One of Southern Pacific’s signature passenger trains in the pre-Amtrak era was the Coast Route’s overnight Lark between San Francisco and Los Angeles. First streamlined in 1941, the consist had a handsome two-tone gray scheme (often abbreviated TTG) derived from Pullman’s own “night train” scheme. (This same scheme was used on the joint SP-UP-CNW train, the San Francisco Overland, and on Santa Fe’s Pullman-Standard lightweight sleepers. It has been called the “Western gray” scheme.)
To illustrate the scheme, shown below is one of the 10-6 (10 roomette–6 double bedroom) sleepers SP purchased in 1949 from Pullman-Standard. There were 18 of these cars, variously assigned to the new Cascade and to the Lark, as well as other trains, numbered SP 9030–9039 and 9045–9052. (There were also 9 more 10-6 cars in the purchase, in the form of blunt-end “observation” cars, which I’ll ignore.)
I show this photo (from Pullman-Standard) in part to demonstrate that although the dark gray and light gray colors as seen on color chips were only slightly different in darkness, in sunlight the prototype cars usually showed considerably more contrast, as you see in this photo. In model form, I have usually lightened the "light gray" to achieve a look somewhat like the example above.
The photo above is also relevant because the car is quite similar to the HO scale models produced by Rivarossi and sold in the U.S. by AHM (Associated Hobby Manufacturers). Most of the lightweight Lark sleepers, produced for the 1941 train, were 10-5 (10 roomette–5 double bedroom) cars. These had somewhat different window patterns than the postwar 10-6 cars. I have relied on the convenience of the AHM 10-6 cars for my Lark equipment, and have several, in fact more than I can stage on my layout!
Shown below is a photo of just one of those sleepers, SP 9046, one of the cars I touched on in a post a couple of months ago, about passenger operation opportunities on a small layout (you can see that post here: https://modelingthesp.blogspot.com/2021/05/mainline-passenger-cars-on-small-layout.html ). The photo shows essentially a stock AHM “1930s” streamlined sleeper, painted and lettered for the Lark. It doesn’t yet have any representation of full-width diaphragms, a topic to which I will return.
For my modeling purposes, some of the individual sleepers and head-end cars might be usable on my layout, but not the triple-unit Lark Club diner-kitchen-lounge car, for its sheer size. So one way to operate a model Lark train would be with a single-unit “relief” diner, doubtless quite a rare event but a possible modeling option. My single-unit tavern could be included too (see the post just cited in the previous paragraph). What other cars would I need for a reasonable representation?
In my early-1950s modeling era, the Lark still operated with a “boat-tail” observation, so I would need one of those. The old Balboa brass streamlined observation is similar though not identical, and I have painted one for Lark service. In the photo below, you can just see parts of the interior furniture in the car. I also have a Lark “neon” tail sign made by Tomar, not yet installed. It also lacks the large red “emergency” light on the rear roof.
On the head end, the Lark operated with a pair of heavyweight cars, a baggage and an RPO, both “stream-styled” with roof contours to match the lightweight cars in the rest of the train. I painted a Coach Yard version of the RPO as SP 4119. Having just one head-end car at least represents part of what should be there.
For additional information (of a general sort) and a number of photos of the Lark train and some of its interiors, you may find this site interesting: https://www.cruiselinehistory.com/californias-sp-streamliner-lark-served-san-francisco-and-los-angeles/ . But for serious information on the cars, there is no alternative to the five-volume set, Southern Pacific Passenger Cars, published by the SPH&TS (visit the Society’s website for more information on current availability: https://sphts.myshopify.com/collections/books ).
Those cars, along with perhaps three of the AHM 10-6 sleepers, could almost make up a believable Lark, or more likely a second section. And that’s a useful concept anyway, since I ordinarily only operate the layout during portions of the timetable that are designated as daylight hours. The Lark’s second section, running late in the morning hours? That I could do.