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June 26, 2022

On the California Zephyr in 1948

The California Zephyr ran from Chicago to Oakland and was introduced in 1948. The Budd Manufacturing Company made all of the cars. The California Zephyr ran over Chicago, Burlington and Quincy rails to Denver, then on Denver and Rio Grande Western track to Salt Lake City, then on the Western Pacific to Oakland. Passengers then continued by ferry to San Francisco. Six trainsets (plus some extra spare cars) ran the route to keep daily service. The trainset did not change over the route: new motive power from each railroad was simply switched on in Denver and Salt Lake City.

The cars were owned by the individual railroads in numbers proportional to the mileage of each railroad along the route. Cars were lettered “California Zephyr”, but each end of the car was labeled with its owner in small letters. Cars were named “Silver …” and not numbered. Originally it was thought that cars in California Zephyr trains would stay together, but repeated car substitutions left the specific car assignments variable while the consists of car types was mostly unchanged.


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