In all, the Starlight featured a mix of lightweight and heavyweight cars including a handful of head-end mail/express, the Daylight's popular coffee shop-tavern-lounge, parlor, parlor-lounge, articulated chair cars, and several Pullman heavy or lightweight sleepers. In typical Southern Pacific fashion the train was adorned in a unique two-tone grey livery given its overnight status, a trait it shared only with the Lark, Cascade, and Overland. Its power began with the beautiful, streamlined Class GS-4 "Golden States" and then transitioned to various diesels from Electro-Motive's E7s to Alco's beautiful PA model. During its final years it wasn't uncommon to see utilitarian FP7s or even F7s equipped for passenger service leading the Starlight. The railroad's timing in launching the streamliner, unfortunately, could not have been worse.
(The below Starlight timetable is dated effective January 15, 1954.)
|Read Down Time/Leave (Train #94)
Time/Arrive (Train #95)
|7:45 PM (Dp)||0.0||San Francisco, CA (3rd & Townsend Street Station) (PT)||6:45 AM (Ar)|
|8:10 PM||16||Burlingame, CA||6:14 AM|
|8:27 PM||30||Palo Alto, CA||6:01 AM|
|8:49 PM (Ar)||47||San Jose, CA||5:40 AM (Dp)|
|8:56 PM (Dp)||47||San Jose, CA||5:30 AM (Ar)|
|9:56 PM (Ar)||97||Watsonville Junction, CA||4:30 AM (Dp)|
|10:04 PM (Dp)||97||Watonsville Junction, CA||4:23 AM (Ar)|
|10:32 PM||114||Salinas, CA||3:56 AM|
|12:19 AM||212||Paso Robles, CA||2:04 AM|
|1:27 AM (Ar)||248||San Luis Obispo, CA||12:45 AM (Dp)|
|1:37 AM (Dp)||248||San Luis Obispo, CA||12:35 AM (Ar)|
|4:00 AM (Ar)||367||Santa Barbara, CA||10:15 PM (Dp)|
|4:07 AM (Dp)||367||Santa Barbara, CA||10:10 PM (Ar)|
|4:51 AM||394||Ventura, CA||9:31 PM|
|5:07 AM||404||Oxnard, CA||9:15 PM|
|6:25 AM||464||Glendale, CA||8:03 PM|
|6:45 AM (Ar)||470||Los Angeles, CA (Union Passenger Terminal) (PT)||7:45 PM (Dp)|
Still reeling from the euphoria of freight and passenger traffic wrought by World War II many railroads, including the SP, spent millions in new equipment, promoting existing trains, and launching others. As the 1950s dawned Southern Pacific witnessed patronage slowly erode as the public took to the open highways and new Interstates while the surging airline industry meant an individual could reach their destination much faster than by train. The ever-growing losses incurred caused the railroad to become increasingly disinterested in passenger service; no wonder considering all of the money, time, and effort it had invested that enabled the SP to boast the most expansive fleet throughout the west.
After only a few years the Starlight had lost much of its original consist. By the 1950s it carried roughly six cars (a few more or less depending on the season) including mail/express, the articulated chair cars, the coffee shop-tavern-lounge, and a few sleepers. As ridership continued to slip Southern Pacific cut its losses and canceled the Starlight after July 14, 1957 when it was combined with the Lark. This move, according to Mr. Solomon's book resulted in the latter losing its status as an all-Pullman affair when it began running with the former's coaches. The Lark had long been the railroad's top overnight train sporting complete consists of lightweight, streamlined cars since July of 1941.
Unfortunately, its fate would eventually follow that of the Starlight.
By the 1960s the Espee was attempting to cancel the train. However,
the railroad received such strong public backlash that it was forced to
retain it until 1968 when the Interstate Commerce Commission finally
granted permission to cancel the Lark. By then the SP was trying its hardest to discontinue most of its other trains as well from the once proud Shasta Daylight to the transcontinental Golden State.
It is rather sobering that a legendary fleet of trains entered the
realm of history in such a quiet and undignified manner although the
reasons behind the move can certainly be understood from a business
Related Reading You May Enjoy