The Forty-Niner

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This page was last updated on February 4, 2016.

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On this page you will find information about many of Union Pacific's named but non-Streamliner passenger trains.


The Forty-Niner operated from July 1937 to July 1941.

In conjunction with the World's Fair in San Francisco, the "Overland Route" railroads (C&NW, UP, SP) began what was to be the last regular transcontinental all Pullman service with the "Forty Niner". The train was made up of all Pullman owned equipment -- streamlined heavyweights and a lightweight two car articulated lightweight Sleeper set. The C&NW and the Union Pacific provided streamlined steam locomotives to power the train. Service began out of Chicago on July 8, 1937 and remained in service until July 26, 1941. (David Seidel)

"Concerning mistakes in Kratville' s Union Pacific Streamliners book. One example is the last day of operation for the 49er. Kratville says it was July 27, 1941, and this is repeated twice in Lee's book. The correct info is that the 49er departed Oakland on 7/23/41, and arrived in Chicago for the last time on the 25th. The new COSF 10th Train departed Chicago the next day on the 26th - which was the 49er's regular sailing date." (Jeff Koeller, email dated June 3, 2013) (ed. note: The date given by Kratville, July 27, 1941, is actually the date of the new public timetable issued by UP)

A press release was issued announcing the new train. Two newspaper articles, one from the Huronite of Huron, South Dakota, and the Nevada State Journal in Reno, were found via internet searches, and were found to be word-for-word identical, meaning that they used a press release. There was a slight difference in the headline; the Huron paper called out C&NW's role in the operation of the new train, "C&NW Announces New "Forty-Niner," and the Reno paper called out SP's participation, "Southern Pacific To Start '49er' Service July 8." The press release gave the startup dates as the first westbound train leaving Chicago on July 8, 1937, and the first eastbound train leaving San Francisco on July 11, 1937.

Streamlined trainset:

Car Name Type Year
Configuration Notes
Donner Lake HW 1928 Baggage-Dormitory built as Pullman K-100
Angel's Camp HW 1928 Diner-Lounge built as Pullman D-100
Joaquin Miller HW 1925 4 double Bedroom 3 Compartment - barber shop built as Pullman "Yosemite Park"
James Marshall HW 1925 12 Section 1 double Bedroom built as Pullman "McClinchy"; the James Marshall was replaced in April 1938 by Roaring Camp (ex-Eagle Rock) a 17 roomettes-1 sect car.
Roaring Camp HW 1925 17 Roomette 1 Section built as Pullman "Eagle Rock" (replaced "James Marshall")
Capt John Sutter HW 1925 12 Section 1 double Bedroom built as Pullman "St Leon"
Gold Run HW 1925 12 Section 1 double Bedroom built as Pullman "McGill"
Bear Flag LW 1936 12 duplex Roomette 2 double Bedroom built as Pullman "Advance"
California Republic LW 1936 3 double Bedroom 1 Compartment - Lounge observation built as Pullman "Progress"

Bear Flag and California Republic were an articulated pair of Pullman cars, built in 1936 to demonstrate Pullman's concept for a streamlined, lightweight car design. California Republic, formerly Progress, was a round-end observation. After The Forty-Niner service ended in 1941, the pair was used on Pennsylvania, New York Central, SP's Arizona Limited, SP's Cascade and Beaver trains, along with UP's City of Denver. In December 1948, after being painted UP yellow and gray, pair was added to City of Los Angeles to complete a fifth train set in that service. (City of Los Angeles began daily service in May 1947.) Both cars were owned by Pullman (with "Pullman" in the letterboard) and leased to Union Pacific. They were replaced in City of Los Angeles service with the delivery of the 9000-series Dome Lounge cars in 1955, and removed from service. Both cars were scrapped by Pullman in August 1956.

