"The Train of the Stars" – The Super Chief.
When the Union Pacific Railroad (UP) introduced its new "streamliner train", the "City of Los Angeles" in 1936 (Chicago – Los Angeles), the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway (Santa Fe) countered with its own deluxe train, the "Super Chief", as early as May 12, 1936. This very first "Super Chief" initially still consisted of heavyweight Pullman cars, because the new streamline stainless steel lightweight cars were still under construction at the Budd Company. This new super train was to be pulled at the same time by new diesel locomotives, also with streamlined styling. In May of 1937 it was finally done: Budd presented a "streamliner" train as an all-Pullman sleeping car train, without competition in style, design, and luxury. The famous designed Sterling McDonald found expression in the interior details the longstanding relation between the railroad and the Indians of the Southwest. Whenever possible McDonald made use of authentic Indian colors such as turquois and copper, samples and even authentic wall murals and paintings. In addition, he integrated as decorative elements a combination of rare and exotic woods such as ebony, teak, satinwood, bubinga, and Macassar, which gave the Super Chief an additional air of extravagant elegance.
A new train naturally needed new, elegant locomotive, which were delivered at the same time by General Motors EMD in the form of the E-1 diesel models with a streamlined hood. A new color scheme was used for the first time here in red, yellow, and silver – later designated as the "Warbonnet" design, which was supposed to symbolize the headdress of an Indian with waving feathers. A speed record that still stands was reached on the Santa Fe during a test run even before the scheduled introduction of the new Super Chief to regular service. The 3,584.5 kilometer / 2,240.3 mile long route Chicago – Los Angeles was covered on freshly renewed track in 36 hours and 20 minutes with an average speed of 97 km/h / 60 mph and peak speeds of 160 km/h / 100 mph. The scheduled travel time was 39 hours and 45 minutes.
The extra fare Super Chief quickly developed into an extremely exclusive and super comfortable shuttle train for Hollywood Greats, who commuted from New York's Broadway to Sunset Boulevard in Los Angeles, and who let themselves be pampered to and from Chicago in the luxurious prestige train of the Santa Fe. The list of passengers read like a "Who's Who" in Hollywood, which included among others Frank Sinatra, Zero Mostel, Janet Leigh, Ella Fitzgerald, Elizabeth Taylor, Paul Newman, Gloria Swanson, Alan Ladd, Vincent Price, Margaret Truman, and many others. The special attraction of the train was of course the five star meals prepared by top chefs as well as its other first class services. In addition to engineer's, conductors, and brakemen, sleeping car conductors, luggage porters, dining car stewards, waiters, chefs, bartenders, lounge attendants, hair dressers, and other service personnel together with two squads of cleaners and maintenance teams provided for the welfare of the passengers.
At the start of the Fifties and well into the second half of the Sixties, the famous class F7 diesel locomotives pulled the Super Chief. These locomotives were also in the "Warbonnet" design. The train was able to maintain its extremely high quality of service right up to the end of passenger trains on the Santa Fe on May 1, 1971. After that, the government owned Amtrak took over passenger train service in the USA and used the legendary name for another three years. Santa Fe took away the right to continue using the name due to the extreme deterioration of the quality of service under Amtrak management. Therefore, the train ran initially as the Southwest Limited and after a compromise between Amtrak and Santa Fe it has been run as the Southwest Chief.