Overland Limited – East

Countless authors, railroad enthusiasts, and model railroaders have been captivated by the legendary Overland Heritage of that joint Southern Pacific-Union Pacific-Chicago North Western route. For decades, that was a primary transcontinental route that was direct, normally featured the most modern equipment the railroads could offer, and to the historically-minded, was a tangible reminder of the Driving of the Golden Spike.

The last and perhaps most remembered trains were introduced in the late 1940s. The Southern Pacific streamlined cars were clad in two-tone gray, and the Union Pacific had similarly painted cars. Briefly, the Overland Limited featured a coast-to-coast Pullman car that operated east of Chicago over the PRR, and that railroad once fielded several cars painted to match the SP gray scheme, carrying the name PENNSYLVANIA in small letters at each car end. The formation of Amtrak and general changes in train travel ambiance and promotion sidetracked the “Overland” service and heritage. Thankfully, two cars from that storied train set survive, making it possible to enjoy some of that transcontinental luxury far east of Chicago.

The first car, Overland Trail, is the former Southern Pacific 2981, a club-lounge car built in 1949 by the Pullman Standard Car Manufacturing Company. The car features a beautiful lounge section that has been restored to late-forties Pullman luxury, capped by a curved bar at the end of the car. Though not in service currently, the car also features a barber shop, once a prerequisite on the best long-distance trains.

The second car is Pullman-Standard-built Pacific Trail, ordered by Union Pacific in 1950 and numbered 5430 when placed into general service, serving as needed on trains all over the system. Built as a long-distance chair car, it features plenty of legroom. Each pair of seats has its own window, venetian blinds, reading lights, and decorative curtain on the pier panel. This class of car, as well as all 152 sister coaches built by ACF, St. Louis Car Co., and Budd, also features decorative artwork on the coach compartment bulkheads, large men’s and women’s restrooms with several washstands, and rubber floor covering with inlaid designs. Union Pacific sold 5430 and several sisters (5423, 5426, 5429, 5436, and 5445) in 1970 to Penn Central. 5430’s new owner renumbered her PC 3003 and used her and her sisters to equip the famous Broadway Limited, formerly an all-Pullman sleeping car train, with coaches. When Amtrak was formed on May 1, 1971, the car became #4403, was used on various routes, then sold in 1981. In 1983, it was sold to a succession of owners that have preserved much of the elegant qualities of this first-class coach. Both Overland Trail and Pacific Trail operate in limited special service on the Northern Central Railway, York County, PA.

The Overland-themed passenger cars have been available in several scales in the past 25 years, with newer and greatly improved cars on the horizon. SP-UP model railroaders have a great deal to choose from. At MTS, we share your passion for those trains and others too, including the newest Amtrak cars and bi-level commuter equipment, with our guarantee that time on our website will reveal the best that is available at any time.

Frank Wrabel