Reference Notes on Missouri Pacific Passenger Trains

by Bill Pollard (C) 2012, 2014

Aztec Eagle

The Aztec Eagle first appeared in Missouri Pacific timetables after the inauguration of the Texas Eagle in August 1948. The Texas Eagle ended the long standing operation of through Pullman cars in the Sunshine Special between St. Louis and Mexico City, and MP officials were apparently unwilling to assign their limited number of streamlined cars for service into Mexico. The Aztec Eagle, trains 21-22, thus served as an extension of the south Texas Eagle, although a cross-platform change of trains was required at San Antonio.

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.

Colorado Eagle

The Colorado Eagle began operating on June 21, 1942, as a streamlined replacement for the Scenic Limited. The train operated between St. Louis and Pueblo over Missouri Pacific, and from Pueblo to Denver on the Rio Grande. Due to the wartime conditions, no elaborate inauguration ceremonies were held. Planetarium dome coaches were added in the 1950s and Mopac experimented heavily with Thrift-T-Sleepers to build Pullman ridership. Dining car and sleeping car service was discontinued in January 1964 and the Colorado Eagle name was discontinued two months later. The St. Louis-Pueblo portion of the train was discontinued on April 2, 1966, and the Rio Grande was allowed to discontinue their portion (DRGW Trains 3-4) on May 16, 1966.

City of Mexico

The first trip of the fabled City of Mexico, weekly deluxe service between St. Louis and Mexico City, departed St. Louis Union Station at 530pm Sunday July 4, 1937. The train operated on an expedited schedule of 47 hours 30 minutes from endpoint to endpoint. This once-weekly service returned from Mexico City on Thursday, arriving back in St. Louis 11:35am Saturday. Service was over 5 hours faster than the Sunshine Special's through Pullman service to Mexico City. Regular equipment included two 12 section-drawing room Pullmans, two 8 section-2 compartment-1 drawing room Pullmans, and one 6 compartment-3 drawing room Pullman. A Missouri Pacific dining car and a "sunroom lounge car" with radio, soda fountain, shower bath and other features completed the consist. The on board crew was reportedly fluent in both English and Spanish.

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).

  • Spanish lounge observation car (showers, valet, fountain bar, lounge, radio)
  • 6 cpt-3DR M-501
  • 8 sec-1DR-2cpt M-502
  • 8 sec-1DR-2cpt M-503
  • 12 sec-1DR M-504
  • 12 sec-1DR M-505
  • 13 sec Tourist (N.A.C.) M-601
  • 12 sec-1DR M-515 (Memphis-Mexico City, #201/226 Memphis-LRK)
  • Missouri Pacific dining car

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.

Royal Gorge

On the Missouri Pacific, the Royal Gorge was inaugurated in 1946, operating as secondary trains #15-16 (behind the Colorado Eagle) on the Kansas City-Pueblo line. The train was extended to San Francisco in 1948. The August 1948 Official Guide shows the Royal Gorge operating between St. Louis, Kansas City and Pueblo, then continuing over the Denver & Rio Grande Western and the Western Pacific to Oakland, CA. At this time, a standard sleeper, tourist sleeper, coaches and a dining-lounge were shown as operating St. Louis to San Francisco in through train service, with a MP Parlor car operating St. Louis to Kansas City. On both the Rio Grande and the Western Pacific, the Royal Gorge operated as trains 1-2. The Royal Gorge name disappeared on the Missouri Pacific in 1950, after trains 15-16 were discontinued between Hoisington KS and Pueblo, CO.


The Star was a new overnight train between Fort Worth, Houston and Galveston, trains 17-18, inaugurated by the I-GN on January 3, 1926. Through Pullman service was offered between Galveston and Fort Worth, Houston and Waco, and Galveston and New Orleans. The Waco car functioned as a setout car, open for occupancy at 930pm southbound, and could be occupied until 730am northbound. The January 1927 MoPac Magazine has a photo of the rear car on The Star, an open platform observation complete with a drumhead. Because of the inspection lights, it is suspected that this was a a business car accommodating a special group, rather than a regularly assigned car. The Star name disappeared on May 17, 1936 when Texas Triangle Service was inaugurated.


The Sunflower was inaugurated on May 4, 1924, as a new through service between St. Louis and Wichita. Trains 19-20 operated between St. Louis and Pleasant Hill, then diverted to Fort Scott and Wichita. For a brief period, a through Pullman continued to Hutchinson. In this original configuration, trains 19-20 did not operate into Kansas City. During the 1930s, the operation was reconfigured with trains 19-20 now operating into Kansas City, but with Wichita through equipment being switched off at Pleasant Hill and carried aboard trains 419-420 between Pleasant Hill, Fort Scott and Wichita. In the 1940s, trains 110-119 between Kansas City and Omaha were scheduled to connect with 19-20, and in some timetables these trains were also referred to as the Sunflower. Even with the Pleasant Hill switching, this schedule allowed overnight service between St. Louis and Wichita, albeit slower than the original direct train service. As the importance of through St. Louis-Wichita service diminished, schedules were extensively rearranged on May 23, 1954 [Timetable Supplement #1]. Trains 419-420 were renumbered 425 and 426, and rescheduled for close connections with trains 125-126 (Kansas City-Little Rock) at Durand, KS. The St. Louis-Wichita Pullman (line 3702) was rerouted to operate St. Louis-Kansas City, then Kansas City-Durand on trains 125-126, then Durand-Wichita on trains 425-426, an increase of 23 miles versus the prior routing. On July 11, 1954 [Timetable Supplement #2], trains 19 and 20 were consolidated with trains 15 and 10. The Sunflower name last appeared with trains 19-20 in the April 1954 timetable. Supplement 1 to this timetable listed the Sunflower name with train 20, but train 19 was unnamed. The Sunflower name disappeared completely with the July consolidation. The last vestige of the Sunflower service, the St. Louis-Wichita Pullman was downgraded from 10 roomette-5 double bedroom lightweight cars (B&O cars) to heavyweight cars on August 18, 1955. These cars were 12 roomette-2 single bedroom-1 double bedroom-1 drawing room configuration. Line 3702 was discontinued between Kansas City and Wichita on February 18, 1956. Service on the original Sunflower route between Pleasant Hill and Wichita, last provided by trains 425-426, was discontinued in piecemeal fashion; Pleasant Hill-Ft. Scott discontinued August 8, 1955, Ft. Scott to Durand on August 20, 1956, and Durand to Wichita on April 9, 1958.

Sunshine Special

The Sunshine Special name (a name selected by the San Antonio Chamber of Commerce) first appeared on December 5, 1915, with the inauguration of a new train from St. Louis to San Antonio and other Texas points. A connecting train from Memphis joined the Sunshine at Little Rock. The definitive history of the Sunshine Special was written by W.M. "Mike" Adams, railroader and rail historian of North Little Rock, Arkansas. Mike's story was published in Volume 42 No. 2 (1976) of the NRHS's National Railway Bulletin. Mike dealt only with the glory years of the Sunshine, from 1915 until 1948, perhaps feeling that any description of the declining years of this Missouri Pacific icon was too unpleasant to commit to print. Mike's history of the Sunshine is a "must read" for anyone with an interest in Missouri Pacific history or any serious student of MP passenger train service.

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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