The Mark Twain Zephyr

The fourth Zephyr built, after the original Zephyr and the Twin Zephyrs, was the Mark Twain Zephyr, which operated between St. Louis and Burlington, Iowa via Hannibal (Samuel Clemens hometown). Burlington had not yet started to name all its stainless-steel cars “silver something”; instead, the train’s locomotive and cars were named after characters from Mark Twain stories: Injun Joe, Tom Sawyer, Becky Thatcher, and Huck Finn. The rear drumhead was a bas relief bust of Mark Twain over his signature applied to the stainless steel itself.


Click image to download a PDF of this postcard.

Before being put into service on October 27, 1935, the train did some speed runs for the press during which the train sustained an average of 122 miles per hour for three miles. In service the train went round trip between St. Louis and Burlington each day at an average speed of a little more than 40 mph.


Click image for a slightly larger view.

As the above map shows, the Mark Twain Zephyr met the Burlington’s main line between Chicago and Denver in Burlington, Iowa. Since the Denver Zephyr was still a year in the future, the map shows the train meeting the Aristocrat at Burlington.

The train didn’t stay on the St. Louis-Burlington route for long. For a few months in 1936, it and the original Zephyr were pressed into Chicago-Denver service as the Advanced Denver Zephyr. At other times, it operated between Chicago and the Twin Cities, St. Louis to Kansas City, and St. Joseph, MO to Galesburg, IL. Burlington retired the train in 1960 and it has passed through the hands of at least six owners since, none of whom have been able to restore it. But the Budd stainless steel is likely to survive nearly forever so long as someone keeps it from the scrapper.


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