Union Pacific's Pony Express Passenger Train
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This page was last updated on August 7, 2017.
"A short-lived and almost forgotten member of the Cities fleet was the City of Cheyenne, a Denver-Cheyenne local run for mainline connections so the Pony Express could get into Denver earlier without having to wait for the Portland Rose and Los Angeles and Overland Limiteds if any were late into the Wyoming capital from the west." (Dubin, "Steam, Steel and Limiteds")
"The Union Pacific's Pony Express was the only really heavy passenger train in the area, and operated between Denver and Salt Lake via the Borie Cutoff, bypassing Cheyenne. Its solarium club observation carried a distinctive drumhead and the train's length was due to being a connecting train for many through sleepers." (Dubin, "Steam, Steel and Limiteds")
Cheyenne to Denver (August 1926)
Salt Lake City to Denver (August 1934)
Salt Lake City to Kansas City (June 1940)
Los Angeles to Kansas City (January 1942)
Los Angeles to Kansas City (1951) (separate from COStL)
Los Angeles to Denver (1953 -1954) (combined with COStL east of Denver)
The Pony Express began running between Denver and Cheyenne in late July or very early August 1926. The following comes from Jim Ehernberger, in an email dated August 6, 2017:
The public timetable issued with a date of June 6, 1926, and shown as 2nd edition, dated July 10, 1926, shows on Page 24, No. 106, the Denver Local, Cheyenne to Denver; and on page 25, No 101, Cheyenne Special, Denver to Cheyenne, and includes west cars to LA and Seattle, etc.
The public timetable issued with a date of August 5, 1926, shows on Page 24, No. 106, Pony Express; and on Page 25, No. 101, Pony Express, with similar car consist for the west as the previous issue.
October 9, 1930
The first ticket sold (on Thursday October 9th) at the recently completed depot in Greeley, Colorado, was a ticket to Cheyenne, on board the Pony Express, train No. 127, departing Greeley at 5:45 p.m. (Greeley Daily Tribune, October 9, 1930)
August 12-13, 1934
Newspaper advertisement: "New and Improved Through Train to Denver" "The fine new train - 'The Pony Express' - has inaugurated a new and more convenient transportation service between the leading cities of the intermountain region. With Morning arrival in Denver, you save a business day." "Air-Conditioned Observation and Dining Car" (Ogden Standard Examiner, August 12, 1934; Salt Lake Tribune, August 13, 1934)
February 1, 1935
The UP public timetable dated February 1, 1935 shows Train 118, the eastbound Pony Express, operating between Salt Lake City and Denver, and Train 127, the westbound Pony Express, operating between Denver and Salt Lake City.
May 24, 1936
Union Pacific's Pony Express train entered service between Salt Lake City and Denver, with the first train leaving Salt Lake City eastbound early on the morning of Sunday May 24th. (Salt Lake Telegram, May 23, 1936)
(The UP Wyoming Division employee timetable No. 131, dated May 16, 1936, shows the eastbound Pony Express (Train No. 38) departing Ogden at 6:30am.)
February 22, 1937
Train No. 37, the westbound Pony Express was delayed at Greeley due to repairs needed to a steam line. (Greeley Daily Tribune, February 22, 1937)
May 30, 1937
"Meets Train In Echo Race" -- "Miss Helen Keating, purchasing agent for the Utah Idaho Central railroad, tied the Union Pacific's fast Pony Express train in an auto race from Ogden to Echo in Weber canyon last week. Miss Keating had reservations for Denver, but decided to drive with a friend as far as Echo. The train crew didn't think she'd make it, but her auto pulled to a stop just as the train did." (Ogden Standard Examiner, May 30, 1937)
June 21, 1937
"Passenger travel by train is very heavy at the present. No. 38, the eastbound Pony Express of the Union Pacific had 340 passengers, it was said, Sunday. The train was in two sections. No. 37, the west bound Pony Express is running with 14 cars as her regular makeup. Both 37 and No. 21, the westbound Pacific Limited, are double heading out of Greeley." (Greeley Daily Tribune, June 21, 1937)
June 30, 1940
The Pony Express routing was changed from Salt Lake City - Denver, to Salt Lake City - Kansas City. (various newspaper ads)
January 25, 1942
The Pony Express routing was changed from Salt Lake City - Kansas City, to Los Angeles - Kansas City, and combined with Los Angeles Limited west of Salt Lake City, retaining train numbers 37 and 38. (various newspaper ads)
According to Union Pacific's internal book, "Equipment In Principle Passenger Trains," revised March 11, 1946, the Pony Express was one of twelve UP passenger trains going over Cajon Pass. They are the COLA #103, 104 (7th and 9th trains), Challenger to LA # 7 & 8 (two sections each), Pacific Limited # 23 & 24, and trains # 37 & 38. (Dick Harley, email dated January 20, 2006)
November 10, 1945
David P. Morgan wrote about the Pony Express leaving Denver, in his "A Place To Watch Trains" article in the April 1958 issue of Trains magazine:
Finally, there was Union Pacific 38 - the Pony Express to Kansas City. Or to be exact, Second 38. The first section ordinarily rated diesels with odd numbers such as 7M1 and 7M2, but the second had steam and departed after dark.
