The Exposition Flyer

Before the California Zephyr, there was the Exposition Flyer. Intended to be a temporary service to the 1939 Golden Gate International Exposition in San Francisco, the success of this train kept it running for a decade, and directly led to the California Zephyr

The Exposition Flyer -- New Thru Train Service. This advertising pamphlet was issued prior to the train's June 10, 1939 inaugural run. Some of the interior panels:

Western Pacific Exposition Flyer Timetables

1939 Milepost Memorandum -- This publication is part timetable, part guidebook, listing sights along the WP's portion of the Exposition Flyer's route.

1947 Flyer Timetable -- Corrected to July 6, 1947. Single sheet, folded in half. Interior view of the schedules...along with the schedules for trains 39 and 40 (the Flyer), it includes the schedule for trains 1 and 2, the Feather River Express. The express was later replaced with the Royal Gorge, which was then replaced with the Budd RDC-2 Zephyrette.

1943 Dining Car Menu with a San Francisco motif. Back describes the City's cable cars. Menu opens to display the luncheon selections: page 1, page 2.

Exposition Flyer matchbook. (Thanks to Mike for the scan)

Exposition Flyer at the Tobin Bridges -- For a few months before the 1949 inauguration of the California Zephyr, the Western Pacific operated its newly delivered equipment -- both cars and locomotives -- on the Exposition Flyer, the train that the CZ would replace, as this postcard shows. The card's back caption reads: "Streamliner on Western Pacific Railroad crosses Feather River on high bridge as highway traffic travels on the lower bridge in this rugged canyon." Published by Mike Roberts Color Productions. No post mark. (A. Radecki collection)

The "Explosion" Flyer

During its decade of operation, the Flyer had enough wrecks that it became known in some circles as the "Explosion Flyer" (another "legend" is that this name reflected the explosive growth of the train, sometimes running in eight sections, during WWII, rather than any tendency to jump the track). Here are a few old newspaper clippings. Unfortunately, there was no information included with this old collection as to the date and paper(s) that these came from.

"Three Killed in Head-on Collision" -- "A little after 10 on the night of Sept 22, the engineer of Western Pacific's crack Exposition Flyer looked down a stretch of track near Pleasanton, Calif, and saw the most horrifying sight that can meet a trainman's eyes. There not many yards away loomed the giant shape of a "deadhead" -- an unattached freight locomotive, hurling toward him down the single strip of track. Both engineers threw on their brakes. Passengers in the Exposition Flyer, an hour out of Oakland, were jarred from their seats. An instant later the two locomotives met head on.

"A hurricane of escaping steam roared into the cab of the Flyer, suffocated and scalded to death the imprisoned engineer and fireman. Both engines left the rails in twisted agonies of hot metal, dragging with them the baggage car and two passenger cars. The Flyer's baggageman, hurled clear through the front end of his car into a litter of sheared steel, died in a hospital a few hours later. Only these three trainmen were killed. Twelve other persons, nine of them passengers, were injured. The engineer of the freight locomotive had managed to jump, after applying his brakes, and escaped along with his firemen. Neither could explain the accident. Only official comment was made by a division superintendent of the line. "Evidently." he said, "somebody made a serious mistake."

Landslide in California -- "A California landslide interrupted the schedule and halted the Western Pacific's Exposition Flyer in the Feather River Canyon near Oroville. Despite the force of the slide, which hurled the locomotive and baggage coach off the rails and down the slope, none of the 200 passengers was injured. Only James Curry, baggage man, was missing. -- AP Wirephoto"

Air View of Fatal Wreck -- "Two persons, one a soldier, were killed and 77 injured when a Western Pacific railroad flyer jumped the tracks at Pilot, Nev, Friday. Railroad officials, after a preliminary investigation, blamed "excessive speed" through a turnout switch. A section foreman, J. A. Nusse, who declared he "had a premonition of a wreck," is credited with leaping into the cab of the wrecked locomotive and saving Engineer B. R. Kreiss and his fireman from certain death in escaping steam. Nusse then used live steam to extinguish the engine stoker fire and probably prevented flames from sweeping the wrecked coaches. Lt. Carol Bard, navy nurse from Winona Minn, was among the injured. -- AP Wirephoto"

Back to the CZ Museum Lobby...

Back to the WP Museum Lobby...