Burlington Route between Chicago and the Twin Cities
Where nature smiles for 300 miles
In 1886, the Chicago Burlington and Northern, owned by the Chicago Burlington and Quincy (CB&Q), completed its line following the Mississippi River for 300 scenic miles from Savanna, IL to Saint Paul, MN via Lacrosse and Prescott, WI providing a direct route from Chicago to the Twin Cities.
This route was 431 miles, 30 miles longer than its competition (the Milwaukee Road and the Chicago and North Western) but it had more gentle grades and curves. Daily passenger service started with a new train called The Scenic Express and a night train called The Vestibule Limited.
When re-equipped in 1897, the Vestibule Limited was referred to as the “Finest Train in the World”. In 1907, the westbound train the Vestibule Limited changed its name to The Minnesota Limited and the East bound train became The Chicago Limited. In 1899 the CB&N merged into the CB&Q.
In 1901 the CB&Q became under control of the Northern Pacific and Great Northern but retained its name until the formation of the Burlington Northern on March 3, 1970. Almost the entire line from Chicago to the Twin Cities is well maintained-double-track and is recognized among trainmen as one of the finest in the world. To this day it is still referred to as “The Race Track”.
Due to popular demand, on June 2, 1935 the Zephyrs were rescheduled so each train made a round trip each day. They were named the Morning and Afternoon Zephyrs and the schedule was then reduced to 5-1/2 hours, increasing the average speed including stops to 77.7 mph with a top speed of 104 mph.
This demanding schedule required each train to make a round trip of 863 miles each day. This moved the Twin Cities Zephyr to the top of the speed list and it became the “Fastest Scheduled Train in the World”. It held that honor from June 2, 1935 until Amtrak took over on April 30, 1971, and that would be last trip for the Twin Cities Zephyr.