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The Sunset Limited eastbound in Florida in 2004
|Service type||Inter-city rail|
|Locale||Southern United States|
|Former operator(s)||Southern Pacific (1894-1971)|
|Start||Los Angeles, California|
|End||New Orleans, Louisiana|
|Distance travelled||1,995 mi (3,211 km)|
|Average journey time||45 hours|
|Service frequency||Three round trips per week|
|Train number(s)||1 (westbound)|
|Class(es)||Coach and First|
|Seating arrangements||Reserved Coach Seat |
Superliner Lower Level Coach Seats
|Sleeping arrangements||Superliner Roomette |
Superliner Bedroom Suite
Superliner Accessible Bedroom
|Catering facilities||Dining car|
|Observation facilities||Sightseer Lounge|
|Baggage facilities||Checked baggage available at selected stations|
|Track gauge||4 ft 8 1⁄2 in (1,435 mm)|
|Operating speed||79 miles per hour (127 km/h) maximum |
44 miles per hour (71 km/h) average (including stops)
|Track owner(s)||Los Angeles–Lake Charles:UP |
Lake Charles–New Orleans: BNSF
The Sunset Limited is an Amtrak passenger train that for most of its history has run between New Orleans and Los Angeles, over the nation's second transcontinental route. However, up until Hurricane Katrina in 2005, it ran between Orlando and Los Angeles, and between 1993 and 1996, continued on to Miami (via the Silver Meteor 's route). It is the oldest named train in the United States; it was first introduced in 1894 by the Southern Pacific Railroad, and was handed to Amtrak upon its formation in 1971.
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.
New Orleans is a consolidated city-parish located along the Mississippi River in the southeastern region of the U.S. state of Louisiana. With an estimated population of 391,006 in 2018, it is the most populous city in Louisiana. A major port, New Orleans is considered an economic and commercial hub for the broader Gulf Coast region of the United States.
Los Angeles, officially the City of Los Angeles and often known by its initials L.A., is the most populous city in California, the second most populous city in the United States, after New York City, and the third most populous city in North America. With an estimated population of nearly four million, Los Angeles is the cultural, financial, and commercial center of Southern California. The city is known for its Mediterranean climate, ethnic diversity, Hollywood and the entertainment industry, and its sprawling metropolis. Los Angeles is the largest city on the West Coast of North America.
This train is one of only two of Amtrak's 15 long-distance services which run only three days a week (the other being the Cardinal ). Consequently, the Sunset Limited carried the fewest passengers of any Amtrak train in fiscal year 2016, 98,079, a 2.6% decrease over FY2015. It had a total revenue of $10,769,179, marking a 7.5% decrease over FY2015.
The Cardinal is a thrice-weekly long distance passenger train operated by Amtrak between New York Penn Station and Chicago Union Station, with major intermediate stops at Philadelphia, Washington, D.C., Charlottesville, Charleston, Huntington, Cincinnati, and Indianapolis. It is one of three trains linking the Northeast to Chicago, the others being the Capitol Limited and Lake Shore Limited.
A fiscal year 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, license fees, etc.—are also levied on a fiscal year basis, while others are charged on an anniversary basis.
For most of its existence, the Sunset Limited route was owned by the Southern Pacific Railroad. The name Sunset Limited traces its origins to the Galveston, Harrisburg and San Antonio Railway, a Southern Pacific subsidiary which was known as the Sunset Route as early as 1874.
The Southern Pacific was an American Class I railroad network that existed from 1865 to 1998 that operated in the Western United States. The system was operated by various companies under the names Southern Pacific Railroad, Southern Pacific Company and Southern Pacific Transportation Company.
The Buffalo Bayou, Brazos, and Colorado Railway, also called the Harrisburg Road or Harrisburg Railroad, was the first operating railroad in Texas. It completed its first segment of track between Harrisburg, Texas and Stafford's Point, Texas in 1853. The company established a western terminus at Alleyton, Texas prior to the Civil War. The railroad was sold after the war and reincorporated as the Galveston, Harrisburg, & San Antonio Railroad. This right of way was acquired by the Southern Pacific Railroad and is today a property of the Union Pacific Railroad.
Most of the current route from New Orleans westward is now owned by the Union Pacific Railroad, which acquired Southern Pacific in 1996. However, most of the route within Louisiana itself was sold to BNSF Railway in 1995 in return for BNSF not objecting to the UP-SP merger.
Union Pacific Railroad is a freight hauling railroad that operates 8,500 locomotives over 32,100 route-miles in 23 states west of Chicago and New Orleans. The Union Pacific Railroad system is the second largest in the United States after the BNSF Railway and is one of the world's largest transportation companies. The Union Pacific Railroad is the principal operating company of the Union Pacific Corporation ; both are headquartered in Omaha, Nebraska.
