No. 10088 Electro-Motive F-3 ABA Diesel Locomotive, heading up the "Super Chief" Streamlined Passenger Train
Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad
The heavyweight all-Pullman luxury train “Super Chief” made its first run out of Chicago in May, 1936, representing Santa Fe’s first experiment with diesel-electric power in the form of a 3600 horsepower Electro-Motive non-streamlined 2-unit box cab diesel set that pulled the new train. It was fast—an unprecedented 39-3/4 hour schedule Chicago-Los Angeles, including station stops (2223 miles). Initially, because there was only one set of “Super Chief” equipment, the train made one round trip per week. This train was not streamlined. Its slogan was “Extra-fast, extra-fine, extra-fare.”
For a streamlined version, Santa Fe approached Electro-Motive and the Budd Company. In April, 1937, Santa Fe took delivery of its first 3600 horsepower Electro-Motive E-1 AB streamlined two-unit diesel locomotives. To render color and character to the new E-1 locomotives, Electro-Motive called upon one of its illustrators, Leland Knickerbocker, who developed what became the most famous railroad paint scheme in the world: Santa Fe’s “warbonnet” livery.
There were three basic colors used—red, yellow, and black, which complemented the locomotive’s stainless steel side panels. The yellow oval on red nose treatment was also spectacular. The new air-conditioned lightweight streamlined train was put into service May 18, 1937. Travel time was 39-3/4 hours. The train was a constant sell-out, with the “warbonnet” paint scheme adopted for nearly all future Santa Fe passenger locomotives—and freight locomotives, too, postwar.
The new streamlined Budd cars were of shiny fluted stainless steel - nine cars, 104 passengers and 12 crew, non-articulated. It was America’s first all-Pullman diesel powered streamliner. The architectural talents of Philadelphians Paul Cret and John Harbeson were brought to bear on the cars’ interiors. Using Navajo Indian designs and wood veneers, Cret and Harbeson created artistic interiors like none other, working closely with Chicago-based designer Sterling McDonald and Santa Fe's Roger Birdseye, a noted authority on Southwest Indian lore. Attractions on board included double bedrooms for families, a luxurious passenger lounge with heavily upholstered furniture and settees, an elegant diner seating 36, a handsome cocktail lounge, a barber shop, and a shower room.
In February of 1938, a second “Super Chief” was added, and both were re-equipped and scheduled for twice-weekly service in each direction, as was their companion all-coach train “El Capitan” (see No. 10185). In 1947, Santa Fe introduced Electro-Motive’s newly designed 4000 horsepower (both units) E-7 AB twin-unit diesel locomotives, then in 1951 came the novel Pleasure Dome lounge cars from Pullman-Standard. By February of 1948, the trains were running daily from Chicago and Los Angeles.
The “Super Chief” featured outstanding service (with "El Capitan's " coaches (No. 10185) added after 1958) right up to Amtrak's arrival May, 1971, representing the end of the Santa Fe passenger service. Amtrak continued to use the “Super Chief” name on its trains 3 and 4 between Chicago and Los Angeles until 1974, when the name was dropped
No. 10088 represents an accurate semi-scale model of Santa Fe’s F-3 ABA diesel locomotive in “O” gauge by MTH, with its seven-car streamlined train (Nos. 10089, 10090, and 10091), as it would have been seen as the “Super Chief” in the 1950s and 1960s.
Notable on these trains was the “Turquoise Room”, a private dining room seating 12 at the end of the Pleasure Dome lounge cars, where one could feast on champagne dinners in the company of good friends. This was a first on American railroads in revenue service.
The streamlined “Super Chief” was the most glamourous way to travel west of Chicago from its introduction in 1937 to the jet airplane age of the 1960s. Known as the “Train of the Stars,” it carried hundreds of important people and movie stars each year, taking over the role of Santa Fe’s premier train from the “Chief” (see No. 10116) from the time of its inaugural run.
The F-3 (1500 horsepower per unit) was introduced by Electro-Motive in 1945 and was purchased in quantity by the Santa Fe to power fast freight and passenger trains.
Amtrak has adopted the “Chief” name for its currently operating coach and sleeper train “Southwest Chief” between Chicago and Los Angeles. This fine streamliner features a full-service Dining Car and a Café/Lounge Car with sandwiches, snacks, and bar service. Notable are the bi-level “Superliner” stainless steel coach, sleeping, lounge, and dining cars (see Nos. 10359 and 10600).