THE PANAMA LIMITED...
... is really twins. They leave Chicago and New Orleans daily at 4:30 p.m., one northbound, the other south. Sixteen and a half hours and 921 miles later (they sometimes hit 120 m.p.h.) each slides into its terminal. The men who make this run memorable are, from left: Pullman conductor John M. Fiescher, dining-car steward Harold N. Strong, Jr., conductor George B. Willingham, chef Gordon Stanfield, waiter James R. Dixon, club-car
attendant Ted Fortenberry, train baggageman Fred Eckman, Pullman porter Wilbur Payne and, seated, right, engineer Charles R. McDonald; in the cab, fireman Charles C. Fenn (upper) and flagman A. E. Calhoun.
Photograph by Arnold Newman
A railroad buff lists the six U.S. train rides
he loves the best - and explains why
BY LUCIUS BEEBE
Dateline: November 27, 2022. Originally published in Holiday magazine, July 1961
The late O. O. McIntyre, an atmospheric newspaper columnist who, in the 'Thirties enjoyed circulation that dwarfed all competition, used to remark that only while
riding on the steam cars did he order bottled mineral water, and that no other place made him feel so expansive. Those to whom railroad travel appeals as the superlative way of going places in comfort, privacy and style will understand the sentiment.
Let's face it at the outset: railroad travel, especially aboard the great name trains that once were the glory of American overland travel, has changed, only infrequently for the better. Back in 1911, the Santa Fe's crack flyer, unabashedly called the De Luxe, charged an extra fare of $25 and made a trip each way between Chicago and Los Angeles once a week with a complement of seventy persons, including barber, lady's maid, manicurist and train secretary. There were also tubs and shower baths, electric curling irons, a library, telegraphic news reports, stock quotations and stereoscopic views of the landscape in case you didn't care to look out the window.
Oh, and at the top of Cajon Pass out of San Bernardino, uniformed messengers boarded the De Luxe with bouquets of fresh flowers for every lady passenger and alligator billfolds for the gentlemen.
Things also have declined from the days when the bill for cut flowers in the dining cars of the New York Central & Hudson River's proud flagship, The Twentieth Century Limited, came to $2000 a month.
But if the graph of luxury aboard the cars has been downward in recent years, the vista of railroad travel today is by no means one of impenetrable gloom. In its larger aspects it seems debatable whether an overland traveler in the year 1961 would trade air conditioning, tight lock couplings and rubber draft gear for the antelope steaks that once were a commonplace on the Overland Limited in the days when passengers had only to raise the sash before shooting at buffalo along the right of way. The memory of an older generation, however, is nonetheless haunted by wistful souvenirs of the beautiful library-buffets on the Santa Fe's once top-flight California Limited, the red carpet laid at Grand Central and La Salle Street for the departure of the Century and the open observation platforms on the parlor cars that rode the Chicago & Eastern Illinois' Zipper on the day run from Chicago to St. Louis.
By and large, the better-operated carriers believe in the passenger potential. Even though it may show adversely on their balance sheets, they recognize that their obligation as public carriers demands that they continue passenger service indefinitely into the future. Such outstanding lines as the Santa Fe, Great Northern, Northern Pacific, Illinois Central and Western, Pacific are making efforts to retain the passenger traffic they now enjoy. Some, and the Pennsylvania is perhaps the
best example, are dedicated to recovering passengers they have lost over the years.
Operators of such railroads admit unhesitatingly that their passenger trains are their best advertisements, and that without passenger service they would have no grounds for their complaints about Government discrimination and competition from buses and planes. They recognize that only their passenger runs separate them from oblivion in the mind of a general public which doesn't give a plugged dime about their freight business. Some of the more intelligent executives even remember that almost every railroad in the land was originally chartered and underwritten by state and Federal governments solely on the basis of its passenger operations.
