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Sun Mar 21, 2021, 08:12 AM

On March 20, 1949, the California Zephyr made its first run.

Its last run was on March 22, 1970, so I'm splitting the difference with this thread.


Fri Apr 24, 2015: On this day in 1983, the Rio Grande Zephyr made its final run.

California Zephyr (19491970)

The California Zephyr on the Altamont Pass in 1970

Service type: Inter-city rail
Locale: Western United States
Predecessor: Exposition Flyer
First service: March 20, 1949
Last service: March 22, 1970

The California Zephyr was a passenger train that ran between Chicago, Illinois and Oakland, California via Omaha, Denver, Salt Lake City, Winnemucca, Oroville and Pleasanton. It was operated by the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy (CB&Q), Denver & Rio Grande Western (D&RGW) and Western Pacific (WP) railroads, all of which dubbed it "the most talked about train in America" on March 19, 1949, with the first departure the following day. The train was scheduled to pass through the most spectacular scenery on its route in the daylight. The original train ceased operation in 1970, though the D&RGW continued to operate its own passenger service, the Rio Grande Zephyr, between Salt Lake City and Denver, using the original equipment until 1983. In 1983 a second iteration of the California Zephyr, an Amtrak service, was formed. The current version of the California Zephyr operates partially over the route of the original Zephyr and partially over the route of its former rival, the City of San Francisco.


California Zephyr

The train in Altamont, California, prior to its first run in 1949

In its original run, California Zephyr operated over the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad (Burlington Route) from Chicago to Denver, Colorado, the Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad between Denver and Salt Lake City, Utah, and the Western Pacific Railroad from Salt Lake City to Oakland, California. Cars owned by different railroads ran together; cars cycled in and out for service, repairs, and varying passenger loads with the seasons.

The first train was named in San Francisco by Eleanor Parker while California Lieutenant Governor Goodwin Knight, mayor of San Francisco Elmer Robinson, and WP President Harry A. Mitchell looked on. For the inaugural run in 1949, every woman on the train was given "silver" and orange orchids flown from Hilo, Hawaii. The car hostesses were known as Zephyrettes.

In summer 1954, the scheduled run for the 2,532 miles from Chicago to San Francisco was 50 hours 50 minutes. An eastbound California Zephyr through Ruby Canyon saw the train's first birth on March 1, 1955, when Reed Zars was born on board.

Knowing that they could not begin to compete with the faster and less rugged route used by the City of San Francisco, the Burlington Route, D&RGW and WP billed the California Zephyr as a scenic "rail cruise" through the Rockies.


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Reply On March 20, 1949, the California Zephyr made its first run. (Original post)
mahatmakanejeeves Mar 2021 OP
MyOwnPeace Mar 2021 #1

Response to mahatmakanejeeves (Original post)

Sun Mar 21, 2021, 08:50 AM

1. Took that Chicago to San Francisco route

in October of 2018 on Amtrak - just SPECTACULAR scenery!!!!

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