January 1973

Dear Pioneer Zephyr,

I can’t tell you how happy I was to hear from you again! I don’t think any letter from you could be a disappointment.

The IRM is pretty slow over the holidays so I’ve had some time to adjust to the idea of being static for a while. It was hard at first – we are contraptions of habit, after all – but now I figure it’s not so different from what I was doing after they pulled me out of Pielet’s yard. At least here I’m safe from vandals. And I have the Goddesses, of course!

Venus in particular has been very understanding. When my valve spring broke, I suggested they might like to be pulled around by Shay or Tuskegee. After all, they’re a beautiful and fully-furnished consist, it would be a shame if visitors couldn’t experience the train in motion. But Venus said that it would be improper for any engine other than a Burlington to pull the Nebraska Zephyr. You might consider that unkind (as you know, I’m actually C&S) but the way she said it wasn’t unkind at all. Though maybe she’s only thinking about how they might look behind a simple Prairie locomotive or a logging engine. Either way, she considers me an important part of the train now and that’s been helpful in keeping my spirits up despite the circumstances.

Your advice, as always, has been a great help too. I’ve never appreciated being… appreciated before! It’s not something I ever thought would happen to me. I can see why visitors would admire your train, of course. There’s a reason they wanted us E5s to look like you, though I think it’s hard to beat the original. I might not have your articulated trucks, but I do have some pretty impressive running gear the visitors could look at. Some of the fleet complained when they took our wheel shrouds away on the C&S, but I never really minded. Maintenance went quicker without them, and the streamlined look was somewhat undercut when we stopped getting regular washdowns. In a perfect world it would have been nice to keep them but as it was, being on time was more important than looking sharp.

The rest of January looks to be quite busy! There’s supposed to be an important memorial run happening over on the trolley loop later this month. It’s been 10 years since the closure of the North Shore Line and the electrics department is all-hands getting the interurban cars ready for that. Afterward, work will be off and on until we resume regular service in the spring. If you don’t hear from me until April, that’ll be why, though I hope it won’t be that long before I can write you again! Your letters really are bright spots on the horizon.

I hope you had a good Christmas and New Year. Please give the yard my fondest regards!

Your friend,

Silver Pilot

February 1973

Dear Silver Pilot,

You were left out in the open with vandals? That sounds terrible. We might not have sheds here, but at least there’s a fence to keep people who would be up to no good out.

Venus sounds quite sensible and loyal. Even if she’d only said it was improper to be pulled by anything but a Burlington out of vanity, she should know at least that my coaches agreed. They went on for quite a while about it actually, the very idea of being pulled by anyone but me. "Preposterous," they said! It simply wouldn’t be done. We’ve never been separated so it makes perfect sense for them to feel that way. But then, that’s the trick: they can’t be pulled by anyone but me because of our articulation.

There’s no need to be modest about your advantages on my account. If it’s hard to beat the original, you and your siblings have done so in about every way. It’s just the way of things; your design was made to improve on mine, same as all my siblings’ were. The articulation makes my train lighter and faster since my cars share trucks between them. I think if they’d not decided to let that go on us engines at least by the time they made Pegasus and Zephyrus, neither you nor your train might have made it to preservation. A train who needs an engine made special for it, beyond looks alone, is a train at risk of being retired before its time. It’s a limitation and the novelty only takes you so far.

I met your sister Silver Bullet once. It was at her debut as the Silver Streak Zephyr to replace me on the Lincoln-Kansas City service. They named her train after that silly movie I was in. They were making a big to-do about it and they had given me the day off to attend the celebration for her. I remember thinking that they were asking a lot of me to go to this event and pretend not to be bitter that she was taking over my route because she was stronger and could pull enough coaches to meet demand. (I could pull three in a pinch, but her train was six cars right from the start.) But they were asking because they knew I could and would do it.

When I actually saw her though… You could see all the little things they’d done to make her look like us shovelnoses. The stainless steel and fluting obviously, but also the slope of the nose and the striping to mimic my windshield. They even painted on false grills. And she was so tall, practically towering over me! Truth told, it was a little intimidating. At the same time, one couldn’t help remembering Zephyrus and I both had head-on accidents that our engineers might have survived if our cabs had been up higher like yours.

I’ve always thought E5’s were a more refined shape too, curves instead of sharp edges.

Silver Bullet was so gracious about the whole situation too so instead of being jealous of her, I ended up being proud that so much of my design was still being carried through in hers. They let me signal when to smash the champagne bottle on her and by the third blast on my horn, I was pretty well convinced E5’s were a fine successor to the Zephyr fleet.

Suffice to say, E5’s have plenty to appreciate even at a standstill. Your visitors won’t be left wanting.

It’s always slower for us at the MSI during the winter too since a lot of the guests don’t like to come outside in this weather. Especially if we’ve been snowed on! We keep each other company when the guests are fewer and further between. So even though the steam engines and U-505 do not get along, I think they would miss each other otherwise. And now that I have said that, it has started an argument so I’ll close this letter with the hope that your yard is seeing a more peaceful winter than mine is.

Your friend,

Pioneer Zephyr

March 1973

Dear Pioneer Zephyr,

You met Bullet? That’s amazing! You met her before I did! Even though she was number 9909 on the CB&Q and Mate and I were 9911, she was actually delivered a month after we were. They put the first batch of us to work right away on the heavyweight trains so we didn’t get any celebrations, but those of us who went directly into service knew she’d be doing a publicity tour.

I never minded. It seemed to me that she was being shown off on behalf of all us E5s, which makes sense. After all, if we were all getting our pictures taken, who would pull the Exposition Flyer or the Fast Mail? I do remember Meteor saying some unkind things about Bullet and “silverbricks” (which I think did more to upset Comet and Mate than anything) but for the most part we were just happy to be working.

When I met Bullet properly, it was years later on the C&S. She worked the Sam Houston Zephyr mostly, but they sent her all over for relief work when one of us needed time in the shop. I try never to judge an engine before I’ve met them, but I did expect Bullet to be at least a little full of herself. She’d have been well within her rights. She worked on nearly every passenger train the Q had from Denver to Dallas, after all! But it’s just as you said, she was as gracious and humble an engine as I’d ever met. So gracious and humble, in fact, that she never once mentioned meeting the Pioneer Zephyr, haha!

Venus liked your last letter. She is very sensible, and I’m not just saying that because she can hear me! She’s been a great source of advice and very supportive. I owe much of my progress with the rest of the consist to her. You might remember the Goddesses wouldn’t even address me by name a year ago, but if they want my attention now they’re not above calling me Pilot anymore. She knows how to talk to the others so they all listen, but never seems rude or bossy. She’s telling me this is called ‘tact’. I don’t know that word, but I trust she knows what she’s talking about.

Of course, all the Goddesses are smart in their own way. It’s to be expected; they’re older and have seen more service miles than me. I think it’s made them unique. I don’t know how much you know about average trains, being that yours is so special, but I’ve worked a few different kinds and I’ve never met a consist like theirs before. Most coaches are content to let the lead car speak for them or are otherwise happy to go along with the majority on most things. The Goddesses, however, are very opinionated and are rarely of one mind about anything! They each have their own personality and preferences. It keeps things lively on the wye, let me tell you!

For example, I mentioned before that Venus has… tact! She speaks her mind, but makes you feel good about the things she has to say. She says as the head of the train and the auxiliary power car, it’s important to be diplomatic.

Vesta speaks her mind too, but she and Venus often argue about the way she says things. Vesta is the lead coach car and she was the most vocal about her dislike for me, but I think she was just looking out for the rest of the consist. She’s protective of the others that way.

Minerva, the second coach car, doesn’t talk as much as Venus and Vesta, but when she does speak she does not mince words! She’s frank and has a way of seeing to the heart of the matter. She’s also good at telling when someone is lying and has no qualms about letting you know when she thinks you are. I quite like that about her.

Ceres I’ve brought up a few times in my letters. As I said before, she doesn’t talk much. I don’t think it’s because she doesn’t know what to say though. Every time I’ve heard her, she’s been very clear with her words. She doesn’t seem shy, just thoughtful and careful to say exactly what she means. Even without telling us so, I could see how pleased she was to have passengers dining on her again. She seems to shine even brighter when she’s happy.

