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.
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 is made.
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.
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 permits.
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.
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.
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 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.
SAN FRANCISCO 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 terminal.
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, Nevada.
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 Sacramento.
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 level.
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 cannibalism.
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 east.
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 minterals.
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 the railroad.
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 Plains.
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 HASTINGS.
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 station.
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 stop.
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 weekday.