The BNSF Railway Company is the largest freight railroad network in North America. One of eight North American Class I railroads, BNSF has 44,000 employees, 32,500 miles (52,300 km) of track in 28 states, and more than 8,000 locomotives. It has three transcontinental routes that provide rail connections between the western and eastern United States. BNSF trains traveled over 169 million miles in 2010, more than any other North American railroad. The BNSF and Union Pacific have a duopoly on all transcontinental freight rail lines in the Western U.S. and share trackage rights over thousands of miles of track.
On the portion of the route east of New Orleans, service was suspended after Hurricane Katrina. Those tracks, between New Orleans and Florida, include parts of the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad, the Seaboard Air Line Railroad, and the Louisville and Nashville Railroad—all now owned by CSX Transportation. Currently, the segment of the former Atlantic Coast Line Railroad between DeLand and Orlando is owned by Orlando's commuter service SunRail.
Hurricane Katrina was an extremely destructive and deadly Category 5 hurricane that made landfall on Florida and Louisiana in August 2005, causing catastrophic damage; particularly in the city of New Orleans and the surrounding areas. Subsequent flooding, caused largely as a result of fatal engineering flaws in the flood protection system known as levees around the city of New Orleans, precipitated most of the loss of lives. The storm was the third major hurricane of the record-breaking 2005 Atlantic hurricane season, as well as the fourth-most intense Atlantic hurricane on record to make landfall in the contiguous United States, behind only the 1935 Labor Day hurricane, Hurricane Camille in 1969, and Hurricane Michael in 2018.
The Atlantic Coast Line Railroad is a former U. S. Class I railroad from 1900 until 1967, when it merged with long-time rival Seaboard Air Line Railroad to form the Seaboard Coast Line Railroad. Much of the original ACL network has been part of CSX Transportation since 1986.
The Seaboard Air Line Railroad, which styled itself "The Route of Courteous Service," was an American railroad which existed from April 14, 1900, until July 1, 1967, when it merged with the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad, its longtime rival, to form the Seaboard Coast Line Railroad. Predecessor railroads dated from the 1830s and reorganized extensively to rebuild after the American Civil War. The company was headquartered in Norfolk, Virginia, until 1958, when its main offices were relocated to Richmond, Virginia. The Seaboard Air Line Railway Building in Norfolk's historic Freemason District still stands and has been converted into apartments.
The train uses the following route segments, identified here by the names of their original owners:
|Route||Original owner||Current owner|
|Orlando, Florida – Sanford, Florida||South Florida Railroad (ACL)||SunRail|
|Sanford– DeLand, Florida||Jacksonville, Tampa and Key West Railway (ACL)||SunRail|
|DeLand– Jacksonville, Florida||Jacksonville, Tampa and Key West Railway (ACL)||CSX|
|Jacksonville– Chattahoochee, Florida||Florida Central and Western Railroad (SAL)||CSX|
|Chattahoochee– Pensacola, Florida||Pensacola and Atlantic Railroad (L&N)||CSX|
|Pensacola– Flomaton, Alabama||Pensacola Railroad (L&N)||CSX|
|Flomaton– Mobile, Alabama||Mobile and Montgomery Railway (L&N)||CSX|
|Mobile– New Orleans, Louisiana||New Orleans and Mobile Railroad (L&N)||CSX|
|New Orleans– Lafayette, Louisiana||Morgan's Louisiana and Texas Railroad and Steamship Company (SP)||BNSF|
|Lafayette– Lake Charles, Louisiana||Louisiana Western Railroad (SP)||BNSF|
|Lake Charles– Orange, Texas||Louisiana Western Railroad (SP)||UP|
|Orange– Houston, Texas||Texas and New Orleans Railroad (SP)||UP|
|Houston– El Paso, Texas||Galveston, Harrisburg and San Antonio Railway (SP)||UP|
|El Paso– Los Angeles, California||Southern Pacific Railroad||UP|
Service on the Sunset Limited between New Orleans and Florida has been suspended since August 29, 2005 because the rail line in the path of Hurricane Katrina east of New Orleans was washed out. The operating railroad CSX restored the line itself between New Orleans and Jacksonville. However, in 2006, Amtrak said it was deemed too expensive to rebuild to modern passenger rail standards. In 2016 Amtrak proposed to return the Sunset Limited service to Florida in the near future.