From the public point of view claims of fantastic losses on their
passenger operations long have been viewed with suspicion. Twenty-five years ago a generally observed rule of thumb held that any passenger train grossing a dollar a mile was in the black, but since that time rising costs have tripled and perhaps quadrupled
Railroad bookkeeping is complicated and when a carrier cries poverty because of its passengers, there is suspicion that railway auditing can be made to show
anything the management wishes. What better device, from the defeatist point of view, than to charge to passenger cost items that just as fairly might be assumed by the freight operations?
The railroads' continual complaints about Government subsidy of airlines,
and growing automobile travel are not without justification, but the carriers are prone to forget that many of the great trunk lines were specifically underwritten in their early years by Government land grants of incalculable value and that as recently as World
War II the Federal Government poured millions into their coffers for the transport of personnel and matériel. Compared to World War I, when the railroads were nationalized under a Government administrative agency to emerge in a state bordering on chaos, the carriers emerged from World War II in a condition of near perfection of operations.
On the debit side for the railroads, it must be admitted that their attempts to cut corners and curtail conveniences to which the public has become accustomed often have appeared to show poor judgment. The most glaring example of this has been in dining-car service. Diners never have made money; they were considered valuable by the carriers as good public relations. For railroads suddenly to assert that they are being
eaten to ruination by passengers is preposterous. That the cost of labor, the largest factor in diner accounting, has advanced even more than is represented by the advance from the dollar dinner to the $6.00 steak is undeniable, but to take it out in the service of diminutive portions, skimpy menus and the substitution of paper for linen service is
Some railroads, notably the Santa Fe and the Pennsylvania, have held out
against such an affront to passengers. The Santa Fe menus, certainly on the Chief and Super Chief, still contain a refreshing diversity of good things and, aboard The Broadway Limited, the Pennsylvania has bid for favor with dining-car service as stylish as ever it was in the good old days. Nowadays you can hear travelers advise their friends to ride The Broadway Limited if they want to enjoy a good dinner.
Save in the obvious matter of speed, rail travel still offers a variety of inducements that have a firm hold on a perceptive segment of the American public. It provides privacy, composure, movement in all weather, and a view of the countryside. Add to this the intangible but nonetheless atavistic association of the cars with romance, and
you have an inducement to Pullman travel without counterpart anywhere.
Dining on the cars resembles the practice of civilized eating elsewhere,
with cooked-to-order food served at tables with linen and china. The composure of rail travel is one of its main charms for sophisticated travelers who can afford to travel amid the polite amenities of life and prefer arriving at their destination completely rested.
To evoke in the author a benign mood it is only necessary for him to
emerge from his stateroom or bedroom aboard the City of San Francisco or the Chief or the Empire Builder and consume at leisure as many Martinis as may seem proper in the club car before moving on to the diner with the assurance that the best of Kansas City sirloins awaits him. Steak is the glory of dining-car cuisine, the hallmark of a well-conducted commissary, and it is difficult to get a poor one. After dinner, a Hennessy and Uppmann in the club car as the dark torrent of Nebraska or Arizona night flows past the picture
windows, then to sleep in the gently vibrant repose of a full-size Pullman bed with two mattresses. I can imagine no better conclusion to a restful day before achieving my destination.
Let us explore briefly half a dozen name trains operating in the year 1961 in the United States. Three are on runs in the Far West, one is in the Mississippi heartland and two operate in the industrial East. They are the Broadway Limited, the Capitol Limited, the Panama Limited, the Super Chief, the California Zephyr and the Sunset; and aficionados may argue that these are not even the cream of existing name trains. Four of them are old, established institutional runs having their roots in the golden years of railroad travel at the turn of the century. But the Super Chief has a history of just twenty-five years and the California Zephyr is the youngest of all consequential passenger hauls over a continental distance.
The California Zephyr, compared to such long-established runs as that of, say, the Southern Pacific's Sunset, which has been maintained since the mid-Nineties, is a newcomer, having been in operation only twelve years. During this time, however, it has established a formidable reputation and an average occupancy of 85 per cent - which, in today's traffic, is fantastic. In summer it is filled to capacity and in midwinter, when I recently rode it, its coach space was sold out and Pullman occupancy ran 60 per cent. Between Glenwood Springs in Colorado and Denver, it being a Sunday, two extra coaches were cut in to handle winter-sports traffic.
