Serving Chicago, Kansas City, Albuquerque, Los Angeles, and intermediate points
Amtrak train numbers: 3 and 4
Predecessor railroad train numbers: Santa Fe 21 and 22
In 1938, the Santa Fe Railway inaugurated the El Capitan as the all-coach counterpart to the all-sleeping car Super Chief. Like its sister train, the El Capitan ran on a fast 39 1/2-hour schedule between Chicago and Los Angeles, with various arcane fare rules that precluded it from being used by local passengers along most of the route.
In the mid-1950s, the El Capitan was upgraded with the addition of double-decker passenger cars, which the Santa Fe called "Hi-Level Cars." Similar cars were being used by a couple of railroads for their commuter trains in the Chicago area, but the idea never really caught on for long distance passenger trains until Amtrak redesigned the Hi-Level Cars in the mid-1970s and came up with the Superliners, which eventually became standard equipment on many of its long distance trains (and even some short distance ones).
Beginning in the late 1950s, the Super Chief and El Capitan began to operate as a combined train at slow times of the year, although the coach and sleeping car sections were kept separate, with passengers not allowed to mingle. That practice was dropped by the time Amtrak came along in 1971, although the combined Super Chief/El Capitan name survived until 1973, when the name of Amtrak's Chicago-Los Angeles train was shortened to just plain Super Chief.
Condensed historical timetables:
READ DOWN READ UP
(1956) (1972) (1972) (1956)
5:45P 6:30P Dp Chicago Ar 1:30P 7:15A
1:15A 2:10A Kansas City 5:50A 11:20P
3:55P 5:15P Albuquerque 1:20P 6:55A
7:15A 9:05A Ar Los Angeles Dp 7:30P 1:30P
The Amtrak Train Names Project