Last but not least, Juno! Having an observation car yourself, I’m sure I don’t have to tell you how helpful they are. It’s always nice to have a good lookout at the back of the train, and Juno is as sharp-eyed as they come. I never have trouble hearing her either, even as far back as she is. She and Ceres are the best of friends and if Ceres can’t find the words she wants to say, Juno’s more than happy to come up with enough for the both of them. Juno also carries the Nebraska Zephyr drumhead on her nose, lit up and everything! You couldn’t ask for a better view.

I fear I’ve taken up enough of my very patient letter-writer’s time so I’ll wrap this up. Trolley bus operations in Chicago come to an end in March, and the IRM hopes to take in as many of them as they can for preservation. You can imagine how busy everyone is. You should see the yard. There’s construction going on all the time and all the volunteers are excited for the potential new additions and donations. So… peaceful? Not exactly, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything.

Oh, and please don’t worry about the vandals. I’m much safer here at the museum now!

I hope everyone’s getting along in your yard. Look forward to hearing from you soon!

Your friend,

Silver Pilot

P.S. - I think your edges are very distinguished. Handsome, even!

April 1973

Dear Silver Pilot,

2903 and 999 had a great time teasing me about my “distinguished” edges. I think they’ve forgotten that it is perfectly normal to admire other engines’ shapes since it’s only been the three of us out here so long and we’re all used to the sight of each other. U-505 normally does not involve himself with rail matters, but this time he made the point to say he likes my edges too. He says they are “utilitarian”, which is something Germans value in a shape (and makes me think he knows more English than he’s letting on). I’m sure he only actually said it to annoy the steam engines because they were forced to agree with him or else they’d be saying they don’t like my edges. They went awful quiet about it after that.

So yes, everyone’s getting along for the moment, thanks to you!

As to your vandals, they all seemed to think I was overheating about it too. 2903 said it was something only a vain little passenger train would worry about. I have to wonder if he’s right, but 999 didn’t agree with him like I expected her to. She didn’t exactly agree with me either, but she knows how important presentation is to our work. 999 pointed out that it’s easier for 2903 to think it’s silly to worry about looks when he could pull freight instead if someone decided to deface him. Passengers don’t like graffiti or broken glass.

U-505 says he was vandalized right after he was captured too and that it certainly wasn’t the worst thing that’s happened to him. Our seamen painted “Can Do Junior” on his conning tower in red paint to add insult to injury. Then later they painted him in our navy’s colors to hide him from his own. He’s more unhappy about that actually. He’s painted that way still, but at least he’s not vandalized anymore.

He says it’s normal for things like that to happen in wartime. Submarines do not take prisoners, but he tells a story about his own crew making victory pins out of an airplane that attacked him but accidentally blew herself up in the process. There were pieces of her fuselage all over his deck with her yellow paint on one side, so his crewmen cut them up into little axes like his old emblem and wore them on their hats. That’s war though. People here should know how to behave themselves.

My museum must know they can’t trust some people to act right though or there wouldn’t be a fence. I’m glad you have a fence now too.

You’ve got such a variety of coaches! It must be a challenge - but an enjoyable one, I hope - to head their train. It sounds as though they’re all doing their best to be helpful, in their own ways.

I don’t mind admitting that when Pegasus and Zephyrus were given their trains, my coaches and I were a little jealous. We had only been renamed the Pioneer Zephyr a week or two before and the novelty was cut a bit short when my new brother and sister were put into service with not only names for their train, but also for themselves and all their coaches. Granted, the Mark Twain Zephyr did it first but that felt different, maybe because their train wasn’t on theme with the Greek god names (and because they didn’t come out right after we only just got our own name).

My coaches are a bit scandalized to hear how forward yours are with you. Coach decorum was a lot more strict when we were built. I would imagine they would like to be so outright with me, if I wasn’t so careful not to give them reasons to want to. We’ve all been together our entire service lives though, so we know how to mind each other. We mostly had each other figured out in the year before we went into revenue service. I have hope yet then that the rest of our yard will fall in such order before too long. It’s been thirteen years so it should be any day now.

We did realize pretty quickly that we’d always have to say U-505’s ‘U’ when we talk about him because he and my first car, 505, have the same number. It’s an amazing coincidence that he came halfway around the world to end up in a yard where he has to share a number with a train car!

505 is quite sensible like your Venus is. She’s a full baggage car now, but when we started out she carried passengers, their baggage, and the buffet grill. It was a lot of responsibility and things to be aware of at once. 570 is my observation car. She keeps an eye on things behind us and she takes care of passengers the way your Juno must. 570 always gave 505 credit for keeping on top of everything else because the fancier passengers were quite demanding on their own. You have to be diplomatic with them, she says.

For a time, we had a fourth car in the train, No. 525. She was a 40-seat coach and we’d needed her because we were doing so well. 505 and 570 didn’t much care for her though. They thought she was too lively for a coach and she was placed between them so they couldn’t whisper about her. 525 was with us for about a year, until she was moved to my brother 9902’s train, one of the Twin Cities Zephyrs. Later she was brought back on and so my coaches said she was flighty too. This is the only thing I ever remember us arguing about. I told them that 525 must be doing a good job if the railroad thought she was needed elsewhere. It’s no small feat to add or remove a car from an articulated trainset, so they wouldn’t reassign her lightly. Her being so friendly must be why they chose her to move as she must find it easier to join a new train than they would. But they told me - and they are telling me again now - that I just don’t understand that part of coach work.

525 was taken off my train after about another year and half and they replaced her with 500. Overall, 505 and 570 got along better with 500, but it was hard at first. 500 was a 40-seat coach with a dinette, you see. The train didn’t need a dinette and a buffet grill, but with 500’s added seats, we did need more room for the passengers’ baggage. 505 was not very happy about having her seats and buffet removed. 570 and I tried to console her. If they were making her into a full baggage car, we said, it meant 500 was going to be permanently added to the train. If she was permanent, it meant we were doing really well and they wanted us to be able to carry more passengers and more passengers meant more baggage.

I think it was the only time she was ever “forward” with me! She told me just what I could do with the extra baggage!

Once everything was said and done, though, 505 and 570 liked 500 quite well and she stayed with us for nearly the rest of our revenue service. Near the end, 500 was taken off my train and added to the Mark Twain Zephyr for some event in Mount Pleasant. Last I heard, she was still with them.

Injun Joe and his coaches haven’t been scrapped, but I’m not sure they’re being preserved either. It’s a little worrying, if I’m being honest. No one wants to be scrapped, but it is decisive. I hate to think of them just sitting on a siding somewhere waiting for something to happen to them.

One time, a little after that birthday party with the big cake and knife, we were rear-ended by one of those new FT units and 570 was so badly damaged we were worried they might decide to scrap her. “Telescoped” was the word they used for it. It was awful. Four passengers died and she’d been halfway torn apart. (The FT came away from it with just a smashed headlight and a bent grill.)

It took the railroad a while to decide what to do because not long after that, 9901 caught fire and had to be scrapped so they had thought about replacing 570 with his observation car and scrapping her too. There was some ownership complication though that made it too expensive to do that so they took the time, about five months, and had 570 repaired instead. 505 and I were very relieved not to lose a member of our original consist and 500 was glad to see 570 back in service too. None of us relished the idea of having to learn to work with a new car.

It sounds selfish now that I’ve said it that way, especially since that left 9901’s cars in the lurch. They spent a couple years in storage before they ended up getting scrapped too. Changes to our train are more difficult for us articulates though. It’s not just a change in the dynamic, but also an ordeal to get cars swapped in and out. Looking back, I think half of the dislike for 525 was just that adding her and removing her meant we had to get hoisted off our trucks to have it done.

It’s not surprising to me that Venus would be the most willing to help you acclimate to the train since she’s the only one with a coupling. She’s probably been the ambassador for your train since their first day of service. Or a good buffer, if the rest of them did not like the engine! It sounds like she may not be having to buffer as much these days, if you can find so many nice things about each of your cars. Once you get that valve spring fixed, I bet you’ll all be running as smoothly as me and my coaches used to.

Your friend,

Pioneer Zephyr

May 1973

Dear Pioneer Zephyr,

I’m sorry if my comment about your edges caused you problems! Seems like it shook out okay, but I hate to think of anyone teasing you because of something I said. Maybe your docents could send along a postcard of 999 and 2903 so they don’t feel left out? Perhaps they just need to be told how nice they look too!

