Riding the Rails
Kansas City Southern’s Southern Belle
This 1941 postcard was issued by Kansas City Southern to promote
their Streamliner route from Kansas City to New Orleans.
Kansas City Southern via Wikimedia Commons (public domain)
When I was in the first grade, our class took an end-of-the-year trip to New Orleans. We rode the Kansas City Southern’s Southern Belle, a Streamliner train of American Car & Foundry cars pulled by an Electromotive Division E-series locomotive. I knew very little about trains at that point, but I quickly learned that I loved them! To this day, I remember that trip and points along the way that caught my attention.
Our parents took us to the Kansas City Southern depot on South 14th Street, just north of Government Street. I’ve tried to find a picture of the old depot, but it has been gone for so long that pictures don’t seem to be available. So sad. In any case, the train pulled into the station, we boarded, and the train set off towards New Orleans. I remember being somewhat taken aback by the train’s color scheme: black with a yellow and a red stripe running along the side. I don’t remember what the interior looked like.
I remember knowing where we were as the train crossed College Drive, just before it crossed Perkins Road. That wasn’t far from where we lived at the time, and we crossed the tracks often as we came and went. I still remember riding through Gonzales and, possibly, Sorrento, although I knew them only from the vantage point of Airline Highway at that point. I do not remember passing through the swampland or along side Lakes Maurepas and Pontchartrain. I don’t really remember arriving at the New Orleans train station, although when I saw the murals on the waiting room walls, they looked vaguely familiar, as though I had seen them long ago.
I do remember what we did in New Orleans. We went to Audubon Park. We had a picnic under the live oak trees. Then, we toured the zoo and saw all the animals, and then, we rode the park train. I remember that I liked the park train, because the locomotive looked just like the one on the Illinois Central’s City of New Orleans, which we took to visit my grandparents. In actual fact, its design replicated the Electromotive Division E- and F-series locomotives, while its livery replicated the Atchison Topeka & Santa Fe’s locomotive warbonnet livery.
Audubon Park Train
Audubon Park Commission Series
New Orleans Municipal Government Photograph Collection
The Kansas City Southern ceased passenger operations in 1969, when nearly all privatized passenger rail service was ending in the United States. Amtrak did not initiate service to replace the Southern Belle, although in 2008, the Kansas City Southern did purchase Pullman cars and Electromotive Division E- and F-series locomotives and put together an executive train to run for special events and holiday trains. The local newspaper published a picture of that train coming across the old Mississippi River Bridge as it arrived in Baton Rouge. It’s classic!
Sadly, the Kansas City Southern soon will be no more, for the Canadian Pacific Railway wants to merge with it to form a new freight rail company, the Canadian Pacific Kansas City (CPKC). It’s subject to approval by the Surface Transportation Board, but many people think it will be approved.
As the song says, “All good things must end one day. Autumn leaves must fall.”*
* Chad and Jeremy. A Summer Song.