I remember the night of November 10, 1945, when I found a train with 13 cars running as Second 38. I walked from the markers' end forward, fully expecting a 4-8-2, instead finding a light Pacific - the 2874 - trailing a ridiculously tiny Vanderbilt tender. (Perhaps it was meant to carry the crew's drinking water, I thought half seriously.)
"Will you make it, with this engine?" I asked the oldster on the right-hand side of the cab. He slid his window open a bit more and contemplated the issue. Then: "Yep, she'll make it." No exclamation, no cursing over the fact that First 38 had had 4000 horsepower worth of diesels with fewer cars, no jesting.
I tended to discount his confidence, especially when the skipper echoed my doubts as he compared Hamiltons with the engineer. Thirteen standard cars were a load and Limon, Colo., the engine change point, seemed worlds removed.
The highball came, my friend released the air, made a cutoff adjustment and hiked back the throttle, and 2874 left without taking so mach as an inch of slack.
That was Denver, 1945.
"The Rio Grande has converted the section section of the Exposition Flyer into a new faster train, the Prospector, between Denver and Salt Lake City. No through cars are carried. Union Pacific promptly cut the running time of its Pony Express to meet the challenge." (Trains magazine, December 1945, page 8)
(D&RGW began running its Prospector train on October 14, 1945, with a late afternoon departure from Denver, and morning arrival in Salt Lake City. It was an all-coach train with no connecting through cars. The Prospector was the only D&RGW train in the post-war period that only ran with diesel locomotives, showing "Diesel Powered" in the railroad's timetables. In 1948, the word "Streamlined" was added to the timetables. The railroad had earlier run the train beginning on November 1941, as two small two-car special trains, but equipment reliability problems forced cancellation of the train in July 1942. D&RGW's streamlined post-war Prospector stopped running on May 28, 1967.)
June 2, 1946
Trains 37 and 38, Pony Express (Train 237 & 238 on AT&SF Cajon Pass) began operation. (John Thompson, email dated October 27, 2004)
January 6, 1948
"Union Pacific ran its last regularly scheduled steam locomotive out of Los Angeles Union Station on January 6. It was at the head end of the second section of the Pony Express. UP now uses diesels on all through passenger trains between Los Angeles and Salt Lake City." (Trains magazine, March 1938, page 62)
At some time after 1951, the Pony Express train was cut back to Denver, with Kansas City passengers transferring to the City of St. Louis at Denver (public timetables are not available for dates after September 1951).
May 17, 1953
The last newspaper ad for Union Pacific showing Pony Express (LA-to-Kansas City) service as being separate from the similar City of St. Louis service, was the May 17, 1953 issue of the Los Angeles Times.
The last issue of a UP public timetable showing the 37 and 38 train number, and the Pony Express train name is dated September 26, 1954. (Jim Ehernberger, email dated August 3, 2017)
November 5-6, 1954
The last westbound Pony Express departed Denver on Friday November 5, 1954. The last eastbound Pony Express departed Los Angeles on Saturday November 6, 1954. (Reno Gazette Journal, November 9, 1954)
(The above dates, November 5-6, were for departure of the last trains. The corresponding arrivals would have been on November 7th, the date usually given for the last run of the Pony Express.)
A review of available employee timetables finds that Trains 37 and 38 are shown in the California Division Timetable No. 14, dated June 6, 1954, but are not shown in the No. 15 timetable, dated November 7, 1954.
