Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Landmark No. 474
Union Pacific Railroad
"The Little Nugget"
Famous Interior Designed by American Artist, Walt Kuhn
“The Little Nugget” car was built in 1937 by the Pullman-Standard Car Manufacturing Company. It was part of the Union Pacific Railroads’ “new” passenger train – the City of Los Angeles streamliner. At the time this new train represented the zenith in modern railcar design and technology. “The Little Nugget” car, one of the most unique and lavishly appointed railroad cars of all time, served as the club-lounge for the train’s first class Pullman passengers. In this luxury capacity, she was host to a veritable Who’s Who of international businessmen and Hollywood entertainment elite. Celebrities like George Burns, Gracie Allen, and Cecil B. DeMille were regular clients in those colorful days before commercial air travel became a popular means of long-distance transportation. First-class trains like the City of Los Angeles, and the rival Santa Fe Railway’s Super Chief, were the most comfortable and stylish ways to travel between coasts. In 1937, these two famous “extra fare” stream liners, pulled by innovative new diesel locomotives, made the trip from Chicago to Los Angeles in only 39-3/4 hours; a full day faster than the standard trains of their day.
The principal claim to fame for “The Little Nugget” was its fanciful interior that was designed by American artist Walt Kuhn. Created as a publicity draw for the then Hollywood it-crowd the main club room was decked out to resemble an Old West dance hall saloon. It was complete with Victorian-style furnishings, velvet and lace draperies, and gilded plaster Cherubs. The highlight of the car was a collection of 125 vintage photographs and original Kuhn paintings, all depicting Vaudeville comedians, clowns, dancers and other footlight favorites. No expense was spared on the car’s interior with every detail of the decor being custom-made to Mr. Kuhn’s personal specifications. Much of this original decor was last during the car’s early years of display at Travel Town.
Retired from railroad service and donated to the Travel Town Museum in 1956, “The Little Nugget” is now one of the very few remaining examples of the pre-World War II streamlined passenger car era. The car’s value as an education tool to interpret technological, artistic and cultural aspects of the American experience is outstanding. In 1990 “The Little Nugget” was designated a Los Angeles Historic-Cultural Landmark. She survives today as a supreme reminder of the grandeur and elegance which was once synonymous with rail passenger travel in America.
After 50 years of display outdoors in Griffith Park, “The Little Nugget” is now undergoing a complete cosmetic restoration; taking its interior and exterior back to the way it would have appeared while in service on the City of Los Angeles streamliner. It is Travel Town’s goal that “The Little Nugget” and its companion Streamliner sleeping cars Rose Bowl and Hunters Point will be enclosed within a climate-controlled museum structure planned for the Museum complex. They would become the focal point of a series of educational exhibits pertaining to the bygone era of American railroad travel. We greatly appreciate your help and support in attaining these goals. Please consider supporting our restoration efforts by becoming a Travel Town volunteer or joining our Patron Member program.