While the Union Pacific introduced the first steamliner, the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad's Zephyr followed soon after with the first lightweight diesel engine and lightweight stainless steel construction that gave the train a distinctive, burnished appearance. The Zephyr line begin with the Pioneer Zephyr in April 1934. The Burlington sent it on an extensive public relations trip, and on May 26 made a nonstop run from Denver to the Century of Progress exhibition in Chicago in only 14 hours. Two years later, the Burlington introduced the Denver Zephyr, pictured here, a pair of 12-car trains for daily service between Chicago and Denver. The trains' 16-hour schedule (including stops) trimmed nearly 10 hours off the fastest steam-powered trip, a remarkable accomplishment. Edward G. Budd Manufacturing Company, Philadelphia, built the Zephyr, the first of many stainless steel passenger trains. Albert G. Dean (1909-2002), a Budd aeronautical engineer who had graduated from Massachusetts Institute of Technology in 1931, designed the distinctive shovel nose front. The design, in fact, borrowed from modern aerodynamics; he and Prof. Shatswell Ober tested models of the train in wind tunnels at MIT. Two architectural firms, Paul P. Cret, Philadelphia, and Holabird & Root, Chicago, created the cars' interiors. Winton built the diesel engine. American Flyer and Lionel immediately issued toy trains. The Zephyrs were a public favorite in the Midwest, conjuring speed and modernity. The appeal extended to a feature-length film, "Silver Streak." The Zephyr was designated an ASME landmark in 1980. Before retiring as Budd's chief engineer of railway design in 1969, Dean also had designed the structure and aerodynamics for the Metroliner.
| next →