Mississippi Valley Tours

Burlington offered Chicago residents three one- and two-day tours every weekend during the summer of 1964. One tour went 239 miles up the Mississippi River on the Twin Zephyrs to Prairie du Chien, where passengers had about 6-1/2 hours to enjoy various parks and museums highlighted by a boat tour through Spook Cave, the “longest subterranean water tour in America.” This cost $16.35 (nearly $100 today), including transportation, lunch, dinner, and various park entry fees.

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A second one-day tour went just 184 miles to East Dubuque, allowing passengers more than eight hours to enjoy a paddle-wheel cruise and various parks and historic sites. This tour cost just $12.90 (about $75 today), including transportation, a bus tour, the boat cruise, lunch, and dinner.

The third tour took the Nebraska Zephyr to Burlington, then a bus trip to Quincy that included a sightseeing tour of Nauvoo, which was a “Mormon settlement from 1839 to 1846.” After spending the night in Quincy, the bus tour continued to Hannibal, where passengers went on a paddle-wheel cruise, and finally returned from West Quincy to Chicago on the Kansas City Zephyr. Including all transportation, hotel in Quincy, and most meals (including lunch on the Nebraska Zephyr but apparently not dinner on the Kansas City Zephyr), the fare for this trip was $31.03 (about $180 today).

Burlington ran lots of “iron horse specials” in the early 1960s. In May, 1964, the railroad painted 4-8-4 locomotive 5632 gold to celebrate the 100th anniversary of its Chicago-Aurora line. On May 23, the locomotive pulled a train of 22 double-deck commuter cars filled with 3,500 passengers, the most ever carried in any American passenger train up to that point, and probably since then as well.

The brochure also announces, but does providing prices for, a “weekend tour of the month” each month from June through September. The June tour, for example, is an “Iron Horse Special” “behind a real steam locomotive to Savanna, Illinois, then on a Mississippi River Paddle Wheeler to Bellvue Park.”

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