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
Posted by mainemandean on Friday, November 23, 2012 3:25 PM

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.

Dean

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Posted by FlyingCrow on Friday, November 23, 2012 8:32 PM

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
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Posted by mainemandean on Friday, November 23, 2012 9:12 PM

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?

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Posted by mainemandean on Friday, November 23, 2012 9:17 PM

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

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Posted by KCSfan on Saturday, November 24, 2012 7:32 AM

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.

Mark

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Posted by mainemandean on Saturday, November 24, 2012 8:02 AM

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
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Posted by KCSfan on Saturday, November 24, 2012 10:00 AM

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.

Mark  

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Posted by timz on Saturday, November 24, 2012 5:05 PM

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.)

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Posted by mainemandean on Saturday, November 24, 2012 5:49 PM

Thank so much, KCS and Timz.

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

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Posted by rcdrye on Sunday, November 25, 2012 5:34 PM

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.

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Posted by KCSfan on Monday, November 26, 2012 5:55 AM

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.

Mark 

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Posted by rcdrye on Monday, November 26, 2012 6:13 AM

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.

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Posted by KCSfan on Monday, November 26, 2012 10:33 AM

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?

Mark 

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Posted by rcdrye on Monday, November 26, 2012 11:21 AM

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.

 

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Posted by timz on Monday, November 26, 2012 5:50 PM

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.

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Posted by FlyingCrow on Monday, November 26, 2012 7:47 PM

Oh, jeez....#39.   Wow.....better have plenty of time and patience!!!!   And "coach"....that's a loose term.   Well, it was still running in 1966.    I took #3 from Kansas City to PHX to go to college, but my "trunk", which was shipped REA, arrived behind me on #39 two days later.    I'd still take this over Amtrak...any day.

That's my story and I'm sticking to it!   Wink

AB Dean Jacksonville,FL
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Posted by aricat on Tuesday, November 27, 2012 7:31 AM

I concur that the only way to get from Oklahoma City to Las Vegas would be to use Rock Island train 21 from OKC to Tucumcari NM where you would change trains to SP train 39. You would have a three hour wait in Colton California at night and would have to change stations to catch the UP to Las Vegas.The Rock Island did offer the option of offering box lunches at El Reno and Amarillo.On SP you would live on junk food.All three trains were rider coach only operations.Dean, have you considered that your character could fly? TWA served both OKC and Las Vegas.

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Posted by mainemandean on Tuesday, November 27, 2012 8:49 AM

Hello all.  I really very much appreciate all of the help.  I have enjoyed watching the discussion unfold.

But, I think that, after considering the options, and what I need for my story, I am going to go with ATSF to Wichita, then the SF Chief to Needles CA, then bus.

Since so many of you worked hard on this I feel like you deserve some explanation.  My character is someone who realizes early on that Friday morning (11/22/63) that she needs to leave town, ASAP.  She's a hooker, and she's probably not the brightest bulb in the pack.  But she figures buses run more frequently that trains, so gets a cab to Greyhound, and the first thing going is to OKC, so that's where she winds up.  After taking care of some errands, mainly related to changing her appearance, she tells a cabbie she wants to get a train out of town, and the cabbie drops her at the Santa Fe station.  When she says she wants to go to Las Vegas, the clerk, who is a gruff, unfriendly type, simply books her ATSF all the way to Needles, and tells her she'll have to bus it from there.  He's a company man.

Now, I'd rather have it be Kingman AR (probably more buses from there?), but my 1959 OG appears to indicate that the Chief does not stop there.  (I don't get this.)  So for now I am thinking Needles.  The option to continue to the UP @ Barstow makes no sense.

My OG shows that my character can leave on a northbound from OKC to Wichita at around 6:00pm, arr in Wichita @ 9:15, then catch a westbound Chief at around 3:00 am Sat.  Arr Needles about 24 hours later, if I remember correctly.

This works best for my story because I need her to be stuck for a while in Oklahoma City, where she will see some of the JFK assassination coverage on TV (in a television store).  I need certain things to happen back in Dallas, and for her to have knowledge of them by seeing them on TV, before she boards the train.

That's my story and I'm sticking to it, unless you guys tell me that there is some reason my scenario is flat-out impossible.  Remember, the story only has to be plausible, not likely.  And trust me, there will be a fair amount of stuff that won't jive with the Warren Commission report!  It's a fictional tale.  It implies a conspiracy, but the story is not really about the conspiracy or the assassination.  It's about my character, the young hooker.

