms with a variety of car types to total 14 cars plus 3 power units. 


The COSF consist was mostly fixed: cars were not routinely added or removed from the train enroute, and substitutions were mainly made for equipment failures.  Additional 4/4/2 sleepers were added for increased travel demands, and the war demands and expansion of other UP trains also took up the increased passenger load.  In 1945, ownership of the sleepers passed from Pullman to Union Pacific and the partner railroads.  On Sept. 1, 1947 a baggage car was added, a 4/4/2 sleeper removed, and the observation car replaced with a 6/6/4 sleeper.  Also by 1947, additional COSF trains were added to total 5 complete trains, to offer daily service.  By 1950, only about half of the original cars remained in the consist as the train evolved.  The newer post-war cars and the older relettered cars carried “Union Pacific”, “Southern Pacific or “Chicago and Northwestern” in the letterboards.


The Union Pacific City streamliners of 1941 are one of the most beautiful trains to model because of their color and length, but are one of the most challenging because of the variety of car types and the unavailability of most of the cars in ready-to-run form.  Two car pairs are articulated.  Many of the 1941 cars are similar enough to the later post-war cars, so that many of the commonly available post-war models can be used in their place.  I wanted my model train to give the impression of the 1941 City of San Francisco.  I have neither the modeling skills nor the need to make an exact model of each car with all windows in their prototypical places.  See some modeling notes at the end of this article. Additional information and references can be found at



City of San Francisco at the CNW wye at Western Ave, Chicago in 1941. From Joe Welsh’s Union Pacific Streamliners (Voyageur Press, 2008) front cover, Union Pacific photo.


This table lists the 17 locomotives and cars in the 1941 COSF.  The first two columns have prototype information, and the second two columns show how I modeled the train.  The page numbers in the fourth column are of car photographs in Ranks and Kratville’s The Union Pacific Streamliners to show what the cars looked like.  Relettered” means the old lettering was removed, and silver striping and new Microscale decals applied.  The decals are printed by Microscale, but not yet formally released.  Ernie Giese of Model Railroad Customizing painted all the custom painted cars after I kitbashed them.


Car name

Car type

Model car



E6A power

Life-like E6A, relettered

Yes, p. 228-229


E6B power

Life-like E6B, relettered

Yes, p. 228-229


E6B power

Life-like E6B, relettered

Yes, p. 228-229


Baggage dormitory

AMB kit 5010 (1949 car) custom paint

Yes, p. 230

Montgomery Street

48-seat chair car

Kato 44-seat coach (1953 car) relettered

Similar appearance, not enough model windows, p.233

Fort Mason, articulated with…

Kitchen and 32 seat coffee shop

Kit bashed Rivarossi heavyweight coach, custom p.

Similar appearance, p.209

St. Francis Woods, articulated

64-seat diner

Kit bashed Rivarossi heavyweight coach, custom p.

Similar appearance, p.209


Buffet lounge (club)

Kato smoothside diner, relet.

Very similar, p.220

Seal Rocks, articulated with...

4-comp/ 3-drawing room

Rivarossi smoothside 10/6 sleeper, custom painted

Similar appearance, p.177-9

Union Square, articulated

12 sections

Rivarossi smoothside 10/6 sleeper, custom painted

No, no upper berth windows, window spacing off, p.177-9

Telegraph Hill

12-duplex br/ 5-dbl bedroom

M&R metal sides, custom pt.

Yes, p. 357

Rincon Hill

10-roomette/ 5-dbl bedroom

Rivarossi smooth 10/6, custom

Similar appearance, p.237-8

Sutro Heights

4-compartment/ 4-double bedroom/ 2-drawing rooms

Brass Car Sides “Imperial” 4-4-2 plan 4069, custom painted

Yes, p. 237-8

North Beach

4-comp/ 4-br/ 2-draw rm

Kato smoothside 1942 6/6/4 sleeper, relettered Chinatown

Similar app., model upper berth windows both sides, p.237-8

Hunters Point

4-comp/ 4-br/ 2-draw rm

Brass Car Sides “Imperial”

Yes, p. 237-8

Civic Center

4-comp/ 4-br/ 2-draw rm

Rivarossi smooth 10/6, relet.

Similar appearance, p.237-8

Russian Hill

4 double bedroom/ buffet observation

Rivarossi smoothside observation, relettered

Blunt end looks right, not enough side windows, p.225


Noticeable features common to all of the 1941 COSF cars are: 1) Distinctive, unpainted aluminum moldings above and below the windows; 2) Trucks are painted gray instead of the silver on the UP post-war streamliners; 3) Full width diaphragms between all cars (not just the articulated ones) to give a real streamlined impression.  I have not yet modeled any of the full width diaphragms; 4) skirts on car sides are louvered.


