U.S., Broadway Limited And Twentieth Century Limited’s Great Rivalry History: Speed, Luxury And Superb Pullman Service

By J. Bruce Richardson, Corridor Rail Development Corporation; May 24, 2021

In the pre-Amtrak era – even in the dreary 1960s as things were dramatically unwinding – there were always great corporate rivalries that began first earlier in the century between heavyweight luxury trains and then post-war streamliners.

In the west, ferrying the greats of Hollywood to the east, the Union Pacific Railroad’s City of Los Angeles easily rivaled Santa Fe Railway’s The Super Chief and The Chief. It was the City’s UP dome diner versus The Super Chief’s Turquoise Room exclusive dining. To a lesser extent, the Southern Pacific Railroad’s Golden State provided a third choice for travel between Los Angeles and Chicago in Pullman safety and comfort.

To the north, Northern Pacific’s Vista Dome North Coast Limited competed with Great Northern’s great dome Empire Builder between Chicago and Seattle/Portland.

On the east coast, Atlantic Coast Line’s heavyweight Florida Special rivaled Seaboard Air Line’s Orange Blossom Special for winter season service. When the streamliner era debuted, the rivalry switched to the Coast Line’s East Coast Champion and the Seaboard’s Silver Meteor between New York Pennsylvania Station and Miami.

Perhaps the most heralded rivalry of all was between the New York Central’s Twentieth Century Limited and Pennsylvania Railroad’s Broadway Limited. Both all-Pullman, streamlined luxury trains and the creations of celebrated industrial designers Raymond Loewy for the Broadway and Henry Dreyfuss for the Twentieth Century, the two trains were locked in bitter combat for decades.

All of these were rivals for speed, comfort and corporate prestige. For much of the existence of these trains it wasn’t unusual for wire service and newspaper photographers to be at train stations to capture publicity photos of entraining or detraining celebrities.

Here’s the fun part: Whether it was the City of Los Angeles competing with The Super Chief or the North Coast Limited competing with the Empire Builder, the Champion competing with the Silver Meteor or the Broadway competing with the Twentieth Century, every one of the sleeping cars was operated by and staffed with Pullman Company onboard services attendants and conductors.

Even though many of the trains had specialty equipment, such as twin-unit dining cars or specially designed lounge cars or individually-designed dome cars, a Pullman sleeping car was a Pullman sleeping car. Bedrooms, compartments, drawing rooms and roomettes were all the same perhaps with only differences in interior paint colors and seat upholstery. A fluffy Pullman feather pillow was the same one of three pillows on each and every bed. Winter season Pullman pool sleeping cars in the east often found their way – with a fresh coat of exterior paint – to the western transcontinental trains in the summer months.

The July 1956 edition of The Official Guide of the Railways reveals the stunning consists of the Broadway Limited and Twentieth Century Limited:

Pennsylvania Railroad
Broadway Limited, Trains 28 and 29, Daily

No Coaches or Checked Baggage

Note: The Broadway Limited was a true “Limited” train. South of Pennsylvania Station in New York City the train was “receive only” for all stations through Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. At Pittsburgh, passengers could both entrain and detrain. West of Pittsburgh the train made only three detrain-only stops until the terminal in Chicago.

Lounge Car

New York to Chicago, 2 Double Bedrooms, Bar

Sleeping Cars

New York to Los Angeles, 4 Compartments, 2 Drawing Rooms, 4 Double Bedrooms (To Santa Fe No. 17 [The Super Chief], Extra Fare west of Chicago.)

New York to Chicago, 21 Roomettes

New York to Chicago, 21 Roomettes

New York to Chicago, 10 Roomettes, 6 Double Bedrooms

New York to Chicago, 10 Roomettes, 6 Double Bedrooms

New York to Chicago, 10 Roomettes, 6 Double Bedrooms

New York to Chicago, 4 Compartments, 2 Drawing Rooms, 4 Double Bedrooms

New York to Chicago, 4 Compartments, 2 Drawing Rooms, 4 Double Bedrooms

New York to Chicago, 12 Duplex Rooms, 4 Double Bedrooms

New York to Chicago, 12 Duplex Rooms, 4 Double Bedrooms

Observation Car

New York to Chicago, 2 Master Rooms, Double Bedroom, Bar Lounge

Dining Car

New York to Chicago

New York Central System
The Water Level Route – You Can Sleep

Twentieth Century Limited, Trains 25 and 26, Daily Except Saturday
Will not run July 1, 2, 3, 4 or September 2.

Special service features and charges.

Note: The Twentieth Century Limited was even more of a “Limited” train than the Broadway Limited. The Twentieth Century had one station stop at Harmon, New York outside of New York City’s Grand Central Terminal and then did not detrain or entrain passengers again until Englewood, just outside of Chicago. The train stopped more often to change train and engine crews than it did for passengers.

Observation Lounge Sleeping Car

New York to Chicago, 5 Double Bedrooms, Beverages

Club Lounge Car (Beverages)

New York to Chicago

Sleeping Cars

New York to Los Angeles, 4 Compartments, 4 Double Bedrooms, 2 Drawing Rooms (in Santa Fe No. 17 [The Super Chief] from Chicago.)

New York to Los Angeles, 10 Roomettes, 6 Double Bedrooms, (in Santa Fe No. 17 [The Super Chief] from Chicago.)

New York to Chicago, 4 Compartments, 4 Double Bedrooms, 2 Drawing Rooms

New York to Chicago, 12 Double Bedrooms

New York to Chicago, 12 Double Bedrooms

New York to Chicago, 12 Double Bedrooms

New York to Chicago, 12 Double Bedrooms

New York to Chicago, 10 Roomettes, 6 Double Bedrooms

New York to Chicago, 10 Roomettes, 6 Double Bedrooms

Dining Service

Pullman Cars only; no coach passengers carried.

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