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Back to the New River Gorge

by Chris Guenzler

Once I got back to work in January, I started thinking of a Spring Break Trip for 2005. I really wanted a unique trip so I had to put a little bit of thought into it. Thinking after looking at my Tribute to Amtrak on my homepage, I realized that I had no picture of the Cardinal so a trip on that train might be in order. Now which way? Go west you get a twilight view of the New River Gorge and scenic Indiana the next morning. Eastbound you get to sleep through Indiana and wake up the next morning for the Ohio River then later the New River Gorge in mid day light. Which would you chose? Now to get to Chicago it would be the Southwest Chief. From New York west I choose the Lake Shore Limited and then the Texas Eagle. One night would be required in New York City if I could do this routing. I went to the Santa Ana Amtrak Station early before one of my trips to Solana Beach and Marty, my excellent nighttime Amtrak Agent, booked me in coach at a very low round trip fare. I took 784 to Solana Beach and paid for the coach fare before Karen, my excellent Amtrak Agent there, booked me into sleeping cars for all segments. I paid for the room on the Cardinal before heading home. Ten days later, at Fullerton before our new Train Travel Meeting, the fantastic Amtrak Agent Manuel Guerra, let me pay for the room on the Southwest Chief. Next, I booked my hotel room for that one night at the Herald Square Hotel in New York City four blocks from Penn Station.

Surfliner 583 3/24/2005

After working another tough but interesting day {I could write a book about this year at work} at McFadden, I drove home a free man to pack and get ready for this rail adventure that I had been dreaming of. My Mother drove me down to the Santa Ana Train Station. After Metrolink train 686 to Irvine came, Surfliner 583 came into Santa Ana in the now normal push mode. Leading this train was Surfliner Cab Car 6951, Pacific Business Class 6800 {used as a coach}, Coach 6410 and 6405, Cafe/Coach 6305, Pacific Business Class 6851 Balboa Park with engine 460. We departed north only to CP Lincoln. While waiting for Surfliner 582, I got to enjoy the bumper to bumper traffic on the northbound Interstate 5.

A few minutes later, I photographed the still flowing Santa Ana River. This years near record rainfall has kept the waters flowing more days than normal. Usually, in normal years, the Santa Ana River is a dry river bed. We stopped at Anaheim and Fullerton before we headed to a stormy Los Angeles. One of the Metrolink Trains using the Sounder leased equipment from Seattle arrived into LAUPT the same time we did. They announced that passengers going on the Southwest Chief should go straight to Track 12 where the train would be backing in for you in a few minutes. You all know I did just that!

Southwest Chief 4 3/24/2005

As I walked up to Track 12, the Southwest Chief was backing in. Our train to Chicago had at this point engines 153, 46 and 505, Baggage 1213, Transition 39007, Sleepers 32074 Colorado and 32034, Diner 38050, Lounge 33011 with Coaches 34001, 31502 and 31041. I was greeted at the door of Sleeper Car 32034 by my attendant Cassandra who directed me to Room 5. After setting up my room it was time for some Coca-Cola along with the Rush CD "Roll the Bones". The song "Dreamline" was a perfect choice with the line "We are only at home on the run!" Ken Ruben, the official caller of Let's Talk Trains, that Internet Radio Show on Saturday mornings 10-12 AM Pacific Time or 24/7 in the achieves, stopped by to see me off on this rail journey. The Southwest Chief pulled forward at departure time before the train backed up to pick up Express Track Cars 74064, 74041, 74082, 74039 and 74109 before the train headed to Fullerton. I went to the Dining Car finding Menu 4 on the table. Our Dining Car Steward was the always excellent Ken Levinson. Seated with me were Reinhard and Debbie going to Flagstaff then on to Phoenix and Dave heading home to Connecticut via the Lakeshore Limited. I had the T-Bone Steak and a Chocolate Sundae along with great table conversation. I returned to my room and relaxed as the train sat in Riverside with a problem with one of the rear cars. On the move again, I made up my bed and called it a night very happy to be back aboard the Southwest Chief.

