UP Brown Derby Room

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This page was last updated on September 16, 2023.

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The "Brown Derby Room"

By David Seidel

(from The Mixed Train, Camerail Club, Issue 2023 - 7)

Our story begins in 1949 with the construction by the American Car Foundry of 12 lightweight club lounges cars for service on Union Pacific passenger trains - nine for the Union Pacific and three for the Chicago & North Western:

Union Pacific owned:

Original Name 1959 Number
Loup River UP 6200
Platte River UP 6201
Columbia River UP 6202
Colorado River UP 6203
Green River UP 6204
Mojave River UP 6205
Portneuf River UP 6206
Payette River UP 6207
Weber River UP 6208

The three matching Chicago & North Western-owned cars were numbered as C&NW 7900, 7901 7902.

These club lounge cars had seating for 38 in the lounge area, a bar counter room, supply storage room, a crew's bedroom (generally assigned to the dining car Steward), a barber shop and a shower room.

(View a builder photo of UP Loup River, right side)

In the builder photo referenced above, small, long window at the right end was for the Barber Shop area of the car.

(View a builder photo of UP Loup River, left side)

In the builder photo referenced above, the four small windows at the left end of the car are the hallway outside of the Barber Shop.

(View the diagram sheet of the River Series cars, with Barber Shop)

In 1949 the railroad still offered barber services (mainly for Pullman passengers) with this group of cars being one of the last cars built with a barber shop feature.

Union Pacific trains that provided a barber in 1949 were: the "Overland" (Chicago-San Francisco), the "Los Angeles Limited" (Chicago-Los Angeles), the "City of Los Angeles" and the "City of Portland". The reason the "Overland" and the "Los Angeles Limited" had barber service was due to them handling the transcontinental sleepers between New York City (with the Pennsylvania Railroad and New York Central Railroad) to San Francisco and Los Angeles. (Between 1953 and 1955 the transcontinental Pullman sleepers were being reassigned to the City Streamliners.) The use of the barber had been declining in the post-World War II era in part due to the new "safety" razor blade and the electrical razor becoming popular then with a shave by the barber's "blade"; haircuts on the train was also in little demand.

As a result, in 1950 the barber was replaced with a "valet service" provided by the lounge car attendant and was for mainly the use of the shower for the traveling Pullman passengers. However, it should be noted that this "shower service" was not in the highest of demand and for the most part the valet section was not used that much by the passengers on most of the trips. The valet service was offered on the "Overland", "Los Angeles Limited", "City of Los Angeles" and the "City of Portland". In 1953 the "Overland" operations were downgraded and reduced to operation between Omaha and Green River as a local passenger service with the valet service now being offered on the "City of San Francisco".

In 1954 the valet service ended on the "Los Angeles Limited" as that train was removed from service; and in 1955 only the "City of San Francisco" had valet service which was ended in 1960.


The next major event in the history of the club lounge cars came on January 29, 1951, when the Santa Fe introduced its "pleasure domes" (numbered 500 to 505) on its Chicago-Los Angeles "Super Chief'. The forward (short end) of the Santa Fe car featured the "Turquoise Room" which was a private dining area. The dome car was placed next to the diner car which provided easy access to the private room. The railroad advertised it was the "only" private dining area available to the rail traveling public. This did not go unnoticed by the Union Pacific Passenger Department as the Santa Fe was a major competitor in the Chicago-Los Angeles market.

In March 1951 Mr. H. I. Norris, Manager of UP's dining car operations, proposed that the Union Pacific should counter the Santa Fe with some Los Angeles area attraction or "tie-in". It was proposed that a "tie-in" with the famous Brown Derby restaurants in the Los Angeles area could be a solution. The Brown Derby dates back to the 1926 and over the years the restaurants were tied with the golden era of Hollywood and in the post-World War II era with the boom of television. The Hollywood Brown Derby had connections to both movie and TV stars. This location was also the birthplace of the "Shirley Temple" non-alcoholic drink and the "Cobb Salad". In a wire dated March 28, 1951, W. R. Moore, General Director of Public Relations, reported on discussions with Mr. Norris to A. E. Stoddard, President; A. J. Seitz, Executive Vice President; W. T. Bums, Vice-President of Traffic; C J Collins, General Passenger Traffic Manager; H B Northcott, General Advertising Manager:

"It has been suggested by Mr. Norris that on the present River named club lounge cars, that the unused area behind the bar storage room to the end of the car, this area would include the crew (Steward's) bedroom, barber shop and shower rooms to be rebuilt into a private dining room and be known as the Brown Derby Room (per tie-in agreements) to be used for private parties. Placed next to the diner, it would have easy access by dining car services. The conversion costs should be low, and the reworking could be done in a short time".

Mr. Stoddard was agreeable to the plan, but before approval he wanted details of costs of remodeling and of the license agreement with the Brown Derby restaurants. After a study was made headed by E. A. Klippel, Passenger Traffic Manager, and was reported on September 21, 1951:

"Most of our present lightweight diners and lounges are uniform and can be used on any route. We want all the life and color we can get in our cars but appreciate there is always the need for comfort to the passengers and the difficulty in maintaining specialty cars which, like the Frontier Shack, Little Nugget, etc., become less attractive in a short time and lose their appeal. We all know that it is most difficult to keep specific cars in specific trains. If we had cars decorated in Sun Valley, Southern Utah or Brown Derby motif, some would be certain to get into the COSF or Overland service and the Southern Pacific might protest vigorously. In my opinion, our featured regions might better be served by the continued use of scenic menus, murals on bulkheads and china"

After all the problems with the train set Streamliners that had cars designed for each route that changed to "pool" equipment with the beginning of daily service, the idea of uniform equipment that could be interchangeable was the better course of action. It was soon decided that the use of this space for a private dining room was not desired at this time.

However, in 1955 with the arrival of the dome diners the private room would be in the design of the car in the section under the dome that the Union Pacific called the "Gold Room". The dome diner (and the "Gold Room" private room) would become the most popular dining experience on the rails by the traveling public. The introduction of the UP's dome diners and its private room, it would force the Santa Fe to change its advertising campaign for the "Turquoise Room" from the "only" to the "first" private dining room in the country.


In 1959 the UP's "River" club lounge cars were remodeled with the area that was to be used by the proposed "Brown Derby Room" becoming a card table lounge area and the names were replaced with numbers - 6200 to 6208.

(View the diagram sheet showing the cars after the Barber Shop/Valet Station was removed)

The Union Pacific viewed the Santa Fe's "Super Chief' as the main competition to the UP's "City of Los Angeles". So, when the Santa Fe began its "Turquoise Room" private dining service, the UP viewed that as being "one up" over the "City of Los Angeles" and was looking to counter it. The possible conversation of the barber shop area of the lounge was their choice.

However, the operating people wanted to have a completely interchangeable roster of passenger equipment that could be used on any train; so, the "Brown Derby Room" lost out. In 1955 with the arrival of the dome diners the section under the dome was designed as a private area for dinning. This area had no area theme and if need be, could be used on any train; however, there were some touches of area themes in that they were used on the "City of Los Angeles" and the "City of Portland" only; and as a rule diners 8000-8004 worked mainly on the "City of Los Angeles" and 8005-8009 mainly worked on the "City of Portland".

Roster Listing

UP 6200-Series Club Lounge Cars