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California Zephyr through Wyoming

California Zephyr through Wyoming?!

Part I of III

Carl Morrison for  July 21-26, 2004
Comments and/or corrections welcomed at
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916   1102   1116  

Sacramento's Tower Bridge.  Built as a
railroad/automobile bridge,
now just autos use it.

East of Glenwood Canyon, Colorado
Union Pacific's Challenger  
leaving Denver at 7 a.m. July 24, 2004.

Yes, that is correct, I was to take the California Zephyr, which runs betweenEmeryville, California and Chicago, Illinois, through Wyoming, on July 23 and 25, 2004!  When Ray Burns of TrainWeb offered me this reporting opportunity, I thought there must be some mistake because the California Zephyr does not go through Wyoming, but with a little research on the Internet, I found this press release:

03/11/04 - Summer Detour of California Zephyr to Track Historic Transcontinental Railroad Route     

National Railroad Passenger Corporation
60 Massachusetts Avenue NE
Washington, DC 20002

Contact: Marc Magliari 312 880.5390
March 11, 2004

Some Colorado and Utah stops affected during parts of June and July

CHICAGO – Scheduled track improvements on the Union Pacific Railroad west of Denver will require Amtrak to use an alternate route for the California Zephyr between Denver and Salt Lake City during four, eight-day periods this summer.  The detour will follow the historic transcontinental railroad route through Wyoming and Utah on freight rail tracks that passenger trains have not traversed since 1997.  

From June 8-15, June 23-30, July 8-15 and July 23-30, Amtrak will be unable to use the Union Pacific route through the Moffat Tunnel west of Denver.  On those days, the California Zephyr will detour between Denver and Salt Lake City via a northern route through Wyoming, making no intermediate station stops.  On the days the train detours, Amtrak will provide alternate motorcoach transportation between Denver and Glenwood Springs and Grand Junction, Colo., only. 

Passengers traveling between Chicago and Denver or between Salt Lake City and the San Francisco Bay Area (Emeryville) will be unaffected. 

Service to Fraser-Winter Park, Colo.; Granby, Colo.; Green River, Utah; Helper, Utah and Provo, Utah, will be suspended on the days of the train’s detour.  Passengers already ticketed to those stations are being notified of the service suspensions.

Amtrak will also notify all passengers ticketed between Denver and Salt Lake City during the 32 days of the detour and/or the alternate transportation from Denver to and from Glenwood Springs and Grand Junction.  Passengers will be offered travel on alternate days or refunds.  

The detour route will follow a portion of the original transcontinental Union Pacific route that was completed in 1869.  While the scenery is less mountainous than the California Zephyr’s regular routing, it offers broad vistas of the high plains and an opportunity to see pronghorn antelope and other wildlife.

Amtrak regrets the service disruption and has notified the affected communities. However, the Union Pacific Railroad has said the improvements are needed to maintain safe and timely operation of trains through the Moffat Tunnel route.

For more information about the California Zephyr, fares and schedules, call 800.USA.RAIL or visit

--Originally posted at:

Fullerton, CA, to Sacramento, CA

July 21, 2004
Our journey actually began, for me, in Fullerton, California at 12:30 a.m., July 21, 2004.  My wife Sue dropped me off at the Fullerton Amtrak Station after we attended a Linda Ronstadt/Steve Tyrell concert at Universal Amphitheatre in Los Angeles.  As I stepped on the Amtrak bus, I felt reassured seeing Chris Guenzler in the front seat!  My ticket was on an Amtrak Bus from Fullerton, to L.A., then on to Bakersfield.  The bus arrived and less than a half dozen of us in Fullerton joined a nearly full bus of single riders taking two seats each.  I found one double and plopped to try and sleep, knowing this would be as good a bed as I would have this night.   I did sleep to L.A. where more passengers joined us making two per seat for most everyone except me and the fellow in front of me.  A couple of stops later actually filled the bus, so I had a companion for the night ride to Bakersfield.  I slept another couple of hours on the bus ride arriving in Bakersfield about 4:15 in plenty of time to walk to the nearby train 711 to Stockton.  My knees had pretty much locked up so I probably looked like Frankenstein walking from the bus.  (Traveling companion, Chris, had gotten off in Hanford, CA).


Chris leaving 711 at Hanford, CA.

