Rio Grande Zephyr

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The Rio Grande Zephyr was a passenger train operated by Denver and Rio Grande Western between Denver, Colorado and Salt Lake City, Utah in the Western United States. It was operated from 1971 until 1983 when the Denver and Rio Grande Western finally decided to join Amtrak.

Before the Rio Grande Zephyr commenced operation, the California Zephyr (the CZ, or "Silver Lady") was operated jointly by the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad (CB&Q), Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad (D&RGW) and Western Pacific Railroad (WP), along the same route. The CB&Q, D&RGW and WP inaugurated "The most talked about train in America" on March 19, 1949. It was the first passenger train in regular operations in North America to use dome cars. The Western Pacific requested to discontinue its portion of the route in 1970. Western Pacific's request was granted by the Interstate Commerce Commission on Friday February 13, 1970. On March 22, 1970 the California Zephyr rolled into the history books.

The Burlington and the Rio Grande continued to operate California Service and the Rio Grande Zephyr respectively which required passengers to change trains in Ogden, Utah to connect to a train for the West Coast. With the creation of the Rail Passenger Service Act which created Amtrak came a way to relieve railroads of unprofitable passenger trains. Amtrak planned to take over service of the original California Zephyr on May 1, 1971. However the Rio Grande and Amtrak could not come to terms over a contract agreement, and just four days before Amtrak began operation, Union Pacific's Overland Route was substituted for the Rio Grande's Moffat Tunnel Route. This led to the creation of the final incarnation of the Rio Grande Zephyr. For twelve years the Rio Grande Zephyr operated three days a week in each direction. It never operated on Wednesday. It made its final run on April 24, 1983. The next day Amtrak was to reinstate the California Zephyr name and begin running daily service over the Denver and Rio Grande Western, however a mudslide at Thistle, Utah delayed the new service's introduction until July.

Equipment used

The equipment used when the Rio Grande Zephyr began service was as follows:

The combine, dome coach(es), dome-lounge or diner, and dome-lounge-observation were always in the consist, size and configuration of the train varied from day to day based on the number of tickets sold. All cars carried the prefix Silver in their name, a hold over from their days in California Zephyr service. Silver Aspen and Silver Pine were rebuilt in 1962-1963 from 16 section sleeping cars.

Communities served

From east to west, the communities with regular station stops on this train were:


  • Zimmerman, Karl R. (1972). The Story of the California Zephyr. Quadrant Press, New York, NY. 

See also

External links