Serving Chicago, Omaha, Denver, Cheyenne, Ogden, Sacramento, Oakland, and intermediate points
Amtrak train numbers: 5 and 6
Predecessor railroad train numbers: Milwaukee Road 101 and 102, Union Pacific 101 and 102, Southern Pacific 101 and 102
A joint venture of the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul, and Pacific Railroad, the Union Pacific, and the Southern Pacific, the City of San Francisco was the fast train between Chicago and the Bay Area, thanks in large part to its routing on the Union Pacific's Overland Route through Wyoming. The tradeoff was that the scenery was not quite as spectacular as that on the California Zephyr's route through Colorado.
When Amtrak took over most passenger train service in the U.S. in 1971, they planned to combine portions of the routes of both of those Chicago-Oakland trains, running via the California Zephyr route to Salt Lake City and then the Southern Pacific's portion of the City of San Francisco route west to Oakland. However, when the Rio Grande decided not to join Amtrak at the last minute, continuing their Rio Grande Zephyr service between Denver and Salt Lake City, Amtrak's train ended up going through Wyoming and carrying the City of San Francisco name.
Initially, Amtrak's version of the City of San Francisco ran three times a week west of Denver, with the daily Chicago-Denver service carrying the name Denver Zephyr.
Within a couple of years, daily service returned over the entire route, and the train's name was changed to San Francisco Zephyr.
Condensed historical timetables:
READ DOWN READ UP
(1956) (1972) (1972) (1956)
6:30P 4:30P Dp Chicago Ar 10:45A 11:15A
2:55A 1:05A Omaha 2:05A 3:00A
----- 10:00A Denver 4:30P -----
9:15A 12:35P Cheyenne 1:35P 6:40P
6:50P 11:00P Ogden 3:30A 9:40A
7:30A 1:05P Sacramento 11:00A 6:35P
9:45A 3:15P Ar Oakland Dp 9:00A 4:00P
The Amtrak Train Names Project