On the 711 from Bakersfield to Stockton, I slept very little, as the sun rose.  I did enjoy listening to a couple of farmers discussing irrigation and crop development.  Being a dry farmer as a kid back in Indiana, I found their comments about irrigation most interesting, as well as the $50,000 per acre for a 26 acre section of a farm in the valley we were passing through.  I saw them later heading east from Sacramento on another train, yet they had only a cooler with them, so they weren't going overnight anywhere.

My final stop on the 711 was Stockton, where I stepped off the train and into an Amtrak Bus operated by Frontier.  My ride to Sacramento afforded me a little more sleep, none of which was very restful.

In Sacramento, I realized I was about 25 hrs. ahead of schedule, as planned, and decided to photograph that day's California Zephyr that I would board the next day.  I took a couple of pictures in the high-ceilinged station.


I took a shortcut to my Vagabond Inn motel by walking down the platform, west, under the freeway, then left at the first street.  The Vagabond Inn had added in-room ethernet Internet service since I had stayed here and I put the connection to good use to upload pictures and process e-mail.  There is no password needed, so take your laptop with you! ( We found out on the return that only single rooms have such connections, doubles have to go to the lobby and use one of the Inn's computers.)

I left my luggage at the Vagabond Inn, because check in wouldn't be possible until 1 pm,  and walked through the street level section of the parking garage directly into Old Town Sacramento.  I photographed the Pony Express memorial and had lunch in Old Town. (As it turned out, the California Railway Musuem operates a cafe in Old Town, the museum has a brochure on it.)

Tuna Casserole was the lunch special at the Silver ? Cafe in Old Town, along the river.

California Zephyr crossing the I-Street Bridge.  Water Taxi below, cars cross bridge above the trains.  Bridge rotates on center pier for tall masted boats.  Picture from the bike/jogging trail along the Sacramento river that runs along Old Town Sacramento.  Immediately to the right (east) of this bridge is Old Town Sacramento and the Sacramento Amtrak Station.



After lunch, I returned to the Vagabond Inn, put my luggage in the room, connected to the Internet (using my own power supply from my phone charger for the hub since there was none), and processed some photos and e-mail and returned to Old Town for a couple of hours in the Calfornia State Railroad Museum before it closed at 5 pm.


Engine #1

The museum is set out in chronological order with older trains first, as this #1 steam engine.  The importance of snow sheds (left) and their evolution with references to fires set by the engines is emphasized.  Engine #1 is set between a tunnel and a snowshed set (left).

The transcontinental railroad started west from Sacramento and a photograph of Jupiter, one of the to engines at the meeting of the rails in Provo, UT, appears with a model.  I was lucky to find the Jupiter outside of the museum for photographs.





'Derail' sign at the end of the track.

"Hearlds" or tail signs.



Porter Jacket Patch, and since I was going on the CA Zephyr in 24 hours, I enjoyed this.


A display of train travel posters included this one of the original California Zephyr.


Click the info on the 913 above for a readable copy, click BACK in the browser to return to this page.



Crepe Mrytle outside the Museum.


This diner has displays of china from many historic railroads.


Old Town Sacramento at Night, with the bridge, right, that was built as a railroad bridge now used as a highway bridge.


Old Town Sacramento at night, with a little imagination, looks like it did in the 1800s.


Sacramento platform the next morning.  We see saw Ernie leaving his engine.
Chris and I had agreed to meet at the SAC station at 10:45 a.m for our scheduled 11:32 departure on the California Zephyr.  I checked out of the Vagabond Inn and walked to the station (Under the freeway and onto the platform).  I entered the station from the platform side at 10:50 and immediately saw Chris coming in the main door with his brother, Bruce.  Bruce is the Station Agent of the Sac. Station.  Bruce has 32 years of seniority with Amtrak.  He checked the schedule of the CA Zephyr for us and found out that it was still in Emeryville, CA, its point of origin,  'with mechanical problems.'  That meant it would be about 2 hrs. late if they could get moving.

We moved our luggage out to the platform to wait in the shade and with a breeze.  Yesterday had been 102 degrees and today was to be 103.  Sac. gets 12 days on average a year over 100 degrees.  At 11:16 they announced that the train was on the move and would arrive approx. 1 pm with sleepers on front of the train, according to Bruce, so we were in the right place.  The problem had been a broken toilet in the handicapped room, so they had moved the occupant(s) to the handicapped room in the crew car, since it was not a transition car, but rather a regular sleeper they were using as a crew car.  In talking with a crew member later, Amtrak has started selling rooms in the sleeper they use as a crew car, and this crew member said it meant no privacy for crew any time on these long trips.  On the other hand, it is revenue Amtrak can gain on each trip.

