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The Nebraska Zephyr

A Brief History

Compiled from Burlington Bulletin number 22, Trains of the Gods and Goddesses
Note: click any of the photos to see the larger, high resolution version.

The Nebraska Zephyr was inaugurated on November 16, 1947 with articulated equipment originally manufactured by the Budd Company for the Burlington's Twin Zephyrs in 1936. The NZ offered "fast, luxurious daytime travel between Chicago, Omaha, and Lincoln" according to the Burlington, with the westbound service departing Chicago at 12:45pm and ending the day in Lincoln at 10:40pm. The eastbound NZ departed Lincoln at 11:00am and arrived in the Windy City at 8:45pm.

Typically, the Nebraska Zephyr was in the charge of a lone E5 or E7, with the occasional shovelnose substituting on the business end. After their delivery in 1949-50, single 2,250 h.p. E8s also sheparded trains 11 and 12 across the plains.

Four more cars were purchased to augment the original Twin Zephyr equipment assigned to the Chicago-Nebraska service. 70 foot non-articulated baggage cars Argo and Olympus were delivered by Budd in 1948 for use in the Gods and Goddesses consists, respectively, as well as 60 foot Railway Post Office/21 foot storage mail cars Silver Page and Silver Post. The RPOs were never assigned to the NZ, however, as they were usually to be found in the consists of one of the many nameless Chicago-Omaha mail trains. The baggage cars were also removed from the NZ consist in 1953 and reassigned to the Denver Zephyrs to accomodate the increasing volume of mail aboard the latter trains. Thereafter, the Q assigned a pair of Havelock-built 70 foot smooth-side "economy" baggage cars in the simulated-stainless-steel "shadow line" aluminum paint scheme to the Nebraska Zephyrs. The Nebraska Zephyrs spent much of their careers operating in conjunction with other trains of similar schedules in an effort to economize the passenger operation of the Burlington (and making for some massive consists in the 1960s - some trains regularly leaned onto the Burlington mainline south of Chicago Union Station with four motors and a minimum of 17 cars; trains of 27 to 30 cars were not unheard of!). Beginning in 1951 the NZ was combined with the Kansas City-Omaha-Lincoln Silver Streak Zephyr between Omaha and Lincoln and two years later number 11 was paired up with number 35, the Kansas City Zephyr between Chicago and Galesburg, Illinois. In each case, the other train's equipment operated ahead of the articulated. In 1954 the Nebraska Zephyrs resumed independent service for four more years before being combined with train numbers 19 and 6, the Chicago-Denver Coloradoan, east of Omaha. In actuality, the Coloradoan passengers were simply accomodated aboard the Zephyr's articulated equipment while the Coloradoan's head end equipment and power was added to the NZ. That same year (1958) the Lincoln bound Silver Streak Zephyr was combined with number 11 west of Omaha.

The articulated trainsets were removed from service following final runs on January 21, 1968 and sold by the Burlington. The Train of the Goddesses eventually found its way to the Illinois Railway Museum where it continues to operate today in the company of CB&Q 9911A Silver Pilot (ex Colorado and Southern E-5A 9952A).