The history of Santa Fe's Texas Chief begins on April 3, 1948 when it was launched as the railroad's newest (and last) Chief thus bringing its total to four with the others being; the original Chief (Los Angeles - Chicago), flagship Super Chief (Los Angeles - Chicago), and the San Francisco Chief (Chicago - San Francisco). The Texas replaced the Fast Fifteen, a regional run operated only between Oklahoma and Galveston by subsidiary Gulf, Colorado & Santa Fe Railway. The equipment used for the train was a combination of new cars purchased from American Car & Foundry, Pullman, and the Budd Company as well as revamped lightweight cars from other Chief
trains that had been upgraded. Since the train was an overnight run
that required more than 26 hours to complete the trip between Chicago
and Galveston much of its consist included sleepers with the rest being a
lounge, chair cars, and a diner.
Most versions of the Texas Chief thus sported a
seven-car consist not including the head-end baggage. For power the
train typically utilized an EMD F7 lashup that, of course, was adorned
in Leland Knickerbocker's legendary Warbonnet livery of red and yellow
with shining stainless steel. To learn more about the Texas Chief please click here. Santa Fe continued to operate the Texas Chief
until the startup of Amtrak on May 1, 1971. At that point the new
carrier retained the train on its timetable until March, 1974 when the
name was changed as the Lone Star. The train also saw a new
routing as it no longer served Galveston directly but stopped instead at
Houston. While Amtrak continued to use original AT&SF equipment on
the train (including the famous Hi-Level coaches used on the El Capitan and similar to today's Superliner cars) its power during the 1970s was the new EMD SDP40Fs beginning in 1973.
|Amtrak P30CH #701 pause with the "Abe Lincoln" at busy Joliet, Illinois to take on passengers on May 17, 1977.|
These locomotives were based from the highly successful SD40 series
freight designs but, unfortunately, were not meant for operating at high
speeds hauling passenger trains. As such, they were retired within a few years and replaced by the far more reliable F40PHs. Interestingly, even after Amtrak ownership the Lone Star
remained quite popular, perhaps part of which was due to the fact that
Santa Fe maintained an incredibly high level of service for its
passenger trains right until the end. Despite the demand funding cutbacks in the late 1970s forced Amtrak to cutback its network and the Lone Star
as a casualty of this. As a result, it made its final run on October
9, 1979. After this point the carrier did not offer a train serving the
Heartland between Chicago and Texas for 20 years until 1999 when the Heartland Flyer was inaugurated between Oklahoma City and Fort Worth.
Had it not been for the train's partial subsidization by the Oklahoma Department of Transportation
it likely would never have become a reality. Initially, Amtrak had
anticipated the new 206-mile corridor would only garner about 20,000
riders in its first year. Much to its surprise the Flyer saw
ridership more than three times that number at 71,400. Additionally,
passengers were very pleased with the new service and over the next 8
years ridership has hovered around the 70,000 mark. However, since 2007
demand has again taken a jump with 2011 seeing numbers peak at over
84,000. This can likely partially be explained by the jump in oil
prices since then at the subdued nature of the American economy.
Whatever the case, the future of the Flyer appears to be very bright.
|Along the open plains of Montana near Lothair, P42DCs #79 and #1 hustle the westbound "Empire Builder" towards Seattle on September 7, 2009.|
What is interesting about the train is its consist. Whereas most of Amtrak's regional corridors utilize Amfleet cars this is not the case for the Flyer,
which sports the very popular Superliners (another reason for the
train's success). For power it features a GE P32-8WH "Genesis" diesel locomotive and provides connecting service to the Texas Eagle
at Fort Worth, a transcontinental train that operates between
Chicago-San Antonio-Los Angeles. To further increase ridership there is
a push to extend the Flyer to Kansas City whereby it would connect to another transcontinental run, the Southwest Chief at Wichita's Union Station. Thus far this plan has not been approved but hopefully will. To learn more about the Heartland Flyer please click here to visit the train's official website maintained by Oklahoma's DOT.
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