Amtrak California Zephyr
Amtrak's Route Guide - Train #5 & Train #6
San Francisco * Salt Lake City * Chicago
You're traveling on board Amtrak's Superliner train --- the California
Zephyr. While on board, you'll be experiencing the utmost in train travel,
along with some of the country's most spectacular and well-known scenery:
the Rockies and Sierra Nevadas; the snow-topped mountains, the exciting
golden sunsests of the West.
Route Guide of travel on the Amtrak California Zephyr.
You may want to print this out and take it with you on your trip.
Amtrak no longer provides a Route Guide that is this detailed.
Amtrak and your crew are proud to host you on board. We'll do everything we
can to ensure you enjoy your trip. If you have any questions please don't
hesitate to ask your Attendant or On-Board Service Chief.
The Fun Starts Here!
The California Zephyr features on-board activities the whole family will
enjoy. Listen for announcements of the specific time and location of
activities, and most of all -- have fun!
Movies in the Sightseer Lounge Car are offered between Chicago
and San Francisco; other videos including features for children are also
shown during the summer months.
Hospitality Hour.Join fellow passengers in the Lounge Car for drinks
and complimentary snacks.
On-Board Tour Guides from the California State Railroad Museum
provide highlights year round between Sacramento, CA and Reno, NV.
Beginning in June through Labor Day, Tour Guides from the White River
National Forest Service furnish their knowledge of the beautiful area
from Glenwood Springs, CO to Denver, CO.
Games are conducted during the trip. Small prizes will be awarded.
Listen for announcements for time and location.
Stretch Your Legs. The California Zephyr stops in Denver so the
train can be serviced, refueled and washed. This is your opportunity to
inspect souvenirs sold at the station. Please do not leave the station
platform area, and return to the train as soon as the departure announcement
Meet the Crew That Makes the Magic Happen!
The Conductor is in charge of all crew members and is responsible
for the collection of tickets and the safe operation of the train. The
Chief of On-Board Service" supervises the on-board service crew, and
overseas the quality of service.
Enjoy On-Board Accommodations That Pamper and Please!
Roomy Coach Seats. Your Coach Attendant will see to your
needs. Since your seat is assigned for the length of your journey, please do
not change without first consulting a crew member.
Private Sleeping Compartments. Your Sleeping Car Attendant
will prepare your room for daytime or nighttime use, provide wake-up calls
and bring the morning paper and beverages. Individual speakers bring you
recorded music on Channels 2 or 3, and train announcements on Channels 1 and
2. Simply turn the channel selector near the reading light. First Class
passengers receive additional amenities including complimentary meals in
the Dining Car.
Economy, Family, Special and Deluxe bedrooms are available. Special bedrooms
have a private bathroom and Deluxe have private baths with shower. Sleeping
accommodations may be purchased on board from the Conductor if space
Dining Car Service. The Dining Car features complete meals in a
comfortable setting. Major credit cards are accepted. Sorry, there is no
smoking in the Dining Car. A crew member will contact you if dinner
reservations are necessary.
Spectacular Sightseer Lounge Car. Between Chicago and San
Francisco, you can enjoy the magnificent scenery from the large picture
windows of the Sightseer Lounge Car; and don't forget the sandwiches,
snacks and beverages available for purchase at the Cafe Bar. You can also
purchase souvenir playing cards, post cards and blankets. Lounge Car hours
are generally from 6 a.m. to 12 midnight.
The California Zephyr is a smoke-free train.
Scenic Photo Tips
SCENIC SPOTS: Your train passes many beautiful and interesting
sights. The "camera" symbol on your Route Guide Map marks the best spots,
so have your camera ready!
OUTSIDE SHOTS: Medium-speed films (ASA 64 or higher) are recommended
for shooting scenery through the train windows. If your shutter speed is
adjustable and light conditions permit, set it at a higher speed (1/125 or
1/250 sec.) for the clearest results. Hold your lens close to the window to
eliminate glare and reflections.
INSIDE SHOTS: Flash is recommended. To avoid glare and reflections,
do not point the flash directly at the windows.
The California Zephyr
Explore the beauty, romance and
exciting history of the western frontier.
Amtrak's Superliner Service to Chicago offers a wide variety of ways to
explore the beauty, romance and exciting history of the western frontier.
This guide outlines highlights of the scenery and historic landmarks along
the route of the California Zephyr.
