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U n i t e d   S t a t e s

The first Pullman car from 1859, vestibule sleeper from 1887, all-steel sleeper from 1907 and roomette car from 1937 (Pullman brochure, 1937)

The USA was the country of the famous expresses linking the Atlantic with Chicago and Chicago with the Pacific and it was the country of the pioneers who created this great network of private railroad companies.

"Railroad Titans"
and their most important companies:

"Commodore" Vanderbilt:
New York Central (NYC).

James Hill:
Great Northern Railway (GN)
Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad
Spokane, Portland & Seattle Railroad
Northern Pacific Railway (NP)
Great Northern Steamship Co.

Edward H. Harriman:
Union Pacific Railroad(UP)
Oregon Railway & Navigation Co.
Central Pacific (CP)
Southern Pacific (SP)
Pacific Mail Steamship Co.

The Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway (ATSF) was the main competitor.

Jay Gould:
His most important acquisitions were the later Missouri Pacific and various railroads in the East. His son George Jay Gould bought the Denver & Rio Grande and ruined it by building the Western Pacific. Missouri Pacific and Western Pacific were merged by the Union Pacific.

George Mortimer Pullman established the Pullman's Palace Car Co in 1867. In 1899 he acquired the Wagner Palace Car Co. which ran the services on the New York Central.
Pullman's successors owned nearly all sleeping cars in the U.S.A. until 1947 and withdrew from services in 1968. (Colors of Pullman cars initially brown, from 1901 green).

Robert R. Young after WWII sold the Baltimore & Ohio and bought New York Central. Facing the end of the railway age he committed suicide in January 1958. Three months later the 20th Century ceased to be a de-Luxe. NYC and Pennsylvania merged in 1968 and were bankrupt in 1970.

Amtrak rail network 1973

Famous Trains
On trans-continental route sections:
1827: Baltimore & Ohio Railroad licensed, but the important links to Chicago were created by the later NYC and by PRR.
1869: First train services Omaha-Oakland by the newly opened UP/CP (later SP) Overland route.
1887: Pennsylvania Limited New York - Chicago (by PRR)
1887: Overland Flyer, from 1896 Overland Limited Chicago - Oakland (ferry connection to San Francisco).
1892: California Limited Chicago - Los Angeles (by ATSF), 1911-14 additional Santa Fe de-Luxe.
1893: Exposition Flyer New York - Chicago (by NYC, only 1893).
1894: Sunset Limited New Orleans - Oakland (by SP).
1897: Lake Shore Limited New - York - Chicago (by NYC, Wagner sleepers, from 1901 Pullman).
1897: New Pennsylvania Limited New York - Chicago (by PRR
1900: North Coast Limited St. Paul (from 1911 Chicago) - Seattle (by NP).
1902: 20th Century Limited New York - Chicago (all Pullman, by NYC)
1902: Pennsylvania Special New York - Chicago (all-Pullman, by PRR).
1905: Oriental Limited Chicago - Seattle (by GN), from 1929 Empire Builder.
1911: Olympian Chicago - Seattle / Tacoma (by Milwaukee Road)
1912: Broadway Limited New York - Chicago (all Pullman, by PRR)
1926: The Chief Chicago - Los Angeles (by ATSF)
1936: Super Chief Chicago - Los Angeles (by ATSF), from 1937 the first all- Pullman de-Luxe Diesel streamliner.
1936: City of Los Angeles and City of San Francisco, from Chicago (by C&NW/UP/SP), the first true diesel streamliners.
1938: 20th Century Limited streamliners.
1938: Broadway streamlined.
1938: El Capitan Chicago - Los Angeles (by ATSF).
1946: Pullman sleeping cars from East - to West Coast for the Transcon (short-lived), San Francisco Overland, Los Angeles Limited, California Zephyr, Chief and Sunset Limited. The idea of a Century - Super Chief did not materialize.
1947: Empire Builder a streamliner
1947: Golden Rocket project for a streamliner Chicago - El Paso - Los Angeles by Rock Island and SP cancelled.
1947/48: North Coast Limited a streamliner.
1948: Olympian Hiawatha Chicago - Seattle (by Milwaukee Road)
1949: California Zephyr Chicago - Oakland (via D & RGW) with the first vista domes.
1950: Sunset Limited a streamliner
1955: City of Los Angeles via Milwaukee Road instead of C & NW.
1967: 20th Century Limited (since 1958 including coaches) suspended.
1968: Super Chief (temporarily with coaches) and El Capitan combined, Chief suspended.
1971: Most of the few remaining U.S. passenger train services were taken over by government - supported Amtrak.
1971: Rio Grande Zephyr Denver - Salt Lake City (by D&RGW), connecting with Amtrak's San Francisco Zephyr Chicago - Denver - Cheyenne - Oakland.
1973: Super Chief renamed South West Limited, later South West Chief.
1978: Sleeper New York - Kansas City - Los Angeles on South West Chief abandoned.
1983: Amtrak Superliner cars on Empire Builder, then also California Zephyr, Southwest Chief, Texas Eagle, Coast Starlight, Sunset Limited, Capitol Limited. City of New Orleans, Auto Train.
1983: California Zephyr Chicago - Oakland via D&RGW (by Amtrak, replacing San Francisco Zephyr and Rio Grande Zephyr
1989: American European Express (AEE), a de-Luxe service by Alby Glatt, initially combined with the Broadway, in 1991 independently, then stopped.
1993: Sunset Limited extended Miami - Los Angeles
1997: American Orient Express, a tourist special with the AEE cars, later the Grand Luxe Express.
1997: Sunset Limited Orlando - Jacksonville - New Orleans - Los Angeles, combined with Texas Eagle Chicago - San Antonio - Los Angeles - Capitol Limited and South West Chief temporarily combined Washington – Chicago – Los Angeles.
2000: Acela high-speed trains Washington - New York - Boston
2008: Sunset Limited only New Orleans – Los Angeles, combined with Texas Eagle.

