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Video: Random scenes from the California Zephyr. Nothing much happens in this video, but it will give you a good idea of what it’s like to travel on the Zephyr. 

Excerpts from Finding George Washington: A Time Travel Tale  

•  “Besides the two locomotives, the California Zephyr consisted of a baggage car, three coach cars, an observation car with snack bar, a dining car, and three sleeper cars. Our family room was going to be great for viewing the scenery.

“We sat down to watch as the Zephyr rolled us slowly out of Davis. We crossed California’s Central Valley and headed toward Sacramento, Reno, Salt Lake, Denver, and points east. The train would make thirty-one stops in all, between here and Chicago.

“We passed mile after mile of lush, green farmland against a backdrop of golden foothills and slowly started to relax …

“… First we climbed ten steps up a narrow internal staircase in the middle of the car. Then we followed a corridor toward the front of the train—windows on our right, bedrooms on our left—pressed the button to open the automatic doors, and passed into the next car. And so on, before emerging at the dining car. The train had warm brown walls, cheery lighting, and abundant sunshine …

“… (Later) we strolled to the observation car. It was pretty full.

“Booths with Formica tables lined a third of the upper level. In the rest of the car, swivel chairs faced large picture windows topped by bent glass that curved up to the ceiling. Downstairs we found a snack bar, a booze bar, and more tables for lounging. By now we had crossed California’s fertile Central Valley, climbed slowly through golden foothills, snaked through the Sierra Nevada Mountains, and, finally, passed into Nevada’s high country. After that, we traversed mile after mile of scrub vegetation to Reno …

“… Nevada sniffed around a bit, pushing on the door of the shower room. I opened it with trepidation. The outer dressing room was pretty dry, but someone had showered recently, and there was still water on the floor of the stall. Nevada stuck her head in and used her long tongue to lick the floor. I ran the shower to give her another puddle to drink from, happy that she wasn’t using the toilet to quench her thirst.

“We backed out of there, and Nevada headed for the narrow staircase to the upper level of our car. She was on a mission and bounded up the ten stairs, pulling me after her.

“She dragged me along the upper corridor of the sleeper, continuing toward the front of the train. Dim night lights and a gloomy sense of foreboding now replaced the cheery lighting and friendly daytime ambience. Cold sweat and a metaphorical dagger to my heart dampened the warm glow lingering from April’s visit.

“At the end of the car, I pressed the button and the door slid open. We crossed into the next sleeper, then hurried along to the third. Nevada tugged me along, stopped occasionally to cock her head and evaluate some vibe or scent, then dragged me further. In the third sleeper, she led me down the narrow staircase.”

Slavery and the Washingtons

Washington’s Headquarters



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