Amtrak's Southwest Chief at Devil's Throne in New Mexico
|Service type||Long-distance higher speed rail|
|Locale||Midwestern and Southwestern United States|
|Predecessor||Super Chief , El Capitan|
367,267 total (FY15)
|End||Los Angeles, California|
|Distance travelled||2,265 mi (3,645 km)|
|Average journey time||43 hours, 15 minutes|
|Service frequency||Daily each way|
|Train number(s)||3 (Chicago to Los Angeles) Westbound|
4 (Los Angeles to Chicago) Eastbound
|Seating arrangements||Airline-style coach seating|
|Sleeping arrangements||Superliner Roomette (2 beds) |
Family Bedroom (4 beds)
Superliner Bedroom (2 beds)
Superliner Bedroom Suite (4 beds)
Superliner Accessible Bedroom (2 beds)
|Catering facilities||Dining car |
|Observation facilities||Sightseer Lounge Car|
|Baggage facilities||Checked baggage (select stations)|
|Rolling stock|| P42 locomotives |
|Track gauge||4 ft 8 1⁄2 in (1,435 mm) standard gauge|
|Operating speed||90 mph (145 km/h) maximum |
55 mph (89 km/h) average (including stops)
|Track owner(s)||BNSF Railway|
The Southwest Chief (formerly the Southwest Limited and Super Chief) is a passenger train operated by Amtrak on a 2,265-mile (3,645 km) route through the Midwestern and Southwestern United States. It runs between Chicago, Illinois and Los Angeles, California, passing through Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, Kansas, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona and California.
The National Railroad Passenger Corporation, doing business as Amtrak, is a passenger railroad service that provides medium- and long-distance intercity service in the contiguous United States and to nine Canadian cities.
The United States of America (USA), commonly known as the United States or America, is a country composed of 50 states, a federal district, five major self-governing territories, and various possessions. At 3.8 million square miles, the United States is the world's third or fourth largest country by total area and is slightly smaller than the entire continent of Europe's 3.9 million square miles. With a population of over 327 million people, the U.S. is the third most populous country. The capital is Washington, D.C., and the largest city by population is New York City. Forty-eight states and the capital's federal district are contiguous in North America between Canada and Mexico. The State of Alaska is in the northwest corner of North America, bordered by Canada to the east and across the Bering Strait from Russia to the west. The State of Hawaii is an archipelago in the mid-Pacific Ocean. The U.S. territories are scattered about the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea, stretching across nine official time zones. The extremely diverse geography, climate, and wildlife of the United States make it one of the world's 17 megadiverse countries.
Chicago, officially the City of Chicago, is the most populous city in Illinois, as well as the third most populous city in the United States. With an estimated population of 2,716,450 (2017), it is the most populous city in the Midwest. Chicago is the principal city of the Chicago metropolitan area, often referred to as Chicagoland, and the county seat of Cook County, the second most populous county in the United States. The metropolitan area, at nearly 10 million people, is the third-largest in the United States, and the fourth largest in North America and the third largest metropolitan area in the world by land area.
During fiscal year 2015, the Southwest Chief carried 367,267 passengers, up 4.3 percent from FY 2014. The route grossed $44,904,314 in revenue during FY 2015, a 0.6 percent increase from FY 2014.Amtrak had plans for replacing the route between Albuquerque, New Mexico and Dodge City, Kansas with bus service, but as of October 2018, these are shelved.
A fiscal year is the period used by governments for accounting and budget purposes, which varies between countries. It is also used for financial reporting by business and other organizations. Laws in many jurisdictions require company financial reports to be prepared and published on an annual basis, but generally do not require the reporting period to align with the calendar year. Taxation laws generally require accounting records to be maintained and taxes calculated on an annual basis, which usually corresponds to the fiscal year used for government purposes. The calculation of tax on an annual basis is especially relevant for direct taxation, such as income tax. Many annual government fees—such as Council rates, licence fees, etc.—are also levied on a fiscal year basis, while others are charged on an anniversary basis.
