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Amtraking to Tucson's Old Pueblo Trolley.

by Chris Guenzler

During Winterail Jed Smith and I talked about the possibility of taking a few Amtrak trips together. We discussed taking the Sunset Limited to Tucson to ride the Old Pueblo Trolley. Jed had done this before but I had not. With the new Sunset schedule we decided to make our trip in late March to avoid the heat in Tucson. The rail fare was really reasonable and then I contacted the Congress Hotel to arrange our stay during the trip. The night before the trip I called Marty, my excellent night time Amtrak agent in Santa Ana, booked me a sleeper for my return trip.

Surfliner 573 4/22/2005

I drove down to the Santa Ana Amtrak Station and watched a late running 572 departed heading south. I paid for my Sleeping Car and exchanged my ticket before I walked outside to watch a late running 769 come in. I decided to wait for 573 since it was Friday and 769 runs with very heavy passenger loads on Fridays just like any other 700 train. My train rolled in a mere 10 minutes late and I was off on another rail adventure. This Surfliner had Cab Car 6905, Coach/ Cafe 6305, Coach 6400, Coach/Cafe 6302, Pacific Business Class 6804 with engine 463. Our train made its stops at Anaheim, Fullerton and the Rail to Rail Stop of Norwalk. REO Speedwagon "The Second Decade of Rock and Roll 1981 to 1991" was my musical selection for this trip to Los Angeles on a mostly cloudy storm arriving afternoon. Train 573 arrived into LAUPT at 1:49 PM {1:35 PM}.

Los Angeles 4/22/2005

It was cold and windy on the Platform as I waited for the Sunset Limited to back in. I had to put on my Panama Canal sweatshirt and sweat pants in order to stay warm.

While I was waiting a leased Sounder trainset bought in a Metrolink train.

The Sounder car with Metrolink decals added.

Sounder engine 901.

The front of the Sounder train now ready to depart to San Bernardino. I walked back over to Track 11 to continue my wait for the Sunset Limited.

Sunset Limited 4/22/2005

The Sunset Limited backed into Track 11 at 2:38 PM, eight minutes after it was scheduled to depart LAUPT. Why can not a train that arrived on a Sunday leave on time on a Wednesday? I learned that since that first eastbound run that we rode to Palm Springs, that the Sunset Limited had departed LA on time only once. Once on board I found Jed and he joined me at my seat. Our train to Tucson had engines 130 and 9, Transition 39017, Sleepers 32015 and 32113 Vermont, Diner 38063, Lounge 33033, Coaches 34137, 31005 and 34028 with Sleeper 32039. The last two cars are the Texas Eagle section of our train. The Sunset Limited departed LAUPT at 3:05 PM and headed out of Los Angeles via San Gabriel. Conductor Fred Banuelos took our tickets. In the trench we got nailed by a westbound UP stack train and UP 5147 West before we continued east. The Sunset passed the San Gabriel Mission before we rolled through El Monte and the City of Industry with Jed and I sitting in the lounge car. We left Pomona 4:26 PM {3:11 PM} and a few minutes later Ontario 4:36 PM {3:24 PM}. We talked with RW Willford, a retired CSX engineer from Florida who served 42 years and 8 months. He also owns 11 tractors and got married to his second wife on Amtrak's Silver Star at MP A 832 on December 9th, 2000. We ran with no delays through West Colton and got stopped at CP Rancho by the UP 4509 West and then further delayed at the BNSF crossing by Metrolink Train 804. We had a fast trip up San Timiteo Canyon.

The Sunset Limited climbed the final mile into Beaumont before we descended Beaumont Hill to Palm Springs which we departed after a fresh air break at 6:37 PM {5:06 PM}. We came through Indio in a rainstorm.

The sun set behind the San Jacinto Mountains.

The Sunset Limited ran along the Salton Sea in the last light of day. Jed and I had a 7:30 PM Dinner Reservation and were seated with two people who never said a word during dinner. I enjoyed a New York Strip and a Chocolate Sundae with Jed enjoying Rack of Lamb as we rolled east along the Salton Sea and out into the desert as darkness took hold. We paid for our meal as the train pulled into Yuma. After I enjoyed a brief fresh air stop we departed Yuma at 8:42 PM {8:24 PM}. The UP dispatcher did a great job of running us across the desert and we made up over an hour that we had lost. Jed and I talked for about an hour in the lounge car before I went back to our seats for a nap until Maricopa. After a quadrupled stop we departed Maricopa at 11:38 PM {11:17 PM}, Jed and I sat in the lounge car the rest of the way to Tucson.

4/23/2005 Midnight came and went with Jed getting to watch me go from Day 3747 to Day 3748 days of sobriety. The Sunset Limited arrived into Tucson at 12:55 AM {1:35 AM} ending an excellent trip on the eastbound Sunset Limited.

Tucson 4/23/2005

We walked from the restored Southern Pacific Station across the street to a very lively Hotel Congress on a very early Saturday morning.

