Lone Star (Amtrak train)

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Lone Star
A southbound Lone Star southwest of Guthrie, Oklahoma, in 1974.
Service typeInter-city rail
PredecessorTexas Chief
First serviceMay 19, 1974
Last serviceOctober 8, 1979
Former operator(s)Amtrak
TerminiChicago, Illinois
Houston, Texas
Dallas, Texas
Distance travelled1,368 mi (2,201.58 km)
Service frequencyDaily
Train number(s)15,16
Track gauge1,435 mm (4 ft 8+12 in)
Track owner(s)ATSF Railway

The Lone Star was an Amtrak passenger train that ran between Chicago and Houston, or Dallas via Kansas City, Wichita, Oklahoma City, and Fort Worth. The train was renamed from the Texas Chief, which the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway had introduced in 1948. Amtrak discontinued the Lone Star in 1979.


The Dallas section in July 1977

The Santa Fe introduced the Texas Chief on April 3, 1948, between Chicago and Galveston, Texas via Kansas City, Wichita, Oklahoma City, Fort Worth, and Houston.[1] It was truncated to Houston in early 1967.

From 1955 until 1968, a section would cut off at Gainesville, Texas to serve Denton, Texas and Dallas.

Santa Fe conveyed the Texas Chief to Amtrak at the latter's inception in 1971. Amtrak changed the train's name from Texas Chief to Lone Star on May 19, 1974, after the Santa Fe determined that Amtrak's trains no longer met its service standards and demanded that Amtrak stop using the "Chief" name.[2]

The train was popular with students of the many colleges and universities along its route, such as the University of Kansas, University of Missouri-Kansas City, Wichita State University and the University of Oklahoma. It provided economical transportation to and from school. In the fiscal year 1976, the train carried 274,448 passengers.[3][page needed]

Amtrak considered, but rejected, a Dallas through routing because of concerns over the Dallas station, choosing to instead add a Fort Worth–Dallas section on July 1, 1975. The Dallas through cars were temporarily discontinued between October 1976 and February 15, 1977, during which time the Lone Star was combined with the Chicago–Los Angeles Southwest Limited (itself the successor of another Santa Fe mainstay, the Super Chief) between Chicago and Kansas City.[4]

Due to cuts by Congress as part of the Amtrak Reorganization Act of 1979 – pressed by the US Department of Transportation under the Carter administration – the Lone Star was discontinued on October 8, 1979,[5] leaving Oklahoma without passenger train service until 1999. Chicago–Houston service was retained by adding a Houston section to the Chicago–Laredo Inter-American, which split at Temple. At the time of its discontinuance, the Lone Star was Amtrak's seventh most popular long-distance train.[6][page needed] The Houston section remained until 1981, when the Inter-American itself was cut back to San Antonio and renamed the Eagle.

Current service along former route[edit]

Guthrie station in February 2017

Of the original Texas Chief/Lone Star route, only the Newton, Kansas–Wichita-Oklahoma City and Temple–Houston-Galveston segments remain without passenger train service. Chicago–Newton is served by Amtrak's Southwest Chief (itself the successor of another Santa Fe mainstay, the Super Chief), while Oklahoma City–Fort Worth is served by Amtrak's Heartland Flyer. While the Newton–Wichita–Oklahoma City portion does not have passenger train service, it has been served by Amtrak Thruway since April 2016 and a revival of Amtrak service is proposed.[7][8] In June 2021, Amtrak released a plan that would add two more round trips between Oklahoma City and Fort Worth while extending the original round trip to Newton.[9]

Chicago–Dallas service is provided by Amtrak's Texas Eagle via a different route than the Lone Star.

