• History/Amenities on "Coach-Only" trains

  • Tell us where you were and what you saw!
Tell us where you were and what you saw!

Moderator: David Benton

  by updrumcorpsguy
With the recent downgrade of the Three Rivers to coach only, I started to think about the big coach-only trains of the pre-Amtrak era: The El Capitan and (I think) The Challenger (I'm sure there were others, but those are the only ones I know of).

What sort of services did these trains offer? Did they have dining cars and lounges? If so, did it offer a more economical level of dining? What about seating in the coach cars? Were they like the current Superliner coaches?

While I think that the idea of a coach-only long-distance train is probably not acceptable to the travelling public (although it would be an improvement over Greyhound) I was curious as to what the former passenger carriers did to lure people onto these trains

  by USRailFan
Wasn't the "City of New Orleans" a coach-only train too, in "the old days"?
  by eddiebear
Coach only trains started probably with the NY Central's Day Coach DeLuxe of the late 1920s. Jersey Central's Blue Comet of 1929 was another one. The emphasis was on coach travel wherein the railroad retained all the revenue rather than sharing it with the parlor/sleeping car operator, almost always the Pullman Company. With a coach you could put a lot more ticketholders into the same space as a Pullman and do it for much less cost. More on this later.
In the Great Depression of the 1930s railroad freight traffic declined in response to the slow pace of industrial production, short haul passenger traffic withered away to the onslaught of the private auto and medium and long haul passenger traffic shrank due to depressed business conditions and high unemployment (no one wanted to spend too much on a vacation).
About 1936 the Interstate Commerce Commission ordered railroads to cut passenger fares to 2c a mile coach, 3c first class. This did seem to have a positive impact on the passenger volume. However, other factors were at work too. Streamlined trains were being introduced too. After the New York Central and Pennsylvania introduced streamlined all-Pullman versions of the 20th Century and Broadway simultaneously on 6/15/38, they got to work on the proletarian passengers. Within a year or so both had rolled out heavyweight, made to look streamlined, NY-Chicago trains, Pacemaker (NYC) and Trail Blazer (PRR).
These trains along with the Day Coach DeLuxe and Blue Comet above offered dining service. The Pacemaker and Trail Blazer also offered lounges and observation cars, 17 hour timing, and 2c a mile fares. PRR and NYC had the same Chicago fare and with the 10% round-trip discount, you could travel the route and back for under $35. Your clothes did look like you slept in them.
The Silver Meteor and Champion to Florida were introduced about the same time with diner, tavern and observations. PRR also had the Jeffersonian, NY-St. Louis. The Overland Route had Challengers to LA and San Francisco. Santa Fe had the Scout, which had tourist sleepers, which were probably considered a step above a coach and of course the El Capitan. Golden State Route had the Californian, tourist cars too on this one. NYC's James Whitcomb Riley was originally a coach train maybe because of the rural character of the country between its major stops. The three Chicago-Florida streamliners of 1940 or so, City of Miami, South Wind, Dixie Flagler were originally coach trains too.
Food service was touted usually as "economy meals." Dining car had a limited selection compared to a train with Pullmans but they were sit down meals. Meals were also available at coach seats set on one-legged trays that attached to a bracket below the window on some trains.
Coach trains were popular for a number of years because of the times. Business people were held in very low esteem because of the depressed economy which lasted a long time. Pullman had the trappings of class and the country was becoming classless and poorer. The very thing that gave the coach trains their day in the sun was the thing that undid them. The economy. As business conditions improved, people did not have to travel on the cheap. Some coach trains like those to Florida had Pullmans added. Others were combined with standard bearers and the names were eventually dropped.
The City of New Orleans was one of the last new trains to be established, about 1947. The SP's Starlight of 1950 was a re-invention of the Noon Daylight (SF-LA) and lasted only a few years.
The advantages of coach trains. You could staff them with far fewer people than a Pullman train, there was no laundry to do save for cloth headrests if you used them, you could put 2.5 to 3 times as many people in the same space (8 Pullmans, if full, would have about 175 sleeping spaces; 8 60 seat coaches nearly 500 seats), passengers usually handled their own luggage, they would eat from a limited menu and more. A lot of these things we do when we drive. There probably just isn't much need for coach trains of the 1930s style.
Also, in a country where appearances mean so much -- to some people, a brand new coach with an art deco interior was far more appealing than a heavyweight Pullman with Great Gatsby furnishings.

  by Gilbert B Norman
This is some great stuff; to Mr. Eddie Bear's compilation, I can only add the Baltimore and Ohio's Columbian, which had equipment acquired and management's intent to operate as a separate Wash-Chi all-coach train. However, if it operated as such for five years during the "early fifties', I'd be amazed. Soon after its inauguration, it found itself combined Wash-Deshler with the Wash-Detroit Ambassador; then Deshler-Chi with the all-Pullman Capitol Ltd
Last edited by Gilbert B Norman on Wed Dec 08, 2004 8:51 am, edited 1 time in total.

  by John_Perkowski
"Back in the Day" was up to the 11th hour (April 1971) for the AT&SF. The El Capitan, during high seasons, ran as a section of 17/18 (the Super Chief running as the other section). El Cap ran with the High Level Lounges we now know as Pacific Parlor Cars, high-level Dining Cars, and HL Coaches. The streamlined dorm included a stainless shroud to seamlessly tie the standard and High Level cars into one unit.