Congress Hotel 4/23/2005

We checked in for our two night stay. This room on the second floor would be our base for our visit to Tucson. The Hotel Congress was built in 1919 to serve the growing cattle industry and rail passengers of the Southern Pacific. On January 22, 1934 a fire started in the basement and spread up the elevator shaft to the third floor. The fire led to the arrest of John Dillenger who was residing on the third floor under an alias.

We went up to the second floor to room 203. The noise from the bar was very noticeable until 2:00 AM when it closed. I slept well other the noise from the many freight trains that blow the horns for the nearby crossings. I woke up at 7:45 AM and showered before catching up on the story as I waited to use the hotel's computer in their business center. Jed and I went to the Cup Cafe in the hotel for breakfast where I enjoyed a Waffle and Sausage meal.

We walked back to the station to see the Southern Pacific 2-8-0 1673, on display there under protective cover.

Statues of Wyatt Earp and Doc Holiday. From there we walked over to the Old Pueblo Trolley via the 4th Street Subway under the former Sunset Route. From the Hotel Congress to the shops you take 4th Street to 8th Street and turn left to the shops.

The Old Pueblo Trolley 4/23/2005

The volunteers were working on the Brussels 1511 car when we arrived but took the time to take us into their office for a discussion about the Old Pueblo Trolley. Gene Caywood who is Chairman of the Board and Dick Guthrie who is President and Chief Operating Officer of the Old Pueblo Trolley spoke with us about the history and operations.

The Old Pueblo Trolley History

The Electric streetcars era began operating in Tucson on June 1, 1906, as a replacement for horse-and-mule-drawn streetcars and for the next 24 years they transported the people of Tucson. December 31, 1930, rail streetcar operation in Tucson ended. Jump forward to the 1985 University of Arizona Centennial celebration, a group was founded in early 1983 to bring back the trolley. The dedicated efforts of this small group of people evolved into Old Pueblo Trolley. The new group's main focus is the operation of historic trolleys from the Fourth Avenue Business District to the main gate of the University of Arizona on Friday nights, Saturdays, and Sundays.

The Trolleys

Kyoto City Lines 869/1869 Hankai Electric Tramway 255 Kyoto, Japan & Osaka, Japan 1953 Aichi-Fuji. This was the operating car this weekend.

Car 1511 42 passenger, 1936 Ateliers Metallurgiques de Nivelles and ran in Brussels, Belgium. This car is being wreck repaired from a car accident.

Tram 524 is under restoration under a tarp.

Tram 524 was manufactured in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1924 by J. C. Brill for Lisbon Portugal.

The trucks of Tram 524. After we had looked around the shop grounds we walked down to their storage yard.

Toronto PCC 4608.Their PCC has Muni of San Francisco trucks.

Los Angeles Railways 860 44 passenger, 1912 American Car Company, St. Louis which is a part source for the restoring the Los Angeles Railways 733.

Los Angeles Railways 733 44 passengers St. Louis Car Company, St. Louis is covered by a tarp.

After an excellent tour, we said a brief goodbye knowing we would be seeing them again in a few hours. We were told about the new Tucson Railroad Museum back at the station so Jed and I walked back over the former SP Station.

Tucson Railroad Museum 4/23/2005

As we looked around this brand new railroad exhibit, we met Sharon Riise, who is the Librarian/Curator who talked about the museum. It opened on March 20th, 2005 in the building that was once home of the Division Records Office of the Southern Pacific Tucson Division. We watched the three excellent digital video screens that show not only the history of the Southern Pacific but also the history of Tucson. We then had the pleasure of talking with Laura Caywood-Burlar who was Director of the museum. The Tucson Railroad Museum was excellent and should be visited if you ever visit Tucson.

Outside as we were looking at the SP 1673, a UP freight with NS power leading headed east. We walked back to hotel to rest before we walked to take our rides on the Old Pueblo Trolley.

The Old Pueblo Trolley Trips 4/23/2005

Car 869 ready to start the first trip of the day. Once the pantograph was raised we were ready to start the first run of the day.

The interior of Car 869.

At the junction of the wye from the shops to trackage on 4th Street.

The forward view looking north up 4th Street.

Looking south towards the end of the track where the Trolley Stop is located. In the future the trolley will be extended through the underpass by the Amtrak Station and over into downtown Tucson.

The view north before the first run north.

Car 869 waiting for the first run north of the day. Cones are put at all of the stations at the end of the line so people know where to wait to board.

The ride north up 4th Street. There is a passing siding right before the tracks turn east.

Car 869 turning east onto University Avenue.

Heading east on University Avenue towards Arizona University. This is the original tracks that once was part of the Tucson Streetcar system.

At the University Avenue Stop.

As a favor they took us to the end of the track in front of the University of Arizona. They do not normally run here due to the parallel parking on the University Street really makes running here tight due crowded traffic congestion.

Car 869 between trips at the University Avenue stop.

We headed back west down University Avenue.

