The Sunshine Special crossing the Colorado River at Austin, TX in 1947. Although it was a heavyweight train, the MP used new Diesel-electric locomotives intended for the Eagle for a short time while waiting for the Eagle's lightweight passenger cars to arrive. (Internet photo, Fair use, Title 17, Section 107, W. Lenheim Collection, cropped)


Sunshine Special drumhead.
Sunshine Special drumhead


The Sunshine Special was inaugurated by the St. Louis, Iron Mountain and Southern Railway, (later the Missouri Pacific Railroad), on December 5, 1915, to provide a premium level of passenger train service between St. Louis, Little Rock, and destinations in Texas, United States, such as El Paso, San Antonio, Laredo and Houston. An auxiliary section of the train originated in Memphis, Tennessee, and linked with the train in Little Rock, Arkansas.

The train ran from St. Louis to either Longview or Marshall in East Texas. Their cars for Dallas, Ft. Worth and El Paso were cut out and forwarded over M.P. subsidiary Texas and Pacific. Cars for Houston were cut out at Palestine, Texas.

Until being shifted into a secondary role by the Texas Eagle diesel powered streamliner in August 1948, the Sunshine Special served as the flagship of the Missouri Pacific Railroad's passenger train service. Prior to the advent of the Texas Eagle, the San Antonio/Laredo section of the train continued over the Ferrocarriles Nacionales de México (N de M) as the Águila Azteca or Aztec Eagle to Mexico City, Mexico.

Between July 7, 1946, and April 25, 1948, the Missouri Pacific and the Pennsylvania Railroad operated the Sunshine Special jointly between New York City and Texas. Low traffic west of St. Louis prompted the Missouri Pacific to withdraw from the joint operation in favor of exchanging sleeper cars. The PRR renamed its train the Texas Eagle on August 15, then finally the Penn Texas on December 12. The last vestige of the Sunshine Special, an unnamed train did not disappear from Missouri Pacific timetables until 1962. The Texas Eagle achieved greater patronage volume and survived until 1971 when the MP gave up its passenger service to Amtrak.


Missouri Pacific Locomotive No. 1153, a 4-6-2 Pacific, leading the Southbound 'Sunshine Special' on March 2, 1946, at Austin, Texas.

(DeGolyer, Everett L.,SMU Central University Libraries, No restrictions, via Wikimedia Commons, cropped)


Baylor University's Immortal Ten

The Sunshine Special was thrust into the national spotlight on January 22, 1927, when it struck a bus carrying members of the Baylor University basketball team in Round Rock, Texas. According to reports, the bus driver, 19-year-old Joe Potter, failed to see the train approaching the crossing at nearly sixty miles per hour from the buses' right. When Potter did see the train, he felt he had no choice but to attempt to beat it across the tracks. Attempting to put more distance between the bus and the train, Potter veered to his left, moving the bus farther ahead of the train. The results were disastrous, with ten Baylor students killed. The tragedy gave rise to Baylor's longstanding tradition of remembering "The Immortal Ten."


Postcard photo of the interior of the Deluxe air-conditioned lounge car of the Sunshine Special, ca. 1930s. (Missouri Pacific Railroad, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons. 


Postcard showing the route of the Sunshine Special, ca. 1930s. (Missouri-Pacific Railroad, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)

Postcard photo of the interior of the Deluxe Lounge car of the Sunshine Special, ca. 1930s. (Missouri Pacific Railroad, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)


Service type: Inter-city rail
Status: Discontinued
Locale: Southwestern United States
First service: 1915
Last service: 1960
Former operator: Missouri Pacific Railroad
Route Termini: St. Louis, Missouri, Memphis, Tennessee and New Orleans, Louisiana branches
El Paso, Texas, and Laredo, Texas, branches and branches to other points in Texas
Until 1948, a branch of the train continued on from Laredo to Mexico City, Mexico
Service frequency: Daily
Train numbers: 31 (westbound); 32 (eastbound)
On-board services
Seating arrangements: Reclining seat coaches
Sleeping arrangements: Sections, bedrooms, drawing rooms and compartments
Catering facilities: Dining cars; Dining-lounge car in 1950s
Track gauge: 1,435 mm (4 ft 8+1⁄2 in)


Postcard depiction of the Sunshine Special in 1936.

(Missouri Pacific Railroad, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)


The Texas & Pacific Sunshine Special at Fort Worth, Texas, 1948. Photo by H.D. Connor. (University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History,; crediting Tarrant County College NE, Heritage Room.)

The T&P Sunshine Special at Marshall, Texas, March,  1934. Photo by H.K. Vollrath. (University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History,; crediting The Grace Museum.)

The T&P's "Sunshine Special" train No. 2, eastbound, headed by Engine No. 909, a 900 class Mountain type 4-8-2 locomotive, rolls through the countryside near Forney, TX on a summer day in 1929. The Texas and Pacific Railway had five locomotives of the 900 class which were built by the Baldwin Locomotive Works in 1928 and these went into service in 1929. They were Numbers 905, 906, 907, 908, and 909. (University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History,; crediting Museum of the American Railroad.)


The Missouri Pacific Railroad's "Sunshine Special" train No. 2, northbound, headed by Engine No. 6423, a Pacific type 4-6-2 locomotive, with a consist of seven cars, rolls through Missouri countryside enroute from Texas to St. Louis. University of North Texas Libraries, The Portal to Texas History,; crediting Museum of the American Railroad.)

An early advertisement showing the Missouri Pacific's passenger train lineup.

(Missouri Pacific Lines, Public domain, W. Lenheim Collection)