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Coast Starlight Detour over Altamont Pass and the Tehachapi Loop 4/7-8/2011

by Chris Guenzler

This purpose of this trip was to ride the Coast Starlight detour over Altamont Pass and the Tehachapi Loop. I waited until April when the southbound run returned to its normal schedule. I would take the Thruway Bus to Bakersfield, Amtrak San Joaquin 713 north to Martinez then a Capitol Corridor train to Sacramento for the night. The next morning, board the Coast Starlight in a room so I would get three meals and ride the detour then take the last Pacific Surfliner home.

4/7/2011 As the trip neared, I thought why take the bus at 5:30 AM when there was a Metrolink train at 6:18 AM? It would give me 36.0 more rail miles as well as allowing me to have an extra hour's sleep, so I choose the train instead. I drove to the Santa Ana station, parked and bought a Metrolink ticket to LAUPT, retrieved my luggage from the car then walked over to Track 1 to wait.

Metrolink 603 arrived on time and I was off on a quick train trip to LAUPT, where I detrained and went to wait for the Thruway Bus to Bakersfield. The trip was delayed a little by heavy traffic near Griffith Park and the freeway stopping above Templin Highway. The bus took us to Bakersfield, where I boarded after the crew opened the train and the first car filled with children going to Wasco.

San Joaquin 713 4/7/2011

The train departed as I watched the "Moscow Keith Emerson Band with Marc Bonilla" DVD which took me most of the way to Madera. I paused it to get a hot dog and French fries after we lef Wasco. We moved right along, going through a rain storm south of Hanford most of the way to Fresno where the sunshine returned with broken clouds as we continued northbound this early afternoon. The next DVD of the day was "Led Zeppelin Earl's Court 75" as I continued my journey towards Martinez. Watching concerts really makes the trip up the valley far more enjoyable. The Zeppelin DVD did not finish before I had to clean up before detraining at Martinez, at which we arrived early. It had been another fantastic trip aboard San Joaquin 713 today. Now to wait for the Capitol Corridor train to Sacramento and see what else might pass through while I waited here.

First, Capitol Corridor Train 541 snuck in and out.

After seeing the red-over-yellow-over-red signal, I knew our train would be on the closet track to the station.

Next Union Pacific 4183 East came through, followed shortly thereafter by a horn announcing the arrival of our train.

Capitol Corridtor Train 534 4/7/2011

I boarded the second car from the rear and sat at a table, listening to my Jethro Tull DVD "Nothing is Easy" for the trip to Sacramento. We came into Suisan-Fairfield during a major hail storm as we made our station stop, which was a first for me in all my miles of train travelling. It became sunny again by Davis with the Yolo Bypass full of water before we arrived early in Sacramento.

Sacramento 4/7/2011

I walked over to the Vagabond Inn and checked in then decided first to walk over to Old Sacramento to make sure I had not been seeing things as our train arrived this afternoon.

Santa Fe 2-10-4 5021 built by Baldwin in 1944.

Santa Fe 4-8-4 2925 built by Baldwin in 1944.

A view of both engines.

Union Pacific business car 103 "Cheyenne" built by Pullman-Standard in 1956 as the five-bedroom lounge car "Baker". It had a redwood-panelled lounge. Each bedroom had a sink and toilet, along with upper and lower berths. It was rebuilt as business car 102 in 1965 and named "Cheyenne" in 1989.

The Sacramento Southern excursion train.

A lone tank car.

Union Pacific 0-6-0 4466 built by Lima Locomotive Works in 1920. It spent most of its working life in Cheyenne, Wyoming, as well as in Grand Island, Nebraska. It was retired in 1962 and gifted to the museum by the Pacific Coast Chapter of the Railway & Locomotive Historical Society in 1978. For many years thereafter, it hauled the museum’s weekend steam excursions.

