Before the Fall

As with the Golden State and the Imperial, the Sunset Limited had always had a "running mate" to handle small-town and short-hop passengers, with a schedule that could be tweaked to provide service to major destinations during normal waking hours if the other passed through in the dead of night. In this case it was the Sunset Limited which had the fancy new equipment, the tight schedule, and the cachet, while the Argonaut was the workhorse which handled mail and express and the "whistle stop" travelers.

By the late 1950s the highways and the airlines had siphoned off enough customers that passenger railroads were definitely bleeding red ink. Southern Pacific was especially feeling the pinch. In an earlier era Espee management had been willing to let freight profits subsidize passenger losses, but as the new Interstates tilted that playing field in favor of truck lines the freight profits were drying up as well. The passenger trains that couldn't pay their own way would have to go.

At first, it seems, Espee's plan was to eliminate the redundancies and excess capacity in its passenger timetables, but continue to operate the surviving trains to a high standard. So, between the two daily trains on the Sunset Route, it was the Argonaut which had to go. It would be truncated to a Houston-New Orleans train on June 7, 1958, and eventually discontinued altogether in 1963. The Sunset would inherit its mail and express business and lose its title as a "Limited". For the remainder of its days as a Southern Pacific train, it would be known simply as the "Sunset".

From the pages of the Official Guide, September 1960

Southern Pacific Lines herald

The Streamliner Sunset

Southern Pacific Lines
July, 1960

1 Train Number 2
Daily Miles Services Daily
10 00P Dp 0 New Orleans, LA (Union Psgr. Tml.) (CT) C R Ar 5 30P
10 05P 2 Carrollton Avenue 5 10P
N10 13P 6 East Bridge Junction N 5 06P
Mississippi River Bridge
N10 29P 11 West Bridge Junction N 4 48P
F11 22P 56 Schriever, LA C
F11 51P 81 Morgan City, LA C
F12 15A 102 Franklin, LA C
12 50A 126 New Iberia, LA C F 2 37P
1 20A Ar 145 Lafayette, LA C 2 10P
1 45A Dp
F 2 16A 167 Crowley, LA C F 1 22P
F 2 43A 186 Jennings, LA C
3 55A 219 Lake Charles, LA C R 12 23P
4 49A 257 Orange, TX C 11 31A
5 25A 279 Beaumont, TX C 11 04A
F 6 13A 321 Liberty, TX C
7 15A Ar 363 Houston, TX (S. P. Station) C R Dp 9 25A
7 45A Dp Ar 8 55A
F 8 34A 400 Rosenberg, TX C F 7 52A
F 9 48A 471 Schulenberg, TX C F 6 45A
F10 53A 538 Seguin, TX C F 5 40A
11 35A Ar 573 San Antonio, TX (Sou. Pac. Station) C R Dp 5 01A
12 05P Dp Ar 4 30A
F 1 51P 665 Uvalde, TX C F 2 48A
3 10P Ar 743 Del Rio, TX C Dp 1 30A
3 20P Dp Ar 1 20A
N 4 20P 792 High Bridge (Pecos River) N12 20A
6 02P Ar 871 Sanderson, TX C Dp 10 45P
6 17P Dp Ar 10 30P
F 7 28P 931 Marathon, TX C F 9 10P
8 12P 962 Alpine, TX C 8 36P
8 50P 988 Marfa, TX (CT) C 8 07P
11 45P Ar 1184 El Paso, TX (Union Station) (MT) C R Dp 3 35P
Through Sleeper Dallas-Los Angeles
1 Connecting Train Number (Texas & Pacific) 8
8 10A Dp 0.0 Dallas, TX (Union Depot) (CT) C Ar 7 30A
9 50A Dp 31.5 Fort Worth, TX (CT) C Ar 6 10A
10 45P Ar 645.3 El Paso, TX (Union Station) (MT) C Dp 3 25P
12 25A Dp 1184 El Paso, TX (Union Station) (MT) C R Ar 3 05P
2 03A 1272 Deming, NM C X
3 00A Ar 1332 Lordsburg, NM C X
3 10A Dp
4 31A 1406 Willcox, AZ C X
5 28A 1447 Benson, AZ X
6 30A Ar 1494 Tucson, AZ C R
1257 Columbus, NM C F 1 38P
1301 Hachita, NM C F12 58P
1331 Animas, NM C F12 32P
1349 Rodeo, NM C F12 15P
1401 Douglas, AZ C R Dp 11 20A
Ar 11 10A
1423 Bisbee Junction, AZ (Bisbee via bus) C F10 39A
1439 Hereford, AZ C F10 20A
1524 Tucson, AZ C R Dp 8 30A
6 50A Dp 1494 Ar 8 10A
F 7 58A 1559 Coolidge, AZ C
F 8 27A 1591 Chandler, AZ C F
F 8 39A 1599 Mesa, AZ C F 6 26A
9 15A Ar 1615 Phoenix, AZ C R Dp 5 55A
9 35A Dp Ar 5 30A
12 25P Ar 1788 Yuma, AZ (MT) C Dp 2 40A
11 35A Dp Yuma, AZ (PT) Ar 1 25A
12 40P 1854 Niland, CA 12 01A
1 35P Ar 1910 Indio, CA C 11 06P
1 38P Dp
2 13P 1938 West Palm Springs, CA (Palm Springs) C R 10 33P
F 2 48P 1959 Beaumont, CA C
3 25P 1982 Colton, CA C 9 26P
4 05P 2007 Pomona, CA C R 8 55P
4 45P 2033 Alhambra, CA (Pasadena) C R 8 20P
5 05P Ar 2039 Los Angeles, CA (Union Psgr. Tml.) (PT) C R Dp 8 00P

