It's a train! It's a Motel! It's gone now.
Sometime around 1963 the Sioux Chief Traintel came into being. It was opened by local radio personality Verl Thomson. Verl purchased five former City of San Francisco cars, set them on a plot of land near the intersection of Hiway 16 and I-29 and opened them as the world's first Pullman Car hotel. The Pullman Cars provided 38 units of train-like luxury. Each of the cars was named for a different area in the City of San Francisco. They were; Civic Center, Hunter's Point, Montgomery Street, Rincon Hill, and Rose Bowl. All of these cars were were fashioned into motel rooms except the Montgomery Street. It was originally a coach car (seats only). The seats were removed and it was used as the Traintel office.
You can shave! Imagine the luxury of shaving from the edge of your bed! The Traintel experience may appeal to only a limited number of travelers. The novelty may wear thin shortly for all who are not avid railfans (train enthusiasts).
The pictures used in this postcard appear to be culled from a Pullman brochure. Confirmed! You're not going to see a lot of scenery wizzing by in the Sioux Chief. You'll see the Pine Crest to the east, and the campground on which the Sioux Chief sits to the west.
The kids are bound to enjoy the Sioux Chief Train Motel. I loved trains when I was a lad. Even took the Amtrak from Illinois to Omaha in the mid 70s.
I recall the waning days of the Sioux Chief. I don't know much about them. I know it was there in 1986, though in what capacity I cannot say. Apartments? Maybe it was a private residence. A friend and I went to check it out and didn't get too far. We got on board and I started hearing movement (it was at night, naturally), so we left. I had no ticket and I've heard about surly conductors.
Their motto back in the day was "It's hard to believe the comfort you get from Sioux Chief". There was air conditioning in each car to ensure this. While sleeping in a traincar, when not traveling by train, may not be for everyone, the idea is a good one. I'd do it for my children and my guess is that plenty of people from 1962 to 1975 felt the same way.
It may be difficult to tell from the picture, but the sign out front in this postcard has a kitty all snuggled up in bed. That kitten is the fabled Chessie, onetime mascot of the Chesapeake and Ohio Railway. The copy that accompanied Chessie was "Sleep Like a Kitten and Wake Up Fresh as a Daisy in Air-Conditioned Comfort", which makes sense for a motel, but sort of runs afowl of the City of San Francisco theme.
All aboard for dreamland!
Sioux Falls, South Dakota: Despite the fact that this train is going absolutely nowhere, the "passengers" are not the least bit concerned. This unique train at Sioux Falls, South Dakota, is actually a motel. Owner Verl Thomson purchased three 65-Ton pullman cars at a used train lot in Chicago and converted them into 62 motel beds. Thomson lulls his "Going nowhere" customers to sleep with a recording of railroad sounds, including that "Lonesome" whistle. George Wells (Right) wears an appropriate uniform as "porter" on the Sioux Chief "Traintel." Credit (UPI Photo) 9-18-63 (JB)
The Sioux Chief Traintel hit the rails again in May of 1990. The cars were sold to private parties and still exist to this day, some restored, some waiting to be restored. These cars had history before they got to Sioux Falls. They stopped for a short time to become a part of our history and moved on. I encourage you to look further.
Rincon Hill was repainted and is currently being used as a club car for SP 4449.
Page Updated: 06/1/2013
Polk City directories and my own fractured
memories were used as sources for this feature.
New information from Pullman Shops including some shots of the cars being moved. Check them out!
GFSF friend David Dahle tipped me off to the news about Chessie's origin! Thanks, Dave!
This page had Verl Thomson's name misspelled for years. I'm sorry about that. Not sure where I got the old spelling.