This guide is written from west to east, noting how many
minutes past the previous Amtrak station you can expect to see
a particular sight, and whether you should look to your right or
left. The first time reference tells you how far that point is from
the next Amtrak station to the west, and the second time, how
far it is to the next Amtrak stop to the east. If you're traveling
westward, just begin at Chicago or Salt Lake City or your point of origin
and read the entries in reverse order. Remember to look left when
we've indicated to look right, and right when we've indicated
to look left.
Note that all AMTRAK STATIONS are in capital letters to set them
apart from towns and regions through which the California Zephyr
travels but makes no stop. Use this guide along with an Amtrak timetable
to determine station times. All times in this guide are approximate.
The California Zephyr
The discovery of gold in the California hills brought thousands of pioneers
by land and sea to the golden city of San Francisco. Eventually, the route
of the historic overland trek would include railroads, telegraph lines
and way stations throughout the hostile unmapped territory. In 1869, the
nation was linked by the first transcontinental railroad when the Golden
Spike was driven at Promontory, Utah. These are some of the same lines
which the California Zephyr follows today.
The cross-country journey includes the awesome challenge of crossing the
Sierra Nevada and the Rocky Mountains. Many of the cities and
towns in the wild west survived boom and bust times because they were on
the railroad lines that make up the route of the California Zephyr today.
Sit back and enjoy the beauty of the world famous scenery along the
California Zephyr route.
Unmatched charm and character are the trademarks of this city. The
unusual skyline is marked by ultramodern skyscrapers, the red-tiled roofs
of Spanish architecture, the quaint victorian homes of the Mission
district and prestigious residential areas of Telegraph Hill, Nob Hill
and Pacific Heights. This cosmopolitan cultural center is the home of
world famous restaurants, galleries and shops. San Francisco has the west
coast "Wall Street", a financial district comprised of several of the
world's largest banks. It has world class ballet, symphony and opera
companies. Amtrak passengers begin and end their journey to San Francisco
with a bus ride across San Francisco Bay to or from the Oakland train
San Francisco/Oakland Bay Bridge On the way to and from the Amtrak
terminal in Oakland, passengers cross this bridge and Yerba Buena Island,
passing the Treasure Island Naval Station. On the left is a spectacular
view of San Francisco, the island of Alcatraz and, in the distance, the
beautiful Golden Gate Bridge. On the Oakland side, the port of Oakland is
on the right. The University of California at Berkeley's big Gothic clock
tower, "Campanile," can be seen nestled on the hillside on the left.
EMERYVILLE This is the terminus for Amtrak trains serving San
Francisco. Shuttle buses to and from San Francisco are waiting for
passengers at trainside. The train starts its journey on the tracks of the
Southern Pacific Lines, which it follows as far east as Winnemucca,
RICHMOND This station is the interchange with the Bay Area Rapid
Transit (BART) system, offering connections to points throughout the region.
BART trains can be seen on the right. Between Oakland and Richmond, look for
the skyline of San Francisco and the Golden Gate Bridge on the left, across
San Francisco Bay.
San Pablo Bay and the Carquinez Strait (5 Min/10 Min) This large
shipping lane and recreational waterway is also home of the Mare Island
Shipyard, which can be seen across the water on the left side of the train.
The California and Hawaii (C&H) Sugar plant is on the left track just after
the Carquinez Bridge. Across the strait on the left of the bridge is the
California Maritime Academy.
MARTINEZ Don Ignacio Martinez was the Spanish governor of this area
and his surname graces the town. To the south of Martinez is the home of
John Muir, naturalist and conservationist, who walked across most of America
and convinced President Theodore Roosevelt that "wilderness is a necessity."
Benicia, to the left across the bridge, was the capital of the state from
1853 to 1854 before the statehouse was moved to Sacramento. Here the train
crosses the Carquinez Strait at the mouth of the Suisun Bay on the
Martinez-Benicia Bridge. To the right is a loading dock where 150,000
automobiles per year are unloaded from Japan.
The "Mothball Fleet" (3 Min/7 Min) A fleet of ships has been
mothballed in the Suisan Bay to the right of the train. These are
mostly World War II ships, though some of them saw action in Desert Storm
in 1991. The mountain in the distance to the far right is Mt. Diablo.
The beacon on the top was shut off after the Pearl Harbor surprise attack.
World War II veterans turn on the light once a year on December 7th.
Suisun Marsh (12 Min/8 Min) Winds over this march area provide an
ideal site for an experimental wind farm which was developed here by the
Boeing Corporation. Located up on the ridge to the left, it generates
electricity, using the propellers you see; each propeller is 150 feet long.
