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.
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.