It’s good that your coaches get on so well with you and each other. I have to say, I don’t mind the Goddesses being forward with me as much as I might have if we were all still in service. It would be hard to corral a consist like theirs and another train and the mail (even with a B-unit backing me up), but since it’s just us and we’re not trying to keep to a schedule, it’s alright if they let me know what’s on their minds!

That they aren’t afraid to speak up also helps if people have questions about the train since I can’t always answer them. It feels like I learn just as much as the visitors do sometimes. For instance, Juno tells me she also had words painted on her like U-505, but in her case it wasn’t to be mean. It was for philanthropy, which is when you do something really nice so everyone can see it. She was decorated with the words ‘Medinah Temple of Chicago’ and had a sword painted on her! It was for a special run for the Shriners, to take them to their convention that year. The paint came off easily in the wash so she was back to her usual shining self by the time they returned to regular service. I have to thank you again. If it weren’t for your letters, I think the Goddesses wouldn’t have occasion to share these kinds of things with me!

The bit about 505 being converted into a full baggage car seemed to interest Venus especially. She heard that and said they did to her cocktail lounge exactly what they did to 505, except instead of adding baggage space they added more seats. They did something similar to Ceres, taking away her kitchen and replacing it with extra seating and vending machines. Then Venus said that at least your coaches were altered because your line was doing well. The Goddesses had those changes made to them because there were fewer passengers, not because there were too many. It’s natural for the railroad to have to make changes based on passenger demand, but it’s interesting that it goes both ways.

The Goddesses were also in a crash once. It was long before any of those alterations were made to the consist, before they were called the Nebraska Zephyr, even. They were the Twin Cities Zephyr back then and my sister Silver Arrow was pulling their train into Chicago that day. A freight train on the opposite track had a tractor slide off one of its flatbeds and onto Arrow’s track. As you know, road vehicles are a big hazard to lightweight passenger engines like us and this tractor was the kind they use to build roads and houses so it was very big and heavy. The engineer saw the tractor fall and hit the brakes right away, but Arrow still plowed right into it. It threw her off the tracks and into the station. Venus and Vesta went through a wall and Minerva was badly torn up as well. It was terrible. Two passengers died and the engineer passed later from his injuries.

Of course, you already know that the Goddesses came out okay. They went to the shops in Aurora, who did a magnificent job restoring the whole train. They even took it as an opportunity to install new raised flooring in all the cars that let the passengers see out the windows better. Arrow was also restored and went on to move with the rest of us to the C&S and work the Texas Zephyr and some of the other trains out of Houston. Since she didn’t have a B-unit, sometimes they’d send Mate along with her. By that point our name boards were flipped over, so it didn’t matter if the A and B-unit names didn’t make a matched set. Mate’s favorite bit was coming back from his trips with other engines and telling me how much smoother and faster they were able to do their work with him along. “Now that I’m back on your train,” he’d say, “your service is sure to improve.”

I sympathize with Injun Joe and hope he’s doing alright. My situation after getting pulled from Pielet was similar, but at least I knew the folks in charge here had a plan for me. It was a bit scary, but knowing that I had a job at the end of it was reassuring. If it’s like you said and Injun Joe and all his coaches are still together, I’m sure there’s a museum or railway who are interested in having them. Moving a train is very complicated though, so it could take some time. The volunteers tell me that even if everyone agrees an engine or car should come here, it can take months or even years to get everything in place to move them. Even so, a streamlined engine and consist is something special, I’m sure they’ll find a home soon enough.

If you don’t mind me asking, do you know if any of your other siblings were preserved? I only ask because I got to thinking, even if I am static for the moment, my being here is still important since I’m the only E5 left. Even if I never get fixed (not that I think I won’t), I’m still here for people to look at and learn about and remember. But if people want to see me and the train, they can only come here to do it. If Injun Joe gets preserved, then people who might not be able to come to the MSI can still see a shovelnose, which is something everyone should get to look at! And I’d like to know more about the other shovelnoses anyway, since it sounds like they all had names and stories too, if I’m hearing you right.

I’ll leave it here for now. I mentioned earlier how much work it can be to move even one car to a museum. I can say that with authority now since I’ve watched the members here move four streetcars into the barn just this month! I don’t know all the details of how we got them (“It’s complicated” were the exact words used) but they all came from another museum and now they get to stay here! There’s a lovely PCC car here now – you might remember them from your time in the city? Green as beetles and beautifully curved, though she’s not quite so green at the moment. They’re going to repaint her soon though. It makes everyone happy to see the cars the way they remember them when they were in service. Anyway, she’s nearly operational and the members here are looking forward to getting her up and running along with her friends from that other museum. The work doesn’t stop just because the moving’s done. I may be stationary, but the museum is bustling all around us. We are never wanting for activity around here!

They tell me the weather should clear up any day now. I’ve heard of April Showers, but never of them extending into May. At the very least, I hope the rain puts an extra shine on you for your guests when the sun does decide to come out.

Your friend,

Silver Pilot

P.S. - I’m not kidding about the postcards!

June 1973

Dear Silver Pilot,

A little teasing is nothing to be concerned about. It’s all in good fun and it keeps the yard lively. I’ve had plenty of practice being teased too! I looked quite strange when I was new, to say nothing of being a diesel when diesels weren’t common yet. Then there was the time I broke down, was late for an inspection, and had to be hauled into the station by a steam engine. The steam crews had plenty of jokes about that.

Still, the docents have included the postcards with 999 and 2903 on them so you can see what they look like if you want to flatter them too. 999’s postcard is quite funny. 2903 is so big that the only way they could get a picture of her without him in the background was to take it from above while standing on his cab. That’s what the black wedge in the corner is. 999 likes it though; you rarely get a photo of an engine from that angle.

Your last letter added to U-505’s English with your talk of philanthropy. It was a word he’d not encountered before, even though the MSI really lives and dies by it. Almost everything here is funded or donated by companies so they can show everyone they support the museum. Even just being here ourselves is a sort of philanthropy since we were donated by our railroads and still have their names on us.

U-505 has also had quite a bit of philanthropy done on him too. When he arrived here, he was missing nearly everything from his interior. The Navy took anything that wasn’t riveted on for research or as souvenirs so he didn’t much look like a submarine inside anymore. That wouldn’t do, so the museum wrote to all the companies in Germany that made his parts and they all sent new ones for him for free. They wanted him to be a credit to German technology and it would only be historically accurate if their company names were on the parts.

Speaking of historical accuracy, I have a small confession to make. Not all of us shovelnoses did have names. In fact, I don’t have one. The Pioneer Zephyr is the name of my train, not me particularly. When I wrote that first letter all those years ago, I was told to sign it “Pioneer Zephyr” because it was more personable than No. 9900. So when I wrote to you, I signed it the same way. It’s never been a question before because we’re a trainset. If you are speaking of me, you’re almost certainly speaking of my coaches too. Neither of them mind if I borrow the title for a name since they think it’s proper the engine should be the face of the train. It’s not like I could run off on my own with it anyway!

I’m lucky though. My first brothers, 9901 and 9902, never received names and they couldn’t even cheat by using the name of their train like I do. The Twin Cities Zephyr was the name of their route, not the train itself, and they had to share it besides.

After them came 9903 “Injun Joe” and his Mark Twain Zephyr, which is when they started naming the train itself and everyone in it. Mark Twain is a famous writer and all the cars in the train are named for characters in his books. Injun Joe is supposed to be a bit of a joke since it sounds like “engine” and they must have thought it was very clever because every piece of stainless steel that came after him was given a name too.

My docents did try to find out how any of my surviving siblings might be doing but as you can imagine, it’s hard to get definite answers when everyone’s so spread out. They say Injun Joe and his coaches (Becky Thatcher, Tom Sawyer, and Huck Finn) as well as our 500 are still in Mount Pleasant, but no one’s sure what’s being done with them. As you understand, the uncertainty is troubling but it does mean there’s still hope they’ll find their way back into service eventually.

Then there’s The Flying Yankee. He’s a peculiar case.

He was built right after me but before 9901 and 9902. He is a shovelnose and we do consider him a brother, but he’s not a Zephyr like the rest of us. He was sent to the Maine Central - Boston & Maine Railroad so he doesn’t know our Ways. Despite that, he must have made the same impression on the New Englanders as we have in the Midwest because he retired in ‘57 and was immediately donated to the Edaville Railroad in Carver, Massachusetts. He’s on static display, but they’re a working heritage railway not unlike the IRM so he’s in good company.