The flat land surrounding the Suisun Marsh allows the train to travel at
approximately 79 miles per hour.
SUISUN-FAIRFIELD Large Air Force transport aircraft can be seen to
the right of the train as they take off and land at Travis Air Force Base.
Beyond the ridge to the left is the wine country of Napa Valley.
DAVIS Agriculture and veterinary medicine are specialties studied
at this campus of the University of California. The school's farm animals
include llamas and pygmy goats which can be seen from the left side of the
train. Davis had the nation's first energy conservation building code. The
1913 Davis adobe train station is a historic landmark.
The Great Central Valley (10 Min/15 Min) This is part of the Great
Central Valley and the Yolo Basin, which produces over one billion pounds of
rice yearly. On both sides of the train is the Sacramento Valley. The
Coastal Range can be seen to the distant left and the Sierras to the distant
right. The railroad and nearby highway are elevated at some points along
this stretch to allow for the controlled flooding of crops.
SACRAMENTO Sacramento was the western terminus for the 121 Pony
Express riders who rode to this stop in 1860. It was also the starting
point for the Central Pacific Railroad in 1863. West of the city, the train
crosses the Sacramento River and passes by the California State Railroad
Museum on the right. Sacramento is the capital of California Almond
Growers Exchange. California grows over two million pounds of almonds
annually, and 70% of these are processed on this 16-acre, $35 million plant.
The plant can be seen on both sides of the track on the eastern end of
Sacramento. The train crosses the American River on the eastern edge of
McClellan Air Force Base (15 Min/10 Min) The airfield and depots
are visible to the left. Also look for almond groves here in the
Sacramento Valley. Beehives are placed in the fields to pollinate crops.
ROSEVILLE This railroad town is home to Southern Pacific Lines' huge
diesel shops, to the right.
Auburn (22 Min/23 Min) To the south of Auburn is Coloma, the site of
Sutter's Mill, where gold was discovered at Sutter's Run in 1848, setting
off the California Gold Rush. Outlaws were tried and hanged in the
gold-domed courthouse to the right built in 1894. Firehouse #1, on the
right, was built in 1893.
COLFAX Notice the bank inside an old railroad car to the left and the
old hotel by the depot, built in 1903. Colfax farmers grow Bartlett pears,
Hungarian prunes and Tokay grapes. From here to Reno the train crosses the
forbidding Sierra Nevada Range (Spanish for "snowy mountains").
Cape Horn (8 Min/118 Min) Just outside of Colfax is Long Ravine Trestle.
Look out the right side and note the steep slope directly ahead of the train.
This is Cape Horn, the steepest slope on the route of the Zephyr. The rail
crews lowered Chinese laborers down in baskets in order to hack away a narrow
ledge which was expanded into the present track. Colfax can be seen across
the valley to the right.
Gold Run (21 Min/106 Min) The little town of Gold Run with the Post
Office on the right is all that remains of an enormously successful
hydraulic mining site that was later outlawed in 1884. Water from the
Sierras was directed into an 8-foot brass nozzle called a monitor. Water
blasted away the soil, leaving only the gold to be collected. Today the
train crosses the mine site along a narrow stretch. Originally, this was
all one hill. The pools down below the tracks are the only reminder of the
acres and acres of soil washed away.
Alta (29 Min/97 Min) The water troughs just past Alta are flumes built
by the gold miners. The water is now used to irrigate farms as far away as
Roseville and Loomis at the base of the Sierras.
American River Canyon (33 Min/92 Min) The breathtaking vista to the
right of the train is the valley of the North Fork of the American River,
located 1,500 to 2,000 feet below the track. Stretches of rock and slag
on the far mountain are old gold mines, including the large Rawhide mine.
The valley extends all the way to Sacramento.
Emigrant Gap (56 Min/70 Min) The train crosses I-80 at Emigrant Gap.
On the left side is the beautiful Bear Valley. The nearby lake on the left
is Lake Spalding, originally a reservoir for hydraulic mining and now used
for hydroelectric power.
Soda Springs (92 Min/34 Min) The two Cascade Lakes are above the train.
Two bridges allow their runoff to flow beneath the tracks at Soda Springs.
The brown lodge of the Soda Springs Ski Resort can be seen on the right,
next to Lake Van Norden. Across the valley on the left side of the train is
Castle Park, a mountain with a rock formation that looks like a castle on
top. To the left of this peak is Black Butte Mountain, 8,030 feet above sea
Norden (96 Min/30 Min) This is where the Southern Pacific Lines
maintain a turntable and check station. It also has a few of the 16 origianl
sheds that were built to protect a full 38 miles of track from snow, which
averages over 34 feet yearly. Known as "The Hill," Donner Pass was one of the
toughest of railroad tracks to lay down in the entire country.
