The California Zephyr : Story of America's Most Talked About Train

 
9780967300214: The California Zephyr : Story of America's Most Talked About Train
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From the Contributor:

Just the name California Zephyr invokes a feeling of excitement. It was this simple title that got me so energized that I had to produce a program on this special train. Most people in America never realized that a part of America's history slipped away virtually overnight. Few people seemed to care that passengers trains went away.

On a wet January day in 1997, I was exposed to the California Zephyr for the first time when I met with historian Virgil Staff at his turn of the century home in Berkeley, California. Thirty years earlier, Virgil who was Western Pacific Railroad's company historian was dragging motion picture film equipment up hills around California. Using his own funds he captured the last gasps of the California Zephyr. In total, nearly 15,000 feet of prime 16mm motion picture film containing thousand of pictures of a train the world forgot about. Every year he pulled his films out and using a bottle of film cleaner did his best to keep the films in perfect condition.

In a darkened living room as the film projector ticked away, I was transported back to 1967. It was like a Twilight Zone episode, as it felt like I was waiting for the train, standing with the people I saw on the screen. It was at this time that I decided that I had to tell the story of the California Zephyr.

Over the next three years I restored the film and transferred it to video for what would become my most ambitious project to date. In December 1998, I flew to San Francisco with an experienced television news cameraman to capture some of the most touching interviews ever recorded. Over twelve hours we talked with people who worked aboard the train in the late 1960's, including Western Pacific Railroad1s public relations director who was present for the first departure in 1949. After 30 years these people still remembered the slightest detail of the train, right down to the people they saw along the way. During the interviews you can see the excitement in their eyes as they remember the good times and the funeral that followed.

One more thing, although sights of the train are important, the sound of the Zephyr is just as inspiring. To share this part of the senses I have included a 70 minutes audio compact disc that Virgil recorded on magnetic tape in the 1960's. Included are a station announcement, high speed run-bys and engine cab recordings where you can hear the now passed on engine crew members talking about the run.

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