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Train rides, baseball games, new rides and a few surprises!

by Chris Guenzler

After the Kentucky Trip I figured I would need a trip for Spring break and decided I wanted to do some new things in Fort Worth. I looked at the baseball schedule and after looking at Texas, checked Chicago White Sox and Colorado Rockies. The Sox weren't in town but the Rockies were. It then hit me that Denver has a new light rail system. Why not San Joaquin to Martinez, California Zephyr to Denver followed the next day to Chicago. A Texas Eagle trip to Fort Worth would work then a two night stay. While there I could rent a car to see the Texas Rangers and the Tarantula train out in Grapevine. Also there is the Trinity Express to Dallas, DART Light Rail and the McKinney Avenue Street Car Line that I could also ride. Marti, my excellent Amtrak agent in Santa Ana got me a two region See America Fare with a sleeper Fort Worth to Los Angeles for my trip over the Sunset Route. Mike at AAA took care of my Texas car rental and I went on line for my hotel rooms. I had everything finalized by the end of February, then I just lived my life until the night of departure for another exciting Amtrak trip.

Thruway Bus 4/18/2003

My mother dropped me off at the Santa Ana Train Station after midnight for a 12:10 AM bus to Bakersfield. Departure time came and went so after about twenty minutes I called the 800 number learning that the bus was 34 minutes late out of Oceanside. Not the way I wanted to start a trip but then every trip is an adventure. The bus showed up at 12:46 and the six of us who where patiently waited boarded the bus to Bakersfield. We headed up the highway to Fullerton then onto Los Angeles getting off at 8th Street and taking Alameda north to Union Station. This was really interesting way to go as there were former SP tracks still in streets along the way. Leaving LAUPT we went to Glendale with no sign of the very late running Coast Starlight with Ray and Steve of Trainweb aboard. The bus ran to Newhall where no one boarded but a long UP double stack train blasted through. We made a fast trip across the Ridge Route and arrived at 4:00 AM, fifty minutes before train time.

San Joaquin 711 4/18/2003

My car of choice to ride in was the cab car, Point St George, which was a Surfliner car added to that order by Caltrain. It had the much more comfortable Surfliner chairs. I was really looking forward to my ride north up the valley after the bus incident on my northbound Coast Starlight detour trip. The train was 2015 F-59PH, 821 Kings River, 8013 Klamath River, 8812 Sonoma Valley, 8010 Truckee River and the 6965 Point St George.

The train departed on time and I enjoyed a new Spring/Summer Northeast Timetable I picked up during my stay in Bakersfield. It will come in handy during my trip to the NRHS Convention in Baltimore this June. I napped from south of Shafter until Hanford where I purchased a Chocolate Chip Muffin and a Mint Medley Herbal Tea which I enjoyed on my way to Fresno. The sun rose at 6:31 AM on the day after a weather system had passed through providing a very beautiful morning. We left Fresno on time with me reading the new issue of Rail Travel News as we passed through Madera and Merced. The BNSF eastbound fleet of trains were all tucked away in sidings out of our way as we flew by. I took a break to look at the airplanes at the Castle Air Museum. At Turlock-Denair we did our station work before backing down the main to enter the siding where we entered to let Amtrak 702 do the station work and once it arrived we were on our way. I read the Fresno Bee after a very attractive commuter left it on her seat after she got off at Modesto. The new Stockton Intermodal Facility was running full bore as we approached Stockton. From here, we ran out onto my favorite part of the ex Santa Fe Valley Line, the trip across the San Joaquin Delta Country. This is where the San Joaquin River meets the Sacramento River and is by far the most diverse region on this route. The Hetch Hetchy Water Project crosses it with huge pipes. The land here has been reclaimed for farming and sits much lower than the tracks I am riding. We crossed the Main Channel of the San Joaquin River at Middle River.

