Postcard photo of the Kansas City Zephyr/American Royal Zephyr. Both trains traveled between Chicago and Kansas City. The American Royal Zephyr also served St. Joseph, Missouri. Click on image to enlarge. (Image: Burlington Route, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)


Burlington Route Logo.


The American Royal Zephyr was a streamlined passenger train service operated by the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad between Chicago and Kansas City. This CB&Q Zephyr was named for the American Royal, one of the Midwest's largest and oldest livestock exhibition, professional rodeo, and horse show.

The American Royal Zephyr made its inaugural run on February 1, 1953, as an all-new overnight streamliner between Chicago and Kansas City. The new train was prompted by the completion the previous October of the $16-million "Kansas City Shortcut", 49 miles of new track that made the route shorter, flatter, and straighter. The new alignment shaved 2 hours off of the previous shortest route, and made CB&Q optimistic that it could compete successfully against its entrenched rival, the AT&SF, on this busy route.

The railroad introduced two new Budd-built vista-dome zephyrs between the two cities: the daytime Kansas City Zephyr and the overnight American Royal Zephyr.

American Royal Zephyr No. 56 departed Kansas City at 10:00 pm, arriving in Chicago at 7:30 am. Westbound counterpart No. 55 operated on a mirrored schedule, departing the Windy City at 10:00 pm and arriving in Kansas City at 7:30 am. Both trains covered the 466 mile route at an average pace of 49 mph. The original consist included two Vista-Domes (which provided meal service), two Chicago-KC sleepers, one Chicago - St. Joe sleeper, and coaches. The CB&Q simultaneously launched a daylight Chicago-Kansas City service on the same route under the banner of the Kansas City Zephyr. Like its daylight counterpart, the American Royal Zephyr never lived up to ridership expectations, and it was not long before equipment from the ARZ was being shuffled off to other trains. Intense competition came from the Santa Fe, which ran six daily streamliners in each direction through Kansas City on a shorter schedule than CB&Q, and an existing, dedicated overnight service called the Kansas City Chief.

The American Royal Zephyr was discontinued in 1971.

Station stops

Original American Royal Zephyr, station stops:

Chicago Union Station
La Grange Road station
Aurora old CB&Q station (abandoned, largely demolished)
Plano station
Mendota station
Princeton station
Kewanee station
Galesburg CB&Q Seminary Street station (demolished)
Macomb station
Quincy station
West Quincy CB&Q station (entire town abandoned after the Great Flood of 1993).
Macon (CB&Q station)
Chillicothe (CB&Q station)
Kansas City station


Service type: Inter-city rail
Status: Discontinued
First service: February 1, 1953
Last service: 1971
Former operator: Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad
Route Termini: Chicago (Union Station) / Kansas City, Missouri (Union Station)
Distance traveled: 466 miles (750 km)
Service frequency: Daily
Train numbers: 19/20


Brochure for the Burlington Kansas City and American Royal Zephyrs. Both trains covered the same route between Chicago and Kansas City and St. Joseph, with the Kansas City Zephyr operating by day and the American Royal Zephyr as an overnight train. Click on image to enlarge. (Burlington Route, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons)