Back in the mid-1960s I was a young grad student at the University of Wyoming in Laramie. Given that Laramie had poor air service and a great railroad running through town I often rode Union Pacific trains to my family home in the East, changing trains in Chicago. Later, when I lived in California I occasionally used the Union Pacific for business trips to the college for which I did admissions work in the Midwest. I was also able to photograph it as I traveled around the west by car and plane for work and pleasure.
More recently the UP has been known for its anti-passenger attitudes -- sticking Amtrak trains in the hole, gumming up commuter service in Los Angeles and the Bay Area -- an over-expansion that has created freight bottlenecks and deteriorating infrastructure -- though there are signs of improvement due to enormous political pressure. Back when I knew it the UP was something else: an efficient, passenger friendly, community focused organization. As companies like the Southern Pacific threw their passenger trains into a hopeless downward spiral, the Western Pacific killed the California Zephyr, and Eastern Railroads came to resemble the Delta Airlines of today, the UP maintained a high quality of service, albeit increasingly depleted of amenities in the immediate years before Amtrak. Here are some photos and assorted advertisements, menus and ticket covers from my collection. As Amtrak struggles and demand for passenger service increases I often wonder what would happen if UP threw itself back into the people business, drawing on its wonderful tradition as a company that helped bind America together. Wishful thinking in my lifetime I fear. But hope springs eternal.
The above photos of the City of Los Angeles heading into Los Angeles out in the smoggy countryside near Riverside in the late 1960s shows the essence of Domeliner grace and power in its last years. Sadly, both the Domeliner and countryside are long gone.
Laramie in the early 60s was a beehive of activity on both freight and passenger fronts. It had a graceful and attractive station that is currently being preserved. Here are interior and exterior views in September, 2005.
Laramie's signboard in the summer of 1964 shows a lot of interesting action, including a City of Los Angeles-City of San Francisco split into 20 car coach and sleeper sections. The next photos show this train and the highly disciplined Pullman porters who shined shoes and looked after first-class passengers in a style long lost in American intercity-rail.
Look to the right behind the first dome car and you can see one of the mail-express-passenger trains that plied the rails between Laramie and Omaha.
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