This section is devoted to various aspects related to the history of Zephyr passenger trains. Back in 1934, The Burlington Route and the Budd Company collaborated to create a small, three cars train named Pioneer Zephyr. It was such a success that both companies continued to develop more Zephyrs and railcars that became one of the very best rail services in the world.
Once Amtrak became the operator of all rail passenger service, the Zephyrs ceased to exist as the world knew them. Zephyr railcars were ultimately sold off to private parties or tourist railroads. Some of the fine ‘Zephyr cars’ have been restored to provide today’s public the experience of how fine rail travel was, and they continue to demonstrate how wonderful rail travel still can be.
Each featured article will focus on a specific Zephyr railcar or railcars and the relationship to the success of the Zephyr Era. Readers will also find where to ride these examples of rail passenger history.
Also there may be future articles that highlight a person who contributed to make the Zephyrs such a premier standard of rail passenger service.
Thank you for your interest in reading and learning about some of the aspects which created the Zephyr era.
March 20, 1949 the California Zephyr officially began daily service between Chicago-Denver-Salt Lake City-Oakland/San Francisco.
One of the many highlights of the trip included meals in the dining car. Burlington Route-Denver and Rio Grande-Western Pacific collaborated to provide standard recipes and entrees from day one to the finish on March 22, 1970.
This publicity photo demonstrates the elligance and classy atmosphere plus the fine dining appointments such as china, silver, tablecloths, flowers. When the ICC (Interstate Commerce Commission) allowed the CZ trains to be discontinued, the Denver and Rio Grande continued to operate a 'mini-version' of the CZ named Rio Grande Zephyr. That provided the same type of dining car service between Denver and Salt Lake. Amtrak subsequently took over the entire California Zephyr Route which ended the superior service of the original California Zephyr. Accompanying this photo are images of a California Zephyr Menu
Oct 9, 2022 -- Below is the presentation that was put together for the Zephyr Historical presentation that ran during the Silver View Celebration at the Oregon IL Depot Museum on October 8, 2022.
Click on the slide show to pop up a larger view.
Silver Shop - Jan 2022
SILVER SHOP, former CALIFORNIA ZEPHYR mid-train dome, lounge, dormitory car has been gifted and delivered to the American Passenger Train History Museum in Charles City IA. Currently it is on a siding and coupled to SILVER VIEW, former TWIN CITIES ZEPHYRS first class parlor car.
The museum will generate monies to bring SILVER SHOP back to it's former splendor. This car was one of six of the same built, and entered CZ service on March 20, 1949. In the 1950's its interior was refurbished to become the Cable Car Lounge to honor the San Francisco Bay destination. Those interested in donating to the restoration may contact the museum: ATTN Bob Moen, 104 5th AV. Charles City, IA 50616.
A second photo shows the two former Zephyr cars coupled together. One might imagine they are 'discussing' their glory years as part of the CALIFORNIA and TWIN CITIES ZEPHYRS.
The Silver Vista
Photographic credit given to photographer Fred H. Matthews, Jr. and Trains Magazine for publishing this historic image.
On July12,1957 the Burlington Route's Afternoon Zephyr #24 had just departed the Great Northern Station in Minneapolis for it's journey to Chicago.
This was the fastest train in the world at that time. Between 1947 and late 1959 were, in this writer's opinion, the true glory years for the Twin Cities Zephyrs.
The image shows a superior consist to reflect the care and attitude of the Burlington Route's for these trains. SILVER VIEW'S 'twin sister' SILVER VISTA was the signature car that day.
The entire train had made a swift trip as the Morning Zephyr #21 from Chicago to Minneapolis . En route between East Dubuque, IL and Prairie du Chien, Wi it averaged 86.2 mph, often hitting over 100 mph to achieve that average.
After a quick 'turn-around' and service, the consist was ready to receive passengers for the beautiful ride along the Mississippi River with plenty of vista domes ' where nature smile 300 miles'.
The California Zephyr
THE CALIFORNIA ZEPHYR was advertised as 'The most talked about train in the country!" The Burlington Route, Denver and Rio Grande, and Western Pacific Railroads joined forces to operate that spectacular train between Chicago-Denver-Salt Lake City-Oakland/San Francisco from 1949 to 1970. It was one of the major passenger trains of all time to set the standards of excellence for rail travel.
The Burlington Route had already started the "Zephyr Era" back in 1934 by introducing a streamlined PIONEER ZEPHYR and the popularity grew to create one of the finest trains to ever traverse the rails.
All three railroads kept highest standards for the 'CZ' both exterior and interior. Onboard service was impeccable and consistent for each trip. Perhaps the glass domes, called vista domes, were the most popular feature about the train. There were usually five domes which provided a total of 120 unreserved seats to view some of the most picturesque U.S. scenery especially between Denver-Salt lake City-Oakland. The train was scheduled to travel through the most dramatic scenery during daylight hours.
In order to capatilize on viewing scenery and to present high standards of care and quality, the westbound "CZ' would be run through a car wash before departing Chicago, again just before reaching Denver Union Station, and another scrubbing at Portola, California. Even up to November, 1969, before the "CZ" was discontinued in March, 1970, the accompanying photo shows that the high standards of excellence still prevailed.
Valmont from Boulder, CO took many photos of the "CZ". On 30NOV1969, he photographed the "CZ" after it had been run through the Denver car wash, boarded passengers at Denver Union Station, and with stainless steel gleaming was underway for a day of Rocky Mountains scenery. Anyone who experienced an original CALIFORNIA ZEPHYR trip was indeed fortunate. Other CZ photos and it's history will appear in this section from time to time.
The Lake Superior Railroad Museum in Duluth, Minnesota has restored the car as shown. SILVER CLUB was part of the infamous California Zephyr cars which operated between Chicago-Denver-Salt Lake City-Oakland/San Francisco between 1949 and 1970. Some of the ‘CZ’ cars have been restored and operate on other tourist lines in the United States. The prominent feature of SILVER CLUB is its vista dome which affords passengers a unique way to view the passing scenery. The California Zephyr had 5 of these domes to see the tremendous
vistas throughout the route between Illinois and California.
At present, Zephyr Route is considering a long weekend trip to Duluth, MN in early June, 2021.
Confirmation of this trip will be released in mid-December, 2020 or January, 2021.
Meanwhile, enjoy the video which tours the interior of the car as it nears completion of its refurbishment. a similar Duluth and SILVER CLUB trip was operated in June, 2018. It was a definite success, and Zephyr Route intends to provide a similar wonderful future experience.