Further west down the rails at Orwood, Amtrak 712 was in the siding there. Off to the southwest the windmills of Altamont Pass could be seen and minutes late Mt Diablo dominated the view to the south. We started our waterside running as we neared Antioch, our next stop. We crossed the Port Chicago Naval Weapons Station before we crossed over to the former SP Moccoco Line. Our train ran through the construction line of the expanded Interstate 680 Bridge before we reached Martinez where I detrained early. After a quick picture of my train that brought me here, I visited the new Martinez depot which I took a quick tour of before waiting my next train to arrive.

California Zephyr 6 4/18/2003

The CZ pulled in Martinez right on time and I boarded the second coach after a picture of the train. We crossed the Martinez Drawbridge and then I shot a few pictures of the Mothballed fleet of the US Navy.

We crossed the Suisan Wetland at a slow pace in order to have a good meet with a Capitol Corridor train heading west before we crossed over to meet a UP westbound freight which blew by us. We made a brief stop at Davis before another UP westbound headed by us. The CZ crossed the Yolo Causeway with the eastern end flooded. The CZ traveled through West Sacramento before we crossed the Sacramento River into the Sacramento Amtrak Station. I could just say "Sacramento cubed!"

As we curved out of Sacramento, I noticed two express reefers and two express cars on the rear end of the CZ. Our train passed the boarded up Elvas Tower before crossing the American River. We crossed over and passed three more UP westbounds before we reached the very busy UP Roseville Yard then the engine facility before stopping at the Roseville Station. The CZ headed up the eastbound line through Rocklin and started up the very green Sierra foothills. We passed through Auburn then headed to Colfax. The CZ crossed the Long Ravine Bridge before it rounded Cape Horn with the American River two thousand feet below. Another UP westbound was encountered and at Alta we passed another one. Just below Blue Canon we reached the snow line. The snow scenes at Emigrant Gap was incredible as the train continued to climb on this sunny afternoon. I photographed from Yuba Gap to Shed 10.


It is definitely a winter wonderland here in late April. The skiers were out in force at Soda Springs before CZ entered the snow shed at Norden where a UP Eastbound was waiting for us to enter Tunnel 41. We entered a world of darkness for a few minutes and when we exited Donner Lake was far below and at Shed 47 the late running westbound CZ was waiting for us to clear with the Adirondack baggage car in the consist. Further down at Cold Spring Canyon as we rounded the horseshoe curve a westbound BNSF freight was climbing the grade west. We made our way to Truckee and then quickly lost our ground snow cover.

We followed the Truckee River into Nevada and on into Reno. We were delayed in our arrival by a UP westbound blocking the station. Once he cleared, we pulled in, did our station work before we headed for Sparks for a crew change.

I detrained at Sparks for a USA Today and to talk to the conductor about getting a room. We left Sparks on time and traveled east through the lower Truckee River Canyon out to Fernley. Our conductor came and told me he had a room for me for $93.50 which I took. My seatmate Roy since Martinez and I spent our time crossing the Nevada swapping stories. The desert scenery really caught my eye as well as the thunderstorms and dust storms happening about.

They called my dinner time just as the conductor came to settle up on the room with me. After that was done, I had a New York Strip Steak with an excellent Chocolate Bombe along with fantastic dinner conversation. I moved to Room 8 in the 632 car the last passenger car in our consist on the way there meeting Jay my sleeping car attendant and took a well deserved shower. I took my first Nevada sunset pictures from a train before Winnemucca. That sunset was awe inspiring.

In twilight, we ran to Weso where we switched onto the former Western Pacific. The snowcapped mountains in the northeast stood out against the darkening sky. It has been a great day of train riding with me looking forward to tomorrow. I listened to music before calling it a night making up my bed then falling asleep in Nevada.

4/19/2003 Waking up in Utah as the CZ was climbing the Guilley Loops prior to having French Toast in the dining car off of Amtrak Menu 2. Since April 1st. Amtrak now has three menus nationwide instead of just one. On my trips over the next two weeks I will see how many times I will eat off of menu number 2. I ate as the train descended Solider Summit, then photographed Castle Rock before going into the lounge car until passed Price. Helper looked still like a D&RGW town with all the still in unaltered D&RGW paint.

