Overland Limited (UP train)

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UP Overland Limited.jpg
  • Overland Limited
  • Overland Flyer
Overland Limited.jpg
The Overland Limited leaving 16th Street Station, Oakland, in 1906
First service November 13, 1887 (1887-11-13)
Last service 1963 (1963)
Former operator(s)

The Overland Limited, known as the Overland Flyer from 1887–96, and often shortened to Overland, was a Union Pacific Railroad passenger train on the Overland Route between Chicago and the San Francisco Bay Area. It ran from 1887 until 1963. The Southern Pacific Railroad handled the train west of Ogden, Utah. East of Omaha, Nebraska, both the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific Railroad (the "Milwaukee Road") and the Chicago and North Western Railway ran the train at different points during its existence.


The Union Pacific introduced the Overland Flyer on the Overland Route on November 13, 1887. It operated on a daily schedule between Chicago and San Francisco via Council Bluffs, Iowa (the eastern terminus of the Union Pacific). Between Chicago and Council Bluffs it used the Chicago and North Western. At Ogden, Utah, it switched to the Central Pacific Railroad (leased by the Southern Pacific).[1] The Overland Flyer was one of the first named passenger trains in the United States; hitherto the practice was uncommon. The name itself had its roots in the West: Bret Harte, chronicler of the California Gold Rush, had founded a monthly literary magazine named the Overland Monthly in 1868. Previously various stagecoach companies had incorporated "Overland" into their names.[2] The Overland was the subject of an early train documentary film short in 1901.[3]

Between 1905–1907 the Overland used the Milwaukee Road between Chicago and Council Bluffs. Lucius Beebe contends that the Union Pacific always intended this as a temporary measure to coerce better performance from the Chicago and North Western, and in fact a section of the Overland continued to use the C&NW during the period.[4]

The introduction of the streamlined City of San Francisco in 1936 relegated the Overland to secondary status on the Overland Route.[5] By January 1955 the train was a shell of its former self, carrying only two Chicago–Oakland through cars. The train was then called the San Francisco Overland in SP territory, the Overland on the UP, and unnamed on the C&NW. Daily operation ended on July 16, 1962, with the City of San Francisco handling what through traffic remained.[6][7] The San Francisco Overland remained as a seasonal SP train between Oakland and Ogden through 1963. The SP declined to revive the train in 1964 amid some controversy.[8]


SPs San Francisco Overland Limited schedule (1945)

The Overland Limited 's formal name varied during its long career although it was generally referred to colloquially as the Overland regardless of whatever other nouns might be attached.[9] The Union Pacific introduced the Overland Flyer on November 13,1887 and renamed it the Overland Limited on November 17, 1895. [10][11] On October 15, 1899 the SP inaugurated its own Overland Limited (TR1&2) joining of its long standing Atlantic Express (eastbound) (TR4) and Pacific Express (westbound) (TR3) San Francisco/Oakland to Ogden trains to connect with the UP's Ogden to Omaha/Council Bluffs Overland Limited train. Known variously by that name, S.F. Overland Limited, and San Francisco Overland Limited for the next 32 years, on May 31, 1931 the service again became the San Francisco Overland Limited and its train numbers changed from "1 and 2" to "27 and 28". On July 10, 1947 the designation "Limited" was dropped from the name. The designation San Francisco Overland was retained by the SP from San Francisco/Oakland to Ogden until that last vestige of the original 1899 SP service ended as a year-round train on July 16, 1962 when the ICC approved its discontinuation and consolidation with the City of San Francisco although continued to operate seasonal service on trains 27 and 28 until the summer of 1963.[12][13][14][15]


The buffet-library car circa 1913

In 1941–42 the train was re-equipped with lightweight streamlined cars built by Pullman-Standard.[16] In March 1952, toward the end of its existence as an independent through train, the San Francisco Overland carried Chicago–San Francisco sleepers, a New York–San Francisco sleeper conveyed on alternating days by the New York Central Railroad's Wolverine and the Pennsylvania Railroad's Pennsylvania Limited, and a summer-only sleeper for Yellowstone Park conveyed to the Idahoan at Green River, Wyoming.[17]

The Southern Pacific introduced a "Hamburger Grill" car between Oakland and Ogden on October 24, 1954. The SP was bullish, saying the burgers were among "the finest meat products of Southern Pacific territory."[18] Lucius Beebe was unimpressed, noting the car, and the coffee-shop car which replaced it, as part of the decline of the train.[19]

Route diagram[edit]

Route diagram with connections of the San Francisco Overland Limited (1943)

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Beebe 1963, p. 28
  2. ^ Beebe 1963, p. 27
  3. ^ IMDB has "1901" and another short 1901, however cf. John Huntley Railways in the cinema 1969 p.89 "THE SHORT FILM In addition to films like "Darlington Centenary" and "Night Mail" (see pages 47 and 52) the railways of the world have inspired countless documentary, instructional, factual, poetic, compilation and amateur films. ...Union Pacific Overland Limited (Edison, 1902)"
  4. ^ Beebe 1963, p. 31
  5. ^ Beebe 1963, p. 50
  6. ^ Beebe 1963, p. 51
  7. ^ Beebe, Lucius Morris (March 8, 1964). "Highball On Overland Limited Is Memory". The Fresno Bee. p. 19. Retrieved August 30, 2014 – via Newspapers.com.  open access publication - free to read
  8. ^ "Railroad Dispute". Daily Independent Journal. July 22, 1964. p. 2. Retrieved August 30, 2014 – via Newspapers.com.  open access publication - free to read
  9. ^ Solomon 2000, p. 74
  10. ^ Beebe 1963 p. 13
  11. ^ THE OFFICIAL GUIDE of the RAILWAY and STEAM NAVIGATION LINES of the UNITED STATES and CANADA New York: National Railway Publication Co. 21st year, No. 8. January, 1889. p. 355
  12. ^ Signor 1985 p. 276
  13. ^ Beebe 1963 p. 51
  14. ^ Welsh 2008, p. 31
  15. ^ THE OFFICIAL GUIDE of RAILWAYS of the UNITED STATES, October, 1962, 95th year, No. 5, p. 654
  16. ^ Welsh 2008, p. 85
  17. ^ Maiken 1989, p. 339
  18. ^ "S.P. Glorifying Hamburger With New-Style Car". Nevada State Journal. October 24, 1954. p. 9. Retrieved August 30, 2014 – via Newspapers.com.  open access publication - free to read
  19. ^ Beebe 1963, p. 51