Mt. Judah (98 Min/23 Min) When crossing the summit of the climb over
the Sierras between Norden and Truckee, the train enters a tunnel through
Mt. Judah, approximately 7,000 feet above sea level and named after
Theodore Judah, the chief surveyor for the Central Pacific Railraod. The ski
resort at the west portal of the tunnel is Sugar Bowl -- on the slopes of
Mt. Lincoln and Crow's Nest Mountains. A ski lift on an overhead trestle
carries skiers over the railroad track.
Donner Lake (107 Min/18 Min) On the eastern side of the tunnel, to
the left of the train, is Donner Lake. It was here that the Donner Party,
led by George and Jacob Donner, was stranded. These 89 Illinois settlers
were en route to California when they were trapped in a snow storm near the
western shore of the lake. After many attempts to escape, all but 47 of the
pioneers died of starvation. Those who did survive had resorted to
Stanford Curve (113 Min/12 Min) This is a series of descending
plateaus where the train crosses back and forth on the mountain in a
horseshoe turn. Below the train is a panoramic view of the Truckee Basin.
TRUCKEE Tro-Key was a Paiute Indian chief and the father of
Winnemucca. Truckee has eight winter resorts within ten miles, including
Squaw Valley, Alpine Meadows and Sugar Bowl. You'll notice two signs on the
right as the train passes through town, "Hotel/steam heated/$1.00" and the
renovated former Bank of America building that now proclaims it is the
"Bar of America." The train follows the Truckee River to Fernley.
Boca (14 Min/40 Min) A bridge across the highway and a small dam to
the left are all that remain of the town of Boca. It was called the
"coldest place in the nation" because it provided ice for San Francisco
and the trains traveled through here. The rock formations that resemble
dark castle spires are called "Hoodoo Pillars."
California/Nevada State Line (28 Min/20 Min) is indicated by a small
marker to the left of the train.
Verdi (33 Min/16 Min) A hydroelectric power generator can be seen
across the Truckee. It is powered by a water flume -- wooden troughs that
collect water at four sites in the mountains. These flumes can be seen all
through the Truckee Valley from Reno on both sides of the train. In 1870,
the first train robbery in the West occurred in Verdi.
RENO Known as the "Biggist Little City in the World," Reno began as
a quiet rail stop and later became a boom town. The city fathers
legalized prizefights, hosting the Jim Jeffries vs. Jack Johnson fight in
1910. Gambling was legalized in 1931. Today, marquees on Reno's hotels on
both sides of the train announce famous entertainers who draw people into
the casinos. Reno's newest attraction is the William F. Harrah National
Automobile Museum, featuring an extensive and comprehensive collection.
SPARKS The Nugget Casino and Hotel is to the left. This is a servicing
stop where the train is refueled and serviced.
Mustang Ranch (15 Min/150 Min) The red-tiled Mustang Ranch, on the
right, is a famous institution unique to Nevada.
Fernley (30 Min/145 Min) is at the entrance to the Truckee Valley.
The railroad follows the Truckee River as it originates in Lake Tahoe and
winds its way north, emptying into Pyramid Lake on the west.
Lovelock (95 Min/80 Min) The Lovelock region is muddy and difficult
to negotiate because of the Humboldt Sink. It was considered to be the
worst stretch of the entire journey of the Pony Express and the covered
wagons. The train follows near the Humboldt River as it wanders
mysteriously across this desert for 300 miles. The Trinity Mountain Range
is to the left, and the Humboldt Range is on the right.
WINNEMUCCA The Paiute tribe's chief, Winnemucca, was called the
Napoleon of the Paiutes. In the 1850s this town was the point where wagon
trains crossed the Humboldt River and then decided whether or not to turn
north in order to avoid crossing the Sierra Nevada. Butch Cassidy and his
gang robbed the local bank, trying to cash in on some of the profits from
the gold, copper and silver mines. Today, it is a distribution point for
farm produce and livestock. Here the train changes railroads, using the
Southern Pacific tracks to the west and the Union Pacific Railroad to the
During the night, the train stops at ELKO, which means "White
Woman" in Indian tongue. It is near the Humboldt River with the Ruby
Mountains on the right.
Note: At the Nevada/Utah state line, change your watch from Pacific
to Mountain time; one hour ahead if traveling east, one hour back if
traveling west. West of Salt Lake City, the train crosses the Bonneyville
Salt Flats and follows 15 miles of the Great Salt Lake.
SALT LAKE CITY The wide streets of Salt Lake City lead downtown to
Mormon monuments including Temple Square, the Seagull Monument, the six
towers of the Mormon Temple visible from the station and the Beehive House.
The headquarters for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is
located here as well as a world renowned genealogical research facility. The
prosperous Salt Lake Valley has one of the prettiest natural settings in
North America. Today it is home for a growing electronics industry. Salt
Lake City is the connecting station for the California Zephyr and the Desert
Wind from Los Angeles.
Riverton (40 Min/20 Min) The multicolored tailings that can be
seen on the mountains to the right of Riverton are the vast workings of the
Kennecott copper mines in the Bingham Canyon that was once one of the
largest open pit mines in the world. The Jordan RIver flows from Utah Lake,
which is on the right side of the train.
Geneva (51 Min/9 Min) The steel mills of Geneva Works are on the
left with the 11,750 feet high Mt. Timpanogos, the "sleeping princess,"
behind it. The tall mountain on the right at the south end of the valley
is Mt. Nebo.
PROVO Utah's third largest city has an abundance of agricultural
and mineral wealth. It is situated at the base of "Y" mountains, part of the
Wasatch Range. It is the home of the nation's largest private university,
Brigham Young University and the Osmond Entertainment Center where Donnie
and Marie Osmond taped their shows. Outside of Provo is the entrance to
Uinta and Manti-La Sal National Forest. The train enters the Wasatch
Mountains and follows the river up the Spanish Fork Canyon.
Thistle (26 Min/92 Min) This tiny village on the Spanish Fork River
was destroyed in a mudslide in April, 1983. Part of the original railroad
line was also buried. Roofs and parts of houses can be seen on the right
side of the train. The railroad's main route was blocked for three months
until a six-mile bypass could be built, including a new 3,000 ft. tunnel
through Billy's Mountain.
Soldier Summit (55 Min/50 Min) The train curves back three times as
it winds through a series of horseshoe curves and bends on the way to the
summit of the Wasatch Range, 7,440 feet high. To the right is the final
resting place of some of the Union soldiers in Johnson's Army, burried here
in 1860. This area has a number of abandoned mine shafts such as the one on
the right. Also on the right is Davidson Canyon, one of the prettiest in
Utah. Once over the top of the summit, the train enters Price River Canyon.
Castle Gate (108 Min/10 Min) A rock formation in front of the
train resembles a gigantic castle door that seems to open and close
as the train enters and leaves the mountains. High up on the hill to the
left is Balancing Rock with a makeshift flag. The mass of machinery on the
left is a processing facility for coal.
HELPER Additional "helper" locomotives are added to freight trains
to help them over the mountains, giving this railroad town the name Helper.
Local coal is plentiful enough to supply the U.S. for 300 years.
Price (7 Min/93 Min) It may be small, but Price is the largest town
until the train reaches Grand Junction. The Book Cliffs on the left extend
all the way to Colorado. Composed of sandstone and shale, they provide
evidence that this whole valley was once under water.
Green River (70 Min/27 Min) At 4,075 feet, this is the lowest
altitude en route from Salt Lake City to Denver. The town is known for
its cantelopes and watermelons. The mountains to the right are Mt. Marvine,
11,600 feet, and Thousand Lake Mountain, 11,306 feet. This is also prime
"jackalope" country. These hare-like, antlered creatures are legendary for
their size and proliferation.
THOMPSON This desolate region, called the nation's atomic warehouse
because it is rich in uranium, is also the gateway to Canyonlands and Moab,
the Arches National Park, Manti-La Sal National Forest, and Dead Horse Point.
The eroding mesas on the left are the Book Cliffs.
Ruby Canyon (40 Min/18 Min) At this point, the tracks begin to
follow the route of the Colorado River for 238 miles. Enter the beautiful
red rock formations of the Ruby Canyon, the eastern "gate" of the Utah
desert. The canyon was formed by the Colorado River carving its way through
the Uncompahgre Plateau. Water, wind and eons of time have hewn smooth
textures and fascinating shapes in the striking red stone. The swift river
and the elements continue to create new indentations in the canyon walls,
etching a record of nature's events.
Utah/Colorado State Line The state line between Utah and Colorado
is marked at Utaline by a sign painted by railroaders on the canyon wall
to the left.