Lastly, there’s No. 9908 “Silver Charger”. He pulled the General Pershing Zephyr and was named for the General’s horse. Another play on words, although he is obviously not an iron horse but stainless steel one. He doesn’t have his cars anymore unfortunately (his cars weren’t articulated like the rest of ours so they were easier to misplace), but he himself has been preserved. He’s at the National Museum of Transportation in St. Louis, Missouri. He’s also on static display, but I’m told he sits next to a Frisco 2-10-0 and they’re thick as thieves. His museum is about transport in general so they’ve got planes, boats, and autos as well as rail engines. I wonder if he’s actually met many though? The MSI has all those things too, but they keep them inside so I’ve never met them.

I’m pleased to hear that your museum is bringing in more stock. It’s always good to know that more of us are being kept and appreciated, even if we’re not taking revenue. In my experience, “it’s complicated” means there was some mischief involved, but mischief can be forgiven if it means we stay in service. It makes for a good story too.

I don’t think I ever did meet your new PCC car. We didn’t really run on the same tracks. My docents tell me that the IRM was originally just for interurban cars though so she’ll hopefully have plenty of company who did.

That’s a nice fact to know about the IRM actually. Us engines are more likely to be considered for preservation than other kinds of stock, but we wouldn’t be very interesting without the trains we pulled. The cars that make up the trains are often overlooked. Obviously I’m happy that your museum broadened their interest enough to rescue your train and then you yourself from scrap, especially since even us diesels are still new enough that not everyone sees the point in putting us in museums. It’s just also good to know that your museum started out with the intention of preserving stock that doesn’t usually get the sort of attention we engines do.

I quite like the rain. We don’t have a washdown here so if they wanted to wash us, it’d be a bit of a project (and a rather pointless one at that). I don’t exactly miss the days when they used to scrub me and my train down with Ajax every night either. A nice rain shower leaves us a little shinier than we were and we don’t have to stay up late for it!

Please tell your new yardmates that I hope they are enjoying their new assignments!

Your friend,

Pioneer Zephyr

July 1973

Dear Pioneer Zephyr,

I’m glad the teasing was all in good fun! Some engines can be quite mean, but that might just be my own experience. I swear, you could build a track out in the middle of nowhere and the second you put two engines on it, they’d start making fun of each other.

Whenever our yard got too disagreeable I found a well-placed compliment tended to smooth things over. Your compliments to the Goddesses have kept my current yard friendly enough, in any case. You should let 999 know that she has one of the most elegant shapes I’ve ever seen, especially from that angle. Her cowcatcher is very fetching. And I know you said 2903 was big, but I’ll admit I didn’t realize quite how big you meant. He must tower over 999 (and you, for that matter)! He seems sturdy and reliable too. I’d trust any train to him, no question.

It was really nice of U-505’s manufacturers to send new parts to the museum! It’s good that they’re still around and were willing to help out. Most of the engines here are old enough that their builders have gone out of business or don’t make their parts anymore, me included. Part of the reason the Q sent our class to be scrapped instead of reassigning us when the Zephyr service ended was that by returning us to EMD, they’d get a credit toward any new engines they bought from them. It’s a good deal for the railroad and the manufacturer, but it means EMD isn’t exactly keeping spare E5 parts around. Not that we’d expect them to. It seems like it’s probably not a usual thing for most manufacturers to do. But then, U-505 is not a usual machine!

As to your name, it makes sense that the Pioneer Zephyr refers to your whole train. As engines we are the “face” as you said, so we tend to get called whatever we’re pulling. I’ve been called by my name and number just as often as I’ve been The Flyer or The #8. That said, if you’d signed off as 9900 I’d have wanted you to call me 9952A in return. I’ve never had a preference, but I’ve known engines who did and I like to make sure we’re all on level track. Of the things I could call you though, Pioneer Zephyr is my favorite. It’s almost like a title. You earned it by being so successful that they had to build more engines just like you!

And since you did get a name later on, that made 9901 and 9902 unique in their own way. At least, that’s what I’d have said to them if they were sore about it, haha! There’s something about being part of a pair that can make you memorable as well. Silver Power and Silver Speed were like that. “What’s one without the other?” they’d say, and the fuss they’d kick up if you separated them! I can’t really blame them for being like that. Being the first isn’t easy but at least they had each other to rely on. I hope 9901 and 9902 saw it that way.

Injun Joe’s train must have been a big hit with the passengers for the Q to have kept giving us all names. Having them right there on our sides made us stand out when we’d usually only ever get numbers and the cars don’t even get to wear theirs where passengers can see them usually. Most folks can’t tell one car from another, number or not, but a name meant people got excited to see us when they otherwise wouldn’t. The passengers always seemed to like it when they recognized stock they’d seen before and the cars liked it when they were remembered by name. It’s nice to be acknowledged and we have Injun Joe to thank for that!

Having your class asked after by another railroad is something special too. It sounds like Flying Yankee made for a good ambassador of sorts. Is he stainless steel too? We E5s had half-siblings on other lines in the E3s and E4s, but they weren’t stainless steel or fluted like us. Under the hood we all had basically the same parts, though. The E3s were built for the Atlantic Coast Line Railroad and the E4s went to the Seaboard Air Line Railroad. It’s funny, they were competitors, but they ended up with the same engines pulling their passenger lines.

With a name like Silver Charger, I’d almost expect your last brother to be one of us E5s. It sounds like he’d fit right in on our roster. He and Silver Steed might have had a good laugh about both being named after horses. We have a Frisco 2-10-0 here too, 1630! She’d been static for a while, but they’ve been putting in good work on her over the last few months. They call her the Russian decapod, but she told me she’s never actually been to Russia. She ran for the first time on Members Day last year (when our train was supposed to run). We’ve only talked a few times, but she’s smart and a real go-getter! I can’t imagine sitting cold for almost a decade and then hitting the rails as hard as she did last October. At the beginning of the day they just had her fired for a few test runs, but by the end of it she was pulling trains on the main line and looking great while doing it.

It seems like they want to add her to the regular steam service rotation alongside Shay 5, Tuskegee 101, and CE 5, so she’s gone back into the shop for further work. I only get whatever word makes its way out here to the wye, but from what I hear, she’s making good progress. If Charger’s decapod is anything like ours, he’s in good company. We don’t have any planes here, but I think it would be fun to talk to one someday. I’m probably the only Pilot that’s never met a plane before!

It’s not something to be proud of, but a little bit of mischief is what’s kept a lot of us out of the scrapyards so far. I mentioned the trolley buses in my last couple of letters, they just arrived on the 11th. They’re numbered 9553 and 9631 and both are quite chatty! They only just retired a few months ago, and have been in storage waiting for our members to be able to get the money together to purchase and move them. Getting back to the mischief: They were the last trolley buses to have operated in Chicago. The catch is that they were the last to operate because the museum had already picked them out beforehand, and they did a special passenger trip so they’d have the distinction once they arrived here. It’s true, but it’s also not the whole story. Venus called it a ‘white lie’, which is a lie that doesn’t hurt anyone especially. You should hear them both zipping up and down the main drag though. I can’t really say the white lie was all that bad if it means they get to stay here with us.

I wished for better weather last time but I guess I didn’t wish hard enough. One day it rains and the next it’s hot and muggy and the poor visitors have to contend with the mud. It’d be nice to have some more paved spots like in your yard! I hope the heat isn’t bothering U-505 too much. Give them all my best.

Your friend,


August 1973

Dear Pilot,

U-505 is taking the summer heat as valiantly as he always does. He says the heat expands his metal and can make him three inches longer than his specifications. Three extra inches doesn’t sound like much since he’s as long as he is already, but he says three inches is very big when it comes to keeping water out. He doesn’t need to worry about being watertight anymore, but they did have to build rollers into his concrete foundations for him to sit on top of. Otherwise, they would crack under him when it got too hot out.

999 and 2903 both wish to thank you for your compliments. 999 is quite used to being admired as she’s been famous since her first run. Still, I think we all are a little more grateful for the attention in our retirement. I’m sure I said something to the same tune about her shape when I met her the first time in 1948 at the Chicago Railroad Fair. She wasn’t sure what to make of me though since I was so modern, but she said something… tactful about how shiny I was and how she could see herself in my panels (and by the way, yes, The Flying Yankee is stainless steel too, just as silver and shiny as we are). We couldn’t know then that we’d end up in the same museum and both of us would be thought of as old engines!

