Saturday, November 20, 2010

Pioneer Zephyr

Pioneer Zephyr, originally uploaded by William 74.

In the 1930's, railroads were still ruled by steam. Diesel electrics were in use, but they were still a novelty on most American roads. That changed in 1934 with the Chicago, Burlington, & Quincy's introduction of engine 9900, the Pioneer Zephyr.

Created with the idea of bringing riders back to the rails, the Zephyr was a huge step forward in passenger train technology. Aside from it's diesel electric power, the train was constructed almost entirely of stainless steel, which helped to make it far lighter than most heavyweight trains of the day. Combined with the shovel-nosed locomotive at the front, the shiny Zephyr was a sensation, like nothing else on the rails. It was fast, too, with top speeds in excess of 100 mph and making the dash from Denver to Chicago in a little over 13 hours.

The Pioneer went into regular use soon after the record run, and continued in regular service on several routes until March of 1960. By then the other articulated Zephyr sets had been retired. The Pioneer was donated to the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago, where it resides today, beautifully restored*. That's where I shot it, just before Halloween. The Museum was running the "Haunted Zephyr" tour, a haunted house on rails. I'm well pleased with this shot, which really looks like it was taken at some remote whistle stop in a small town in Nebraska or Iowa.

*you can ride another Zephyr set, the Nebraska Zephyr, at the Illinois Railway Museum. This set is also in great shape, but is pulled by a fantastic EMD E5, rather than the engine pictured here. It's beautiful, too.


  1. I love the Zephyr! I was quite pleased to see that it was on an elongated penny at the museum, too. Of course, I now own it.