Postcard photo of the Kansas City Zephyr-American Royal Zephyr. The Kansas City Zephyr traveled between Chicago and Kansas City.

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Postcard depiction of the Kansas City Zephyr.
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Kansas City Zephyr drum head.
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A Kansas City Zephyr Slideshow.

Kansas City Zephyr
The Kansas City Zephyr was a streamliner passenger train service operated by the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad (CB&Q) between Chicago and Kansas City.

The largest fleet of named streamliners in the United States were the Burlington's Zephyrs. Competing in markets against the famed Eagles, Chiefs, 400's, Cities and Hiawathas on almost every route, the polished Zephyrs covered almost every route on the mainline of the Burlington and for years held the speed/distance title in the record books.

The Kansas City Zephyr made its inaugural run on February 1, 1953, as an all-new daylight streamliner between Chicago and Kansas City. The new train was prompted by the completion the previous October of the $16-million "Kansas City Shortcut", 49 miles of new track that made the route shorter, flatter, and straighter. The new alignment shaved two hours off of the previous shortest route, and made CB&Q optimistic that it could compete successfully against its entrenched rival, the AT&SF, on this busy route.

Kansas City Zephyr No. 36 departed Kansas City at 12:01 pm, arriving in Chicago at 8:00 pm. Westbound counterpart #35 departed the Windy City at 12:30 pm, arriving in Kansas City at 8:45 pm. The original consist included two Vista-Domes, coaches, diner, and observation car, all built by Budd. The CB&Q simultaneously launched an overnight Chicago-Kansas City service on the same route under the banner of the American Royal Zephyr. Sadly, the Kansas City Zephyr never lived up to ridership expectations, and it was not long before equipment from the Kansas City Zephyr was being shuffled off to other trains. Intense competition came from the Santa Fe, which ran six daily streamliners in each direction between the city pair on a shorter schedule than CB&Q. On April 10, 1968, just over 15 years after its promising beginning, the Kansas City Zephyr was discontinued, becoming a nameless local train between Chicago and West Quincy, MO.

Two of the original railcars from the Kansas City Zephyr are still in use today. The Silver Garden, 1952 Budd Dome Lounge Coach and the Silver Terrace, 1952 Budd Dome Observation cars current operate on the Branson Scenic Railway in Branson, Missouri.

Subsequent Service On The Route
The Illinois Zephyr and Carl Sandburg are two passenger trains operated by Amtrak that run 258 miles between Chicago and Quincy, Illinois and are the descendants of the Kansas City Zephyr and American Royal Zephyr passenger train routes operated by the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad until 1968 and 1971. The name Zephyr is preserved in the current name of the Illinois Zephyr. Today the Illinois Zephyr enjoys strong support from the communities it passes through. They all promote the train line as a means of getting to Chicago, and train tickets are frequently sold out. As such, this route is part of the Midwest Regional Rail Initiative, which calls for an upgrade of service from the current 1 daily round trip to 4 or more daily round trips. The Carl Sandburg was added on October 30, 2006. The average travel time from Chicago to Quincy is 4 hours, 30 minutes.

Station stops
Original Kansas City Zephyr, station stops:

Chicago Union Station
La Grange Road station
Aurora Old CB&Q station (abandoned and largely demolished)
Plano station
Mendota station
Princeton station
Kewanee station
Galesburg CB&Q Seminary Street station (demolished); near current station.
Bushnell Old CB&Q Station (No longer a stop) Relocated to the Western Illinois Threshers grounds in Hamilton, Illinois.
Macomb station
Quincy station

West Quincy CB&Q station (entire town abandoned after the Great Flood of 1993).
Macon station
Chillicothe station
Kansas City station

Kansas City Zephyr Overview
Service type: Daytime inter-city rail
Status: Discontinued
First service: February 1, 1953
Last service: April 1968
Former operator: Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad
Start: Chicago (Union Station)
End: Kansas City, Missouri (Union Station)
Distance traveled: 466 miles
Average journey time: 8 hours 50 minutes
Service frequency: Daily
Train number: Westbound: 35, Eastbound: 36
On-board Services
Classes: Coach and Parlor
Catering facilities: Parlor-dining car
Observation facilities: Vista-dome chair car
Track gauge: 4 ft 8 1⁄2 in

See also:


American Royal Zephyr

Named Passenger Trains