The Slow Death of the Overland Limited
The Southern Pacific was the last of the three “overland” railroads to actually use the name Overland Limited, as Union Pacific and Chicago & North Western began using the name no later than 1895 while SP did not until 1899. So it is somewhat ironic that SP was the last of the three railroads to promote the train and cling to the name.
The North Western stopped running the Overland Limited in 1955, leaving it an Omaha-San Francisco train. Union Pacific dropped the train in 1960, leaving it an Espee-only train until that railroad finally dropped it in 1962.
Even though the streamlined City of San Francisco was the route’s premiere train, that train did not run daily until late 1947. So the above 1946 ad for three daily heavyweight trains – the Golden State Limited, Overland Limited and Sunset Limited – made sense for SP. At the time the ad was run, SP had probably already ordered streamlined equipment for the other two trains, but the i would never be fully streamlined.
The above ad from the May, 1953 issue of National Geographic is a little more surprising as by this time the Overland was far from the first-class train it once was. The ad describes the train as the “fastest, non extra fare streamliner between Chicago and San Francisco,” meaning it was faster than the California Zephyr and didn’t charge the extra fare required to ride the City of San Francisco. However, it still wasn’t really a streamliner, as a typical consist in 1946 combined streamlined coaches and sleepers with heavyweight diners, lounges, and sleepers.
By 1955, the consist of at least some Overlands were fully streamlined, and sometimes even included one of Southern Pacific’s dome cars. But the above 1955 photo shows at least two heavyweight cars in the train; one appears to be a coach and the other a sleeping car or possibly a diner.
In 1960, when the above photo was taken, about half the train was baggage and express cars, meaning SP was mainly using it to move mail and other express freight. The rear cars are obscure, but they are likely streamlined coaches and possibly a streamlined sleeping car.
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