The discovery of gold in California precipitated the Gold Rush of 1849 and forever changed the West. In just over a decade, California was transformed from a sleepy paradise of 14,000 souls to a state with over 300,000 inhabitants. Nearly a century later, the Golden State still had the aura of the Promised Land, and three railroads teamed up in 1937 to inaugurate a train named after the event that started it all. Hauled between Chicago and San Francisco by the Chicago & North Western, Union Pacific, and Southern Pacific Railroads, the Forty Niner was a way to arrive at the Coast in style. Operating on a 49-hour schedule, the train featured its own dedicated air conditioned, streamlined, all-Pullman trainset, with valet and stewardess services as well as a shower and a barber shop. The entire train was finished in gunmetal grey, accented by black and gold striping above and below the windows.
For its portion of the Forty Niner's journey, the Union Pacific assigned a 4-8-2 Mountain-type steamer to the Cheyenne-Ogden stretch, and Pacific #2906, a 1920 Baldwin product, to the Omaha-Cheyenne run. Both engines were rebuilt with Timken roller bearing lightweight rods and streamlined shrouds, the only steam engines ever to be streamlined by the UP. Oddly, the UP painted the shrouds in its own streamliner colors of Leaf Brown and Armour Yellow, with red striping -- a beautiful paint scheme, but not at all a match for the grey trainset the engines were designed to pull.
Inaugurating service in the same year as the Southern Pacific's Daylight, the Forty Niner ran five round trips a month. The most difficult part of the journey proved to be the departure from Omaha's Union Station. The tracks had a definite sag in the middle, and #2906 often had a hard time starting her eight-car train out of this dip, occasionally needing help from the terminal switcher.
Business boomed in 1939 and 1940 as Midwesterners came to the Golden Gate International Exposition on Treasure Island in San Francisco Bay, but in 1941 the Forty Niner was discontinued. Pacific 2906 was assigned to more mundane duties and could often be found with a train of heavyweights in tow.
Add this colorful, kitschy 1930's streamliner to your roster in her original UP colors or one of several "might-have-been" paint schemes. With any version, you'll get Proto-Sound 2.0's variety of sounds, synchronized puffing smoke, and smooth, steady performance at any speed.