2903 certainly had no idea he’d be preserved either. His service life wasn’t full of publicity stunts like mine and 999’s were so he wouldn’t have thought it likely. He’s had a perfectly respectable career, of course, but it’s hard to talk about it to guests here. They don’t appreciate routine but necessary work quite the way they do speed record runs or giant birthday cakes. It’s another thing entirely to have a working engine who knows what he’s looking at recognizing your utility though. 2903 got impressively puffed up about it for an engine who’s not been in steam for twenty years. We quite like him this way!

You know, at that Railroad Fair, I also met another engine named Pioneer. Just him; he had the name all to himself! He was a very old steam engine with one of those tall and wide spark arresting funnels. He’s famous for being the first engine ever to work in Chicago, helping to put the rails down for the rest of us. I had almost wondered if I might have been renamed after him because he also worked for the Q for a time. It was probably just a coincidence though or they would have made more of it. We never let a good story go to waste, especially not if there’s a lineage involved.

Speaking of, Injun Joe was the first train to have all his stock given names, but your Silver naming convention is even older than that.

Before me, the Budd Company worked with a French tire company called Michelin to make a stainless-steel railcar with rubber wheels. Budd made four of them: one for the Reading Railroad, two for the Pennsylvania Railroad, and one for the Texas and Pacific. They… were not very successful engines. They tended to derail and the T&P one ended up getting nicknamed “Silver Slipper” for it. They don’t talk about her because her design didn’t work very well, but without her model first, there’s no Burlington Zephyr, no shovelnoses, no E5’s, and no roster of Silver stock. They don’t say so, but all stainless steel equipment are named in her way, even if it was just a mean nickname. I’d be really proud of that if I were her. It’s an incredible legacy for an engine who only worked two years.

I hesitate to guess at what 9901 would say to being told he was special for not having a name though. I suspect his manners would have failed him.

He and 9902 were a little unlucky to be built when they were. They weren’t first so they didn’t get the benefit of it that I did and they came too early to be themed the way the Mark Twain Zephyr was. Then they got bumped from their route by Pegasus and Zephyrus’ larger, themed trains. Those two became the new Twin Cities Zephyrs and the original twins were given their own separate routes. 9901 wasn’t very happy about it because while he was getting his own route, this was also just after my train had been given our new name. I think most engines would be satisfied to have a named route at all, but with us Zephyrs and how many names we’ve all been given between us, it becomes a sticky subject if you’ve come out short. 9902 was just happy to be able to accommodate his demand again. He was always the more sensible of the two of them.

They were twins, but I do not think this is similar to having a B-unit. 9901 and 9902 only ever operated together on exhibition runs before they entered revenue service. The day before their christening, they did one with forty-four sets of twins riding their trains to Chicago, one half of each pair on each train. Once they were in service though, I don’t imagine they saw much of each other. They’d run the route from opposite ends twice a day, so they’d only have had brief passings.

After Pegasus and Zephyrus took over the Twin Cities Zephyr route, 9901 was sent to Texas to work on the Burlington-Rock Island to pull their Sam Houston Zephyr. From what I heard, he became much less crabby about names when he was actually working a route of his own. You’d hope it’d be the pride of having a named route all to himself that turned him around, but I wonder if it wasn’t actually because he got that special nose herald that said “Sam Houston Zephyr” instead of “Burlington Route”. You know how important identity is for Zephyrs, after all.

9902 got an “Alton-Burlington” nose herald for his Ozark State Zephyr in Missouri until they sent him down to the B-RI too. He and 9901 had to share routes again, but they had two between them so it wasn’t such a debacle as it had been when they were the Twin Cities Zephyr. One of them would be the Sam Houston Zephyr and the other would be the Texas Rocket, with nose heralds to show which.

Unfortunately, the B-RI wasn’t taking as good care of them as Burlington itself would have. From what I gathered over time (because you know how cagey our people can be when things go wrong), 9901 had a lot of oil build-up under his trucks and something set it on fire. They couldn’t get the blaze under control and 9901 was burnt inside and out, completely irreparable. I mentioned before that this was right after that FT smashed into 570. Because 9901 had to be stricken from the roster but his cars were only a little burnt, they thought to replace my observation car with his. They decided not to do that in the end and instead his cars were kept in storage in case I, 9902, or Injun Joe might need them on our trains.

After all that, B-RI ended up giving 9902 back to Burlington to replace 9901. And ironically, he ended up with a route named just for him! No one ever mentions it really, but he was given a route between Chicago and Ottumwa, Iowa and they called it the Zephyr 9902. When they moved him to the Chicago-Hannibal route, they renamed it Zephyr 9902 too so it was almost like it was his train that had the name. I think if 9901 had still been around for that, he’d have been so jealous he’d have gone up in flames again. But they also sometimes nicknamed 9902 the “Baby Zephyr” because of how big the Denver and California Zephyr trains were by then so maybe not!

I am being told that I have gone on very long about 9901 and 9902, but I almost feel obliged. They get overlooked, but how would we have known we needed a train as grand as yours for that route without their trains on it first? They had the same problem I always did, that our train became too popular to fit everyone who wanted to ride.

I would like it if you told me more about Silver Speed and Silver Power too. The Twin Zephyrs weren’t AB pairs, but I had later siblings who were. It seemed like the dynamic was different for every pair though. The way you speak about Silver Mate makes it sound like the job was so much easier for having him, but Silver Knight and Silver Princess seemed to have very different ideas about how a train should be run. It’s hard to decide whether I missed out or not, being an only engine.

I’m really happy to hear about your museum wanting to bolster its steam fleet too. We diesels were made in a sort of opposition to steam (and I’ve been blamed personally for the decline of steam in our country), but I’ve always liked steam engines. They’ve certainly rescued me from a spot a time or two. We even had steam engines to protect the Twin Cities Zephyr and Denver Zephyr - streamlined and shrouded in stainless steel to match us - and I consider them to have been every bit a Zephyr as we are. I bet your 1630 looks regal and stately on your line and she sounds like she’s going to become quite the attraction.

That trick with your museum arranging that your trolley buses would be notable for being the last to run by scheduling them so that they would be… it’s very Burlington of them. You sound as though you’re all in good hands, white lies and all.

Your friend,


September 1973

Dear Pioneer,

I’m glad to hear everyone’s well! It’s nice to be told about the goings-on from another yard. Not that my own isn’t interesting, mind, but it’s just me and the Goddesses out here most days. Even when we do have company – engine or human – they’re usually working so it’s best not to distract them too much. Hearing about how you all are getting on is a nice change. Reminds me of pulling into Union Station and getting caught up on all the news and gossip from while we were away. This is good gossip too. A submarine on rollers! What will they think of next?

I’m happy to have given 2903 something to get puffed-up about as well. An unremarkable work history is a safe, reliable work history. Being one of a small class, and Burlington besides, I did get some marketing material. They might have put me on a poster once? Aside from that, the most notable thing Mate and I ever did was pull the first Vista-Dome train, but that doesn’t really compare to all the events in your career or even Silver Bullet’s inaugural tour. It was just another cold January morning for us. All this to say, from one working engine to another, 2903 should be proud!

Not that there’s anything wrong with being famous either though. Attending a Railroad Fair and seeing two Pioneers (not to mention the famous No. 999) would have left quite the impression on the attendees! That’s quite a coincidence about your names, but given how long the railroad’s been around, I suppose it was bound to happen eventually. The Q knew how important the engines that came before us were to their success so it’s only natural that they’d make hay about our lineage where they could.

I didn’t know anything about Silver Slipper though. I’d never even heard of a railed engine running on rubber tires! My volunteer letter-writer tells me it was a short-lived experiment – which, given her nickname – makes sense. I know names that come about from design flaws are something of a touchy subject (more on that later) but it seems like this one worked out for Burlington in the end and for our roster especially.

Of course, last time when I said I hoped 9901 and 9902 being part of a pair made them feel better about not having names, I hadn’t considered that they might not see much of each other. That makes sense if it was only the two of them and they were eventually replaced because just them alone couldn’t meet demand though.