3/25/2005 I woke up to the snowy landscape of the Arizona Divide. I enjoyed breakfast with Mario heading home to Washington DC on the Capitol Limited. When he found out that I was going on the Cardinal and through the New River Gorge he wished that he would have booked his trip that way. The French Toast and Sausage really hit the spot before we pulled into Flagstaff. My ex Surfliner Conductor John Kennedy saw me and said he would stop by later for a visit. Leaving Flagstaff an hour late, I put on Jeff Beck CD "Who Else" and sat back enjoying the ever changing views on an extremely overcast morning as the train sped east. Aerosmith's "Just Push Play" just got started as about 14 miles west of Winslow the train crawled along coming to an extended stop about 6 miles from town due to freight train interference.

The train came to a stop at the red signal 2901 which is an eastbound approach for West Winslow. We waited for the BNSF 5515 West before we crossed over and pulled into Winslow. Total delay from Flagstaff 40 minutes. Glen Hughes formerly of Deep Purple CD "Glen Hughes Addiction" was now enjoyed as the Southwest Chief sped towards New Mexico. Conductor John stopped by for a very pleasant visit and we caught up on things.

The train entered New Mexico and on into Gallup. From an ELP Box Seat of live recordings I listened to "The Stratasphere vs the Spectre" live from Gaelic Park, NY 1/9/71". Several of my readers asked if on my next long trip I would tell you all what I listened and when.

There are many views of the Red Mesas of New Mexico before we crossed over to the South Track. We passed three eastbound BNSF freights before we crossed back over to the North Track at Gonzalez. I went to the lounge car for one of my large Chocolate Chip Cookies and there was the ever smiling Shirley Robinson.

After PEGS, another beautiful New Mexico vista.

The train met a BNSF freight at speed just west of Dalies.

We reached Albuquerque and I visited Cheryl's Bus for more Coca-Cola.

BNSF 8066 adds Express Trak 74030 to the rear of the Southwest Chief. Next they cut the Express Trak Cars off the rear to remove the 74064. Meanwhile our power cut off to retrieve the Sleeping Car 39037 which they picked up off the other mainline then tucked into our train in front of the Baggage Car. Next our three engines were refueled and we finally departed Albuquerque at 2:35 PM {1:10 PM} with me listening to Ozzy Osbourne "Down to Earth". I enjoyed watching the stormy skies as we headed north towards Lamy. At Nueva we held the mainline to wait for the westbound Southwest Chief Train 3 with no Express Trak Cars on the rear. I switched to Yes "Key of Ascension", the new tracks from both CD sets K of A 1 & 2. While our crew relined the switch, a good thunderstorm complete with small hail occurred. We left Lamy at 4:00 PM {2:16 PM} then climbed through Apache Canyon and onto Glorieta Pass where it was snowing.

At the summit of Glorieta Pass the old Santa Fe Station now a US Post Office. We descended the east slope down to the Pecos River.

Later the Southwest Chief climbed the "S" curves at Chapelle. I had a 5 PM Dinner Reservation with Marie along with Carrie and Jade all heading to Chicago. The dinner conversation was about Amtrak, the lack of funding, the history of Amtrak and a few stories of mine thrown in for good measure. I repeated last night's dinner with very fine success. As night took hold, I listened to Jethro Tull "Nothing is Easy" which took me all the way to a snowy Raton. We left Raton at 7:20 PM {5:44 PM} after some of our sleeping car passengers had an impromptu snow ball fight. The train climbed Raton Pass and entered Colorado where I called it a night.

3/26/2005 Following another fantastic night of sleep, I woke up in eastern Kansas along the Kansas River on a mostly cloudy morning. The train sped east with Shirley starting my day off right with a cup of tea while I sat in the lounge car waiting for breakfast. We stopped at Lawrence departing there at 6:48 AM {5:36 AM} before streaking towards Kansas City. I went to the Dining Car for another French Toast and Sausage breakfast. While I was eating we stopped at the Argentine Yard Fuel Pads to refuel all three of our engines. They announced that the Ann Rutledge for St Louis and Chicago would be holding for our train. The new BNSF flyover was really impressive and we pulled into Kansas City at 7:50 AM.

The Ann Rutledge with engine 38, Business/Cafe 48177 and Coaches 54512, 54555 and 54578 which departed at 8:00 AM.

A Kansas City Southern F7A 34 is displayed at Kansas City Union Station. Our train departed Kansas City at 8:13 AM {7:30 AM}. My listening pleasure for this morning was Led Zeppelin "BBC sessions" CD Set. Our train ran along the south bank of the Missouri River to Silbey where we crossed the river.

