A Chicago Hub Railroad of the 1930's - 1940's
The Atchison Topeka & Santa Fe Railway (Santa Fe)


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The Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway, often abbreviated as Santa Fe, was one of the largest railroads in the United States. The company was first chartered in February, 1859. Although the railway was named in part for the capital of New Mexico, its main line never reached there as the terrain made it too difficult to lay the necessary tracks (Santa Fe was ultimately served by a branch line from Lamy, New Mexico). The Santa Fe's first tracks reached the Kansas/Colorado state line in 1873, and connected to Pueblo, Colorado in 1876. In order to help fuel the railroad's profitability, the Santa Fe set up real estate offices and sold farm land from the land grants that the railroad was awarded by Congress; these new farms would create a demand for transportation that was, quite conveniently, offered by the Santa Fe. By 1892 the Santa Fe had completed its lines to Los Angeles and San Francisco and had purchased or constructed lines from Chicago to Kansas. In 1892, the luxury train, the California Limited began service Chicago to Los Angeles.(wik)
The Santa Fe continued to add California bound trains to it's roster

Santa Fe
Santa Fe June 11, 1939
and by the 30's the extra fare coach train the El Capitan, the all-Pullman Chief, the Grand Canyon Limited and the Scout were in the fleet. Then by the late 30's the Super Chief was added on a 39-3/4 hour schedule, Chicago to Los Angeles, to compete with the CNW/UP City of Los Angeles, which was on a similar schedule. The Santa Fe was very early to seek out the advantages of a diesel-electric locomotive to power its passenger trains, having experimented as early as 1931 with an articulated di esel-electric locomotive. They quickly changed direction, in conjunction with the Electro-motive Corporation, and avoided the early rush to articulated lightweight train sets giving preference to early single unit diesel powered locomotives. The Santa Fe owned the Chicago-Kansas City market, and had a good claim as leader in the Los Angeles traffic as the charts below will testify.

Early History of the Santa Fe

1859 - Charter written by Cyrus P. Holliday to build from Topeka, Kansas to Santa Fe New Mexico
1863 -Name changed to Atchison Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad Company
1863 - Congressional land grants enabled AT&SF to sell land to settlers and obtain needed income
1868 - Construction started from Topeka westward across Kaw River
1869 - First section to Pauline (6 miles) completed April 26
1872 - Tracks reached Dodge City
1873 - Colorado border reached in December
1876 - Pueblo Colorado reached in March
1877 - Santa Fe and D&RGW both want the narrow passage through Royal Gorge to reach mining territory. Start of Royal Gorge Railroad War
1877 - Fear of D&RGW plans for Raton Pass and S.P. attempts to block Santa Fe from New Mexico.
1878 - Santa Fe enters New Mexico over Raton Pass in December.
1880 - Treaty- D&RGW gets Royal Gorge, Santa Fe gets route over Raton Pass
California Southern and the lines to San Diego and Los Angeles.
1866 - Atlantic and Pacific chartered to build from Springfield, Mo to the Pacific Coast.
1880 - Cal. Sou. organized to build from A&P at Barstow to San Diego.
1881 - Construction begins in National City, south of SD toward Oceanside, Fallbrook, Temecula, Colton, Cajon Pass, Victorville and Barstow.
1882 - Fallbrook reached.
1883 - SP beats A&P to eastern A&P connection at Needles and California segment is leased by Santa Fe in 1884.
1883 - Disputes with SP delay crossing at Colson finally settled by court order.
1883 - First train San Diego to San Bernardino.
1884 - Floods and washouts destroy much of Temecula Canyon line.
1885 - Route over Cajon Pass completed, and route is finished from National City (San Diego) to Barstow.
1885 - Santa Fe leases SP tracks to Los Angeles.
1885 - First train from Chicago to San Diego 11-17-1885.
1887 - Santa Fe subsidiary completes line to LA avoiding use of SP trackage.
1887 - SF consolidates many western railroads into the California Central. Cal. Sou. remains an independent subsidiary.
1888 - Surf Line is completed bypassing troubles in Temecula Canyon route.
1897 - Santa Fe buys SP line from Needles.
1889-1906 - Santa Fe absorbs the western subsidiaries after many financial, organizational and name changes. Cal.Sou and others now part of Santa Fe System.
Entry into Chicago
1892 - Purchase of Chicago & St. Louis Railroad from Chicago to Streator Illinois and construction westward of Santa Fe to reach western trackage provides continuous line Chicago to Los Angeles and San Diego.
1892 - California Limited begins runs from Chicago to Los Angeles.
1905 - Los Angeles & Salt Lake (later UP) gets trackage rights over Cajon Pass.
From the Diesel Years
1931-32 - Santa Fe's Charles Ripley and EMC's Dick Dilworth work on experimental articulated motor car with Winton engine and built by Pullman-Standard. It has minimal success.
1935 - EMC builds box cab diesel-electric locomotives at GE's Erie plant. Units have Winton engines to power the new Santa Fe "Super Chief" train to LA with 39+ hour schedule.
1936 - "Super Chief" starts in May.
1937-38 - EMD E1, La Grange built passenger locomotives, now power lightweight Budd built "Super Chief".
1938 - In May a lightweight train (Budd built cars) and EMD E1 diesels on the "San Diegan" from LA to San Diego.
1938 - The all coach lightweight "El Capitan" joins the Super Chief on Chicago to LA behind E1 diesels.
1941 - All box cab diesels obsoleted by streamlined diesels from EMD.
1948 - Santa Fe now has EMD E8 diesels and running daily schedules on "Super Chief" and "El Capitan".
1955 - Traffic surge reactivates some steam.
1967 - SP builds Palmdale Cutoff, another line over Cajon Pass.
1983 - Merger plans for SF and SP not approved.
1995 - SF merges with Burlington Northern to form the Burlington Northern-Santa Fe (BNSF).


