Chicago-Omaha-Denver 1950 Timetable

This January 8, 1950 timetable just covers Burlington’s Chicago-Denver route, including trains to Galesburg, Omaha, and Lincoln, as well as trains that diverge from this route to Kansas City and other Missouri cities. The timetable shows an impressive eleven trains heading west from Chicago (but only ten returning), including four trains to Denver, three more to Omaha/Lincoln, and four going at least as far as Galesburg.

Click image to download a 2.8-MB PDF of this four-panel timetable.

The first thing to note is that the Burlington had a funny way of numbering its trains. Instead of number its premiere train numbers 1 and 2, the Denver Zephyr was numbered 1 and 10. The Chicago-Lincoln Ak-Sar-Ben was numbered 3 and 30; Zephyr 9902, serving the Mark Twain Zephyr route, was numbered 5 and 2; trains 7 and 14 served local stops between Chicago and Denver; whereas 9 and 4 went between Chicago and Galesburg. The only trains with adjacent numbers were the Nebraska Zephyr (11 and 12), California Zephyr (17 and 18), American Royal Zephyr (55 and 56), and a Chicago-Mendota train (32 and 33)–and even the last one is even-odd rather than odd-even as it would be if trains were numbered from 1 & 2 on up.

Stainless steel E5s grace the Denver Zephyr in this photo by Otto Perry taken some time in the late 1940s. Click image for a larger view.

The Chicago-Denver trains were led by the Denver Zephyr, pictured above by famed Colorado rail photographer Otto Perry. Timed to take 16 hours and five minutes eastbound and 16-1/2 hours westbound, the train blew across the prairie at an average speed of 63 to 64 mph. Note there is no baggage car; the timetable says baggage could be checked only for Chicago-Denver and not intermediate points; the checked luggage must have been placed in one of the coaches. The above photo shows at least 15 passenger cars.

F3s pull the California Zephyr in this early 1950s photo by Perry. Click image for a larger view.

The California Zephyr went at a slightly more leisurely pace, departing Chicago 90 minutes before the Denver Zephyr but arriving in Denver just 10 minutes before. This offered sightseers a few more daylight hours in one of the dome cars. The average speed for the overnight trip was still a respectable 58 mph.

An E7 A unit and an E5 B unit pull a seven-car heavyweight Coloradoan on January 31, 1953. Click image for a larger view.

The third train between Chicago and Denver was called the Coloradoan in 1950. This was the name of Burlington’s premiere train on that route before the 1929 introduction of the Aristocrat. It may only have been a coincidence, but the eastbound Coloradoan shared its train number, 6, with the eastbound Aristocrat. Leaving Chicago four hours earlier than the California Zephyr, the Coloradoan arrived in Denver only 10 minutes earlier, having traveled the distance at an average speed of 48 mph. Otto Perry’s photo shows four head-end cars and just three passenger cars, including two coaches and a sleeper. According to the timetable, the train also had a diner/parlor car but only between Chicago and Lincoln.

Back-to-back E7s pull train #7, which consists mainly of former troop sleepers and baggage cars in express service. Click image for a larger view.

The final Chicago-Denver train didn’t have a name and was known on the timetable as train 7 westbound and 14 eastbound. The train in Perry’s May 20, 1951 photo shows up to a dozen baggage and express cars with one or maybe two coaches on the back. While Burlington had other local trains between Chicago and Galesburg, this train made almost every possible local stop between Galesburg and Denver, requiring 31-1/4 hours to make the entire trip for an average speed of just 33 mph.


Chicago-Omaha-Denver 1950 Timetable — 1 Comment

  1. A couple of small corrections. The engines in the second picture from the top are F-3-‘s, not E-7’s. The link to the larger photo in the third picture is not working. Great photos though.

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