The Aztec Eagle consist in the late 1940s included coaches operating San Antonio to Laredo and San Antonio to Mexico City, a Missouri Pacific diner-lounge operating San Antonio to Mexico City, and two Pullman car lines (10-1-2 car and 8sec-5DBR car) operating San Antonio-Mexico City. All of the MP equipment was heavyweight, and it is likely that additional cars were added once the train crossed into Nuevo Laredo.
The loading numbers of the two Pullman lines were 314 and 326 for the 10-1-2 car south and north, and 316-321 for the 8-5 car. The other sleepers in the Sunshine Special at this time carried loading numbers in the 31x series southbound and 32x series northbound. This car loading number similarity gives some credibility to the thought that, at one time in the planning process, extending these Mexico City cars from San Antonio to St. Louis in the post-Texas Eagle Sunshine Special (trains 31-32) had been considered.
More definitive research is needed to pinpoint all service changes, and the following discussion should be viewed as very preliminary. In August 1953, a new streamlined National Railways of Mexico Aztec Eagle was inaugurated between Nuevo Laredo and Mexico City. At the same time, the Missouri Pacific diner between San Antonio and Mexico City was apparently discontinued in favor of separate diner-lounges operating San Antonio-Laredo on the MP and Nuevo Laredo-Mexico City on NdeM. Reserved seat coach service was implemented between San Antonio-Laredo-Mexico City but present evidence is unclear on whether this utilized MP or NdeM coaches. One of the St. Louis-San Antonio Texas Eagle Pullman lines was extended to Laredo at the same time.
MP dining car service was reduced to grill coach service between San Antonio and Laredo by May 1959, although dining-lounge service continued on NdeM. In August 1959, the San Antonio-Mexico City Pullman car assignments were changed from 8-5 cars to 8-1-3 cars, and in September 1959, MP documents indicate that reserved coach seating was discontinued between Laredo and Mexico City. It appears that reserved seating may have continued under NdeM control.
In October 1960, San Antonio-Mexico City sleeping car service was changed from heavyweight 8-1-3 cars to lightweight 10-5 cars. These were former NYC 10-5 cars which had been purchased by National Railways of Mexico. A September 1961 Pullman assignment list shows NdeM 10-5 cars Mar Amarillo, Mar De Timor, Mar Del Japon, Mar Del Plata, Mar Del Norte, and Mar de Groenlandia assigned to this service, which carried Pullman route #3300 in the United States and route #3848 in Mexico.
The gradual decline of Aztec Eagle service continued with the discontinuance of the San Antonio-Laredo grill coach in March 1961, in favor of a meal stop at Pearsall. For reasons not yet identified, in April 1962, MP and Pullman extended operation of St. Louis-San Antonio sleeper line 3300 to operate St. Louis-Mexico City, thus restoring through car service between these points for the first time since the inauguration of the Texas Eagle in 1948. Mopac's addition of this service is quite interesting, in view of the gradual withdrawal from passenger service that was otherwise being orchestrated by the D.B. Jenks administration. 10-5 cars were initially assigned to this service, presumably NdeM cars, By late 1964, these cars had been replaced by 10-6 cars. In August 1965, cars seen in this service included MP cars Canyon River, Elk River, Roaring River and Crystal River, as well as NdeM cars Finlandia, Hungria, Islandia, Polonia, and Rumania.
Through Pullman service to Mexico City continued until the end of Pullman car operations on Mopac, December 31, 1968. Through San Antonio-Laredo-Nuevo Laredo coach service continued for a few weeks into January 1969 before also being discontinued. After this time, it was necessary for passengers to make their own arrangements for transfer between the MP station in Laredo and the NdeM station in Nuevo Laredo. The demise of this cross-border train service thus ended the Aztec Eagle service on the Missouri Pacific The February 1969 Official Guide showed the Texas Eagle as carrying an unreserved coach between San Antonio and Laredo, and the Aztec Eagle being entirely an operation of NdeM in Mexico.
