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A Sunset Limited Slideshow.

(Photo Credits listed below)

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Diesel Locomotive No. 206, Sunset Limited, Southern Pacific Railroad Company, Houston, Texas, 1951.

Diesel Locomotive No. 206, Sunset Limited, Southern Pacific Railroad Company, Houston, Texas, 1951.

Photo by Robert Yarnall Richie. DeGolyer Library, Southern Methodist University.

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The Sunset Limited
The Southern Pacific's Sunset Limited was a passenger train that for most of its history ran between New Orleans, Louisiana, and Los Angeles, California, over the nation's second transcontinental route.

Route
West of New Orleans, the route was owned by the Southern Pacific Railroad. The name Sunset Limited traces its origins to the Galveston, Harrisburg and San Antonio Railway, which was known as the Sunset Route as early as 1874. The tracks between New Orleans and Florida included parts of the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad, the Seaboard Air Line Railroad, and the Louisville and Nashville Railroad.

The train used the following route segments, identified here by the names of their original owners:

Route: Orlando, Florida–Sanford, Florida
Original Owner: South Florida Railroad (ACL)

Route: Sanford–DeLand, Florida 

Original Owner: Jacksonville, Tampa and Key West Railway (ACL)

Route: DeLand–Jacksonville, Florida

Original Owner: Jacksonville, Tampa and Key West Railway (ACL)

Route: Jacksonville–Chattahoochee, Florida

Original Owner: Florida Central and Western Railroad (SAL)

Route: Chattahoochee–Pensacola, Florida

Original Owner: Pensacola and Atlantic Railroad (L&N)

Route: Pensacola–Flomaton, Alabama

Original Owner: Pensacola Railroad (L&N)

Route: Flomaton–Mobile, Alabama

Original Owner: Mobile and Montgomery Railway (L&N)

Route: Mobile–New Orleans, Louisiana

Original Owner: New Orleans and Mobile Railroad (L&N)

Route: New Orleans–Lafayette, Louisiana

Original Owner: Morgan's Louisiana and Texas Railroad and Steamship Company (SP)

Route: Lafayette–Lake Charles, Louisiana
Original Owner: Louisiana Western Railroad (SP)

Route: Lake Charles–Orange, Texas
Original Owner: Louisiana Western Railroad (SP)

Route: Orange–Houston, Texas
Original Owner: Texas and New Orleans Railroad (SP)

Route: Houston–El Paso, Texas
Original Owner: Galveston, Harrisburg and San Antonio Railway (SP)

Route: El Paso–Los Angeles, California
Original Owner: Southern Pacific Railroad

Travel Notes
A highlight of the trip was the crossing of the Huey P. Long Bridge just west of New Orleans. The bridge is one of the longest railroad bridges in the United States, at 4.5 miles; it took the train 135 feet above the Mississippi River.

History
Before the start of Amtrak on May 1, 1971, the Sunset Limited was operated by the Southern Pacific Railroad. The Sunset Limited is the oldest named train in the United States, operating since November 1894 (though originally named the Sunset Express). The Sunset Limited was Southern Pacific's premier train. Initially the Sunset Limited was an all-Pullman train, with sleeping cars and no coaches, running from New Orleans to San Francisco via Los Angeles. From its beginning in 1894 until streamlining in 1950, all the train's cars had 6-wheel trucks and dark olive green paint with black roofs and trucks. In summer 1926 it was scheduled at 71 hours and 40 minutes from New Orleans to San Francisco; it then carried a coast-to-coast sleeper from Jacksonville to Los Angeles.

An 1895 consist included:
A 4-4-0 American steam locomotive
Composite Baggage car with barber shop, bath and buffet smoker lounge "El Indio"
7 Drawing Room Sleeper with ladies´ parlor lounge "El Piloto"
10 Section 2 Drawing Room Sleeper "El Dorado"
Dining Car "Gourmet"
6 Section 1 Drawing Room 3 Compartment Sleeper "Cliola"
14 Section 1 Drawing Room Sleeper "Los Angeles"

A 1929 consist included:
A 4-6-2 Pacific or 4-8-2 Mountain steam locomotive
Railway Post Office
Baggage
Buffet library baggage combination car
12-section, 1 drawing room sleeper "Brazos"
12-section, 1 drawing room sleeper "Calaveras"
12-section, 1 drawing room sleeper "Pecos"
12-section, 1 drawing room sleeper "Tontos"
Diner
10-section, 1-drawing room, 2-compartment sleeper "El Monte"
10-section, 1-drawing room, 2-compartment sleeper "El Norte"
10-section, 1-drawing room, 2-compartment sleeper "El Occidente"
10-section, 1-drawing room, 2-compartment sleeper "El Oriente"
4-2 sleeper lounge observation "Sunset Beach"

SP Train No. 2, The Eastbound Sunset, ready to leave Los Angeles Union Station in March of 1971. Photo by Drew Jacksich.

By Drew Jacksich from San Jose, CA, The Republic of California - SP 6459 with Sunset LA March 1971x, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=17929496

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Sunset Limited in 1971. Photo by Drew Jacksich.

A series of publicity photos taken for the Southern Pacific at the Budd Company, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in June of 1950. Pictured are the Sunset Limited Diner "Audubon" and Lounge car "French Quarter".  All photos by Robert Yarnall Richie, DeGolyer Library, Southern Methodist University.