Santa Fe
1891 Map of Atchison Topeka and Santa Fe Railway


Santa Fe
1939 Map of Atchison Topeka and Santa Fe Railway


Chicago to Kansas City 1938-40
Santa Fe 451.1 miles
21 - El Capitan (2 days/wk) 6:57
17 - Super Chief (2 days/wk) 7:07
11 - Kansas Cityan 7:30
7 - Fast Mail Express 9:30
19 - Chief 9:39
1 - Scout 10:35
3 - California Limited 10:40
23 - Grand Canyon Limited 11:00
5 - Ranger 11:15
Rock Island 510 miles
43 California Limited 12:10
3 Golden State Limited 12:15
13-1-45 15:25
Alton 483 miles
5-23 - The Hummer 13:00
Burlington 490 miles
55 American Royal 13:15
3 - 3 20:55
Chicago Great Western 599 miles
1-11 17:15


Chicago to Los Angeles - 1940
Santa Fe 2227 miles
21 - El Capitan (2 days/wk) 39:45
17 - Super Chief (2 days/wk) 39:45
19 - Chief 49:49
3 - California Limited 55:53
23 - Grand Canyon Limited 59:10 2238 miles
1 - Scout 60:15 2238 miles
C&NW-Union Pacific 2209 miles
105 - City of Los Angeles (every 3rd day) 39:45
21 - Pacific Limited 59:10
7 - Los Angeles Limited 60:05
707 - Los Angeles Challenger 60:15
Rock Island - Southern Pacific 2340 miles
3 Golden State Limited 59:15
43 Californian 60:15


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Our Sources
Private Collection of Richard R. Parks(rp)
Wikipedia the free Encyclopedia [web](wik)
Official Guide- April 1940
The Story of American Railroads, Stewart H. Holbrook
The Trains We Rode- Beebe & Clegg
Diesel Victory-Kalmbach Publishing Co.
Americas Colerful Railroads - Don Ball Jr. (dbj)
Classic Trains - Kalmbach Publishing Co.-fall 2007
Trains - Kalmbach Publishing Co.-Aug. 2004
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Web Page Written and Maintained by Richard Parks
Copyright Richard Parks, April 22, 2009, revised April 15, 2011