Timetable extract (January 1952):

20th Century20th Century
1st day18.00dep.New Yorkarr.09.304th day
2nd day09.00arr.Chicagodep.16.303rd day
2nd day13.3017.4519.00dep.Chicagoarr.10.3007.1513.453rd day
4th day08.307.308.45arr.Los Angelesdep.12.3013.3020.001st day

Chicago - Los Angeles 2224 miles (3579 km)

California Zephyr of Amtrak, Gore Canyon (Spyros Nikolopoulos)


The new railway age of high-speed intercity trains had started in Japan in 1964. The first attempt in the United States were the Metroliner electric multiple units from 1969, running New York - Washington DC. They were replaced by rather similar trains hauled by AEM7 electric locomotives, a derivative of the Swedish Rc4. Turbotrains, started in 1969, had no future. "Amtrak Cascades" Talgo trains with F59PHI diesel locomotives, introduced in 1999 between Eugene, Seattle and Vancouver, are comparatively slow. The first true high-speed services by Amtrak started with the Acela trains on the electrified Northeast Corridor line Washington - New York - Boston, with 6400 kW capable of running at 150 mph or 241 km/h. They were delivered by Alstom-Bombardier in 1999-2000, a derivative of the French TGV, but not articulated. Years ago the German ICE1 had toured the USA, locomotive-hauled of course, but Alstom was preferred. Initial technical problems had been solved and the Acela trains in sparkling silver with an elegant interior became an option for the future. The “City Sprinter” electric engines from Siemens are conceived for conventional trains. For San Francisco – Los Angeles – San Diego the HRSA high-speed project came on the agenda. Privatization of the Northeast Corridor for extending high-speed was proposed. In March 2011 however, the Railway Gazette Intl informed that in Florida the Republican Governor R. Scott “decided to reject any federal funding for the proposed 135km high speed line between Tampa and Orlando (…) which had been widely seen as a flagship for introducing high-speed rail in the USA.” In 2012 funding for the first section of the Los Angeles – San Francisco high-speed line was signed by Governor Jerry Brown. For the Northeast Corridor, Amtrak was reported in 2015 to get the next generation of high-speed trains from Alstom.

America’s first ‘Bullet Train’ for 350 km/h became targeted mainly by Jerry Brown, the long-term Governor of California. In 2015 he opened construction work for the CHSRA’s 1300km high-speed line Los Angeles – San Francisco, intended for completion in 1929, later to connect also San Diego in the south, opposed by environmentalism, oil industry and Republican politics, as Spiegel Online reported it in 2015.

Acela consist: Electric engine unit, 1st class, bistro, 4 cars business class, electric engine unit (nos. 2001-2039).

Acela Express New York – Washington, arriving at Washington Union Station, 2008 (WS)

Washington Union Station (WS)

California Zephyr Chicago – Los Angeles, Upper Colorado, 1987 (WS)