Over on the Southern Pacific, the Morning and Noon Daylights both ran with diners and tavern-lounges. OK, they had a single parlor car on each, but these were essentially all coach runs.

More tonight, when I can look at the makeup of the UP Challenger.

John Perkowski

  by CarterB
From Dec 1953 IC timetable:[/u]

"The City of New Orleans" which ran from Chicago to New Orleans with a through coach from St. Louis and New Orleans. This train was an all-coach train with dining car service, coaches, and a Tavern Lounge-Observation Car. Included were De Luxe reclining coaches with a traveling Passenger Agent-Stewardess, and a radio for entertainment.

"The Louisiane" which ran from Chicago to New Orleans with coaches from Chicago to New Orleans, a diner from Chicago to Champaign-Fulton to Memphis, an Illinois Central Parlor-Lounge Car from Chicago to Memphis.

"The Daylight" from Chicago to St. Louis with a Parlor-Observation car, a Parlor-Tavern-Lounge car, and deluxe coaches and a diner.

"The Green Diamond" from Chicago to St. Louis with a Parlor-Observation car, Parlor-Tavern-Lounge car, and deluxe coaches.

The "Land O'Corn" from Chicago to Waterloo with coaches from Chicago to Waterloo, a Cafe-Lounge from Chicago to Waterloo, and a diner from Chicago to Freeport

The Alton Route (GM&O) offered superior day service Chicago-StLouis with the Alton Limited and Abraham Lincoln, abeit they did have company owned parlor cars with a drawing room (Ltd.) and Observation-Parlor Lounge, Parlor car w/Drawing room , Cocktail lounge, Dining Car. (AL)
In honor of Abraham Lincoln, the GM&O named two of its five passenger "streamliner" trains the Abraham Lincoln and the Ann Rutledge. The Abraham Lincoln was described as the world's most modern train (with the Lincoln Tavern). These trains, running from 1935 into the 1950s, provided premium passenger service, featuring "observation parlor cars, drawing-room parlor cars, buffet-lounge cars, dining cars, smoking cars with individual reclining seats. Both had stewardesses and registered nurses,"

The Wabash had:[/color]

The "Banner Blue" had an Observation Parlor car, Parlor-lounge car, Dining-Lounge car, and coaches.

The "Blue Bird" had a Dome Observation Parlor Car, the "Blue Bird Room" a Dome Parlor Lounge car, Dining Car, Dome chair cars, "Coffee Shop Club" for coaches.

The "City of Kansas City" had an Observation Parlor Car, a Dome Chair car, Dining car, and "Coffee Shop Club" for coach passengers.

The "City of St. Louis" had chair cars, sleepers, Club-Lounge Car, with a dining car

The "Wabash Cannon Ball" had an observation Parlor Car, Dining-Lounge Car, and Chair cars.

All in all, quite nice creature comforts on many day trains!!!
Last edited by CarterB on Tue Dec 07, 2004 1:17 pm, edited 1 time in total.

  by CarterB
Don't forget the quite nice consists on the Illinois Traction (Terminal) (see photo to left) and the CNS&M, which had day parlor car trailers and later the streamliners.

Illinois Terminal:
The three new streamlined trains,("Fort CreveCoeur, Mound City, City of Decatur", which were ordered from the St. Louis Car Company, were state of the art, and had all the amenities (including air conditioning and a parlor-lounge-observation car), of the modern streamlined trains, which were being operated by the steam railroads, that competed with the Illinois Terminal, for passengers traveling between central Illinois, and St. Louis, Missouri.

Chicago, North Shore & Milwaukee:

"The 2 end-units of each ELECTROLINER are luxury coaches divided into two compartments by passageways which provide entrance and exit to the trains. These end- units seat 30 passengers in each of the coach sections and 10 passengers in the smoking compartments. A modern rest room is located in each of the smaller compartments.

One of the center- units in each train is an all- coach compartment seating 40 passengers. The remaining center- unit is a tavern lounge with a seating capacity of 26 passengers."

Also the Milw Hiawathas to/from MinnStPaul were outfitted with the famous skytop obs car/lounges and full diners and in 1939:
The standard consist of the 1939 Hiawatha was the Locomotive and Tender, an Express-Tap, 4 Coaches, Diner, 2 Parlor Cars, and the Parlor-Observation car (also called a Beaver Tail) http://www.minnesotajones.com/hiawatha_page.htm for more info and interior/exterior photos of a class 'day train'

  by LI Loco
Hey, guys. I don't want to spoil the party, but wasn't focus on long-distance coach-only trains? Parlor cars don't count! Otherwise, we'd be adding a whole slew of PRR and NH trains in the Northeast Corridor, New York Central's Empire State Express, D&H's Laurentian, the 400s, the Chicago-Twin Cities and more.

