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California Zephyr consist, about 1952-1964

Santa Fe RDC trains 80-83 (surf line, LA to San Diego), 1952-1955

Fred Klein, 2005, 2010, 2016

Santa Fe purchased a pair of RDC-1 rail diesel cars from Budd in 1952 and placed in service on May 21, 1952.  These were efficient, self-powered coaches with an engineer’s cab at either end.  They ran back and forth in twice daily service on the “surf line” between Los Angeles and San Diego. They were effectively a section of the “San Diegan”.  On week days traffic was often light enough to only run one car, but two cars were used on Fridays and weekends.  In January 1956, an accident killed 30 passengers when the train took a curve restricted to 15 mph at 68 mph.  Santa Fe repaired the cars, and added a baggage compartment to one of the cars, effectively making it an RDC-2.  Santa Fe was afraid that no Californian would ever ride the RDCs again, and sent them off to Kansas.  See the page titled “Santa Fe RDC trains 311-312 (Newton to Dodge KS), 1956-1968” to continue the RDCs story.


Santa Fe DC-191 and 192 train #80 at Oceanside, California, August 5, 1952.


A northbound San Diega train pulling out of Santa Ana, California, on July 3, 1952. Photo from a postcard taken by Thomas Gildersleeve.


The rail diesel car



When new, the two RDC-1’s were decorated with a simple red and yellow band and a Santa Fe cross herald on the end.  I used Microscale decals to easily make this first scheme from a pair of Kato undecorated RDC-1s.  The cars were repainted with warbonnet fronts between March and June, 1954 while still in California.







I’m sure there are other books, but these are the ones I found so far.

Stagner, Lloyd, Santa Fe in color, volume3: Albuquerque- Los Angeles, Morning Sun, 1994.

Stagner, Lloyd, Santa Fe in color, volume4: Texas- El Capitan, Morning Sun, 1994.