Silver Splendor

Written by: Gary Dolzall

The California Zephyr is coming soon – and Gary Dolzall takes a look at the “Silver Lady’s” magnificent passenger equipment

The vista-dome-equipped California Zephyr, built by the Budd Company, inaugurated in 1949, and destined to become an iconic and beloved fixture of the American railroad scene for two decades, is soon coming to Train Simulator in all its silver splendor.

The concept for the train that would be nicknamed the “Silver Lady” was born of discussions among executives of three railroads: The Burlington Route (CB&Q), Rio Grande (D&RGW), and Western Pacific (WP) as World War II neared its close. As joint operators of the traditional luxury heavyweight Exposition Flyer operating between Chicago, Illinois and Oakland, California, the three roads set their sight on creating a magnificent new streamlined, diesel-powered domeliner. The anticipated passenger appeal of dome cars – or as they would be called on the new train, “vista-domes” – was deemed so high, especially considering the train’s remarkably scenic route, that construction specifications called for five dome cars per train set. Given the new streamliner’s 2,532-mile-long route, which would be covered in something over 50 hours, to provide daily service in each direction, six full California Zephyr train sets, at a cost of $12 million, would be required, with each of the three owning railroads purchasing cars for the joint operating pool.

Construction of the California Zephyr train sets, built at the Budd Company’s Red Lion (Pennsylvania) car shops, began in 1946. Each of this six sets of equipment would include 11 cars: a 72-foot, 8-inch-long streamlined baggage car; three vista-dome coaches; a vista-dome buffet-lounge-dormitory car; a trio of 10-roomette, 6-bedroom sleepers; a 48-seat diner; a 16-section sleeper, and the train’s signature vista-dome bedroom-lounge-observation (which at a cost of $172,412 per car was the most expensive car in each set). One of the 10/6 sleepers in each consist was earmarked for transcontinental (New York-California) service operated in cooperation with both the New York Central and Pennsylvania, and the PRR, in fact, purchased one sleeper for the operating pool. All the California Zephyr cars were named with the prefix “Silver” and each lived up to that shimmering image, being constructed of fluted stainless steel. Delivery of the California Zephyr train sets from the Budd Company began in early 1948, with testing and public exhibition tours to follow throughout the remainder of that year.

Each of the three owning and operating railroads provided motive power for the California Zephyr (a topic we’ll be covering in a forthcoming article, and also see the earlier Train-Simulator.com article The Silver Lady) and the honor of formally inaugurating the “CZ” was given to the Western Pacific, when, on March 20, 1949 at 9:30 a.m., Western Pacific Train 18 – the first eastbound California Zephyr – made a ceremonious departure from Oakland Pier. The career of the California Zephyr would extend for two glorious decades, until the impacts of jets and interstate highways changed the travel habits of the American populace and operating costs of the service became untenable for the Western Pacific, which discontinued its leg of the train’s passage on March 22, 1970. Unlike many trains, though, which suffered the ignominy of seeing equipment and services slowly rationalized, the California Zephyr, virtually from the beginning to the end of its tenure, represented luxury rail-bound cruise travel.

During the California Zephyr’s two decades of operation, only a modest number of changes were made to its consists, and, for the most part, those changes enhanced rather than detracted from its quality of service. In 1952, responding to the immediate popularity of the Silver Lady, a set of six 5-compartment, 6-double bedroom sleepers (e.g., one for each train set) were acquired by the owning railroads. At the same time, the Burlington Route also purchased four additional cars built to California Zephyr specifications – one lounge-observation, one 16-section sleeper, and a pair of 10/6 sleepers – which would effectively serve as back-up stock for the CZ and were also used regularly on the Burlington’s Chicago-Lincoln (Nebraska) Ak-Sar-Ben Zephyr. The other most significant change, which occurred in the early 1960s, was the rebuilding of the CZ’s 16-section sleepers (for which there proved diminishing demand) into standard coaches, which were used during peak travel seasons. Indeed, the California Zephyr’s consists, like that of most long-distance trains, would be adjusted based upon seasonal demands and the like, but its luxury standards remained largely inviolate.

Dovetail Games will soon be bringing the complete consist of the California Zephyr, along with the train’s authentic Western Pacific and Rio Grande motive power, to Train Simulator, where “the Silver Lady” will be a perfect complement to the Western Pacific Feather River Canyon route – and indeed be very suitable for service on the popular Train Simulator D&RGW Soldier Summit route as well. So let’s take this opportunity, in the following advance screenshots, to take a closer look at the “silver splendor” of Train Simulator’s upcoming California Zephyr. – Gary Dolzall

The California Zephyr is coming soon to Train Simulator! At Keddie, on the Western Pacific’s Feather River Canyon route, the “Silver Lady’s” signature vista-dome-bedroom-lounge-observation (above) glides across Spanish Creek Trestle. Whether one was at trackside or snuggled into one of the California Zephyr’s dome seats (below), the experience was simply magnificent. All screenshots by Gary Dolzall.

The California Zephyr is coming soon to Train Simulator! At Keddie, on the Western Pacific’s Feather River Canyon route, the “Silver Lady’s” signature vista-dome-bedroom-lounge-observation (above) glides across Spanish Creek Trestle. Whether one was at trackside or snuggled into one of the California Zephyr’s dome seats (below), the experience was simply magnificent. All screenshots by Gary Dolzall.

CZ#03
Tucked behind the California Zephyr’s motive power was a 72-foot, 8-inch-long streamlined baggage car which, like the entire consist, bore a name prefixed with “Silver.” Baggage car “Silver Beaver” was one of two such cars owned by Western Pacific and one of six baggage cars operated in the California Zephyr equipment pool. The cars carried passengers’ baggage and also express shipments. Note: Screenshots depict content still in development.

