vp19 (vp19) wrote in carole_and_co,

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Carole Lombard Memorial Blogathon: A sleeper car with an upright story

This entry is part of the Carole Lombard Memorial Blogathon, co-hosted by this site and "In The Good Old Days Of Classic Hollywood" (https://crystalkalyana.wordpress.com/2020/01/16/the-carole-lombard-memorial-blogathon-is-here/). I apologize for its relative lateness, but my (thankfully minor) heart attack late Wednesday threw my writing haywire.

The photo at the top of this entry shows Carole Lombard with servicemen at the Salt Lake City train station on Tuesday, Jan. 13, 1942, as she was traveling to Chicago to receive instructions from the Treasury Department regarding her upcoming war bond rally in Indianapolis that Thursday. Flying home late that Friday, her plane crashed into a mountain in Nevada, killing her and 21 others, including her mother Elizabeth Peters, MGM press agent and chaperone Otto Winkler and members of the Army Air Corps.

After the stopover, Carole returned to the Union Pacific's "City Of Los Angeles" train and its sleeper car...which has a fascinating backstory of its own.

This is "Rose Bowl," so named for the Pasadena-based stadium and football game that concluded the Tournament of Roses each New Year's Day. (In 1942, war fears in the wake of Pearl Harbor forced the game to be moved east to Durham, N.C., where Oregon State defeated host Duke.) The car was built by Pullman in 1937 and contained 18 roomettes.

However, initially it had a different name as part of a different train. It was called "Telegraph Hill" and was part of the Southern Pacific's "City of San Francisco." Why the change?

The car was one of five that remained upright on the train's westward trip. Others, including the dining car, plunged into the river as the death toll rose to 24.

No doubt Lombard heard about the Aug. 12, 1939 derailment -- among the most notorious unsolved train tragedies -- but was she aware of her car's ties to that incident? And if so, might that have led to her fateful decision to return home by air? Here's the interior of a sleeping car of that era:

The sleeper gave the actress sufficient privacy, though she would interact with the public at times. According to reports, actor Pat O'Brien, who'd co-starred with Carole nearly a decade earlier in the pre-Code "Virtue," was also aboard and made a fourth when Lombard, her mother and Winkler played bridge.

What's especially intriguing about all of this is that the car is among few vestiges of the ill-fated tour extant today. Here I am posing with it, taken Tuesday, the day before my heart attack:

In the words of Paul Harvey, I'll soon provide "the rest of the story." Many thanks to Brian Lee Anderson and Michael McComb for uncovering this.

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