In 1937 the Southern Pacific trumpeted a new train in full-page magazine ads: Let us stand by the tracks of Southern Pacific's Coast Line, as thousands now do every day and listen. Suddenly from far off comes a musical note, rising. Round a curve flashes a streak of color. Here comes the Daylight, the most beautiful train in the West!
The Daylights linked Los Angeles and San Francisco "in a glorious daylight trip, streaking along the Pacific Ocean for more than a hundred breathless miles." Travelers were invited to "Step inside the Daylight and see the beauty and luxury that have already won the West. Notice the wide, soft seats in the coaches. They are cushioned with sponge rubber and turn to face the extraordinarily large windows." Presenting a glorious streak of orange and red from locomotive to observation car, the Daylights were a sharp departure from the SP's normal dark olive passenger cars.
Leading the trains were the Southern Pacific's class GS (for "Golden State") Northerns, arguably among the handsomest steam engines ever built. Constructed by Lima Locomotive Works, inventor of the super-power concept, the Daylight 4-8-4s had the combination of power and speed that characterized steam power at its zenith. Built in 1936, the single-headlight GS-2's were the first Daylight locomotives. Class GS-4 engines, delivered in 1941 and 1942, were among the last and best-looking of the breed, with tall 80" drivers and a large Mars light complementing the headlight. In addition to handling premier passenger trains, the Daylight 4-8-4s were regularly used in high-speed freight service on the San Francisco-Los Angeles Overnight.
A lone GS-4, No. 4449, was saved from the scrapper in 1958 and placed on display in a Portland, Oregon park, where it sat silent for nearly two decades. An elderly gentleman was a regular visitor to the locomotive, oiling its lubrication points to prevent rusting. In part because of his efforts, No. 4449 was in good enough shape to be restored in 1975 to pull the American Freedom train in celebration of our nation's 200th anniversary. Repainted in Daylight colors, the engine operates today in excursion service.
Relive the glory years of Daylight passenger service with these smooth-running 4-8-4s outfitted with RailKing Imperial features that include marker light housings with individual LED illumination; authentic, legible builder's plates; additional grab irons; operating firebox glow; cab interior lighting; painted backhead gauges; separate tender ladders; and safety chains for the tender trucks.