I think there's a category of budget trains; long-distance overnight trains catering to the hoi polloi that offered budget meals and lounge/observation cars. They ran coach-only or carried tourist sleepers (all sections). Some (PRR's Jeffersonian) had recreation cars. Others featured a women-only coach with a courier nurse who assisted mothers traveling with small children.

Here is a list of such trains that I was aware of

Pacemaker, New York Central, NY-CHI
Train Blazer, Pennsylvania, NY-CHI
Jeffersonian, Pennsylvania, NY-STL
Columbian, B&O, WAS-CHI
Silver Meteor, PRR/RF&P/SAL, NY-MIA
Champion, PRR/RF&P/ACL, NY-MIA
Southerner, PRR/SOU, NY-NOL
South Wind, PRR/L&N/ACL, CHI-MIA
City of Miami, IC/CofG/ACL, CHI-MIA
Dixie Flagler, C&EI/L&N/NC&St.L/AB&C/ACL, CHI-MIA
City of New Orleans, IC, CHI-NOL
El Capitan, ATSF, CHI-LAX

  by AmtrakFan
Their were some CB&Q locals that were Coach only as well as the MILW Chicago to Deer Lodge Trains that were left of the Olympian Hiawahta.


  by crazy_nip
Silver Meteor, PRR/RF&P/SAL, NY-MIA
Champion, PRR/RF&P/ACL, NY-MIA
South Wind, PRR/L&N/ACL, CHI-MIA
City of Miami, IC/CofG/ACL, CHI-MIA

these trains were most definetly NOT coach only...

Neither was the Southerner, although I am not 100% positive about that...

  by Noel Weaver
crazy_nip wrote:Silver Meteor, PRR/RF&P/SAL, NY-MIA
Champion, PRR/RF&P/ACL, NY-MIA
South Wind, PRR/L&N/ACL, CHI-MIA
City of Miami, IC/CofG/ACL, CHI-MIA

these trains were most definetly NOT coach only...

Neither was the Southerner, although I am not 100% positive about that...
If the above Florida trains were ever coach only, it was only for a short
period after the immediate start up.
I think the Southerner was at its start up an all coach train but soon after,
it acquired pullmans and the works.
Noel Weaver
  by EastCleveland
updrumcorpsguy wrote: What sort of services did these trains offer? Did they have dining cars and lounges? If so, did it offer a more economical level of dining?
For coach passengers on a tight budget, the New York Central (among other railroads) also utilized in-car refreshment vendors who made their way through each car, selling coffee from a large thermos and sandwiches and soft drinks from a kind of metal basket.

  by AmtrakFan
They also used Meal Stops for some Coach only Trains.


  by John_Perkowski
Followup to my post of the 7th:

El Capitan of 1938: Two trainsets.
Baggage-Dorm 32 seat chair
2 52 seat chair
Lunch Counter-Dining Car (used as tavern lounge during non-meal hours)
50 seat coach-observation car.

Kansas Cityan and Chicagoan (two trainsets) (1938)
Baggage Mail
3 52 seat chair cars
Chair-club lounge car (26 revenue seats)
48 seat diner

Golden Gate (two trainsets) (1938)
Baggage-36 seat chair car
52 seat chair car
2 60 seat chair cars
Lunch Counter Tavern Lounge
Chair-Club Lounge
Chair observation

San Diegan (one trainset) (1938)
Baggage Mail
2 60 seat chair cars
Lunch counter Tavern Lounge
Parlor Observation

Noon Daylight (1940)(two trainsets)
44 seat baggage chair car
4 pair of 50 seat articulated coaches
56 seat coffee shop car
40 seat dining car
Tavern Car
29 seat parlor with stateroom
23 seat parlor observation

Morning Daylight (1940)(two trainsets)
44 seat baggage chair car
3 pair 46 seat seat articulated coaches
Triple-unit articulated coffee shop (80 seat)-kitchen-dining (72 seat) car set
27 seat parlor with stateroom
22 seat parlor observation

1937 Sunbeam (Dallas-Houston) (two trainsets)
48 seat chair car
2 pair 50 seat articulated chair cars
32 seat parlor
dining-lounge observation car

San Joaquin Daylight (1941) (two trainsets)
2 44 seat chair cars
2 pair 46 seat articulated chair cars
40 seat dining car
23 seat parlor observation car

Note: Looks to me like SP and Santa Fe both provided substantial amenities for their coach passengers.

Source is Robert J Wayner, Car Names, Numbers and Consists (New York: By the Author, 1972).

John Perkowski

  by John_Perkowski
Mr UP Drum Corps Guy,

I'm going to refer you to the ultimate volume on passenger cars:

John H White, The American Railroad Passenger Car (Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1977(?)).

White devotes a substantial number of pages to the types of seating used in coaches through the years ... tracks their progress in some detail, in fact!

From my experience, the 1949 Heywood Wakefield or Sleepy Hollow coach seats with legrests are some of the best "comfy chairs" ever made.

As far as dining, the Depression era coach LD trains offered more plebian fare in their cars compared to the limiteds, but we're still talking good food and plenty. I have a UP cookbook and service guide: Save the steaks and the trout, if a passenger wanted seconds, he got them!

John Perkowski