The Zephyr, jointly operated by the Western Pacific, the Denver & Rio Grande Western and the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroads, runs between Oakland-San Francisco and Chicago daily over a distance of 2525 miles, one of the longest continental hauls in the United States and perhaps the most scenic. The Rio Grande's slogan over the years has been "Through the Rockies, Not Around Them," and, perhaps more than any mainline in the land, it is a triumph of mountain railroading. The fantastic mountain ledges in Gore and Byers canyons along which the right of way clings in its approach from the west to Moffat Tunnel make one question the judgment of David Moffat, who first dreamed of that particular segment of today's Rio Grande and built a standard-gauge line where pioneers before him had proclaimed that even a narrow-gauge couldn't run.
The Continental Divide, spanned by the tunnel itself, in certain seasons is a spectacular weather barrier as well, and it is possible to enter one portal of the
great bore in springtime and emerge at the other into a raging Rocky Mountain snowstorm. The Rio Grande is one railroad that pays close attention to the weather forecasts.
The first of the transcontinental Vista Dome trains, the Zephyr makes a special bid for the vacationist and camera-addict trade, furnishing schedules of
light and shutter adjustments integrated to the various windows of its cars.
Six full trains comprise the Zephyr operation, and very well appointed they are. Your reporter occupied the master stateroom in the lounge-observation-dome car at the end of the train, an apartment boasting a shower bath with a complexity of curtains, valves and controls that would amuse Rube Goldberg.
The designer of this unique palace car hadn't considered the fact that
during much of its run, the Zephyr is on either an ascending or descending
grade. I took a shower while breasting Soldier Summit, Utah, and the "annex," as it is delicately known, was fairly well drained by Green River two hours later.
My steward in the diner was Edward F. Thomas, a courtly gentleman of the
Old School, who has been gentling travelers for decades and who served the Bollinger with the expertise of Oliver of the Ritz. Steak on the Zephyr diner is a bargain at $3.90 compared to double this sum on some runs east of the Mississippi.
"We deliberately maintain a price level below that of our immediate competition and far less than those of Eastern carriers," says Gilbert Kneiss, spokesman for the Western Pacific in San Francisco. "Since the major cost of dining-car operation is the fixed charge for labor, we see no advantage in cutting corners on the menu."
One of the great names of the railroad West, though it has been in operation only since the 'Thirties, is the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe's Super Chief on the thirty-nine-and-a-half-hour run between Los Angeles and Chicago and, even in this day of jet planes, it is a glamour box for such celebrities as Joan Blondell, Robert Wagner, Harry S. Truman, Spencer Tracy, James Cagney, Chico Marx, the Prince and Princess of Hanover and Kim Novak.
The Super Chief is one of the last remaining extra-fare all-Pullman trains in the United States; a companion train is the all-coach transcontinental, El Capitan, also extra-fare. The Santa Fe has never boggled at a surcharge since the days of its magnificently opulent De Luxe, which proclaimed its
name and the fact that it was extra-fare from the drumhead insigne on the railing of its observation car.
Until a quarter century ago the Chief was the last word in elegance on the Santa Fe system, competing with the Southern Pacific-Rock Island Golden
State and the Union Pacific's City of Los Angeles; but in 1936, when speed was at a premium, the management came up with the then all-Pullman, extra-fare Super Chief powered by the new diesels and it has remained flagship of the carrier's fleet ever since.
A good deal of water has gone under the bridge since the Santa Fe's staterooms and compartments were depicted as transcontinental love nests in Frederic Wakeman's The Hucksters, but glamour is still a Santa Fe commodity.
Supplying food and drink has been a major preoccupation of the Santa Fe
since the days when Fred Harvey was an instrument of civilization in the American West comparable to the Winchester rifle, and the Super Chief maintains the Harvey tradition with great style and the insistence that the Harvey heirs deliver nothing but the best of everything.
