California Zephyr: The Silver Lady

Stan Kistler photo (Ken Rattenne collection)

The "Vista-domed" California Zephyr changed the face of rail travel forever. Introduced in March 1949, the "CZ" enjoyed immense popularity with the traveling public, especially families, well into the sixties. The train's designers envisioned it as a long-distance, sight-seeing experience. Called "The Silver Lady" by some railroad observers, it covered the 2550 miles between Chicago and the San Francisco Bay area in 52 hours, with passage through the Rocky Mountains and High Sierras in daylight.

A tri-umvariate of the Western Pacific (WP), Denver & Rio Grande Western (D&RGW), and Chicago Burlington & Quincy (CB&Q) railroads built and operated the train until its demise in March 1970. EMD-built F-units and E-units were the typical locomotives assigned; however, Alco-built PA1s occasionally drew the assignment on the D&RGW in the early years.

Image: Western Pacific 804A departs Oakland, CA (Mole) with Calizornia Zephyr circa 1958. Stan Kistler (Ken Rattenne collection)


Western Pacific Locomotives

click on image to enlarge

F3A 803A

William Nixon photo (Ken Rattenne collection)

FP7 805D

Keith Ardinger photo (Ken Rattenne collection)


Paul Finnegan photo

Denver & Rio Grande Western Locomotives

click on image to enlarge

PAs (original livery)

Robert Grant photo collection

PAs in slver w/ Aspen gold nose

Herb Ringer photo

PA 601

Chuck Zeiler photo

F3A 5541

Chuck Zeiler photo

Black and Yellow F3s, photo needed

F9A 5771

Roger Daniels photo

Chicago Burlington & Quincy Locomotives

click on image to enlarge

F3A 9960A

California photo

E8A 9939A

Jim Strain photo

E8A 9969

R. Craig photo

Amtrak (prior to 1997)

click on image to enlarge

E8A 9942

Don Crimmin photo


Drew Jacksich photo

SDP40F 622

Don Crimmin photo

F40PH 378

Ron Flanary photo

P40DC 812

Bill Edgar photo

Amtrak 504

Paul DeLuca photo


Format by: R.Craig New: 8 August 2017
Reference sources: Burlington Norther Annuals (1971 and 1972 by Hol Wagner, Journey to Amtrak by Harold Edmonson, Western Pacific's Diesel Years by Joseph Strapac, and Locomotives of the Rio Grande by Colorado Railroad Museum, along with the Amtrak roster from TDS.

"Rail" and "" websites were especially helpful here in identifying potential photographers and related images. We extend our thanks to these valuable resources. Thanks also to Michael Richmond who was very helpful in identifying and gaining permission to use many of the above photos.

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