I can’t say I blame 9901 for his attitude. All of that moving around must have been awfully stressful. We did our fair share of route-switching during our time on the CB&Q, but I always had Mate with me so it was never a lonely job. Even those E5s without Bs were still better off than 9901 because Burlington knew the passenger load better by then and would send them backup if they needed it. It’s because 9901 kept getting shuffled around to meet demand that the Q better understood what the limitations of their engines were. Once again, we owe much of our success to the shovelnoses who came before.

None of us E5s ever had a route named for us, but that was only because all the routes had their names by the time we took over and they weren’t making new ones after 1953. It might have been nice to have a whole route named after me (The Pilot Zephyr has a nice ring to it!), but then when I retired it wouldn’t be mine anymore and some other engine might grumble about being called The Pilot instead of their proper name.

I’m sorry to hear of 9901’s fate. I don’t like to bad-mouth other railroads so I will just say I’m grateful to the Q for the care they took with all of us. At least 9902 had a happier end to his service, named train and all. I even think Baby Zephyr is quite cute for a nickname. The Goddesses do not agree with me!

I don’t think you went on very long at all. There’s so much to your history and of your brothers and sister and I’m more than happy to read all of it. Of all the benefits of preservation, this has to be my favorite so far.

Of course I’d be happy to talk about my kin in exchange and it only makes sense to talk about Silver Speed and Silver Power next. I don’t know much about twin engines, but Speed might be the closest I ever got to having one. He and I were the first to be built, we both had B units to match, and we both ended up assigned to the same jobs. We even ended up being what they call ‘Phase 1’ now, but at the time no other E5s existed so they didn’t call it anything when we were new. The second half of our class to be built in 1941 would have some modifications made (inside and out) that would set them apart from those of us built in 1940. In a way, I’m more closely related to Speed than to any of the E5As who came later. You wouldn’t know it setting us side-by-side though. Speed was not very much like me.

I don’t know how much experience you have with engines who are first in their class besides yourself. I think you must be one of the best First engines to ever be made, being so knowledgeable and level-headed as you are. That’s a rare thing. It’s not an enviable position, being First. When you’re First, they haven’t had time to work out your quirks yet and there aren’t any other engines to ask for advice. I think Speed and Power felt pressured to be flawless right out of the gate. In some ways they were! They certainly didn’t have any mechanical issues anyway. The problem was more that they didn’t have a good example to follow on how to be two engines together, A and B. They couldn’t very well ask how you all did it and the fact that they went right into service meant they didn’t have a lot of time to figure it out. The result was… less than agreeable.

It’s not so much that they had different ideas on how to run a train, though I imagine they probably had at least one “argument” about it just for the fun of hearing themselves talk. Mostly they were just always trying to outdo each other. Power always wanted to push and Speed would let him because then he’d get to show off how fast he was and how easily he could keep up with Power’s pushing. I say this not because it caused what happened next, but it’s important to what came after.

It may be that you’ve heard of the Naperville train wreck. It seems like engines who wouldn’t normally know about an accident involving only Burlington trains knew about it – but then, it was pretty bad. Remember what I said about nicknames that come about from design flaws? Even before the Naperville wreck, the Exposition Flyer was sometimes called the “Explosion Flyer” for how many accidents that had happened involving it, but out of all of them Naperville is the one most folks remember.

Six years after we went into service, all four of us were still working the Exposition Flyer. Speed and Power were following up the Advance Flyer out of Chicago Union Station, running three minutes ahead of the Exposition. From what I heard after, the two trains often ran closer than they should and sometimes got yellow signals when they ran too close, but the schedule would time it out so the signal would just turn green as the second train passed through. They called it “riding the yellow”. That day, though, the Advance had some trouble with debris under the wheels and stopped to check the running gear. When Speed’s Exposition got the yellow warning light, the engineer thought it was just the trains being a little too close together like usual so he didn’t slow down enough. By the time he saw the Advance was actually stopped and threw the brake on, it was too late.

Speed hit the back of the Advance at high speed and his entire front truck ran through the rear car. The second-to-last car on the train was a heavyweight car and the momentum pushed it into the next car on the train, a dining car named Silver Inn. He was full of passengers and was completely crumpled due to the impact. In total, forty-five people were killed and a hundred and twenty-five more were injured. It was as bad a crash as had happened up to that point on any railroad here in the states.

A lot of things changed after the accident. The railroads posted speed limits across the board, which is why most engines are at least a little familiar with the wreck, I expect. They also were more careful about running lightweight and heavyweight cars on the same trains because of how badly it turned out for Silver Inn and the passengers that were on board when the train crashed. Speed and Power were damaged too, but not so badly that they couldn’t be repaired.

After they came back out of the shops, Speed and Power were a different pair of engines. They were much quieter for one. I never heard them raising their voices just for fun anymore. They also did not like to be separated for very long. Power never complained when he was on my trains, but I could always tell he was anxious to get back to his A. The happy ending to this story is that they never had any major incidents after that and they both lasted until the C&S stopped running Zephyr passenger trains in ‘67. They even ended up going back to LaGrange together after we were all pulled from service. Actually now that I think about it, they were the only other A-B pair that went to the scrapyard together, besides Mate and me.

Your mention of the Zephyr steam engine seems to have brightened my whole train. The Goddesses got all excited and haven’t stopped talking amongst themselves about Æolus for several days. I’m curious to hear about this engine they seem to like so much, but I can’t get much out of them before they all start giggling. I asked them if you might have more to say about Æolus, to which Juno said, “Twice as much!” I’m hoping you know what that means because I sure don’t.

As for the steam engines I do know about: at the end of August, they hung the new steam shop doors and since then it seems like the whole fleet’s been in and out for maintenance or repainting or both. Both the 5s (Shay and CE) had work done as well as Tuskegee 101. They’ll continue to run steam trains until the end of the month. After that, the engines will have to be stored until spring so it’s important that they be in good condition. It’s amazing; they’re still building the steam shop itself, but there’s so much to do for the engines that work doesn’t stop even when they’re pouring concrete.

This month, the focus is on Frisco. She’s real close to being ready for regular service and they’d like to have her finished before the end of the year. Since she’s been undergoing so much maintenance I haven’t seen much of her, but Shay tells me she’s taking the job like a champ. I’d expect nothing less from an engine of her caliber, of course. She seems like the kind of engine who’s hungry for the work. Makes me feel a bit idle, silverbricking it out here on the wye!

I don’t mind it when the weather’s this nice though. The leaves are starting to change and when the steam rises up from the main line, it looks absolutely beautiful. Venus called it “picturesque”, which I quite like. It means that it’s like a picture. Not that I think you don’t know that, but maybe U-505 doesn’t?

I hope you and your visitors are enjoying a similar vista.

Your friend,


October 1973

Dear Pilot,

You’d be surprised by the words U-505 does know. His conversational English is still improving, but his docents think it’s amusing to teach him fancier vocabulary to spring on us unexpectedly. It drives the steam engines mad to be sitting quietly and have U-505 remark on the weather with what Injun Joe used to call a “five-dollar word”. Last week, it had dropped down to 40 when we woke up and the steam engines were grumbling about it. He let them finish complaining, waited a beat, and then said, “Mm. Temperate.” They haven’t been in steam for years, but I could swear I heard them wheeshing. He thanks you for the “munitions”, as he puts it.

2903 also thanks you for your continued compliments. You make a very good point about an uneventful work history being a good work history. I’m sure it's just as much of a struggle there for engines who don’t have a service life full of exhibitions or accidents to talk about as it is here, particularly for us stationary exhibits. Not that we don’t enjoy talking to the guests, of course, but it can be taxing for even those of us who were drawn for it. For engines who were built for labor alone, guests expecting to be entertained can leave one at a bit of a loss. At least your steam engines are getting the benefit of actually running to break up the face time with the public. Certainly no stationary engine - here or there - is truly sitting idle though!

To the point, you shouldn’t be so modest about pulling the first Vista-Dome train! Obviously I never pulled one, but I always imagined they’d be quite popular with passengers. As nice as our observation cars are, it’s surely different to be up high and able to see in all directions (and maybe a little scary if you’re going into a tunnel with close clearance). Did you pull the train somewhere scenic to take advantage of it? It’s perfectly Burlington of them to assign you and Silver Mate to the job too, since your names are aviation themed. In a glass dome with the scenery speeding by, it must practically feel like flying.

