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Santa Fe’s El Capitan, 1953-1956

Santa Fe’s El Capitan, 1953-1956

 

Fred Klein, 2010

The El Capitan was the coach equivalent to the famous first class Super Chief running between Chicago and Los Angeles. The two trains ran on the same fast schedule. Both the El Capitan and Super Chief were extra fare, which Santa Fe charged because it claimed to offer superior service to the standards of other railroads. Santa Fe ran other coach trains on the Chicago to Los Angeles run, but they ran slower, made more stops and used older equipment. The El Capitan had leg rest, reclining chairs that Santa Fe hoped were comfortable enough to spend three days in.

 

The El Capitan was a streamliner created in 1938. It eventually replaced the Scout heavyweight chair-car coach train that ended service in 1948, at which time the El Capitan started daily service. The El Capitan went through four major versions: 1938 with twice-weekly service; 1946 every second-day service featuring Budd 60-seat chair cars in the 3151 series, with additional 44-seat coaches added in 1947 (Budd, 2861 series) and 1950 (PS, 2912 series); 1953 refurbished with Budd 48-seat chair cars in the 2816 series; and 1956 replacement with Budd hi-level cars and later seasonal combination with the super chief in 1958. More information can be found at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/El_Capitan_(train).

 

elcap53.jpg

The 1953 El Capitan domeliner at Ribera, New Mexico from Dorin’s Super Chief and El Capitan 1936-1971, page 40 (Santa Fe photo).

 

The consist on which I base this 1953 train was based on Fred Frailey’s A Quarter Century of Santa Fe Consists, page 118. This represents a winter consist, and the train could grow with tourist traffic in the summer. Note that lounge or food cars are distributed through the train with no more than two coaches between them. In early 1954, the big dome lounge car replaced the mid-train lounge in the El Capitan. This hi-level car was so successful that it was the prototype for Santa Fe’s 1956 hi-level El Capitan, and indeed the Superliners in Amtrak’s fleet of the 1980s and later.

 

Nearly all cars of the 1953 El Capitan are available in N scale, some as brass sides, and most with ready-to-run substitutes. Fortunately, Concor used the 1953 Budd chair-car ordered by Santa Fe for the El Capitan as the prototype for its parlor car, so this key car is available. I assembled a train with all nearly-prototype cars, most I re-decaled, but some car numbers may not exactly match those used by Santa Fe on the El Capitan.

 

Proto car

Proto series

Model car

Model number

Model brand

Prototypical?

F diesel set/4

ATSF warbonnet

F3 diesel ABBA

ATSF 17L,A,B,C

Kato

Yes

RPO-Baggage

ATSF

72' Baggage-RPO (Budd ’38)

ATSF 3407

Kato

Yes (Chicago to K.C.)

RPO

ATSF

60’ RPO (Budd 1940)

ATSF 83

Arnold

Yes (Chicago to K.C.)

Storage-mail

ATSF

72' Baggage REA (ACF 1950)

ATSF 3465

Des Plaines

Yes (KC to LA)

Storage-mail

ATSF

72' Baggage (ACF 1950)

ATSF 3456

Kato

Yes (KC to LA)

Storage-mail

ATSF

72' Baggage (Budd 1953)

ATSF 3539

M&R sides

Yes (Chicago to LA)

Storage-mail

ATSF

72' Baggage (PS 1950)

ATSF 3559

Walthers

Yes (Chicago to LA)

Baggage-dorm (PS 1947)

ATSF 3478-3482

Baggage-dorm (PS 1947)

ATSF 3477

M&R sides

yes

Coach-chair 48-seat (Budd 53)

ATSF 2816-2860

Coach-chair 48-seat (Budd 53)

ATSF 2816

Concor

yes

Coach-chair 48-seat (Budd 53)

ATSF 2816-2860

Coach-chair 48-seat (Budd 53)

ATSF 2819

Concor

yes

Lunch-counter-diner

ATSF 1571-1577

Lunch-counter-diner (PS 1950)

ATSF 1577

M&R sides

yes

Coach-chair 48-seat (Budd 53)

ATSF 2816-2860

Coach-chair 48-seat (Budd 53)

ATSF 2816

Concor

yes

Coach-chair 48-seat (Budd 53)

