The era of passenger streamliners reached a highpoint in the late 1920s and early 1930s. The entire era itself was part of the Art Deco Age, and trains quickly became a big part of this art movement. In the early 1930s The Budd Company, a major metal fabricator and passenger car builder, partnered with the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy Railroad (“The Burlington” for short) to create a new locomotive that was equal parts speed and performance as it was eye catching and stylish.

Unveiled in 1934, the Burlington “Zephyr” was something no railroad had ever really ordered before. The Zephyrs were powered by a 600 horsepower Winton inline-eight diesel-electric engine shrouded in a welded stainless steel shell. Almost all locomotives at this time were constructed using riveting, however welding (though new to industrial America, especially in railroading) helped save weight over this practice. The Zephyrs were built as a permanent trainset that consisted of three (later four) train cars all connected by Jacob’s wheelsets. This design helped save weight since two cars shared a wheelset rather than the use of two conventionally separate wheelsets and couplers. A typical 3-car set weighed in at around 195,000 pounds and was just shy of 200 feet long. The locomotive was also streamlined in a way (known as a shovelnose) to give a commanding, full-faced and clean look to the front. Over top of the cab, the Zephyrs were equipped with both a steady headlight and a Mars light, which oscillate to draw attention to hazards.

The Zephyrs were lightweight and very fast by design. Upon its release, the Zephyr was set to do a promotional cross-country sprint between both ends of the Burlington’s mainline of Denver and Chicago. The Zephyr travelled the 1000 miles at an average speed of almost 80 miles per hour the entire way and at some points reached 113 miles per hour. The run was highly publicized and showcased a new era for passenger travel on the Burlington. Form, functionality and economy were all brought together and now, the right amount of passengers could be carried at a cheaper cost than before.

Almost immediately after its first trip, more Zephyrs were built and put in service. The Zephyrs served as power for almost 20 different named trains on the Burlington such as the “Twin Cities Zephyr” between Chicago – Minneapolis and the “Nebraska Zephyr” between Chicago – Lincoln, NE. They were known to be fast, capable and comfortable trains that held very tight schedules and got people where they needed to go. These engines helped to dramatically boost train ridership on the Burlington during the Great Depression.

In a normal three-car setup, the locomotive acted as both the powerplant and contained a Railroad Post Office (RPO) in the rear. Since the Zephyrs were designed as regional trains, the second car usually had a small baggage area and either a small restaurant and coach section or just a coach section. The last car was a coach/observation car. This set could hold 72 passengers total. As demand increased, a fourth car was added to this consist for more coach seating. The second car then became a full-baggage car and the third became a buffet/coach.

The Zephyrs were a huge success in most cases. There were problems in the beginning with the engine’s inline-eight motor, as it was not built to handle a railroading environment. The motor was swapped out in 1939 for EMD’s then-new 567 V16. This motor would go on to be one of the most popular prime movers in railroading. After this swap, the Zephyrs ran with relatively few problems. They were more economical to run over traditional trainsets (and especially steam locomotives). However after World War II the railroad passenger industry in America was on a sure, steady decline. Highways and airplanes quickly took over as the primary means of transportation. Despite this, the Zephyrs were continually used in regular service for their economy and it wasn’t until 1960 that they were retired; almost 30 years after their introduction into service.


Happy Darwin Day!

Happy Darwin day from the Temple of the Human Spirit!


Darwin Day is a global celebration of science and reason held on or around Feb. 12, the birthday anniversary of evolutionary biologist Charles Darwin.


Man’s Dominion over Nature

Man’s dominion over nature is not the result of a mystical process. Rather it is the result of his obedience to natural laws, and the use of his mind in accordance with them. Dominion of nature is not a gift or a birthright, it is a glory that has been earned by Man.


“Have you ever looked for the root of production? Take a look at an electric generator and dare tell yourself that it was created by the muscular effort of unthinking brutes. Try to grow a seed of wheat without the knowledge left to you by men who had to discover it for the first time. Try to obtain your food by means of nothing but physical motions—and you’ll learn that man’s mind is the root of all the goods produced and of all the wealth that has ever existed on earth.

But you say that money is made by the strong at the expense of the weak? What strength do you mean? It is not the strength of guns or muscles. Wealth is the product of man’s capacity to think. Then is money made by the man who invents a motor at the expense of those who did not invent it? Is money made by the intelligent at the expense of the fools? By the able at the expense of the incompetent? By the ambitious at the expense of the lazy? Money is made—before it can be looted or mooched—made by the effort of every honest man, each to the extent of his ability. An honest man is one who knows that he can’t consume more than he has produced.” Ayn Rand

To the Glory of Man

This image is an incredible testament to the power of the human spirit. In one frame it captures the truth of our existence, and the key to our greatness. It is mans mind using reason, the foundation of the human spirit, not faith, that has raised him out of the mosquito filled swamps and into the heavens. It is man’s mind, not feeling, that has launched him out of insufferable child mortality and 30 year lifespans and into longevity and dominance on this planet. It is man’s mind, not fear, that has launched him out of poverty and into the prosperity of the Industrial Age. It is man’s mind, not revelation, that has launched him out of starvation and into a land of plenty. It is man’s mind, not whim, that has launched him out of the ugliness of the cave paintings and into the beauty of the Renaissance. It is man’s mind, not sentiment, that has launched man out of caves and huts and into skyscrapers. It is man’s mind, not instinct, that has launched him out of ignorance of the origins of such things as lightning and into the knowledge of all this world and its wonderful workings. All of these things cast their light upon the world, and it is for us, in the name of truth and justice, to unfurl a banner above the world that we have made that all may know what it proclaims: For the Glory of Man.