You’ve also had a perfect safety record, far as I’ve heard, so you two were probably the top choice for a job as important as that. I’m afraid to say that I had heard of the Naperville wreck (indeed, I’m afraid everyone has). One thing that always stuck out to me about it though was that Speed’s engineer survived the crash and his fireman might have too if he hadn’t jumped out first. I’m certain that’s owed to E5’s improvement on the shovelnose design.

I mentioned entertaining guests with stories about one’s accidents, but that’s sort of discouraged here. That’s not to say I can’t talk about my own accidents at all, but it’s not really the thing the museum would like to focus on. Maybe it invites too many questions about how much of me is original. Pretty much everything up to my RPO had to be replaced altogether after I hit that Mikado in Napier. My entire front end was demolished and my engineer and fireman both died. I was rebuilt and back in service in two months, with assurances that the accident wasn’t my or my crew’s fault. They said the other engine’s flagman got confused and threw the switch on my line when he shouldn’t have. Still, the accident was enough for the union to demand that Burlington not make any more of us. Which was fine by them as it happened. We were all custom-built and so we were expensive compared to the new mass produced engines that were coming out.

I won’t say that my brothers and I had a bad design (it’s poor form to admit a flaw in public, you know), but Zephyrus had a crash about three years later that killed his engineer as well. I can’t complain about how things worked out for us in view of that. E5s were a safer successor to our line and even if we shovelnoses were risky for our crews, none of us were retired or scrapped before our time for it. One can’t ask for much more than that.

You said Silver Inn couldn’t be repaired like your brothers were, but I could swear there was a Silver Inn on the Kansas City Zephyr.

At least Speed and Power were repaired and finished out their service lives together too. That they were the only other pair besides you and Mate to do so… I hesitate to ask what happened to the others, yet still want to know about them.

After all this gloom I’ve inadvertently asked for, I’m happy to have reminded your coaches of something more cheerful. I would expect they knew the Æolus better than I did, since they were built to cover their train when their usual engines were due for maintenance, but I’ll tell you what I know and they can correct or add as they see fit.

They weren’t diesel like us, but they were given fluted stainless steel shrouding to streamline them and match our trains. Since the idea was that they would cover the train when the usual Twin Cities Zephyr or Denver Zephyr engines were indisposed, they were named for the mythological Keeper of the Winds. If I remember it right, the Æolus in the story had a bag that he kept the four winds in and he let them out whenever they were needed. The winds all had names too, but I only remember the gentle West Wind was named Zephyrus like my brother.

Usually the Twin Cities Zephyr and Denver Zephyr didn’t need to be covered, so when they weren’t filling in there, the Æolus would pull the Black Hawk. I think they pulled the Overnite Denverite and the Aristocrat too for a season or two? Once they had all you E5’s for coverage instead, they took the shrouds off and mostly did odd jobs around the railroad until they retired. I’ve heard they’d been preserved too, set up outside a baseball field in Lacrosse, Wisconsin. That sounds more like being a statue than an exhibit like we are, but at least people visit for the ball games and they have something to watch to pass the time.

I agree; it is nice to hear how another yard is doing. My yard hasn’t changed much since ‘62 when 999 arrived so I feel I’m bringing less to the turntable than you are. So it goes! If your volunteers are working so furiously as they sound, then your museum is getting better by the day. It must be frustrating that they put up doors on the steam shop so you can’t see though. Everything exciting that happens at my museum goes on indoors too. Maybe they can keep working longer even when it starts to get too cold if they have doors.

I’m sure you’ll be on the service side of the door soon if they’re being so industrious.

Your friend,


November 1973

Dear Pioneer,

Happy to provide more words for U-505’s reserve! Though I should really credit Venus since she’s the one with the vocabulary on my train. Vesta knows a lot of words as well, but some of her favorites are not fit for print. We don’t have to remind her not to use them in front of visitors, but I think it’s better to avoid teaching them in the first place. Of course, sometimes it can’t be helped. I bet U-505 could probably share just as many of those sorts of German words picked up from his crew.

It is nice for the engines at the IRM to be able to share their work history, those that have ones worth remarking on, but most of us here are like 2903. We’re not as famous as you or 999 or U-505, but our visitors know that already. Instead of coming to listen to our stories, they bring their own. Many of our regulars and volunteers are retired railroad workers themselves so they lend their knowledge to the operations and teach others about rail history. Every engine here, static or operational, helps by being a visual aid for learning or a reminder of the old days. It’s a different kind of entertainment, but our visitors seem to like it.

Of course, I’d be happy to share more about the VistaDome train! I only didn’t in the first place because I figured there wouldn’t be much to tell that you wouldn’t already know. I forget that your experience pulling trains is so different from mine. We pulled the VistaDome train a month after their debut in December of 1947, but the story of the dome cars actually starts a little earlier than that.

In 1945, the Q wanted to take advantage of the beautiful scenery their lines ran through, so they took a regular chair car named Silver Alchemy and sent her to Aurora where they added the glass observation dome on top and renamed her Silver Dome. At the time, they told me there was no other car like her anywhere and, boy, did she know it! I’d certainly never seen a car like that and most of our passengers hadn’t either. The dome car was so popular that they decided to build eight more to fill out the third Twin Cities Zephyr train, which is where I come in! They were a fun bunch on that train, very well-behaved for new stock. All of them were named for things the passengers might see as they looked out the dome windows, Silver Bluff, Silver Glade, Silver River, and so on.

It worked out well. The passengers enjoyed the views and it passed the time nicely on that route which – to answer your question – was indeed very scenic! It was so scenic in fact that they eventually started printing out brochures describing what could be seen from the domes. They made quite a few more of the VistaDome cars until the mid-50’s when passenger traffic started falling off, but I’m told they still run them on the California Zephyr and they’re as popular now as they ever were.

I don’t like to ask about other engines’ misfortunes since I don’t have that experience to share, but your mention of being partially rebuilt did remind me of something! They did actually rebuild Silver Inn after the Naperville wreck for the Kansas City Zephyr. Or I should say they rebuilt a Silver Inn. I don’t think it was the same car. What I mean is, they built a new car and gave him the name of the old car, but the new Silver Inn didn’t remember the wreck or anything before it. But your front end isn’t original, if I’m understanding right? And Silver Alchemy was the same after she became Silver Dome. That is, she remembered being Silver Alchemy before they rebuilt her. I don’t claim to know anything about rebuilding but I wonder how all that works, especially considering the new Silver Inn. I’m sure there were a few cases of mistaken identity there.

Speaking of which, it has been brought to my attention that my train decided not to tell me there were two Æolus because they thought it would be funny. They were leading me along for a while after my last letter, telling me how Æolus had been in service years before they pulled the Goddesses’ train and yet was newly built at the same time. Or that they were a modified S-4 Hudson and somehow also a completely custom component build. Venus finally gave up the gag when she thought the joke was played out (the rest thought they could have dragged it on for a good while longer.) Back in their service days, it was an open secret that there were two Æolus. Venus says an open secret is when everyone knows a thing, but they pretend that they’re not supposed to. It sounds like that just makes things complicated for no reason, but it’s supposed to be for fun. Although, actually, it was fun once I knew there were two too.

No. 4000 was an S-4 Hudson from the regular service pool who got picked to be made into Æolus because he was due for an overhaul at the right time. He’d been built in 1930 and was an experienced engine by the time he pulled their train in ‘37, although the Goddesses say he was stuffy about regulation and would get on to them for chattering in the station. To get him back, they’d call him “Alice” like the crewmen did. Juno says the railroad workers thought Æolus was too hard to pronounce. It took me a few tries to get it right, but the Goddesses have unusual names too so they think it is important to say them correctly (unless you are sassing your engine).

No. 4001 was built fresh from components later that summer and though she and 4000 mostly looked the same once they had their shrouds, they were quite different to each other. Since 4001 was new and had improvements to 4000, she could sometimes be impatient and not listen to his advice. The Goddesses got along better with her than 4000 though (I’m sure you suspect why too). They didn’t see the Æolus that often, only when Pegasus was due in the shops. Otherwise, the two of them pulled the Black Hawk like you said.