Albuquerque, also known locally as Duke City and abbreviated as ABQ, is the most populous city in the U.S. state of New Mexico and the 32nd-most populous city in the United States, with a census-estimated population of 558,545 in 2017. It is the principal city of the Albuquerque metropolitan area, which has 910,726 residents as of July 2017. Albuquerque's Metropolitan statistical area is the 60th-largest in the United States. The Albuquerque MSA population includes the cities of Rio Rancho, Bernalillo, Placitas, Corrales, Los Lunas, Belen, and Bosque Farms, and forms part of the larger Albuquerque–Santa Fe–Las Vegas combined statistical area, with a total population of 1,171,991 in 2016.
Dodge City is the county seat of Ford County, Kansas, United States, named after nearby Fort Dodge. The city is famous in American culture for its history as a wild frontier town of the Old West. As of the 2010 census, the city population was 27,340.
The Southwest Chief is the successor to the Super Chief , which, along with the Chief and El Capitan , were notable Chicago-Los Angeles trains operated by the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway. The Super Chief name was retained after Amtrak took over passenger rail service in 1971. Then in March 1974, the Santa Fe forced Amtrak to drop the name because of a perceived decline in quality after the Amtrak takeover. The train was renamed the Southwest Limited. After subsequent improvements, the Santa Fe allowed Amtrak to change its name to the Southwest Chief on October 28, 1984.
The Super Chief was one of the named passenger trains and the flagship of the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway. It claimed to be "The Train of the Stars" because of the celebrities it carried between Chicago, Illinois, and Los Angeles, California.
The Chief was one of the named passenger trains of the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway. Its route ran from Chicago, Illinois to Los Angeles, California. The Chief was inaugurated as an all-Pullman limited train to supplement the road's California Limited, with a surcharge of USD $10.00 for an end-to-end trip. The heavyweight began its first run from both ends of the line, simultaneously, on November 14, 1926, scheduled 63 hours each way between Chicago and Los Angeles, five hours faster than the California Limited.
The El Capitan was a streamlined passenger train operated by the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway between Chicago, Illinois, and Los Angeles, California. It operated from 1938 to 1971; Amtrak retained the name until 1973. The El Capitan was the only all-coach or "chair car" to operate on the Santa Fe main line between Chicago and Los Angeles on the same fast schedule as the railroad's premier all-Pullman Super Chief. It was also the first train to receive the pioneering Hi-Level equipment with which it would become synonymous.
Amtrak operated the Southwest Chief in conjunction with the Capitol Limited , a daily Washington DC-Chicago service, in 1997 and 1998. The two trains used the same Superliner equipment sets, and passengers traveling on both trains could remain aboard during the layover in Chicago. Originally announced in 1996, Amtrak planned to call this through service the "National Chief" with its own numbers (15/16), although the name and numbers were never used. Amtrak dropped the practice with the May 1998 timetable.
The Superliner is a type of bilevel intercity railroad passenger car used by Amtrak, the national rail passenger carrier in the United States. Amtrak ordered the cars to replace older single-level cars on its long-distance trains in the Western United States. The design was based on the Budd Hi-Level vehicles, employed by the Santa Fe Railway on its El Capitan trains. Pullman-Standard built 284 cars, known as Superliner I, in 1975–1981; Bombardier Transportation built 195, known as Superliner II, in 1991–1996. The Superliner I cars were the last passenger cars built by Pullman.
Lawrence is the county seat of Douglas County and sixth-largest city in Kansas. It is located in the northeastern sector of the state, astride Interstate 70, between the Kansas and Wakarusa Rivers. As of the 2010 census, the city's population was 87,643. Lawrence is a college town and the home to both the University of Kansas and Haskell Indian Nations University.
Kingman is a city in and the county seat of Mohave County, Arizona, United States. According to the 2010 census, the population of the city is 28,068. The nearby communities of Butler, and Golden Valley bring the Kingman area total population to over 45,000. Kingman is located about 105 miles (169 km) southeast of Las Vegas, Nevada and about 165 miles (266 km) northwest of the state capital, Phoenix.
Ludlow is an unincorporated community in the Mojave Desert on Interstate 40, located in San Bernardino County, California, United States. The older remains of the ghost town are along historic Route 66.
