Cotton Belt Passenger Trains

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Cotton Belt Passenger Trains
Posted by RoyPBower on Thursday, August 28, 2008 12:08 PM
Did Cotten Belt operate any notable passenger trains from St. Louis to Texas?
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Posted by ZephyrOverland on Thursday, August 28, 2008 1:04 PM

The Cotton Belt's St. Louis-Texas service was usually a single train, sometimes carrying through Memphis-Texas cars which were combined/split in Brinkley, Arkansas.  But, there were time periods where separate trains ran between St. Louis-Texas and Memphis-Texas and there were times when there was no St. Louis-Texas service, just Memphis-Texas service. 

Around 1904 the Cotton Belt operated a train called "The Texas Train" and "The St. Louis Train" between St. Louis and Waco, but beyond this the primary endpoints for Cotton Belt's Texas Service was St. Louis to Dallas and Ft. Worth.

Some train names that were used for this service include: Lone Star Special, Morning Lone Star, Evening Lone Star, Morning Star and the Cotton Belter

The Cotton Belt was also a participant in Chicago-Texas train service around 1901 called "The Texas Train" (I'm not sure if this train was related to the St. Louis-Waco service of the same name).  The train ran from Chicago to Thebes, Ill via the Chicago and Eastern Illinois, where the Cotton Belt took over for the run to Ft. Worth.

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Posted by SSW9389 on Friday, August 29, 2008 7:03 PM

The Cotton Belt never extensively modernized its passenger equipment during the streamliner era. It preferred to keep things going as they were and began to lose passengers to competing lines. Cotton Belt passenger service ended on November 30, 1959 with the final run of #8 from Pine Bluff to East St. Louis.

There were only 10 streamlined cars on the Cotton Belt, the 10 coaches built by Pullman Standard in 1937. There were only nine passenger diesels on the Cotton Belt, so you can see by the time the 1950s rolled around there were very few Cotton Belt passenger trains to ride.  


COTTON BELT: Runs like a Blue Streak!
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Posted by sclm046 on Friday, February 17, 2017 1:55 AM

You can get a lot of Cotton Belt passenger train information by contacting the Terminal Railroad Association of St. Louis Historical and Technical Society, Inc. Ask if they still have newsletter copies for sale. You would need Newsletter Issue 40/41 for Winter 1996/Spring 1997. Virtually that entire newsletter (32 pages, magazine format) was devoted to the Cotton Belt's passenger service. Photos, maps, diagrams and company letters are included.  Very informative and reasonably priced.  Here is the address and phone number that they included: TRRA H&TS, Inc.; P. O. Box 1688,; St. Louis, Missouri 63188-1688. Phone 314-535-3101. 

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Posted by rcdrye on Friday, February 17, 2017 10:28 AM

Cotton Belt's fleet of passenger diesel had an impressive variety for 9 units.

PA-1 301-302 (to SP 6067-6068) SP Daylight scheme with silver roof, COTTON BELT lettering

FP7 330 (later 306) SP Daylight scheme with ST.LOUIS SOUTHWESTERN (as built) or COTTON BELT (after a wreck) and finally SP Bloody Nose.

GP7 304 only geep in SP Daylight scheme to black widow

RS-3 308,309,310,313,314 Last two delivered in switcher black and orange, later got black widow, 308-310 delivered in black widow. 311(second) was equipped with S/G controls and piping, but no S/G, so it could be used in passenger service for power only.  All units set up long hood forward. Lettered StLSW before mid-150s, Cotton Belt after.  SP/T&NO did not have any RS-3s. Renumbered into 2800 series in the 1964 renumbering.

Thanks to for all of the info.

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Posted by Anonymous on Saturday, February 18, 2017 5:47 AM

Steve Goen's excellent book Cotton Belt Color Pictorial published by Four Ways West (out of print) has a nice collection of diesels SSW used in passenger service.  Missing in color is the only GP7 rostered on the entire Southern Pacific Lines, the 304, which was delivered in the famous Daylight scheme!  Goen did take the liberty and included the unit in the book albeit in black and white.  



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Posted by Great Western on Sunday, February 19, 2017 8:46 AM

Given that the original post was in 2008, as were the two following replies, those kind folks and the OP may well have read the Spring 2015 edition of Classic Trains Magazine.  That magazine gave a good article on the SSW on pages 16 - 19 inclusive.  It gives some of the facts published here in the last few days but also has some good photographs and a route map.

Anyone interested in the CT article can still get a back copy of it from Kamach.

Alan, Oliver & North Fork Railroad

If you don't know where you are going, any road will take you there. Lewis Carroll English author & recreational mathematician (1832 - 1898)

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Posted by BLS53 on Friday, March 10, 2017 9:52 PM

Don't remember the passenger trains, but vividly remember the trains on the river line from Thebes to Chester in the 1960's, that they shared with Mopac. The Cotton Belt trains always appeared faster, and had that Mars light going. At night, you could see them for miles along the river bottom, where the track ran parallel to IL Route 3. In daytime, you could see that SP paint scheme. A special treat in an area dominated by the Mopac and IC. 

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Posted by Anonymous on Saturday, March 11, 2017 8:38 AM

Fred Frailey's excellent Kalmbach published book on the Cotton Belt Blue Streak Merchandise freights remains one of the all time great railroad books written in the 20th Century! 

The SSW didn't invest any more $$$ into the passenger business than was absolutely nessesary but it was a no-nonsense railroad when it came to moving customer's goods on extremely tight demanding schedules.  The slogan found painted on the box car fleet lived up to it's name like none other found on any other railroad: Blue Streak/Fast Freight!


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