Desert Wind

Last updated

Desert Wind
Amtrak Desert Wind on the Cajon Pass.jpg
The Desert Wind in the Cajon Pass in 1991
Service type Inter-city rail
Locale Western United States
Predecessor Las Vegas Limited
First serviceOctober 28, 1979
Last serviceMay 10, 1997
Former operator(s) Amtrak
Start Chicago, Illinois
End Los Angeles, California
Distance travelled2,397 miles (3,858 km)
Average journey time48 hours 30 minutes
Service frequencyThree days per week
Train number(s)35/36
On-board services
  • First class (sleepers)
  • Reserved coach
Sleeping arrangements
  • Bedrooms
  • Roomettes
Catering facilities
Observation facilitiesSightseer lounge
Rolling stock Superliners
Track gauge 4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm)

The Desert Wind was an Amtrak long distance passenger train that ran from 1979 to 1997. It initially operated between Los Angeles and Ogden, Utah via Salt Lake City and Las Vegas, and was truncated from Ogden to Salt Lake City in 1983.

Amtrak Intercity rail operator in the United States

The National Railroad Passenger Corporation, doing business as Amtrak, is a passenger railroad service that provides medium- and long-distance intercity service in the contiguous United States and to nine Canadian cities.

Los Angeles City in California

Los Angeles, officially the City of Los Angeles and often known by its initials L.A., is the most populous city in California, the second most populous city in the United States, after New York City, and the third most populous city in North America. With an estimated population of four million, Los Angeles is the cultural, financial, and commercial center of Southern California. The city is known for its Mediterranean climate, ethnic diversity, Hollywood and the entertainment industry, and its sprawling metropolis. Los Angeles is the largest city on the West Coast of North America.

Ogden, Utah City in Utah, United States

Ogden is a city and the county seat of Weber County, Utah, United States, approximately 10 miles (16 km) east of the Great Salt Lake and 40 miles (64 km) north of Salt Lake City. The population was 84,316 in 2014, according to the US Census Bureau, making it Utah's 7th largest city. The city served as a major railway hub through much of its history, and still handles a great deal of freight rail traffic which makes it a convenient location for manufacturing and commerce. Ogden is also known for its many historic buildings, proximity to the Wasatch Mountains, and as the location of Weber State University.



UP #932, an EMD E8, leads the City of Los Angeles into Union Station in Los Angeles in March 1971, just prior to discontinuation 932 arr laupt - Flickr - drewj1946.jpg
UP #932, an EMD E8, leads the City of Los Angeles into Union Station in Los Angeles in March 1971, just prior to discontinuation
Two Desert Wind trains meet on the east side of Cajon Pass in 1981 Desert Winds meet at Lugo, California, February 1981.jpg
Two Desert Wind trains meet on the east side of Cajon Pass in 1981

In the late 1960s, prior to the creation of Amtrak, the Union Pacific Railroad combined its West Coast streamliners from Chicago and Kansas City into a single massive train dubbed by critics the "City of Everywhere." This train included the Challenger , City of Denver , City of Kansas City , City of Los Angeles , City of Portland , and City of San Francisco . The City of Los Angeles separated from this behemoth (which could run to 27 cars) at Ogden, Utah to serve Los Angeles via Las Vegas. [1] :123 Of these, Amtrak retained portions of the City of Kansas City and City of San Francisco for its ChicagoSan Francisco service, which it named the San Francisco Zephyr . Regular service to Las Vegas ended in the early morning hours of May 2, 1971, when the westbound City of Los Angeles made its last station stop on its final trip to its namesake city. [2] :3

Union Pacific Railroad Class I railroad in the United States

Union Pacific Railroad is a freight hauling railroad that operates 8,500 locomotives over 32,100 route-miles in 23 states west of Chicago and New Orleans. The Union Pacific Railroad system is the second largest in the United States after the BNSF Railway and is one of the world's largest transportation companies. The Union Pacific Railroad is the principal operating company of the Union Pacific Corporation ; both are headquartered in Omaha, Nebraska.

