The east and westbound Argonaut passenger trains meet in west Texas in 1929.

The Southern Pacific's "Argonaut" passenger trains, numbers 104 and 103, east and westbound,  respectively,

meet in the early morning hours at mile post 450 between Langtry and Pumpville in far west Texas, circa 1929.


Argonaut drumheads.


The Argonaut was the Southern Pacific Railroad's secondary passenger train between New Orleans and Los Angeles via Houston, San Antonio, and El Paso, Texas; Tucson, Arizona; and Palm Springs, California. It started in 1926 on a 61 hr 35 min schedule Los Angeles to New Orleans, five hours slower than the Sunset Limited; it was discontinued west of Houston in 1958. (It was also dropped from May 1932 until May 1936.) In earlier years it carried sleeping cars from New Orleans to Yuma that would continue to San Diego via San Diego and Arizona Eastern Railway, a SP subsidiary. Westbound trains carried sleeping cars from New Orleans and Houston to San Antonio.

The Sunset Limited was the premiere SP train on the "Sunset Route" — and probably on the whole SP system — and the Argonaut was a slower secondary train. The Argonaut needed fifty hours between New Orleans and Los Angeles, while after 1950 the Sunset Limited needed forty-two. The Argonaut ran Tucson to El Paso via Deming; the westward train usually ran on the EP&SW line via Douglas.

Unlike the first-class Sunset Limited, the Argonaut was always a train for economy travel, carrying standard coaches and few standard sleepers, allowing people to travel at moderate prices but with full dining and sleeping car service.

Another counterpart was the Imperial, which had Los Angeles and San Diego branches. The latter had a route which would twice cross the Mexico–United States border.

Through its life the train had olive green and black heavyweight passenger cars, pulled by steam locomotives like the GS-1 4-8-4 or MT-4 4-8-2, sometimes even a Cab Forward 4-8-8-2. In its last years the train was pulled by EMD F7 or ALCO PA/PB diesel locomotives.

By its final year its route was shortened to have El Paso as its western terminus.


Service type: Inter-city rail
Status: Discontinued
Locale: Southwestern United States / Western United States
First service: 1926
Last service: 1958
Former operators: Southern Pacific, Texas & New Orleans, San Diego and Arizona Eastern Railway
Route Termini: New Orleans, Louisiana / Los Angeles, California
Distance traveled: 1,996 miles (3,212 km)
Service frequency: Daily
Train number(s): 5 (westbound), 6 (eastbound)
On-board services
Seating arrangements: Chair cars
Sleeping arrangements: Open sections, double bedrooms, drawing rooms and compartments
Catering facilities: Dining car
Observation facilities: Lounge car (1952)

See also:

Named Passenger Trains A-K

Named Passenger Trains L-Z

The Argonaut crossing the Huey P. Long Bridge.

A Southern Pacific publicity photo depicting Train No. 5, the westbound Argonaut. Led by Alco PA-1 No. 208, the train is crossing the Huey P. Long Bridge, circa 1954.

(Image: Southern Pacific Company, New Orleans Public Library, Public Domain)


(Top Image: ["Argonaut" passenger trains in West Texas]photograph1929~; ( March 6, 2023), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History,; crediting Museum of the American Railroad.