The following comes from The Cars of Pullman by Joe Walsh, Bill Howes and Kevin Holland, pages 110-111 (Voyageur Press, 2010):

In April 1935, Pullman announced that it was developing a two-unit articulated sleeping car to tour the United States in demonstration service in order "to enable railroad men to study streamline equipment in regular service" on the rear of conventional overnight trains.

When the cars were completed in summer 1936, their names, Advance and Progress, were particularly appropriate, given the course the duo charted for future lightweight car design and construction methods.

While aluminum was employed for much of the interior components, Advance and Progress were each framed and clad in low-alloy, high-tensile Cor-Ten steel. This would be the norm for subsequent Pullman-Standard passenger cars, although the riveted construction of Advance and Progress was replaced by welding. Exteriors were painted gunmetal gray with black and gold striping. Underbody equipment was concealed behind inward-curving metal skirts that hinged upward for maintenance access. When completed, Advance contained 14 duplex single rooms and 2 double bedrooms, a slight variation from the 1935 proposal. Progress emerged as a 3-bedroom, 1-compartment sleeper with a buffet and round-ended observation-lounge area. Generously sized, round-cornered thermal-pane windows were an improvement over George M. Pullman's transitional glazing and, like the new cars' Cor-Ten girder-plate construction, would become the standard for most subsequent Pullman designs.

The following comes from "Union Pacific Streamliners" by Ranks and Kratville, pages 243, 246, 247, 250, 252, 254, 256, 266:

On July 8, 1937 one of the last all-Pullman trains to operate in year-around transcontinental service made its initial run from Chicago. This was a deluxe extra fare ($10.00) steam-powered flyer operating five times a month between the Windy City and the Golden Gate. It left Chicago on the 2nd, 8th, 14th, 20th, and 26th of each month and from San Francisco on the 5th, 11th, 17th, 23rd and 29th.

This epitome of the heavyweight trains on the Union Pacific had both valet and stewardess service as well as a shower and a barber shop. All the cars were heavyweights except the Bear Flag and the California Republic which were articulated lightweights built in 1936 by Pullman-Standard as a demonstration unit.

The exterior finish of these two lightweights was gunmetal gray, set off by black and gold striping above and below the windows. The exterior contour of the unit included a rounded roof and a skirt which curved inward from the car side and covered the equipment attached to the underframe and usually visible on ordinary cars.

The balance of the cars had been remodeled to include round roofs, roller-bearing trucks, curved skirting, tightlock couplers, full-width diaphragms and the same gray, black and gold color schemes. While this new type of coupler eliminated most of the annoying stop and start jerks, they also created problems because of the lack of slack in the train. The Union Pacific usually assigned the heavy Pacific ( 2906) to this train westward out of Omaha. The tracks in the Union Station had a definite sag in the middle. Consequently the 2906 often had difficulty starting the Forty-Niner out of this sag. The depot switcher on numerous occasions had to bunch the slack on this heavy train, roller bearings notwithstanding.

The origin of the heavyweight equipment for The Forty-Niner is worthy of comment. Donner Lake and Angel's Camp were built in 1928 as Pullman-owned cars to be rented or leased to private parties or companies for special purposes. The K100 (later Donner Lake) was remodeled to include a 15 berth dormitory for the crew plus an enlarged kitchen and the original baggage compartment. Its companion car, D100 (later Angel's Camp) was remodeled into a diner-lounge as described elsewhere.

Yosemite Park (later Joaquin Miller) had one of its 4 compartments remodeled into a barber shop, but the 4 drawing rooms and other compartments were not altered. The three 12 sect-1 drawing room cars were not remodeled nor was the Bear Flag or California Republic. The car Roaring Camp (17 roomettes) had been built in 1925 as the club buffet-baggage car, Eagle Rock. The total saleable capacity of this train was 117.

