Argonaut (passenger train)

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Train No. 5, the Argonaut, crosses the Rio Grande River near El Paso, Texas on September 24, 1947.
"Drumhead" logos such as these often adorned the ends of observation cars on the Argonaut.

The Argonaut was the Southern Pacific Railroad's secondary transcontinental passenger train, inaugurated in the 1920s, and operated between New Orleans and Los Angeles via Houston, San Antonio, El Paso, Tucson and Palm Springs until its discontinuance in 1961.

While the Sunset Limited was the premier SP train on the "Sunset Route" — and probably on the whole SP system — the Argonaut was always a secondary train, running on a slower timetable than the Sunset Limited. The Argonaut needed fifty hours between New Orleans and Los Angeles, while the Sunset Limited needed only forty-two. Unlike the Sunset Limited, which was made for first-class luxury passenger travel, the Argonaut was always a train for economy travel, carrying mostly standard coaches and few standard sleepers, allowing normal people to enjoy transcontinental rail travel at moderate prices but with full dining and sleeping car service.

Throughout its entire life the train comprised olive green and black heavyweight passenger cars, pulled by steam locomotives like the GS-1 4-8-4 or MT-4 4-8-2, sometimes even a Cab Forward 4-8-8-2. In its last years, the train was pulled by EMD F7 or ALCO PA/PB diesel locomotives.


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