Passenger travel Oklahoma City to Las Vegas in 1963; and other questions

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Passenger travel Oklahoma City to Las Vegas in 1963; and other questions

  • Hi,

    I am a fiction writer with some railroad background.  I am trying to confirm certain things for realism in a story I'm writing.  So I have a few questions.

    1) If one was to travel from Oklahoma City to Las Vegas in late 1963, is this a realistic route: ATSF from OK City to Barstow CA, then UP to Las Vegas?

    2) If the above works, what is the route from OK City to the Santa Fe mainline (to head west)?  Where would the passenger change trains?  Or, would ATSF have had through trains from OK City?

    3) On November 22, 1963, would there have been racial segregation on ATSF and UP trains?  If so, enforced or just de facto?  And what form did that take?

    4) Did Greyhound buses operate between Dallas TX and OK City on the above date?

    5) And, finally (for bonus points!!), on November 22, 1963, would the Greyhound bus station on OK City have had separate White and Colored waiting rooms?  (At that point, when I lived in Gulfport MS on the L&N, I am pretty sure that that station was still segregated.)

    Any help would be much appreciated.  Since I read Classic Trains, I feel pretty sure that someone out there can answer these questions!  Thanks.


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  • Besides the fact that this is the date Kennedy was shot in Dallas, what's the significance of picking it?   Also, what's the significance of the race issue.  You are about the 15th budding author I have read on this forum asking these questions?    Just curious.   

    Santa Fe and UP...Probably not.   

    AB Dean Jacksonville,FL
  • Well, the (totally fictional) story does have something to do with the Kennedy assassination.  The story is not about racial issues; but if, say, I want to set a scene in the "Colored" waiting room, there has to have been one there on that date.  If there was not, then I'll write the scene differently.  But, obviously, this is not the place to discuss the story, which, in any event, is a work in progress in its early stages.  This just seemed like a promising place to look for railroad information as I do my research.  There will definitely be scenes on a passenger train.

    If not ATSF-UP, then how?

  • PS: By the way, I know that Dallas had a Greyhound station then.  Not certain about Oklahoma City.

  • Mainemandean,

    Oklahoma City was on a North-South route of the Santa Fe so it would have been necessary to take a SF train about 175 miles north to Wichita where one could board either the San Francisco Chief or the Grand Canyon to Barstow. A more direct route would be via the Rock Island/Southern Pacific's through train, the Golden State Limited, from OK City to Pomona, CA and then on from Pomona to Las Vegas via the Union Pacific.

    Yes, Greyhound (and I believe Trailways as well) operated Between Dallas and Ok City in 1963.

    In 1955 the ICC outlawed segregation on interstate trains, busses and terminals so the trains would not have been segregated in 1963 nor would the bus stations in either Dallas or OK City.


  • Hi Mark,

    Thanks so much!  That is all very helpful.
    (I am now wondering if, when I was a kid in Gulfport MS, if the situation was like this: maybe the federal laws had changed, but the de facto segregation at the depot remained.  There were definitely two waiting rooms, clearly marked "White" and "Colored."  But maybe that's just because that's the way the building physically was, and nothing actually required L&N to remodel it.  So maybe if someone had asked the agent, he would have said, "you can sit in either one."  Most of my time hanging out at the depot (and there was a lot of it) was as a pre-teen.  Being white, I would never have dared to go into the Colored side, not out of fear, but out of "I do not belong there."  Maybe no one would have cared.  I do not remember any racial tension or unpleasant incidents of any sort at the depot.  I guess it is possible that the Colored side was locked and defunct, but I (think I) have vague memories of people using it.  Some of my fondest memories, still, are of hanging out at that depot.)
    Anyway, my fictional character maybe needs to switch from ATSF to RI/SP.  And that scene outside the Colored waiting room: well, it will be relegated to history too!
    I really appreciate your help!  Much obliged.
  • Dean,

    You are likely right in your recollection of the situation at Gulfport. Black passengers traveling intrastate in Mississippi would be required to use the colored section of the station while those holding interstate tickets, say to Pensacola or New Orleans, had the option of sitting anywhere they liked. At the time most blacks regardless of their destination probably opted to use the colored facilities rather than risk being verbally insulted by white passdengers.


  • If your guy wants to get to Las Vegas in the least possible elapsed time, he would ride the Rock Island west from Oklahoma City to Amarillo and get on Santa Fe's San Francisco Chief there. He'd get off at Kingman AZ and find some way to cover the 102 highway miles to Las Vegas from there. (But he'd be arriving Kingman soon after midnight, so probably no bus available; in 1954 there were three buses a day from Kingman to Las Vegas.)

    If he wants to ride a train all the way to Las Vegas, the connections at Barstow are bad-- the SFe arrives there 45 minutes after the UP train to Las Vegas has left.

    So try catching the Rock Island train around 1100 out of Oklahoma City to Amarillo; a local train-- takes around 8 hours for the 275 miles. Arrive Amarillo in the evening with 2 or 3 hrs to wait for the overnight train to Denver; arrive Denver around 0700 with an hour or so to wait for the UP train direct to Las Vegas, arriving there somewhere around 0500 the next morning.

    If you want details, speak up.

    (The Golden State Limited didn't run thru Oklahoma City; offhand I doubt it will be any use to you.)

  • Thank so much, KCS and Timz.

    Timz, your "If you want details, speak up" cracked me up!

  • Couldn't find a '63 OG, but here's 1960:

    RI 21 mostly heavyweight

     Lv OKC 11AM arr Amarillo 6:40 PM

    2 1/2 block walk to FW & DC station

    Lv Amarillo 9:30PM FW&DC/C&S 2 Texas Zephyr (1936 Denver Zephyr equipment)

    Arr Denver 6:30AM

    Lv Denver 8:30AM UP 9 Domeliner City of St. Louis

    Arr Las Vegas 6:30AM

    Station was in back of Union Plaza Hotel.

  • Timz of course is right. The Golden State Ltd. did not run through OKCity. The trains I should have mentioned were Rock Island's Cherokee from OKCity to Tucumcari, NM which connected there with the Imperial for the run over the SP to Pomona. These two trains carried through coaches and sleepers between Memphis and Los Angeles however I don't know their status in 1963.


  • By 1963 Rock Island service on the line to Tucumcari was down to the Choctaw Rockette, an RDC run from Memphis to Amarillo that occasionally pulled a prewar observation-turned-baggage car, and the unnamed 21 and 22.  The Rockette fizzled out about 1965.

  • I take it that No's. 21 and 22 were what was left of the former named Cherokee. Did these trains still connect at Tumcari with the former Imperial (or what was left of it) that ran between LA and Chicago?


  • I'm not sure when 39/40 (the former Imperial) were discontinued, but every timetable I've seen that had 21/22 had them connecting with 39/40, which by 1960 was down to chair cars.  The Golden State was combined with the Sunset west of El Paso by 1965, and gone in 1968.


  • Turns out no reason to go via El Paso. You'd leave Oklahoma City at 1125 in either case; if you go to Tucumcari and get SP #39 (like he said it's coach only, no sleeper and no diner) you'd change to the UP at Colton and get to Las Vegas at 0650, instead of the 0505 that you arrive there on the City of StL from Denver.