As explained in MP advertising, "Establishment of this new, De Luxe train is made necessary by the demands of thousands of Mexico visitors for a fast, luxurious service between St. Louis and the Mexico capital. This new service is in addition to the regular daily through service provided by the Sunshine Special." At least initially, this weekly tourist special was operated as a passenger extra, no train numbers appearing in the initial public timetable issue of June 27. The City of Mexico and train #1 (Texas-Mexico section of Sunshine Special) both departed St. Louis at 5:30pm. The City was operated nonstop (except for crew change and water) to Little Rock, while the Sunshine had a regular stop at Tower Grove and a conditional stop at Broadway, with intermediate stops at Bismark, Poplar Bluff and Newport before reaching Little Rock 30 minutes behind the City.
By the time of the March 10, 1940 timetable, the last showing a separate City of Mexico operation, the all Pullman consist of the City of Mexico had been expanded(Pullman loading numbers also shown).
The March 10, 1940 timetable shows the City of Mexico and Sunshine both still departing St. Louis at 5:30pm on Sunday afternoon, with the City arriving in Mexico City 7pm Tuesday evening and the Sunshine arriving 7:35am Wednesday morning.
The April 28, 1940 timetable carried the notation "During the Summer of 1940, sections of the Sunshine Special will be operated in lieu of the City of Mexico to comply with popular demand for morning arrival in Mexico City". A similar notation for fall/winter appeared through the December 15, 1940 timetable; later issues made no mention of the City of Mexico. Left unsaid was the detail that the Sunshine Special schedule was by now about 12 hours slower than the City of Mexico schedule which it was replacing.
With the inauguration of the Texas Eagle on August 15, 1948, the Sunshine was relegated to a secondary role, essentially serving as a second section to the South Texas - Texas Eagle. Now running as trains 31-32, the Sunshine Special continued full service to San Antonio, and carried a St. Louis-Mexico City Pullman which was not present on the Eagle. As traffic patterns changed and ridership declined, the Sunshine likewise changed, briefly becoming a St. Louis-Fort Worth train before becoming a St. Louis-Texarkana train in 1954. Even in this incarnation, the Sunshine continued to provide an important service, carrying Pullman cars north to St. Louis from a variety of origin points. At Texarkana, a Shreveport sleeper was received from the KCS; at Gurdon the sleeper from El Dorado was added, and at Little Rock the train received the Lake Charles sleeper and a Hot Springs sleeper, in addition to a Little Rock-St. Louis heavyweight diner. With a Little Rock departure several hours earlier than either of the northbound Texas Eagles, #32 was the first MP train from the south scheduled into St. Louis each morning.
Train 31, the southbound Sunshine, was discontinued in the summer of 1955, and thereafter, the heavyweight coaches that went north on #32 were deadheaded back south as rider cars on mail train #37. The diner from #32 returned south on #25, and the sleepers returned south on either the Texas Eagle or train 7, the Southerner. The northbound Sunshine Special, still so identified in the timetable, continued to collect Pullman cars from from multiple origins for movement to St. Louis, through March 7, 1961. After that date, the Pullman cars were shifted to the Texas Eagle, the Little Rock-St. Louis diner was discontinued, and train #32 became an unnamed, coach only local between Texarkana and St. Louis. The December 11, 1960 MP public timetable and the March 1961 Official Guide of the Railways contained the last two printed references to the Sunshine Special. Subsequent timetables and Guides identified the train only as No. 32 (unnamed).
The discontinuance of one of the two pairs of Memphis-Little Rock-Hot Springs trains in January 1962 resulted in a Hot Springs-St. Louis Pullman being returned to train #32 at Little Rock. In this service, the Hot Springs car served more as a "setout" car for Little Rock, being available for early occupancy in advance of the late evening departure of #32. This restoration of first class service did not result in the Sunshine name returning (at least officially), and there was likewise no restoration of dining car service. On May 1, 1962, a systemwide renumbering of most passenger trains resulted in #32 being redesignated as train #6.
At Little Rock, train signs were used at each gate to funnel passengers down the proper set of stairs from the overhead midway to the trackside loading platforms, and the new train number meant that a repainting job was necessary for the gate sign. There is a saying that old habits and old traditions die hard, and that is particularly true on the railroad. Perhaps intentionally, or perhaps just out of habit, the "new" sign for train 6 at Little Rock also included a name -- "The Sunshine" to St. Louis. Train 6 lasted only another six months before being consolidated into the Texas Eagle, but until the train's November 1962 last run, it continued to be recognized as "THE SUNSHINE" - at least at Little Rock.
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