Santa Fe Railway 1950's era
By Bob Clark
of the fifties can easily be described as an era of transition. While most
Santa Fe fans know this era as the one of transition from steam to diesel,
there were many other "transitions" that would come to define the Santa Fe's
future. As the decade opened, the Santa Fe was in excellent fiscal and
physical condition from the massive wartime traffic further continued with
the Korean war. The Santa Fe knew that a postwar economy would require
significant reversion of industrial production to the output of civilian
goods. With record revenues but declining profits, the economics of the mid
20th century (rising wages, inflationary trends and the tax burdens of the
US government) required the Santa Fe to make substantial capital
expenditures for improvements to the property and the adoption of new
technologies to maintain operating efficiency while sustaining a high volume
of traffic. The 1953 theme of the Santa Fe as "America's New Railroad" was
more than an advertising slogan.
Dieselization was a major theme as the forties ended. The irrefutable
economic advantages of the diesel lead the Santa Fe to order 205 units in
1951, 228 in 1952 and another 222 in 1953. Such capital expenditures allowed
the Santa Fe to claim 100% desielization at current traffic levels in 1954.
Increased traffic required the use of many of the 135 steam locomotives
still on the Jan 1, 1955 roster that year and again in 1957, but the end of
revenue steam on the Santa Fe was at hand. Ironically, Santa Fe did major
reshoppings of their steam and then put them in storage.
Other new technologies
marking the decade of the fifties was the use of welded rail.
Santa Fe laid 39 miles of it in 1954
with plans for 103 more in 1955, using electrical flash butt welds for the
first time in the US. The fifties marked further installations of CTC and
Automatic Train Stop. During the fifties we also saw more and more use of
boxcars of the 50' variety. Additional technology marking Santa Fe's future
was the transition from ice to mechanical reefers and experiments with TOFC
loads in 1954 between Chicago and Kansas City. By the end of the decade,
TOFC became one of the bright spots in the Company's freight traffic
Fe was never a railroad to ignore passenger service, and the fifties were no
exception. First class service has always been their hallmark and despite a
shift away from rail travel on many railroads, the Santa Fe recommitted
itself to providing a quality travel experience, especially on it's fleet
of transcontinental streamliners, going so far as adding the San Francisco
Chief in 1954. During this period, they developed a technology that would
make the transition even to the Amtrak era ... the Hi-Level.