City of San Francisco

City of San Francisco
Union Pacific Train No. 101, the City of San Francisco, passes near Cheyenne, Wyoming on December 4, 1948.
Southern Pacific SDP45 leads City of San Francisco west at SN overpass 38°17′24″N 121°57′35″W / 38.29°N 121.9597°W / 38.29; -121.9597, Cannon CA, in April 1971— just before Amtrak

The City of San Francisco was a streamlined passenger train operated jointly by the Chicago and North Western Railway, the Southern Pacific Railroad, and the Union Pacific Railroad. The train ran between Chicago, Illinois and Oakland, California, with a ferry connection to San Francisco.

Competing streamlined passenger trains were, starting in 1949, the California Zephyr operated by the Western Pacific, Denver and Rio Grande Western, and Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroads, and starting in 1954, the San Francisco Chief, operated by the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway. As with the City of Los Angeles, many of the train's cars bore the names of locales in and around its namesake city, including Mission Dolores, the nickname given to San Francisco's Mission San Francisco de Asís.

On August 12, 1939 the train derailed while crossing a bridge near Carlin, Nevada, killing 24 and injuring 121. The wreck appeared to have been caused by sabotage, but remains unsolved.[1]

The City of San Francisco is perhaps best remembered for the January 1952 event when a blizzard in the Sierra Nevada Mountains entrapped the train for six days at Donner Pass, California. The incident occurred when snowdrifts from the blizzard's 160 km/h (100 mph) winds blocked the train, burying it in 3.6 meters (12 feet) of snow and stranding it from January 13 to January 19. The event made international news headlines. In the effort to reach the train, the railroad's snow-clearing equipment and snow-blowing rotary plows became frozen to the tracks. Subsequently, hundreds of workers and volunteers, including Georg Gärtner, using manual snowplows, tractors and manpower came to the rescue by clearing the adjacent Lincoln Highway to reach the train. The 196 passengers and 20 crewmembers were evacuated within 72 hours, on foot to vehicles that carried them the few highway miles to Nyack Lodge. The train itself was extricated several days later.

In 1955 the Milwaukee Road assumed the service, replacing the Chicago and North Western between Chicago and Omaha. In a cost-cutting move, the City of San Francisco was combined with the City of Los Angeles in 1960.




  • 1936: The City of San Francisco makes its first run between Chicago, Illinois and Oakland, California. With only one set of equipment, it left each terminal five times a month.
  • 1938: the M-10004 articulated trainset is replaced by a full-size 14-car streamliner, powered by a 5400-hp set of three E2 diesels; frequency remains five trips per month each way.
  • August 12, 1939: An act of sabotage sends the City of San Francisco flying off of a bridge in the Nevada desert; two dozen passengers and crew members are killed and many more injured, and five cars are destroyed.
  • July 1941: an additional set of equipment enters service, allowing departures ten times per month.
  • September 1947: daily service.
  • January 13, 1952: The City of San Francisco is caught in a severe blizzard and remains stuck for days.Incident becomes one inspiration for Railway series book, The Twin Engines.
  • May 1, 1971: UP ends the City of San Francisco train as Amtrak takes over long-distance passenger operations in the United States; Amtrak retains the name until 1972.

Other railroad uses of the name City of San Francisco

The City of San Francisco name has also been applied to a 10/6 sleeping car built by Pullman Standard in the early 1950s. The car is currently owned by the Boone and Scenic Valley Railroad and operated as part of the line's dinner and first class trains. Union Pacific itself has a dome lounge car used on excursion and executive trains which carries the "City of San Francisco" name.

See also


  • Schafer, Mike and Joe Welsh (1997). Streamliners: History of a Railroad Icon. MBI Publishing Co., St. Paul, MN. ISBN 0-7603-1371-7. 
  • Solomon, Brian (2000). Union Pacific Railroad. Railroad color history. MBI Publishing Company. ISBN 0760307563. 

External links

Wikimedia Foundation. 2010.

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