RGZ Equipment

A Dedicated Stable Protected the Rio Grande Zephyr

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.

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.


 Usually leading the way was the last surviving F-unit
on the roster, F9A No. 5771.

Here’s another view, from the flank.

 Here’s F9B No. 5762.
WW_RGZ_5763WW  A broadside view of F9B No. 5763.

Another look at No. 5763.
RGZ_Power_GS 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_RGZ_drgw253WW 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  Notice that the original 3-axle Alco trucks have been replaced by standard EMD 2-axle Blomberg trucks (this occurred about 1980).
1982_02 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.

1982_03 Here’s the left side of No. 1230, early 1982.
drgw1230r Here’s the right side of No. 1230, early 1982.  Note the pair of small windows aft of the baggage door.
SST_1231 No. 1231 was a survivor.  Here it is in 1999, seeing service on the Ansco Ski Train as a bicycle car.  Externally it looks about the same as it did while in Zephyr service, except for that new boxy roof-top conduit.

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.


Four Vista-Dome chair cars were available.  These featured 24-seat domes for the sight-seeing pleasure of riders.

WW_RGZ-COLTWW SILVER COLT, Car No. 1106.  Note the small conductor’s window located next to the door.
WW_RGZ-MUSTANGWW SILVER MUSTANG, car No. 1107.  Note the small conductor’s window
located next to the door.

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.

drgw1116-1980s-NathanZachman The Rio Grande also acquired a diner in 1981 from the Union Pacific, becoming car No. 1116, to protect the BANQUET.  Prior to this car’s acquisition in 1980, the SILVER SHOP would be used in an emergency if the BANQUET was down.

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_RGZ-SKYWW 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 would put in an appearance.

WW_RGZ-SHOPWW 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.

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