11:40 am, Ernie (picture above) left his engine #2007 and talked with Chris about UP tricks being played to slow Amtrak performance.

Bruce said, since we were going through Wyoming, we would pick up 3 hours so the Denver arrival wouldn't be delayed with this early delay.

I had more time to talk with travelers and met Dan and Wilma Humason of Hanford, CA who were traveling to Chicago.  I mentioned my Coast to Coast and Border to Border trip last May ( and Dan mentioned that he had a 1957 Ford retractable and they were the original owners using her entire teacher's salary.


Ernie and Chris discussing UP difficulties.


Remote Controlled Engine.

Bruce Guenzler, Sacramento Agent and brother Chris (right).

Susan Draa, and her grandson, Ryan Draa, age 6
Noon  Susan Draa, and her grandson, Ryan Draa, age 6, talked to Bruce, who was talking with us on the platform, and asked when a train would pass so Ryan could see one.  Bruce told her of the times of the next three trains.  Her dad had worked for the Western Pacific.  I took their pictures for my Internet article.  We all encouraged her to take Ryan on a train ride some day.

Front of Sacramento Station.

Dan and Wilma Humason of Hanford, CA, Elder Hostel travelers, with Chris  explaining how to read their ticket for car number and room number.  Dan and Wilma have a salmon and white '57 Ford Retractable, original owners. I told them about the 5,000 classic car show, Hot August Nights, in Reno, NV, the first week in August, that I will be attending again this year.  E-mail me at if you want a link to pictures from the event.


I like the American flag motif Union Pacific is using on some engines.

California Zephyr arrives about 1 1/2 hrs. late, but we had met a lot of nice people already who we would be traveling with.

Train #6 pulled in and we saw our car, 632, at the east end of the platform, right where Bruce had told us to stand. We and others stood at a closed door while car 631 boarded.  Finally the conductor came out of the crew car and said he'd find out the problem.  Soon a sleepy looking car attendant (Applegate) came from within the car and allowed us to board.  We had an economy on second floor, #4, with facing seats by the window with a restroom two doors down, across the hall.

Not 5 minutes into our journey, at 1:33 pm, Chris noticed a puff of smoke from between the transition car and our car.  We stopped dead with no power in the rooms.  At 1:56, there was an announcement that "We have a tie fire under the blown cable, so to keep smoke out of car 632 (ours) we are going to back up a little."  We actually backed into Sacramento station for repairs to the cable, arriving at 2:10.


Mary and Mack Porterfield were on the train from Sacramento to Reno with information about the route. They were volunteer docents provided by the California State Railroad Museum.  August 14, 2004 is the dedication day for the new model railroad donation at the Museum.

H. C. Beck, flowered shirt, worked to cut out the damaged old cable, as Bruce, Al Nahmi, and Chris watched.  Seldom this type of work happens at a platform, so we were safe and allowed to watch and learn.



Duct tape to the rescue covering the old, disconnected multiple cables.

Short loop at the end of the engine.  Power goes down the other side of the train when a short loop like this is employed..

Maintenance man carrying a coupler like the one that fried.


The two Genesis engines on our train (above and right).

The fried electrical connector and yellow hack saw used to cut it out.
Railroad employee, H. C. Beck, was kind enough to allow me to photograph the connector up close (left), and explain what it all meant and how it had been repaired.

California Zephyr 2004 Through Wyoming

[ Part 1 | Part 1a | Part 2 | Part 3 | Carl's Trainweb Home Page |

About using TrainWeb photos:
I often get requests to e-mail photographs I take to people I meet on trains.  It is easier than that to use my photos!  TrainWeb allows you to use any of our photos at no cost, just reference them properly.  When I tell folks this policy, I see relief in their faces and they say, "I'll quit worrying about taking photos of the rest of the trip and just use yours."  It is as easy as that! One exception to the Policy:  I DO have higher resolution photos than those we use at TrainWeb and you can e-mail me for copies of specific photos, in my articles (not other TrainWeb reporters).  Those photos are $10 per 5 x 7 and $20 for an 8 x 10, but you'll probably find those online, especially the 640 x 480 resolution sufficient.  For all the details go to the Photo Use Policy At Trainweb [ ].