"Now that all of its routes are protected by fast, non-extra-fare streamliners, Union Pacific is dropping two familiar names from its timetable -- the Denver-Los Angeles Pony Express, and the Chicago-San Francisco Gold Coast. Incidentally, removal of the Coast will be somewhat simultaneous with the complete streamlining of the San Francisco Overland on the same route for the first time in its 67-year life." (Trains magazine, January 1955, page 12)
UP's Pony Express, Trains 37 and 38, were replaced in January 1955 by the new Trains 5 and 6, known as "The Mail," which operated from Ogden to Los Angeles, connecting at Ogden with Trains 7 and 8, also known as "The Mail," between Omaha and Ogden. Trains 5 and 6 had previously been operated between Omaha and Salt Lake City, and this schedule was taken by the new Trains 7 and 8. (John Strauss, "Overland Route Passenger Trains, 1947-1971," page 56)
The Union Pacific public timetable for May 15, 1936 shows the following consist information for the westbound Train 127-37 (courtesy of Dick Harley):
Club Observation Car
-- Denver to Salt Lake City.
Standard Sleeping Cars
-- Denver to Los Angeles-12 Sections, Drawing-room (No. 7 beyond Salt Lake City).
-- Denver to Salt Lake City-12 Sections, Drawing-room.
-- Denver to Portland-12 Sections, Drawing-room (No.17 beyond Green River).
-- St Louis to San Francisco-12 Sections, Drawing-room (Wabash 9 to Kansas City; No. 23-101 to Denver; S. P. 27 beyond Ogden).
Tourist Sleeping Car
-- Kansas City to San Francisco-16 Sections (No. 23-101 to Denver ; S. P. 27 beyond Ogden).
-- Denver to Los Angeles-16 Sections (No. 717 west of Salt Lake City).
-- Denver to Los Angeles (No. 717 west of Salt Lake City).
-- Denver to Laramie.
-- Kansas City to Portland (No. 23-101 to Denver and No. 17 west of Green River).
-- Serving all meals
and the following consist information for the eastbound Train 38-118:
Club Observation Car
-- Salt Lake City to Denver.
Standard Sleeping Cars
-- Los Angeles to Denver -12 Sections, Drawing-room (No. 8 to Salt Lake City).
-- Salt Lake City to Denver-12 Sections, Drawing-room.
-- Portland to Denver-12 Sections, Drawing-room (No. 18 to Green River).
-- San Francisco to St. Louis-10 Sections, Compartments, Drawing-room (S. P. 28 to Ogden; U. P. 28-38-118-22 Denver to Kansas City; Wabash 2 beyond Kansas City).
Tourist Sleeping Car
-- Los Angeles to Denver-16 Sections (No. 818 to Salt Lake City).
-- Los Angeles to Denver (No. 818 to Salt Lake City).
-- Laramie to Denver.
-- Portland to Kansas City (No. 18 to Green River and No. 22 east of Denver).
-- Serving all meals.
An example of consist variation, train #37 leaving Kansas City had the following 13 cars (courtesy of Dick Harley):
RPO to Denver
Baggage-Express to Ellis
Baggage-Express to Denver
2 Coaches to Oakland Pier
1 Coach to Salt Lake City
2 Coaches to LA
Tourist 14 Sections to LA
6-6-4 sleeper to LA
2 Tourist 16 Sections to Oakland Pier
6-6-4 sleeper to Oakland Pier
It picked up a Diner at Junction City (14 cars), which was changed at Denver
It dropped the Baggage-Express at Ellis (13 cars)
At Denver, it dropped the RPO, Baggage-Express, Diner, and the 2 Coaches and two Tourist 16 Section cars to Oakland Pier. It then picked up a Baggage-Express, Diner, Dorm-Lounge, and 6-6-4 sleeper to Salt Lake City (10 cars).
At Salt Lake City, it dropped a Coach, the 6-6-4 sleeper from Denver and the 6-6-4 sleeper to Oakland. It then picked up five Sleepers for a departing 12 car consist of:
Baggage-Express to LA
2 Coaches to LA
Tourist 14 Sect. to LA
6-6-4 sleeper to LA
Diner Denver to LA
Dorm-Lounge Denver to LA
10-3 sleeper Chicago to LA
6-6-4 sleeper Chicago to LA
4-4-2 sleeper Chicago to LA
6-6-4 sleeper Minneapolis to LA
10-1-2 sleeper Butte to LA
As you can see, just a little different than the # 37 train that left Kansas City.
For Train #38 leaving LA, the 12 car consist was:
RPO to Ogden
Storage Mail car to Omaha
Express car to Chicago
Baggage-Express. to Denver
Diner to Denver
Dorm-Lounge to Denver
6-6-4 sleeper to KC
10-3 sleeper to Chicago
6-6-4 sleeper to Chicago
4-4-2 sleeper to Chicago
6-6-4 sleeper to Minneapolis
10-1-2 sleeper to Butte
At Salt Lake City, it dropped the Butte sleeper and picked up a Coach and a 6-6-4 sleeper for Denver (13 cars).