If the story gets published, I'll come back on this forum and let you folks know where.

Again, I am very grateful for the help.

Dean

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Posted by timz on Tuesday, November 27, 2012 2:45 PM

mainemandean
I'd rather have it be Kingman AR (probably more buses from there?), but my 1959 OG appears to indicate that the Chief does not stop there.

Maybe the Chief didn't, but the SF Chief stopped at Kingman in summer 1963. You could leave Oklahoma City around 2300 and get the SF Chief at Amarillo.

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Posted by mainemandean on Tuesday, November 27, 2012 4:11 PM

Obviously, above, I meant Kingman AZ (not AR).  I also meant SF Chief, not just Chief.  For whatever reason, my June 1959 OG shows stops @ Williams AZ, Ash Fork AZ, Seligman AZ, then Needles CA.  No Kingman stop.  ??

(Another thing that surprised me is that from Wellington KS to Amarillo, the SF Chief went 6 hours without any stops.  But then I looked at Google maps, and it would appear that mostly tumbleweeds live along that stretch.)

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Posted by timz on Tuesday, November 27, 2012 5:12 PM

The spring-summer 1963 SFe timetable shows the westward SF Chief stopping at Kingman for passengers from east of Clovis. Don't have the fall-winter public timetable-- might have the employee timetable, tho, which would confirm it still stopped there in November.

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Posted by mainemandean on Tuesday, November 27, 2012 5:20 PM

Then I'm going to have her get off at Kingman.  Thanks.

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Posted by FlyingCrow on Tuesday, November 27, 2012 8:01 PM

Hmmm....interesting story.   Best wishes.   Yes, she could take the San Francisco Chief and detrain at Kingman.     This would make a bus connection to Las Vegas more palatable.   

Have fun writing !!    

AB Dean Jacksonville,FL
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Posted by mainemandean on Wednesday, November 28, 2012 9:10 AM

Hey guys.  Another question.

My character is on the train.  It's now dark outside.  I envision that as it darkened, the coach was lit inside by relatively bright overhead lights.  But now it is at the point, after dinner time, when I am thinking the train crew would dim the lights so that people could either sleep or see better out the windows.  Is that realistic?  Would it be like on a modern airplane, where they kill most of the overheads, but individuals would have had reading lights above their seats?  This is on the OKC-Wichita (Galveston-Chicago) train, which I am guessing had fairly standard equipment, nothing extraordinary.  Would a trainman come through the train and change the lighting coach-by-coach?  If so, how would he do that?  Would he flip a switch (maybe near the restrooms?) in view of the passengers, or is this something he'd do in the vestibule.

In other words, would the scenario be?

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Posted by rcdrye on Wednesday, November 28, 2012 10:16 AM

Electrical panels for both Pullman- and Budd-buit coaches were in the corridor just inside from the vestibules, usually behind the "lounge" and invisible to the passengers. Most train crews would dim the overhead lights sometime in the evening.  Depending on the cars, there were usually low-wattage bulbs on the ends of the seats to light the aisle.

The SF Chief carried a full-length dome in 1963.

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Posted by mainemandean on Wednesday, November 28, 2012 10:36 AM

Thanks.  Great info.

My character just holds a coach ticket.  When she gets on the SF Chief, will she be allowed to go up into the dome?  And are people allowed to just camp out up there, or does the crew keep passengers circulating so everyone gets a chance?

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Posted by rcdrye on Wednesday, November 28, 2012 2:30 PM

Equipment listing includes:

Chair cars... Chicago to Oakland

     Houston to Oakland (On No. 66-75 to Clovis)

Lunch Counter Diner... Chicago to Oakland Serving popular priced meals (Fred Harvey Service)

Big Dome Lounge Car... Chicago to Oakland

Dining Car... Chicago to Oakland (Fred Harvey Service)

Sleeping Cars...

The Big Dome Lounge was supposed to be available to coach passengers.  On the other hand, coach passengers were more or less expected to use the Lunch Counter Diner.  The Big Domes assigned to the SF Chief had 57 coach seats and 18 lounge seats in the raised area under the dome, with a small bar-lounge and a crew dorm for the dining car crew under the raised dome area's floor.

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