Train 1 (New Orleans-Los Angeles): 41 stops, 45:05, 45.2 MPHTrain 2 (Los Angeles-New Orleans): 36 stops, 43:30, 47.6 MPH

NOTE: "CALIFORNIA — State law provides for 'Daylight Saving' time throughout the State annually commencing the last Sunday in April and ending the last Sunday in September [1960]." [All times in this timetable are Standard Time—add one hour to obtain local time in California during this period.]

NOTE: Mileages west of Tucson are via Lordsburg, NM.



Extra Fare.

Full Lounge Car—

New Orleans-Los Angeles. (For Pullman passengers.) (Shower bath and valet service.)

Sleeping Cars—

New Orleans-Los Angeles. (Roomettes, Bedrooms, Compartments, Drawing-rooms.)

Dallas-Los Angeles. Westbound on T. & P. No. 1 to El Paso; Eastbound on T. & P. No. 8 to Dallas. (Roomettes, Bedrooms.)

Chair Cars—

New Orleans-Los Angeles.

El Paso-Los Angeles.

Reclining leg rest seats.

Pillow service available at nominal charge.

Reserve seats in advance.

Dining Car—

New Orleans-Los Angeles.

Hamburger Grill Car—

El Paso-Los Angeles. (For chair car passengers.)

News Agent Service.

Baggage—No checked baggage service train No. 1 to or from Deming, Lordsburg, Wilcox and Benson.

Most convenient service to Imperial Valley points is available by detraining at Yuma westbound or Los Angeles eastbound using Western Greyhound Lines bus from Yuma or Los Angeles to destination. Rail tickets optionally honored. Rail and Bus stations at Niland are located approximately one-half mile apart and only infrequent bus service is available from this point to Imperial Valley destinations.

Unfortunately, Southern Pacific had not considered the issue of "connectivity". As you reduce the possible combinations of connections and destinations, you render the remaining ones less valuable, not more. I never went far enough with linear algebra to break it down into matrix theory, but the essential fact that Espee discovered the hard way was this: If you cut one of a pair of trains, ridership on the remaining train goes DOWN, not up (assuming, of course, that passengers have viable non-rail alternatives).

This was not in the plan. And so expenses would be shaved again and over again. Dollars were made here and there, in dribs and drabs—Espee sold off its immodestly named Grand Central Station edifice in Houston to the U.S. Government in 1959 to be the site of a new post office, replacing it with a pathetic structure which could easily be mistaken for a small-town bus depot (and which still serves as Amtrak's only surviving station in the Bayou City). But there were only so many stations to sell, only so many redundancies to cut. In 1960, the fresh flowers which graced the tables in the Audobon dining cars aboard the Sunset were quietly replaced with plastic. It was a harbinger of things to come.