<i>Challenger</i> (train) passenger train

The Challengers were named passenger trains on the Union Pacific Railroad and the Chicago and North Western Railway. The economy service ran between Chicago, Illinois, and the West Coast of the United States. The trains had full Pullman service and coach seating and were an attempt to draw Depression-Era riders back to the rails. Food service was advertised as "three meals for under a dollar a day."

<i>City of Denver</i> (train)

The City of Denver was a streamlined passenger train operated by the Union Pacific Railroad between Chicago, Illinois, and Denver, Colorado. It operated between 1936 and 1971. From 1936–1955 the Chicago and North Western Railway handled the train east of Omaha, Nebraska; the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific Railroad handled it thereafter. The train was the fastest long-distance train in the United States when it debuted in 1936, covering 1,048 miles (1,687 km) in 16 hours. For almost its entire career its principal competitor was the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad's Denver Zephyr. When Amtrak assumed operation of most intercity trains in the United States in 1971, it discontinued the City of Denver, preferring to use the Burlington's route between Chicago and Denver.

Throughout the 1970s, there were brief attempts to revive service to Las Vegas in the form of charters and excursions, plus one regularly-scheduled weekend-only train called the Las Vegas Limited , which ran for four months in 1976. Matters came to a head in 1979, as Amtrak faced significant political pressure to cut costs and reduce the size of its national network. Senator Howard Cannon (D-Nevada) pushed Amtrak hard to create a train which served Las Vegas, and Amtrak considered replacing the Southwest Limited , its existing ChicagoLos Angeles train, with such a service. In the end, the Southwest Limited remained and Amtrak introduced the Desert Wind, which made its first run on October 28, 1979. [3] [4] :141–142

The Las Vegas Limited was a short-lived weekend-only passenger train operated by Amtrak between Los Angeles, California, and Las Vegas, Nevada. It was the last in series of excursion trains run by Amtrak between 1972–1976 serving the Los Angeles–Las Vegas market. Low patronage led to the train's withdrawal after three months. Amtrak returned to the Las Vegas market in 1979 with the Desert Wind, a daily train between Los Angeles and Ogden, Utah.

Howard Cannon American politician

Howard Walter Cannon was an American politician. He served as a United States senator from Nevada from 1959 until 1983 as a member of the Democratic Party.

<i>Southwest Chief</i> Amtrak passenger rail service in the United States of America

The Southwest Chief is a passenger train operated by Amtrak on a 2,265-mile (3,645 km) route through the Midwestern and Southwestern United States. It runs between Chicago, Illinois and Los Angeles, California, passing through Illinois, Iowa, Missouri, Kansas, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona and California.

The original Desert Wind was a day train with Amfleet equipment. The northbound train left Los Angeles mid-day and arrived in Ogden the following morning to connect with the eastbound San Francisco Zephyr. The southbound departed Ogden in the middle of the night after the arrival of the westbound San Francisco Zephyr from Chicago and arrived in Los Angeles in late afternoon. The 811-mile (1,305 km) journey took eighteen hours. [5] Beginning in 1980, the Desert Wind exchanged a ChicagoLos Angeles through coach with the San Francisco Zephyr; this service expanded in 1982 to include a sleeping car. The Desert Wind's eastern terminus moved to Salt Lake City after the re-named and re-routed California Zephyr began using the Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad main line in 1983. Later, the Desert Wind and the Pioneer would operate together with the California Zephyr from Chicago to Salt Lake City, where the trains separated. [4] :142–144

Amfleet Single-level rail car

Amfleet is a fleet of single-level intercity railroad passenger cars built by the Budd Company for American company Amtrak in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Budd based the Amfleet design on its earlier Metroliner electric multiple unit. An initial order for 57 cars in 1973 to supplement the Metroliners on the Northeast Corridor grew to two orders totaling 642 cars, sufficient to reequip all the services on the Northeast Corridor and many other routes around the United States. The first 492 cars, known as Amfleet I and completed between 1975–1977, were designed for short-distance service. A second order of 150 cars, known as Amfleet II and completed between 1980–1983, were designed for long-distance service. They were the last intercity passenger cars built by Budd.