CSX Transportation is a Class I railroad operating in the eastern United States and the Canadian provinces of Ontario and Quebec. The railroad operates approximately 21,000 route miles (34,000 km) of track. The company operates as a subsidiary of CSX Corporation, a Fortune 500 company headquartered in Jacksonville, Florida.
Eastbound trains leave Los Angeles on Sunday, Wednesday and Friday. Westbound trains leave New Orleans on Monday, Wednesday and Saturday. The journey takes two days to complete in each direction.
At San Antonio, thru-cars from the Texas Eagle are combined with the Sunset Limited for the journey westward and split eastward. When combined with the Sunset Limited, the Texas Eagle is numbered as 421 westbound and 422 eastbound.
A highlight of the trip is 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 (7.2 km); it takes the train 135 feet (41 m) above the Mississippi River.
In its present form, the eastbound Sunset Limited leaves Los Angeles in the middle of the night, traveling overnight through Arizona before arriving at breakfast time in Tucson and mid-afternoon in El Paso. After traveling through west Texas overnight, it separates from the Texas Eagle in San Antonio. Resuming the second day of the trip, it arrives in Houston at lunchtime, Lafayette at rush hour, and the middle of the night in New Orleans. The westbound train leaves New Orleans just after rush hour, arriving in Lafayette at lunchtime and just after the afternoon rush in Houston. It then joins the Texas Eagle just after midnight, and travels overnight through west Texas before arriving in El Paso at lunchtime the following afternoon and dinner time in Tucson and Maricopa. After traveling overnight through Arizona and California, it arrives in Los Angeles before breakfast.
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 along the Sunset Route (though originally named the Sunset Express). The Sunset Route (originating in New Orleans) is the southernmost of the three gateways to the West Coast envisioned through the Pacific Railroad Acts. The other two embarked from Chicago and St. Louis. However, the Sunset Route had two major advantages over the other two routes. It was an all-weather, year-round route that didn’t face the crippling snows of the Wasatch or Sierra mountain ranges to reach the Pacific Coast. Additionally, the other two routes had to assault the front range of the Rockies.
In addition, opened 20 years before the Panama Canal, the Sunset Route vastly shortened the time to reach the West Coast from the Atlantic Ocean and Caribbean Sea, as New Orleans was already an established seaport for Atlantic shipping lines’ passengers, seeking to reach the US interior. The Sunset Limited allowed passengers to reach the West Coast in a few days, not weeks.
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 the summer of 1926, it was scheduled at 71 hr 40 min New Orleans to San Francisco; it then carried a coast-to-coast sleeper from Jacksonville to Los Angeles.
An 1895 consist included:
A 1929 consist included:[ citation needed ]
A 1940 consist included:
In 1930, the route was cut back to Los Angeles and the train carried coaches for the first time; it would never be all-sleeper again. 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, which has remained the western terminus ever since.
The train was dieselized in late 1949. In August 1950, it was the last major American luxury train to become a streamliner. Also 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:[ citation needed ]
A typical consist between October 1970 and April 1971 (the last months under Southern Pacific's thrice-weekly operation):
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 Limited 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.
Amtrak left the Sunset unchanged, while it dropped the Louisville & Nashville's Gulf Wind , which operated between New Orleans and Jacksonville, Florida. The tracks between these two points remained unused by passenger trains until April 29, 1984, when an Amtrak train called the Gulf Coast Limited , running between New Orleans and Mobile, Alabama, began service, seeking to regenerate some form of regional intercity rail traffic between large cities outside the Northeast. However, this train only lasted until January 6, 1985. Almost five years later, on October 27, 1989, the track segment between Mobile and Flomaton, Alabama, came into passenger train use as part of the route of the Gulf Breeze . This was another attempt to regenerate regional inter-city rail traffic, this time between Birmingham, Alabama, and Mobile. The train was a reestablishment of the Mobile section of Amtrak's New York City — New Orleans Crescent . It branched from the Crescent's route at Birmingham, turning south toward Montgomery, Flomaton, and terminating in Mobile. The Gulf Breeze was discontinued in 1995.
Meanwhile, on April 4, 1993, passenger service was reestablished along the entire New Orleans—Jacksonville corridor with the extension of the Sunset Limited to Miami, using the route of Amtrak's Silver Meteor south of Jacksonville. It was serviced at Amtrak's Hialeah yards for the return trip but schedule unreliability caused the Sunset Limited's eastern endpoint to be shortened to Sanford on November 10, 1996. Service was re-extended to Orlando, Florida on October 26, 1997, and the train deadheaded (operated empty) between Orlando and Sanford for servicing. Sanford was, and still is, the servicing point for Amtrak's Auto Train.
