New Product Spotlight – Zephyrs

22 07 2013

As the nation struggled to climb out of the Great Depression, thousands gathered along the tracks from the Midwest to the East Coast to see a brilliant silver flash of the future. More than just a train, the Pioneer Zephyr promised a brighter future and exciting changes to come.

The Pioneer Zephyr

Pioneer Zephyr

The Pioneer Zephyr was a train ahead of its time.

Officially introduced at the Pennsylvania Railroad’s Broad Street Station in Philadelphia (also the Budd Company’s home town) on April 18, 1934, the Zephyr began a long introduction to the world before entering regular service on the Burlington. The introduction was advertising not only for the CB&Q but for Budd as well, hoping to sell the new technology and service to railroads and passengers around the country.

On August 24, the Burlington arranged a special showing for the Zephyr. It would race from Denver to Chicago at record pace. Carrying dignitaries, employees and the train’s mascot burro “Zeph,” the train left Denver at 7:04 in the morning. The “Dawn to Dusk Dash” ended in Chicago just 13 hours and 5 minutes later at 8:09 PM. Achieving a top speed of 112 mph and averaging 77 mph, the train arrived nearly two hours earlier than expected.

This run of the “Silver Streak” made national headlines and even prompted a movie about its amazing journey. But the tour didn’t end in Chicago. The Zephyr would go on to visit the Century of Progress Fair in Chicago and then 222 cities in 31 states.

Mark Twain Zephyr

As the Zephyr’s fame and success grew, it became part of the popular culture.

The train finally entered regular service on the Burlington between Kansas City, Missouri and Omaha and Lincoln, Nebraska in November of 1934. With seating capacity of only 72 people plus baggage and mail space, the railroad would at times add a fourth car to the consist.

Aside from its limited capacity and a serious head-on collision in 1939, the train performed better than expectations. It was renamed the “Pioneer Zephyr” in 1936 as the Burlington bought additional train sets and added many “conventional” trains with the Zephyr name.

The landmark train reached its first million miles of service with its first five years. It stayed on the roster until 1960 when it was donated to Chicago’s Museum of Science and Industry where it remains a major exhibit today.

Lionel’s Zephyr

Now you can add this momentous train to your layout. Lionel’s latest release of this historic streamliner comes complete with LEGACY control and sound and all of the features you’ve come to expect.

  • LEGACY Control – also capable of running on TMCC or Conventional
  • Odyssey II Speed Control

    Lionel Lines

    The Lionel Lines Zephyr wears a color scheme reminiscent of the New Haven’s similar “Comet” train.

  • LEGACY RailSounds including
    • CrewTalk and TowerCom dialog
    • 6 Railroad speeds
    • 8 Diesel RPM levels
    • LEGACY Quilling horn
    • Single hit or continuous mechanical bell
    • Sequence control provides sounds and dialog for an entire trip around your layout
    • Current speed and fuel dialog and refueling sounds
  • Realistic Articulation between cars
  • Dual motors with flywheels
  • Refined Transformer Control with lower starting speeds
  • Traction Tires (4)


    The “West Wind” meets the North Pole in this Christmas version.

  • Fan-driven smoke unit with adjustable output – smoke emits from all four stacks
  • Working headlight on locomotive and tail light on observation car
  • Working Marker Lights on locomotive and observation car
  • Lighted and detailed cab and car interiors with crew and passenger figures
  • Metal frames
  • Die-cast metal bodies, trucks and vestibules
  • O-54 minimum curve

In addition to the Burlington Pioneer and Mark Twain Zephyr, we are also offering the train in some very non-conventional but seriously cool color schemes. The “Lionel Lines” and North Pole Central “Christmas Zephyr” are sure to be a hit on many layouts. Each 3-car set is priced at $1099.99. See your dealers to order, these trains are expected to arrive this fall. Don’t miss this historic train as it blows by!



3 responses

22 07 2013
Louis Bruette

Thank you for the great video. I am glad I have an O 60 Oval on my layout. Now I need to save my lunch money to get one!

24 07 2013
Ramiro K. Stanley

When the Pioneer Zephyr was retired in 1960 (after a 26-year service life!), the Burlington Route donated the train to the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago. The train was in its original three-car configuration, although many interior and exterior details were left as they had been changed over the years.

18 05 2014
Robert Brown

According to this post on this blog these Zephyr sets will run on O-54 curves, but the catalog and Lionel product web site state a minimum curve of O-72. Which is it? Based on the info here I purchased the Mark Twain set at the March, 2014, RED Carpet event in Concord. I don’t know whether I should bother taking the set out of the box because my largest diameter loop is O-54. At the present, I am not a happy camper.

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