Southern Belle – Kansas City Southern service – New Orleans to KC

Southern Belle – Kansas City Southern service – New Orleans to KC

Southern Belle

southern belle

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

southern belle

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

southern belle

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

Southern belle

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:

 

New Orleans Public Belt 1941 #TrainThursday

New Orleans Public Belt 1941 #TrainThursday

New Orleans Public Belt 1941

new orleans public belt 1941

New Orleans Public Belt 1941 – Baldwin 0-6-0 switcher at the Tchoupitoulas termina. (courtesy NOPB)

New Orleans Public Belt 1941

The New Orleans Public Belt Railroad is a “short line” railroad. It operates along the Mississippi River in Metro New Orleans. The city created NOPB in 1908. They fixed the issue of railroad congestion along the riverfront. The Class I railroad wanted their own tracks and terminals along the wharves and warehouses. So, the city created a Class III railroad, the NOPB, to connect them.

A state agency manages the NOPB. It is the Public Belt Railroad Commission. The commission also maintains the Huey P. Long Bridge, since it services both railroad and automobile traffic.

The following railroads travel over NOPB tracks:

  • BNSF Railway
  • CSX Transportation
  • Canadian National/Illinois Central
  • Kansas City Southern
  • Norfolk Southern
  • Union Pacific
  • Amtrak

The Engine

The engine in the photo is a Baldwin 0-6-0 switcher. It was built new for NOPB in Jan. 1921. Its construction number 54415, and road number was 22. The engine was retired May 1957.

Dating the Photo

The photo was commissioned by the NOPB. So, it is part of the Franck Studios archive at the HNOC. It’s dated 29-October-1941, but there are dozens of photos with that date. It’s possible they were all processed by Franck Studios then. Therefore, it’s not clear just when the picture was taken. Since the engine was in service until 1957, it’s possible that the photo is indeed from 1941.

Mystery Man

We haven’t been able to identify the man in the white suite in the photo. Given that he’s dressed in a white suit, it’s more likely he is either a NOPB commissioner or a city or state official. We’ve contacted NOPB in the hopes they know who he is.

Train watching on the NOPB

the New Orleans Public Belt tracks offer some great trainspotting opportunities. One of my favorite spots is on Central Avenue in Jefferson, LA, right by the eastern approach to the Huey P. Long bridge. Central Avenue at this point (basically right under the Earhart Expressway) crosses seven sets of tracks. The tracks closest to Airline Highway are Illinois Central/CN tracks. You can see lots of activity, including CN, KCS, and Amtrak’s City of New Orleans.

On the approach to the Huey P. Long Bridge, you can see UP, NS, and Amtrak’s Sunset Limited.

The Southern Pacific Argonaut – the slow run to Los Angeles #TrainThursday

The Southern Pacific Argonaut – the slow run to Los Angeles #TrainThursday

Southern Pacific Argonaut

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Drumheads used by The Argonaut.

Southern Pacific Argonaut

southern pacific argonaut

SP “Heavyweight” cars of the type used on the Argonaut, at Union Station, 29-Mar-1950

The Southern Pacific Argonaut ran along with the Sunset Limited train, from New Orleans to Los Angeles. Southern Pacific operated the trains, then Amtrak. The Sunset is well known because it was one of SP’s flagship trains. Amtrak continued the train after their takeover. SP discontinued their other New Orleans trains in the 1960s, including the Argonaut.

Economy to L.A.

While the Sunset Limited was a luxury train, the Argonaut meant economy travel. The trip from New Orleans took fifty hours. SP operated mostly coaches on the Argonaut, with one or two sleepers. The Argonaut got you there, maybe with a stiff back from two days in a coach seat, but you got there.

SP began the Argonaut in 1926. The journey originally took over 61 hours, five hours longer than the Sunset Limited. The Argonaut operated sleeper cars from New Orleans to Houston and to San Antonio, westbound. The train operated with a diner car for the entire route.

Steam Power

Southern Pacific Argonaut

Texas & New Orleans GS-1, similar to those that pulled the Argonaut (State Library of Louisiana)

Until the 1950s, steam locomotives pulled the Argonaut. The “Golden State” class GS-1 (4-8-4) locomotives owned by SP were most used. By the 1950s, Alco PA-PB diesel units serviced the train.

southern pacific argonaut

SP PA-1 locos pulling The Argonaut across the Mississippi and into Union Station (NOPL).