Slideshow Photo Credits:
[1] [Sunset Limited, Southern Pacific, G. G. & S. F. Lines], photograph, Date Unknown; (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth610747/: accessed June 15, 2016), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Fort Bend County Libraries.
[2] [Photograph of "Sunset Limited" crossing the Mississippi River], photograph, 1930~; (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth28914/m1/1/?q=Texas%20%26%20New%20Orleans: accessed June 15, 2016), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Museum of the American Railroad.
[3] Plummer, Roger S. ["Sunset Limited" departing from Houston's Grand Central Station], photograph, July 13, 1953; (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth28791/m1/1/?q=Texas%20%26%20New%20Orleans: accessed June 15, 2016), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Museum of the American Railroad.
[4] [Photograph of "Sunset Limited" Crossing the Rio Grande], photograph, 1956~; (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth28749/m1/1/?q=train: accessed June 15, 2016), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Museum of the American Railroad.
[5] Plummer, Roger S. [Photograph of "Sunset Limited" at Los Angeles Terminal Station], photograph, March 19, 1954; (texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth28777/m1/1/?q=train: accessed June 15, 2016), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History, texashistory.unt.edu; crediting Museum of the American Railroad.
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A 1940 consist included:
A GS-1 4-8-4 Golden State (or General Service) Steam Locomotive
Railway Post Office
Baggage
Parlor Sleeper "Abington"
16 Section Tourist Sleeper "Catlin"
12 Section 1 Drawing Room Sleeper "Alamo"
Coffee Shop Lounge
Diner
Lounge with barber shop, shower-bath and valet service
10 Section 1 Drawing Room 2 Compartment Sleeper "Lake Ariana"
10 Section 1 Drawing Room 1 Compartment Sleeper "Prior Lake"
8 Section 1 Drawing Room 2 Compartment Sleeper "Des Plaines"
6 Compartment 3 Drawing Room Sleeper "Glen Aladale"
6 Single Bedroom 2 Double Bedroom Sleeper Lounge Sun-Room Solarium Observation "Mission Santa Ynez"

In 1930 the route was cut back to Los Angeles and the train carried coaches for the first time. In 1936 the train resumed running to San Francisco and was one of SP's first trains to receive air-conditioning. In January 1942 it was cut back to Los Angeles; the Sunset Limited was never again all-Pullman and never again ran beyond Los Angeles.

The train was dieselized in late 1949 and became a streamliner in August 1950. The Sunset Limited was the last among the big American luxury trains to be streamlined but in 1950 the train got a new look, with stainless steel cars with red letterboards and white "Southern Pacific" lettering. All cars except the RPO-Baggage (which had 6-wheel trucks) had 4-wheel trucks. The last car of the train was a sleeping car with a blunt rear end and a lighted neon-sign with the train name on the rear door. Until 1950 the train was pulled by 4-6-2 Pacific type and 4-8-4 GS-1 Northern type steam locomotives between New Orleans and El Paso, and by 4-8-2 MT-4 Mountain type and 4-8-4 GS-4 Northern type steam locomotives between El Paso and Los Angeles/San Francisco. Occasionally, even some 4-10-2 Southern Pacific type and 4-8-8-2 AC class Cab Forward type steam locomotives could be seen, especially on the western portion of its run. Steam occasionally appeared on the Sunset Limited until 1953.

After dieselization Alco PA A-A Unit diesel locomotives powered the train between New Orleans and El Paso, and EMD E7 and E9 diesel locomotives in A-B-B sets pulled the train between El Paso and Los Angeles. Between 1950 and 1958 the diesel locomotives were painted in the Southern Pacific's "Daylight" scheme; in the 1960s and 70s EMD F7 diesel locomotives in SP's "Bloody Nose" scheme powered the train on the entire run.

A typical consist from the early 1950s included:
An A-B-A Set of Alco PA-1 or an A-B-B Set of EMD E-7 diesel locomotives, both in Daylight colors
Railway Post Office/Baggage
Baggage Dormitory
Partitioned Coach
Coach
Coach
Coffee Shop Lounge "Pride of Texas"
Coach
Coach
10-roomette, 6-double bedroom sleeper
10-roomette, 6-double bedroom sleeper
Diner "Audubon"
Lounge "French Quarter"
10-roomette, 6-double bedroom sleeper
10-roomette, 6-double bedroom sleeper
10-roomette, 6-double bedroom blunt ended sleeper

A typical consist between October 1970 and April 1971:
(Note: This was the last few months under Southern Pacific's thrice-weekly operation.)
An A-B-A Set of EMD FP-7 units or a SDP-45 diesel locomotive, painted in the "Bloody Nose" scheme
Box Car Baggage Express
Baggage Dormitory
10-6 Sleeper
10-6 Sleeper (Southern Railway through car New York - Los Angeles via the Crescent Limited)
Lounge "French Quarter"
Diner "Audubon"
Coach
Coach
Coffee Shop Lounge "Pride of Texas"
Coach
Coach

During the decline in the 1960s more and more services on board were cut back, culminating in the elimination of the dining car, lounge car and all sleeping cars. By 1968 the once proud streamliner had three cars: a baggage car, a coach and an automat lunch counter car. The Sunset was even combined with the Golden State passenger train west of El Paso in 1964. In October 1970 the Sunset's daily service between New Orleans and Los Angeles was reduced to tri-weekly, but with full dining and sleeping car service returning over the entire route. This was the state of the train when Amtrak took control in May 1971.

See also:

Southern Pacific

Sunset Limited (Amtrak)

Named Passenger Trains