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Amtrak Southwest Chief, 1993-c.2008

Amtrak Southwest Chief, 1993-c.2008

Fred Klein, 2013, 2016

The Southwest Chief is Amtrak’s continuation of Santa Fe’s Superchief, and has been an important western train that runs every day right through Amtrak’s existence.  The Amtrak Southwest Chief was called the Super Chief until 1974 and the Southwest limited until 1984. The name changes were required or allowed by the Santa Fe railway. Initially run with the original Santa Fe and other heritage equipment in 1971, and superliner I cars in 1979, the southwest chief received new superliner II equipment in the phase IV paint scheme in 1993. That is the train pictured here.


The consist listed and pictured here is from a 63 page on-line pdf file of Amtrak consists from the Yahoo group “passenger train consists”. Amtrak sometimes puts sleepers on the front and sometimes on the rear. It is possible the sleeper on the rear is a deadhead being ferried with the express cars. This consist is similar to most long distance Amtrak trains, but the Southwest chief typically had more express cars than other trains. Material handling cars were used from 1986 to 2003 (there are none on this train), and express cars were used somewhat later from the 1990s through 2005. I believe stopping the express business was an executive decision to simplify Amtrak operations, even though it was still a money maker.


The prototype train can be easily modeled because Kato makes excellent Amtrak superliner models in each paint scheme (phases II, III, IV and VI). I selected locomotives and cars in the phase IV paint scheme, but a mixture of different phases is more typical of trains as cars are gradually repainted. From the 1990s through 2005 Amtrak made extra money by hauling express freight in Amtrak-owned box, refrigerator and roadrailer cars. These express cars did not have lines for head end (HEP) power and were always on the rear. The ribbed box and reefer cars are not factory-made in the Amtrak paint scheme, but similar freight cars can easily be painted and decaled.



This undated photo of the Southwest Chief in Mountain Air New Mexico is probably from the mid-1990s. The first P42 locomotive is in phase IV and the following three are phase III. The model train is all in phase IV paint, but this photo is more typical of gradual repainting of cars over time.


The Southwest Chief in Cajon Pass, California in August 2000. The money-making express box cars at the end of the train will be discontinued in 2005. The four locomotives in these two photos are need for mountain grades.


prototype car

prototype number


model car

model number

GE P42 diesel

Amtrak 178, 51, 8, 123


GE P42 diesel

AMTK 15,28

Baggage phase IV

Amtrak 1250


72' Baggage phase IV

AMTK 1215

Suplerliner I sleeper

Amtrak 32006


Suplerliner I sleeper

AMTK 32069

Suplerliner I sleeper

Amtrak 32026


Suplerliner I sleeper

AMTK 32000

Suplerliner I diner

Amtrak 38006


Suplerliner diner

AMTK 38033

Suplerliner II lounge

Amtrak 33026


Suplerliner lounge

AMTK 33014

Suplerliner I coach smoking

Amtrak 31510


Suplerliner coach smoking

AMTK 31509

Suplerliner I coach

Amtrak 34004


Suplerliner coach

AMTK 34010

Suplerliner I coach smoking

Amtrak 31541


Suplerliner coach

AMTK 34033

Suplerliner I coach baggage

Amtrak 31005


Suplerliner coach

AMTK 34054

Suplerliner II sleeper

Amtrak 32072 Arkansas


Suplerliner sleeper

4 grey express boxcars


62' express rib box (2)

AMTK 71219,71220

4 expresstrak reefers


50' express reefers (2)

AMTK 9229,9230

3 white roadrailers


Deluxe innov.

5 white roadrailers








Power and head end section


The power here is two P42 “genesis” diesels.  The prototype train had 4 locomotives because of all the express cars, but two are all I have in the phase IV paint scheme and are fine for the model train. The baggage car from the heritage fleet was originally made by Budd and was primarily for passenger baggage. Next are two superliner sleepers. Amtrak sleepers have 10 roomettes and 5 bedrooms above, and a handicap bedroom, a family bedroom, 4 roomette bedrooms, showers and storage below. All the passenger cars and locomotives in this train are prototypical Kato models.


Diner and lounge section


The dining car has a center service area without windows, a kitchen and storage below, and no passenger doorways.  The lounge car has tables, outward facing seats, and windows in the roof to simulate the dome cars of the 50s and 60s, and a snackbar below. One coach in a train generally has a smoking room, and in this train it follows the lounge.  The smoking room has its own ventilation behind closed doors, and it looks like a gas chamber which smokers love. Some coaches have a baggage compartment with a large outside door, and here it is the smoking coach.


Coach section


This train has 3 more coaches and another sleeping car, possibly a dead head with no passengers being transported for repair or to where it is needed.


Express box and reefer cars


Amtrak used ribbed express box cars (top, decaled in the phase IV scheme) and mechanical refrigerator cars in the 1990s and early 2000s to supplement and replace the material handling cars of the 1980s-2000s. The models are repainted Athern 62’ box cars and Atlas 50’ mechanical reefers. I did not have a correct decal sheet, but I made clear labels with a Brother labeller as a fast way to get the train on the rails.




Amtrak had it own fleet of roadrailers. Roadrailers have air brake lines and a steel girder so they can pull cars in a train, but the rail trucks can be removed so the trailers can go down the highway. The Southwest Chief often used these flexible cars for high value shipments like computers. Deluxe Innovations made these prototypical cars for Amtrak in several styles.




Solomon, Brian, Amtrak, MBI Publishing, 2004.

Warner, David and Elbert Simon, Amtrak by the numbers, A comprehensive passenger car and motive power roster 1971-2011, White River Productions, 2011.