Who was the fastest?

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Who was the fastest?

Post by HDP »

Who used to have the highest speed / fastest running times? I was told by ex-CBQ-ers that at one time the Twin Zephyrs were the "world's fastest trains" with timetable speeds published at over 100 mph (somewhere between East Dubuque and LaCrosse).

Is this true? Did other sections of the Q match this? Did other railroads match it?

bill haithcoat

who was the fastest

Post by bill haithcoat »

I can't swear to the details but that is subtantially true (if not completely true). What happened is that TRAINS MAGAZINE used to publish an annual speed survey. And most years the Twin Zephyrs did come out the fastest. The survey did not measure top speeds, however, but rather, average speeds. The average between whatever two cities it was (whether the ones you mention or not I do not remember) was in the low 80 mph range, like 84.3 or something.

Obviously the top speed has to be well above the average, so 100 or so sounds about right.

The speed survey must have been a massive undertaking, at least the first year it was done. Beyond that, guess he (I think his name was something like Don Steffee) just had to look for changed schedules.

He did, as I say, publish average speeds, not top speeds, and it was between all the little towns, not end to end (as in Chicago-Twin Cites, for example).

It was a TRAINS tradition for many years. One year the City of New Orleans won the title between two certain cities in northern Illinois, but it ws usually won by the Zephyrs.

The Illinois Central published an entire brochure about it when the City won the title.

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Post by CarterB »

Dunno exact speeds, but when I lived in Tuscola, IL in the 50s, the SB CNO sure as heck 'roared' from Champaign to Mattoon, and I had heard well over 90mph for the stretch.
Bring back the Slumbercoaches!!


question answered

Post by HDP »

For anyone interested, to answer my own question:

I found the November 1964 issue of Trains. In it, an article titled "Up Front on America's Fastest," which detailed a cab ride on CB&Q #21 (Morning Zephyr) between Chicago and Savanna.

The article explains these trains were the world's fastest until 1958, when "ICC-imposed signaling requirements...(on LaCrosse Div) speed limit had to be reduced to 79 mph, ending the glory days along the Wisconsin shore..."

After that, France had world fastest, and the American crown was held year-by-year variously by ATSF, Milwaukee, IC. The Q took it back in 1963. And not on the double-track water-level north of Savanna, but on the hilly single-track between Aurora and Rochelle (82.3 mph start to stop).

The European world records after 1958 never equalled the Q's times pre-1958 (until the modern high-speeds).

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