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Monday, March 31, 2014

A Passing View of the Santa Fe Chief

Digging through some old family papers, I came across a rather plain envelope.  It read: NOW before you start your trip, ask the Ticket Agent for a TRAVELERS ACCIDENT INSURANCE TICKET.  Written in ink next to this was what appeared to be a dollar amount: 133.79.  Curious, I peeked inside.

My wife was with me, looking at some older furniture, trying to decide what to keep and what not to keep.  Opening the envelope, I drew her attention with a few exclamations.  It must have sounded like I'd come across something extremely valuable.  Actually, I had.  Valuable to me, anyway.

Nestled in the little envelope was a folded ticket for the Sante Fe Chief.  By the time my wife understood what it was I was gasping over, she was a bit confused.  What was all the fuss?  It was only an old train ticket.

I know.  Boys and trains.  She just didn't get how cool this was.

A little background:  The Sante Fe Chief (and later the Super Chief) were famous named trains that ran between Chicago, Illinois and Los Angeles, California.  Beginning in the mid-1920s, this service included sleeper-cars, observation cars, dining cars, lounge cars, and baggage/mail cars.  Originally, these transcon trips took 68 hours, though they eventually ran under forty hours on the upgraded Super Chief.  These trains were a part of the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway.  The AT&SF never actually had a main line that serviced Santa Fe, due to its difficult terrain.  But it became one of the larger railroads in the United States.

from the back of the ticket stub

The Chief and Super Chief became known as the Railroad to the Stars, since so many Hollywood celebrities were known to use them.

The ticket stub I had found had been used on March 18, 1966, just two years before the Chief was sidelined and five years before the Super Chief was taken over by Amtrak.  The name of the train, or the engine number, does not appear to be on the stub anywhere.  Is it for the Chief or the Super Chief?  I can't tell.  I hope someone out there can help me with this.

open the ticket and you
can see the passenger's information
The passenger's information is at the top of the ticket.  As you can see, the passenger did not sign the ticket, and neither did the "validating agent".  There is also no stamp on this section.

The lower half of the ticket is just jammed packed with information.  First of all, you can see that the trip is from Ponca City (Oklahoma) to Ann Arbor (Michigan).  Three passengers are on the ticket, all of them 12 or older, and all of them in coach class.  Total cost of the package: $133.79.  

There are a few items I'm not clear on.  Listed both on the front cover and the lower half of the ticket, you can see B-12 and C 44537.  Were these simply the ticket numbers?  Did they denote the rail-car, or a cabin number?  I've not been able to find much information on this.  I'd love any help in deciphering these codes.

Tucked into the envelope with the ticket stub was this itinerary.  It gives us a detailed account of the trip.  You can see that our travelers started at night, at almost eight o'clock, and arrived in Chicago at 9:15 in the morning.  That might mean they were on the Super Chief, since the Chief had discontinued sleeper car service in the late 1950s.  However, I know that Mr. Woosley was known to be frugal and he might have saved a few dollars and spent the night on a train sitting upright.  I suspect this is the most probable since it is coach class.  Again, I'm not sure how bare bones coach class really was then.  If it is anything like coach with the airliners today, then we can be positive they did not have a sleeper car.

You'll notice there was a layover in Chicago of four hours.  I wonder if they took a chance to get out and see the city?  They arrived at a decent hour in Ann Arbor, but whether it was for one day or many, they left at a not-so-decent hour: 11:40 PM.  An earlier arrival in Chicago, a shorter layover, and an all-day trip back home brought them in at 11PM.  A long day in coach class to be sure.  I'm sure they were happy to get home and into their beds.

There are two notations on the bottom of the itinerary.  6449 and 5539.  I was hoping this was a way to identify which train they were on.  Were these the locomotive numbers?  After searching through online lists of Santa Fe engines, I did not see many numbers that seem related to these.  For now, I'll have to be content to not know more than I do.

But I love the ticket just the same.  And I like to think about that trip to Ann Arbor from time to time.


  1. The train from Ponca City to Chicago would have been the Texas Chief that operated between Houston and Chicago. Neither the Chief nor Super Chief (LA to Chicago) operated through Oklahoma.

    1. Thanks for helping out! Did the Texas Chief terminate in Chicago? If so, I'd assume they transferred to a different line to reach Ann Arbor. Looking up the fantastic Texas Chief logo leaves me disappointed it is not on the ticket.

    2. Judging from the itinerary they travelled aboard the Santa Fe's Texas Chief (#16) to Chicago and then transferred to the New York Central's Wolverine (#8) to Ann Arbor. On return it looks like they had two choices, New York Central Twilight Limited (#31) to Chicago followed by the Santa Fe Kansas Cityan (#11) or the NYC Wolverine (#17) followed by the Santa Fe Texas Chief (#15).

      They are marked coach class so no sleeping accomodations but coach class back then is far more luxurious than airline coach class today. Seats reclined well and on some trains pillow and blankets provided.

    3. How fascinating. I'm curious where you are able to determine this from. Love that there was a Wolverine line. These are great insights, thanks so much!