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The Trip back east to meet Dave Smetko

by Chris Guenzler

Dave Smetko had contacted me about doing some trips out of Danville, Pennsylvania on July 20th, 2013. It sounded like a great idea but Dave could not get us tickets for those trips. After doing some Internet research I found the right phone number and after explaining I was coming from California she took my order and mailed me my tickets. Dave then came up with a plan as I used my Guest Rewards for a sleeper to Chicago then back home from La Plata. I got an Illinois Zephyr ticket to Quincy where the Depot Inn and Suites would pick me up for my three night stay there. Once I got that all set Dave asked if I could get off at Naperville which would be ok with me to cut down the driving time. He then discovers a Friday trip on the Wilmington & Western we could ride if he met me in Connellsville, PA instead. Since I had never ridden that railroad I agreed and got a coach ticket on Amtrak to get me there. After that trip Dave would drive me to Summit, NJ so I could ride the NJT Gladstone Branch and if all went right I could then ride from Dover to Hackettstown thus completing my New Jersey Transit system riding. The next day we would do the Danville trips to Bloomsville and Northumberland then drive to Ringoes, NJ for a Caboose Hops trip on the Black River & Western Railroad to Three Bridges. Sunday we would do the Steam into History and the Williams Grove Historical Steam Engine Association Pennsylvania Railroad 643. From here we would drive back to his house in Illinois taking pictures of what we would find along the way. After all of this I would be back in La Plata for three nights before heading home. I lived up to the day of the trip when I packed my luggage and then my Mother drove me down to the Santa Ana train station and I went inside to see my good and dear friend Marti, the Amtrak agent, who gave me a pair of new national Amtrak timetables. I then crossed the Pedestrian Bridge and waited for my train to Los Angeles.

Metrolink 609 for Los Angeles came into Santa Ana.

Metrolink 686 for Irvine came through next.

Pacific Surfliner 583 7/16/2013

I boarded this low level Amtrak train for Los Angeles and took my seat in Pacific Business Class. Conductor Alex P scanned my ticket and we were off on this rail adventure. I caught the story up as we stopped in Anaheim and Fullerton before I tried to go on-line but could not. I read the USA Today the rest of the way to LAUPT which we arrived into a few minutes early today. For once the train backed into the same platform that we pulled in on today about five minutes after we arrived.

Southwest Chief 4 7/16/2013

It had been since July 1, 2012 that I had been on a long distance train and as I boarded Sleeper 32038 in Room 13 downstairs. This train had Engines 116 and 131, Baggage 1257, Transition 39023, Sleepers 32038 and 32056, Diner 38061, Lounge 33039 and Coaches 34041, 34056 and 31043. We left LAUPT on time with Jose as my Sleeping Car Attendant. My computer is not playing any of my music or DVDs I bought with me. It might be a long trip! I tried to fix it but it will not read either kind of my stuff. We stopped at Buena Park for a late running Metrolink train from Riverside before we headed to Fullerton. I got an 8 PM dinner reservation. Luckily for me this computer does have a library of some pretty good songs. At 8 PM I went to the Dining Car and was seated with a lady going to Buffalo and two other ladies going to Williams. I had Richard Talmy as my fantastic waiter and enjoyed the Flat Iron Steak and the Chocolate Cream Puff for dessert. After dinner I enjoyed Cajon Pass from my darken room before I called it a night. The BNSF sure was busy tonight with the most freight trains that I had ever seen from the Southwest Chief. It sure felt good to be back on a long distance train again.

The morning started with me waking just as we pulled into Winslow. I went to the Dining Car at 6:30 AM and was seated with a black gentlemen going to Chicago and a black mother and her two twins going to St Louis. The boys were a true hand full for her. The French Toast is now thinner slices and going along with the pork sausage gave me a good breakfast. I saw John Kennedy, the excellent Amtrak Conductor who has now been in Albuquerque since he left San Diego over ten years ago. Time flies when you are having fun. Back in the room I read the USA Today, got some ice for the cooler and changed into a fresh set of clothes.

Rolling across eastern Arizona.

Welcome to New Mexico. The train stopped in Gallup after I had called Randy Jackson still living in Albuquerque but moving soon to Florida and he will come down to visit me when I arrive in his hometown. It will be good to see him again. I am enjoying the music from the computer again, doing Sudoku puzzles and enjoying a can of Coca-Cola as the train rolled east on another great day in my life. I worked on the timing of my next OCRHS program for August as the train rolled to Dalies then off the BNSF mainline towards Albuquerque.

