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A Speeder Trip on the Amador Central Railroad 10/18/2014

by Chris Guenzler

I contacted the group which is part of a NARCOA sanctioned event. They said I could come ride and I could bring Chris Parker along as their guest on this unique Speeder trip. I was told to be there by 9:00 AM the morning of the trip. Since Maureen Angle lives near Ione, I contacted her and we agreed to have breakfast on that Saturday morning. We would meet at a Cafe in Ione. I would drive my mother's car and would meet Chris Parker at LAUPT on that Friday afternoon at 12:45 PM.

10/17/2014 I worked at my job at Heninger Elementary School in Santa Ana then went home to load the car. Chris called and told me that one of his workers had cut his finger and was at the Emergency Room with him in Torrance. I would drive to the Denny's parking lot by LAUPT and contact him again when I got there. It was an easy drive and soon I was there. I called Chris still at the Emergency Room and we talked options. I told him he could take 3:20 PM bus to Bakersfield and San Joaquin 703 to Stockton. Chris told me to start my drive north to Stockton. I told Chris I would call him again from the rest stop at the top of the Grapevine. So I went solo north and had no problems getting to that rest area. Once there Chris was now at LAUPT and would get his tickets to come north on the bus/train to Stockton. Now much relieved I decided to drive to CA Highway 43 and head north in search of trains. I made a quick stop just south of Shafter.

Pacific Electric trolley 466 is part of the Red Wagon Cafe. I went north to Shafter.

BNSF 5608 West with Norfolk Southern 9029 and 9605 in the consist at Shafter.

San Joaquin 712 running very late at Shafter. From here I continued north on CA 43 through Shafter where I took a picture from the car window.

Santa Fe Wooden Caboose with side door at the Shafter Depot Museum. From here I drove through Wasco and continued north on CA 43 until I saw a headlight coming my way and I pulled off the highway and walked across the road to set up for a picture.

San Joaquin 714 near Elmo. I got back in the car and headed north.

A few miles behind Amtrak came BNSF 4437 East. Back in the car and at Sandini was another train in the siding. I crossed at the grade crossing there and parked.

BNSF 8058 East in the siding at Sandrini. That was it for the trains. I drove north on CA 43 to a Valero Gas Station and filled up the car with gas. I then drove to Selma and stopped at a Carl's Jr for dinner. Back on the CA 99 it was first an accident at Selma then another one at Merced. The rest of the trip to Stockton was uneventful. I checked into the Clarion Inn and relaxed. I watched some TV before it became time to go and pick up Chris Parker. I drove to the ACE Station where the train stops in the middle of the street. I parked on the street across from the station and waited for Chris to arrive on San Joaquin 703.

The former Southern Pacific Stockton Station now used by the ACE Commuter Trains.

Right on time San Joaquin 703 arrived into Stockton and I found Chris among the passengers who had gotten off of the train. Chris had ridden in a car that felt like an ice box and everyone had to put of sweaters and jackets just to ride in it. The crew did nothing when passengers complained. We drove back to the Clarion Inn for the night.

10/18/2014 About 6:15 AM we checked out of the Clarion Inn and started the drive on CA Highway 88 to Ione. We took CA 124 into Ione and were surpised to find a surprise in their park in Ione.

Amador Central 2-6-2 7 Iron Ivan at Police Department Park in Ione.

Amador Foothills S-12 10 in Ione.

The former Southern Pacific station in Ione has been moved to this new location. We parked the car and waited. We walked both sides of the streets in Ione and then went into the Coffee Shop to wait for Maureen. She showed up and I gave her one of my Chris Guenzler 2015 Railroad Calendars. We then decided to go to the Ione Cafe for breakfast where I ate French Toast and sausage links. We had a great talk with Maureen and it was good to see her. It was her Science experiment when I worked with her at McFadden that led me to getting sober and saving my life and all the great things that has happened to me since. We said our goodbyes as she had an appointment to get to and we went down to where our speeder trip would be leaving from.

A brief history

The Amador Central Railroad (reporting mark AMC) is a standard gauge railroad that operated 11.8 miles between a connection with the Southern Pacific Company (SP) at Ione and Martell near the town of Jackson, California. The carrier served the Sierra Nevada Foothills gold mining communities and hauled lumber products from the El Dorado National Forest. Amador is the name of the county in which the railroad operated.

The Amador Central traces its history back to the Ione & Eastern Railroad. In 1902, the Ione & Eastern proposed to build a 14-mile line from Ione to Sutter Creek and then an additional 13 miles to Volcano, California. The Ione & Eastern only completed a line to Sunnybrook. The railroad survived a few short years and filed bankruptcy then sold in 1904 and renamed the Amador Central Railroad. The line continued to Martell, CA and the first train pulled into Martell later that same year. On March 5, 1902 Ione & Eastern Railroad incorporated. On April 10, 1902 grading commenced. On June 20, 1902 laying rails commences. Then on November 15, 1902 the first trains operates to Sunnybrook Milepost 5.0. On May 12, 1903 Ione & Eastern Railroad, filed bankruptcy followed by on June 15, 1904 Amador Central was incorporated, and continued track work towards Martell, CA. On November 22, 1904 the first train operates into Martell, CA. Years later, on July 12, 1942 the last Passenger train departed Martell, CA. January 1, 1943 the AMC was leased by Winton Lumber Company then on June 22, 1964 AMC purchased by American Forest Products followed by on June 1988 the AMC was acquired by Georgia-Pacific. Finally on March 28, 1997 AMC's owner, Georgia-Pacific, was acquired Sierra Pacific Industries and last freight train runs. Then on August 10, 1997 Georgia Pacific sells AMC to Sierra Railroad, in Oakdale for 1.5 million dollars. That was followed by the September 13, 1998 Sierra Railroad transfers of ownership of AMC to Sierra Pacific Industries. On 1998 Sierra Pacific Industries leases the AMC to Ampine a division of Sierra Pine. Ampine reopens line and renames AMC the Amador Foothills Railroad. Then on June 7, 2004 the last train on the Amador Foothills Railroad operated. The AMC ran from the terminus of SP's Ione Branch at Ione to Martell.