On September 22, 1993, the three locomotives and six of the eight cars of the eastbound Sunset Limited derailed and fell off a damaged bridge into water near Mobile, Alabama, in Amtrak's worst train wreck, the Big Bayou Canot rail accident. 47 people died.
On October 9, 1995, saboteurs derailed the Sunset Limited near Harqua, Arizona by removing 29 spikes from a section of track, and short-circuited the signal system to conceal the sabotage. The attack killed one person and injured dozens of others. The crime still remains unsolved.
On June 2, 1996, the Sunset Limited was rerouted to a more southerly route between Tucson, and Yuma, Arizona, bypassing Phoenix. Union Pacific, which had acquired Southern Pacific earlier in the year, wanted to abandon a decaying portion of its Phoenix–Yuma "West Line". This made Phoenix one of the nation's largest cities without direct passenger service; although the designated Phoenix-area stop is in Maricopa, a suburban community about 40 miles (64 km) south of downtown Phoenix. Amtrak Thruway Motorcoach service, run by Stagecoach Express, connects the two cities.
The Sunset received a better schedule on May 7, 2012, moving its westbound movements from New Orleans to a Monday, Wednesday, Saturday circuit. The times allow several 7- to 12-hour rides between major-city pairs; for example, overnight between Tucson or Maricopa (for Phoenix) and Los Angeles in both directions.
On August 29, 2005, the Sunset Limited route was truncated at San Antonio, Texas, as a result of damage to trackage in the Gulf Coast area caused by Hurricane Katrina. In late October 2005, service was restored between San Antonio and New Orleans, as the line through Louisiana had been repaired.
As time has passed, particularly since the January 2006 completion of the rebuilding of damaged tracks east of New Orleans by their owner CSX Transportation Inc., the obstacles to restoration of the Sunset Limited's full route have been more managerial and political than physical. Advocates for the train's restoration have pointed to revenue figures for Amtrak's fiscal year 2004, the last full year of coast-to-coast Sunset Limited service. During that period, the Orlando–New Orleans segment accounted for 41% of the Sunset's revenue.
Section 226 of the Rail Safety Improvement Act of 2008, signed into law by President George W. Bush on October 16, 2008, gave Amtrak nine months to provide Congress with a plan for restoring service that "shall include a projected timeline for restoring such service, the costs associated with restoring such service, and any proposals for legislation necessary to support such restoration of service."
As of 2018 [update] , Amtrak's schedules and maps continue to describe the route between New Orleans and Orlando as suspended.
In 2009, Brian Rosenwald, a now-departed Amtrak executive, outlined ideas for a complete overhaul of the route, including daily service.It was to have the Texas Eagle operate over the Sunset's route west of San Antonio, with a stub train connecting San Antonio (with a cross-platform transfer) and New Orleans. The plans were halted when Union Pacific stated that to get a daily Sunset Limited, Amtrak would need to pay $750 million for infrastructure improvements.
Passenger totals would double with daily service, according to the PRIIA study that looked at Texas Eagle/Sunset Limited service. It forecast an incremental improvement of more than 100,000 passengers from the daily service, which is already running in excess of 100,000 a year.In the meantime, the Union Pacific has double-tracked much of the route with its own money. However, Amtrak still lacks the equipment and funds needed to move to daily service.
In January 2016, Amtrak and the Southern Rail Commission announced jointly that a Gulf Coast passenger rail inspection trip was to be made from New Orleans to Jacksonville, with elected officials among those on board during the February 18–19 excursion. Stops were planned for all of the stations formerly part of the Sunset Limited's route between those two cities.In June 2018, the commission missed the deadline for submitting a request for service restoration along the Gulf. It said that it could not apply for the Federal Railroad Administration's (FRA) fiscal-year 2017 Consolidated Rail Infrastructure Safety and Improvements (CRISI) funding because Alabama and Mississippi were unwilling to assist with funds. Alabama's share would have been $5.3 million. The Louisiana governor, on the other hand, was willing to provide the funds. The three states' cooperation was needed to secure the $35.5 million in federal CRISI funds.
The City of Portland was a named passenger train operated by the Union Pacific Railroad and Chicago and North Western Railway between Chicago, Illinois, and Portland, Oregon. It started in June 1935, using the refurbished M-10001 streamliner trainset; with only one set of equipment the train left each of its terminals five times a month.
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 Crescent is a daily long-distance passenger train operated by Amtrak in the eastern United States. It operates 1,377 miles (2,216 km) daily between Pennsylvania Station in New York City and Union Passenger Terminal in New Orleans as train numbers 19 and 20. Major service stops outside the Northeast Corridor include Birmingham, Alabama; Atlanta, Georgia and Charlotte, North Carolina.
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.
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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.
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