Paradise Lost

In June of 1961, the shower bath and valet service in the French Quarter lounge cars was discontinued. The Audobon diners came off the train in September of 1963; in their stead shortly thereafter came Southern Pacific's infamous "Automatic Buffet" cars equipped with an assortment of self-service coin-operated vending machines. One of their culinary delights was two slices of dry bread wrapped in cellophane on a paper plate; a self-service toaster was available on the table.[*] Fortunately, the Pride of Texas hamburger-grill cars continued to operate with the train providing adequate if uninspired food service for the Sunset's run.

Also at this time, SP saw an opportunity to cut costs by combining the Sunset with the Golden State west of El Paso. The westbound Sunset had its late evening departure time moved up to noon, while the eastbound schedule was tweaked as well. The new schedules and the Sunset-Golden State combination became effective as of April 19, 1964; a commentary on the "Sunset Transcon" video states that the combined train sometimes ran up to 37 cars long!

But service cutbacks and schedule changes were only a small part of the picture. Travelers' reports of the period indicate that there were some real shenanigans going on. It was not unusual, for example, to call in to make a sleeping car reservation and be told, "The sleeper is booked"—only to find, if you were not thereby dissuaded from your trip, that in fact the sleeper was completely empty. Advertisements for airlines and bus lines were prominently posted in passenger areas. Worse, trains would be mysteriously held up for extended periods just outside of their destination cities until after connecting trains had departed, causing frustrated and stranded passengers to vow, "Never again!"

From the pages of the Official Guide, December 1964

Southern Pacific Lines herald

The Streamliner Sunset

Southern Pacific Lines
October 25, 1964

1 Train Number 2
Daily Miles Services Daily
12 01P Dp 0 New Orleans, LA (Union Psgr. Tml.) (CT) C R Ar 7 45P
12 06P 2 Carrollton Avenue 7 30P
N 6 East Bridge Junction N
Mississippi River Bridge
N 11 West Bridge Junction N
F 1 17P 56 Schriever, LA C F 6 16P
1 45P 81 Morgan City, LA C F 5 50P
F 2 05P 102 Franklin, LA C F 5 26P
2 35P 126 New Iberia, LA C F 5 00P
3 20P 145 Lafayette, LA C 4 33P
F 3 50P 167 Crowley, LA C F 3 43P
F 4 10P 186 Jennings, LA C F 3 20P
5 05P 219 Lake Charles, LA C R 2 43P
5 50P 257 Orange, TX C 1 52P
6 30P 279 Beaumont, TX C 1 25P
8 30P Ar 363 Houston, TX C R Dp 11 40A
9 00P Dp Ar 11 10A
F 9 53P 400 Rosenberg, TX C F10 07A
F11 10P 471 Schulenberg, TX C F 9 00A
F12 13A 538 Seguin, TX C F 7 54A
1 00A Ar 573 San Antonio, TX C R Dp 7 15A
1 30A Dp Ar 6 45A
F 3 15A 665 Uvalde, TX C 4 45A
4 45A Ar 743 Del Rio, TX C Dp 3 20A
4 55A Dp Ar 3 10A
N 792 High Bridge (Pecos River) N
7 30A Ar 871 Sanderson, TX C Dp 12 35A
7 45A Dp Ar 12 20A
F 9 03A 931 Marathon, TX C F11 09P
9 35A 962 Alpine, TX C 10 35P
10 25A 988 Marfa, TX (CT) C 10 05P
1 35P Ar 1181 El Paso, TX (Union Station) (MT) C R Dp 5 50P
27 Connecting Train Number (Texas & Pacific) 26
9 10P Dp 0 Dallas, TX (CT) C Via Bus
10 35P Dp 32 Fort Worth, TX (CT) C Ar 9 00A
12 50P Ar 645 El Paso, TX (Union Station) (MT) C R M Dp M 6 30P
The Golden State
3 Connecting Train Number (Rock Island-Southern Pacific) 4
12 40P Dp 0 Chicago, IL (La Salle St. Sta.) (CT) C R Ar 9 00P
10 00P Dp 495 Kansas City, MO (CT) C Ar 11 00A
8 45A Dp 1108 Tucumcari, NM (MT) C Ar 11 59P
2 25P Ar 1440 El Paso, TX (Union Station) (MT) C R Dp 6 00P
2 50P Dp 1181 El Paso, TX (Union Station) (MT) C R Ar 5 00P
4 15P 1270 Deming, NM C 3 05P
5 20P Ar 1330 Lordsburg, NM C Dp 2 05P
5 30P Dp Ar 1 55P
6 45P 1403 Willcox, AZ C 12 25P
7 40P 1445 Benson, AZ (Douglas, Bisbee via bus) C 11 25A
8 45P Ar 1492 Tucson, AZ C R Dp 10 00A
9 05P Dp Ar 9 40A
F10 05P 1557 Coolidge, AZ C F 8 23A
10 50P 1597 Mesa, AZ C 7 45A
11 35P Ar 1613 Phoenix, AZ C R Dp 7 15A
12 05A Dp Ar 6 45A
3 00A Ar 1787 Yuma, AZ (MT) C Dp 3 40A
2 10A Dp Yuma, AZ (PT) Ar 2 25A
3 15A 1852 Niland, CA 12 50A
4 10A Ar 1909 Indio, CA C 11 50P
4 15A Dp
F 4 55A 1937 West Palm Springs, CA (Palm Springs) C R 11 10P
6 15A 1981 Colton, CA C 10 00P
6 45A 2006 Pomona, CA C R 9 25P
7 50A 2032 Alhambra, CA (Pasadena) C R 8 50P
8 15A Ar 2038 Los Angeles, CA (Union Psgr. Tml.) (PT) C R Dp 8 30P

Train 1 (New Orleans-Los Angeles): 38 stops, 46:14, 44.1 MPHTrain 2 (Los Angeles-New Orleans): 38 stops, 45:15, 45.0 MPH

NOTE: Operates combined with the Golden State between El Paso and Los Angeles.

Extra Fare.

Sleeping Cars—
New Orleans-Los Angeles. (Roomettes, Bedrooms.)
Chair Cars—
New Orleans-Los Angeles.
Reclining leg rest seats.
El Paso-Los Angeles.
Pillow service available.
Reserve seats in advance.
Porter service.
Dining and Lounge Service—
New Orleans-Los Angeles.
Automatic Buffet Car—
El Paso-Los Angeles.

Checked baggage handled.


Don't overlook using S.P.'s free self-service luggage carts located in front of the station or at trainside. They're there for your convenience and economy. Just load your luggage, release the hand brake, and away you go.

Automatic Buffet Car Menu from July 1965

An Automatic Buffet Car "Menu" from July 1965. (My own collection.)