Timeline Tuesday: Union Pacific Railroad

In October of 1934 the Union Pacific Railroad’s new Pullman-equipped, six-car speed train attempted a new coast-to-coast record. Dashing from Los Angeles to New York in only fifty-six hours and fifty-five minutes, the train’s time was more than twelve hours better than the previous mark for the same distance. The Norfolk Daily News of October 24, 1934, reported the arrival of the train in Omaha and described its sprint across Nebraska from west to east:

“The Union Pacific streamlined train pulled out of Omaha this morning at 6:15 a.m. (C.S.T.) streaking eastward toward Chicago on its cross country trip from Los Angeles to New York on a sixty hour schedule.

“When the train reached Omaha at 6:05 a.m. it had set a world’s record for the fastest sustained speed for 500 miles or more by averaging 84 miles an hour between Cheyenne, Wyo., and Omaha, said Ed Schmidt, public relations representative of the railroad. It is 509 miles from Cheyenne to Omaha. Schmidt said the train had set a world’s record of 120 miles an hour between Dix and Potter, Neb. The train averaged that speed for a distance of two miles between those towns, Schmidt said.

“Leaving Cheyenne the train was seven minutes behind time, but made up four minutes between those points and the rest of the time between North Platte and Omaha. On reaching Omaha the train had completed 1,810 miles of its 3,259 mile dash from coast to coast.”

Three railroad presidents boarded the train during the brief stop in Omaha: Fred W. Sargent of the Chicago and Northwestern; L. A. Downs, Illinois Central; and Carl Gray Jr., Chicago, Minneapolis, St. Paul and Omaha. The Norfolk paper also included a photo and description of the train: “The six cars have a total overall length of 376 feet. . . . [and consist of] a power car, a baggage-mail car, three air-conditioned Pullman sleeping cars, and an air-conditioned coach-buffet car. All meals are served to passengers in their seats from a buffet kitchen located in the fin-like tail of the last car. The train for long range visibility purposes is painted a canary yellow on its sides and nose and the top and bottom a gold brown.”

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