The (Other) Zephyr Newspaper in 1945
by Terry Hogan
While making a tour of some of Galesburg’s antique stores, I came across a small format employee newspaper published by the Burlington Route during WWII. What initially caught my eye was the name of the paper. It was quite a surprise in itself. But after a quick examination, it became obvious that this old employee newspaper was just chuck full of information that I found fascinating, as a local history buff.
First, for the name of the old employee newspaper. It was none other than The Zephyr. So much for originality, I guess. The particular issue that I bought was a “Special Servicemen’s Edition” and was Volume 8, Number 2, dated March and April, 1945. Thus I assume it was a bimonthly publication and had been around for about 8 years. The banner showed a drawing of both a coal-fired locomotive and the newer stainless steel streamliner Zephyr train.
New Glass Dome Passenger Car Under Consideration
On the front page was an article entitled “Burlington Will Have Glass-Dome Passenger Coach”. This was apparently the first announcement in this employee paper of plans to consider a “…sensational new-type passenger car embodying a raised glass-enclosed dome from which travelers will be able to see forward as well as sidewalls and backward”. The article explains that the company was going to take one of the stainless steel cars out of service and modify it for an upper level and glass dome as soon as practical to determine if it warrants the enthusiasm that currently exists for the new design. The new proposed design came from General Motors, according to the article that quoted Burlington’s president, Ralph Budd.
The new design was made possible by two factors. First the new stainless steel cars sat lower than the old passenger cars, avoiding a clearance problem for adding extra height to the cars. Second, the new glass developed for WWII bomber noses and “blisters” (gunner areas in bombers), was suitable for this purpose. The anticipated domes would provide the same views currently only available from the cab or the cupola of a caboose. It was clear in this brief article that this opportunity to provide views of mountains, river valleys and tunnels was not lost on the management of the railroad.
This was obviously a success. It became a classic feature of the railroad’s cross country passenger trains.
New Burlington Air Service
There is no shortage of interesting news in this single issue. It also announces that the Burlington Railroad had applied for approval to engage in aviation as a “certificated carrier”. The Burlington Transportation Company was going to establish an air division and conduct air operations “…with a view to providing the public with efficient, safe and comfortable air transportation and of utilizing that service in conjunction with rail and highway service to the greatest practicable extent”.
Surprisingly, at least to me, the article notes that at least initially, the Burlington air services would be limited to the operation of helicopters. The goal was to provide scheduled air transportation to 47 communities which would otherwise be deprived of scheduled service.
I am unaware of this venture ever “taking off” (sorry). I have done a quick Internet search and have found no reference to aviation service provided by the railroad. If a reader is aware of the Burlington in the flying business, please let us know.
Burlington Zephyr Over Germany
Although not in the airline business, it seems that there was at least one railroad connection with flying. However, it dealt with carrying bombs, not passengers. The Zephyr newspaper includes a photo and a brief article about a B-24 Liberator bomber involved with the bombing of Germany. Two members of the crew were from Burlington, Iowa. They were Staff Sergeants Archie Brajkovich and Eugene Loose. At the time of the article, each had over 30 missions to his credit. Their bomber, shown in the photo with the two men, displayed “Burlington Iowa Zephyr” nose art.
Galesburg Man in Uniform
In a column entitled “With Uncle Sam”, Sergeant Kenneth M. Burke (“Galesburg store”) is listed a mechanic on a 15th Air Force bomber in Italy. Somebody, presumably the unknown addressee of the newspaper had written in ink “Know him” underneath the brief mention of Sergeant Burke. This little story has no known ending. I don’t know if Sgt. Burke survived the war, returned to Galesburg, and returned to his railroad job or not.
Such was the news from the 1945 Zephyr paper. We know that the dome car was a success and was adopted by the railroad. I think I know that helicopter service was not undertaken by the Q, but as the old saying goes, “No amount of not finding something proves that it does not exist.”