The Blue Bird Domeliner in May of 1966.

N&W E8A 3815 with Train 121, the Blue Bird Domeliner, at speed north of Bement, Illinois at sunset on May 1, 1966. N&W 3815 is ex-Wabash 1015 built in 1953.

(Photo by Roger Puta, railfan 44, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)



The Blue Bird and Banner Blue were streamlined passenger trains operated by the Wabash Railroad and its successor the Norfolk and Western Railway between Chicago, Illinois, and St. Louis, Missouri. They operated from 1938 to 1971. Beginning in 1950 they were some of the few Wabash passenger trains to carry a dome car and the first dome train in regular operation between the two cities. The Banner Blue operated on a reverse schedule of the Blue Bird. The train was cut back to Decatur, Illinois, in 1968 and renamed City of Decatur. Amtrak did not retain the City of Decatur, and it made its last run on April 30, 1971.


The Wabash introduced a heavyweight Blue Bird on the Chicago–St. Louis run in 1938. The train was painted blue-gold, previously reserved for the Wabash's Banner Blue.

The Wabash relaunched the Blue Bird as a streamlined train on February 26, 1950, with all-new Budd Company "Vista-Dome" dome cars and E-unit diesel locomotives from Electro-Motive Division. The new train carried Wabash's standard blue-gray-white livery.  The Wabash referred to the Blue Bird as a "Domeliner" in contemporary advertising. Amenities on the new train included radio and "recorded musical programs"; coach passengers had access to the "Coffee Shop Club". The new equipment cost the Wabash $1,500,000 (US); it was the first dome train to operate between Chicago and St. Louis.

The Norfolk and Western Railway leased the Wabash in 1964 but continued to operate the Blue Bird. This changed in 1968 when the N&W truncated the Blue Bird to Decatur, Illinois, still departing from Chicago.  This new service was named City of Decatur and operated until the formation of Amtrak in 1971.


The Blue Bird used the Wabash's line between Chicago and St. Louis. In March 1950 northbound No. 24 departed St. Louis' Union Station at 8:55 AM and arrived at Chicago's Dearborn Station at 2:05 PM. The equipment set returned as southbound No. 21 the same day, departing Chicago at 4:45 PM and arriving in St. Louis at 10:10 PM. Intermediate stops included Englewood in Chicago, Forrest, Decatur, Taylorville, Litchfield and Granite City in Illinois, and the Wabash's Delmar Boulevard station in St. Louis itself. At the time two other Wabash trains operated on the route: the Banner Blue, which operated a reverse schedule, and the overnight Midnight.


The 1950 lightweight consist included six cars: a baggage-lunch counter-lounge, three "Vista-Dome" dome coaches, a dining car, and a "Vista-Dome" dome parlor-observation car. The Budd Company manufactured all six cars, although the interior of the parlor-observation car was designed according to Pullman Plan No. 9525. Strong demand led the Wabash to add another dome parlor-lounge in 1952. Pullman-Standard delivered the car, which included the "Blue Bird Room", an eleven-seat private dining room.


Service type: Inter-city rail
Status: Discontinued
Locale: Midwest United States
First service: 1938
Last service: April 30, 1971
Former operator(s): Wabash Railroad, Norfolk and Western Railway
Route Termini: Chicago / St. Louis
Distance traveled: 285.7 miles (459.8 km)
Service frequency: Daily
Train number(s): Southwest bound: 21; Northeast bound: 24
On-board services
Seating arrangements: Reclining seat coaches
Catering facilities: Dining car
Observation facilities: dome parlor-lounge
Blue Bird Route (Opposite for Banner Blue)
0.0 - St. Louis Union Station
5.6 mi / 9 km - Delmar Boulevard
8.3 mi / 13.4 km - Granite City
21.8 mi / 35.1 km - Edwardsville
52.3 mi / 84.2 km - Litchfield
84.8 mi / 136.5 km - Taylorville
113.2 mi / 182.2 km - Decatur
140.7 mi / 226.4 km - Monticello
193.3 mi / 311.1 km - Forrest
270.9 mi / 436 km - Oak Lawn
279.1 mi / 449.2 km - Englewood
285.7 mi / 459.8 km - Dearborn Station (Chicago)


Wabash Railroad's famous streamliner "Blue Bird" train No. 24 northbound, powered by diesel locomotive No. 1002 with domes

on Pullman cars and coaches, glides through beautiful Forest Park, St. Louis, enroute to Chicago in 1958.


Ble Bird Dome Observation Car.
Upper level Dome Car on the Wabash Blue Bird.

A postcard photo of the Dome-Observation Car on the Wabash streamliner "Blue Bird". (Image: Wabash Railroad, Public domain, W. Lenheim Collection)


A postcard photo of a Dome Car on the Wabash "Blue Bird".

(Image: Curt Teich for Wabash Railroad, Public domain, W. Lenheim Collection)

Lounge Car on the Blue Bird.
Coach Car on the Blue Bird.

A postcard photo of the lounge car of the Wabash train the "Blue Bird".

(Image: Wabash Railroad, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)


Postcard photo of the interior of a Wabash "Blue Bird" coach.

(Image: Wabash Railroad, Public domain, W. Lenheim Collection)

An SW7 swiches out Wabash Cannonball cars from the Blue Bird in 1966.

N&W EMD SW7 509 (ex-Wabash) switching out Wabash Cannonball cars from the Blue Bird, 7 May 1966.

(Image: By Roger Puta, railfan 44, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)


 N&W (ex-Wabash) train No. 110, the northbound Banner Blue, at Decatur station in May 7, 1966. Illinois Central tracks cross in the foreground. Click to enlarge.

(Photo by Roger Puta, Railfan 44, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)




(B&W Image (above center): ["Blue Bird" near St. Louis, Missouri]photograph1958~; ( March 7, 2023), University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History,; crediting Museum of the American Railroad. Cropped.)