The Southwest Chief was a double-decker, with only a small cabin in the lower levels of the cars for short-distance travelers. If not my mood, my muscles were feeling it was the second day of my trip. And I had another two nights on the train before arrival in Los Angeles.
Two massive engines would pull this monster of a train for almost 2,300 miles from the Great Lakes to California across the Northwest, the Prairies, the Midwest and the Southwest all the way down to its last port of call, a city that took its name from the Italian town Santa Maria degli Angeli. Even though there is no agreement among historians, the name was believed to be a homage by Franciscan priests to the founder and patron of their order, St. Francis of Assisi. These churchmen had explored what is now the Los Angeles area in the 18th century.
Indeed, the original name of the second largest city in the United States was El Pueblo de Nuestra Señora la Reina de los Ángeles de Porciúncula, Spanish for The Town of Our Lady the Queen of the Angels of Porciuncula.
The Porciuncula was the church of St. Francis in Assisi. It was yet another instance of an Italian echo on the American landscape, muted and lost over the vastness of the New World.
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This is the thirteenth part of The Trans-American Railroad: New York to Los Angeles at the Speed of Iron, a travel diary. Please see the previous stories below:
The Trans-American Railroad: New York to Los Angeles at the Speed of Iron
The Trans-American Railroad (Part II)
Penn Station: The Journey Begins
Suburbia and the Ruins Outside Philadelphia
The Flies, the Blue Whale, and the Boatman on the Potomac
Descent into West Virginia
The Grain Express: How Tomorrow Moves
The Amish Travelers of the Old Order
The Color-Blind Passenger
To the Sides of the Railways
Away from Cincinnati, and the Sun
Chicago: Four Blocks Around Union Station