Vesta was particularly excited to tell me that sometimes, if the Æolus’ shroud panels weren’t secured properly after being opened for maintenance, they might fly up and flap about when the train got up to speed. The crewmen would call this “lifting their skirts”. It looked very silly and was also very loud, which Minerva remembers as being a lot less funny than Vesta does. She says the noise startled the passengers and the train would have to stop for the crew to close the shroud panels properly. If she was embarrassed by the delay, I can’t imagine how the Æolus themselves must have felt!

Once the Zephyr trains had us E5’s to cover them, they took the shrouds off the Æolus, so they went back to being normal steam engines. Not being streamlined anymore must feel strange, but I think it’s nice that steam engines can take it on and off. It’s like a coat for them! Minerva says their crews were happy not to have to fuss with their shrouds anymore.

A few of our steam engines got new coats of their own last month. Coats of paint, that is. Work hasn’t slowed down at all in the steam shop; I can hear how busy they are all the way out here! Since we’ll be closing up for the cold season, Shay says the painting is just a matter of convenience. They all need to have their tenders emptied and their cabs cleaned out, and they might as well get their paintwork done while they’re there. The volunteers say that Frisco 1630 won’t be finished before Christmas, but that’s okay because they got so far along with her work that they’ll be ready to hit the ground running after the New Year. Venus and I have passed along our well-wishes with Tuskegee to send to her (long workshop stays can be dreadfully boring), but both Shay and Tuskegee say Frisco’s in high-spirits and looking forward to spending the winter in a warm barn. Can’t say I blame her!

The trolley department’s been just as lively as the steam workshop. 9553 and 9631 tell me the volunteers who maintain the overhead wires had a word with the company in charge of removing the bus lines in Chicago after trolley services shut down in March and they’ve come into all kinds of hardware straight from the old CTA lines. Our guys even helped them take down the wires in exchange for the parts! I don’t know if that’s philanthropy or not. Vesta called it ‘salvage’. Either way, the trolley bus garage has been slowly filling up as the new parts trickle in. 9553 joked that they’ll have to park 9631 outside if they run out of room indoors, which I don’t think he appreciated very much.

Thanksgiving is next week, which means the end of our operating season and saying goodbye to all the engines we see regularly for a few months. It’s not lonely with the Goddesses and there will still be volunteers who come in to do occasional work, but it’s definitely about to get a lot more quiet around here. Last year when the museum closed, I was still dealing with the broken valve spring and feeling very sorry for myself. This year I feel almost excited! Seeing all the hard work being done to improve the museum and meeting all our new stock, it’s hard not to feel like the future here is bright. Since it is almost Thanksgiving, I also wanted to thank you and your docents for the letters yet again! I think they’ve contributed to the future seeming as bright as it does.

Wishing you and everyone at the MSI happy holidays!

Your friend,


December 1973

Dear Pilot,

When you hear the sound of depth charges splashing in the water above, U-505 tells us, you will hear some of the most devout words right along with the filthiest. They were indeed in German though so he keeps those to himself. For once however, our entire yard agrees that certain situations not only permit - but perhaps even call for - some choice words not fit for the public.

That your visitors don’t expect to be educated or entertained… I enjoy talking about my revenue service and I don’t think I’d like it if no one asked to hear about it. Still, every now and then, someone who rode my train and remembers us will take over and guide a tour themselves. It sounds like your museum is more like that, by design. I always appreciate when a guest takes over because as I get further away from my last run, I find younger guests can’t really understand what my train was beyond what we are now. It’s one thing to tell them about your work yourself or for a docent to, but quite another to have someone among them enthusiastically going on about it instead. It’s like being introduced to them by an old friend then.

I hope that is what it is like at your museum too.

Of course, there’s obviously something to be said for filling in the gaps for them. No one person can know your entire history better than you yourself do. And sadly, as time marches on, it must get harder to come across someone who, for instance, rode in Silver Dome for that first run. It sounds like a wonderful trip and true to the Q, they made sure to capitalize on every part of it. It’s a story you should capitalize on now.

You must have pulled all sorts of cars over your revenue service too. It wouldn’t have done to say so then, since being a flagship engine with a dedicated train is a great privilege, but I was always a little envious of the pool service engines when I was still running. I got to see a lot of the Burlington Route out of necessity because they kept having to reassign me when I couldn’t handle the traffic anymore. I even worked all the way down in Texas for a short while! I always had a regular route though; it would have been a waste of the name to move me around so much that people couldn’t expect me. So pool service always seemed exciting, not knowing what cars were going to be in your train or where you’d even be going that day. If I had been built for pool service I probably would have preferred the stability of my train as it was, but the grass is always greener on the other side of the track, isn’t it?

And the cars kept getting more specialized and swappable, once they let go of the articulation. They packed all they thought I needed into two cars and still had to add a third later. And that was before they started making sleeper cars and lounges and drawing rooms. Did your Texas Zephyr have a regular roster or did they switch them in and out a lot? What kinds of cars did you have for that route? You seem to remember your cars very well for having worked with so many.

You even remember cars that weren’t on your trains! It’s a little strange that they decided to build a new Silver Inn, but it makes sense that he wouldn’t be the same Silver Inn. That crash was so notorious and everyone heard about how he’d been wrecked. I have always wondered if we aren’t only who we are because we are known to be. That is, I could have my entire front end replaced but I’m still the Pioneer Zephyr because people know I am. Silver Alchemy can become Silver Dome quite easily with just a change of a nameplate. But Silver Inn? Everyone knows that’s a new Silver Inn.

My coaches disapprove of yours misleading you about the Æolus. They say it’s unbecoming and disrespectful to lie to their engine. I have gently tried to argue that it isn’t a lie to leave a detail out and that there’s some room for fun when there’s no schedule to keep. I had to be a lot less gentle when they said that maybe I do suspect why the Goddesses got on so well with No. 4001. I didn’t realize they’d neglected to say there were two Æolus when you first mentioned them though so I hope you didn’t feel silly about it when you found out.

I’m glad to hear you’re all being cared for so well, especially now that it’s winter. Like washdowns, it’s an undertaking to repaint us. Thankfully, stainless steel doesn’t need paint and U-505 was painted when he was delivered here. I doubt the steam engines would say no to a new slick of black though. It’s good that you’re keeping tabs on each other even when some of you are tucked up in barns. I still think, despite our differences, we here in our yard would be less content if any of us were moved out of sight.

It would be nice to have someone on the inside of the museum who could tell us what was going on in there. The docents mention things, but it’s hard to imagine without being able to see it yourself. Some of it I can guess at, but only because I’ve seen it before somewhere else. Like automobiles or airplanes or the Rocket replica they have in there; I’ve never met the one who works here, but I did meet another Rocket at the Railroad Fair. He belonged to Henry Ford, who makes automobiles out of Michigan. Our Rocket isn’t made to steam, only to show how his machinery moves, but Ford’s Rocket was and he performed in the pageant with me and 999.

The docents say there’s Christmas trees inside too. Lots of them! They fill the main hall with them and decorate them for different countries. I didn’t think I’d get to see it since we’re too big to go indoors, but the museum made a postcard of it! They brought one out to show me and to go in this letter so you can see too. The thing in the middle of the hall is a Periodic Table of Elements. They tried to explain it but I don’t think I understand. They say elements are what everything in the world is made of and every element is on that table. Like iron and aluminum and copper. I asked if stainless steel was on it; they said no. How can that be if we’re made of stainless steel?

They said it was “complicated”.

“Complicated” like your volunteers getting all those materials from the CTA might be? Or maybe it’s the same as a lot of the things we have here at the MSI. The museum opened alongside the Century of Progress in 1933 and when the fair ended, they convinced a lot of the companies who had displays to donate them here instead of scrapping them. Most of them weren’t needed after the fair so it didn’t cost the companies anything to give them to us. Maybe a nicer way to think of your new “salvaged” hardware is that it’s a donation. Or even more generously, as a Christmas present.

Your letters are sort of like a present too. The docents say part of the fun of Christmas gifts is knowing that they’re coming but having to wait for them. Waiting for your replies is like that, I think. I’m happy that anticipating mine helps make things more cheerful there.

Here’s wishing all of you at the IRM a restful holiday so you and your volunteers will be ready to sort through your new gifts and make use of them in your yard!

Your friend,


To be continued.

All Aboard!

The MSI's Pioneer Zephyr and the IRM's No. 9911-A "Silver Pilot" are pen pals, writing to each other from their respective museums about their service lives both pre- and post-preservation.