A new book is set to look at the famous cross-country train, the California Zephyr. In its current incarnation with Amtrak, the passenger train runs once a day (each way) between Chicago, Illinois, and Emeryville, California, a distance of over 2,400 miles. John Kelly’s The California Zephyr: An Entertaining History of America’s Most Celebrated Train Route, set for release on September 5th, considers the history and many details of the train. The California Zephyr is specifically famous for its scenic route thru the Rocky Mountains and the American West. First launched in 1949 by the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad, Amtrak began using the California Zephyr name in 1983 on its inter-mountain route. “Zephyr” means “west wind”.

Zephyr Book.jpg
Image – amazon.com

Kelly’s paperback history examines the equipment that has used by the California Zephyr and includes diagrams of various cars employed, ranging from coach to dining to bedroom to observation. Additional items in the book include travel brochures, dining car menus, and original trip reports by the “Zephyrette” hostesses, who were a part of the Zephyr between 1949 and 1970. On-board duties for Zephyrettes were quite varied and the female workers could find themselves acting as a tour guide or a babysitter. The distinctive Zephyrette uniform can be seen in the following ad for the train:

Zephyr Ad.jpg
Image – henrykisor.com

In 2016, the California Zephyr carried almost half-a-million passengers (including this writer six times between Chicago and Denver). Despite the current US administration’s intention to cut all long-distance Amtrak trains as a budgetary move, the Zephyr increased its ridership from 2015 to 2016 and remains the only form of reliable year-round public transportation across rural regions known for difficult winters. For more on the importance of the Zephyr and Amtrak from a Colorado perspective, visit the link ColoRail – Zephyr. ColoRail is an advocacy group for passenger rail in the state (of which this writer is a proud member). Passenger rail, which is efficient, safe and environmentally-friendly, is our way “back to the future”….and politicians who don’t see that are truly the ones in the past. Biff can’t win, right? 😉

The California Zephyr: An Entertaining History of America’s Most Celebrated Train Route runs 126 pages and is published by Enthusiast Books. It can be ordered via online retailers such as Amazon.

(Copyright – Chad Beharriell)

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