Although the California Zephyr performed well enough from a financial point of view during the 1950s and most of the 1960s, by 1966 the economics had deteriorated enough that Western Pacific, the weakest of its three operating partners, sought to discontinue its portion of the train. Public outcry was immediate and vocal, and the Interstate Commerce Commission balked, calling the train a "unique national asset". Unfortunately, though, public outcry did not translate into financial return, and an increasingly desperate Western Pacific was finally given its release to discontinue passenger service in March 1970. However, the I. C. C. mandated that some vestige of California Zephyr service had to continue. Burlington and Rio Grande eventually won I. C. C. approval for this train, which would offer tri-weekly service over the old CZ route between Denver and Salt Lake City with the train continuing north to Ogden where passengers could make a cross-platform transfer to Southern Pacific's City of San then itself a tri-weekly train. The last "real" California Zephyrs left the terminals of Oakland and Chicago on March 20, 1970, 21 years to the day after their inaugural runs, each arriving two days later on March 22, with this restructured "California Service/Rio Grande Zephyr" picking up after that date.

From the pages of the Official Guide, April 1971

Burlington Northern RR heraldDenver & Rio Grande Western RR herald

Trains 11-15 and 16-12 (California Service)
The Rio Grande Zephyr

Burlington Northern
Denver & Rio Grande Western
March, 1971

11 Train Number 12
See Note Miles (Burlington Northern) Services See Note
11 59A Dp 0 Chicago, IL (Union Station) (CT) C R Ar 8 40P
14 La Grange, IL C X 8 13P
12 40P 38 Aurora, IL C R X 7 50P
12 49P 52 Plano, IL C X
12 52P 56 Sandwich, IL X F 7 21P
1 09P 72 Earlville, IL C X
1 22P 83 Mendota, IL C X 6 54P
1 44P 104 Princeton, IL C X 6 32P
1 55P 117 Buda, IL C X 6 19P
2 11P 131 Kewanee, IL C X 6 03P
F 2 19P 139 Galva, IL C X 5 51P
2 45P Ar 162 Galesburg, IL C R X Dp 5 30P
2 55P Dp Ar 5 00P
3 14P 179 Monmouth, IL C X 4 32P
3 45P 206 Burlington, IA C X 4 05P
4 12P 233 Mount Pleasant, IA C X 3 27P
4 32P 255 Fairfield, IA C X 3 05P
4 55P Ar 280 Ottumwa, IA C R X Dp 2 40P
4 57P Dp Ar 2 36P
5 20P 304 Albia, IA C X 2 13P
5 49P 335 Chariton, IA C X 1 43P
6 09P 360 Osceola, IA C X 1 15P
6 41P 393 Creston, IA (Des Moines via bus) C X 12 45P
7 01P 414 Corning, IA C X 12 13P
7 14P 428 Villisca, IA X 12 01P
7 28P 443 Red Oak, IA C X 11 45A
F 7 46P 462 Malvern, IA X
F 7 54P 472 Glenwood, IA C X
8 17P 492 Council Bluffs, IA C X 11 00A
8 45P Ar 496 Omaha, NE (CT) C R Dp 10 45A
Tri-Weekly California Service via Denver & Ogden
15Continuing Train Number (Burlington Northern)16
9 10P Dp496Omaha, NE (CT)C R Ar 9 45A
10 10P Ar 551 Lincoln, NE C R Dp 8 44A
10 25P Dp Ar 8 34A
F10 44P 571 Crete, NE C X 8 09A
11 11P 604 Fairmont, NE C 7 38A
F11 35P 632 Harvard, NE C X F 7 09A
12 03A Ar 648 Hastings, NE C R Dp 6 54A
12 12A Dp Ar 6 45A
12 43A 680 Minden, NE C 6 08A
1 05A 702 Holdrege, NE C 5 49A
1 39A 726 Oxford, NE C 5 17A
2 29A Ar 779 McCook, NE (CT) C Dp 4 30A
1 44A Dp McCook, NE (MT) Ar 3 25A
F 2 27A 831 Benkelman, NE C X F 2 39A
F 2 57A 869 Wray, CO C X
896 Yuma, CO C X 1 43A
3 49A 922 Akron, CO C X 1 21A
4 09A 946 Brush, CO C X 12 56A
6 00A Ar 1034 Denver, CO (Union Sta.) (MT) C R Dp 11 30P
The Rio Grande Zephyr
17 Continuing Train Number (Denver and Rio Grande Western) 18
6 30A Dp 1034.0 Denver, CO (Union Sta.) (MT) C B R Ar 11 00P
N 1084.0 East Portal (Moffat Tunnel) N
9 05A 1109.5 Granby, CO C X 8 35P
10 30A 1163.3 Bond, CO C X 7 00P
12 05P 1219.0 Glenwood Springs, CO C B R 5 20P
12 40P 1245.5 Rifle, CO C X 4 45P
2 00P Ar 1308.5 Grand Junction, CO C B R Dp 3 25P
2 15P Dp Ar 3 10P
3 40P 1387.0 Thompson, UT C X 1 45P
F 4 05P 1414.1 Green River, UT C X F 1 15P
5 20P 1478.0 Price, UT C X 12 10P
5 38P 1485.4 Helper, UT C X 11 55A
7 35P 1560.1 Provo, UT C R X 9 50A
8 30P Ar 1604.0 Salt Lake City, UT (See Note A) C B R Dp 9 00A
9 00P Dp Ar 8 30A
10 15P Ar 1641.0 Ogden, UT (MT) C B Dp 7 15A
101 Connecting Train Number (Southern Pacific Lines) 102
10 30P Dp 0 Ogden, UT (MT) b Ar 7 00A
7 30A Ar 540 Reno, NV (PT) b Dp 8 02P
12 30P Ar 693 Sacramento, CA b Dp 3 20P
3 15P Ar 780 Oakland, CA (PT) (San Francisco via bus) b Dp 1 00P

