GLENWOOD SPRINGS — A group of former stewardesses called the Zephyrettes, from the original California Zephyr interstate passenger train, will arrive in Glenwood Springs on Sept. 24 for a two-day reunion.
According to Bernita Lundquist, 83, of Denver, there are about 20 people expected at the reunion, although the flood-caused lack of service by the current version of the train, the Amtrak California Zephyr, may get in the way of participation by some.
Lundquist, who retired as a Zephyrette in 1960, said this is not the first reunion of the group. The first, two years ago, was held in San Francisco, which is across the Bay Bridge from Oakland, the original and continuing terminus of the Zephyr service.
But this will be the first time the group meets in Glenwood Springs, and to visit the Glenwood Springs Railway Museum in the Amtrak station, at 413 Seventh St.
“We thought, because of the museum and the station’s connection to the old Zephyr, how appropriate it would be to have the next reunion there,” said Lundquist.
Some of the group are in their 80s, Lundquist said, with memories of a time when train travel was very different from today’s experience.
According to a listing on Wikipedia.org, the online encyclopedia, the Zephyrettes “functioned as social directors, tour guides, baby-sitters, nurses — in short, they filled just about any role required to ensure that the passengers had a memorable trip.” Each California Zephyr, according to the online encyclopedia, had a complement of about a dozen Zephyrettes.
While they are here, the group will stay at the Hotel Colorado and, Lundquist said, will engage in a number of activities, among them a tour of the museum and the viewing of a video about the Zephyrettes and their ties to the original passenger line.
“It’s all about the Zephyrettes and the railroad, the whole nine yards,” Lundquist said with excitement.
The group also expects to be interviewed by an author from California, who is working on a book about the original train and the Zephyrettes.
According to online sources, the original Zephyr began running in 1949, and for its inaugural run every female passenger was handed a corsage of silver and orange orchids flown in specially from Hawaii.
In 1954, the reported travel time was nearly 51 hours for the Zephyr’s 2,500-mile route, which ran from Chicago through Denver and Glenwood Springs to Salt Lake City and on to San Francisco, or Oakland to be precise.
As rail travel declined in the 1960s, the railroads that owned the lines over which the Zephyr travelled, including Western Pacific and Denver and Rio Grande Western, repeatedly petitioned to shut down their portions of rail service.
They ultimately convinced the Interstate Commerce Commission and on March 22, 1970, the last westbound, original California Zephyr made the trip from Chicago to Oakland. Other trains ran over the D&RGW line past Glenwood Springs for more than a decade, because the rail line refused to join in the new, nationwide Amtrak service that started up in 1971.
But in 1983, the D&RGW changed its mind, and the Amtrak California Zephyr began operations through Glenwood Springs, though without the Zephyrettes and many other amenities and types of service found on the original Zephyr.