California Zephyr

The California Zephyr is a long-distance train by Amtrak that runs between Chicago and Oakland or San Francisco via a scenic route through the spectacular Rocky Mountains. Here, the train around tight corners, many tunnels and narrow canyon winds.


The train reversed for the first time in 1949, when the three U.S. railroads Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad (Burlington Route ), Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad (Rio Grande) and Western Pacific Railroad it agreed together a train in the connection between Chicago and San Francisco to operate. For a Community fleet was procured in modern lightweight construction made ​​of stainless steel of the wagon factory Budd. This included dining cars, sleeping cars, seating cars and observation car ( Dome Cars).

The locomotives and operating management between Chicago and Denver was the Western Pacific at the Burlington route from Denver to Salt Lake City at the Rio Grande and the Western Section to San Francisco / Oakland.

The California Zephyr asked a direct competitor to the since 1936 by the Union Pacific operated in cooperation with Southern Pacific and Chicago & North Western streamlined train City of San Francisco dar.

The travel time of the California Zephyr was the crossing of the Rocky Mountains longer than the competition. Therefore, in order to attract customers, down the California Zephyr to the ambience and value offered a rail cruise.

Preliminary end

By March 1970, the Community Project California Zephyr remained, after the Western Pacific climbed out because the train only took losses. The compound was split into two parts: a pair of night train, the Denver Zephyr from Chicago to Denver, which was operated by the Burlington Northern Railroad (BN ). In Denver, this train had connection remained so attractive to the operated by the Rio Grande Rio Grande Zephyr daytime train, the Rocky Mountains crossed on the day and for American train passengers. This operational concept, however, held only one year.

Under Amtrak

Amtrak, a pure railway company, put the two trains California Zephyr and the City of San Francisco to a new " San Francisco Zephyr" together, the railway infrastructure of the BN used between Chicago and Denver, to Ogden then the Union Pacific and in the West the Southern Pacific. The Rio Grande operating between Denver and Salt Lake City, parallel to the Rio Grande Zephyr on their own account. This was one of the last three privately operated long-distance trains in the USA. Not until 1983 was the Rio Grande on the train. Amtrak responded and led the recent San Francisco Zephyr - supplemented by coaches to Seattle ( as Pioneer ) and Los Angeles (as Desert Wind ) - again from Denver to Salt Lake City on the operationally difficult Rocky Mountain route. The car park had since been converted to modern double-decker long-distance coaches. This offer was given the traditional name California Zephyr. The coaches to Seattle and Los Angeles were discontinued in 1997.

Today's offer

Today, the train is during the peak summer season of up to 20 double-decker passenger cars, including quite a few Expressgutwagen to 2004 and between Chicago and Denver were added yet truck trailer. Up to four each 3090 kW diesel-electric locomotives the train will then be biased. When driving through seven U.S. states, a total of 33 stops that are served, the entire journey takes runs regularly between 52-53 hours. Here, the train makes use of the railway infrastructure from two suppliers:

The train operates double-decker seat ( coach class) and sleeper ( Sleeper ). The latter offer four different types of sleeping cabins. In addition, a dining car and an observation car is carried along with the bistro.

2010 used the California Zephyr 377 876 passengers. This resulted from the previous year, an increase of 9%. 2011 was the number of passengers slightly to 350,000.

Route description

The route length is approximately 3,900 kilometers. The train uses for its partial journey the route of the first transcontinental railway crossing by the United States.

For westbound trains the Chicago Union Station is the starting point. After the train has left the city, he goes through many small farming communities on the Great Plains, which originated in the 19th century along the railroad track. In Burlington ( Iowa) the train crosses the Mississippi River.

West of Denver, the landscape changes dramatically: The train now runs on steep ramps, through many curves and many tunnels the eastern flank of the Rocky Mountains up. With the Moffat Tunnel as the summit tunnel the North American Continental Divide runs beneath it. From its western portal from the train through a series of canyons over several hours the Colorado River up to Grand Junction follows.

In Utah, the route follows the southern edge of the Book Cliffs. Then they cross the Wasatch Mountains to achieve Salt Lake City. The route along the south shore of the Great Salt Lake along and across the Bonneville Salt Flats towards Nevada. Here the route follows essentially the Humboldt River. The nearest major town is Reno. Here begins the ascent into the Sierra Nevada to California. The Sierra is crossed on the Donner Pass. After the decline of the California Zephyr reached the California Central Valley. The journey ends in the station of Emeryville, in a suburb of Oakland. To the situated across the bay from San Francisco San Francisco only leads the Bay Bridge, a bridge exclusively for road transport. On the circumnavigation of the Bay by rail waived the train. Passengers to San Francisco to continue the last few kilometers of their journey with a shuttle bus from Amtrak.