Sunset Limited in 1897
Riding the Sunset Limited, 1897
The Southern Pacific Railroad began passenger service from New Orleans to Los Angeles in 1894. The Sunset Limited originally ran from New Orleans to San Francisco, via Los Angeles. The train was a major transportation improvement for the time. The Panama Canal was still twenty years away, so getting from New York to California meant a sea voyage around South America, or a complex railroad journey over the Rocky Mountains. The Sunset Limited traveled south of the Rockies, across Texas and through the desert. The train then went north to San Francisco. In 1930, the route was cut back to Los Angeles.
This ad, from a trade publication in 1897, advertises through service from Galveston to Washington, DC. The Eastbound Sunset Limited added Pullman sleeper and drawing cars in Galveston, for the overnight trip to New Orleans. Those cars were then hooked to the Crescent. Passengers going to NYC would have to change cars in DC. The ad says “through sleeper service,” because that change was in the daytime. By the mid-20th century, it was possible to book Pullman car service from NYC to New Orleans on the Crescent, and your sleeping car would be hooked to the Sunset Limited, for a direct transcontinental journey. While Amtrak does not offer through service to New York, the Sunset Limited ran for a brief period all the way to Jacksonville, FL.
Sunset Limited 1897 consist
The Sunset Limited, 1897, operated with this basic consist:
- A 4-4-0 American steam locomotive
- Composite Baggage car with barber shop, bath and buffet smoker lounge El Indio
- 7 Drawing Room Sleeper with ladies´ parlor lounge El Piloto
- 10 Section 2 Drawing Room Sleeper El Dorado
- Dining Car Gourmet
- 6 Section 1 Drawing Room 3 Compartment Sleeper Cliola
- 14 Section 1 Drawing Room Sleeper Los Angeles
The Sunset Limited transitioned to diesel operation in 1949. It became a “streamliner” train in 1950. Amtrak took the service over in 1971.
Today’s Sunset Limited
The Sunset Limited runs westbound (Amtrak #1) three days a week, Monday, Wednesday, and Saturday. I like to go out to Central Avenue in Jefferson to photograph the Sunset Limited as it approaches the Huey P. Long Bridge. Hurricane Harvey forced Amtrak to cut back service, however. The Sunset Limited temporarily runs from San Antonio to Los Angeles. The storm did not affect City of New Orleans or Crescent service.
This cutback in Sunset Limited service isn’t short-term. Houston took an incredible beating from Hurricane Harvey. If you can, please send some money down that way to help with relief efforts. I suggest the Houston Food Bank.
by Edward J. Branley
The clanging of a streetcar’s bell conjures images of a time when street railways were a normal part of life in the city. Historic Canal Street represents the common ground between old and new with buses driving alongside steel rails and electric wires that once guided streetcars.
New Orleans was one of the first cities to embrace street railways, and the city’s love affair with streetcars has never ceased. New Orleans: The Canal Streetcar Line showcases photographs, diagrams, and maps that detail the rail line from its origin and golden years, its decline and disappearance for almost 40 years, and its return to operation. From the French Quarter to the cemeteries, the Canal Line ran through the heart of the city and linked the Creole Faubourgs with the new neighborhoods that stretched to Lake Pontchartrain.