As of October, 2009, all track north and east of the Martell grade crossing of California Highway 88 has been taken up (about 1.5 miles), along with most of the ties and ballast. The main depot in Martell is abandoned and being allowed to deteriorate as it awaits demolition. The nearby locomotive shop shed is being used for storage and automotive repair. Trackage, crossings and warning systems remain in place from Ione to the Martell Hwy 88 grade crossing, 9.5 miles of rail line. The line is leased, maintained and used by a group of rail enthusiasts, who own and operate railcar speeders on this stretch of scenic track. An industrial / business park has been laid out in the area just northeast of the Hwy 88 crossing, with underground utilities laid and streets paved, but it remains largely undeveloped. The park is named after the railroad and the streets have related names, such as "Locomotive Lane" and "Boxcar Blvd."

On October 27, 2010 the Amador Central/Amador Foothills Railroad was officially transferred from Sierra Pacific Industries to both the Amador County Historical Society (ACHS) and Recreational Railroad Coalition Inc. (RRCI) jointly at a ceremony in front of the historic 1877-built Southern Pacific Depot in Ione. The historical society bought the railroad for a stunning one dollar. The groups have met to form a Railroad Management Committee appointing Grant Vogel was unanimously voted to be the Roadmaster and Tom Correa will serve as the deputy Roadmaster. The combined board of directors of both organizations have resurrected the Ione RailFair over the Memorial Day weekend, May 24-25, 2014.

Our Trip

We met at this table, signed releases and then was told who we would be riding with. Later we picked up our tickets for our trip today.

We met Fred Dunn and this would be the speeder Chris and I would be riding today. We had an excellent talk with Fred that helped pass the waiting time for our trip to start.

The History Tour Map of the Amador Central Railroad.

My ticket for my trip on the Amador Central Railroad today.

Our future route that will led us up the Amador Central Railroad.

The rest of the speeders then arrived and everyone then met their operators for today's trip on the Amador Central Railroad.

We had a trip safety meeting led by Grant Vogel and then a history talk by Deborah Coleen Cook. I called Lets Talk Trains as I waited for our trip to begin.

The Speeders used for today's trip

These were the speeders used to take the passengers on our trip today.

Fred Dunn who would take Chris and I on his speeder on this unique trip on the Amador Central.

We next started our trip leaving Ione.

We crossed the first of the many cattle guards on this trip.

We went up the east leg of the Ione wye.

The west leg of the Ione Wye where the speeders were put on the rails earlier today.

We crossed the Ione wye switch.

We had only one speeder behind us on our trip today.

Heading east on the Amador Central.

The Red Flag is put out when you close in on another speeder in front of you. We then put out our Red Flag so the speeder behind us would know that we were closing in on a speeder in front of us.

We ran through another cattle guard as we neared the CA Highway 124 crossing.

We had flagman at all the road crossings we would be crossing today like here at the CA Highway 124 crossing.

The speeders then took the next curve before they separated as we headed up the Amador Central Railroad.

Heading up a piece of straight track, a rare thing on this railroad.

We took this curve.

Then we saw a Red Flag as we made our way to our first history stop of the trip. The speeders all stopped and we were led up a trail to the viewpoint overlooking the Newman Clay Mine.

The Newman Clay Mine.

Our group listening to the history at the Newman Clay Mine.

Views of the speeders at the Newman Clay Mine.

We left the Newman Clay Mine and continued east.

Views along the way as we made our way towards the CA Highway 104 grade crossing.

The Red Flags were out again as we closed in on that grade crossing.

Our speeders crossed the CA Highway 104 grade crossing.

Our speeder went by Milepost 2. We came to our next history stop at the old Newman's siding. Here we all got off for another history talk.

The old loading dock for train cars at the old Newman's siding.

Our group listening to the history talk given here. On the way back to the speeders we found an old tie in the ground.

We left the old Newman's siding.

Heading east on a beautiful Fall morning in the Sierra Nevada Foothills.

The Red Flags were up as we came to our first SAWG crossing of the day. Here we had to Stop, Wait and go if the crossing is clear.

Back on the move again after the SAWG crossing.

Chris Parker enjoying himself on the speeder trip on the Amador Central Railroad.

We went over another cattle guard on this trip.

Rolling up the track heading east.

Another Red Flag meant another SWAG crossing to get through. We made our next History Stop at the Fill Site. There once was a high trestle here that was later filled in.

The view from the fill.

I walked back to that last SAWG to get a picture of this sign. True or False "You are crossing a piece of History. This railroad has the steepest climb in the United States". The answer, "False".

The speeders at the Fill Site.

Looking down off of the fill.

The History Talk at the Fill Site.

Leaving the Fill Site for points east on this railroad.

We went over another cattle guard.

Our speeders took the next curve.

CA Highway 88 came into view below us on the right.

Our speeder is about to cross the bridge over CA Highway 88.

A car passing below us on CA Highway 88.

The speeders taking the curve above the CA Highway 88 bridge.

Looking back at the CA Highway 88 bridge.

A cow was getting a little too close to our route.

Still climbing the grade.

Our car behind us has his Red Flag out.

The speeders went through this cut in the shade.

Click Here for Part 2 of this story!