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Thursday, September 16, 2010

The Super by Jim Lehrer


The Super by Jim Lehrer

This was a quick read and I wasn't impressed with the book.

In its heyday, the Santa Fe railroad’s famous Super Chief was luxury travel and celebrities often used it... it became known as “The Train of the Stars.”



This was before airplanes were the only way to go. This book was set in 1956 when the luxury train was just about to begin it's decline. The Super Chief was the flagship of the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway that went from Chicago to Los Angeles and back. The streamlined Super Chief was the first Diesel-powered, all-Pullman sleeping car train in America, and it eclipsed the Chief as Santa Fe's standard bearer. The Super Chief 1 began running from Dearborn Station in Chicago on May 12, 1936. The Super Chief 2 was the much improved version and began running on May 18, 1937. It could make the trip in 40 hours. It was luxury train travel with gourmet meals.

The Super Chief had dining cars that sat 36. Dining cars almost always operated with a lounge car coupled to them for bar-lounge service and a waiting area when the dining car was full. The height of Super Chief lounge and dining facilities came in 1951 with the new 600-series Dining Cars bracketed by the 500 series Pleasure Domes in front and a bar-lounge-dormitory unit in back (moved from the front of the trains). When Santa Fe rolled out its new "Pleasure Dome"-Lounge cars in 1951, the railroad introduced the traveling public to the Turquoise Room, promoted as "The only private dining room in the world on rails."



The room accommodated 12 guests, and could be reserved anytime for private dinner or cocktail parties, or other special functions. The room was often used by the era's celebrities.



The private dining room called the Turquoise Room on the Super Chief passenger train.


Industrial designer Sterling McDonald created the train’s classic interior Indian designs and themes. Whenever possible McDonald used authentic Native American (many of which depicted the Navajo) colors (such as turquoise and copper), patterns, and even authentic murals and paintings in the train.

He used a combination of rare and exotic woods like ebony, teak, satinwood, bubinga, maccassar, and ribbon primavera for trim through the train giving the Super Chief an added touch of one-of-a-kind elegance.

Onboard crews included train engineers, conductors and brakemen, Pullman conductors, Pullman porters, dining car stewards, waiters, cooks, bartenders, lounge attendants, along with cleaning crews at both ends of the line and maintenance crews en route. At times, during the trains history, there were barbers, maids and valets. The staff aboard the Super Chief, with the exception of the conductors and dining car steward, was black. To be a porter during the depression wasn't a second rate job.


The Santa Fe Super Chief was the next to last passenger train in the United States to carry an all-Pullman consist. The train maintained its legendary high level of service until the end of Santa Fe passenger operations on May 1, 1971.

When Amtrak took over operation of the nation's passenger service on May 1, 1971 it ended the 35-year run of the Super Chief on the Santa Fe, though Amtrak would continue to use the name along the same route for another three years. In 1974 the Santa Fe forced Amtrak to drop the train's name due to a perceived decline in service.

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