Potential restoration[edit]

In June 2021, Senator Jon Tester (D-Montana) added an amendment to the Surface Transportation Investment Act of 2021 which requires the Department of Transportation (not Amtrak itself) to evaluate the restoration of discontinued long-distance routes, such as the Lone Star.[10][11] The bill passed the Senate Commerce Committee with bipartisan support,[12][13] and was later rolled into President Biden's Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, which was passed into law in November 2021.[14] The report must be delivered to Congress within two years.[15] The law also provides $2.4 billion in new funds to Amtrak's long-distance route network.[16]

On October 28, 2022, the Amtrak Daily Long-Distance Service Study was announced by the Federal Railroad Administration. Its purpose is to evaluate the restoration and addition of discontinued and new long-distance passenger services, as well as the upgrading of tri-weekly long-distance services (the Sunset Limited and the Cardinal) to daily operation. The criteria for either restoring or creating new long-distance routes are that they connect large and small communities as part of a "regional rail network", provide economic and social well-being for rural areas, provide "enhanced connectivity" for the existing long-distance passenger trains, and reflect the support and engagement of the locals and region for restored long-distance passenger service.[17] These criteria include the Lone Star, among other trains. The study will take place through 2023, and will engage with stakeholders, the rail companies, and communities as it "evaluates how to better connect people with long-distance rail services".[18]

In June 2023, Oklahoma and Kansas state officials began seeking federal approval and funding to extend the Heartland Flyer from Oklahoma City to Newton.[19] In November 2023, KDOT said the service would start in 2029 if approved, but could begin sooner were the project to be fast tracked.[20]


During 1976–1977 when the Lone Star combined with the Southwest Chief between Chicago and Kansas City, the Lone Star consisted of two baggage cars, two Hi-Level coaches, a dormitory bar-lounge, an ex-Santa Fe dining car, two 10-roomette/6-bedroom Pine-series sleeping cars, and a 48-seat single-level coach. One baggage car, one sleeping car, and the single-level coach operated through to Dallas.[21]


  1. ^ Bryant 1974, p. 350
  2. ^ Sanders 2006, p. 109
  3. ^ Sanders, Craig (May 11, 2006). Amtrak in the Heartland. Indiana University Press. ISBN 9780253027931.
  4. ^ Goldberg 1981, pp. 60–61
  5. ^ "Last Minute Court Decision Rules to Keep Amtrak Trains Running". Lakeland Ledger. Associated Press. October 6, 1979 – via Google News.
  6. ^ "Passenger Train Journal". Passenger Train Journal. November 1979.
  7. ^ Lefler, Dion (April 18, 2016). "Amtrak restores service to Wichita with shuttle to Newton and OKC stations". The Wichita Eagle.
  8. ^ "Wichita Returns to the Amtrak Map". Amtrak. April 18, 2016.
  9. ^ "Heartland Flyer Extension". storymaps.arcgis.com. Amtrak Connect Us. September 17, 2021. Retrieved September 25, 2021.
  10. ^ Kidston, Martin (June 23, 2021). "Montana's passenger rail authority poised for boost from Tester transportation amendment". Missoula Current. Retrieved July 27, 2021.
  11. ^ Kidston, Martin (February 21, 2022). "Pending federal passenger rail study likely to include southern Montana route". Missoula Current. Retrieved May 11, 2022.
  12. ^ "Key Policy Victories in Senate Rail Title". www.railpassengers.org. Rail Passengers Association. June 16, 2021. Retrieved July 27, 2021.
  13. ^ Luczak, Marybeth (June 17, 2021). "Senate Commerce Committee's Bipartisan $78B Surface Transportation Bill Advances". Railway Age. Retrieved July 27, 2021.
  14. ^ "What's in the Investment in Infrastructure and Jobs Act (IIJA)?". www.railpassengers.org. Rail Passengers Association. November 8, 2021. Retrieved November 11, 2021.
  15. ^ "Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act" (PDF). pp. 285–256. Retrieved November 11, 2021.
  16. ^ Kidston, Martin (November 10, 2021). "Infrastructure bill boosts regional effort to restore passenger rail to southern MT". KTVH. Retrieved November 16, 2021.
  17. ^ "Amtrak Daily Long-Distance Service Study". fralongdistancerailstudy.org. Retrieved November 1, 2022.
  18. ^ "FRA launches passenger long-distance study site". Trains.com. Retrieved November 1, 2022.
  19. ^ "Tulsa not included in proposed OKC-to-Kansas passenger rail expansion". Carmen Forman, Tulsa World, June 12, 2023. Retrieved June 12, 2023.
  20. ^ "KDOT gives update on potential Amtrak expansion into Wichita". www.kake.com. Retrieved November 16, 2023.
  21. ^ Wayner 1977, p. 2

External links[edit]