GRAND JUNCTION The Gunnison and Colorado Rivers meet here.
Grand Junction is the gateway to Mesa Verde National Park, the Colorado
National Monument and Grand Mesa National Forest, enclosing the city on
each side with stately mountains. The fertile Fruita Loma Valley, where
Grand Junction is located, is a major producer of fruits, vegetables and
De Beque-Palisade (39 Min/80 Min) The huge mountain toward the east
is the Grand Mesa, the world's largest flat-top mountain. The De Beque
Palisade area produces over three million bushels of fruit each year,
including peaches, pears, apricots, apples and cherries.
Grand Valley (50 Min/68 Min) The Parachute Mountains, to the left,
are named for the billowing parachute shapes that they suggest.
New Castle (90 Min/29 Min) In 1896, an explosion at the nearby
Vulcan mine killed 54 miners. The blast threw mine timbers 400 feet into
the river. A second explosion in 1931 leveled the works, killing every
man, a total of 37 fatalities. The mine is still on fire. Baxter Mountain,
11,188 feet, is to the left.
GLENWOOD SPRINGS Roaring Fork River meets the Colorado on the right.
The infamous gunslinger Doc Holliday is burried here. Glenwood Springs was
also a favorite of Teddy Roosevelt, who stayed at the Colorado Hotel and
enjoyed the revitalizing waters of the Yampa Hot Springs, now one of the
largest outdoor pools in the world. Other recreation in the area includes
fishing, backpacking and skiing, with Aspen and Redstone resorts just a
short drive away. White water rafters salute the train while riding the
rapids on the Colorado.
Glenwood Canyon (1 Min/150 Min) Just outside of Glenwood Springs,
the train enters Glenwood Canyon and the White River National Forest. The
spectacular high cliffs are dotted with aspen and evergreen trees. The
colorful jutting rocks form a myriad of unusual shapes.
Dotsero (45 Min/140 Min) A survey of the Colorado River began in
Dotsero in 1885. The survey team marked their maps with a ".0" ("dot zero")
at the junction of the Colorado and the Eagle Rivers and it has been called
Dotsero ever since. This is also the approximate midpoint of the Zephyr's
2,427 mile journey.
The Red Canyon(60 Min/115 Min) The Red Canyon has vivid and
unusual rock formations, which helped inspire the Spanish to name this
country and the river "Colorado" -- red.
Gore Canyon (85 Min/40 Min) The towering sires of the Gore Canyon
have rock walls reaching 1,500 feet above the river. The lofty peaks to
the right belong to the Gore Range and reach elevations of over 13,000 feet.
The train follows Gore Canyon for 22 miles, and much of the rugged canyon
can be reached only by train.
Kremmling (140 Min/35 Min) The town of Kremmling is to the left of
the train. Vail, Colorado, is 70 miles away on the other side of beautiful
Mt. Powell, 13,534 feet, to the right.
Byers Canyon (162 Min/16 Min) An occasional buffalo can be seen
among the cattle in this area. Byers Canyon is filled with unusual "pagoda"
rock formations high above the tracks. The red and gold rocks have been
shaped by water and wind into an infinite array of delightful patterns.
GRANBY This station is the gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park.
The vast meadowlands in this area make up a region called Middle Park.
Evidence of aboriginal people has been found at nearby Windy Gap Dam dated
at 3000 B.C.-1200 A.D., predating modern Indians. Silver Creek ski area and
Winter Park are across the valley to the right.
Fraser Canyon (5 Min/18 Min) The train follows the Fraser River
through the remote canyon.
Tabernash (15 Min/10 Min) was named for a local Indian chief. It was
also a station where "helper" engines were added for the long, steep climb
over Rollins Pass prior to the boring of the Moffat Tunnel.
WINTER PARK (Fraser) This is the station for the nearby Winter Park
Ski Resort. The clear and cold Fraser River cuts a swath through Arapahoe
National Forest and Fraser Canyon. This was the favorite fishing spot for
President Eisenhower, particularly the mountains on the right. The town of
Fraser proudly calls itself the "Icebox of America" because of its winter
temperatures of -50 degrees Faranheight. The Devil's Thumb is a rock
formation on top of the ridge to the left.
