In 1954 Santa Fe launched what would become the last of the Chiefs. The new San Francisco Chief entered service on June 6, 1954, offering the only single-carrier service between Chicago and the Bay Area. It operated over the southern transcontinental route via Amarillo and Belen, and connected at Clovis with the California Special to provide the only through service at the time between San Francisco, Houston and New Orleans (via Missouri Pacific).

At 2554.7 rail miles in length between Chicago and Oakland this timetable represents, as best as I have been able to determine, the longest passenger rail itinerary ever offered on an ongoing basis by a U. S. railroad, at least until 1993 when Amtrak extended the Sunset Limited east to Miami and Orlando. [Note: I have found a reference in Arthur Dubin's Some Classic Trains that for one season (Oct. 1897- April 1898) the Sunset Limited was operated twice weekly between Chicago and San Francisco on a routing via Chicago & Alton to St. Louis, Missouri Pacific [St. Louis, Iron Mountain & Southern] to Texarkana, Texas & Pacific to El Paso, and Southern Pacific to San Francisco via Los Angeles, which would make this seasonal operation the all-time champ. So far, however, I have not been able to find a timetable or any other reference which would confirm the routing between Los Angeles and San Francisco.] The San Francisco Chief remains the longest passenger rail itinerary ever operated entirely on the trackage of a single U. S. railroad; Espee could have theoretically claimed that crown by offering through service between New Orleans and Portland, Oregon, but it never did.

From the pages of the Official Guide, July 1954

Santa Fe Railway herald

The San Francisco Chief

Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Ry.
June 6, 1954

1 Train Number 2
Daily Miles Services Daily
4 00P Dp 0.0 Chicago, IL (Dearborn Station) (CT) C R Ar 12 20P
F 37.5 Joliet, IL C F
F 89.6 Streator, IL C F
F 130.1 Chillicothe, IL C F
F 177.5 Galesburg, IL C F
7 55P 232.9 Ft. Madison, IA C R 8 10A
8 00P Ar 234.6 Shopton, IA Dp 8 05A
8 05P Dp Ar 8 00A
F 312.7 La Plata, MO C F
F 347.3 Marceline, MO C F
F 386.4 Carrollton, MO C F
11 30P Ar 451.1 Kansas City, MO C R Dp 4 20A
11 50P Dp Ar 4 10A
12 30A 490.8 Lawrence, KS C 3 10A
1 00A 516.9 Topeka, KS C 2 45A
2 05A 578.2 Emporia, KS C 1 35A
3 15A Ar 651.2 Newton, KS C Dp 12 30A
3 25A Dp Ar 12 20A
4 00A 678.4 Wichita, KS C 11 45P
4 45A Ar 712.5 Wellington, KS C Dp 11 00P
4 50A Dp Ar 10 55P
6 25A Ar 819.1 Waynoka, OK C Dp 9 10P
6 30A Dp Ar 9 05P
F 927.5 Canadian, TX C F
F 971.3 Pampa, TX C F
9 45A Ar 1025.4 Amarillo, TX C R Dp 5 50P
93 Connecting Train Number 94
10 00A Dp 0.0 Amarillo, TX C R Ar 5 20P
12 45P Ar 121.6 Lubbock, TX (CT) Dp 2 35P
9 50A Dp 1025.4 Amarillo, TX C R Ar 5 45P
F 1071.9 Hereford, TX C F
11 30A Ar 1129.1 Clovis, NM (CT) C Dp 4 05P
Through Sleeper New Orleans-San Francisco
3 Connecting Train Number (Missouri Pacific) 4
8 35A Dp 0.0 New Orleans, LA (CT) C R Ar 7 15P
6 10P Ar 367.4 Houston, TX (Union Sta.) C Dp 9 05A
Through Cars Houston-California
66 Connecting Train Number 65
6 45P Dp 0.0 Houston, TX (Union Sta.) (CT) C Ar 8 15A
10 40P Ar 191.4 Temple, TX C Dp 4 00A
75 Connecting Train Number 76
10 50P Dp 191.4 Temple, TX C Ar 3 45A
1 35A Ar 323.6 Brownwood, TX C Dp 12 45A
112 Connecting Train Number 111
8 15P Dp 0 Dallas, TX (CT) C R Ar 7 45A
9 00P Ar 31 Fort Worth, TX C R Dp 7 00A
77 Connecting Train Number 78
9 20P Dp 31.0 Fort Worth, TX C R Ar 5 45A
1 25A Ar 169.8 Brownwood, TX C Dp 1 00A
75 Connecting Train Number 76
2 00A Dp 323.6 Brownwood, TX C Ar 12 25A
4 45A 438.0 Sweetwater, TX C 9 50P
7 30A 559.3 Lubbock, TX C R 7 15P
10 30A Ar 658.1 Clovis, NM (CT) C Dp 4 25P
10 50A Dp 1129.1 Clovis, NM (MT) C Ar 2 45P
F 1259.9 Vaughn, NM C F
2 50P Ar 1368.9 Belen, NM (Albuquerque via bus) C Dp 11 00A
3 00P Dp Ar 10 50A
5 12P 1513.7 Gallup, NM C 8 38A
7 00P Ar 1641.6 Winslow, AZ C Dp 6 50A
7 05P Dp Ar 6 45A
8 50P 1733.9 Williams, AZ (Grand Canyon via bus) C
9 45P Ar 1756.9 Ash Fork, AZ C
Through Sleeper Chicago-Phoenix
47 Connecting Train Number
12 15A Dp 0.0 Ash Fork, AZ C
1 45A 57.1 Prescott, AZ C
4 45A 139.6 Wickenburg, AZ C
6 15A Ar 193.7 Phoenix, AZ C R
9 45P Dp 1756.9 Ash Fork, AZ C
10 25P Ar 1784.3 Seligman, AZ (MT) C Dp 3 57A
10 27P Dp Ar 3 55A
11 45P Ar 1933.3 Needles, CA (PT) C Dp 12 05A
11 55P Dp Ar 11 55P
2 45A Ar 2100.9 Barstow, CA C Dp 9 25P
3 00A Dp Ar 9 10P
F 2151.9 Edwards, CA C F
F 4 15A 2172.3 Mojave, CA C 7 55P
6 40A Ar 2241.9 Bakersfield, CA C R Dp 5 30P
6 45A Dp Ar 5 25P
F 2259.7 Shafter, CA C F 4 58P
F 2267.2 Wasco, CA C 4 50P
F 2322.1 Hanford, CA C F
8 40A Ar 2352.3 Fresno, CA C R Dp 3 30P
8 45A Dp Ar 3 25P
9 43A 2410.3 Merced, CA C 2 26P
F 2443.4 Empire, CA C F
F 2450.5 Riverbank, CA C F
F 2455.8 Escalon, CA C
10 50A 2475.6 Stockton, CA C 1 23P
F 2510.0 Pittsburg, CA C 12 43P
F 2535.7 Pinole, CA C F
12 30P 2543.8 Richmond, CA C 11 56A
12 50P 2551.8 Berkeley, CA C 11 35A
1 05P Ar 2554.7 Oakland, CA (40th & San Pablo) (PT) C R Dp 11 25A
Connecting Bus Service
1 10P Dp 2554.7 Oakland, CA C R Ar 11 20A
1 30P Ar 2561.7 San Francisco, CA (PT) C R Dp 11 00A

