Afternoon Rendezvous!


Memories of

Train Time in San Bernardino 

during the Summers of 1964 and 1965

Copyright 2007, 2013 by James E. Lancaster, Ph.D.

All photos are by the author and are Copyright 2007. They may not be used for any purpose without the permission of the author.

The afternoon was a busy time at San Bernardino in the early 1960s with several eastbound passenger trains. In early 1964 there were still four eastbound trains in a period of about four hours - the Santa Fe Chief, the Union Pacific City of St. Louis, the Santa Fe Grand Canyon and the UP City of Los Angeles/Challenger. By the summer of 1964 the City of St. Louis and the City of Los Angeles/Challenger had been combined on a single schedule but the train was still running with separate sleeping car and coach sections. In addition, if Santa Fe's westbound Fast Mail was on time you'd see yet another train. With added Santa Fe and Union Pacific freight trains there was always plenty of action to keep a railfan occupied.   

The images on this page were scanned from 35mm slides that were shot using a malfunctioning camera that had a tendency to sometimes overexpose the photo. In addition, the color on many of the slides has shifted and faded, some significantly. The slides have also picked up a lot of dust and scratches over the past 40+ years. I did the best I could using Photoshop Elements to improve the images.

June 1964

I was trackside with a camera at the San Bernardino station one afternoon in June 1964 and caught some of the action. 

Figure 1. The first photo shows the eastbound Grand Canyon arriving from Los Angeles with a mixed consist of heavyweight and lightweight cars. It was scheduled to arrive at 3:40 PM and depart at 3:48 PM. At this time of year the two Railway Express cars could have been in strawberry service from the fields of Orange County and southern LA County.

Figure 2. The next photo (above) shows the Grand Canyon departing as a westbound UP freight train pulls into the station. The Grand Canyon had an M-K-T sleeper on the rear that day.

Figure 3. The UP freight (above) was powered by the usual SD24 and four SD24-Bs. 

Figure 4. An eastbound freight headed by alligators came through next.

Figure 5. Another westbound SD24-powered UP freight came through before I left (above). The lone boxcar on the through track at the right is sitting in front of the mail dock that was at the northwest corner of the station. In the distance is an official car. At the far left the blurred cars are on a moving eastbound freight.

Ed Von Nordeck provided the following additional information:

"Train 7 [the westbound Fast Mail] would set out a mail storage car at San Bernardino, and it would be spotted in the location shown, just outside the mail room.  San Bernardino would unload it for the Post Office.   I suspect this day, it was one of the passenger Express Box Cars that had steam lines for passenger train service.

"The freight cars on the track to the right were on one of two stub tracks that years back had been used for the local passenger trains between San Bernardino and LA, as well as the mixed train to San Jacinto."

July 1964

I was at the San Bernardino station again one afternoon the following month and caught more of the action. 

Figure 6. The first photo (above) shows the sleeping car section of UP #104, the eastbound City of Los Angeles/City of St. Louis/Challenger just as it is pulling to a stop. It was scheduled to arrive at 3:25 PM and depart at 3:30 PM. The baggage-mail car (at location 1) with the 30-foot mail apartment was inherited from the City of St. Louis. It looks like a fair amount of mail was going to be loaded that day.

Figure 7. To get the next photo (above) I walked to the back end of the sleeping car section and stood a little west of location 7. The sleeping car section was ready to depart when the coach section arrived on a track nearer to the depot. The coach section had about twenty cars, including two Milwaukee Road coaches just ahead of UP 5433. 

Figure 8. The coach section included two dome-coaches and the newly-modernized buffet-lounge (UP 4051) shown at the right side of the above photo. Five of these buffet-lounge cars (UP 4050-54) had been rebuilt by the UP from 3600-series diners in the spring of 1964 and placed into service on #103 and #104 just before Memorial Day, in time to help provide additional food and beverage service on the expanded summer consists. The UP train was just departing as the Santa Fe Grand Canyon arrived on the left behind five F-units. The Grand Canyon was due in at 3:40 PM.

Figure 9. The photo above shows the head end of the Grand Canyon.  The first car is a New York Central baggage car, followed by an REA express reefer and three Santa Fe baggage cars. The man at the right wearing the tie was one of the agents at the San Bernardino station. I often saw him on the platform at train time.

Figure 10. The final photo shows more of the Grand Canyon's consist as well as a westbound Santa Fe freight behind GP30 1213. At the far left behind the three lightweight coaches you can just see the corner of a heavyweight chair car for Santa Fe employees. These were quite common on the Grand Canyon for at least another year after this photo was taken. Behind the heavyweight car were more chair cars and two or three sleeping cars, usually including one or two 6-6-4s and one 8-2-2. Prior to the summer of 1964 one of the sleepers had been a 24 duplex roomette car. The train did not carry a diner or lounge. Eastbound these cars were added at Winslow, AZ. 

On one occasion I saw a particularly long eastbound Grand Canyon leave San Bernardino with an Alco RSD5 pushing on the rear. The passengers in the sleeper just ahead must have had quite a ride.

Cliff Prather provided additional information:

"The Grand Canyon was an interesting train with a healthy number of head end cars, unreserved chair cars LA - Chicago, LA - Chicago sleeper, LA - Dallas sleeper, and a reserved LA - Dallas chair car. The Texas cars were switched to or from the San Francisco Chief at various points over the years. 

"[Regarding the lack of a diner,] on No. 24, the conductor dropped a head count of passengers taking dinner in Barstow at Summit and the operator there would relay the information to Barstow.

"Nos. 23 and 24 would make unscheduled stops at various station along the line and it was possible to ride the Grand Canyon to and from Summit."

Gary Green added a personal anecdote:

"My wife-to-be and I rode the Grand Canyon to Barstow (as a date) sometime a year or so before 1963.  We were directed to a heavyweight chair car but boarded a lightweight chair car instead.  We rode back back to LA on the Chief and rode in the big dome."

Late Summer 1965

My last opportunities to photograph the afternoon action in San Bernardino before the big passenger train reduction of late 1967 and early 1968 occurred in late summer of 1965.

Figure 11. The Grand Canyon arrived from LA behind five somewhat dirty F-units. Behind the locomotives are ten head end cars: three REA express reefers, two foreign road baggage cars, a New York Central Flexi-Van, a modernized Missouri Pacific baggage car and three Santa Fe baggage cars.

Figure 12. The photo above shows the Flexi-Van car. The baggage car at the right is possibly also a New York Central car. The car at the left is the modernized Missouri Pacific baggage car. The Santa Fe shops are in the background.

Figure 13. This short official car was usually parked on the stub siding just east of the station. The Grand Canyon is stopped in the background. 

Figure 14. The next photo shows the departing Grand Canyon. Ahead of the heavyweight coach are three lightweight coaches. More lightweight coaches and the sleepers followed the heavyweight car.

Figure 15. In September I made my last visit to the station just in time to catch the westbound Fast Mail stopped at the station. The photo above was taken from the Mt. Vernon Avenue overpass. The first unit is flying green flags indicating a second section to follow. At the near corner of the station is the mail dock shown in one of the previous photos. Next to the dock is the Mt. Rubidoux private car.

Figure 16. The last photo is from ground level and provides a good view of the Fast Mail's six F-units. In earlier years this train was usually powered by a set of Alco passenger units.

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Last Update: 4/6/13