October means Balloon Fiesta time and a change of the weather. Roots on the Rails is a travel company that runs charter rail excursions and this year’s West of the West train from Los Angeles to Chicago via the Sunset Limited and then Chicago to Los Angeles via the Southwest Chief features great music and great excursions. 45 people will have the time of their lives on what may be the last grand excursion on Amtrak. Five private cars are added to the Amtrak trains, giving the occupants all the comforts of first class train travel. The Cimarron River is one of the cars on the train and it makes its way to Los Angeles a few days before the beginning of the trip. We catch it passing through Bernalillo, NM.
On the westbound leg, the cars are taken off in Kansas City for the travelers to visit that great destination. In Albuquerque, the cars are removed for two nights giving the travelers time to visit Santa Fe and northern New Mexico before being put back on Amtrak 3 for the final leg to Los Angeles. Join us as we watch the West of the West pull into the famous station at Lamy, New Mexico on a cold and windy Sunday. Before being attached to the westbound Southwest Chief in Albuquerque, we get a glimpse of the preparations before the train arrives.
The Overland Trail is a 39 seat Club Lounge with Barbershop and Shower. It was built by the Pullman Standard Car Manufacturing Company for delivery to the Southern Pacific Railroad in December of 1949. Numbered SP 2981, the car was specifically ordered in October of '47 for the San Francisco Overland, a train jointly operated by the Southern Pacific, Union Pacific, and the Chicago & North Western railroads between Chicago, IL and Oakland, (San Francisco) CA.
The Silver Splendor was built by the Budd Co. in 1956 as Chicago, Burlington & Quincy No. 4735, this stainless steel Vista-Dome coach raced between Chicago and Denver on a daily basis until 1980. Originally named Silver Buckle, she was part of the last 2 complete conventional train sets to be ordered in the pre-Amtrak era and traveled over 4.5 million miles.
The Frisco Cimarron River (original #1466) which was built by Pullman Standard in 1948 as a 14 roomette-4 double bedroom sleeper for the Frisco Railway's streamlined "Meteor". The "Meteor" ran from St. Louis Union Station to Oklahoma and had through sleepers to Chicago, New York and Washington. The sleepers were all named for rivers along the train's route. The Frisco substantially reduced their passenger system 1965 and the Cimarron River and other sleepers were sold to the Canadian National Railway. The Canadian National rebuilt the car, removed the stainless steel fluted siding and renamed the car Rainbow Falls. The interior configuration was not changed. VIA Rail Canada assumed ownership of the car in the late 1970's and repainted it blue. In 1981, VIA discontinued many trains and Rainbow Falls was surplus to their needs. In June 1983, two brothers, Andy and Tony Marchiando, bought the car from VIA. The car was returned home to St. Louis and renovation work began. The exterior is now repainted in the original colors and lettering.
The Pacific Sands was delivered to the Union Pacific Railroad in April of 1950. Part of a total of 50 Pacific Series sleeper cars delivered by the Budd Company that year, the Pullman Company and Union Pacific had high hopes for the future expansion of rail travel by re-equipping the "City" trains with sleek, modern stainless steel cars. The early fifties was the high point of the showdown between the train, automobile and airplane, and UP, Pullman and other railroads were coming out fighting!
Half of the Pacific fleet was delivered in the famous two-tone gray Overland paint scheme, the other half in Union Pacific's Armor Yellow, Gray and red Streamliner colors. By 1953, all of the cars had been repainted to yellow.
Pacific Sands first operated by the Pullman Company until the late 60's, when the Pullman Company was dissolved and operation of the cars was taken over by the Union Pacific Railroad. Pacific Sands was a regular on all of the "City" trains—the City of Portland, City of Los Angeles, and City of San Francisco among others, and provided classic Pullman service in its 6 double bedrooms and 10 single roomettes until Amtrak’s formation on April 1, 1971.
The Santa Fe Palm Leaf was in the last group of thirteen 10-6 sleeping cars ordered in 1951 for the Santa Fe Super Chief. These cars, built by ACF, were part of the post war effort by Santa Fe to re-equip their fleet. Of the thirteen Palm series sleeping cars, the Palm Leaf is the only known survivor. Having traveled on the Super Chief several times between Albuquerque and Chicago while growing up, it’s possible that I actually slept in this car!