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Amtraking home from Minot!

by Chris Guenzler

Empire Builder 7 7/11/2004

I was up early to begin starting my trip home. I had a wonderful French Toast and Bacon breakfast served by Rosemary from Malta, Mt. I relaxed before taking the shuttle van down to the Minot Amtrak Station. I checked in with Amtrak learning my Empire Builder was not due into Minot until 9:15 AM.

To kill time I photographed my last CP Rail train of the trip going away at Soo Tower and a BNSF westbound in front of the station. Bob Douglas who had been on the Canadian Pacific 2816 trip for all four days came down to say goodbye and we talked while I waited.

The train arrived at 9:15 AM and George Oslin was my Sleeping Car Attendant. This Empire Builder had P42DC 178 and 167, Baggage 1212, Transition 39018, Sleepers 32006 and 32084 Kansas, Diner 38025, Coaches 34055 and 31523 {ex Smoker}, Lounge 33011, Coaches 35006 and 34088 and Sleeper 32065. The Builder left Minot at 9:36 AM {9:06AM} and I visited Bob in the lounge car until after we crossed the Gassman Trestle where I returned to my Room 11 in the Kansas to listen to music. The Builder took me to Stanley and then onto Williston where I detrained for a picture of Great Northern 2-8-2 3059 on display there. I switched my watch from Central Time to Mountain Time and realized that later when I switch it to Pacific Time tonight I will be living a 26 hour day. The Builder skirted a major thunderstorm cell complex as it passed Fort Union and entered Montana. The Builder went into the siding at Blair for fifteen minutes to wait for a BNSF Intermodal train. At noon I enjoyed a Angus Beef Burger with an Ice Cream Sundae as we made our Wolf Point, Montana stop. We returned to the Montana big clear skies as I relaxed as we headed west. We stopped at Malta {Hello from Rosemary} then went into the siding at Dodson where we met the eastbound Empire Builder. We returned to the dark cloudy skies as we approached Havre. It began to rain as we stopped to refuel the engines before we pulled into the station. I shot a picture of Great Northern 4-8-4 2584 then one of our train before going inside the station for my usual Havre Ice Cream Sandwich. I got back to my sleeper and took the time to wash my windows. I then got to witness "Hail in Havre" which sent everyone back into the train and our engineer in the door with me. We departed Havre at 4:10 PM {3:04 PM}.

Bob and I talked in my room as the rain ended until they called us into dinner at 5 PM. We joined a couple from Virginia who told us a lot about Norte Dame. I enjoyed a T-Bone and an Ice Cream Sundae off of Menu 4. Back in my room the Continental Divide on the Rocky Mountains stood out on the western horizon across the plains.

We slowly crossed the Two Medicine Bridge as it was under going deck replacement and pulled into East Glacier. The Builder made the late afternoon climb over Marias Pass before it made the descent down the west slope. We made our way to Essex where we picked up some people who had stayed at the Izaak Walton Inn. I went peak hunting which is what I call trying to get a good clear shot of those beautiful peaks of Glacier National Park.

I enjoyed all this beauty all the way to West Glacier where I made my bed and called it a night.

7/12/2004 I awoke along the Columbia River just short of Wenatchee and went to the Dining Car for a French Toast and Sausage breakfast at 5:30 AM. After stopping at Wenatchee we started climbing the Cascade Mountains on a beautiful clear sunny morning. The Builder entered the 7.79 mile long Cascade Tunnel under Stevens Pass and enjoyed total darkness except for the 22 safety lights spread out evenly inside the length of the tunnel. We exited at Scenic to a waiting BNSF freight waiting in the siding there before starting down the 2.2% grade to Skykomish. We all enjoyed the beautiful Mt Index through the trees after we had passed through Skykomish on this beautiful clear Cascade morning. At Gold Bar a BNSF stack train was tucked away in the siding for our passage. Below Mt Ranier could be seen 100 miles away to the south. The peak of Mt Olympus on the Olympic Peninsula could be seen above the hills to the west as we rolled through Snokomish. We proceeded to Everett and once Cascade Talgo 510 had left we pulled in for the final fresh air stop of this trip on the Empire Builder. After exiting the tunnel under downtown Everett we passed the BNSF Station former Amtrak stop and started our shore running along the Puget Sound. We ran south along the Sound to Edmonds and the Ballard Locks. We made our way to Interbay Yard before we stopped at MP 2 between two BNSF trains. The Empire Builder finished the run along the Seattle Waterfront before plunging into the Seattle Downtown Tunnel to King Street station which we passed before backing into it at 9:56 AM or 24 minutes early to end my last trip on the Empire Builder. Thank you BNSF for all the excellent train handling you did on all my trips on your rails.

