The 1956 El Capitan Hi-Level cars

In 1956, Santa Fe re equipped it premier Chicago - Los Angeles all-coach train "The El Capitan" with all new rolling stock. These cars, though not true bi-levels, were nearly 16 feet high and had two separate decks. The upper level was dedicated almost completely to passenger accommodations, since other facilities such as restrooms, luggage space, and the diner's kitchen were located on the lower deck. The Hi-Level cars were built by Budd, using their standard shotweld stainelss steel construction.

Each car had it's own diesel generator, and all utilities except heat were provided by the electricity generated onboard the car.



Type Transition Coach
Road Numbers 528 - 549
Seats 68
Notes These cars feature a stairway at one end, allowing passengers access to conventional cars coupled to the HI-Level coaches. The first ten cars were part of the 1956 equipment purchase, but numbers 538 - 549 were bought in 1964, a fairly late date for any US railroad to purchase passenger equipment.

Type Coach
Road Numbers 700 - 736
Seats 72
Notes These cars were quite similar to the 528 class, except they lacked the end stairway, and had Hi-Level diaphragms at both ends. This allows them to carry four extra passengers. Compare that capacity to the average conventional long distance coach's capacity of 44 and you'll see one of the major reasons Santa Fe decided to purchase these cars.

Type "Sky Lounge"
Road Numbers 575 - 580
Seats 84 (non revenue)
Notes These were the only cars that featured extensive passenger space on the lower level, where a 24 seat bar/lounge was located. However, the most impressive area of the train was the upper lounge with it's semi-glassed roof, similar to Amtrak's Superliner lounges. The upper level also housed a news stand and another bar.

Five of the six Hi-Level lounge cars are still in service as "Pacific Parlour" cars on Amtrak's Coast Starlight, between Los Angeles and Seattle. They may survive to see their 50th year in service.

Type Dining Car
Road Numbers 650 - 655
Seats 80 (non revenue)
Notes These were lightweights in name only, tipping the scales at 97 tons. Each diner carried two diesel generators, an all electric kitchen, and over 800 gallons of fresh water. They needed six axles to carry the weight and were the only Hi-Level cars (including the Superliners) so equipped. Rumor has it that one is still active on Amtrak.

Type Baggage - Dormitory
Road Numbers 3480 - 3481
Seats N/A (27 crew bunks)
Built 1938 (as Baggage/Dorm/Coach, converted to Baggage/Dorm 1941)
Notes When the Hi-Level cars were built, Santa Fe had six Baggage/Dormatory cars fitted with streamlined shrouds, to blend the taller equipment with the conventional head-end cars in the train. Cars 3480 and 3481 were two of the six. They were built for the original El Capitan.

Type Baggage/Express
Road Numbers 3453 - 3466
Built 1951
Seats N/A (1 courier seat)
Notes Though not part of the Hi-Level equipment order, these AC&F built baggage cars are presented because the standard El Capitan consist included two baggage cars.

The term "baggage car" is inaccurate. Most such cars didn't carry passenger baggage, they were leased to the Railway Express Agency (REA) and used to carry parcels and light freight around the country, much like road and air express services do today. These cars had accommodation for a courier, an REA employee who kept an eye on the cargo.


Complete Trains

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{LocoStart}FILE=...\ElCapWestbound.dib;LABEL=ATSF F-7 + "The El Capitan";GT=V;EPOCHE=3;ULAND=USA;OL=N;RICHTUNG=L;VMAX=6;VMIN=3;EXEMPLARE=1;ZG=63;SELECTED=1;{LocoEnd}


My 1956 El Cap won the April 2002 "1st Anniversary" Claudioscar for Best Luxury Train. Thanks Claudio!



Download the 1956 El Capitan winzip Icon

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