U.S., Amtrak Southwest Chief Route History: From The Super Chief to the Southwest Chief Eclectic Breakfast Menus

By J. Bruce Richardson, Corridor Rail Development Corporation; December 30, 2020

It wasn’t just any train, it was The Super Chief. “The Train of the Stars,” proudly carrying Hollywood royalty. The Super Chief was the first diesel-powered train in America that had an all-Pullman sleeping car consist, including dome cars and the famous Turquoise Room, the only private dining room on regularly scheduled passenger train service in North America. Its competitors put up a good fight, such as Union Pacific’s City of Los Angeles, and Southern Pacific’s Golden State. Try as they might, they never overcame the fast schedule, glamour, and excitement of The Super Chief between Chicago and Los Angeles.

The Santa Fe Railway – it should be noted the whole name was the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway – knew the value of the name and reputation of The Super Chief, and, when the Santa Fe decided to sign a contract to join Amtrak it successfully wrote into the contract if Amtrak was unable to maintain the high standards of Santa Fe’s Super Chief, Amtrak would be forced to relinquish use of the name. Thus, even though the route is the same, Amtrak since 1974 has operated the Southwest Chief, not The Super Chief.

The first days of operation of The Super Chief in May of 1936 (once-a-week roundtrip service) offered a dining car breakfast menu appropriate for a train destined to live in glory:


Fruits and Preserves

• Orange, one, 15¢
• Sliced Orange, 20¢
• Apple, one, 10¢
• Orange Marmalade, 25¢
• Apricot Jam, 25¢
• Preserved Figs, 30¢, with Cream, 35¢
• Preserved Strawberries, 25¢


• Shredded Wheat Biscuits with Milk, 20¢, with Cream, 30¢
• Rolled Oats with Milk, 20¢, with Cream, 30¢

Steaks, Chops, Etc.

• Small Sirloin a la Minute, $1.25
• Sirloin for one, $1.60
• Sirloin for two, $2.75
• Lamb Chop (1), 45¢
• Lamb Chop, Extra Thick (1) (to order – 20 minutes), 80¢
• Broiled Chicken, half, 85¢
• Fried Chicken, half, 85¢
• Calf’s Liver and Bacon, 70¢
• Veal Cutlet, Plain or Breaded, 65¢


• French Fried, 20¢
• Hashed Browned or Lyonnaise, 20¢
• Au Gratin, 25¢

Bacon, Ham, Etc.

• Bacon, 65¢, half portion, 40¢
• Bacon and Eggs, 70¢
• Ham, 70¢, half portion, 40¢
• Ham and Eggs, 70¢


• Boiled or Fried Eggs, 30¢
• Scrambled Eggs, 30¢
• Shirred Eggs, 30¢
• Poached Eggs on Toast, 45¢
• Plain Omelette (3 Eggs), 50¢
• Spanish or Mushroom Omelette, 65¢

Bread, Etc.

• Hot Rolls, 10¢
• Corn Muffins, 10¢
• Raisin or Whole Wheat Bread Toast, 15¢
• Dry or Buttered Toast, 15¢
• Melba Toast, 15¢
• Milk Toast, 30¢
• Wheat Cakes with Maple Syrup, 30¢

Coffee, Tea, Etc.

• Coffee, per pot, 25¢
• Kaffee Hag Coffee, per pot, 25¢
• Cocoa or Chocolate, Whipped Cream, per pot, 20¢
• Tea – Ceylon, Young Hyson, English Breakfast, Orange-Pekoe, per pot, 20¢
• Milk, per bottle, 15¢
• Malted Milk, 20¢
• Postum, per pot, 15¢

Note at the bottom of the menu: “An extra charge of twenty-five cents each will be made for all meals served outside of Dining Car.”

After 1948, The Super Chief began daily operations. Its 1964 A la Carte breakfast menu choices maintained The Super Chief’s eclectic dining car reputation:

Famous Super Chief Breakfast Entrees

• Kippered Herring on Toast, $1.10; with Scrambled Eggs, $1.45
• Calf’s Liver Saute with Rasher of Bacon, $1.65
• Grilled French Lamb Chop au Cresson, $1.45
• Browned Corned Beef Hash, $1.50; with Poached Egg, $1.85

Old Fashioned Hot Breads and Cakes

• Griddle Cakes with Maple Syrup, $1.00; with Bacon, $1.60
• Buckwheat Cakes with Little Pig Sausages, $1.60
• French Toast with Apple Sauce or Currant Jelly, $1.00


• Hot Bran or Corn Muffin, 25¢; with Jam or Marmalade, 40¢
• Dry Toast, Whole Wheat or Raisin, 25¢; with Jam or Marmalade, 40¢


• Coffee, per pot, 40¢
• Tea, per pot, 40¢
• Postum, per pot, 30¢
• Cocoa or Chocolate, per pot, 40¢
• Milk, 25¢
• Instant Sanka Coffee, pot, 40¢

Notes at the bottom of the menu: “Sacharin available on request. Sodium – Free salt substitute available on request.”

In the Fall of 2020, the pandemic year, the Southwest Chief was reduced to tri-weekly service, still serving the same route as The Super Chief. The Southwest Chief complete Flexible Dining Breakfast Menu for Sleeping Car passengers (No prices listed as food is included in the accommodations charges; coach passengers not allowed in the dining car and must purchase food in the Sightseer Lounge car):

Continental Breakfast Selections


• Maple Brown Sugar
• Apple Walnut

Cold Cereals

• Honey Nut Cheerios
• Froot Loops
• Rice Krispies
• Raisin Bran


• Strawberry
• Blueberry


• Blueberry
• Banana Nut

Breakfast Bar

• KIND Bar

Breakfast Sandwich

• Sausage, Egg and Cheese Muffin


• Coffee – Regular & Decaf
• Hot Tea
• Milk
• Minute Maid – Orange & Apple Juice
• Crystal Geyser Spring Water

For Coach Passengers in the Sightseer Lounge Car:


• Jimmy Dean Breakfast Bowl, $6.00
• Jimmy Dean Muffin, Sausage Egg & Cheese, $5.00
• Donut Holes, $3.25
• Cinnamon Danish, $3.25
• Bagel with Cream Cheese, $3.00
• Blueberry Muffin, $3.00


• Minute Maid Juices, Orange, Cran-Grape, Apple, $3.00
• Coffee, Regular or Decaf, $2.50
• Hot Tea, $2.50
• Hot Chocolate, $2.50
• Bottled Water, $2.25
• Milk, 2%, $2.00

Every item on The Super Chief was prepared fresh; no pre-prepared foods or frozen foods as there was no freezer space. As a result, for such large menus as The Super Chief offered, the dining car stores were replenished twice along the route, in Albuquerque, New Mexico and Kansas City, Kansas.

For a full train, it wasn’t unusual for five full prime ribs to be roasted every evening. Even if there were leftovers at the conclusion of the evening’s service, they could not be used for passengers the next day. As a result, the next day the onboard services and train and engine crews often enjoyed a beef hash as the crew meal, made from prime rib.

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