Southern Belle

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1940s postcard promoting the KCS Southern Belle.

Southern Belle – New Orleans to Kansas City

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Southern Belle ad, 1940s

The Southern Belle was the best-known named train operated by the Kansas City Southern railroad. The train ran from New Orleans to Kansas City. The Southern Belle route:

  • Kansas City
  • Joplin
  • Texarkana
  • Shreveport
  • Alexandria
  • Baton Rouge
  • New Orleans

Here’s the full timetable.

The distance of the trip was 861.1 miles, and the trip took 21.5 hours. The Southern Belle was listed as trains #1 and #2 for KCS. The train’s inaugural run was on September 2, 1940. Here’s some footage of one of its first runs:

The train left Kansas City for its final run on November 3, 1969.

KCS in New Orleans

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Louisiana and Arkansas/KCS Station, 705 S. Rampart (NOPL)

Kansas City Southern passenger service operated out of the The Louisiana and Arkansas-Kansas City Southern station. The station opened in 1923, at 705 St. Rampart Street. Kansas City Southern acquired Louisiana and Arkansas in 1939. This motivated the railroad to operate New Orleans-KC service.

The city opened Union Passenger Terminal in 1954. So, the train operated from there. The original station became a NOFD fire station. The city demolished it in the 1960s. The 700 block of S. Rampart consists now of surface parking lots.

The Kansas City Southern Railroad

The KCS originated in 1887, with the formation of the Kansas City Suburban Belt Railroad. Consolidations and bankruptcy created the Kansas City Southern Railroad on April 1, 1900.

KCS is the smallest Class 1 railroad in the United States. It connects New Orleans and Kansas City. Therefore, size isn’t everything. Therefore, the area serviced is lucrative.

Southern Belle consist

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Southern Belle ad

EMD E3 locomotives powered the train.

KCS entered the “streamliner” market late. The train’s initial consist combined old and new equipment. The 1940 consist:

  • Baggage-RPO-Dorm
  • Coach
  • Heavyweight Pullman Sleeper
  • Heavyweight Pullman Sleeper
  • Dining/Observation

KCS painted the sleeper cars to match the newer equipment.

1949 Upgrades

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Pullman Standard ad featuring the Southern Belle, 1950s

The railroad upgraded the equipment on the Southern Belle in 1949:

  • Baggage-RPO-Dormitory
  • 62-seat Coach
  • 60-seat Coach (2)
  • 36-seat Diner
  • 14-roomette, 4-double bedroom sleepers (4)

Sleeper service ran only from Shreveport to New Orleans. This consist ran basically unchanged, from 1949 to 1968. Meal service in observation cars replaced diner cars in the mid-1960s. KCS dropped sleeper service in 1968.

The face of the Southern Belle

Southern Belle

Margaret Landry on the Southern Belle, 1940

KCS put a “face” to their new train. They created “Miss Southern Belle”. The railroad chose 18-year old Margaret Landry for the job, at contest in New Orleans on August 24, 1940. She toured with the train for a few weeks.

The train featured her photo as the drumhead.

End of KCS passenger trains

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1966 Southern Belle timetable.

Passenger service was lucrative for KCS. The railroad continued to order new cars into the 1960s. This was the 1965 consist, from the train’s Wikipedia entry:

  • Baggage (Kansas City to Texarkana)
  • Baggage (Kansas City to Shreveport)
  • Box Express (Alexandria to West Yard)
  • Box Express (Shreveport to West Yard)
  • Baggage (Shreveport to New Orleans)
  • RPO-Baggage-Dormitory
  • 60-seat Coach
  • 72-seat Coach
  • Diner
  • 14-4 Sleeper
  • 60-seat Coach (Kansas City to Neosho)

While the railroad publicly committed to its passenger trains, things changed in 1967. The US Postal Service cancelled mail transportation contracts with the railroads. Without that income stream, The railroad reconsidered service. KCS discontinued the Southern Belle two years later, in 1969.

Southern Belle business train

KCS created a business train in 1995. They acquired two FP9As and a F9B unit from CN. The railroad sold the original cars in 1969. So, KCS bought cars from Canada. They painted them in the original train’s livery. Here’s a video from 2017 of the business train: