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Acoma, from the first stainless-steel Super Chief train set in 1937, 2nd Maiden Voyage

Super Chief
, “The Train of the Stars” 
Inaugural roundtrip from Los Angeles - San Diego, December 29, 2012, on the
first lightweight Santa Fe Super Chief car,


ACOMA at the San Diego, California, Santa Fe Station

By Carl Morrison,

     Riding The ACOMA, original lounge car on the first Streamlined SUPER CHIEF, when it hit the mainline for the first time in over a decade and transported passengers at speeds up to 90 MPH for the FIRST TIME SINCE 1968!  

    This special trip also commemorated the 75 year anniversary of the Santa Fe flagship's first sailing.

--Above announcement authored by Bill Hatrick

Owners of this fabulous piece of railroad history are Ronald W. Ashcraft and John D. Bond.  To charter this car, contact them at:

Southwest Rail Car Limited Co.
1617 Lafayette Dr., NE
Albuquerque, NM  87106
(505) 220-3780 or 382-8940

Table of Contents

  1. ACOMA at Los Angeles Union Station and San Diego Stations.
  2. ACOMA Inaugural Run Interior Shots
  3. Passengers on the historic Inaugural Run of the ACOMA
  4. The View from the Vestibule of the ACOMA
  5. Historic Photos of the Santa Fe Super Chief, "The Train of the Stars" and the ACOMA
  6. LINKS for this report.

ACOMA at Los Angeles Union Station and San Diego Stations.


ACOMA in Los Angeles Station, Track 11, awaiting her ride behind Amtrak Surfliner 572 to San Diego, CA.
Departure time 11:10 a.m. arrival in San Diego at 1:55 p.m.  December 29, 2012


A light rain was falling as the bi-level Surfliner connected to the ACOMA for her inaugural run.


The brackets you see on top are old radio antenna brackets,
perhaps a length of copper tube would lay in the brackets.


Restoration of over a decade included complete strengthening of the undercarriage including new trucks.


Original "Santa Fe" lettering above the windows appears as shadow lettering nowadays.


Lon H. Orlenko, General Manager of MONAD Railway Equipment, 15220 Valley View Ave., La Mirada, CA,  who restored the car, was on the ride to assure all went well.



A Christmas tree was at the Alameda entrance inside Los Angeles Union Passenger Station.


The original high-vaulted ticket counter area is used for Train Day Activities, and TV and movie filming. 
The original marble flooring represents an American Indian rug design.


LA Station is used more today than in its heyday of railroading.

The ACOMA at the Santa Fe Station in
San Diego, California.


The ACOMA in San Diego Station about 2 pm at arrival.


We were brought from Los Angeles to San Diego behind this Genesis, on Amtrak Surfliner 572, left. 
In San Diego, it was cool and dry after light rain showers most of the way down.


With public platforms on both sides of the ACOMA in San Diego,
and plenty of night lighting around the Santa Fe Station, photo opportunities abound.


The Barber Shop end of the ACOMA


We trailed the push locomotive 465 on our way north from San Diego to Los Angeles behind Amtrak Surfliner 591.
On our way down, during daylight, we had trailed the cab car with the ACOMA's vestibule
 the last part of the train.  This makeup provided an excellent opportunity for photos and vestibule viewing.

ACOMA Inaugural Run Interior Shots


Upon entering the ACOMA you are transformed back to 1937 when the car first traveled on the Super Chief.
The owners have authentically restored the car. 

En route to San Diego there is plenty of time to inspect the amenities, meet fellow railfans, and enjoy breakfast onboard.


The 70' 10" of the Acoma is considered a "shorty" by today's standards.  Bill Hatrick's Overland Trail is standard length at 85'. 


Restoration included Southwest fabrics as close to original as possible,
or in the case of the ACOMA chair cover, recreated from photos.
The ashtray had a Santa Fe logo on the base.




The Cocktail Lounge seating is just like the original diagram (above). 
Curtains are similar to the original as well. 
The era-authentic microphone is part of Bill Hatrick's sound system
and was used for announcements in the car.


The back bar has a mirror recreated in Santa Fe from a photo of the original. 
Christy Hatrick enjoyed working here with easy access to the kitchen next door.


Conductor Bill Hatrick, of, made announcements during the trip. 
The bar behind him has a typical Southwest art piece on the corner.  The bar front was originally Zebra wood. 


The desk behind Amtrak Policeman, Ken Wolf, and his explosive detecting dog, Teddy, is original Zebra wood.  The large historic map has been added, and was used by Ken to show where his Acoma Nation is located, near Laguna, between Grants and Albuquerque, New Mexico, along I-40.

Ken greeted the passengers with, "Acarita", an Acoma Indian greeting.  Acoma  means "The Choses or Set-Aside People."  Ken was a bomb tech. for the San Bernardino Sheriff's Dept.  Ken and Teddy are both part of Homeland Security and employed by Amtrak for explosive detection.  When Teddy finds precursors of explosives, he has a passive response to Ken.  The reward for a find is a play reward.  Teddy was trained in Alabama and will work for 10 years.  He is now 3 years old.    Three canines work for Amtrak in California.  He always finds the firearms of the Sheriff's Dept. personnel who ride the Surfliners and sometimes medications carried by passengers.  He is not a drug sniffing dog, but Ken has notices passengers heading off away from him when they see him coming.


The Lounge area has good lighting for dining and reading, above,
while the bar end of the car has more subdued lighting.

One of two original bathrooms onboard.  One thing Ron wants to add in the car is a shower.


In Fullerton, the Owners joined us.  Conductor Bill Hatrick welcomes Ron and Lorie Ashcraft aboard.



Pat Egan, left, is a former ATSF Mechanical Supervisor and Amtrak Supervisor,
now an independent inspector/mechanic and
a qualified certification inspector of Amtrak pv cars. 
Matt Clark is at Pat's side.


John Bond, front, and Matt Clark, also boarded in Fullerton for this historic run of his car.

The View from the Vestibule of the ACOMA behind Amtrak Surfliner 572.

As all railfans know, the best place to ride in a Private Car is in the vestibule or rear platform.  Private Cars allow their passengers to enjoy this open-air platform with the top half of vestibule doors open for photography or to just enjoy the wind through your hair at 70 to 90 miles per hour.  The trip from Los Angeles to San Diego began about 11 a.m., so there was ample daylight for the whole ride.  There were typical December rain showers on our way to San Diego, but since the vestibule end of the ACOMA was at the end of the consist, the rain did not blow in on the vestibule riders, and we had 3 views - one down the track, and one to each side. 

Amtrak trains do not allow passengers to open the vestibule windows, so a private car or tourist train are the only places in America to experience this open-air train riding.


Signal Tower between Los Angeles and Buena Park


Buena Park Metrolink Station


Chris Guenzler at Califia Beach near San Clemente photographing
the Inaugural Run of the ACOMA on which I was riding in the vestibule.


Chris Guenzler took these photos in a rain shower (above and below) as we passed Califia Beach near San Clemente.



CP Longboard's unique sign at Carlsbad.


Solana Beach Station


Del Mar Racetrack


Wave Crest Resort, Del Mar, California, overlooking both the railroad and Pacific Ocean.


Del Mar Bluffs, between the old Del Mar Station and Hwy. 101 bridge and Torrey Pines.


Heading upgrade from Torrey Pines to Miramar Jct. 
There was evidence that this section is being double-tracked.

Passengers on the historic Inaugural Run of the ACOMA


Owners, Ron and Lorie Ashcraft, were introduced by Bill Hatrick
and Ron took the microphone to welcome the guests and tell some history of
finding, purchasing, and the decade-long restoration of the ACOMA.


Co-owner John Bond keeps a watchful eye on his decade-long restoration project from the ACOMA's vestibule.
During the 90-mile-per-hour section of the ride, John pointed to a cup of coffee sitting on the Zebra wood desk
 and mentioned that the liquid was as smooth as glass with no vibration from the car.


Bob Zenk, left, read from the brochure onboard, Welcome aboard the ACOMA - which follows:




Doug Spinn, left, owner of the Pacific Sands, boarded in Irvine.  Seeing his new LARail shirt, I ordered one on the spot.


(l. to r.) Pat Egan, Arnold James, and Gail Burns


Bruce and Victoria Bortle


Adrian and Martha Rivera


(Left to right) Holly, Heidi, and Debbie, from Mission Viejo.
Holly had heard about this trip while on Bill Hatrick's Vino Train ride in October.


Ed Hodnick of Yorba Linda, California.


Tim Vance, LARail rider, enjoying the vestibule
and light rain heading toward San Diego.


Johnnie J. Johnson and Jeanne Barkemeijer De Wit
heard about the ACOMA's  inaugural trip on the Internet while looking for trains.
She saw that it was happening today, so called and signed on. 
Johnnie's grand dad worked in West Virginia for the B & O.  They live in Anaheim.


Bill Martin, left, who did the electrical on the Acoma, with Hal Dennis, and Tim Vance.


Arnold James and Gail Burns


Bill Hatrick was the Conductor for the day and daughter Christy served both meals.


Amanda and Christy Hatrick, who regularly work on their parent's Overland Trail,
cooked and served food and drinks on this trip.


We were encouraged to peruse the Menu so we would know
what was being served on the way to San Diego as well as
what would be served on the way back to Los Angeles in the evening.




Supper is ready!

In Fullerton, where I detrained about 8:25 p.m.,
Bill Hatrick and Lon Orienko keep a watchful eye
on The ACOMA after nearly a complete, flawless trip.


Bill always knows where the camera is located! 
Thanks Bill for the unique opportunity to report on the Inaugural run
of the ACOMA round trip Los Angeles - San Diego!

Historic Photos of the Santa Fe Super Chief, "The Train of the Stars" and the ACOMA

Interior view of the Santa Fe ACOMA lounge

A interior view of the ACOMA lounge with its Thunderbird symbol, the curved couches, coffee tables, writing desk, light fixtures,and art-deco metal work. The ACOMA was the first full sized "streamlined" lounge car designed by the Santa Fe and built by the Budd company in 1936 for the Santa Fe Super chief train.