Two of the most noteworthy cars on the Forty-Niner were the last two, known as the Bear Flag and the California Republic. Originally named the Advance and the Progress, these two articulated cars were built by Pullman as an experiment to demonstrate the value of such units as a basis for streamliner trains. Starting with a unit of this kind, an entire train of lightweight cars could be gradually be built up until the desired consist was reached. Because this type of equipment could be used with standard heavyweights, any combination of both light and heavyweight equipment was possible.

The duplex room arrangement had been experimented with for four years previous to these two cars. Back in January 1932, the heavyweight, 16 section cars Talmo and Trombley were rebuilt to 10 section-4 duplex rooms (two upstairs and two down) and renamed Voyager and Wanderer. In May 1933, the heavyweight baggage-club cars Seaside Park and Adair were rebuilt with 16 duplex rooms on two levels and renamed Eventide and Nocturne. None of these four cars were articulated.

The Advance and Progress were the third set of innovative cars built by Pullman and they were articulated. Both cars were built of steel alloys with aluminum alloys in the interiors. Roller bearings were used on all axles and the total weight of both cars was about equal to that of one heavyweight Pullman.

The leading car of this latest unit was known as a duplex car and contained 16 rooms. There were two regular bedrooms (with upper and lower berths) and 14 single duplex rooms (six en suite) equally divided with eight rooms on the floor level and the other eight reached by climbing three steps.

After the Forty-Niner was discontinued, these two cars operated on the Arizona Limited. Both cars were scrapped in 1956.

The first 17 car City of San Francisco (delivered in 1937) had a sleeper, Portsmouth Square, which had 12 duplex rooms and 5 bedrooms, while the first 17 car City of Los Angeles (delivered in 1937) had a car named the Rose Bowl with the same space accommodations.

Probably the most prestigious and certainly the most elegant car on the Forty-Niner was the diner, Angel's Camp. (Donner Lake was the kitchen-dormitory car.) According to an article in Collier's Magazine (by James Marshall) this car was originally built as a luxurious private car for a president of Cuba, Morales y Machadi by name. However, because of a revolution, the car was never delivered. Pullman remodeled the car and retained much of the original grandeur in the form of wood paneling, delicate colorful friezes, rich wine-colored velvet drapes and checkered carpet. Unlike other diners of the period, the tables for four patrons were round and were all located along one wall; while those for two were square and were along the opposite wall.

Effective April 26, 1938, a 17 roomette, one section sleeper, Roaring Camp replaced the 12 section-1 drawing room car (the James Marshall) in the consist because of the demand for roomettes.

Unfortunately with the delivery of the second 17-car City of San Francisco (SF 4-5-6) in July 1941, the short-lived but famous Forty-Niner was no longer needed. The issuance of a new timetable on July 27, 1941 signaled its demise. Not only was the new diesel train faster but it had a greater passenger carrying capacity. Thereafter No. 101, one of the San Francisco streamliners, left Omaha westbound on the 3rd, 6th, 9th, 12th, 15th, 18th, 21st, 24th, 27th and 30th of each month and No. 102, the other San Francisco streamliner, departed from Ogden eastbound on the same dates.

Read more about equipment assigned to The Forty-Niner, in the Southern Pacific Passenger Cars series published by Southern Pacific Historical & Technical Society:

Forty-Niner Paint

The Forty-Niner was painted with a single shade of what Pullman called gunmetal gray, or polychromatic gunmetal gray, or just polychromatic gray.

As the plans progressed for the new train, the three railroads (C&NW, UP and SP) liked the gunmetal color, with black and gold striping used on Advance and Progress, and chose the same color for the entire train.

