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April 13, 2023

The Most Beautiful Train in the World: Interior of Southern Pacific Daylight Train From the 1930s and 1940s

Here we see the interior of the Southern Pacific service originally called the “Daylight Limited” and later the “Coast Daylight.” It was the Southern Pacific’s train between Los Angeles and San Francisco. Passengers really did dressed up to ride the train. It was advertised as the “most beautiful passenger train in the world,” carrying a particular red, orange, and black color scheme. The train operated from 1937 until 1974, one of the few passenger trains retained by Amtrak in 1971. Amtrak merged it with the Coast Starlight in 1974.

To ride on “The Most Beautiful Train in the World,” you needed to purchase a ticket in advanced.  All seats on the train, including chair cars and parlor cars, were reserved. You had to reserve and purchase a ticket by mail, telegraph, telephone, or in person at the Los Angeles or San Francisco “Chart Room.” When reserving a ticket, you had to make sure to tell them if the party traveling was male or female and if you wanted an ocean or land side seat. Tickets could be reserved by telegraph or telephone, but no space was held longer than noon before the date of departure and must be purchased at the ticket office in person and not on the train.

1937 Daylight fares were $9.47 one way or $14 roundtrip between Los Angeles and San Francisco in the streamlined chair cars. Chair car passengers had full access to the Coffee Shop, Diner, and Tavern cars. The two Parlor cars were restricted to first class passengers. First class fares were $14.20 one way or $18.75 roundtrip plus a seat charge of $1.50 each way. If a boarding passenger holding a roundtrip coach ticket wanted to upgrade to a parlor car seat, their ticket could be raised to first class (by the Conductor or Passenger Agent) for $4.73. Each passenger occupying a seat in the drawing room on the Parlor car was charged a one seat fare. If the room was desired for exclusive occupancy, the minimum of three seat fares and two rail tickets was required.

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