Track 5: Ne Plus Ultra—The Best of the Best


These are the trains which represented the ultimate in North American railroad passenger travel—indeed, they stand among the finest means of overland travel at any time and anywhere. I do not mean to slight partisans of many of the other fine trains which crisscrossed the continent during the streamliner period, but each of these trains stood out from the crowd in some special way. Even during the general decline of rail passenger travel during the late 1960s and early '70s, these trains continued to offer a memorable experience to their patrons.

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The Trains:


The Broadway Limited

The Pennsylvania Railroad's Nos. 28 and 29 would be the only serious challenger to go toe-to-toe with the 20th Century Limited on the New York to Chicago run, outlasting its more famous rival (at least in name) by nearly thirty years.
Broadway Limited - September, 1938
Broadway Limited - July, 1956
Broadway Limited - June, 1967
Broadway Limited - April, 1971

The California Zephyr

Scenery:  The Front Range of the Rockies and the Feather River Canyon.  Equipment:  Five, count 'em, five dome cars.  And a schedule which was specifically tweaked to show both off to best advantage.  The Burlington Route, Denver & Rio Grande Western, and Western Pacific's entry in the Chicago to San Francisco market was a sensation.
California Zephyr - August 1950
California Zephyr - February 1970

The Canadian

Even today, you must go north of the 49th parallel to find the only true transcontinental railroads in North America. Traversing 2881 miles from Montreal to Vancouver (with a section to Toronto), Canadian Pacific's 1955 Canadian was the longest rail itinerary under a single privately owned management in the world.
The Canadian - July, 1956
The Canadian - April, 1971

The City of Los Angeles

The pride of Union Pacific's extensive streamliner fleet operated between Chicago and Los Angeles via Omaha and Salt Lake City.
City of Los Angeles - September, 1938
City of Los Angeles/The Challenger - July, 1956
City of Los Angeles - July, 1957 (Part of the Union Pacific 1957 Summer Tours series)
"City of Everywhere" (City of Los Angeles/The Challenger/City of Denver/City of Kansas City/City of Portland/City of San Francisco) - April, 1971

The Coast Daylight

Self-proclaimed by Southern Pacific as "The Most Beautiful Train in the World," this train also traversed some of the most spectacular railroad scenery in the country as it wended its way along the California coast between Los Angeles and San Francisco.
The Daylight - September, 1938
Coast Daylight - April 1971

The Hiawathas

"Swift of foot was Hiawatha," and this train lived up to that reputation, covering the 421 miles between Chicago and Minneapolis in a scheduled seven hours.  Moreover, it featured some of the most unique rolling stock to be found in North America, constructed in the Milwaukee Road's own shops.
Hiawatha - September 1938
Hiawathas - July 1954
Hiawathas - July, 1957 (Part of the Union Pacific 1957 Summer Tours series)

The North Coast Limited

Raymond Loewy's two-tone green livery adorned this Northern Pacific flyer on its long run from Chicago to Seattle and Portland.
North Coast Limited - April 1959
North Coast Limited - April 1971

The Panama Limited

From the Windy City to the Big Easy, the Illinois Central's crack overnight streamliner was the first class way to travel between Chicago and New Orleans.
Panama Limited - August, 1944
Panama Limited - October, 1962
Panama Limited/Magnolia Star - January, 1968
Panama Limited - April, 1971

The Silver Meteor

Born of the cutthroat competition in the hotly-contested New York to Florida market, the Seaboard Air Line's first true streamliner would set the standard for luxury on the run to Miami until the coming of Amtrak - and beyond.
Silver Meteor - June 1941
Silver Meteor - November 1958
Silver Meteor - April 1971

The Super Chief

Santa Fe's world-famous flagship on the Chicago-Los Angeles run would maintain its stellar standard of excellence from its inception in 1936 until its handover to Amtrak in 1971.
Super Chief - September 1938
Super Chief - March 1951
Super Chief - July 1956
Super Chief/El Capitan - June, 1967
Super Chief/El Capitan - April, 1971

The 20th Century Limited

The legendary train which originated the "Red Carpet Treatment" would be the New York Central's premier entry in the New York to Chicago market for 65 years.
20th Century Limited - January, 1927
20th Century Limited - September, 1938
20th Century Limited - July 1956
20th Century Limited - June, 1967
All comments, original material and page design copyright 2006-2016 by Eric H. Bowen. Page updated 2016-07-04.