Jewel case for the display of its epicurean resources and superlative
railroad décor is the Turquoise Room aboard the Super Chief. The bedsheet-
size menu is entirely 4 la carte (although both a la carte and table d'héte are available in the conventional diner), teeming with Lake Superior whitefish, broiled lobster tails, oyster pan roast, calves' liver and a magnificent charcoal-broiled double sirloin steak ($7.50) which would have gratified even Death Valley Scotty, who once chartered an entire private train to get to Chicago over this very route with a dining car
stocked with only two items: champagne and Kansas City steaks.
That the Santa Fe maintains the great tradition of substantial eating in a world that often breakfasts on orange juice and melba toast is attested by the breakfast menu that bristles reassuringly with kippered herring, calves' liver sautéed, grilled French lamb chops, corned beef and roast beef hash with poached eggs, buckwheat cakes, griddle cakes, French toast and Rocky Mountain trout. The management doesn't want its passengers fainting from malnutrition before luncheon.
The high plains of Arizona and New Mexico, with their increasingly tropical vegetation as the train progresses westward, together with the clear atmosphere and sunsets and cloud effects, are among the sights appreciated from the cars. The landscape of passing mesas and jagged peaks seems never to become a commonplace.
The only luxury all-Pullman room train still operating between New York
and Chicago is the Broadway Limited of the Pennsylvania Railroad, a name train in operation for fifty-nine years. If you should want to include the Pennsylvania Limited in the Broadway's life span, and this may be done legitimately for it was the Broadway's immediate predecessor, it is one of the oldest name trains in the country.
The Broadway is still maintained, operated and, it may be added, patronized in the grand manner of other times. The management spares no expense to make it luxurious, and its passenger list always includes top names in business, finance and the professional world.
The Broadway, incidentally, is one of the last three all-Pullman trains still operating on a year-round basis, the other two being the Pittsburgher, also maintained by the Pennsy, and the Panama Limited. Contrary to the trend toward downgrading passenger runs that is apparent on some carriers, the Broadway actually is building patronage and almost invariably runs to capacity. Last year it added two cars.
The last time I rode the Broadway it was westbound and I occupied the master suite in the lounge observation car, a regally appointed stateroom with its own shower. Why anyone should need a shower between the St. Regis and the Ambassador East escapes me, but I used it just the same and can report it works dandy.
The Pennsylvania's mainline traverses almost continually, save for a few hours in agricultural Ohio, the densest industrial complex in the United States. Its most
spectacular aspect comes in the middle of the night in Pittsburgh where the great blast furnaces suggest a preview of hell.
More than any other name train in operation today, the Broadway seems to maintain the continuity between the present and the grand days of railroading in
the 'Twenties. In terms of size and speed alone it is impressive, seventeen or eighteen
cars on a split-second schedule, all painted in the Tuscan red-and-gold livery of the
company, rushing through the night in a torrent of glittering privacy and superb public apartments. On the tangents between Hoboken and North Philadelphia, often for miles at a time, it paces lesser trains on a parallel track, filling its patrons with the superiority of a Rolls-Royce owner passing a car of less exalted pedigree.
Since the days when its predecessor of the 'Nineties, the Pennsylvania
Limited, was the favored train of Philadelphia Mainliners, and Biddles and Cassatts regularly boarded it at Paoli to go west, the Broadway has attracted a special clientele. The writer has a friend who views the Broadway in a purely therapeutic light. Troubled with insomnia, he has discovered he sleeps perfectly on the cars and now and then makes a round trip to Chicago simply to get a good rest.
There are six choices of room accommodations on the Broadway: drawing rooms for two or three, compartments for two, duplexes for those traveling alone, roomettes for single individuals, bedrooms for two and the aforementioned master suite.
All in all, the Broadway would seem to be a living refutation of the theory that Americans no longer care for comfort, privacy and the amenities of life in travel. Although no longer an extra-fare train - the special service charge disappeared in 1943 - the Broadway offers all the splendor its predecessor advertised in the 'Nineties when it had the first electric lights of any train.
