Serving Chicago, Memphis, New Orleans, and intermediate points

Amtrak train numbers: 58 and 59

Predecessor railroad train numbers: Illinois Central 5 and 6

On December 1, 1912, the Illinois Central Railroad added new train service to their main line between Chicago and New Orleans. To commemorate the recent opening of the Panama Canal, the train was named the Panama Limited. (The name wasn't a total non sequitur, since it was then possible to connect in New Orleans with a steamship for Panama.) Four years later, it became their flagship on the route, operating on an overnight schedule with sleeping cars only.

After a layoff during the early years of the Great Depression, the Panama Limited returned in 1934 as an all-air conditioned train, and then received new equipment in 1942 that had been ordered before the war.

The Panama Limited continued as an all-sleeping-car train until 1967, when coaches were added; however, to avoid sullying the train's good name, the Illinois Central gave the coach section the name Magnolia Star, and the train continued as the combined Panama Limited/Magnolia Star until Amtrak took over in 1971.

Amtrak chose to keep only one train on the Chicago-New Orleans route, and at first, that was the Panama Limited's daytime counterpart, the City of New Orleans. With their first major schedule change on November 14, 1971, though, Amtrak switched that train to an overnight schedule and reinstated the Panama Limited name.

However, thanks to the fact that the train went to New Orleans and not Panama, not to mention free advertising from a certain Arlo Guthrie song, Amtrak changed the Panama Limited name back to City of New Orleans on February 1, 1981, while keeping the train on its overnight schedule.

Condensed historical timetables:

      READ DOWN                                READ UP
(1956)  (1972)  (1980)                    (1980)  (1972)  (1956) 
 5:00P   5:00P   4:20P Dp Chicago      Ar 10:45A   9:30A   8:45A
 6:55P   7:15P   6:50P    Champaign        7:56A   7:09A   6:40A
 9:41P  10:15P  10:05P    Carbondale       4:50A   4:17A   3:40A
 2:17A   2:40A   3:05A    Memphis         11:55P  11:47P  11:00P
 6:10A   6:22A   7:08A    Jackson, MS      7:43P   7:46P   7:25P
 9:30A   9:59A  10:35A Ar New Orleans  Dp  4:30P   4:30P   4:15P

The Amtrak Train Names Project

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