Train 11-15-17 (Chicago-Ogden): 51 stops; 35:16; 46.5 mphTrain 18-16-12 (Ogden-Chicago): 48 stops; 36:25; 45.1 MPH

Train 11 (Chicago-Omaha): 25 stops; 8:46; 56.6 mphTrain 12 (Omaha-Chicago): 22 stops; 9:50; 50.4 mph

Train 17 (Denver-Ogden): 11 stops; 15:45; 38.5 mphTrain 18 (Ogden-Denver): 11 stops; 15:45; 38.5 mph

Note: Days of operation:  Trains 11 and 12 operate daily between Chicago and Omaha, NE with limited equipment (Chair cars and Dinette Coach).  West of Omaha, through service to Ogden with connection to California operates tri-weekly. Trains leave Ogden eastbound on Sunday, Tuesday and Friday, while westbound trains depart Chicago on Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday

(Burlington Lines Notes)

California Service: Tri-weekly departing Chicago Sunday, Wednesday, Friday; departing Ogden Sunday, Tuesday, Friday.  Passengers transfer at Ogden for California.



Burlington Northern - Rio Grande - Southern Pacific

46 Seat Vista-Dome Coach Chicago-Ogden
Reclining Seat Coach Ogden-Oakland
Chuck Wagon Chicago-Denver
Diner Denver-Salt Lake City
Diner Ogden-Oakland
10 Roomette-6 Bedroom Sleeper Chicago-Ogden
10 Roomette-6 Bedroom Sleeper Ogden-Oakland
4 Room Vista-Dome Observation Lounge Chicago-Salt Lake City

The Chuck Wagon offers regular sit-down type meal service.

Note:  Passengers make cross platform transfer at Ogden.  Train between Ogden and San Francisco offers Meal and Lounge Service, Reserved Coach Seats, Bedrooms and Roomettes.

All space is RESERVED and specifically assigned in advance. Coach seat reservations westbound from Chicago must be claimed at train gate by 11:50 am.  No charge for coach seat reservations locally on BN. California Service charge applies on D&RGW of $3.75 first class and $1.50 coach. Southern Pacific charge of $10.00 first class and $5.00 coach plus $2.25 coach seat reservation is applicable between Ogden and Oakland.  Dome seats are not reserved.  No checked baggage handled between Chicago and Denver.


(Trains 11 and 12)
(Daily service Chicago-Omaha)
Dinette Coach.
(Meals and refreshments)
Chair Cars. Chicago-Omaha

NOTE—Checked baggage not handled on Trains 11 and 12.

BN Fare Table available in the Ticket Office.

(Denver & Rio Grande Western Notes)

Note:  Zephyr charge is applicable on D.&R.G.W. Trains 17 and 18. City of San Francisco charge also coach seat reservation charge applies on S.P. Trains 101 and 102.

Note A:  Intrastate passengers will not be handled between Salt Lake City and Ogden on trains 17 and 18; as heretofore such passengers will be handled on Union Pacific trains.

Note: Revenue passengers will be handled without charge on bus between Oakland and S.P.—3d Street Station, San Francisco.


Vista Dome Chair Car (Reserved seats)...Chicago-Ogden
Chair Car (Reserved seats)...Ogden-Oakland
Sleeping Cars...Chicago-Ogden and Ogden-Oakland (Roomettes and Bedrooms).
Chicago-Salt Lake City (Double Room and Bedrooms).
Meal and Lounge Service...Chicago-Salt Lake City and Ogden-Oakland.

When Amtrak began operations in 1971 it originally intended to route its California service over this same itinerary. However, Amtrak and Rio Grande could not come to agreement on terms and at the last minute the decision was made to route Amtrak's San Francisco Zephyr via Burlington to Denver, Union Pacific to Ogden via Cheyenne/Borie, and Southern Pacific from thence to Oakland/San Francisco while Rio Grande would keep the Rio Grande Zephyr in operation as a tri-weekly day train from Denver to Salt Lake City. (It did continue to operate to Ogden for a short time after the switch, but by 1973 the train terminated in Salt Lake City with a limo transfer available to Ogden.) Shorn of its overnight connection to Chicago, the sleeping and baggage cars on the RGZ became redundant and were sold off.

Rio Grande would continue operating the train into 1983, making it the last long-distance train operated by a private concern in North America. In 1983, though, Rio Grande and Amtrak finally came to terms and Amtrak shifted its Chicago-San Francisco service to operate over Rio Grande's spectacularly scenic route under the name of the California Zephyr.