Illinois Zephyr and Carl Sandburg

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The Illinois Zephyr and Carl Sandburg are a pair of passenger trains operated by Amtrak operating along a 258-mile (415 km) route between Chicago and Quincy, Illinois. The trains are a part of the Illinois Service rail network and are partially funded by the Illinois Department of Transportation. Between Chicago and Galesburg, Illinois, the services share the BNSF, (ex-CB&Q main line) with the California Zephyr and Southwest Chief. The Galesburg to Quincy section (ex-CB&Q Quincy/Hannibal branch) is only served by the Illinois Zephyr and the Carl Sandburg. Started in November 1971, the Illinois Zephyr is the "longest continuously operated state-sponsored train."[1]:241 The Carl Sandburg was added as a second daily round trip in 2006.

Illinois Zephyr and Carl Sandburg
Illinois Zephyr arriving at Princeton station, December 2017.jpg
The eastbound Illinois Zephyr arriving at Princeton in 2017
Service typeInter-city rail
PredecessorAmerican Royal Zephyr and Kansas City Zephyr
First service
  • November 14, 1971 (1971-11-14) (Illinois Zephyr)
  • October 30, 2006 (2006-10-30) (Carl Sandburg)
Current operator(s)Amtrak
StartChicago, Illinois
EndQuincy, Illinois
Distance travelled258 miles (415 km)
Average journey time4 hours 22 minutes
Service frequencyTwice daily
Train number(s)380-383
On-board services
Class(es)Reserved Coach and Business Class
Seating arrangementsAirline-style coach seating
Catering facilitiesOn-board café
Track gauge4 ft 8 12 in (1,435 mm)
Track owner(s)BNSF Railway
Route map
0 mi
0 km
14 mi
23 km
La Grange
28 mi
45 km
38 mi
61 km
52 mi
84 km
83 mi
134 km
104 mi
167 km
131 mi
211 km
162 mi
261 km
Bus interchange
202 mi
325 km
258 mi
415 km
West Quincy, Missouri

During fiscal year 2015, both the Illinois Zephyr and Carl Sandburg carried a combined 208,961 passengers, a 2.8% decrease over fiscal year 2014.[2] The two trains had a total revenue of $5,287,029 in fiscal year 2015, a 4.2% decrease over fiscal year 2014.[2]


Postcards of the Kansas City Zephyr and American Royal Zephyr, predecessors to the Illinois Zephyr

The Illinois Zephyr is a descendant of the Kansas City Zephyr and American Royal Zephyr passenger train routes operated by the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad from 1953 until 1968 and 1971, respectively. The state of Illinois intervened in 1971 at the request of Quincy College (now Quincy University), Western Illinois University, and residents of western Illinois. This became part of the "Illinois Service" initiative in 1971 and is partially funded by the Illinois Department of Transportation.[1]:242 Service on the Illinois Zephyr began on November 14, 1971, between Chicago and West Quincy, Missouri. The name "Zephyr" is preserved in the current name of the line. Today the Illinois Zephyr enjoys strong support from the communities it passes through, and is one of the most successful Amtrak routes.[3]

Service to Plano began on April 30, 1972. Service to Quincy proper began on April 24, 1983 in response to the West Quincy station being frequently cut off by flooding. The suburban stop at Aurora, was discontinued on April 28, 1985, in favor of Naperville.[1]:251–252 Passenger service was cut back to Quincy on May 1, 1994, after a major flood in 1993 destroyed the original station at West Quincy. The Illinois Zephyr and the Carl Sandburg trainsets continue to cross the Mississippi River to layover at the BNSF West Quincy railyard for servicing between runs.

On October 30, 2006, a second round trip, the Carl Sandburg was added as part of the Midwest Regional Rail Initiative. The train's name honors Carl Sandburg, whose birthplace in Galesburg, Illinois lies just a few hundred feet from this train's route. The morning westbound/evening eastbound schedule complements the opposite morning eastbound/evening westbound schedule of the Illinois Zephyr.

During 2010, Amtrak contacted officials from communities in northeastern Missouri and western Illinois regarding the feasibility of extending the Illinois Zephyr, plus Carl Sandburg, southwards to Hannibal, Missouri and St. Louis. While a study for the expansion was not conducted, the project could be funded with a mix of both federal and state money.[4]

Route and stopsEdit

Amtrak Carl Sandburg / Illinois Zephyr route (interactive map)
State Town/City Station Connections
Illinois Chicago Chicago Union Station Amtrak: Blue Water, Capitol Limited, Cardinal, California Zephyr, City of New Orleans, Empire Builder, Hiawatha Service, Hoosier State, Illini, Lake Shore Limited, Lincoln Service, Pere Marquette, Saluki, Southwest Chief, Texas Eagle, Wolverine, Thruway Motorcoach
CTA Buses: 1, 7, 14, 19, 20, X20, X28, 56, 60, 120, 121, 122, 123, 124, 125, 126, 128, 129, 130, 151, 156, 157, 192
Megabus: M1, M2, M3, M4, M5, M6, M7
Metra: North Central Service, Milwaukee District/North Line, Milwaukee District/West Line, BNSF Railway Line, Heritage Corridor, SouthWest Service
La Grange La Grange Metra: BNSF Railway Line
Pace: 302, 304, 330
Naperville Naperville Amtrak: California Zephyr, Southwest Chief
Metra: BNSF Railway Line
Pace: 530, 676, 677, 678, 680, 681, 682, 683, 684, 685, 686, 687, 688, 689, 714, 781
Plano Plano
Mendota Mendota Amtrak: Southwest Chief
Princeton Princeton Amtrak: California Zephyr, Southwest Chief
Kewanee Kewanee
Galesburg Galesburg Amtrak: California Zephyr, Southwest Chief
Burlington Trailways
Galesburg Bus Transit: Route 2.
Macomb Macomb Go West Transit: Routes 5, 10, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, and 19
Quincy Quincy Quincy Transit Lines: Route 4


A typical Carl Sandburg in 2010

Today, a normal Amtrak Illinois Zephyr or Carl Sandburg consists of:[5][6]


  1. ^ a b c Sanders, Craig (2006). Amtrak in the Heartland. Bloomington, Indiana: Indiana University Press. ISBN 978-0-253-34705-3.
  2. ^ a b "Amtrak FY15 Ridership & Revenue" (PDF). Amtrak. November 5, 2015. Retrieved November 30, 2016.
  3. ^ Gray, Jessica (February 24, 2007). "More climb aboard". Retrieved July 17, 2007.[permanent dead link]
  4. ^ "Hannibal rails for Amtrak". October 18, 2010. Retrieved October 19, 2010.
  5. ^ "ILLINOIS ZEPHYR CARL SANDBURG". TrainWeb. Retrieved October 19, 2010.
  6. ^ "Amtrak touts new locomotives for local passengers". The Whig. Retrieved November 14, 2017.

External linksEdit

Route map:

KML is from Wikidata

  Media related to Illinois Zephyr and Carl Sandburg at Wikimedia Commons