Train 1 (Chicago-San Francisco): 28 stops, 47:30, 53.9 MPHTrain 2 (San Francisco-Chicago): 29 stops, 47:20, 54.1 MPH

Note: There is a fifteen mile discrepancy between the mileage I compute for the San Francisco Chief and the mileage shown in the condensed timetable for the train on page 948. It appears that the preparer of that timetable did not take into account the extra fifteen miles for the route via Topeka as opposed to the more direct Ottawa Cutoff used by the Super Chief and El Capitan.


Completely Air-Conditioned.

No. 1—Daily. (San Francisco Chief.)
Light Weight Streamlined Train.

Radio and recorded musical programs. Courier Nurse. All chair
car seats reserved between Chicago and Oakland and Houston
and Oakland and intermediate points.

Chair Cars...Chicago to Oakland.

Houston to Oakland.

Lunch Counter Diner...Chicago to Oakland. Serving popular priced meals. (Fred Harvey service.)

Big Dome Lounge Car...Chicago to Oakland.

Dining Car...Chicago to Oakland. Serving all meals. (Fred Harvey service.)

Sleeping Cars...Chicago to Oakland—2 Drawing-rooms, 4 Compartments, 4 Double Bedrooms.

Chicago to Oakland—24 Duplex Roomettes.

Chicago to Phoenix—10 Roomettes, 3 Double Bedrooms, 2 Compartments. (On No. 47 from Ash Fork) (May be occupied at Phoenix until 8:00 a.m.)

Kansas City to Oakland—10 Roomettes, 6 Double Bedrooms (ready for occupancy 9:30 p.m.).

New Orleans to Oakland—8-Section, 2 Compartments, 2 Double Bedrooms. (On No. 66-75 to Clovis.)

No. 2—Daily. (San Francisco Chief.)
Light Weight Streamlined Train.

Radio and recorded musical programs. Courier Nurse. All chair
car seats reserved between Oakland and Chicago and Oakland
and Houston and intermediate points.

Chair Cars...Oakland to Chicago.

Oakland to Houston.

Lunch Counter Diner...Oakland to Chicago. Serving popular priced meals. (Fred Harvey service.)

Big Dome Lounge Car...Oakland to Chicago.

Dining Car...Oakland to Chicago. Serving all meals. (Fred Harvey service.)

Sleeping Cars...Oakland to Chicago—2 Drawing-rooms, 4 Compartments, 4 Double Bedrooms.

Oakland to Chicago—24 Duplex Roomettes.

Oakland to Kansas City—10 Roomettes, 6 Double Bedrooms (May be occupied at Kansas City until 7:30 a.m.).

Oakland to New Orleans—8-Section, 2 Compartments, 2 Double Bedrooms. (On No. 76-65 from Clovis.)

Santa Fe passenger trains, westbound, operate into Oakland Station (40th St. and San Pablo Ave.) thence by motor coach to new Santa Fe Passenger Terminal (44 4th St., just off Market St.) San Francisco, eastbound, service is by motor coach San Francisco to Oakland, thence train. Stop is made at Berkeley Station (University Ave. and West St.) both westbound and eastbound.

The Santa Fe's circuitous route through Texas, New Mexico and Arizona spots the Union Pacific/Southern Pacific Overland Route a full three hundred miles. Consequently, even at its best the San Francisco Chief could not match the 40 hour schedule the City of San Francisco offered in 1954. The other major competitor, the California Zephyr, touted its magnificent scenery and its five dome cars. The Painted Desert is scenic in its own way, but it is tough to compete with the Front Range of the Rockies. All that the San Francisco Chief really had going for it was a management that was completely committed to excellence in every facet of passenger train operations.

Apparently, that would be enough. The San Francisco Chief would be the only one of the trio to survive intact and unmerged with another train all the way to the coming of Amtrak on May 1, 1971.