Railroad Stories: Child Was Train Enthusiast

Became train enthusiast as a child.

| Good Old Days

The train was called the Silver Streak. Its first locomotives were called the Silver King, Silver Queen, Silver Knight and Silver Princess. Later locomotives were called the Silver Bullet, Silver Comet, Silver Clipper and a veritable host of other "Silvers." It was, of course, the Burlington Zephyr. And I was a train enthusiast!

During the mid-1930s, one of the highlights of my young life was to ride my new bike down to the embankment that overlooked the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad Co. tracks to watch those silver trains streak by. I wasn't alone. Sometimes it seemed as if the whole town of Rochelle, Ill, was there. We sat in the sun on green grass in the summer, or stood in the grayness of winter snow, waiting for the distant rumble. We leaned forward breathlessly to be the first to catch sight of the magnificent, eerily quiet, streamlined marvel.

The railroad was founded in 1849 as the Aurora Branch Railroad. Gradually it ranged farther and farther afield from Aurora, Ill., reaching Quincy, Ill., and then Burlington, Iowa. Its headquarters remained in Aurora into the last quarter of this century as it covered much of the midwest, competing with the Chicago and Northwestern Railroad.

The first diesel-powered stainless steel locomotive in America was built for the CB&Q by the E.G. Budd Manufacturing Co. of Philadelphia. It made its first run April 9, 1934, to Perkiomen Junction and returned to Philadelphia. On April 18th, at the Broad Street Station in Philadelphia, it was christened the "Burlington Zephyr."

The origin of the name is interesting. It was taken from Geoffrey Chaucer's Prologue to "The Canterbury Tales" written in the 14th century. A modern English translation by J.J. Nicolson in 1934, goes like this:

When April with his showers sweet with fruit
The drought of March has pierced unto the root
And bathed each vein with liquor that has power
To generate therein and sire the flower; when
Zephyr also has, with his sweet breath,
Quickened again, in every holt and heath,
The tender shoots and buds, and ...

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