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Last Run of Amtrak's Desert Wind - A long Legacy of UP's City of Los Angeles - Ends With Amtrak's Desert Wind.a travel report by Tommy Betts (with adds from Pit...........)
This train was dropped with the takeover of Amtrak in May 1971, but to no one's expectations, there would be a direct descendant eight years later; this time known as the Desert Wind. But Amtrak in a way irresponsibly took over the legacy of the City. By that, I am referring to the Desert Wind's discontinuance on May 10, 1997. No matter how anyone excepts the discontinuation of the Wind we all will just have to understand that it's gone, like it or not.On May 28, 1973, the Denver, Colorado to Salt Lake City, Utah, Denver Zephyr was discontinued, however on June 7th, 1977 the Salt Lake City to Seattle Pioneer was added, and two years later, the Desert Wind between Los Angeles and Ogden (it would later be rerouted to Salt Lake City on DRGW trackage). Another lessor known ancestor of the Desert Wind was the ill-fated Las Vegas Limited which was added to the table on May 21, 1976. It ran from Los Angeles, CA to Las Vegas, NV on Fridays and Sundays only.Early equipment on the Desert Wind was usually a consist of 4 Amfleet Coaches, an AmDinette and a baggage car. By the end of 1980, Superliner equipment had been introduced and as soon as enough became available to equip the Desert Wind and Pioneer, they were both extended all the way to Chicago.
When so was done, the Wind combined with the California Zephyr at Salt Lake City, and the Pioneer joined the consist at Denver, CO. In early 1983, the Denver and Rio Grande "joined" or partnered with Amtrak to enable the route between Salt Lake and Denver to be entirely on DRGW trackage. It was not until April 24, 1983 that the San Franscisco Zephyr became officially renamed the California Zephyr. Unfortunately, a major flood damaged much of the DRGW line and the rerouting was delayed until July 16. Finally on that day in Denver, a christening took place at Denver Union Station. Mrs James Bauman christened a bottle of champagne over the locomotives pilot. Mrs Bauman also served as a commentator and guide on the scenic highlights of the reroute.On May 8, 1997, the last eastbound Desert Wind, Train Number 36 made it's final departure from Los Angeles at 10:45 AM. This train was running very full. The Crew announced to passengers that 120 people boarded in Fullerton, CA, with an additional 240 scheduled to board in Las Vegas. The Final Number 36 consist was very interesting. A pair of shiny new Dash 9-42DC (P42s), engine number 34 and 17, brought up the head, followed by ex-Great Northern number 9301, the Mountain View, formerly used by Amtrak on the Auto Train. The "Great Dome" was in LA during the weekend of May 4, for "Railroad Family Day" in San Diego, CA and was deadheading back to Beech Grove for storage. Amtrak has plans to use these for future charter service. In addition to the baggage car and transition Sleeper, the train was carrying three sleepers instead of the usual two, a Diner, Sightseer Lounge and three coaches. The crew seemed to enjoy the Great Dome more than their own dormitory car. A person whom I knew onboard that is a manager for the Desert Wind invited me up to the Dome car for most of our ride, after all I was only traveling between Los Angeles and Barstow.Although the Desert Wind was quite a money looser (The Desert Wind Country Band as well => you remember the emblem Pleitegeier on the CD ride on and the banner ;-), perhaps it was a great train because of the unique scenery along it's route. Product Manager Lee Gleysteen later commented in the Great Dome, "This train really needs to be daily". Perhaps it does [or did ], because how can you expect many people to ride a train that runs three days a week each direction when one can drive a portion of the route much quicker!This article would have not been possible without the assistance from the following sources and they're authors/publishers. Those research sources include: All Aboard Amtrak: 1971-1991, Mike Schafer; NRPC, Amtrak, http://www.amtrak.com; Webmaster: Steve Grande, http://trainweb.com; Leland Gleysteen, Product Manager California Zephyr/Desert Wind; NOTE: Much of the timetable history came from hours of browsing and comapring old Amtrak timetables from that appropriately year/season.