Skip to main content

OK, so I finally found a really nice set of four MTH-made California Zephyr cars. I got them at a show last week from a guy who said they were O27. That makes sense since they seem a bit shorter than other CZ cars I've seen. I cleaned them all up, and put them in my storage unit this past week. It's not convenient to get over there to grab them and shoot some pics, otherwise I would.

Although they did not have boxes and were loose in a cardboard beer flat, they cleaned up beautifully. The quality of these cars is excellent and I went to eBay to see if I could add some more cars to the set. The funny thing about my set is that the cars were identified by numbers, not names. As you know, these cars are well-known for using a variety of names that all start with "Silver". My cars, however, have numbers. I looked on-line for a while today and couldn't find any references to this.

My question is this...what do I have? Were they originally sold as a set? What era would these have been used in the real world? D&RGW or Amtrak? Are these accurate replicas or did some of these cars use numbers instead of names? Which engine would have most likely been used to pull these wonderful cars?

I realize without photos and measurements, it may be hard to pinpoint, but I have faith in my fellow Forum members and know there are people here that can confidently answer me and know what I'm talking about.

My plan is to run them as an Amtrak consist. Would this have happened in the real world or were these cars used on the D&RGW before the transition? I'm not such a purist that everything on my layout has to be totally "correct" to what was seen in the real world, but I don't want to make blatant errors either.

Any light anyone can shed on this is sincerely appreciated. If I need to get photos, I can do that after Thanksgiving. Thank you and Happy Thanksgiving to everyone here on the Forum.


Original Post

Replies sorted oldest to newest

I believe that the name Zephyr was applied to any of several passenger trains run by the Burlington Route and your cars should look good with a Burlington engine. The California Zephyr was a specific train that started in Chicago on the Burlington Route and switched to Denver and Rio Grande Western and then switched again in Salt Lake City to the Western Pacific and then traveled through the picturesque Feather River Valley in the Sierra Nevada mountains and on to Oakland. So that gives you three different liveries to choose from. The California Zephyr was operated over twenty years between 1949 and 1970. Much later on Amtrak brought the name back, but your cars probably don't say Amtrak on them.

I looked into it and found that in 1997 MTH did make some O27 California Zephyr cars that have numbers on the sides without any names. They are MTH Railking California Zephyr Passenger Cars 30-6050, 30-6051, 30-6052, 30-6053, and a 2 car set in 1998 30-6054.

Four of the original CA Zephyr cars are still in operation by the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railway which runs between Cleveland and Akron/Canton. My wife and I did a dinner ride a few years ago shortly after the CVSR acquired them. Great time.

When my parents passed away in 2016-17, I found some slides from my grandparents riding from the Zephyr from Chicago to San Francisco back in the 1950s.

Last edited by raising4daughters

Thanks John in California for the MTH catalog numbers and for the info on the additional two car set and to Kelunaboy for the lead on where to get a set. Today is my birthday so I'll provide my wife with the link and a big hint! She's awesome and loves trains, too, so it shouldn't be too hard.

I also appreciate the great advice from Magicland on finding an O27 engine so the set looks more to scale overall. Finally, thanks to raising4daughters for the memory of the dinner ride (sounds like a memorable experience) and for the Wikipedia link. My sincerest thanks for everyone's feedback. I appreciate it. You guys are all what makes this Forum so interesting, informative, and fun.

I just wanted everyone to know that I ordered the two-car set from 3RailTrains and just got them yesterday. They're beautiful and I couldn't be more pleased with the entire transaction. A fair price, packed securely, and they arrived quickly and safely. If you haven't dealt with these folks, you can do so with full confidence. Check out their website at

Add Reply

This forum is sponsored by MTH Electric Trains
OGR Publishing, Inc., 1310 Eastside Centre Ct, Suite 6, Mountain Home, AR 72653
Link copied to your clipboard.