Back in the days when the steamcars were the fastest possible means of overland travel, certain people held that "real railroading" began at the Mississippi and fanned out on the Great Northern, the Milwaukee, Union Pacific, Southern Pacific, Santa Fe and Rock Island, and that everything east of the big river was a wasteland. The basic test of "real railroading" in the minds of the traveling salesmen who then roamed the land in numbers comparable to the plains buffalo was the dollar dinner on the diner. If it comprised fresh Cotuit oysters, Lake Erie ice fish, breast of chicken Eugenie, grilled porterhouse steak, glazed Virginia ham, Waldorf salad, six vegetables, cheese, dessert and coffee, it was felt to be acceptable. If there was terrapin Maryland it was considered above par. This last revealed a fallacy of the West-of-the-Mississippi school of thought, for prior to 1910 the Baltimore & Ohio served generous portions of terrapin on its dollar dinner. It was the hallmark of the road's superiority, and the presence of terrapin
automatically put the B. & O. in the "real railroading" category. Much of the B. & O.'s reputation as a passenger railroad derived from the excellence of dinners served on the Blue Ridge Limited, Diplomat, Ambassador and National Limited.
The flagship of the Baltimore & Ohio's lamentably diminished fleet is
still, however, a train of consequence, and many a tycoon takes the Capitol Limited between Chicago and Washington for the sake of a good night's sleep on one of the smoothest railroad operations available. Some of its patrons in recent months include Harry and Mrs. Truman, Henry J. Kaiser, the Most Rev. Geoffrey Francis Fisher, Archbishop of Canterbury, the San Francisco Symphony Orchestra in toto, Sophia Loren, Bing Crosby, Major General Lewis B. Hershey and Mrs. Roosevelt.
The Capitol is nearing its thirty-eighth birthday and its equipment as this is written includes sleeping cars with roomettes and bedrooms, Slumber-coaches, Strata Dome cars, up-to-the-minute diners and club cars. The dome sleepers are named Starlight Dome and Moonlight Dome and a night spent on their foam-rubber beds is as soothing as their names suggest.
Among train fanciers there is a strong conviction that the Panama Limited, which is run by the Illinois Central between Chicago and New Orleans, is
an experience not to be missed, a still splendid reminder of the belle é'poque of railroading when the Palace Cars were lending a new dimension to American luxury. The Illinois Central for generations has been celebrated for its cuisine and the present management seems in no mood to compromise this heritage. Even its exterior is eye-popping: a seventeen-car train painted the road's orange and chocolate; and its departure daily from its two terminals is an event.
The Panama carries every sort of Pullman accommodation in the room
category, and travelers have the choice of drawing rooms, compartments, double bedrooms, duplex single rooms, roomettes and, between Memphis and New Orleans, a parlor car. There is a buffet lounge that runs south with the St. Louis sleeper and is cut out at Carbondale; there's an uncommonly handsome diner and a bar car of legendary resources. The writer may lament the now-departed standard tavern car on a pre-streamlined Panama
that created a New Orleans patio, iron grillwork and all, but the admirable wine card on today's train compensates for such remembered splendors.
Getting through the bar car presented a problem and only the knowledge that Train Steward Butroyce Brann and Chefs Middleton and Porter had run up a special menu in our honor got us into the diner with judgment unimpaired. We had asked that dinner be served from the regular menu, but there were special touches that included cut flowers, a bill of fare handsomely engrossed with our name, and a double bottle of Bollinger brut for which no wine bucket on the train was sufficiently capacious and which came in a fire pail elegantly swathed in irreproachable Illinois Central napkins.
We opened the ball with Gulf oysters, then engaged an order of baked deviled crabmeat followed by a fricassee of chicken livers en croustade, candied yams, blueberry muffins, salad with Camembert, and spumoni. Both of the principal courses had been cooked to order and would have done credit to Brennan's in New Orleans itself. The steward informed me that every other entree excepting only the turkey and prime ribs of beef was cooked to order and that there was no steam table for any meat or fish dishes at any time. It was a radiant dinner.
