From Academic Kids

A streamliner is a vehicle that incorporates streamlining to produce a shape that provides less resistance to air, and is more pleasing to the eye. The term is usually applied to trains, mostly the high-speed trainsets designed in the United States in the 1930s, 1940s and 1950s, as well as successor "bullet trains" incorporating some of the same ideas in Europe and Japan.

Missing image
The Burlington Zephyr in April, 1934.

Two early streamliners were the Union Pacific M-10000 (also known as Little Zip and later renamed The City of Salina) and the Burlington Zephyr. Design of the Zephyr (later named the Pioneer Zephyr to distinguish it) started first, although the train took longer to build because of a more advanced design incorporating a diesel-electric power system, while the M-10000 ran on distillate, a fuel similar to kerosene. These trains were much lighter than the common engines and passenger cars of the day, as they were constructed using stainless steel. Both trains were star attractions at the 193334 World's Fair ("A Century of Progress") in Chicago, Illinois.

On May 26, 1934, the Zehpyr made a record-breaking "Dawn to Dusk" run from Denver, Colorado to Chicago. The train covered the distance in 13 hours, reaching a top speed of 112.5 miles per hour (181.1 km/h) and running an average speed of 77.6 mph (124.9 km/h). The fuel cost for the run was US$14.64 (a mere 4¢ per gallon—if a similar run was made in 2004, it would cost more like $550-650.)

For a short time in the late 1930s, the ten fastest trains in the world were American streamliners.

A variety of Zephyrs were eventually built for Burlington by the Budd Company. After the Pioneer Zephyr, two Twin Cities Zephyrs of the same design briefly served the link between Chicago and the Twin Cities. As a public relations gimmick, the two trains first headed to Minnesota on parallel tracks while loaded with, naturally, twins. Within a few years, they were replaced by other trains of a slightly different design and the original twin trains went on to serve elsewhere on the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad.

The success of the visual styling of the stainless steel locomotives did not go unnoticed by fans of steam-powered engines. Many steam locomotives were also streamlined during this time to attract passengers, although the streamlining was less effective in improving efficiency for those engines than it was in making a visual statement. Nonetheless, some of these steam locomotives still became very fast—some were said to exceed 120 miles per hour on a fairly regular basis around this time.

Streamliners and successor high-speed train systems largely disappeared in the United States due to the increasing popularity of the automobile and airline travel. Government regulations forced all railroads to continue to operate passenger-carrying rail service, even on long routes where, the railroads argue, it was almost impossible to make a profit. Many argue that these regulations and the government's heavy support of highway-building projects exacerbated the problem. Since 1971, the majority of passenger rail systems in the United States have been operated by Amtrak. Faster Acela Express trains have been introduced in the Boston to Washington DC North East Corridor. Many areas around the United States have been considering construction of new high-speed lines, but rail travel is much less common in the United States than in Europe or Japan.

After 26 years of service and traveling over 3 million miles, the Pioneer Zephyr took up residence at Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry. The M-10000 unfortunately found its way to the scrap heap, along with many other early trainsets. Some have survived, though. The Flying Yankee, the third streamliner to be completed, is currently undergoing restoration to operational condition. Its design is only slightly different than the first Zephyr.

Diesel streamline trainsets

Chicago, Burlington & Quincy:

Illinois Central:

Union Pacific:

Boston and Maine / Maine Central

Milwaukee Road

New York, New Haven and Hartford

Chicago, Rock Island and Pacific

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