Heavyweights

Cars for the Argonaut were “heavyweight” style, seen in the photos above. So, the train was never “streamlined” like many “name trains”. It was an economy offering, so SP didn’t invest much in it. If travelers wanted the luxury and speed of newer rolling stock, they took the Sunset Limited.

Southern Pacific trains initially operated from the Trans-Mississippi Terminal, on Annunciation Street, Uptown. The trains crossed the river via ferry not far from the station. After the construction of the Huey P. Long Bridge, SP trains used Union Station on Howard Avenue. They took the route currently used by the Sunset Limited. So, SP trains used Union Passenger Terminal after its completion in 1954.

SP cut back the Argonaut’s route in 1958, running the train only from New Orleans to Houston. They discontinued the train entirely in the 1960s.

Southern Pacific at Union Passenger Terminal #TrainThursday

Southern Pacific at Union Passenger Terminal #TrainThursday

Southern Pacific at UPT

Southern Pacific

Sunset Limited, operated by the Southern Pacific Railroad, at Union Passenger Terminal, ca. 1970

Southern Pacific at UPT

Passenger train cars running on Southern Pacific’s “Sunset Limited” train. They’re at Union Passenger Terminal, New Orleans. SP’s Sunset Limited ran from New Orleans to Los Angeles in 1894.  Amtrak now operates the route.

Streamliner coaches

The Sunset Limited was one of the last “name trains” converted from “heavyweight” cars to “streamliner” equipment. The corrugated-side steel cars debuted on the Sunset Limited in 1950. While the “Daylight” trains used the red-and-yellow livery, the Sunset Limited cars bore simple red stripe across the top.

In 1970-1971, the last Sunset Limited trains operated by Southern Pacific, the consist was significantly scaled down. By the end of SP operation, both of the sleeper cars were discontinued, as well as the diner.

Here’s the 1970 consist:

  • Box Car Baggage Express
  • Baggage Dormitory
  • 10-6 Sleeper
  • 10-6 Sleeper (Southern Railway through car New York – Los Angeles via the Crescent Limited)
  • Lounge French Quarter
  • Diner Audubon
  • Coach
  • Coach
  • Coffee Shop Lounge Pride of Texas
  • Coach
  • Coach

This fits with the photo. The coach is the last car of the consist, and closest to the terminal building. (Consist via Wikipedia.)

Locomotives

The locomotives used to power the train were Alco PAs and EMD F-7s, which bore the “bloody nose” livery that matched the “Daylight” trains.

Dating this Photograph

The database entry for this photograph says it’s a Franck Studios photo, added to HNOC in 1979, but the photo is otherwise undated. This makes it an interesting to narrow down the date. We know that the streamliners began service in 1950. Union Passenger Terminal opened in 1950.

The Sunset Limited’s consist in the 1950s and 1960s included five Pullman sleeper cars. So, the train ended with three of those sleepers. While the 1970 consist included a sleeper, it wasn’t at the rear. So, the Southern Pacific tried hard to get out of the passenger rail business.

Amtrak inherited “heritage” equipment from the original operators in the 1970s. So, these cars ran in 1979. Amtrak re-painted all the cars with their red-white-blue livery. Therefore, it’s a good bet this photo is from 1970 or 1971.

 

Amtrak’s Sunset Limited, 1970s #TrainThursday

Amtrak’s Sunset Limited, 1970s #TrainThursday

Amtrak’s Sunset Limited

Amtrak's Sunset Limited

Sunset Limited crossing the Mississippi River, 1970s (Amtrak photo)

Amtrak’s Sunset Limited

When Amtrak took over passenger rail service in the United States in 1971, they continued the Sunset Limited service. The Southern Pacific Railroad began the Sunset Limited in 1894. It was the second “transcontinental” railroad in the United States. The train traveled over Santa Fe and Southern Pacific track, from New Orleans to Los Angeles and back.

It’s possible for rail travelers to start in the east, as far north as Maine and travel to Los Angeles. While passengers commute through the Northeast Corridor, “long haul” travelers join them to Penn Station, in New York City. There, they board Amtrak’s Crescent (#19). The Crescent takes them to New Orleans. From there, they transfer to the Sunset Limited (#1).