The view from the windows of the Panama Limited southbound out of Chicago in the late afternoon is a common-place of Illinois prairie and industrial horizons, but in the morning the traveler awakes to find himself in the Deep South of legend, of trailing Spanish moss and mysterious bayous and inland lakes of pastoral aspect.
Breakfast on the cars in my book is always an event. On the Panama it is actually gala: fresh California figs, a mushroom omelet of ethereal delicacy, French toast and bacon, and coffee of outsize strength. There is a printed grace at each place at
table written by Wayne Johnston, the I.C.'s deeply religious president and a railroad operator of renown.
Back in the year 1895 when the Santa Fe's orchidaceous De Luxe was still sixteen years in the future, the finest thing that rolled on wheels west of the Mississippi was the Southern Pacific's Sunset Limited, Trains No. 1 and 2, on the 2000-mile run between New Orleans and Los Angeles. All new superluxury equipment was ordered from Pullman to make the Sunset the bright jewel in the operational crown of a rich and prideful carrier, and Pullman's artisans dreamed up details of décor and comfort to be included in this widely advertised string of varnish. Special linen was woven for its diners and sleepers, the company's setting-sun insigne was embossed on stationery of bank-note gauge, and sage hen and Mexican quail appeared on its diners, one of which was named appropriately Epicure.
The most picturesque portion of the Southern Pacific's Sunset Route lies between New Orleans and Houston, which is traversed at night by the westbound section but is agreeably available to eastbound passengers. Here the wide picture windows of the Southern Pacific's most comfortable showpiece disclose the Louisiana bayous with their
rare and exotic waterfowl, their lonely vistas of waterbound prairie and the ghostly festoons of Spanish moss above the cabins of swamp-dwelling Cajuns.
So much glamour attached to the Sunset Limited in that halcyon age that a young man in the Southern Pacific advertising department was moved to write a short story about a romance that flowered aboard it that was published in Sunset Magazine under the title The Train of Love. Later the directors made the author, Paul Shoup,
president of the railroad, but it was thirty-five years afterward and there may have been no connection.
Today, nearly seven decades after its inaugural run, the Sunset is still perhaps the Southern Pacific's most scrupulously maintained passenger operation. It is still extra fare and it carries both coach passengers and head-end revenue cars; that is to say, mail and express; but when I rode it recently, it was rolling with twenty-two
cars, which is a very big train indeed. Some of the luxury touches of 1895, of necessity, have gone with the wind, but if a traveler from that distant time were to compare the two trains, it is reasonable to suppose that he would trade the Mexican quail and valet service for air conditioning and cars sprung on such sensitive trucks that from Union Station in New Orleans to its terminal in downtown Los Angeles there is scarcely a jar to cause a ripple in your highball.
Students of the history of American business in general and railroading in particular view with something close to awe the building of the Southern Pacific across Texas. The indefatigable Collis P. Huntington had to buy and consolidate nearly fifty woebegone railroads that antedated it, and he had to come into personal conflict with Hetty Green. The latter left more scars on Huntington than all the legislative scuffles he had known.
At the time the Espee was pushing through the Lone Star State, Hetty owned a controlling interest in a fifty-four-mile streak of rust called the Waco & Northwestern which Huntington needed to complete his pattern of a transcontinental trunk line. To represent her in negotiations over this property she sent her eccentric but able son, Col. E. H. R. Green, celebrated for his wooden leg and other identifying personal characteristics. Colonel Green arrived at one of the local banks with a draft for $500,000 which he thought might be useful in the approaching encounter and, as the sum represented
more than the worth of the county in which the bank was located, the cashier asked for identification.
"Have him remove his hat," came the telegraphic reply from New York. "If
there is a large mole on his forehead, cash the draft."
The next day the colonel handled himself so astutely that he forced the
Southern Pacific's agents to buy the property for a whopping million and a half. Texas, always excited by something of magnitude, was enchanted.
Having reported briefly on six name trains that are representative of travel in the United States today, nothing would give the writer greater pleasure than to recall those trains he loved in the very recent past, to ride again aboard the brass-railed observation platform of the parlor car Helena Modjeska on the Wabash Banner Blue, to partake of the wonderful watermelon pickle that, in happier times, was the hallmark of dinners on the Twentieth Century Limited, to relive the glories of the Forty-niner on the Chicago-San Francisco Overland run in the 'Thirties
when Wild Bill Kurthy was its tumultuous steward, or to hand up his ticket on the New Haven's Merchants Limited, the jammed five o'clock out of Boston, to venerable George Hall, the last conductor in the land to wear a blue frock coat of office with a fresh boutonniere every run. He would conjure memories of Florida East Coast diners and the pompano they served, and of the lounge cars of the Missouri Pacific's Sunshine Special that included in their structural economy a library, barber shop and shower bath, an observation lounge, a Spanish patio bar and smoking room and a soda fountain for soft drinks. And he would ride again across the Flagler Trestle that used to carry the sleepers from West Palm Beach across to Palm Beach where they were spotted under the numberless windows of the Royal Poinciana Hotel at seven in the cool of a Florida morning.
But space interferes. Instead, let us mention a handful of other trains that still bring glory to an ancient and romantic industry. It would be possible to do a full-dress piece on either of the superlative overnight trains between Chicago and Denver, the Union Pacific's City of Denver and the Burlington's Denver Zephyr. Both are sleek, fast, dome-liners and the Burlington plays up the regional quality of the
Zephyr with a Vista Dome Chuck Wagon and a Colorado Room lounge car.
Another off-beat train is the Kansas City Southern's Southern Belle, a gem of a streamliner on the New Orleans-Kansas City haul; still another overnight run out of New Orleans, the Louisville & Nashville's Gulf Wind to
Jacksonville, lives in the reporter's memory for a dinner of grilled pompano many years ago. Worthy of mention, too, is the Rio Grande's Prospector running overnight through the Rockies between Salt Lake and Denver via the Moffat Tunnel and the route of
the California Zephyr; it has a clublike dining car fitted with intimate banquettes and specializing in the freshly grilled Rocky Mountain trout that became the carrier's conversation piece back in the 'Eighties when all its trackage was narrow gauge.
The best trains now are sleeper hops which preclude any possibility of viewing the countryside, once an important part of overland journeys. The parlor car which induced relaxation is almost as extinct as the dodo. But there are still daylight runs worthy of the attention of the amateur of rail travel: the North Western's Twin Cities "400" between Chicago and St. Paul-Minneapolis, the Southern Pacific's Daylight from Los Angeles to San Francisco along the most spectacular oceanside right-of-way anywhere, the Gulf, Mobile & Ohio's Abraham Lincoln from Chicago to St. Louis, and the New York Central's Empire State Express which once established a world's speed record and still traverses eye-filling views of the Hudson between New York and Buffalo.
Railroad travel has suffered to some degree from its own progress. One example is the disappearance of the open observation platform, once the hallmark of any train with pretensions to distinction. High speeds which pick up bits of the roadbed and air conditioning which requires doors to remain closed have eliminated the brass-railed
veranda, and something of the charm of the cars has gone with it.
The utilitarian character of railroad equipment and diesel motive power are further discouraging factors. There are many passengers for whom railroading simply disappeared with the passing of steam and who would appreciate some relief from the institutional décor of passenger cars. It may be worth mentioning that the best-paying train in the United States last year, on the basis of dollars per passenger mile, was the narrow-gauge Silverton run by the Rio Grande in summer months between Durango and Silverton, Colorado. From June until September no seat was unsold on this daily round trip through Animas Canyon aboard wooden equipment that was outmoded when Dewey took Manila, behind steam engines whose stacks give a reasonable facsimile of the burning of Rome.
The fatal flaw is that the defeatism of a single management can infect the entire system of railroads, often downgrading the service and morale of adjacent lines. But there are those in railroading who feel the future of the industry depends on the passengers some in the business affect to despise. Without passengers, the whole claim
of the carriers on the acceptance of society, the approval of the state and the patronage
of industry will have disappeared.