Southern Pacific, back in the 1960s, it was on the cusp of leading the
fight to discourage passenger travel. Its extensive fleets were
becoming threadbare. Reserveration phones went unanswered (or trains
were dishonestly reported as too full to take new travelers). Its
sections of cross-country runs, like the City of San Francisco, were
becoming distinctly inferior to those of its partners, and it messed
around with such customer unfriendly innovations as 'automatic buffet
cars'. Indeed, on one of my trips on the City of San Francisco a
disgruntled dining car steward showed me a letter from a railroad
official reminding employees it was against company policy to encourage
passenger travel. He was angry, and I couldn't blame him, because the
railroad removed all the silverware from his diner, leaving his
employees to purchase plastic knives and forks when we pulled into
Here is a
collection of photos from this period. They include most
of the railroad's long distance trains as well as San Francisco
Peninsula runs. We begin with shots of the Portland-Oakland
Cascade, photographed south of Portland, Oregon, in 1968
The normal consist for this
train was as follows: Sleeping cars from Seattle (carried on
connecting train to Portland) and Portland, chair cars, dining and
lounge service and an automatic buffet car.
Below is the Del Monte, photographed in Redwood City on the San
Francisco Peninsula, on its way down to Monterey. and Pacific Grove. It
carried coaches and a parlor snack lounge car, with reserved seats and,
reportedly, SP's best bartender.
Here's the San Joaquin
Daylight, near Tipton, in 1968.
train carried chair cars and an infamous automatic buffet from Oakland
to Los Angeles. My Official Guide tells me SP charged an extra
dollar for adults
to make mandatory coach reservation.
Below are shots of the Coast
Daylight, taken in Redwood City in 1967, on its way from Los Angeles to
San Francisco. Depending on the season it carried a dome car and parlor
until the late 60s, but, par for the SP course, an automatic buffet
replaced its diner by mid-decade, causing a substantial customer
outcry, particularly because the SP killed bar service as well and did
not put beer in its vending machines, which reportedly ran out of
supplies long before arrival.
The next photo is of train 21 a
single coach-express-mail train that shared the the Ogden - Oakland
route with the City of San Francisco. The photo was taken in Wells,
Nevada, in 1964.
The next three photos are of
the Lark, a premier overnight train connecting Los Angeles and San
Francisco. The first two are of the last Lark, photographed in Redwood
City on April 8, 1968, on its way into San Francisco. This always
popular train carried a full lounge, sleepers, dining car and coaches.
Business people could avoid problems associated with getting to LAX and
fighting the 101 Bay Shore Freeway to get to meetings in San
The third photo is of the train's mail car, taking on Christmas Mail in
Southern California, probably Ventura.
Below left is an inbound City
of San Francisco/Overland at Berkeley in 1968. Run with the Union
Pacific and Milwaukee Road, this train carried a dome lounge, dining
car, lounge car, automatic buffet, sleepers and chair cars to and from
Chicago and St. Louis. The photo next to it is of the Oakland Station,
which once had direct ferry service to San Francisco and is now
abandoned, and photos from my trips on the train, in 1966 and 1969. Click here to see the coffee shop menu from my
1966 trip. Note that this very skimpy menu, printed on cheap paper, was
from the only sit down food service on a transcontinental train. When
we switched over to the Union Pacific portion of the trip there was a
major improvement in what became a true dining car.
Above right is #19, a chair car only
train from Portland to Oakland, photographed in Davis, California, in
the left Northwestern Pacific #3, sitting in Willits, from which
it went up to Eure
back three days a week . On the right, photographed from a dome on
the California Zephyr, SP's Sacramento Daylight, a once daily train
from Sacramento to Los Angeles.
Here are photos of SP's Peninsula service trains, taken in Palo Alto.
The first two photos
below are of the Coast Daylight, taken near Santa Barbara in 1966. A
business car brought up the rear. Below them are shots of the
Sunset-Golden State, taken in Southern California. In the mid-60s this
train, which was shared with the Rock Island, connected Los Angeles
with Chicago, New Orleans, El Paso and Kansas City, carrying the usual
array of of long-distance equipment.
On the left is the
Sunset-Golden State in El Paso, where the Chicago and New Orleans
sections were split, and on the right some faded SP advertising in one
of its stations.
Southern Pacific is long gone, absorbed into the Union Pacific. Though
it took many years to happen, there has been a true renaissance in
California passenger rail, what with an exploding set of services in
and around Los Angeles and Santa Barbara and out to Sacramento from San
Jose - Oakland - Emeryville and down the Sacramento Valley to
Bakersfield. The Coast Starlight runs daily from Los Angeles up to
Seattle and the Sunset Limited provides service (albeit not daily) to
New Orleans and Orlando. There is now planning underway for high speed
service between Los Angeles and San Francisco, and much of the
Peninsula right of way is being rebuilt. Though public attitudes in
California favor increased rail of all kinds, private interests,
including the UP, still throw up roadblocks wherever they can.