Coast Daylight (SP)

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Southern Pacific Railroad #6018, an EMD E8 locomotive, leads train No. 99, the Coast Daylight, through Glendale, California in 1958.
"Drumhead" logos such as these often adorned the ends of observation cars on the Coast Daylight.

The Coast Daylight was a passenger train originally run by the Southern Pacific Railroad (SP) between the cities of Los Angeles and San Francisco, California, via SP's Coast Line. In the eyes of many, the "most beautiful passenger train in the world" featured a stunning red, orange, and black color scheme.[1] The Coast Daylight had its inaugural run on March 1 1937 and was hauled by GS-2 steam locomotives. It was the first one of the Daylight series of the Southern Pacific passenger trains that also included the San Joaquin Daylight, the Shasta Daylight, the Sacramento Daylight, and the Sunset Limited. The Coast Daylight ran behind steam from March 1937 until it was dieselized on January 7 1955. After dieselization, the train continued to run until 1971, when Amtrak took over service and rerouted their Coast Daylight to Oakland. A second train known as the Noon Daylight ran on the same route between 1940 and 1949, with a suspension during World War II. In 1949, the Noon Daylight was replaced by an overnight train known as the Starlight using the same equipment. In 1956, coaches from the Starlight were added to the all-Pullman Lark and the Starlight was discontinued in 1957. Amtrak revived the train name for its Los Angeles to Seattle service known as the Coast Starlight.

Equipment used

A typical 1946 passenger car consist:

  • Baggage Chair Car Combine
  • Articulated Chair Car (Pair)
  • Articulated Chair Car (Pair)
  • Articulated Chair Car (Pair)
  • Articulated Dining Car (Triple Unit)
  • Chair Car
  • Articulated Chair Car (Pair)
  • Articulated Chair Car (Pair)
  • Chair Car
  • Tavern Car
  • Parlor Car
  • Parlor Observation Car

*Note: 20 cars was the maximum consist, if demand was there.

A typical 1970 passenger car consist:

  • Baggage Car
  • Chair Car
  • Chair Car
  • Chair Car
  • Automat Car
  • Chair Car
  • Chair Car

On August 26, 1999: The United States Postal Service issued 33-cent All Aboard! 20th Century American Trains commemorative stamps featuring five celebrated American passenger trains from the 1930s and 1940s. One of the five stamps featured an image of a GS-4 steam locomotive pulling the red-and-orange train along California's Pacific Coast.

Locomotives used on the Coast Daylight

There are only two surviving locomotives that were used on the Coast Daylight. They are Southern Pacific 4449, a GS-4 steam locomotive which also served as the Bicentennial American Freedom Train engine from 1975 to 1976, and Southern Pacific 6051, an EMD E9 diesel locomotive.

Steam Locomotives

Class Wheel arrangement
(Whyte notation)
Locomotive Numbers Years of Daylight Service Retired Current Disposition
GS-2 4-8-4 4410-4415 1937-1941 1956 No survivors
GS-3 4-8-4 4416-4429 1938-1942 1957 No survivors
GS-4 4-8-4 4430-4457 1941-1955 1958 One survives; 4449
GS-5 4-8-4 4458 & 4459 1942-1955 1958 No survivors

Diesel Locomotives

Builder Model Locomotive Numbers Years of Daylight Service Retired Current Disposition
ALCO PA 6005-6016, 6019-6045, 6055-6068 (A units);

5910-5915, 5918-5924 (B units)

1953-1971 1971 No survivors
EMD E7 6000-6004, 6017 (A units);

5900-5909, 5916 & 5917 (B units)

1953-1968 1968 No survivors
EMD E8 6018 1954-1968 1968 No survivors
EMD E9 6046–6054 1954-1971 1971 One survives; 6051
EMD FP7 6446-6462 1953-1971; All but 6462 sold to Amtrak in 1971. Early 1980s (with Amtrak) No survivors
EMD SDP45 3200-3209 1967-1971; leased by Amtrak until 1976. Early 1990s No survivors


  1. DeNevi, p. 46


  • DeNevi, Don (1996). America's Fighting Railroads: A World War II Pictorial History. Pictorial Histories Publishing Company, Inc., Missoula, MT. ISBN 1-57510-001-0. 

See also

External links