ATSF 2816-2860

Coach-chair 48-seat (Budd 53)

ATSF 2819

Concor

yes

Buffet-lounge

ATSF 1346-48, 1388-89 (Budd 1946)

Parlor-club

Ganado=ATSF 1390

Concor

Yes, before 1954 (not pictured)

Big-dome-lounge

ATSF 506-513

Big-dome-lounge

ATSF 507

Bachmann, re-decaled

Yes, after 1954

Coach-chair 48-seat (Budd 53)

ATSF

Coach-chair 48-seat (Budd 53)

ATSF 2822

Concor

yes

Coach-chair 48-seat (Budd 53)

ATSF

Coach-chair 48-seat (Budd 53)

ATSF 2825

Concor

yes

Lunch-counter-diner (PS)

ATSF 1564-1570

Lunch-counter-diner (PS)

ATSF 600

Des Plaines

yes

Coach-chair 48-seat (Budd 53)

ATSF

Coach-chair 48-seat (Budd 53)

ATSF 2822

Concor

yes

Observation-Coach 38st

ATSF 3197-98, 3246-48

Observation (Budd)

ATSF 3198

decal-Concor

Similar

 

Power and RPO cars

e53-1.jpg

The power units were an ABBA set of either F3 or F7 diesels painted in the warbonnet scheme. I modeled them with factory painted Kato F3s. The railway post office cars were used on the Chicago to Kansas City part of the run. The baggage-RPO is a Kato model of the 72’ Budd car of 1938 with a 15’ RPO section. The 60’ RPO car is the Budd car of 1940 similar to the car of 1954. The model is an old Arnold car and is prototypical to the Santa Fe.

 

Storage mail section

e53-2.jpg

The head end cars of the El Capitan typically included four storage mail (baggage) cars. Two went Kansas City to Los Angeles and two went all the way from Chicago to LA. You can use any baggage car in your train that is appropriate to this 1953 era on the Santa Fe. These are all 72’ baggage cars from the early 50s. The road numbers I used from the decal sheet (just as with factory lettered cars) are not guaranteed to be from the prototype car series. The models pictured here are 1) a Des Plaines Hobbies brass side kit of a 1950 ACF car; 2) a factory lettered Kato model of a 1950 ACF car; 3) a M&R brass side applied to a Concor car of a 1953 Budd car; and 4) a Walthers smoothside model of a 1950 Pullman Standard car.

 

First coach & dining section

e53-3.jpg

The first car after the baggage section is a baggage-crew dormitory. The car is made with M&R metal sides and is a prototypical model of a 1947 PS car. Next is a pair of the 48-seat coach-chair cars made by Budd in 1953, and the Concor model is prototypical. Note the distinctive divided windows. They are followed by a lunch-counter-diner from PS (1950) modeled with M&R sides on a concor car.

 

Second coach and lounge section

e53-4.jpg

Two more 1953 Budd coaches follow the lunch-counter-diner. The signature car of the 1954 El Capitan is the big dome lounge. It replaced the buffet lounge cars made by Budd in 1946 (not pictured here). Big domes were also used on other later Chief type trains. The prototypical model is by Bachman, but the giant “Santa Fe” lettering applied at the factory must be re-decaled. After the dome is another 1953 Budd coach.

 

Last coach and lounge section

e53-5.jpg

e53-6.jpg300px-ATSF_El_Capitan_combined_x3.png

 

Between two more 1953 Budd coach-chair cars is a Pullman Standard lunch counter diner. This diner type was also used on the Super Chief, and number 600 that I used is appropriate for the SC, not the El Capitan. The model is a Des Plaines Hobbies (M&R sides) metal side applied to a Concor car. The last car is a Budd coach-observation car with a rounded end. The model is the Concor Budd observation car whose end matches the El Capitan but whose side windows are for a different car. I applied the El Capitan tail-sign drum-head to the car.

 

References

Dorin, Patrick. Super Chief and El Capitan 1936-1971, TLC Publishing, 2005.

Frailey, Fred. A Quarter Century of Santa Fe Consists.

Schafer, Mike & Joe Welsh. Streamliners: History of a Railroad Icon, MBI Publishing Company, 2002.

 

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