Through coach

In rail terminology, a through coach is a passenger car (coach) that is re-marshalled during the course of its journey. It begins the journey attached to one train, and arrives at its destination attached to another train.

Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad transport company

The Denver & Rio Grande Western Railroad, often shortened to Rio Grande, D&RG or D&RGW, formerly the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad, was an American Class I railroad company. The railroad started as a 3 ft narrow-gauge line running south from Denver, Colorado in 1870. It served mainly as a transcontinental bridge line between Denver, and Salt Lake City, Utah. The Rio Grande was also a major origin of coal and mineral traffic.

The Desert Wind was discontinued on May 12, 1997, a victim of Amtrak's reoccurring budget cuts that also eliminated the Pioneer days earlier. [6] Train service was replaced with a Los AngelesLas Vegas Thruway Motorcoach service. At that time, rail service between Los Angeles and Las Vegas took 7 hours, 15 minutes. [7]

Amtrak Thruway Motorcoach Intercity coach company

Thruway Motorcoach is Amtrak's system of Amtrak-owned intercity coaches, locally contracted transit buses, through-ticketed local bus routes, and taxi services to connect Amtrak train stations to areas not served by its railroads, or stations which are disconnected temporarily due to service delays or track maintenance issues. Train and Thruway Motorcoach tickets are purchased together from Amtrak for the length of a passenger's journey, and the connections are timed for convenient dedicated and guaranteed-reliable transfers between the two services. In addition to providing connecting service to unserved areas, some Thruway Motorcoaches operate as redundant service along well-established passenger rail corridors to add extra capacity.

Proposed restoration

There are several private, competing plans to restore rail service from Los Angeles to Las Vegas, including the high-speed XpressWest, and the more conventional X Train and Z-Train.

High-speed rail type of rail transport

High-speed rail (HSR) is a type of rail transport that operates significantly faster than traditional rail traffic, using an integrated system of specialized rolling stock and dedicated tracks. While there is no single standard that applies worldwide, new lines in excess of 250 kilometres per hour (160 mph) and existing lines in excess of 200 kilometres per hour (120 mph) are widely considered to be high-speed, with some extending the definition to include lower speeds in areas for which these speeds still represent significant improvements. The Tōkaidō Shinkansen, the first such system, began operations in Japan in 1964 and was widely known as the bullet train. High-speed trains normally operate on standard gauge tracks of continuously welded rail on grade-separated right-of-way that incorporates a large turning radius in its design.


XpressWest is a private venture proposal previously backed by Las Vegas, Nevada, hotel developer Marnell to build a privately funded high-speed rail passenger train in the Western United States to connect Palmdale, Los Angeles, and Victorville, California to Las Vegas and later to Phoenix, Arizona, Salt Lake City, Utah, and Denver, Colorado. Marnell's interest in the project was sold to Florida-based passenger rail operator Brightline, which plans to begin construction on the railroad starting in 2019.

Las Vegas Railway Express, branded as "X Train," is an American rail transport company that plans to operate passenger rail service between Southern California and Las Vegas, Nevada. In May 2017, the Las Vegas Railway Express sold its operation and branding to X Rail Entertainment. In October 2018, the Las Vegas Railway Express proposed to change its name to United Rail Inc. In November 2018, the company chose First Transit Group to operate the train.

A Los Angeles–Las Vegas route run by Amtrak nearly entered service in 2000. A Talgo VII trainset was bought for the service in 1999; when it was not implemented, the trainset was later used on the Amtrak Cascades service. [8]

Also, as of 2011, new routes were being considered, [7] including routes using the same track as the original Desert Wind, and routes using the Metrolink San Bernardino Line. Lack of funding and congestion through the Cajon Pass remained significant obstacles. More recent proposals using high speed rail have suggested routing through Victorville and connecting with California's high speed rail project in Palmdale, [9] assuming the California project can secure funding for a connection from Bakersfield to Los Angeles.