Seattle 2 7/12/2004

I went to 5th and Jackson Street to find the Waterfront Streetcar crew at rest. There was a Kinkos next door so I checked my e-mail before boarding Car 482 for the trip to Bell Street. After taking two elevators to reach street level, I hiked the six blocks over the hill to the King's Inn. I stored my luggage since my room was not ready yet and went to the Pacific Place AMC Theater to see "Spiderman II" which I enjoyed. I relaxed back in the room for a while before going to Ralphs for some chicken and Camera West for some more film as you never know what I might see on the way home. I walked back down to the Waterfront getting there about 4:30 PM knowing I had the Empire Builder, Sounder and a Cascade Talgo all within the next ninety minutes plus whatever the BNSF might send my way.

First came the Empire Builder, the same one I had rode on this morning, with a different crew and new passengers as well.

The Trolley showed up the same time the Sounder to Everett came running by my location.

The Talgo Cascade 516 snuck up on me so I got only the going away shot. I walked back to Bell Street and got up on the Walkway. First a BNSF power set pulled in followed by a BNSF stack train. I returned to the hotel to rest up for my final long distance train of this trip.

7/13/2004 Following a great night of rest in the final hotel room of the trip, I had my usual McDonalds breakfast before checking out and walking back to the Bell Street station on the Waterfront Streetcar Line. After I held the elevator door for a beautiful young lady so she would not miss her 7:30 AM Conference Call, the southbound Sounder from Everett showed up right on time.

I went to the Wall Street grade crossing to wait for the Cascade Talgo 510 to show up on a very cloudy dark day. I walked back to Bell street and a BNSF stack train showed up heading south. Trolley 512 picked me up taking me back to 5th and Jackson. I visited Kinkos again to check my E-mail.

Out on Jackson an Electric Bus rolled by my location in front of Seattle Union Station.

I visited the inside of Union Station viewing the beautifully restored interior. From there I walked back to King Street Station via the skywalk and elevator over the station tracks as the Seattle sky tried to rain.

Coast Starlight 11 7/13/2004

My ticket was taken at 9:11 AM and I continued to relax until boarding time with me in the 1130 Car room 2. They announced that there would be no Sunset Limited connection due to bridge problems on that route. They would try to put connecting passengers on the eastbound Empire Builder tonight or on some other route {CZ of Southwest Chief}. About 9:30 AM they let the sleeping passengers walk out to the train. When I saw it I knew something was missing. See if you can spot it? P42DC 116 and 118, Baggage 1211, Transition 39022, Sleepers 32082 Indiana, 32013 Ohio, 32109 South Dakota {mine}, Diner 38059, Lounge 33030, Coaches 34030, 34515 {Kiddie}, 34113 and 31014. I found it funny that I was riding in the South Dakota, a state with no Amtrak service, on an Amtrak train set with no Parlour Car. With no Sunset Connection would I make my Surfliner connection? My Sleeping Car Attendant is Joy Cortez and the Coast Starlight left Seattle on time.

We rolled south with a good but hazy view of Mt Rainer and made our way to Tacoma. Tacoma Union Station is being surrounded by buildings and we passed the grain elevators along the harbor.

After passing through the pair of tunnels, the Tacoma Narrows Bridge came into view as we were passed by northbound Cascade Talgo 500. I enjoyed a Angus Beef Burger and Sundae with a couple moving from England to Australia and a person from the Bay Area who flew to Seattle and was riding home.

The Starlight rolled through the tunnel with the Columbia and Cowlitz Railroad bridge that has never had a train on it in all the times that I have run by it. We ran to Longview-Kelso before racing the miles to Vancouver.

After our station stop at Vancouver we crossed the Columbia River into Oregon. A UP freight was waiting at North Portland. We made our way into Portland Union Station twenty minutes early. Thank you BNSF for all the excellent handling of my trains on this entire trip. It was extremely warm and after getting some Hot Tamales from inside the station, I washed four lower window pairs for my fellow passengers so they could have a much clearer view.

We sat waiting for a green signal for seven minutes making us late out of Portland and then the train crossed the Willamette River on the Steel Bridge. We came to a stop at Clackamus siding starting the delays with the UP with a 8 minutes delay waiting for a Hi-rail truck. More slow orders and at Woodburn a cut of freight cars kept me from getting a good clean shot of the SP steam engine on display there. Next trip maybe! We left Salem eighteen minutes late and then the slow order for the Interstate 5 bridge construction. South of Albany the UP had all their freights in the siding out of our way and I learned that Amtrak 14 was over three hours late. We pulled into Eugene and I stepped off to a very hot day with a red signal. The northbound Starlight came into Eugene at 5:38 PM {1:00 PM} and we left thirty minutes late. My two table mates for dinner were on the Mississippi Queen and told me the tales of their trip which was fascinating. We reached Lookout Point Reservoir and at Minnow we went into the siding for the UP 4571 East. I enjoyed a New York Strip and Sundae.

