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Illinois Zephyr and Carl Sandburg
The Illinois Zephyr and Carl Sandburg are a pair of 258-mile (415 km) passenger trains operated by Amtrak that run between Chicago and Quincy, Illinois. The trains are a part of the Illinois Service rail network and are partially funded by the Illinois Department of Transportation. Between Chicago and Galesburg, Illinois, the services share the BNSF, (ex-CB&Q main line) with the California Zephyr and Southwest Chief. The Galesburg to Quincy section (ex-CB&Q Quincy/Hannibal branch) is only served by the Illinois Zephyr and the Carl Sandburg. Started in November 1971, the Illinois Zephyr is the "longest continuously operated state-sponsored train." The Carl Sandburg was added as a second daily round trip in 2006.

During fiscal year 2015, both the Illinois Zephyr and Carl Sandburg carried a combined 208,961 passengers, a 2.8% decrease over fiscal year 2014. The two trains had a total revenue of $5,287,029 in fiscal year 2015, a 4.2% decrease over fiscal year 2014.

The Illinois Zephyr is a descendant of the Kansas City Zephyr and American Royal Zephyr passenger train routes operated by the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad from 1953 until 1968 and 1971, respectively. The state of Illinois intervened in 1971 at the request of Quincy College (now Quincy University), Western Illinois University, and residents of western Illinois. This became part of the "Illinois Service" initiative in 1971 and is partially funded by the Illinois Department of Transportation. Service on the Illinois Zephyr began on November 14, 1971, between Chicago and West Quincy, Missouri. The name "Zephyr" is preserved in the current name of the line. Today the Illinois Zephyr enjoys strong support from the communities it passes through, and is one of the most successful Amtrak routes.

Service to Plano began on April 30, 1972. Service to Quincy proper began on April 24, 1983. The suburban stop at Aurora, was discontinued on April 28, 1985, in favor of Naperville. Passenger service was cut back to Quincy, Illinois on May 1, 1994, after a major flood in 1993 destroyed the original station at West Quincy. The Illinois Zephyr and the Carl Sandburg trainsets continue to cross the Mississippi River to layover at the BNSF West Quincy railyard in between runs.

On October 30, 2006, a second round trip, the Carl Sandburg was added as part of the Midwest Regional Rail Initiative. The train's name honors Carl Sandburg, whose birthplace in Galesburg, Illinois lies just a few hundred feet from this train's route. The morning westbound/evening eastbound schedule complements the opposite schedule of the Illinois Zephyr.

During 2010, Amtrak contacted officials from communities in northeastern Missouri and western Illinois regarding the feasibility of extending the Illinois Zephyr, plus Carl Sandburg, southwards to Hannibal, Missouri and St. Louis. While a study for the expansion was not conducted, the project could be funded with a mix of both federal and state money.

Today, a normal Amtrak Illinois Zephyr or Carl Sandburg consists of:

  One Siemens SC-44 Charger or GE Genesis P42DC locomotive.
  Sometimes one non-powered cab car, otherwise known as an NPCU, rebuilt from an EMD F40PH
  Three to five Amfleet I or Horizon Fleet coaches
  One Amfleet I or Horizon fleet Cafe/Business class car.

Illinois Zephyr and Carl Sandburg Overview
Service type: Inter-city rail
Locale: Illinois
Predecessor: American Royal Zephyr and Kansas City Zephyr
First service: November 14, 1971 (Illinois Zephyr), October 30, 2006 (Carl Sandburg)
Current operator: Amtrak
Start: Chicago, Illinois
Stops: 8
End: Quincy, Illinois
Distance traveled: 258 miles (415 km)
Average journey time: 4 hours 22 minutes
Service frequency: Twice daily
Train numbers: 380-383
On-board services
Classes: Reserved Coach and Business Class
Seating arrangements: Airline-style coach seating
Catering facilities: On-board café
Track gauge: 4 ft 8 1⁄2 in (1,435 mm)
Track owner: BNSF Railway

See also:


Named Passenger Trains

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​The Illinois Zephyr westbound on the BNSF Chicago subdivision.

​The Illinois Zephyr westbound on the BNSF Chicago subdivision.

By vxla - originally posted to Flickr as Amtrak Train No. 383 (the "Illinois Zephyr") pulled by AMTK 17, CC BY 2.0, - NFL Jerseys and Gear
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