Describing the paint scheme used on Advance and Progress, Arthur Dubin wrote, quoting a Pullman document, "The exterior finish of the [articulated two-car] unit is of gunmetal shade, set off by black and gold striping, above and below the windows." (Arthur D. Dubin. Pullman Paint and Lettering Notebook, page 34)

"The body color was polychromatic gray, with aluminum bronze mixed into the paint for the second and third coats to give metallic effect." (Arthur D. Dubin. Pullman Paint and Lettering Notebook, page 138, 139)

In Dubins book, the only mention of "polychromatic gunmetal" is a handwritten reference on one of the notebook pages kept by Peter Falles, a Pullman employee. The notebook page shows the two-tones of "light polychromatic gunmetal" and "dark polychromatic gunmetal" used on cars of the 1938 version of New York Central's 20th Century Limited train, with an added note "Old - Discontinued." (Arthur D. Dubin. Pullman Paint and Lettering Notebook, page 104)

According to entries in Tom Madden's Pullman CCR database, Advance and Progress (articulated pair) were painted "polychromatic gunmetal" when placed in service 8/13/36, renamed Bear Flag and California Republic 6/24/37. The database also shows five matching Standard (HW) sleepers and two diners, were repainted "polychromatic gunmetal color 6478-7" or similar 6/25/37. (Alex Schneider, email dated February 21, 2014)

On page 289 of Union Pacific Streamliners by Ranks and Kratville, there is reproduced the handwritten notebook of one of the Pullman painters. In handwritten notes for the painting of The Forty-Niner, he wrote on page 30 of his notes:

"3 coats polychromatic grey, 2nd and 3rd coat, add aluminum bronze & mix."

The handwritten notes continue on page 290, showing page 31 of the painter's notes:

"Base color, Polychromatic color 88-8099 L-380 (Grey) Du Pont"

"...regarding the seven cars which are to be finished on the exterior with metallic finish." "...Our recommendation for making your metallic finish is that 2.65 oz of metallic be added to one gallon of base color."

A total of 12 cars were painted in Pullman's polychromatic gunmetal scheme in 1936 and 1937, of which 10 were assigned to The Forty-Niner in July 1937. One other car, "Forward," was painted gunmetal in November 1936, and was returned to its stainless steel finish in August 1945. The other car, "George M. Pullman," was painted gunmetal in November 1937. It was painted UP yellow and gray in August 1939 for UP service on the replacement City of San Francisco, until the wreck-damaged cars were repaired and returned to service in early 1940. It was then painted two-tone gray in April 1940.

Forty-Niner Dining Car Crews

Jeff Aley wrote the following in an emal to the UP Modelers Yahoo discussion group on September 14, 2008:

Dave Seidel wrote and article on the 49er in the UPHS Streamliner (Vol. 18, No.4) and following is his response regarding dining car crews on the train.

The "Forty-Ninner"

The idea of the train began in October 1936 when the need for more first class accommodations was seen due to overflow business of the "City of San Francisco". It was resolved with an agreement between Pullman and the three railroads to have a deluxe first class train in service. The equipment would be "streamlined", operate on non-streamliner days and was to be known as the "Advance Overland Limited". On January 25, 1937, SP passenger man McGinnis suggested the name changed to the "Forty-Ninner" due to its 49 hour schedule and the historical ties to the California Gold Rush.

A January 22, 1937, wire from the SP to UP and C&NW stated the train should be operated with "…the same agreements similar to the one covering the lightweight train now in service…". (City of San Francisco)

A May 3, 1937, wire from the UP to the SP and C&NW stated: "The UP and C&NW are agreeable to the SP operating the dinning car on the 49er when service is established and will proceed on that you will operate it".

A June 14, 1937, wire from the UP to the SP and C&NW states: "It is the intention of the UP to provide personnel for the Stewardess Nurses to be use on the 49er".

On another subject, I have studied the services of barbers on UP trains. In the cases of Chicago-Oakland trains they were provided by Pullman. The same was true with the 49er. On Chicago-Portland & Los Angeles trains there were provided by UP.

More Information

"The Forty-Niner" by David Seidel, The Streamliner, Volume 18, Number 4, Fall 2004, pages 7-20.

"The Forty-Niner", Union Pacific Streamliners, by Harold E. Ranks and William W. Kratville (Kratville Publications, Omaha, 1974), pages 243-274.