History of the California Zephyr

Page 1

During the latter part of 1937 Western Pacific was actively engaged with The Denver & Rio Grande Western, the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy, and the Missouri Pacific in modernizing through passenger service on the San Francisco-Chicago, Denver-St. Louis routes. Owing to the unfavorable economic conditions, which came about in 1938, and the prospect of entering World War II, the project was temporarily deferred and eventually abandoned until after the war.

When the end of the war was in sight, the plans for such a daily train were revived and, on October 16, 1945 the executives of the three railroads met in Denver and signed the agreement that would give birth to a new, streamlined train to replace the Exposition Flyer. While the agreement signed on this day would become known as the “President’s Agreement”, it should be recognized as the official day the CZ was born.

Birth of the California Zephyr

Between The Western Pacific Railroad Company,
Trustee of The Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad Company,
and Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad Company.

As to new streamlined passenger train service to be provided daily in each direction between Chicago and San Francisco.

In view of the very substantial investment which will be required, the agreement contemplates the basic general theory that these California Zephyr Trains are to be considered as a unified operation of 3 partnership lines and that the over-all efficiency, service to the public and salability of the service will be the governing factors in connection with this operation rather than the individual convenience or preference of any one partner line. Such an agreement is necessary for mutual protection of all three partners against presently unforeseeable changes in management or ownership of any participating line.


1. Six new trains will be provided. The trains will bear the name "California Zephyr". To insure uniform quality of service and simplified and economical maintenance these six sets of equipment are to be uniform in standards, appliances, appointments, division of floor space, accommodations, etc., car for car, with the governing principle that the service offered will be that of the California Zephyr rather than that of any of the 3 partner railroads. This uniformity of service should apply to special dining car china, silver, menus, meal prices, etc.

2. The trains will be operated as through daily San Francisco-Chicago-San Francisco trains without change of consist enroute for a minimum period of five years from date of initial service.

3. Ownership of the equipment in the six new trains is to be divided between the three roads substantially on a basis of mileage prorate which will result in Western Pacific and C.B. & Q. each owning two complete trains, D. & R.G.W. owning one complete train, and individual cars in the sixth train to be owned by each of the three roads as stated in the attached table.

4. Each road will supply Diesel locomotives of sufficient capacity to maintain-the agreed schedules. Every effort will be made by all parties to keep these trains on time. Unnecessarily long delays at intermediate terminals will be avoided.

5. The consist of each train is to be maintained intact between Chicago and Oakland and cars will not be cut in or out of the train except in emergency.

6. To avoid jeopardizing on-time performance by overloading the locomotives, the through consists of the trains between Chicago and Oakland will not be increased except by unanimous approval.

7. Trains will be scheduled to provide daylight operation in both directions through the Feather River Canyon and the Colorado Rockies. The over-all time will not exceed 51 hours westbound and 49 hours 30 minutes east-bound, the division between railroads being approximately as follows:

  (1:30p CT Ar. Chicago Lv. 3:00p CT)  
17'30" (       ) 18'30"
  (7:00p MT Lv. Denver Ar. 8:30a MT)  
30"     Dead Time     30"
  (6:30p MT Ar. Denver Lv. 9:00a MT)  
13'00" (       ) 13'00"
  (5:30a MT Lv. Salt Lake Ar. 10:00p MT)  
15" Dead Time 15"
(4:15a PT Ar. Salt Lake Lv. 9:15p PT)
18'15" (       ) 18'45"
  (10:00a PT Lv. San Francisco Ar. 4:00p PT)  
49'30"     TOTAL ELAPSED TIME     51'00"

When the final schedules have been agreed to by the three lines no material changes in time at initial or intermediate terminals will be made by any one line without the consent of the other two. It was agreed that no public announcement of schedules would be made at this time other than the general statement relating to operation over the scenic parts of the line by daylight.

8. Each line will maintain its roadway in such condition as to insure safety and comfortable riding at speeds required to maintain the agreed schedules. Likewise, the equipment will be kept at the high standard of maintenance which the service requires. Because of the layover periods occurring at Oakland and Chicago most of the running repairs, cleaning, and servicing will be done by the Western Pacific and Burlington, each of the three roads to bear the cost of such work on a mileage pro-rate basis. The partner lines to this service will bear, likewise, a mileage pro-rate share of the 5% interest on investment required for any special facilities which must be provided in order to maintain California Zephyr equipment efficiently and economically, the character and cost of such special facilities to be submitted and agreed upon prior to inauguration of the train service.

9. Interstate or other outside news and vending agencies will not operate on these trains and any such service found necessary and agreed upon by the partner lines' passenger department officers shall be operated by the railroads.

10. Any joint national advertising shall carry names or monograms of participating lines and the text shall publicize the train and route features as the principal theme, advertising in local publications along each line shall be independently handled by each partner road.

11. As between the three roads, each will assume entire responsibility for damage to equipment while in its possession, and will, at its own expense, repair or replace cars so damaged or destroyed; and so-called "catastrophe insurance" will be carried on all the trains, the placing of such insurance to be handled either jointly or severally, as may be later agreed upon.

12. The new service of the California Zephyr will replace the present through schedule service offered by the Exposition Flyer.

13. Any disagreements among traffic or operating officers of the partner roads as to the interpretation of this agreement will be settled in conference by the three Chief Executives.

Dated at Denver, Colorado, October 16, 1945.

By /s/ Ralph Budd

of The Denver and Rio Grande Western
Railroad Company
/s/ Wilson McCarthy
/s/ Henry Swan

By /s/ Charles Elsey

Table of Equipment to be Acquired by Each Railroad for CALIFORNIA ZEPHYR Service
Each of the three partner railroads will acquire complete 10-car trains as follows:
Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad Company 2
The Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad Company 1
The Western Pacific Railroad Company 2
Equipment of the sixth train to be owned as follows:
Baggage Cars 1 - -
Vista Dome Coaches (D) 1 1 1
Tourist Sleeper - 1 -
Dormitory-Tavern (D) 1 - -
Dining Cars 1 - -
32-Passenger Sleeper (Duplex and sections) - - 1
22-Passenger Room Sleeper (Bedrooms and cabins) - 1 -
Observation Room Sleeper (D) 1 - -
TOTAL 5 3 2
D - Dome      

Denver, Colorado
October 15, 1945.