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Home from La Plata via the California Zephyr and San Joaquin Trains

by Chris Guenzler

7/4/2015 After a restful stay at the Depot Inn & Suites, I packed up in the Pullman Suite before checking out and was driven to the La Plata Amtrak station where I waited for the eastbound Southwest Chief. I would be going east to Galesburg in coach and lay over there until the California Zephyr to Sacramento in a sleeping car. After a night at the Vagabond Inn, I would take San Joaquin 702 to Bakersfield, a bus to LAUPT then a Pacific Surfliner home to Santa Ana. My train was scheduled for 11:18 AM but when I called, it was now 11:48 AM. There was no one at the station this morning so I moved my luggage into the shade and waited, hoping for a few freight trains on this 4th of July.

The BNSF mainline at La Plata.

Union Pacific 4225 East with KCS 3929 in the motive power consist.

BNSF 7489 West came through and with that, the Amtrak train gained five minutes and would arrive at 11:42 AM. We heard a horn and I knew my wait was over.

The Southwest Chief 4 7/4/2015

I boarded the Southwest Chief for the two-stop, two-state trip to Galesburg. I had an aisle seat but did not mind since I was only using this train to get to the California Zephyr. So I just sat, did Sudoku puzzles and talked with my neighbor when awoke. He had been on the train from Los Angeles going to Chicago for a family reunion. The trip to Fort Madison was quick, as was the trip to Galesburg where I detrained and went around the construction zone to get to the station.

Galesburg 7/4/2015.

I finished the Tide Trip story then accessed the Internet with the free wifi but it would not let me upload my pictures and stories. After that I went outside, took a luggage cart and rolled it out to the gate by the track to wait for my now hour late California Zephyr, sitting on the luggage cart and hoping for some trains.

Indiana Railroad SD60 6011, nee SOO Line 6011 built by Electro-Motive Division in 1987.

BNSF 5066 East ran east.

BNSF 6805 East headed out of Galesburg.

BNSF 1848 East was the next train east. I looked down the tracks and saw my train coming so returned to the line at the gate.

California Zephyr 5 7/4/2015

I was in the left line by myself and after the conductor scanned my ticket, I used the cart to get my luggage to the 632 car and my sleeping car attendant Debbie helped me load my stuff on the train. I boarded this train in the 632 car and had room 6. This train had a consisit of Amtrak engines 131 and 112, baggage 1717, transition 39017, coaches 31017 (wrapped San Francisco Cable Car), 34002 and 34062, lounge 33038, dining car 38039 and sleepers 32031, 32064 and 32016. I settled into my room then Debbie came and told me to go the dining car and see Grace. I did and was seated at a table having the flat iron steak which was excellent, with ice cream for dessert. Now sit back, relax and ride the California Zephyr across Illinois and Iowa until dark.

The trip into Iowa. I finished the Norfolk Southern Museum story as I travelled across Iowa then watched the DVD of "Ronnie James Dio Holy Diver Live" before making my bed and calling it a night.

7/5/2015 I was up at 5:15 AM MDT and rode the lounge car across the high plains of Colorado until 6:00 AM when the dining car opened. I had the new French Toast and sausage patties which was excellent and so much better than the other French Toast Amtrak used to serve. Now sit back, relax and enjoy the trip to Denver Union Station.

The trip into Denver Union Station. I detrained for some pictures.

The San Francisco Cable Car coach.

The future electric railroad commuter service and airport route due to open in August 2016 after the NRHS convention in Denver.

You can still see Denver Union Station. The train departed here two hours late and we would be riding in the Rocky Mountains all day. Now sit back and enjoy a ride up to the Moffat Tunnel.

We met Union Pacific 8169 at Leyden. The head-end power then went out and we stopped, the engine crew walked back to the second locomotive and managed to get it restarted. We moved up to Rocky where the engine crew wanted a more level location and they checked it again. We took off again then the dispatcher called about weather-related slow orders we would have to go through on our way to Glenwood Springs. It could be a long trip.

The trip from Denver to the Moffat Tunnel on the former Denver Rio Grande Western Railroad "Through the Rockies not around them!"

Click here for Part 2 of this story!