This Southern Pacific passenger car operated on the Sunset Limited.
Southern Pacific passenger car
A Budd corporation built passenger car operating on the Southern Pacific’s “Sunset Limited” train. The Historic New Orleans Collection dates this photo as prior to 1941, but that’s not accurate. The SP replaced the “heavyweight” cars running on the Sunset Limited with “streamline” cars like this one in 1950. So, this photo is likely from 1950 or 1951.
This car model offered four-across seating. Modern airlines offer this layout in their first class/business class cabins. Amtrak continues the four-across layout in their Superliner cars. Toilets were at the back of the car.
Railroads offered coach cars as bare-bones service. Amtrak’s incarnation of the line takes 46 hours to get from New Orleans to Los Angeles. The upside of a long train ride in coach is you’re not locked into the chair, as you would be on a plane. Riders ate in the dining car, strolled down to the lounge car, or just walked up and down the train to stretch. SP offered sleeper car service for a premium.
What’s important to remember is not everyone rides a long-haul route the entire way. So, if you wanted to take the train from New Orleans to, say, Lake Charles or Houston, hop on a Southern Pacific passenger car like this. Eight hours to Houston isn’t so bad.
SP inaugurated the route in 1894. They transferred it (along with all other passenger operations) to the national passenger railroad corporation, Amtrak, in 1971. The train runs from New Orleans to Los Angeles and return. The Amtrak’s Sunset makes twenty stops in between.
Prior to 1950, SP ran steel-sided “heavyweight” cars. They upgraded the flagship train in 1950, using corrugated aluminium siding. These cars weighed less. Their “streamlined” design offered a smoother ride. Additionally, the newer cars used upgraded trucks, better shock absorbers, etc.
This car appears to be part of a ready-to-depart or just-arrived Sunset Limited consist. SP operated from Union Station on Rampart Street until Union Passenger Terminal in 1954. Trains coming into both stations used a car maintenance facility just to the side of the station tracks. Amtrak continues to use this facility, which back up to Earhart Boulevard. Pretty sure this isn’t the station itself, since there’s no roof over the tracks.