Comment on Accident on the Burlington Road, Published 27 April 1946Cross Town with Cross
The spot where the two Burlington fliers telescoped each ether yesterday at Naperville, Illinois, is not entirely unknown to me. Actually, Naperville is 28.5 miles west of Chicago, on the busy Chicago-Aurora run. Over this, besides an enormous amount of suburban traffic, operate the glamorous Zephyrs, which run up to Minneapolis. At Aurora, the Denver Zephyr swings south and west, and heads for Denver. It is on the former streamliner types that the new Vista Domes are being installed. These glass cupolas, like the blisters on fighting planes, enable a person to sit on top of the train, and under glass, see clearly in four directions. Since the North American record for speed is held by the Morning Zephyr, the passenger up in the dome will not only see lot of scenery, but he'll see it quickly. That Morning Zephyr covers the 55 miles from East Dubuque to Prairie du Chien in 39 minutes, which works out to an average of 84.6 miles per hour. As far as I know, this is the fastest scheduled run in the world.
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The Burlington route operates a spectacular service through here to the Missouri, and beyond. The railway starts out two trains at the same time, 12.35 pm daily. No. 11, the Advance Exposition Flier stands on the track alongside No. 39, the regular Exposition Flier. Since the Burlington has more than two tracks, this operation is possible.
Indeed. I remember one time hearing an engine outside the window of my solarium car, and, looking up, saw to my surprise that it was going in the same direction I was going. Then I heard a further roar, and could see a freight streaking through on the far track. We were on a three-track right of way.
How the Burlington operates both the Advance and the regular Exposition Flier I am not sure, but I assume it lets them run on parallel lines, perhaps holding back the second one a trifle. I Imagine after Aurora, they operate on a block, about three minutes apart. That is plenty of margin where everything is protected by lights and safety devices. They slow down the second train by a flag stop at Buda, and at Galesburg, 162 miles west of Chicago, the first train checks in at 2.51 p.m., the second at 3.01. Yet the second train catches up a bit. since at mile 202, across the Mississippi at Burlington, Iowa, the Advance is only five minutes ahead of the regular. From then on, however, the Advance draws swiftly ahead of the regular, and at Council Bluffs, Iowa, where all trains stop before crossing the Missouri to Omaha. Nebraska, the Advance arrives at 8.50 pm. while the regular section is not due till 10 p.m.
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Lest you think that the second train is an old slow poke, the so-called slow train averages 52.2 miles an hour, a record no train in Canada can touch for a 496-mile stretch. Then the Advance flier makes it in slightly better than a mile a minute, doing the run of 496 miles in 495 minutes.
So there you have these two trains, running across the country, getting ahead of each other, slowing down, then speeding up again. All good railway operation, and all getting you to Omaha in a hurry. But that's not the end of it.
The Advance Exposition seems to lose interest at Omaha, for after a long 25-minute stop there In the Nebraska metropolis, it goes out to Lincoln, 55 miles further on, and curls up and quits. The Advance dies at Lincoln every night at 10.40. Meanwhile the regular Exposition Flier doesn't get to Lincoln till 12.15 a.m., but it keeps on hustling and turns up in Denver next morning, making high speed all the way.
Now maybe you think that a train that goes that fast is really stepping. Yet you can miss either the Advance Exposition or its sister train, the regular flier, No. 39, you can dawdle for four hours and 55 minutes in Chicago, then catch the Burlington Zephyr, a sleek snake that eats mileage like a moth at your favorte suit. So swift is this Zephyr that it actually turns up in Denver next morning, a scant hour and 10 minutes behind the Exposition Flier. Truly, this Zephyr really zephs.
No one at this distance can tell what makes one train pile into another. The Almonte wreck and other similar tragedies around here teach us lessons. But no matter what they teach us, they also teach us that there's no way of stopping such tragedies. They seem destined to happen, no matter what we do.
But certainly, of the railway operations on this continent, few are more spectacular, or more fascinating, than the way the Chicago Burlington and Quincy Railroad has these two Exposition Fliers chasing each other across Illinois and Iowa every day of the year.