The Desert Wind in the Cajon Pass in 1991
|Service type||Inter-city rail|
|Locale||Western United States|
|Predecessor||Las Vegas Limited|
|First service||October 28, 1979|
|Last service||May 10, 1997|
|End||Los Angeles, California|
|Distance travelled||2,397 miles (3,858 km)|
|Average journey time||48 hours 30 minutes|
|Service frequency||Three days per week|
|Train number(s)||35, 36|
|Observation facilities||Sightseer lounge|
|Track gauge||4 ft 8 1⁄2 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.
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. 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. :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. 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. 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. :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. :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.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.
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.
Also, as of 2011, new routes were being considered,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, 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.
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.
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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.
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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.
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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.
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.
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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.
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