While the Southern Pacific would field an entire fleet of streamlined Daylight passenger trains only one, the Shasta Daylight,
was a long distance train as the rest were regional runs serving
several different California cities. The popularity of the Daylight
was incredibly high, even through the early 1960s although by the
latter half of that decade the SP began greatly reducing services and
amenities on the fleet as patronage declined. Additionally, the railroad grew tired of fielding passenger trains altogether at that time. The Shasta was the
Espee's farthest reaching northern train and offered incredible views
of the Pacific coastline, northern California, and the Cascades to
Portland. Today, much of the original Shasta route continues to be hosted by Amtrak through its Coast Starlight although the train has been extended much further north to Seattle.
Much like the Pennsylvania Railroad was to the State of Pennsylvania
so was the Southern Pacific to the State of California, an
institutional icon. Also just like the Pennsy the Southern Pacific (also
referred to affectionately as the “Espee" by railfans and historians
after its SP reporting marks) has such a history that entire libraries
of books could be written on the differing aspects of the railroad. The
SP was by far our country’s single largest classic railroad (i.e.,
before the modern-day merger movement began in the 1950s), spanning over
15,000 miles and reaching from the stretches of northwest Oregon to
southeast Louisiana! The Southern Pacific has a whole host of renowned achievements
it is credited with, far too many to go into detail here.
Sunset Limited: (Originally San Francisco - New Olreans, later Los Angeles - New Orleans)
However, to name a few it had three important main lines which continue as important arteries under Union Pacific today, the Overland Route (San Francisco to the Midwest via UP), the Golden State Route (the Southwest to Kansas City in conjunction with the Rock Island), and the Sunset Route (the Pacific Coast to the Gulf Coast). The Southern Pacific’s famed Daylight has its beginnings dating back to early 1937 when on March 21st it was inaugurated as an all-streamlined passenger train serving Los Angeles and San Francisco. Up front was a Golden State, 4-8-4 steam locomotive in SP’s GS-2 class in a streamlined look that would become legendary. The livery, which would also go down in history as one of the all-time classics, chosen for the train was designed by the railroad’s own Charles Eggleston of red, orange, and black. As it were, the Shasta in many ways was the embodiment of all that the Southern Pacific had to offer in the way of passenger services; unparalleled scenery, top-notch service, and on board amenities that couldn’t be beat.
The Shasta hit the rails in the spring of 1949, twelve years after the SP had started its Daylight. In that amount of time the Daylight fleet was a national sensation and the SP soon realized that it had another hit with the Shasta.
The train operated between Oakland/San Francisco and Portland, a
distance of a little over 700 miles and just like the regional Daylights the Shasta featured spectacular scenery along its entire route. Also just like the original Daylights the Shasta was clad in the “Daylight"
livery of red, orange, and black and hauled by either EMD E-series or
Alco PA diesels (the PA is arguably the most beautiful diesel-electric
ever built). Listed as Trains #9 and #10 on the Southern Pacific's official timetable the Shasta Daylight departed Portland, Oregon at 7:45 am heading south towards California.
After a stop in Martinez, California to pick up/drop
off passengers connecting to or from Los Angeles the train continued on
to Oakland and arrive at San Francisco just after 11 pm the same day
(if one continued on to Los Angeles they could expect to arrive there by
later morning the following day).
Along the way the train passed through beautiful northern California and then through the Cascades along the way passing locations
like Mount Hood, Odell Lake, Crater Lake, and other spectacular
features of the Pacific Northwest. What the made the trip even that
much more memorable was the extra large windows built into the
Pullman-Standard cars for maximum
sightseeing and outdoor viewing. Overall the train could average about
46 mph during its trip and complete the journey in under 16 hours.
Inside the train was no less spectacular. Featuring diners,
lounges, and parlor-observations that were stylized for the local
regions the train served, a trait that most certainly increased the
train’s popularity. However, the Shasta's most striking
feature was an articulated, two or three-car diner-tavern-lounge that
offered open, unimpeded space between all three cars due to a new design
feature from Pullman-Standard (whom the Southern Pacific purchased all
of their passenger equipment from) which removed the bulkheads between
cars and created an open walkway space between them to look as if all
three were one. As with the rest of the Daylight fleet the Shasta was completely air-conditioned, still a rather uncommon accommodation when the train debuted in the late 1940s.
The Daylight fleet remained very successful through the early
1960s but even the Southern Pacific with its vast array of popular and
extravagant passenger trains just could not compete with the age of the automobile and super-fast jet airliner. Most of the SP’s Daylight fleet had disappeared by the time of Amtrak in 1971, although its original, now named the Coast Daylight remained and was initially kept under Amtrak although was eventually terminated in favor of the Coast Starlight.
This new train now operates over the Southern Pacific’s old tracks
between LA and Portland, following virtually the same route as the Shasta Daylight and is today one of Amtrak’s most popular trains.