We made a total of four round trips before we detrolleyed at the shop stop. Here it started to rain the biggest drops I have ever seen. We returned to the hotel two very satisfied people. Sitting in the room, Jed asked me, "Where was their power station?" With me not having an answer, I suggested that we walk back over and take one more trip to ask. Once back on board the 869, we learned that there is a box in their yard that takes 480 AC from the Municipal Power Company converting it into 600 volt DC. We really enjoyed the five trips on the Old Pueblo Trolley. A special thanks to Motorman Sam Haney and Conductor Noel Price for the great trip. We walked back to the Congress Hotel for a bit of rest. Jed and I walked over to the Barrio Grill where I had an excellent large steak and Jed enjoyed a Sausage Platter. Later, we stopped by a store for more Coca-Cola for me on the way to walking back to the station but alas no trains.

We returned to the room and each took a three hour nap as the day had whipped us out. At 10:00 PM we walked over to Amtrak so Jed could get a ticketing error fixed with no problems. We found out from the agent that our train would arrive at 11:15 PM, which if true would be five minutes early. We walked around a very lively downtown Tucson before returning to the room to pack up for the trip home. We checked out of the Hotel Congress. A very special thank you to Patty, the hotel manager and her entire staff for making our stay at the Hotel Congress so enjoyable. We walked back across the street to the Amtrak Station and enjoyed a very windy evening outside waiting for the Sunset Limited to arrive. It started to pour down rain so we moved under the cover of the station arches until our train arrived into Tucson at 11:27 PM.

Sunset Limited 4/23/2005

The Sunset Limited pulled into Tucson during the pouring rain with engines 95 and 839, Baggage 1161, Transition 39016, Sleepers 32038 and 32070 Alabama, Diner 38048, Lounge 39039, Coaches 34008, 31101, 34058 and Sleeper 32080 Idaho. I waited in the lower level as Robert went upstairs to make up my Room 4 for my trip to LAUPT.

4/24/2005 Midnight came and went with me now on Day 3749 of my sobriety as I watched the rain drops hit the window as we sat in Tucson. The Sunset Limited left Tucson at 12:12 AM {11:59 PM}. I climbed into bed and called it a night.

I woke up just before 6:00 AM and walked back to the lounge to meet Jed for breakfast as the train was in the siding at Wister waiting for a UP eastbound freight. We went to the Dining Car for breakfast as the Moon was setting over the mountains with the Salton Sea in the foreground. Jed and I ate with a woman from Texas and I guy from Bakersfield. We sat at Regoza the entire meal with me enjoying French Toast and Sausage for breakfast waiting for two freights.

The San Jacinto Mountains from near Thermal.

The Little Chocolate Mountains where Joshua Tree National Park is located was to the north. After passing through Indio the Sunset started the climb over Beaumont Hill passing the rows of Tamarack Trees that keep the blowing sands off the rails.

Mt San Jacinto looked great from the Palm Springs Station which we departed at 7:58 AM {6:37 AM}.

We pulled down to the switch which was bad ordered as the UP 5147 East came down the grade through the windmill fields.

Minutes later, the Sunset Limited crossed the Whitewater River.

The Sunset ran upgrade through the location of the former SP West Palm Springs siding now a crossover location on the very busy Sunset Route. UP 5764 East passed by on the other track after he had crossed over from in front of us.

A beautiful rainbow welcomed us near Cabazon.

The lead of three UP westbound freights blocked the best views of the Hadley's Dinosaurs. We turned the corner into a rainstorm that lasted over Beaumont Hill and down in San Timiteo Canyon with me riding in the lounge car. The Sunset passed six westbound freights descending the canyon before crossing over at Ordway where UP 5108 East was waiting. That was followed by another eastbound stack train with the UP 4947 East behind him. We got stopped by a red signal at Bryn Mawr where the UP 5743 was working a ballast train. UP 5145 East passed us after we passed Loma Linda after we crossed over. The Sunset then crossed the Santa Ana River as we passed that westbound freight that we had been following, the UP 5060 West. On the bypass track at West Colton was the UP 3572 West with Ferromax 3218 {from Mexico} in the two unit consist. The Sunset came to halt at CP Sierra for a freight train to clear into West Colton Yard. We ran through Guasti siding to get by the UP 5782 West and on to Ontario 10:39 AM {8:05 AM} then west to Pomona 10:48 AM {8:15 AM}. The Sunset ran to El Monte where we waited for Metrolink 385 to clear the station there.

The Sunset took the Metrolink route into LAUPT which we arrived at 11:36 AM {10:10 AM}, ending another interesting adventure on Amtrak's Sunset Limited.

Surfliner 774 4/24/2005

Surfliner 774 pulled into LAUPT early and I took a seat in the Cab Car. This Surfliner had engine 450, Pacific Business Class 6807, Coach/Cafe 6307, Coach 6406, Superliner Coach 31046 and Cab Car 6903. We departed LAUPT on time and headed south with a brief pause at Pico Rivera and some slow running before La Mirada. We departed Fullerton a few minutes late before we came to a red signal at CP La Palma. We got permission to pass the red signal and crossed over to Track 1 running at restricted speed until the next green signal. We stopped at Anaheim before arriving into Santa Ana at 1:26 PM {1:15 PM}. I detrained, walked over to my waiting Geo Metro before driving home ending another excellent Amtrak adventure and trip to Tucson's Old Pueblo Trolley.