Note: The pictures marked with "WW" were provided me by A.C. Woodward, who took them in Grand Junction during the last run of the RGZ.  These images have all been re-scanned at a much higher quality as of 11/11/05.

( For more RGZ photos, see my page here. )


Equipment of the Rio Grande Zephyr

My Gallery of the Rio Grande Zephyr

Scott Diekman's Gallery of the Rio Grande Zephyr

My First Ride on the Rio Grande Zephyr

The RGZ on Thanksgiving Day, 1982

California Zephyr Remnants

Timetables and other paper

Main D&RGW Page

Related Passenger Train sites

 Ski Train - Jim's fan site

Ski Train - Official Site

Rio Grande Scenic RR (a.k.a. San Luis & Rio Grande)

Durango & Silverton - Jim's fan site


The usual power for the train was a matched set of three EMD F9 locomotives. On occasion, if one of the units required maintenance, a freight unit would be substituted (and usually leading). Patrick/Loveman show GP9's, GP30's, and GP40/GP40-2's being used.
WW  Usually leading the way was the last surviving F-unit on the roster, F9A No. 5771.
WW Here's another view, from the flank.
WW  Here's F9B No. 5762.
WW  A broadside view of F9B No. 5763.
WW Another look at No. 5763.
On our 8/14/82 trip, the power was one GP40-2 and one of the F9 B units (an experiment with fuel efficiency).

Since the ex-CZ cars used steam heat, a steam generator car was employed during winter (and later nearly year-round) to augment the steam provided by the two B units. Two cars had been rebuilt in the 1960s from the frames & bodies of Alco PB-1 locomotives (originally purchased to help pull the CZ).
WW Usually, No. 253 would serve on the Zephyr.  Notice that the original 3-axle Alco trucks have been replaced by standard EMD 2-axle Blomberg trucks (this occurred about 1980).
In early 1982, No. 253 is seen as train No. 17 approaches Blue Mountain crossing at Coal Creek canyon.


Baggage was handled by one of the combines (half-baggage, half-coach) left over from the Rio Grande's erstwhile overnight train, the Prospector. These cars also served as passenger overflow cars on trips with heavy booking. There were two of them, differentiated slightly by some additional small windows on one.
Here's the left side of No. 1230, early 1982.
Here's the right side of No. 1230, early 1982.  Note the pair of small windows aft of the baggage door.
No. 1231 was a survivor.  Here it is in 1999, seeing service on the new Ski Train as a bicycle car.  Externally it looks about the same as it did while in Zephyr service.


First, a note about the stainless-steel cars.  These were all originally ordered as the Rio Grande's contribution to the California Zephyr (plus six sleepers).  After the CZ's demise, the large nameboards above the windows that had carried the California Zephyr lettering were removed.  The sleepers were all sold off, and never used on the RGZ.

There were two flat-top chair cars.  These were rebuilt from sleepers to 48-seat coaches in 1964.
WW SILVER PINE, car No. 1121.
WW SILVER ASPEN, car No. 1120.


Four Vista-Dome chair cars were available.  These featured 24-seat domes for the sight-seeing pleasure of riders.
WW  SILVER BRONCO, Car No. 1105.
WW SILVER COLT, Car No. 1106.  Note the small conductor's window located next to the door.
WW SILVER MUSTANG, car No. 1107.  Note the small conductor's window located next to the door.
WW SILVER PONY, Car No. 1108.


The Rio Grande Zephyr always ran with a dining car, wherein one could have steak and eggs for breakfast, or Rocky Mountain Trout for dinner.  Truly, it was a magnificent experience to dine there.
WW SILVER BANQUET, car No. 1115.


The Rio Grande also acquired a diner in 1979 from the Union Pacific, becoming car No. 1116, to protect the SILVER BANQUET.  The car was built by ACF in 1949.   Prior to this car's acquisition, the SILVER SHOP could be used in an emergency, if the BANQUET was down.  The 1116 saw considerable service during 1981.
Diner No. 1116 is the right-hand gold-painted car in the photo.  Here it's seen on Nov. 7, 1981 as the train rounds Little 10 curve at West Rocky.

The Vista-dome observation car SILVER SKY brought up the markers.
WW Symbol of elegance from a bygone era, the SILVER SKY served as the lounge car, and was truly a marvelous place from which to enjoy the ride.  Car No. 1145.

On occasion, the Vista-dome dormitory cafe car SILVER SHOP (seen here on the Ski Train) would put in an appearance.
WW SILVER SHOP, car No. 1140, usually only saw service as a substitute for the SKY or the BANQUET, or on special-occasion runs of the RGZ.  It ran quite a bit in early 1983.

When the route was sold to Amtrak, all the stainless-steel cars were included in the sale and went east for storage, with the exception of SILVER BRONCO, SILVER SHOP, and SILVER SKY.  Most of those cars went on to further service with various private, tourist, or Mexican railroads.  Unfortunately, when SILVER BANQUET was inspected, a fatal crack in the frame was discovered, and it was scrapped.  The ACF diner was kept in Denver for years.  The SILVER BRONCO also stayed in Denver until around 2006 when it was sold.  The SHOP and the SKY were traded to VIA in Canada in 1987 when the Tempo cars were purchased to re-equip the Ski Train.  Unfortunately, the rehabbing program they were destined for was cancelled mid-stream, and at last report they were sitting outside as gutted hulks.

More information on the dome cars may be found here.


(c) 1997 - 2008, James R. Griffin .   All Rights Reserved