The Illinois Zephyr, westbound on the BNSF Chicago subdivision.
|Service type||Inter-city rail|
|Predecessor||American Royal Zephyr and Kansas City Zephyr|
|First service||November 14, 1971|
|Distance travelled||258 miles (415 km)|
|Average journey time||4 hours 28 minutes|
|Train number(s)||380, 383|
|Track gauge||4 ft 8 1⁄2 in (1,435 mm)|
The Illinois Zephyr, running since 1971, is a 258-mile (415 km) passenger train operated by Amtrak, that runs between Chicago and Quincy, Illinois. The train is a part of the Illinois Service rail network and is partially funded by the Illinois Department of Transportation. Between Chicago and Galesburg, Illinois, this train service uses the same double track (BNSF, old CB&Q) as three other Amtrak routes: the California Zephyr, the Southwest Chief, and the Carl Sandburg. The Galesburg to Quincy route (old CB&Q Quincy/Hannibal branch) is only served by the Illinois Zephyr and the Carl Sandburg. The Illinois Zephyr is the "longest continuously operated state-sponsored train.":241
During fiscal year (FY) 2011, both the Illinois Zephyr and Carl Sandburg carried a combined 225,000 passengers, a 6.9% increase over FY2010. The two trains had a total revenue of $5,580,227 in FY2011, a 10.6% increase over FY2010.
Service began on November 14, 1971, between Chicago and West Quincy, Missouri. Passenger service was cut back to Quincy, Illinois on May 1, 1994, after a major flood in 1993. The Illinois Zephyr and the Carl Sandburg trainsets continue to cross the Mississippi River to layover between runs.
The Illinois Zephyr is a descendant of the Kansas City Zephyr and American Royal Zephyr passenger train routes operated by the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad from 1953 until 1968 and 1971, respectively. The state of Illinois intervened in 1971 at the request of Quincy College (now Quincy University), Western Illinois University, and residents of western Illinois. This became part of the "Illinois Service" initiative in 1971 and is partially funded by the Illinois Department of Transportation.:242 The Illinois Zephyr was never extended to either St. Louis or Kansas City from Quincy, Illinois. Amtrak's Southwest Chief already provided a Chicago-to-Kansas-City route, and the state of Missouri's "Missouri Service" only funded the extension of the Ann Rutledge to provide daily service between Kansas City and St. Louis with continuing services to Chicago via Springfield.
The name "Zephyr" is preserved in the current name of the line. Today the Illinois Zephyr enjoys strong support from the communities it passes through, and is one of the most successful Amtrak routes. The communities promote the train line as the fastest means of getting to downtown Chicago, and train tickets are frequently sold-out. As such, the route is part of the Midwest Regional Rail Initiative, which calls for an upgrade of service from the former 1 daily round trip to 4 or more daily round trips. The addition of the Carl Sandburg train on October 30, 2006, was the first step in this Midwest Regional Rail Initiative service upgrade. The scheduled travel time from Chicago to Quincy, via the Illinois Zephyr, has been 4 hours, 15 minutes.
During 2010, Amtrak contacted officials from communities in northeastern Missouri and western Illinois regarding the feasibility of extending the Illinois Zephyr, plus Carl Sandburg, southwards to Hannibal, Missouri and St. Louis. While a study for the expansion was not conducted, the project could be funded with a mix of federal and state money.
The Illinois Zephyr, formerly, ran as trains 347 (evening westbound) and 348 (morning eastbound) until October 30, 2006. On that date, the train numbers were changed, partially in anticipation of other expanded services: train 347 became train 383, and train 348 became train 380. Additionally, the Carl Sandburg service was added, running two new trains on the same route: train 381, a morning westbound, and train 382, an evening eastbound. This doubled the existing service.
Amtrak's original Illinois Zephyr included a stop in Aurora, which would be discontinued on April 28, 1985, in favor of Naperville. Service to Plano began on April 30, 1972. Service to Quincy proper began on April 24, 1983.:251–252
Today, a normal Amtrak Illinois Zephyr consists of:
- One GE Genesis P42DC locomotive
- Sometimes one non-powered cab car, rebuilt from an EMD F40PH
- Three to five Amfleet I or Horizon Fleet coaches
- One Amfleet I or Horizon lounge car.
- Sanders, Craig (2006). Amtrak in the Heartland. Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press. ISBN 0-253-34705-X. OCLC 61499942.
- "Amtrak Ridership Rolls Up Best-Ever Records" (PDF). Amtrak. 13 October 2011. Retrieved 7 February 2012.
- Gray, Jessica (2007-02-24). "More climb aboard". BCRNews.com. Retrieved 2007-07-17.
- "Hannibal rails for Amtrak". ConnectTristates.com. 18 October 2010. Retrieved 19 October 2010.
- "ILLINOIS ZEPHYR CARL SANDBURG". TrainWeb. Retrieved 19 October 2010.