The Sunset Limited in New Orleans.

The Sunset Limited originally used the Trans-Mississippi Terminal on Annunciation Street. This station was uptown, close to the Mississippi River. The train pulled out of the station, then traveled across the river on a railroad ferry. When the Huey P. Long Bridge opened in 1935, the Sunset Limited operated out of Union Station, on Howard Avenue. In 1954, the train shifted operations to Union Passenger Terminal.

Pullman Service

Amtrak's Sunset Limited

The Pullman Company provided sleeper cars to many of the railroads running passenger trains. Therefore, travelers could board a Pullman sleeper coach in the east, and stay on it all the way to Los Angeles. The different railroads would pass the car along as service changed. So, Southern Railroad customers would travel from New York City to New Orleans on the Crescent. Southern Pacific picked up the sleeper, connecting it to the Sunset Limited.

Early Amtrak Service

This photo (courtesy Amtrak) shows the Sunset Limited, crossing the bridge  in the 1970s. When Amtrak started, the company used equipment given to them by the other railroads. So, this photo shows E-8 locomotives (A-B-B-A) from Southern Pacific. Budd “streamliner” cars make up the consist.

Modern Sunset Limited Service

Currently, Amtrak uses a pair of P-42DC “Genesis” locomotives to pull a consist of Streamliner coaches up the Huey and out to Los Angeles.

 

Amtrak Crescent – “Anniversary” Locos haul to Atlanta and NYC

Amtrak Crescent – “Anniversary” Locos haul to Atlanta and NYC

Amtrak Crescent off to Atlanta and NYC

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Genesis P42DC #184, in “Phase IV Anniversary” livery, pulling the Amtrak Crescent, 12-Aug-2018 (Edward Branley photo)

(cross-posted to Pontchartrain Railroad)

Amtrak Crescent

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Southern RR’s Crescent Limited, pulled by EMD E8 locos, approaching Atlanta, 1971 (courtesy Mel Finzer)

The Amtrak Crescent is living history. The train runs from New Orleans to New York’s Penn Station daily. The train originally arrived and departed from the Louisville and Nashville passenger terminal at Canal Street and the river until 1954. After 1954, The Crescent Limited operated from Union Passenger Terminal. When Amtrak took over passenger rail operations in the US, the Crescent continued.

P42 Genesis Locomotives

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Amtrak P42s #57 and #59, leaving New Orleans. (Edward Branley photo)

When Amtrak took over passenger rail in 1971, the railroads still running passenger trains gave their locomotives and rolling stock to the new corporation. Over time, phased out “heritage” equipment. So, they ordered new equipment. Amtrak replaced the original E8s, PAs, and other locomotives with EMD FP40 locomotives. EMD produced the FP40s from 1975 to 1992. The company those with the GE Genesis series. Currently, Amtrak uses the GE P42DC Genesis loco on the three trains that arrive and depart from New Orleans.

“Anniversary” P42s

Amtrak Crescent

Amtrak “Heritage” Paint Lineup, 2011 (Amtrak Photo)

To mark its 40th anniversary, Amtrak painted several P42s in older schemes. With the exception of P42 Number 66, which was damaged beyond repair, these locos are still in operation.

Amtrak Crescent

GE P42DC locomotives operated by Amtrak (Edward Branley photo)

I drove past the Amtrak engine terminal and coach yard, which is next to Earhart Blvd, in Central City, last week. I purchased an N-Scale P42DC in the Phase IV scheme last month. I’d never seen this loco in the area before. There it was, parked at the engine terminal! I got this long shot, through the fence.

Now that I’ve seen the loco pulling the Amtrak Crescent out up to Atlanta, the model is now “prototype” for Pontchartrain RR’s re-creation of the “Back Belt”.

#42 – “Veterans”

Amtrak Crescent

Amtrak #42, a P42DC painted to honor Veterans. (Edward Branley photo)

Amtrak painted several locos in a red and black scheme, with a design that says, “America’s Railroads Salute Our Veterans”. Genesis #42 regularly runs on the Amtrak Crescent, usually as the second loco, as it was today, behind #184.