The route has some merit for Amtrak, as the July 2010 issue of Trains listed the route as one to be restored in conjunction with upgrading the equipment on the California Zephyr. [10]

Related Research Articles

<i>California Zephyr</i> (1949–1970) Passenger train operated from 1949 to 1970

The California Zephyr was a passenger train that ran between Chicago, Illinois and Oakland, California via Omaha, Denver, Salt Lake City, Winnemucca, Oroville and Pleasanton. It was operated by the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy (CB&Q), Denver & Rio Grande Western (D&RGW) and Western Pacific (WP) railroads, all of which dubbed it "the most talked about train in America" on March 19, 1949, with the first departure the following day. The train was scheduled to pass through the most spectacular scenery on its route in the daylight. The original train ceased operation in 1970, though the D&RGW continued to operate its own passenger service, the Rio Grande Zephyr, between Salt Lake City and Denver, using the original equipment until 1983. In 1983 a second iteration of the California Zephyr, an Amtrak service, was formed. The current version of the California Zephyr operates partially over the route of the original Zephyr and partially over the route of its former rival, the City of San Francisco.

<i>San Joaquin</i> (train) passenger train in Californias Central Valley

The San Joaquin is a passenger train service operated by Amtrak in California's Central Valley. Seven round-trip trains a day run between its southern terminus at Bakersfield and Stockton, where the route splits to Oakland or Sacramento.

Salt Lake City Union Pacific Depot

The Salt Lake City Union Pacific Depot is a building on the western edge of downtown Salt Lake City, Utah, United States. Built in 1908–09, it dates back to the more prosperous era in the history of American railroad travel. As Salt Lake Union Pacific Railroad Station, it is listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

<i>City of Los Angeles</i> (train) Union Pacific passenger train

The City of Los Angeles was a streamlined passenger train between Chicago, Illinois, and Los Angeles, California via Omaha, Nebraska, and Ogden, Utah. Between Omaha and Los Angeles it ran on the Union Pacific Railroad; east of Omaha it ran on the Chicago and North Western Railway until October 1955 and on the Milwaukee Road thereafter. The train had number 103 westbound and number 104 eastbound.

<i>Pioneer</i> (train) passenger train operated by Amtrak

The Pioneer was an Amtrak passenger train that ran between Seattle and Chicago via Portland, Boise, Salt Lake City, and Denver.

<i>Rio Grande Zephyr</i>

The Rio Grande Zephyr was a passenger train operated by Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad between Denver, Colorado and Ogden, Utah from 1970 until 1983. In operation after the creation of publicly funded Amtrak, the Rio Grande Zephyr was the last privately operated intercity passenger train in the United States when it was discontinued. There have since been other privately operated trains in Florida.

Glenwood Springs station railway station in Glenwood Springs, Colorado, United States

The Glenwood Springs station is a railway station in Glenwood Springs, Colorado. It is served by Amtrak's California Zephyr, which runs once daily between Chicago and Emeryville, California in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Grand Junction station Amtrak station in Grand Junction, Colorado, United States

The Grand Junction station is a train station in Grand Junction, Colorado, United States, that is served by Amtrak's California Zephyr, which runs once daily between Chicago and Emeryville, California, in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Palmdale Transportation Center

The Palmdale Transportation Center is a multi-modal transportation center featuring a Metrolink rail station, a local bus hub, and commuter bus hub, in the city of Palmdale, California. The center was completely rebuilt in April 2005. It now features a "clock tower plaza" which has an enclosed waiting room with concessions and vending, public telephone, restrooms, a bus pass sales office, and security service. For those who wish to wait closer to the services, the center has four partially enclosed shelters at the bus hub and six partially enclosed shelters for the rail platform. The center also has a large parking lot for those who wish to "Park and Ride" the Metrolink or commuter buses.

Helper station Amtrak station in Helper, Utah, Untied States

The Helper station is a railroad station in Helper, Utah. It is served by Amtrak's California Zephyr, which runs once daily between Chicago, Illinois, and Emeryville, California, in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Provo station (Amtrak) Amtrak station in Provo, Utah, United States

The Provo station is a train station in Provo, Utah. It is served by Amtrak's California Zephyr, which runs once daily between Chicago and Emeryville, California, in the San Francisco Bay Area.