Later I finally got a good picture of the covered bridge that had always escaped me. As the Starlight climbed to Cascade Summit the purple and white wildflowers were spectacular. I spotted the ever pleasant Patty who was working the Coaches and I know she was doing her usual excellent job. The late afternoon sun made our trip over Cascade Summit even more spectacular than normal. At Abernathy we went around the UP 5849 West who was holding the mainline. Joy, our excellent attendant, brought around warmed Chocolate Chip Cookies to all the sleeping car passengers. No Parlour Car but Joy provided Superior Service. I was tried so I turned in before Chemult. We arrived at Klamath Falls early and departed on time into the night.

7/14/2004 I woke up in the Sacramento Valley in California just south of Chico ready for to relax for my final day on the train with us running one hour twenty minutes late. The Sutter Buttes stood out in the bright morning sun before we took the old Western Pacific down to Sacramento. We came to a short stop at Pleasant Grove for a eastbound UP freight to clear the mainline. Our train proceeded to Haggin where we turned west onto the Cal P into Sacramento arriving at 7:32 AM. I picked up a USA Today and saw my brother Bruce before we departed Sac at 7:55 AM {6:35 AM} on this bright sunny July morning we made our way to Davis then Martinez where we did an extended fresh air stop which we departed at 9:00 AM {7:34 AM}. We made our way to Emeryville and Oakland but had some slow running as we made our way to San Jose 11:35 AM {10:07 AM} which was another extended fresh air stop. The biggest change in scenery from my last visit is that the hills are golden brown instead of that fantastic green. We made our way through the Pajaro Gap and I had Joy bring me a dessert for lunch as I was not that hungry. I had the Delicious Chocolate Cake and Ice Cream as we went through the Moss Landing Wetlands.

The Starlight kept rolling south into the Salinas Valley into Salinas where the SP 0-6-0 1237 was in primer brown to be painted into black tomorrow and lettered in two weeks. We departed Salinas at 1:05 PM {11:48 AM} and headed up the Salinas Valley. At Soledad we had to align both siding switches as we continued south. What an ancient piece of mainline trackage in the year 2004. I took a walk to the back of the train as the Coast Starlight passed through the Bradley Area of the Salinas Valley as we rolled off the miles to Paso Robles 3:07 PM {1:38 PM} losing time as we had lost 18 more minutes in getting there. Not bad considering some of my trips! We ran with no further delays to Santa Margarita before we went through the summit tunnel and started down Cuesta Grade to Chorro where we held the main for the northbound Coast Starlight which passed on time. Good luck to you my sister train!

We rounded the Horseshoe Curve and crossed the Steener Viaduct into San Luis Obispo.

We left SLO at 4:25 PM {3:20 PM} with two ex Trona units in helper service and we headed out of town. I had the lone 5:15 PM Dinner reservation and was joined by a couple from Pittsburgh. I enjoyed a T-Bone and final sundae with a family across the aisle picking my brains about Amtrak. I went to an empty ocean side room to enjoy the view to Santa Barbara. I will have to check the last time I got the coastal views on a southbound Coast Starlight? I did get that rare morning view on the southbound "Detouring of the Highland and Feather River" story.

It was sure beautiful in this afternoon light. We rounded Point Conception and headed east along a calm Santa Barbara Channel. We passed Surfliner 775 at Gaviota surrounded by fire damage nature and stopped briefly for our last Track Warrant on into Santa Barbara. At Goleta we flew by my ride home Surfliner 796 at 79 MPH ready to follow us into Los Angeles. We made the final fresh air stop at Santa Barbara leaving there in the late afternoon daylight at 6:55 PM {6:17 PM}. I enjoyed the ocean to Ventura and we quickly sprinted to Oxnard. At Camarillo we ran down the siding to let Metrolink 119 run by us on the mainline. Jan who I had dinner with last night showed me her "Steamboats across America" T-shirt and I showed her my "Grand Excursion 2004" T-shirt. I learned that of all the boats I saw on the Mississippi River that only the Mississippi Queen, Delta Queen and Juiles Swain are true steam boats. At Chatsworth we went into the siding and waited for Bob on a late Surfliner 785 that he was working. We made a post sunset run across the San Fernando Valley to Glendale. Joy let me call home as the train ran the final miles to LAUPT arriving right on time at 9:00 PM. I like to thank the BNSF, Union Pacific and Metrolink for the excellent job on getting us into Los Angeles on time on this segment. Now all I had to do was wait for 796 to arrive into LAUPT and I stayed up on the platform in the nice cool night air.

Surfliner 796 7/14/2004

Surfliner 796 pulled into LAUPT right on time and the ever Beautiful Conductor Mishi welcomed me to Pacific Business Class with me settling in for the trip home to Santa Ana. We departed LAUPT right on time and Mishi took my ticket. I watched most of the "West Wing" then "Friends" followed by "According to Jim" as the train sped to Fullerton, Anaheim and into Santa Ana three minutes early ending another grand adventure on Amtrak, Metra, the Milwaukee Road 261, Kenosha Transit and Canadian Pacific 2816. My mom picked me up and it was good to be home until my next trip.