The Train From Hell

In the autumn of 1965 the Sunset's sleeping accommodations were reduced to a single car. On January 19, 1966, the Pride of Texas hamburger-grill cars were axed, leaving the dreaded automatic buffet cars as the only on-train food service between New Orleans and El Paso. Actually, the term "automatic" was increasingly a misnomer; the vending machines were in such a constant state of disrepair that the standard procedure was to hand your money to the attendant, who would then unlock the machines with a key and hand you a candy bar and a can of lukewarm spaghetti. Could things get any worse?

Yes. On February 26, 1966, the last New Orleans-Los Angeles sleeping car was discontinued. Now the Sunset was down to nothing more than a string of coaches and the hated automatic buffet car. Still, the Sunset continued to operate combined with the Golden State west of El Paso, and as the Golden State retained its diner/lounge and sleeping cars it was still possible to enjoy a reasonably civilized trip once west of Texas.

But on April 8, 1968 the Golden State was discontinued. As far as passenger service on the Sunset Route was concerned, this was . . . The Nadir.

From the pages of the Official Guide, June 1968

Southern Pacific Lines herald

The Streamliner Sunset

Southern Pacific Lines
May 12, 1968

1 Train Number 2
Daily Miles Services Daily
12 01P Dp 0 New Orleans, LA (Union Psgr. Tml.) (CT) C R Ar 7 45P
12 06P 2 Carrollton Avenue 7 30P
F 1 20P 56 Schriever, LA C F 6 10P
1 44P 81 Morgan City, LA C F 5 44P
F 2 08P 102 Franklin, LA C F 5 20P
2 40P 126 New Iberia, LA C 4 53P
3 17P 145 Lafayette, LA C 4 29P
F 3 47P 167 Crowley, LA C F 3 47P
F 4 08P 186 Jennings, LA C F 3 25P
4 54P 219 Lake Charles, LA C R 2 51P
5 40P 257 Orange, TX C 2 05P
6 16P 279 Beaumont, TX C 1 30P
8 30P Ar 363 Houston, TX (S. P. Station) C R Dp 11 55A
9 00P Dp Ar 11 35A
F 9 53P 398 Rosenberg, TX C F10 36A
F11 12P 469 Schulenberg, TX C F 9 22A
F12 25A 536 Seguin, TX C F 8 16A
1 15A Ar 569 San Antonio, TX C R Dp 7 35A
1 45A Dp Ar 7 15A
3 35A 661 Uvalde, TX C 5 07A
5 01A 738 Del Rio, TX C 3 25A
7 45A 867 Sanderson, TX C 12 30A
F 9 03A 927 Marathon, TX C F11 03P
9 35A 958 Alpine, TX 10 28P
10 25A 983 Marfa, TX (CT) C 9 55P
1 35P Ar 1177 El Paso, TX (Union Station) (MT)
(Dallas and Fort Worth via bus)
C R Dp 5 40P
2 15P Dp Ar 5 00P
3 35P 1266 Deming, NM C 3 05P
4 40P 1326 Lordsburg, NM C 2 05P
5 50P 1399 Willcox, AZ C 12 25P
6 40P 1441 Benson, AZ
(Bisbee, AZ and Douglas, AZ via bus)
C 11 25A
7 45P Ar 1488 Tucson, AZ C R Dp 10 00A
8 00P Dp Ar 9 45A
F 9 05P 1552 Coolidge, AZ C F 8 26A
9 50P 1592 Mesa, AZ 7 48A
10 25P 1608 Phoenix, AZ C R 7 05A
2 00A Ar 1782 Yuma, AZ (MT) C Dp 3 55A
1 10A Dp Yuma, AZ (PT) Ar 2 45A
2 15A 1847 Niland, CA 1 15A
3 25A 1904 Indio, CA C 12 15A
4 05A 1932 West Palm Springs, CA (Palm Springs) C R 11 30P
5 30A 1976 Colton, CA C 10 20P
6 00A 2001 Pomona, CA C R 9 45P
6 45A 2027 Alhambra, CA (Pasadena) C R 9 05P
7 15A Ar 2033 Los Angeles, CA (Union Psgr. Tml.) (PT) C R Dp 8 45P

Train 1 (New Orleans-Los Angeles): 38 stops, 45:14, 44.9 MPHTrain 2 (Los Angeles-New Orleans): 38 stops, 45:00, 45.2 MPH

All times shown (except Mexico) on this page are "Advanced" Standard Time as defined in the Uniform Time Act of 1966. (All times shown are Daylight Savings Time.)

Note:  Times shown for Arizona are one hour earlier than the official time observed in that state during the period last Sunday in April to last Sunday in October. (Arizona opted out of Daylight Savings Time.)


Chair Cars—

New Orleans-Los Angeles    El Paso-Los Angeles

Reclining leg rest seats.  Advance reservations required June 1 through Sept 15, 1968. Pillow service available at nominal charge.  Porter Service.

Automatic Buffet Car—
Los Angeles-New Orleans

No checked baggage service, except intrastate between stations in Texas. See general note below.

Effective May 1, 1968, Southern Pacific will not check or handle checked baggage traffic for interstate movement, nor for intrastate movement in the state of Oregon or intrastate to or from stations served by train Nos. 1 and 2 "Sunset" in California, Arizona, New Mexico and Louisiana. Exception: Train 102 will handle baggage traffic checked from stations served by that train San Francisco to Ogden or beyond. Train 101 will handle baggage checked to but not beyond stations served by that train.

Children—Under 5 years of age, free when accompanied by parent or guardian; 5 years of age and under 12, one-half fare; 12 years of age and over, full fare.


Don't overlook using S.P.'s free self-service luggage carts located in front of the station or at trainside. They're there for your convenience and economy. Just load your luggage, release the hand brake, and away you go. (Translation: We laid off the Redcaps!)

In spite of all the shenanigans Southern Pacific could pull, a hard core of customers refused to abandon the train. It was during this period that an old Southern railroading term, "The Chicken-Bone Express," came into common usage for this train by crewmembers affectionately referring to the contents of the picnic baskets brought along by savvy passengers.