Classic Streamliners - TRAINCYCLOPEDIA
San Francisco Zephyr Overview
Service type: Inter-city rail
Locale: Western United States
Predecessor: City of San Francisco/Denver Zephyr
First service: June 11, 1972
Last service: July 15, 1983
Successor: California Zephyr
Former operator: Amtrak
Start: Chicago, Illinois
End: Oakland, California
Distance traveled: 2,390 miles
Train numbers: 5, 6
Track gauge 4 ft 8 1⁄2 in
Route : Distance - Station
2185 mi - Truckee
2251 mi - Colfax
2304 mi - Sacramento
2317 mi - Davis
2344 mi - Suisun-Fairfield
2361 mi - Martinez
2381 mi - Richmond
2390 mi - Oakland
An EMD FP7 and two EMD SDP40Fs pull the eastward San Francisco Zephyr through Yuba Gap in 1975. Photo by Drew Jacksich.
By Drew Jacksich from San Jose, CA, The Republic of California - AMTK 113 Yuba Gap Feb1975, CC BY 2.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=17929803
August 1972, SP No. 6447 is ready to leave SP's 16th St. Station in Oakland, CA with train No. 6, the San Francisco Zephyr. Photo by Drew Jacksich.
By Drew Jacksich from San Jose, CA, California Republic (SP 6447 with 6 August 1972 16th stxRP) [CC BY 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons
San Francisco Zephyr
The San Francisco Zephyr was the name adopted in June 1972 for the Amtrak passenger train between Chicago, Illinois, and the San Francisco Bay Areain California. Previously, those wanting to take a train between Chicago and Oakland, would have to take the Denver Zephyr which ran daily between Chicago and Denver, and the City of San Francisco, which ran three times a week, between Denver and Oakland.
Because of the refusal of the Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad to join Amtrak in 1971, and their decision to maintain their own train, the Rio Grande Zephyr, between Denver and Salt Lake City, once reaching Denver, the San Francisco Zephyr was required to head north, where it joined the Union Pacific's Overland Route, at a junction just west of Cheyenne, Wyoming, to continue through southern Wyoming, via Laramie, to Ogden, Utah. For passengers wanting to use the Rio Grande's service and continue on Amtrak, the timing of the trains was coordinated to facilitate a connection in Ogden (but not Denver) with the D&RGW's Rio Grande Zephyr. The San Francisco Zephyr traveled over rails operated by three different railroads: the Burlington Northern between Chicago and Denver, the Union Pacific between Denver and Ogden, and the Southern Pacific between Ogden and Oakland.
In July 1980, the San Francisco Zephyr was outfitted with Amtrak's new bi-level Superliner passenger cars, one of the last western trains to receive them. One of the results of this was that through service was introduced between Chicago and Seattle, as the Pioneer, and Los Angeles as the Desert Wind, with both the Pioneer and Desert Wind traveling with the Zephyr between Chicago and Ogden.
In 1983 the D&RGW chose to join Amtrak, citing increasing losses in passenger operations. Amtrak re-routed the San Francisco Zephyr over the D&RGW's line between Denver and Salt Lake City, Utah, which was its original preference in 1971. The change was scheduled for April 25, but a mudslide at Thistle, Utah, closed the D&RGW's main line and delayed the change until July 16. With the change of route Amtrak renamed the train California Zephyr.
In an episode of the British program Great Railway Journeys, aired in 1980, presenter Ludovic Kennedy travels from New York to Los Angeles by rail, riding on the San Francisco Zephyr between Chicago and Oakland. (See below)
Purchases through our Merchant Links and Store help to defray the costs of operating the non-profit Classic Streamliners website, and at no additional cost to you. All of the staff at Classic Streamliners are unpaid volunteers who have all devoted thousands of hours of their own time to bring the site into fruition. We would like to sincerely thank all those who have already helped support this worthy cause. For more information click HERE.
Text: wikipedia.org. Images: Public Domain; http://www.commons.wikimedia.org (unless otherwise specified) and 17 U.S. Code § 107 fair use. References: Lewis, Robert G. The Handbook of American Railroads. New York: Simmons-Boardman Publishing Corporation, 1951, 2nd Edition 1956. Site Map Contact webmaster HERE.