Numbers: 15 and 16
Host Railroad: Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe
Amtrak Operated: May 1, 1971 to May 18, 1974
Named for: A Santa Fe train of the same name and route.
Pre-Amtrak History: The Santa Fe had the only one-railroad route between Chicago and Houston through the late 1960s. Begun in 1948, the Texas Chief had a Galveston section until 1967 and a Dallas section until 1968.
Amtrak History: Railpax planners named the Chicago-Houston route as part of the basic system and considered routing the train via St. Louis. Historically, the Missouri Pacific was the dominant passenger carrier between St. Louis and Texas, but by 1970 MoPac service had shrunk to one St. Louis-Texarkana, Texas, train. Three other railroads had also linked St. Louis and Texas, but that service was all gone by the time Amtrak arrived.
Amtrak planners kept the Texas Chief. Aside from moving to Chicago Union Station on May 1, 1971, no other changes were made to the train after it was conveyed to Amtrak. Amtrak said it would begin service to Dallas as soon as it was feasible.
The sticking point was finding a suitable route. Poor track conditions on Amtrak’s preferred route involving the Missouri-Kansas-Texas made the Southern Pacific route between Dallas and Houston the only practical alternative. But SP demanded Amtrak pay $7.5 million for track improvements, raised safety and freight congestion issues, and even encouraged residents along the Santa Fe route of the train to protest moving the Texas Chief.
The dispute with the SP went to arbitration where an arbitrator ruled that Amtrak and SP were to share the costs of track rehabilitation. Amtrak didn’t want to pay those costs and kept the Texas Chief on its Santa Fe route between Fort Worth and Houston.
The Texas Chief was renamed the Lone Star on May 19, 1974, after Santa Fe revoked Amtrak’s permission to use “Chief” names for its passenger trains. For more information about that move, see the Super Chief page.