Desert Wind

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Desert Wind
Amtrak Desert Wind on the Cajon Pass.jpg
The Desert Wind in the Cajon Pass in 1991
Overview
Service type Inter-city rail
StatusDiscontinued
Locale Western United States
Predecessor Las Vegas Limited
First serviceOctober 28, 1979
Last serviceMay 10, 1997
Former operator(s) Amtrak
Route
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
Class(es)
  • First class (sleepers)
  • Reserved coach
Sleeping arrangements
  • Bedrooms
  • Roomettes
Catering facilities
Observation facilitiesSightseer lounge
Technical
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 operated from Chicago to Los Angeles as a section of the California Zephyr , serving Los Angeles via Salt Lake City; Ogden, Utah; and Las Vegas.

Contents

History

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 long-distance streamliners between Chicago, Kansas City, and the West Coast into a single massive train dubbed by critics the "City of Everywhere". This train included the Challenger , the City of Denver , the City of Kansas City , the City of Los Angeles , the City of Portland , and the City of San Francisco . At one point, it ran up to 27 cars. The City of Los Angeles separated from this behemoth at Ogden, Utah, to serve Los Angeles via Las Vegas. [1] :123 Of these, Amtrak retained portions of the City of Kansas City and the City of San Francisco for its Chicago – San 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

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 Chicago – Los 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 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 Chicago – Los Angeles through coach with the San Francisco Zephyr at Ogden; this service expanded in 1982 to include a sleeping car. After the renamed and rerouted California Zephyr began using the Denver and Rio Grande Western Railroad main line in 1983, the Desert Wind began connecting with the Zephyr at Salt Lake City. Later, the Desert Wind and the Seattle-bound Pioneer would operate together with the California Zephyr from Chicago to Salt Lake City, where the trains separated. [4] :142–144 This created a train of 16 Superliner cars running from Chicago to Utah, the longest that Amtrak had ever operated. With Amtrak needing at least four locomotives to pull this massive train through the Rockies, the Pioneer began splitting off at Denver in 1991, while the Desert Wind continued to split from the Zephyr at Salt Lake City. [4] :148–150

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

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.

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>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. Amtrak bills the route as one of its most scenic, with views of the Painted Desert and the Red Cliffs of Sedona, as well as the plains of Iowa, Kansas and Colorado.

Salt Lake City Union Pacific Depot historic train station in Salt Lake City, Utah

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>Denver Zephyr</i>

The Denver Zephyr was a streamlined passenger train operated by the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad between Chicago, Illinois, and Denver, Colorado. In peak years it ran to Colorado Springs. It operated from 1936 to 1973. The Denver Zephyr continued operating after the Burlington Northern Railroad merger in 1970. BN conveyed the train to Amtrak in 1971; Amtrak merged it with the Denver-Oakland City of San Francisco to form the San Francisco Zephyr and dropped the "Denver" name in 1973.

<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.

Green River station (Utah) Amtrak station in Green River, Utah, United States

The Green River station is a train station in Green River, Utah. It is served by Amtrak's California Zephyr, which runs once daily between Chicago and Emeryville, California, in the San Francisco Bay Area. The station has a platform and bus-stop style shelter and no services.

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.

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.

<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, for those wanting to take a train between Chicago and Oakland, would have to take the City of San Francisco, which ran three times a week between Chicago 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) train station in Salt Lake City, Utah

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 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. however the company is now in talks with Amtrak to operate the train.

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 longest daily route, and second-longest overall after the Texas Eagle's triweekly continuation from San Antonio 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.

References

  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 3 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 Newspapers.com. 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.