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]


The Overland Limited's name varied during its long career, and many people referred to it as the Overland regardless of whatever other nouns might be attached. The Union Pacific introduced the Overland Flyer in 1887. It renamed it the Overland Limited in 1896. The Southern Pacific continued to use the old name on its portion of the route until 1899. The Union Pacific officially dropped "Limited" from the name in 1947. Other names used included the San Francisco Overland and San Francisco Overland Limited.[9][10]


The buffet-library car circa 1913

In 1941–42 the train was re-equipped with lightweight streamlined cars built by Pullman-Standard.[11] 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.[12]

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."[13] Lucius Beebe was unimpressed, noting the car, and the coffee-shop car which replaced it, as part of the decline of the train.[14]

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. ^ Welsh 2008, p. 31
  10. ^ Solomon 2000, p. 74
  11. ^ Welsh 2008, p. 85
  12. ^ Maiken 1989, p. 339
  13. ^ "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
  14. ^ Beebe 1963, p. 51