Unique among all long-distance Superliner trains, the Southwest Chief is permitted to run up to a maximum of 90 mph (145 km/h) along significant portions of the route because of automatic train stop installed by the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway. Given Amtrak's projected 41-hour travel time, the average speed is in excess of 55 mph (89 km/h), including stops.
Automatic train stop or ATS is a system on a train that automatically stops a train if certain situations occur to prevent accidents. In some scenarios it functions as a type of dead man's switch. Automatic train stop differs from the concept of Automatic Train Control in that ATS usually does not feature an onboard speed control mechanism.
The Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway, often referred to as the Santa Fe or AT&SF, was one of the larger railroads in the United States. Chartered in February 1859, the railroad reached the Kansas-Colorado border in 1873 and Pueblo, Colorado, in 1876. To create a demand for its services, the railroad set up real estate offices and sold farm land from the land grants that it was awarded by Congress. Despite the name, its main line never served Santa Fe, New Mexico, as the terrain was too difficult; the town ultimately was reached by a branch line from Lamy.
During the spring and summer, Volunteer Rangers with the Trails and Rails program from the National Park Service travel onboard and provide a narrative between La Junta, Colorado, and Albuquerque, New Mexico. Starting in May 2013, Volunteer Rangers with Trails and Rails will also be onboard providing a narrative between Chicago and La Plata, Missouri.
From June through August, the Southwest Chief is used by Boy Scouts traveling to and from Philmont Scout Ranch via the Raton station. During those months, Raton station is staffed by Amtrak employees and handles checked baggage.
This route was one of five studied for possible performance improvements by Amtrak in FY 2012.
No BNSF freight service is offered between La Junta, Colorado and Lamy, New Mexico, and the railroad informed Amtrak that all maintenance costs are to be paid by the passenger carrier if it wished to continue to use the route. BNSF also declared it will maintain trackage between Hutchinson, Kansas, and La Junta, at a Class III (60 mph passenger train maximum) speed instead of Class IV (79 mph passenger train maximum).
BNSF offered to host the Southwest Chief over its Southern Transcon via Wichita and Wellington, Kansas, Amarillo, Texas, and Clovis, New Mexico, once used by the San Francisco Chief . Amtrak sought help from the states involved to retain existing service on the train's historic route.The states of Kansas, Colorado, and New Mexico have since contributed money toward rebuilding the tracks and keeping the Chief on its current routing. Much of the funding for the rehabilitation projects has come from federal transportation grants.
In 2018, the Southwest Chief became the focal point of a struggle to determine whether to continue Amtrak as a national network or to operate regional stand-alone networks.
The issue was provoked by Amtrak introducing new requirements for the third renewal grant and raising previously undiscussed technical issues regarding the midsection of the route.A letter dated May 31, 2018, co-signed by 11 Senators condemned the action and urged providing the match. Former Amtrak President and CEO Joseph H. Boardman in an open letter stated, "The Southwest Chief issue is the battleground whose outcome will determine the fate of American’s [sic] national interconnected rail passenger network."
In June, Amtrak announced that it was considering the replacement of rail service along the Kansas portion of the Southwest Chief with Amtrak Thruway Motorcoach buses between Albuquerque and Dodge City, where train service east to Chicago would resume.Senators in the affected area succeed in offering an amendment to a funding bill. Per a press release from the office of co-sponsor Senator Jerry Moran, "This amendment would provide resources for maintenance and safety improvements along the Southwest Chief route and would compel Amtrak to fulfill its promise of matching funding for the successful TIGER IX discretionary grant ... In addition, this amendment would effectively reverse Amtrak’s decision to substitute rail service with bus service over large segments of the route through FY2019."
The train consists of:
Two P42 locomotives
A fourth Superliner coach may be added during peak travel periods. Sometimes, private cars or deadhead cars can be seen riding along, also.
Until 1979, the train traversed a different route from Kansas City to Emporia. That year, it was rerouted via Topeka, Kansas, to replace Amtrak service lost with the discontinuance of the Texas Chief . The reroute allowed Amtrak to maintain service to the Kansas state capital of Topeka and to Lawrence, home of the University of Kansas.