Salt Lake City Intermodal Hub intermodal transit center in Salt Lake City, Utah, United States

The Salt Lake City Intermodal Hub is a multi-modal transportation hub in Salt Lake City, Utah, United States served by the Blue Line of UTA's TRAX light rail system that operates in Salt Lake County and by the FrontRunner, UTA's commuter rail train that operates along the Wasatch Front with service from Ogden in central Weber County through Davis County, Salt Lake City, and Salt Lake County to Provo in central Utah County. Service at the intermodal hub is also provided by Amtrak, Greyhound Lines, and U Car Share, as well as UTA local bus service.

<i>San Francisco Zephyr</i>

The San Francisco Zephyr was the name adopted in June 1972 for the Amtrak passenger train between Chicago, Illinois, and the San Francisco Bay Area in California. Previously, those wanting to take a train between Chicago and Oakland, would have to take the Denver Zephyr which ran daily between Chicago and Denver, and the City of San Francisco, which ran three times a week, between Denver and Oakland.

Transportation in the Las Vegas Valley including the cities of Las Vegas, North Las Vegas and Henderson is a multi faceted system. The street system is mostly laid out in a north-south/east-west system of roads. While most residents rely on cars, there is an extensive network of bus routes reaching many areas of the county. The Las Vegas Valley, being the one of the largest tourist destinations in the world, has a mass transportation system which favors the Las Vegas Strip.

Denver and Rio Grande Western Depot (Salt Lake City)

The Denver and Rio Grande Western Depot, commonly referred to as the Rio Grande Depot, is a former train station on the western edge of downtown Salt Lake City, Utah, United States. It is currently home to the Division of Utah State History and the Utah Department of Heritage & Arts, as well as the Rio Gallery.

Las Vegas station (Nevada) former passenger railroad station in Las Vegas, Nevada

Las Vegas station is a former passenger railroad station in Las Vegas, Nevada. It is connected to the rear of the Plaza Hotel & Casino and was in service from 1971 until the demise of the Desert Wind in 1997.

<i>California Zephyr</i> American passenger train

The California Zephyr is a passenger train operated by Amtrak between Chicago and the San Francisco Bay Area, via Omaha, Denver, Salt Lake City, and Reno. At 2,438 miles (3,924 km), it is Amtrak's second longest route after the Texas Eagle branch to Los Angeles, with travel time between the termini taking approximately 51​12 hours. Amtrak claims the route as one of its most scenic, with views of the upper Colorado River valley in the Rocky Mountains, and the Sierra Nevada. The modern train is the second iteration of a train named California Zephyr, the original train was privately operated and ran on a different route through Nevada and California.


  1. Welsh, Joe (2008). Union Pacific's Streamliners. Minneapolis, Minnesota: Voyageur Press. ISBN   978-0-7603-2534-6.
  2. "Desert Wind Inaugural Draws Crowds As New Train Goes Into Service". Amtrak NEWS. 6 (12): 2–3. November 1979.
  3. Blumenthal, Ralph (January 18, 1980). "You can still ride the rails for scenery, fun". Anchorage Daily News . Retrieved September 11, 2010.
  4. 1 2 Sanders, Craig (2006). Amtrak in the Heartland. Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press. ISBN   978-0-253-34705-3.
  5. Amtrak (October 28, 1979). "National Train Timetables" . Retrieved September 11, 2010.
  6. "The end of the line for an era". Times-News . Twin Falls, Idaho. May 9, 1997. p. E1. Retrieved November 13, 2018 via Lock-green.svg
  7. 1 2 Las Vegas to Los Angeles Rail Corridor Improvement Feasibility Study p1+173 Regional Transportation Commission of Southern Nevada, June 2007. Retrieved December 12, 2011.
  8. "L.A.-Vegas high-speed train set for debut". Las Vegas Sun. July 18, 1999.
  9. Las Vegas rail service plans have seen starts, stops
  10. "Amtrak Trains Under the Microscope in 2010", Trains, July 20, 2010.