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Rio Grande Zephyr
Paul Rayton's US Trains - A nostalgic View from the 1970s

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Written and Photographed by: Paul Rayton, Hollywood, California, USDate: 04.03.2012
The Rio Grande Zephyr (RGZ) was a "leftover" from the famous "California Zephyr" (CZ), which had ran between Chicago and San Francisco starting in 1949. The CZ was famed for always having 5 of the "Vista Dome" observation cars in each set of equipment. At the time of the establishment of the nationwide "Amtrak" system [1971], the Rio Grande Railroad Co. (D&RGW) decided to opt out of the national system, and, for about the next dozen years, provided service between Denver and Salt Lake City according to certain legal regulations that had been agreed upon prior to Amtrak. I was especially fascinated by the RGZ, partly by the heritage and history, partly by the great equipment, and partly by the feisty independence of the D&RGW, which proceeded to operate a very nice, and interesting train service through a most scenic landscape.

The pix of the RGZ here are part of my RGZ documentary film project, which includes several hours of 16mm film which I have yet to edit in to anything useful. One of these years.
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Thompson and Green River, Utah

These 3 views were done on about March 1, 1980. This is a westbound train, and is between the stops of Thompson and Green River, Utah. At this location, the somewhat bigger stop of Green River, Utah, is about 15 miles further west, so the train is running full speed. If you look on a highway map, this is at an intersection noted as "Crescent Junction". In the longer (more-distant) pix, you can see that it's running several dome cars, and when it's really close, in the 3rd photo, you can see the lovely matched set of EMD "E" units. The views were taken, probably, about 5 seconds apart.

In the background are the so-called "Book Cliffs", a geological feature of that part of eastern Utah.

Soldier Summit mountain pass

Here are two pix from (if my notes are right) 1979. Soldier Summit is a mountain pass to the south of Provo (and Salt Lake City), Utah. It must be crossed to get out of the Utah highlands, and to the more-level grounds of central-eastern Utah, and then on in to Colorado.

These pix were taken in 1979, and I'll have more details later. But these show the train crossing through the mtns.

Routes of the Rio Grande RR Co

This is a nice general public, stylized map of the routes (once upon a time) of the Rio Grande RR Co. This photo is a large map that was present in 1978 in the D+RGW station in Grand Junction, Colorado. By that time passenger services between Pueblo + Denver and Pueblo and Glenwood Sprigs (The "Royal Gorge" route) had been discontinued.

Routes of the Rio Grande RR Co

Cut glass window in the entry door to the Rio Grande dining car of the RGZ. It bore the name "Silver Banquet" (June 1978)

Glenwood Springs

Approaching the Glenwood Springs station stop

Interior view

Interior view, RGZ dining car, table cloth set up for service. If you look closely, the logo of the source train ("California Zephy") can be seen, woven into the linen. The RGZ used the "leftovers" of the CZ as long as possible, so the legendary CZ lived on (in the hearts and minds of those who were aware of it) for some time.
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Opdateret tirsdag, 09 februar 2021 05:58:50