Creator: Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railway Company
Date: Between 1937 and 1950


Cajon Pass, California

This black and white photograph shows the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railway Company's "Super Chief" streamliner locomotive and train, west bound through Cajon Pass, California.

Creator: Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railway Company
Date: Between 1937 and 1950


"Drumhead" of the Santa Fe Super Chief

A exterior view of the Santa Fe Super Chief "Drumhead" with a tribal member of the Navajo Nation standing nearby. The logo of the "Drumhead" often adorned the ends of the observation cars on the Super Chief. The streamlined train built by the Budd company in late 1936 traveled once a week on a round trip between Chicago Illinois and Los Angeles, California. The Super Chief comprised of eight cars that included: a baggage car, a dining car called the "Cochiti", a lounge car know as the "Acoma", and sleeping cars know as the "Orabi", "Taos", "Laguna", "Isleta" and the "Navajo".

Creator: Richie, Robert Yarnall
Date: Between 1937 and 1957

--Above photos available for sale at:

Additional Information

The 1937 Santa Fe Lounge Car Acoma

The Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe railroad started upgrading its premier train, the Super Chief, “The Train of the Stars,” to new lightweight “streamliner” cars in 1937. It began with just one train set, consisting of eight stainless-steel cars manufactured by the Budd Co. Acoma was one of those first eight cars.

The new streamlined Super Chief traveled between Los Angeles and Chicago, making one round trip a week. The streamlined Super Chief was pulled by diesel locomotives sporting the now-famous “warbonnet” paint scheme. Each car, including Acoma, featured an interior uniquely decorated with a Southwest motif.

Today, Acoma is the only car from this first stainless-steel Super Chief train set that remains in active service. Only two of Acoma’s sister cars survive: the dining car, Cochiti, which is showcased at the California State Railroad Museum, and the observation car, Navajo, proudly displayed at the Colorado Railroad Museum.

Acoma and Overland Trail, a 1949 club lounge, built by the Pullman company and used by the Southern Pacific railroad on the San Francisco Overland train.

— Gary Coombs is director of the South Coast Railroad Museum.

The ACOMA, original lounge car to the first Streamlined SUPER CHIEF will hit the mainline for the first time in over a decade and haul passengers at speeds up to 90 MPH for the FIRST TIME SINCE 1968! Be among the first to join the passenger manifest for this momentous event running on December 29th! This special trip also commemorates the 75 year anniversary of the Santa Fe flagship's first sailing. Seating is limited to only 24 paid passengers. There is only ONE maiden voyage (not counting 1937!) ... don't miss out. Los Angeles to San Diego round trip fare is $185.00 per-person (includes champagne at departure and food and beverage onboard). Call 877 4LA-RAIL (877 452 7245, and press 4 for Bill Hatrick) for reservations or more information. Leaves/returns LA 11:10AM/9:05PM. If demand/interest warrants, the 1949 ex SP club lounge, Overland Trail will join the consist at 100.00 per-person with barber onboard.

--Bill Hatrick

The one and only original lounge car to the 1937 Super Chief, Acoma has made it back to the realm of operating passenger cars! A decade of painstaking work was required to achieve Amtrak certification, and Acoma will make its (Amtrak certified) maiden voyage at the end of Dec.

The Acoma was a part of the first 8 car streamlined Super Chief and carried a dormitory for the dining car crew, as well as, a barbershop. Initially, there was only one train set, and the Super Chief made weekly sailings. A second trainset followed in '38 and the two sets each made weekly round trip's between Chicago and LA until after the war when service was increased. With the Super Chief bearing the "company standard", it always maintained the newest and finest equipment. After the war, the Acoma was soon displaced to lessor trains until it was finally retired in 1968 as excess.

The car was bought by a gentleman who realized the historical importance of the car and saved it in an "arrested state of decay". Interestingly, with the advent of Amtrak, there was a little "tough of war" as Amtrak sought ownership of the car. Fortunately for future generations, the car remained in private hands and the special care afforded it by current owners, John Bond and Ron Ashcraft, assured its survival.

Although there have been many changes to the car (mechanical and otherwise), the main lounge retains much of its "as built" appearance. Gone is the exotic zebra wood veneer and the barbershop (these were Santa Fe changes) but the car interior remains essentially as it was at retirement in 1968. The car will be based in Los Angeles for a time ... be on the lookout for it ... over the road photos always appreciated!, Inc. will be an operator of the car, look for the Acoma on future "Vino Trains" and other trips operated by LA's "own" vintage passenger car company,

--Bill Hatrick




To see a slide show of all images in this report, Click Here.


"Crafting the Lightweight Super Chief - Santa Fe's six years under the leadership of forward-looking Samuel T. Bledsoe were revolutionary in more ways than one" by Larry E. Brasher for TRAINS magazine, 2005:

First lightweight Santa Fe Super Chief, 1937-1947, Fred Klein, 2001, 2010


The Santa Fe Super ChiefRailway Age article.

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