1934: The Start of a Record-Breaking Train Journey Between Los Angeles and New York City

October 22, 1934

The Union Pacific Railroad’s M-10001 diesel-electric streamliner train departed Los Angeles at 10:00 p.m. to set a still-unbroken record for transcontinental rail travel in the United States. The M-10001, which had been delivered to Union Pacific only 10 days earlier and was the company’s first diesel-powered train (and the first Pullman-sleeper-equipped passenger train in North America), achieved that record by reaching Grand Central Terminal in New York City at 9:57 a.m. on October 25. This coast-to-coast journey bested by 13 hours and 30 minutes the previous record set in 1906 by a train used by then-Union Pacific board chairman and railroad baron E.H. Harriman. 

In setting that new record, the brown-and-canary yellow M-10001 attained speeds of up to 120 miles (193.1 kilometers) per hour during its 3,334-mile (5,365.6-kilometer) trek across the nation. The California-based Oxnard Daily Courier newspaper reported,  “Climbing through mountain passes at unprecedented speeds, and breaking every known [passenger] train record for fast time across the plains, the slender train which looks like a caterpillar had come from Los Angeles in exactly 56 hours and 57 minutes.” 

Those traveling on board the 376-foot (114.6-meter)-long, seven-car train in that journey included W. Averill Harriman, E.H. Harriman’s son and the incumbent Union Pacific board chairman who later became governor of New York and a leading diplomat; Carl Gray, president of the Union Pacific; noted inventor Charles F. Kettering, president of General Motors Research corporation (that company designed the engine for the M-10001); and at least two famous Hollywood figures, actress Anita Louise and actor Henry Hull. 

An article in a subsequent issue of Popular Science magazine proclaimed, “When a streamlined train whizzed across the United States in less than fifty-seven hours . . . its feat marked the beginning of a new era in railroading.” 

Photo Credit: Public Domain

For more information on the Union Pacific Railroad’s M-10001 diesel-electric streamliner train, please check out M-10001 – Wikipedia

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