Tucked behind the California Zephyr’s motive power was a 72-foot, 8-inch-long streamlined baggage car which, like the entire consist, bore a name prefixed with “Silver.” Baggage car “Silver Beaver” was one of two such cars owned by Western Pacific and one of six baggage cars operated in the California Zephyr equipment pool. The cars carried passengers’ baggage and also express shipments. Note: Screenshots depict content still in development.

Each California Zephyr consist typically included a trio of vista-dome chair cars such as “Silver Scout.” The stylish Budd-built cars each held 46 reserved coach seats in the lower level and 24 unreserved dome seats upstairs.

Each California Zephyr consist typically included a trio of vista-dome chair cars such as “Silver Scout.” The stylish Budd-built cars each held 46 reserved coach seats in the lower level and 24 unreserved dome seats upstairs.

Dome-equipped buffet-lounge-dormitory cars such as “Silver Hostel” provided space for passengers to relax and snack, 24 dome seats to enjoy the route’s superb scenery, and crew rest quarters with bunks for 15.

Dome-equipped buffet-lounge-dormitory cars such as “Silver Hostel” provided space for passengers to relax and snack, 24 dome seats to enjoy the route’s superb scenery, and crew rest quarters with bunks for 15.

From the snug (7 x 30-foot) confines of the kitchen in dining cars such as “Silver Plate” came some of the most delicious meals found on American rails. The car could seat 48 guests.

From the snug (7 x 30-foot) confines of the kitchen in dining cars such as “Silver Plate” came some of the most delicious meals found on American rails. The car could seat 48 guests.

10-roomette, 6-double-bedroom (“10/6”) sleepers such as “Silver Range” provided the majority of the sleeping accommodations on the California Zephyr, with each consist typically carrying three such cars, each of which could accommodate up to 22 revenue Pullman passengers.

10-roomette, 6-double-bedroom (“10/6”) sleepers such as “Silver Range” provided the majority of the sleeping accommodations on the California Zephyr, with each consist typically carrying three such cars, each of which could accommodate up to 22 revenue Pullman passengers.

Added to the consists of the California Zephyr in 1952 to accommodate demand for sleeping car accommodations were 5-compartment, 6-double-bedroom sleepers such as “Silver Crane.”

Added to the consists of the California Zephyr in 1952 to accommodate demand for sleeping car accommodations were 5-compartment, 6-double-bedroom sleepers such as “Silver Crane.”

Originally built as 16-section sleepers with classic upper and lower Pullman berths, cars such as “Silver Palm” were reconfigured to standard 48-seat chair cars in the early 1960s and were used on the California Zephyr thereafter primarily during peak travel periods.

Originally built as 16-section sleepers with classic upper and lower Pullman berths, cars such as “Silver Palm” were reconfigured to standard 48-seat chair cars in the early 1960s and were used on the California Zephyr thereafter primarily during peak travel periods.

Literally and figuratively, the “exclamation mark” of the California Zephyr was its stylish and legendary vista-dome-bedroom-lounge-observation (above), which included three double bedrooms, one stateroom, a rear observation lounge (below), and dome seating. Costing $172,412 a copy in 1948, the cars famously carried the train’s neon-lighted “California Zephyr” tail sign.

Literally and figuratively, the “exclamation mark” of the California Zephyr was its stylish and legendary vista-dome-bedroom-lounge-observation (above), which included three double bedrooms, one stateroom, a rear observation lounge (below), and dome seating. Costing $172,412 a copy in 1948, the cars famously carried the train’s neon-lighted “California Zephyr” tail sign.

CZ#12
Coming soon to Train Simulator: the silver splendor of the fabulous California Zephyr!

Coming soon to Train Simulator: the silver splendor of the fabulous California Zephyr!

Gary Dolzall

10 Comments

  • All aboard!

  • Is this set of cars going to come with a new locomotive to haul it; I’m curious! Don’t get me wrong, these look beautiful and I can’t wait!

    • As mentioned in the article, “Dovetail Games will soon be bringing the complete consist of the California Zephyr, along with the train’s authentic Western Pacific and Rio Grande motive power, to Train Simulator.” Details on those locomotives will be coming soon in a Train-Simulator article.

  • Excellent article and great screenshots, Gary. I especially like the detail on the observation lounge dome’s interior! Looking forward to the release of the set.

  • Amazing! I can’t wait for this!

  • All I have to say is WOW.

  • Okay, this looks exceptionally good!

  • Very nice article, Gary! I for one am really looking forward to having the “CZ” in TS2016. Let’s all hope we get some CB&Q equipment so we can run the “CZ” on the Racetrack. Thank you for your wonderful articles and scenarios, I am also looking forward to your upcoming scenarios for this DLC and others.

  • The vintage California Zephyr is such a fancy-looking train. The article mentions that there are both Western Pacific and Denver & Rio Grande locomotives included, but what kinds of diesels are they? EMD F3s? EMD FP7s? Now, I’m aware of the licensing issue with BNSF therefore that probably explains why the Chicago Burlington & Quincy locomotives and cars won’t be included. But will the Pennsylvania Railroad California Zephyr sleeping car “Silver Rapids” be included in this pack? That’s an interesting car because it’s a former California Zephyr car, but it was owned by the Pennsylvania Railroad and it went all the way from New York to Oakland on a regular basis back in the day, and now it’s used in excursion service and as a private car on Amtrak trains. One thing to point out, I know it’s a work in progress, but may we please have connecting air hoses on these passenger cars and locomotives Dovetail Games, the air hoses in these screenshots curl a little bit, but don’t connect to other units in the train.

    • Agreed. It would make this pack much better if the car’s air hoses actually connected.

Leave a Reply

You must be logged in to post a comment.