The train crossed the single track Missouri River Bridge. Later this morning we did a double stop at La Plata. I took an interesting shower with a fluctuating water temperature. Our Southwest Chief sped across northeast Missouri into very southeast Iowa where we proceeded to Fort Madison.

During the fresh air stop at Fort Madison I toured the station there.

We left Fort Madison at 11:45 AM {10:52 AM}. The Santa Fe 4-8-4 2919 is on display at Fort Madison.

The Southwest Chief crossed the Mississippi River into Illinois. Jethro Tull "Supercharged through Los Angeles" was my next musical choice. At Cameroon we left the old Santa Fe rails for those of the old CB&Q and on into Galesburg at 12:52 PM {11:48 AM}. The Southwest Chief made its way to Princeton leaving there at 1:42 PM {12:40 PM} once an empty BNSF coal train cleared the station. We had sunshine for the first time since Albuquerque.

At the junction with the BNSF line to the Pacific Northwest at West Aurora there was a colorful BNSF freight.

At Aurora a Metra Train waited for its departure back to Chicago.

Most of the Metra Fleet resting for the weekend. We did Naperville at 2:58 PM {1:51 PM} the same time the westbound California Zephyr arrived into the station. A special thank you to Cassandra, my wonderful Sleeping Car Attendant. Ken and his superior dining car staff, Shirley the ever happy lounge attendant and all the train crews including John for the safe trip Los Angeles to Chicago. It was a most relaxing journey. The westbound Southwest Chief zoomed by us at Western Avenue. Surfliner Cab Car 6906 was at the Amtrak yard. We pulled straight into Chicago Union Station at 3:24 PM {3:20 PM}.

Chicago 3/26/2005

I checked my bags into the new and improved Chicago Metropolitan Lounge and noticed that the westbound Cardinal was not due into Chicago Union Station until 5:30 PM. Would this be my train or would Chicago make up a new trainset? I went to Gold Coast for a pair of Char Dogs, fries and a root beer. Anytime I am at Chicago Union Station I will always visit Gold Coast as their Char Dogs are one of my traditions that I truly love. I walked across the street to Walgreens to get an umbrella and shampoo. On the way back to the station I stopped by the newsstand in the Grand Hall for a new "Word Fill In" puzzle book. With nothing but time to kill, I walked to the South Shore Station as Ken wanted me to pick up some schedules.

I checked the status of the Cardinal and realized that I could get a picture of it coming in if I hurried to Roosevelt Road but did not make it all the way to the bridge before it came backing in. That is the North Star on the rear and little did I know it but I would see that car on another train later on during this trip. A Metra Train came in and left.

The Capitol Limited departed with two private cars on the rear end. The power off my Southwest Chief came out of the station towards the shops.

The Illinois Zephyr left Chicago just as the Empire Builder set was heading to the wye before going into the yard. I really enjoyed my time watching trains on the Roosevelt Road Bridge but it was a lot cooler than last June. I walked back to Union Station stopping off for more Coca-Cola before I returned to the lounge to reclaim my bags. Word Fill Ins were done before they were going to call my train. The Station Monitor started to read "7:45 PM 50 Cardinal New York Delayed **Servicing Equipment ETA 30 Minutes**. So that late train I took a picture of would be in fact my train. Kiss "Psycho Circus" was my delay music before I watched some NCAA Playoff Basketball with Arizona beating Illinois when they called my train.

The Cardinal 50 3/26/2005

At 7:35 PM we were led out to the now serviced Cardinal which had engine 192, Amfleet II Coaches 25107, 25114 and 25124, Horizon Dinette 53500 and Viewliner Sleeper 62041 Summit View. I settled into Room 3 ready for another exciting rail adventure which began at 7:55 PM only ten minutes late as the City of New Orleans just started boarding. Charles, my sleeping Car Attendant, explained all the Viewliner's features to me which was a good refresher course since my last trip in one was on the way to the St Louis NRHS Convention in 2001 on the Crescent. Out into the night the Cardinal went passing a lit up Comisky Park. A few minutes later, Charles made up my bed for me before I called it a night.

3/27/2005 Happy Easter Sunday 2005 to everyone on the planet Earth {It might be a little late but it is the thought that counts!} as I went to the Dinette for a surprisingly good French Toast and Sausage as Charles made up my room. The CSX roadbed is excellent and very smooth along this route.

There was a CSX freight running east as we passed him on the double tracked mainline.