The Rio Grande River marks our entrance into Albuquerque which we arrived into a few minutes early today. I called home after I arrived then Randy showed up and we got caught up on things. I tried to get on-line but had no luck this afternoon. The train left Albuquerque on time and headed to Lamy. I had a 12:30 PM lunch reservation and was seated with my friend going to Chicago and couple from Zephyr Hills, Florida going to Elkhart, Indiana. I enjoyed the Angus Steak Burger and another Chocolate Cream Puff. I finished my meal just as the train was closing in on Lamy.

The old church is still there in Lamy.

Also here is what is left of the Santa Fe Southern. It was a good thing when I rode it twice because you can no longer ride it anymore.

The train stopped in Lamy then headed up through Apache Canyon and then up and over Glorieta Pass. The train met the westbound Southwest Chief at Sands today and then I took a nap until outside of Las Vegas. The NARP person placed their latest newsletter is all the rooms and in the lounge. Then the Train Chief stopped by to see how my trip was going and asked me to keep riding the rails. I do not think I am going to stop at this point. The train made the way to Raton, our next fresh air stop of the trip. I reviewed my four previous Winterail Pizza Party shows and it was good to look back and see all I did these last years. After a very nice fresh air stop at Raton in some of the nicest temperatures that I have ever experienced here. I had a 5:30 dinner reservation and was seated with a neat older couple who had plenty of neat stories to tell about their family including one with Casey Jones. I enjoyed another excellent steak and another Chocolate Cream Puff. I relaxed in my room and listened to music in my Windows Media Player that took me to La Junta. After we left there, I made up my room and called it a night.

I awoke at 6:20 AM CDT and headed straight to the Dining Car being seated with my NARP friend, a gentleman going to Indianapolis and a Clinical Psychologist going to Kansas City for a convention. I enjoyed the French Toast and pork sausage patties before our arrival into Kansas City where I took some fresh air. We left KC on time and headed to La Plata where it will feel strange not getting off there.

The Missouri River at Sibley.

A BNSF train at WB Jct. Later the train stopped at La Plata.

The Des Moines River took me into Iowa and our fresh air stop at Fort Madison.

The train crossed the mighty Mississippi River into Illinois. With that I put the pictures into the computer and with that done I would just relax the rest of the way into Chicago. The train made all the rest of the stops to Chicago Union Station and we arrived there at 3:10 PM, five minutes early ending another excellent trip aboard the Southwest Chief.

Chicago 7/18/2013

After I exited the train I headed straight to the Metropolitan Lounge and after checking on line and uploading a few things I went to Gold Coast for my Char Dogs for dinner and stopped by Metra for a BNSF line timetable. I relaxed and waited for my next train to be called.

Capitol Limited 30 7/18/2013

I walked out to the train with Sleeping Car passengers and sat on the train to almost 6:50 PM, ten minutes after our scheduled departure time for the rest of the coach passengers to board the train. We waited for the connecting passengers from the late running Empire Builder. So we sat and sat and sat. We waited for our connecting passengers and our conductors. Let us just say I was not impressed by Chicago handling of this situation about not telling us a thing. That improved when they bought the Empire Builder into the station on the same platform that we loaded on at 7:20 PM. The train finally left Chicago Union Station at 7:49 PM {6:40 PM}. We headed out into the early evening into the night and by Elkhart I was sound asleep.

I woke up west along the Ohio River as the train closed in on Pittsburgh. Once up I changed clothes and the train arrived into Pittsburgh. The eastbound Pennsylvanian had an Amtrak Heritage Unit on the point todayMy new seatmate going to Martinsburg and we talked almost all the way to Connellsville. I stored my bags in the vestibule and went back to my seat to continue our conversations. The train passed CP Sodomy which I spotted from our rare mileage trip by Bart Jennings.

The drive to Wilmington

The train pulled into Connellsville and Dave was waiting me. We took off heading to the Pennsylvania Turnpike with a stop at McDonald's to get me hot cakes and sausage before we got on it. We headed east on the Pennsylvania Turnpike to east of Harrisburg then the highway to Lancaster and when we got to Leahman Place where we found the Strasburg steam train getting ready to return to Strasburg. We made our way to a grade crossing and parked to wait for the steam train.

The Strasburg steam train at the Black Horse Road. From here we drove to Wilmington for my first ride on the Wilmington & Western Railroad.