In 1978, more years lay behind the Rio Grande Zephyr in its brief existence than in front of it. A truncated version of a prestigious and luxurious train, passengers bemoaned the state of rail transportation where the RGZ was, if not a dimming reflection of the glory days, a reminder of the past that was herself quickly fading. Certainly, she was the last survivor of intercity passenger rail that was not swallowed up in the Nixon-Ford era Amtrak.
Running tri-weekly it was possible to use one train set and run it between Denver and Salt Lake City, Thursday, Saturday, and Monday, and Salt Lake City to Denver Friday, Sunday, and Tuesday, and never on Wednesday
, which was when the cars received their maintenance. Only 5 years from the snap of this picture, Rio Grande would pull the plug on this last, tri-weekly gasp of private passenger rail service. Had she lived to be a hundred, I don't think anyone would have found the Zephyr to be worse than her successor.
Photographer James Belmont says of this photo, "One of my all time favorite photos of the Rio Grande Zephyr..." He went on to add that the fill the train is crossing over was washed out during the floods of September 2013. This washout disrupted service over the Moffat Route from Denver to Grand Junction for 17 days, and considering it's location, it's a testament to the maintenance and repair crews how fast they got the work done!
Interested in the Rio Grande Zephyr? Check out my friend James Griffin's very artful web treatment
of the Silver Lady's last days.◊