(Many before Amtrak)
The links below lead to various passenger timetables from the years just prior to Amtrak's first operations in 1971. Some railroads still had extensive brochures, and a large number of routes with passenger service. Others had rather plain little postcard size schedules to provide very minimal information. The CEI's "Chicago to Danville Flyer" may be the champion in the minimalist category, printed on one side of a 3 by 5 postcard. The GMO is close behind for its three trains between Chicago and St. Louis. I hope these documents bring back some memories for some of you and partially illustrate the end of the private railroad passenger era for all. In the middle of the entries is one from 1873 for the Lake Shore and Michigan Southern Railway (part of the NYC System later) - a reprint from a bygone era. The final entry is an early Amtrak National Timetable from the summer of 1971. This early document from Amtrak's first year illustrates the significant reduction in frequencies that occurred nation wide at Amtrak's inception. August 2019 addition: two Amtrak National Timetables (1973 and 1990) that surfaced in some files. Note - December 2020 - Amtrak was moved into a separate section at the end of this page.
The several files from post World War Two passenger train promotions by the Milwaukee Road are courtesy of Pat Heinan, retired DRGW and Amtrak engineer (added July 2019). I threw the picture from a 1971 pocket calendar from the Canadian National by its passenger timetables because I have so little information from the Canadian Roads.
For passenger schedules for the B&O and the DRGW, see the pages for those railroads.
An additional note on passenger schedules and information available from old Official Guide monthly documents: I have various copies of the Official Guide to Railways (and later Airlines) available from the years 1851 through 1969 (16 various monthly editions scattered over those years). If there is a particular railroad or short line that you would like to research for a project or general interest, contact me at the email address on the home page.
March 2019 addition: linked below is the Official Guide from October 1947 which I obtained from an abandoned B & O station in the seventies - 1500 pages where countless hours can be wasted checking out how things were in the old days.....
I separated Amtrak into its own section because of two new entries. One is the "Route Guide" to the Pioneer Train (25-26) which was shifted from its original routing in 1991. From 1977 until 1991 the Pioneer was operated as part of the California Zephyr from Chicago to Salt Lake City. From Salt Lake City it then ran as a separate train to Seattle. In 1991 the Pioneer was re-routed as a separate train splitting from the California Zephyr at Denver. Amtrak management felt that on time performance of the eastbound California Zephyr would improve by having to pair with only one train in Salt Lake City (the Desert Wind 35-36 from Los Angeles). Additionally, because the route of the Pioneer between Ogden and Denver was significantly faster than the former route through Colorado, several hours of "schedule recovery" existed for the Pioneer at Denver after this operational change. As one of the local operational officers responsible for Denver at the time, I can state that usually the plan worked as intended. Obviously vicious winter weather in Wyoming could sometimes create problems, but largely the schedule was somewhat improved. The change increased the complexity of Denver switching operations by the same measure that it decreased the switching operations in Salt Lake City. As part of Amtrak's efforts to increase passenger satisfaction, management personnel responsible for the various trains developed helpful materials such as this Pioneer Route Guide. Most of the routes had such materials, I should have saved others as I had the opportunity.
The other entry added here are the brief last run brochures that were issued in 1997 when the Pioneer and the Desert Wind trains were discontinued. The timeline for these unfortunate train off runs was roughly as follows: The Pioneer dropped to tri-weekly in 1993. In 1995 the Desert Wind/California Zephyr changed to daily from Chicago to Salt Lake City, thence tri-weekly for the Desert Wind to Los Angeles and quad-weekly for the California Zephyr to Oakland/Emeryville. The Empire Builder from Chicago to Seattle dropped to quad-weekly at the same time, matching the schedule of the Pioneer so that there was a daily schedule from Chicago to Seattle. Four departures were by the faster and more direct Empire Builder route through Montana, and three departures were the Pioneer (combined with the California Zephyr to Denver) on the more circuitous route as mentioned above. In 1997, when the Pioneer and the Desert Wind were discontinued, the California Zephyr and Empire Builder were restored to daily service along their entire routes. During this entire transitional period, the Southwest Chief on the former ATSF from Chicago to Los Angeles had remained a daily service. As I write these notes (late 2020), Amtrak's long distance (and other) ridership has suffered great declines due to travel concerns because of the Covid virus. Nearly all long distance routes have been reduced to tri-weekly. We can only hope that final train off notices are not in the future for the remaining services.
October 1947 Official Guide to Railways
At some date in the 1970s, I borrowed this Guide from the desk drawer of an abandoned railroad agent’s office, I believe somewhere along the Baltimore & Ohio lines. Why a book of this vintage had been kept on hand is lost to history, but I was happy to obtain the resource at the time. The circulation directions for the book on the cover indicate that it was first placed on the passenger train “Shenandoan Limited” and then passed to various B & O stations as new guides were issued. I stored the book in a protective box and have referred to it numerous times over the years. Now over seventy years old, the book’s pages are quite frail. As I have consulted it recently, and pages have torn and split, I realized I would soon have a pile of brown paper “saw dust” instead of a book. From this conclusion was born the project to scan the Guide and post it on the website. After some consideration, it seemed most appropriate to place these links in the general passenger section of the site, since the primary focus of this guide was to assist passenger ticket offices across the nation.
The October 1947 Guide was over 1500 pages, and it included entries for air lines and steamship companies. Several of the air lines still exist today under the same corporate names, although they surely are very different companies from those of 1947. Similarly, only a handful of the railroad companies in 1947 have the same name today. If there is a “fallen flag” from that era that interests any viewer, it can be found in this guide. While this particular year probably does not represent the largest number of passenger schedules and other information from the railroad companies, it is representative of the post World War Two era before the railroad companies started to abandon the passenger service market. Should anyone desire to print copies of pages for a research report or similar project from these links, contact me at the email address on the home page.
To keep the file sizes reasonable, there are around 100 pages in each of the fifteen files. The General Index is found in the first section. The indexes of points served (by water, rail, and air lines) are found in the final sections starting on page 1253 and continuing to the end of the volume. Pages 905 and 906 from the 1947 guide are missing, perhaps damaged at some point and thrown away. Page 905 dealt with the Pullman Company, and page 906 was the map for the important Southern Pacific subsidiary, the St. Louis Southwestern (SSW or Cotton Belt). I found the appropriate pages from the March 1945 guide and slipped them in for the missing pages.