Prior to 1996, the Southwest Chief operated between Chicago and Galesburg, Illinois, via Joliet, Streator, and Chillicothe on the ATSF's Chilicothe Subdivision. Following the merger of the Burlington Northern and the Santa Fe in 1996, a connecting track was installed at Cameron, Illinois, to allow both freight and passenger trains to connect from the former Burlington Northern Mendota subdivision to the Chilicothe subdivision.The Chief was rerouted on the old Burlington Northern through Naperville, Princeton, and Mendota to Galesburg, a route shared with the California Zephyr , Illinois Zephyr , and Carl Sandburg .
In January 1994, the Southwest Chief was rerouted between San Bernardino and Los Angeles onto the Santa Fe Third District via Fullerton and Riverside. Previously, it served Pasadena and Pomona via the Santa Fe Pasadena subdivision, until that route was closed to all through traffic following the damage to a bridge over the eastbound lanes of Interstate 210 in Arcadia during the Northridge Earthquake. This resulted from ATSF selling that segment to the Los Angeles Metro for use as a light rail corridor. The Los Angeles Metro Gold Line now uses that stretch of right-of-way. A section of the track still exists, although it terminates in Irwindale adjacent to Interstate 210.
On certain days of the week, volunteer rangers with Bent's Old Fort National Historic Site, a unit of the National Park Service, provide commentary for train passengers on the Southwest Chief between La Junta, Colorado, and Las Vegas, New Mexico. Programs take place only during the busy summer travel season, typically from Memorial Day to Labor Day. Talks presented cover such notable sites as Trinidad, the Purgatorie River, Raton Pass, and the Santa Fe Trail. The Trails and Rails program is a partnership between Amtrak and the National Park Service, and is featured on other Amtrak trains across the country.
A second Trails and Rails program operated on the Southwest Chief from Chicago, Illinois, to La Plata, Missouri, between May 18, 2013 and July 19, 2015. It was co-sponsored by Texas A&M University and the nonprofit American Passenger Rail Heritage Foundation in La Plata, Missouri. Volunteers presented two round-trip programs per week and covered such topics as the urban history of Chicago, the "breadbasket" areas of central Illinois, the Mississippi River, the Mormon National Historical Trail, and the rolling hills of Northeast Missouri. In July 2015, the National Park Service decided to end its partnership with the foundation, which had been providing most of the funding for the program. Docents went on to form the APRHF Rail Rangers, which provides similar services on private rail excursions and on the South Shore Line.
The Capitol Limited is one of two Amtrak trains connecting Washington, D.C., to Chicago, running 764 miles (1,230 km) via Pittsburgh and Cleveland. Service began in 1981 and was named after the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad's Capitol Limited which ended in 1971 upon the formation of Amtrak. It carries the Amtrak train numbers 29 and 30, which were previously assigned to the discontinued National Limited.
The City of New Orleans is an Amtrak passenger train which operates on an overnight schedule between Chicago and New Orleans. The train is a successor to the Illinois Central Railroad's Panama Limited.
The Texas Eagle is a 1,306-mile (2,102 km) passenger train route operated by Amtrak in the central and western United States. Trains run daily between Chicago, Illinois, and San Antonio, Texas. Three days a week, the train operates as a section of the Sunset Limited. The westbound Texas Eagle joins with the westbound Sunset Limited in San Antonio and continues to Los Angeles, California; the eastbound Texas Eagle splits in San Antonio for the journey to Chicago–2,728 miles (4,390 km) total. Prior to 1988, the train was known as the Eagle.
The San Joaquin is a passenger train service operated by Amtrak in California's Central Valley. Seven round-trip trains a day run between its southern terminus at Bakersfield and Stockton, where the route splits to Oakland or Sacramento.
The Coast Starlight is a passenger train operated by Amtrak on the West Coast of the United States. It runs from Seattle, Washington, to Los Angeles, California, via the San Francisco Bay Area. The train was the first to offer direct service between the two cities. Its name is a combination of two Southern Pacific (SP) trains, the Coast Daylight and the Starlight. The train has operated continuously since Amtrak's formation in 1971. Unique among Amtrak's long-distance trains, the Coast Starlight featured a Hi-Level lounge for sleeping car passengers — the "Pacific Parlour Car" — which was discontinued in February 2018.