The best book about the COSF and other UP streamliners that I have found is Ranks and Kratville’s The Union Pacific Streamliners, which contains hundreds of photos including the outsides of most cars. Consists and facts about the 1941 COSF can be found on page 241 of Ranks and Kratville, in Wayner’s Car Names, Numbers and Consists, and Randall’s From Zephyr to Amtrak. 


Power and head end section



Power was from three 2000-hp EMD E6 locomotives numbered SF-4-5-6.  I simply re-lettered and added the distinctive nose decal to the Life-Like E6 A and B units, which were factory decorated for Union Pacific.  The baggage dormitory car SF-104 is an American Model Builders kit.  The car is prototypical for the COSF even though the kit was designed for a 1949 car.  The coach “Montgomery Street” was the only coach in an otherwise all-Pullman train.  The Kato model is similar to the COSF coach, enough to appear like the prototype.


Articulated section



The articulated kitchen-coffee shop (Fort Mason) and 64-seat diner (St. Francis Woods) were built new in 1941 for the COSF.  This was a functional design with the kitchen between the two serving areas.  A 6-wheel truck carried the car hinge (not modeled).  I modeled this car by taking two Rivarossi heavyweight coaches, with many square windows, and plugging up some windows to simulate the window pattern of the prototype.  I then sanded the sides smooth of the old rivets, built a hinge using the bolster hole of one of the cars, and asked Ernie Giese to custom paint the result.  The Kato smoothside diner is a good stand-in for the club car “Marina”.  The articulated Pullmans Seal Rocks and Union Square were inherited from the 1938 COSF.  The articulated design must have been impractical because no articulated sleepers were built again for the UP.  I joined two Rivarossi smoothside 10/6 sleepers for this car.  It gives the impression of a sleeper with irregular window spacing but is not very faithful to the prototype.  I did not model the small upper berth windows or the evenly spaced windows of Union Square’s 12 Pullman sections.


First Pullman section




The next car “Telegraph Hill”, with 5 double bedrooms and 12 duplex single bedrooms, survived from the 1938 COSF.  The stacked duplex bedrooms on one side of the car yield the unusual window pattern.  The model is made from M&R metal sides, custom painted by Ernie Giese.  Rincon Hill is a 10 roomette, 5 double-bedroom Pullman built in 1941.  No model of this car is available, but the Rivarossi 10/6 sleeper gives a good impression of the unequal window spacing.


The following four sleepers (2 are in the next picture) have 4-compartments/ 4-double bedrooms/ and 2-drawing rooms.  If extra COSF cars were needed, 4/4/2 Pullmans like these were kept in reserve.  These COSF Pullmans follow the same plan as the later “Imperial” cars, for which a side is available from Brass Car Sides.  In my train, “Sutro Heights” and “Hunter’s Point” are made with these prototypical sides. Each car shows a different side.  The 4 compartment rooms have the upper berth windows because the bunk is along the outside of the car.  The 4 bedrooms have square windows, and the 2 drawing rooms each have a pair of rectangular windows.  To make the train more affordable, I simply relettered two stock sleeper cars to be 4/4/2 cars: “Chinatown” (substituting for “North Beach”) is a Kato smoothside car, and “Civic Center” is a Rivarossi smoothside 10/6 sleeper.  


Second Pullman section



The last car in the 1941 COSF was “Russian Hill”, a 4-double bedroom/ buffet lounge-observation with a blunt end.  I modeled it with a relettered Rivarossi smoothside observation car.  This model has the correct blunt end and correct windows in the observation section.  The model is actually a 1949 Pullman Standard 2-master room /1-double bedroom observation, and the bedroom windows are arranged a bit differently than the COSF prototype.  It is not a bad substitute.


Modeling notes


I relettered cars inexpensively by erasing the lettering of the factory painted “Union Pacific” cars, and applying COSF decals on the original Kato or Rivarossi factory paint.  I found it difficult to apply the silver stripes in a straight line.  To keep them straight and simulate the raised aluminum molding, I glued a thin strip of 0.01” styrene to the side above and below the windows to serve as a base for a silver stripe decal.


The Rivarossi cars were not difficult to make into articulated pairs.  I cut off the end of car A, leaving the bolster hole.  I reused that bolster hole, but filed off the raised ring around the hole underneath the car.  I cut off the end and the bolster hole from car B.  I made a styrene tab with a hole in it, and glued it to the bottom of car B to occupy the space I had filed off the bottom of car A.  The two holes lined up as a hinge, and are held together using the original screw and threaded weight from one of the cars.   I cut the sides and roof of the cars to leave existing windows intact: this may mean that reusing an old bolster hole forces the truck not to be centered under the seam between the cars.








Randall, David, From Zephyr to Amtrak, Prototype Publications, 1972.

Ranks, Harold E. and William W. Kratville, The Union Pacific Streamliners, Kratville publications, 1974.

Wayner, Robert J., Car Names, Numbers and Consists, Wayner Publications.