Winter Park Ski Resort (10 Min/105 Min) Located at the western
portal of the Moffat Tunnel, this ski area was built as part of Denver's
mountain park system. The slopes, to the right, come right up alongside
Moffat Tunnel (10 Min/95 Min) The train crosses the Continental
Divide, at an altitude of 9,239 feet, under Rollins Pass, beside James Peak,
13,260 feet above sea level. On the east side, the old train tracks that
crossed Rollins Pass can be seen above. This route was called the "Giant's
Ladder," which reaches the dizzying height of 11,000 ft. The journey around
James Peak used to take more than 5 hours until the Moffat Tunnel was built,
cutting the travel time to just over 10 minutes. The tunnel, 6.2 miles long,
took 5 years to construct, opening in 1928.
South Boulder Canyon (45 Min/50 Min) This area is the location of the
Roosevelt National Forest and the Gross Reservoir, with its 340 ft high dam
which supplies Denver with fourteen billion gallons of water. Watch for deer
and elk in this region. The train passes through 29 tunnels in this area, the
shortest only 78 feet and the longest , the Moffat Tunnel, 6.2 miles long.
The track grade is a steady 2% between here and Denver. A wooden flume on the
far canyon wall, on the left, once sent logs to the Eldorado sawmill.
Plainview (95 Min/45 Min) From this area at night, 1,500 feet above
Denver, there is a spectacular view of the city. Day or night, it is possible
to see the Rocky Flats nuclear arms manufacturing plant, to the left, and the
city of Boulder to the north. Beyond Denver to the east stretch the Great
Coal Creek Canyon (100 Min/40 Min) is to the right as the train passes
over a small bridge. People still pan for gold in Century City, not too far
from this canyon. The tracks can be seen far below as the train winds between
the front range of the Rockies and Denver.
Rocky (105 Min/32 Min) Railroad cars filled with sand protect freight
from winds that occasionally reach 100 miles per hour at a point called
"Big 10" Curve. As the train approaches Arvada, a Denver suburb straight
ahead, note the tall peak to the right. This is Mt. Evans, at 14,264 feet.
DENVER Denver's skyline is notched with an impressive array of
modern buildings, many built by the energy industry. Historic Larimer Square
is only a few blocks away from the station. The 24K gold domed state capitol
contains the entire world's supply of Colorado Onyx, and the 13th step
leading to the capitol is one mile high above sea level. Denver is nestled
up against the foothills of the Rockies on the barren High Plains. This is
a refueling and servicing stop for the train.
Commerce City (20 Min/65 Min) On the northeastern edge of Denver,
the train passes through Commerce City. This industrial suburb of Denver
has the nation's largest sheep market. It also has a number of sugar beet
factories and cattle yards which line the tracks.
During the night the train stops at FT. MORGAN.
Colorado/Nebraska State Line (45 Min/70 Min)
Note: at the Colorado/Nebraska State Line (45 Min./70 Min.)
change your watch between Mountain and Central, one hour later if going
east, one hour earlier if going west.
During the night, the train stops at McCOOK, HOLDREGE and
LINCOLN The 400 ft., 14-story ten million dollar state capitol
building, the "Tower of the Plains," dominates the city, on the right.
The golden dome has a statue at the top which is not of a University of
Nebraska football coach, as many have suggested, but the symbolic "Sower."
The state fair grounds are to the left. The University of Nebraska campus
and stadium are visible from the train, on the right, just east of the
Platte River Along the historic Platte River, the Mormons traveled
the north bank for several hundred miles in their quest for the holy land.
The Pony Express and Oregon Trail followed its south bank.
OMAHA was a Missouri River crossing for west-bound pioneers.
Omaha has always been a large transportation center, supporting as many
as nine railroads. The Union Stockyards were established here in 1884.
President Gerald Ford, Henry Fonda, Fred Astaire, Marlon Brando
and Malcolm X were born here. Boys Town, a refuge for homeless and
underprivileged boys is west of town.
Offutt Air Force Base (10 Min/90 Min) The Strategic Air Command
has its headquarters here at Offutt Air Force Base, to the right of the
train, as does the 55th Strategic Reconnaisance WIng, which conducts global
reconnaisance missions. Offutt is the home to the National Airborne
Command Post, used by the President in times of crisis (look for military
versions of the Boeing 747 on the field). This is also the site of the SAC
Museum. The train follows the Missouri, on the left.
Missouri River (25 Min/87 Min) The magnificent Missouri River was
called "mini-souri" by the Indians. Its headwaters are in Montana where
Gallatin, Jefferson and Madison Rivers come together. In the 1800s,
steamboats plied the Missouri all the way from Omaha to St. Louis, where
it flows into the Mississippi. Crossing the Missouri, the train also
crosses between Nebraska and Iowa.