Southern Pacific 48-seat dining car 290 "Audubon", nee Southern Pacific 10214, built by Budd Company in 1950. It was donated by Union Pacific in 1998.

Klamath Northern SH-2300 206, ex. International Paper 224, nee Long-Bell 401 built by Baldwin in 1954.

Sacramento Southern SW8 2008, nee United States Army 2008, built by Electro-Motive Division in 1951.

Union Pacific caboose 25256, nee Union Pacific 3596 built by the railroad in 1959 and donated to the California State Railroad Museum in 1983.

I returned to the hotel, dropped off my camera then went next door to Denny's for dinner before returning to my room and watching some television before calling it a night.

4/8/2011 I was up at 5:30 AM and after getting ice for my cooler full of Coca-Cola, I checked out of the Vagabond Inn and walked back to the Amtrak station. There I used a luggage cart to take my bags out to the waiting train.

Coast Starlight 11 4/8/2011

I boarded the train, taking Room 5 in Car 1132 then walked back to the parlor car to wait for breakfast at 6:30 AM. I was seated with the Reynolds and another gentleman and enjoyed French Toast as the train departed Sacramento on time. This train had a consist of engines 510 and 456, baggage 1164, transition 39041, sleepers 32072 "Arkansas", 32018 and 32068, Pacific Parlor Car 39970 "Columbia Valley", diner 38068, lounge 33046 with coaches 34022, 34058 and 34039.

We crossed the Sacramento River and went though West Sacramento then out across the Yolo Bypass to Davis before running through Dixon and Fairfield, past the United States Navy Mothball Fleet, across the Carquinez Straits to Martinez, all under beautiful blue skies. The train ran along the Carquinez Straits to San Pablo Bay and on into Richmond. From there, it was a quick run to Emeryville, where our San Francisco passengers left. The train waited on time there then made its way through the yards and down the street at Jack London Square to our stop in Oakland, where people going down the Coast would be bussed to their destination. My friend from Illinois, Dave Smetko and his wife Cathy, boarded the train and we departed 30 minutes late at 9:20 AM because Amtrak was coupling the private car "Salisbury Beach" on the rear of our train at our departure time.

Looking over to Alameda.

The home of the Golden State Warriors, the National Basketball Association team in the area.

The home of the Oakland A's, the Major League Baseball team, as well as the Oakland Raiders of the National Football League.

At Elmhurst, the Niles Subdivision, which used by the Capitol Corridor trains, heads for Niles. We, however, stayed on the Mulford Line to Newark.

Two views towards San Francisco Bay.

The line which used to go out across the Dumbarton Drawbridge came in from the west at Newark.

At CP Carter, we turned left to enter the Niles Subdivision and started our detour.

The train headed onto the Niles Subdivision.

A few minutes later we ran by the Fremont station.

Our train nearing Niles.

Here we made our way onto the old Western Pacific for our trip through Niles Canyon and over Altamont Pass.

Four views of Niles Canyon.

The tracks of the Niles Canyon Railway.

The former Southern Pacific station at Sunol from where the Niles Canyon train departs.

Near the east end of the Niles Canyon Railway, after which we ran through Pleasanton and Livermore.

The train was headed for Altamont Pass.

Looking northwest as we near the Greenville trestle.

The former Southern Pacific grade from the Greenville trestle.

The train climbing above the Greenville trestle.

The Greenville trestle.

Our train climbing towards the summit of Altamont Pass.

The train climbed Altamont Pass.

Windmills on Altamont Pass.

The summit of Altamont Pass.

Starting down the east slope.

Views of the grade of the former Southern Pacific Railroad.

The tunnel of the former Southern Pacific.


More views of the Southern Pacific grade.

Looking down into the San Joaquin Valley.

The east side of Altamont Pass.

We passed this lake before ducking under Interstate 205.

The San Joaquin valley.

Crossing the California Northern line at Lyoth.

The train crossed the San Joaquin River before passing through the ACE station in Manteca.

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