Santa Fe Horse Express Car

A Brief History Of This Car

Used for transporting race horses to and from the Los Angeles County Fair Race Track, the AT&SF Horse Express car is a crowd favorite at the museum. This may be due, in part, to its recent Hollywood connection. It was used in the making of the movie “Seabiscuit” in 2003 starring Tobey Maguire and Jeff Bridges.

Built by the Pullman Company in 1930, the 10 cars numbered 1990-1999 were 82’ 2” long over the Buffers with an inside length of 78’ 4”. There are three doors on each side with a 7’ 0” center door and 4’ 6” doors on each side over the trucks. The primary use of these cars was for transporting race horses and the horse stalls were positioned on either side of the three sets of side doors. The stall partitions could be set up for one large or 2, 3 or 4 stalls on either side of the door isle. Most often the configuration was 3 or 4 which kept the horses from falling if the train experienced swaying. When the cars were not needed in race horse service the stall sides were stored on the sides of the cars interior. The cars are equipped with Generators, Lights and Water Tanks for the horses, there was also a sink and toilet for the drovers that accompanied their Pure Bred charges. When the movement of racehorses was taken over by specially-built trailer trucks and in some cases airplanes, ATSF’s use as a horse/express car ended. The chapter was fortunate to obtain the 1992 from the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe in 1971 with all of the stalls in place. The car also has large end doors for loading when not in race horse service. Since this car was used nearly exclusivly in Southern California, its possible that Sea Bisquit rode in the car.

The Little “Horse” The Could

In the 1930s the Great Depression descended on the nation like a bitter cold front, horse racing in the United States was already in a deep freeze. Hard times had not only gripped the sport, but the nation as a whole. People looked for a source of hope an inspiration whereever they could find it. Inspiration came to them on four legs.

Seabiscuit was born in 1933, the son of the hot-tempered Hard Tack, who was out of Man o’ War. The ‘biscuit was bred by the famed Wheatley Stable of Mrs. Henry Carnegie Phipps and her brother, Odgen Mills. The horse’s name was derived from the military to the hard, long-lasting bread that was served aboard naval ships.

Seabiscuit made his debut on January 19, 1935 at Hialeah Park. He finished fourth at 17-to-1. He didn’t break his maiden until 17 races later at Narragansett Park in Rhode Island. By yearend, under the care of legendary trainer Sunny Jim Fitzsimmons, Seabiscuit had started an amazing 35 times –sometimes in claiming races as a juvenile at 11 different tracks. He won five of those races.

Sunny Jim didn’t think much of Seabiscuit, and after the horse raced ten times as a three-year old, he was put up for sale for $6,000. There were no takers. However, a few days later, San Franciscan Charles S. Howard, who had made a fortune building the largest Buick agency in the country, was looking for a nice allowance runner. His trainer, “Silent” Tom Smith, convinced him to buy Seabiscuit from the Wheatley Stable for $7,500. Seabiscuit finished his sophomore season with nine wins in 23 starts, including some small stakes. In his first two seasons on the track, he went to post 58 times -- and his championship years were yet to come.

In his first start at four in 1937, Seabiscuit won the Huntington Beach Handicap at Santa Anita. Later that month, in his third start, he was beaten by a head by Rosemont in the Santa Anita Handicap, the world’s richest horse race. The son of Hard Tack then went on a terror, winning 10 stakes in his next 11 starts, including the San Juan Capistrano Handicap, Brooklyn Handicap, Butler Handicap, Massachusetts Handicap and Riggs Handicap. He was voted champion older horse and he was the leading money-earning Thoroughbred in 1937. His record for the year: 11 wins in 15 starts ($168,580).