Stanton (64 Min/50 Min) This homestead of Sweedish settlers was also
the home of the famous TV coffee lady, Mrs. Olson. So, the town's water
tower, on the left, is in the shape of a coffee pot.
CRESTON The train crosses the summit of the ridge between the
Des Moines and Missouri River Valleys, the highest point east of the
Missouri on the train's route. The town's depot is now a national landmark.
The tall cement silos of the Farmers Cooperative on the left offer a ride
to the top for a bird's eye-view of Creston.
OSCEOLA A carved wooden bust of the Seminole chief, Osceola,
can be seen to the right of the train just past I-35, west of the station.
Settlers in the 1800s found the first Delicioius apple tree here, thirty
miles to the north.
OTTUMWA This town rises on terraces above the Des Moines River.
It was the home of General Joseph M. Street, Indian agent, who built a
trading post in 1838. It was also the hometown of the fictional character
"Radar O'Reilly" from the television show MASH.
MT. PLEASANT The oldest college west of the Mississippi was
established in 1842 as Iowa Wesleyan College, to the left of the train.
The first American coed, Lucy Kilpatrick, graduated from there in 1859.
The city had the first plank toll roads leading to Burlington in 1851.
And the first Iowan courthouse was built here in 1839.
Danville (15 Min/15 Min) was the site of a Pony Express and stage
BURLINGTON Flint in the nearby Shoquoquon Hills provided tools and
weapons for the Indians, and they considered this area "neutral ground."
Zebulon Pike established a fort here in 1805, and Abe Lincoln fought here
as a captain in the Black Hawk Wars. Before the first railroad bridge was
built in 1868, passengers and freight crossed the Mississippi in ferry
boats. In winter they had to brave the ice on foot. In 1887, George
Westinghouse developed the air brake on West Burlington Hill.
Mississippi River (2 Min/45 Min) The train crosses the Mississippi
River, the greatest of the U.S. waterways. The river travels 2,350 miles
on its way to the Gulf of Mexico. The river is the state line between Iowa,
the "Land Beyond" and Illinois. Notice the marshy bottom lands beneath the
bridge at Bonnet and the valley of Cedar Creek.
Monmouth (30 Min/20 Min) This town is where the western hero
Marshal Wyatt Earp was born. Monmouth College was founded in 1856. Monmouth's
industry includes a marketing center for corn and feeder cattle.
GALESBURG Popcorn was invented in Galesburg by Olmstead Ferris.
This was also the home of Carl Sandburg, writer and historian. Abe Lincoln
and Stephen Douglas debated at Knox College in the building with the
copper spire to the left of the train. This was also a key station in the
Underground Railroad of the Civil War. Notice, on the left, Burlington's
famous 4-6-4 "Hudson" passenger locomotive used in the 1930s. Galesburg
is the home of the Annual Galesburg Railroad Days.
Galva (20 Min/95 Min) "Bishop's Hill" was a Swedish utopian
society of religious dissidents that settled in Galva until the Civil War.
It is now a historic landmark.
Kewanee (25 Min/90 Min) The small industrial city of Kewanee was
settled alongside the Spoon River in 1836 by New Englanders.
PRINCETON (50 Min/65 Min) One of the founders of the Republican
Party, John Bryant, made his home in Princeton. It was settled by New
Englanders in 1833. It is the "Pig Capital of the World." The small red
and brown A-frame houses in the fields are what the pigs call home.
Aurora (105 Min/10 Min) This was a transfer station for statecoaches
in the 1830s. It was also the birthplace of the Chicago, Burlington and
Quincy Railroad in 1849. Transportation has always played a large role in
Aurora. A large bulldozer factory can be seen to the left.
NAPERVILLE This is the station for Chicago's western suburbs. RTA
commuter trains provide connections to Aurora, LaGrange, Brookfield and
other points. This attractive suburb is a high-tech industrial center and
is known for its Riverwalk, a restored historic village, and an example of
Frank Lloyd Write's architecture.
CHICAGO is the crossroad of American manufacturing and distribution,
and an important hub of the nation's railroads. The Sears Tower dominates
the massive skyline along with the "Gold Coast" highrises along Lake
Michigan. As the train backs into Chicago's Union Station, it parallels
the Chicago River on the left, its flow reversed in an engineering triumph
in 1880 -- and another engineering triumph -- Amtrak's modern yards and
maintenance facility, which is the home of the California Zephyr. The
train ends its 2,422 mile run in historic Union Station. Built in 1926,
the station serves over 40 Amtrak trains and 160 commuter trains each
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