Pioneer Zephyr


This week, I’m gonna write about another piece of historically very important passenger railroad equipment that I’ve had the privilege to have a close encounter with and lay my hands upon. However, unlike the almost-mythical JetTrain, this streamlined, articulated, and stainless steel diesel-electric trainset is on display at a museum for the admiration of the masses. I’m talking about the Pioneer Zephyr at the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago (located minutes walking-distance away from the 57th Street exit of the 55-56-57th Street Station of the Metra Electric Line).

The beautiful Pioneer Zephyr
The history of the Zephyr is abundantly available on the internet, and I won’t reiterate too much of it here. The takeaway is that though for the non-foamer general masses is that this train is an icon of American passenger railroading and has inspired the era of the railroad streamliners. She was built for the Chicago, Quincy and Burlington Railroad by the famous Budd Company. On the Zephyr’s inaugural run, she made a non-stop dash from one end of the CB&Q to the other (Denver to Chicago) in a world record setting time of 13 hours and 5 minutes at an average speed of 77 mph and reached a top of speed of just over 112 mph. She was also the first diesel-electric trainset in America, with one powered truck at the head end. Traction motors are powered by a generator coupled to a 6,000 hp, straight 8, EMC/Winton engine. The entire trainset was also articulated, meaning that trucks are shared under each car and the entire train was built as a set and could not be separated.

Lucky passengers waiting to be aboard of the Zephyr
The important role that the Zephyr has played in passenger rail history is undeniable and the train remains a legacy today. Yes one can see many pictures of pretty much anything in this digital age, but admiring one such engineering marvel up close in person and feeling her sleek stainless steel body with one’s own hands is still an experience unmatched by any digital reproduction. I highly recommend that all who have reasonable access to the City of Chicago take a little trip to the Museum of Industry and Science and have a tour around and inside this triumph in passenger railroad engineering. And please do check out the valuable historical footage of the Zephyr's record run.

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