A view of the Ohio River that we have been following since we left Cincinnati early this morning. We stopped at the large CSX Russell Terminal where the Cardinal was watered and serviced. We proceeded a short distance to Ashland our next station.

The C&O lives on in Ashland on the old freight house.

I saw the bridge over the Ohio River at Ashland. I learned from Charles that yesterday's late run into Chicago was caused by a grade crossing accident that killed a mother, daughter and two dogs at Brookston, Indiana.

There are stone C&O mile markers before we crossed into West Virginia.

During the crew and fresh air stop at Huntington, I took a picture of the Cardinal.

An Alco steam engine part of the Huntington Railroad Museum equipment collection as we left town. The Cardinal passed the large yards and shops at Huntington. Shortly we left the Ohio River behind and started climbing the grade that takes us over the hill to the New River. Being that is Easter, I enjoyed a Bordeaux Easter Egg my Mother gave to me the day I left. You have heard of "Do not open until Christmas!" I did the Easter version of that as the train ran up the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains.

I rode over the well maintained CSX route that I am traveling on today. I read the Sunday New York Times as the train rolled eastward to Charleston, the state Capitol of West Virginia.

The Charleston Station is beneath the highway on ramp. Now for the trip though the New River Gorge. I wished the Mrs. Angle, that most wonderful science teacher I work with at McFadden, could someday come and see the New River Gorge. We made our stop at Montgomery running a mere ten minutes late.

The New River Gorge 3/27/2005

The New River formed during the Mesozoic Period of our Planet's History. The New River Gorge has created its own ecosystem which supports more than a thousand species of plants and over 150 different species of birds. A rugged, white water river, flowing northward through deep canyons, the New River is among the oldest rivers on the continent. Located in southern West Virginia, New River Gorge National River was established in 1978 to preserve and protect 53 miles of the New River as a free-flowing waterway. This unit of the National Park System encompasses over 70,000 acres of land along the New River between the towns of Hinton and Fayetteville. The park and the surrounding area are rich in cultural and natural history, and contains an abundance of scenic and recreational opportunities.

There is a former C&O Coaling Tower at Montgomery.

The New River.

The double track returned to single track at Mt Carbon.

Later it returned back to double track at Deepwater.

The train passed Kanawha Falls of the New River.

There are interesting rock strata across the New River and many interesting rocks along the south side of the New River.

You can see the various river level marks left in the mud along the New River Banks.

The Cardinal went through Gaul, West Virginia.

Hawks Nest.

The train passed the Hawk Nest sign post.

Just before the bridge we crossed, the mainlines split, with ours crossing the New River on this bridge while the other mainline runs across the river.

Our train rolled east through the New River Gorge.

There are many fishing cabins along the New River.

A westbound CSX Freight ran on the opposite side of the New River.

The New River Gorge Bridge spans the width of the gorge some 876 feet above the New River and is 1,700 feet long making it the world's longest steel arch bridge. It is the second highest bridge after the Royal Gorge Bridge in Colorado which is higher.

Every second Saturday in October hundreds of thrill-seekers gather here to bungee-jump off of the New River Gorge Bridge. This is the only day when it is legal to jump from the bridge. My first trip through here I did see one person bungee-jump off of the bridge and it was really impressive thing to witness.

There are many rapids in the New River Gorge.

We rolled east through the New River Gorge.

Another New River view.

The other mainline crossed the New River to join ours for the trip east.

There are ever changing views of the New River Gorge as you pass through it.

The Cardinal has reached Thurmond.

The station at Thurmond is an Amtrak Flag Stop.

More views of the New River Gorge.

The Cardinal rolled eastward towards Prince.

The Cardinal pulled into Prince but we lost our Head End Power.

The Cardinal rested at Prince with no power, as our train crew tried to solve the problem we were let off of the train for a bathroom break. Since it was not warm enough to turn on the station's water supply the bathrooms were useless. I did visit the station and picked up Cardinal Route Guides for everyone in our sleeper plus a few more for my Orange County Railroad Historical Society Brethren.

The happy Cardinal Sleeping Car passengers at Prince.

The rear of the Cardinal at Prince.

The crew working on the problem but alas they could not fix it and we would run east as a dark train. Glow sticks were passed out to all the sleeping car passengers by Charles since no one knew how long our car batteries would last. Every trip is an adventure!

I shot a picture of the Cardinal ten minutes before we left Prince.

For part 2 of this trip