The Sunset Limited is an Amtrakpassenger train that for most of its history has run between New Orleans and Los Angeles, over the nation’s second transcontinental route. However, up until Hurricane Katrina in 2005, it ran between Orlando and Los Angeles, and from 1993 to 1996, continued on to Miami (via the Silver Meteor‘s route). It is the oldest continuously operating named train in the United States, introduced in 1894 by the Southern Pacific Railroad, and acquired by Amtrak upon its formation in 1971.
Along with the Cardinal, this train is one of Amtrak’s two long-distance services which operate just three days a week. Consequently, the Sunset Limited carried the third-fewest passengers of any Amtrak train in fiscal year 2019, 92,827, a 4.4% decrease over FY2018. It had a total revenue of $10,769,179 in 2016, marking a 7.5% decrease over FY2015.
For most of its existence, the Sunset Limited route was owned by the Southern Pacific Railroad. The name Sunset Limited traces its origins to the Galveston, Harrisburg and San Antonio Railway, a Southern Pacific subsidiary which was known as the Sunset Route as early as 1874.
Most of the current route from New Orleans westward is now owned by the Union Pacific Railroad, which acquired Southern Pacific in 1996. However, the route within Louisiana and some of Texas was partially sold to BNSF Railway in 1995 in return for BNSF not objecting to the UP-SP merger.
On the portion of the route east of New Orleans, service was suspended after Hurricane Katrina. Those tracks, between New Orleans and Florida, include parts of the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad, the Seaboard Air Line Railroad, and the Louisville and Nashville Railroad—all now owned by CSX Transportation. Currently, the segment of the former Atlantic Coast Line Railroad between DeLand and Orlando is owned by Orlando’s commuter service SunRail.
The train uses the following route segments, identified here by the names of their original owners: