Another of the early pioneering streamliners that is sometimes overlooked was the Illinois Central's Green Diamond, a train that has many characteristics similar to the Union Pacific's first streamliner, the M-10000. This may not be merely coincidence considering that the Diamond was built by the same company as the M-10000 and at the time UP had a controlling interest in the IC. In any event, the Diamond
ushered Illinois Central into the streamliner era and the railroad
quickly embraced the new concept spawning an entire fleet of such trains
that became some of the most popular in the country with names like Panama Limited and City of Miami. The Diamond
was one of the last of its kind when constructed and it remained part
of the IC's early fleet for many years into newer, more technologically
advanced, and non-articulated cars and locomotives bumped it from service permanently in 1950.
Whether the Illinois Central entered the streamliner era on its own
accord after seeing the sleek new entries introduced by UP and Chicago,
Burlington & Quincy (the Pioneer Zephyr) or through direct
oversight by Union Pacific is unknown. Whatever the case, soon after
those two trains were introduced to the public in early 1934 the IC set
after its own streamliner. Just as UP had contacted Pullman-Standard
about the construction of its train, IC did the same and as mentioned
above the two designs were remarkably similar. The Green Diamond was a five car, articulated trainset whose power-car featured a large, bulbous grilled nose and crew cab located on top in a turret-like fashion.
The consist included a mail-baggage car, reclining seat coach, coach-buffet, and a diner-lounge. The train was fully air-conditioned and while the interior design was subtle included classic Art Deco of the period. Some of the most noticeable differences from UP's streamliner included the Diamond's Cor-Ten steel construction as opposed to aluminum and a standard diesel engine for power, built by Electro-Motive that offered 1,200 horsepower (the M-10000 featured a Winton Engine gasoline engine). The train's exterior was clad in a striking two-tone green livery (listed as a Cypress Green below the windows and a Cedar Green above) offset with an aluminum trim that really stood out against the dark paint.
The IC's Diamond is seen here under the train shed at the Milwaukee Road's depot in Milwaukee, Wisconsin on April 24, 1936 with plenty of spectators looking over the sleek streamliner.
The name Green Diamond had a great significance to the company as
it was the Illinois Central's longtime logo. The train debuted to the
public in March, 1936 and received incredible fanfare just as the UP's
and Burlington's streamliners two years earlier. For the next two
months between April and May the IC had the train go on a publicity tour
around its system between the Midwest and Southeast covering 7,000
miles in the process and visiting such towns as Detroit, San Antonio,
Oklahoma City, and Milwaukee. After this was completed the train
officially debuted on May 17, 1936 departing Chicago's beautiful Central
Station at 5 P.M. and arrived at St. Louis Union Station nearly five
hours later at 9:55 P.M. Total distance between the two cities was
around 294 miles.
The Illinois Central was also quick to tout this fast schedule with its
most famous advertisement stating, "Enjoy the fastest service ever
offered and the supreme luxury of America's smoothest riding train.
Air-conditioned...radio in every car...Stewardess...Delicious inexpensive meals as low as; breakfast
25 cents, lunch 35 cents, and dinner 40 cents." For the next 10 years
few changes were made to the train as it continued to see relatively
high ridership, particularly during the conflict of World War II. The
first significant changes came in September, 1946 when the Diamond lost its flagship status on the Illinois Central as newer streamliners were introduced like the City of Miami and the Panama Limited.
Part of the Diamond's
fast decline was simply its make up; as a fully articulated trainset
none of the equipment could easily be interchanged, swapped with other
runs, or even used in through service on other railroads. In early 1947
the trainset was sent to the IC's Paducah Shops for a major overhaul,
part of which was a reconfiguration of the articulation so that the
equipment could be interchanged and powered by regular diesel
locomotives. In April the work
was complete and while the train, now powered by an EMD E7, still
carried its two-tone livery it was no longer officially recognized as
the Green Diamond. For a bit more reading about the Diamond please click here.
Additionally, its old routing was changed as it now served Jackson, Mississippi, and New Orleans, Louisiana being renamed as the Miss-Lou. The trainset was officially retired in early August, 1950. However, the Diamond
continued to serve the Chicago-St. Louis corridor with traditional
equipment and the IC's classic orange and chocolate brown passenger
livery until May 19, 1968. The next day it was renamed the Governor's Special and truncated to Springfield, Illinois. By then, intercity passenger service across the country was in rapid decline. Within three years most privately run such operations would be handed over to Amtrak. Today, IC's former City of New Orleans survives as part of the national carrier's network.