A dome car is a type of railway passenger car that has a glass dome on the top of the car where passengers can ride and see in all directions around the train. It also can include features of a coach, lounge car, dining car, sleeping car or observation. Beginning in 1945, dome cars were primarily used in the United States and Canada, though a small number were constructed in Europe for Trans Europ Express service, and similar panorama cars are in service on Alpine tourist railways like the Bernina Express.
The Heartland Flyer is a daily passenger train that follows a 206-mile (332 km) route from Oklahoma City, Oklahoma to Fort Worth, Texas. It is operated by Amtrak and jointly funded by the states of Oklahoma and Texas. The train's daily round-trip begins in Oklahoma City in the morning and reaches Fort Worth in the early afternoon. It leaves Fort Worth during the afternoon rush for an evening return to Oklahoma City. As of November 2014, the train is scheduled at 3 hours 58 minutes in each direction.
Ratón Pass is a 7,834 ft (2,388 m) elevation mountain pass on the Colorado-New Mexico border in the western United States. Ratón is Spanish for "mouse". It is located on the eastern side of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains between Trinidad, Colorado and Raton, New Mexico, approximately 100 miles (160 km) northeast of Santa Fe. The pass crosses the line of volcanic mesas that extends east from the Sangre de Cristo Mountains along the state line, and furnishes the most direct land route between the valley of the Arkansas River to the north and the upper valley of the Canadian River, leading to Santa Fe, to the south. The pass now carries Interstate 25 and railroad tracks.
The Grand Canyon Limited was one of the named passenger trains of the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway. It was train Nos. 23 & 24 between Chicago, Illinois, and Los Angeles, California.
The San Francisco Chief was a streamlined passenger train on the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railway between Chicago, Illinois and the San Francisco Bay Area. It ran from 1954 until 1971. The San Francisco Chief was the last new streamliner introduced by the Santa Fe, its first full train between Chicago and the Bay, the only Chicago-Bay Area train running over just one railroad, and at 2,555 miles (4,112 km) the longest run in the country on one railroad. The San Francisco Chief was one of many trains discontinued when Amtrak began operations in 1971.
The Pioneer was an Amtrak passenger train that ran between Seattle and Chicago via Portland, Boise, Salt Lake City, and Denver.
The Lone Star was an Amtrak passenger train serving Chicago, Kansas City, Oklahoma City, Fort Worth, Houston and intermediate points. The train was renamed from the Texas Chief, which the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway had introduced in 1948. Amtrak discontinued the Lone Star in 1979.
La Plata is an Amtrak train station in La Plata, Missouri, United States and is a passenger stop for Amtrak's Southwest Chief long-distance route between Chicago and Los Angeles. It was built in 1945 by the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railroad as a replacement for an 1887 passenger and freight depot that was in deteriorating condition. Efforts to replace the station were stalled by a lack of construction material during World War II. The 1945 replacement was built in Art Deco style, and was restored between 1996 and 2001 by local preservationists, a model railroad club, and a garden club. It also hosts a Virtual Railfan camera.
The Texas Chief was a passenger train operated by the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway between Chicago, Illinois, and Galveston, Texas. It was the first Santa Fe "Chief" outside the Chicago–Los Angeles routes. The Santa Fe conveyed the Texas Chief to Amtrak in 1971, which renamed it the Lone Star in 1974. The train was taken off in 1979.
The Southern Transcon is a railroad corridor between Southern California and Chicago, Illinois and serves as a BNSF Railway main line made up of 11 rail lines between Southern California and Chicago. Completed in its current alignment in 1908 by the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway, when it opened the Belen Cutoff in New Mexico and bypassed the steep grades of Raton Pass, it now serves as a mostly double-tracked intermodal corridor.
The California Zephyr is a passenger train operated by Amtrak between Chicago and the San Francisco Bay Area, via Omaha, Denver, Salt Lake City, and Reno. At 2,438 miles (3,924 km), it is Amtrak's second longest route after the Texas Eagle branch to Los Angeles, with travel time between the termini taking approximately 511⁄2 hours. Amtrak claims the route as one of its most scenic, with views of the upper Colorado River valley in the Rocky Mountains, and the Sierra Nevada. The modern train is the second iteration of a train named California Zephyr, the original train was privately operated and ran on a different route through Nevada and California.