I photographed the CZ's descent to Grassy before I returned to my room to relax. With the Book Cliffs outside my windows you could not do wrong.

Sphinx siding came into view and you could always see a Sphinx up on the cliffs. We dropped to Green River then crossed the divide to Thompson, U2's Joshua Tree album really adds to the views. I am seeing it as God's Country is playing and the title fits the view.

Over the next half hour, the CZ descended to Westwater and its run along the Colorado River starting with my favorite canyon of them all, Ruby Canyon.

We made our run through Ruby with me clicking off the pictures. We ran through the short tunnel and entered the Grand Valley which we would run through to reach Grand Junction and our next crew change location. During the station stop I bought four cans of Coca Cola for me, packs of Mixed Agate and Mexican Agates for Mrs Angle, the best science teacher I know and I wrote down the trains consist: 156, 123 P42DC's, 1253 Baggage, 39028 Transition Sleeper, 34061, 34039 Coaches, 31053 Smoking Lounge, 33032 Lounge, 38040 Diner, 32037, 32000 Sleepers, 71178, 71076 Express Cars and 74052, 74091 Refers.

They blew the horn and I ran back the length of the train. I was huffing and puffing forgetting that I was at above 4,000 feet. Next time I will jump on at the first open door. An ice cold Coca Cola brought me back to normal. As the train entered De Beque Canyon, I returned to taking pictures of our passage through this unique canyon.

I was back in my room as the train made its way through the town of De Beque relaxing and listening to music feeling very lucky as I took in all this beautiful scenery. We travelled through Parachute with me wondering about its name. I had an Angus Beef Burger for lunch finishing just as the CZ was leaving Glenwood Springs. I was enjoying my picture taking but two things made it hard. First, all the plants along the right-of-way had grown and second the heavy rain came. Neither of these two factors stopped me from taking pictures. With all of my trips over this route I never had documented it before so that was one of my purposes for this trip.

I returned to my room once we had finished our trek through Glenwood Canyon and all too soon we had reached Dotsero and crossed the Eagle River back into the sunshine of the day. We went into the siding at Range for the westbound CZ before heading into Red Rock Canyon where I did a little more photography.

It really has helped make the last two days very relaxing knowing where all of the photo opportunities are along the line. In between I just sit back and relaxed as I am on vacation, am I? I walked forward and found Roy and we passed the time until Bond, a very busy place with both east and westbound coal trains ready to depart. We made our way east with me listening to Black Sabbath as I shot pictures along the way in both Little Gore and Gore Canyons.

After our passage through Gore Canyon, the CZ opened it up through Kremmling before I did a photo essay on Byers Canyon. It is funny how many more pictures you can take when you are ready verses sitting back and relaxing thinking "Now that would be a good shot!"

With Byers completed, I sat back enjoying the ride to Granby. I shot a few pictures as the train made its way through the short canyon before Tabernash and onto our next stop at Winter Park/Fraser. The CZ climbed the last miles of the grade passing the Winter Park Ski Resort before it plunged into the Moffat Tunnel for fifteen minutes of darkness.

We came out of the tunnel to someone throwing snow balls at our train. We ran down to Tolland where we entered the siding to let the UP 8034 west clear. The train continued its eastbound descent as it was lightly snowing outside of our warm train. I ate at 5:30 PM as we descended the Front Range of the Rockies. I had Brian as my server for every meal and he is one excellent and delightful waiter. We came to a brief stop for about ten minutes before pulling into a tunnel and stopping again. I learned later this night from our engineer at the hotel that our lead engine had hit a boulder and damaged the front pilot enough that they had to replace the unit as I walked to the hotel in Denver. I enjoyed a repeat dinner of last night. The snow stopped at Plainview and we had a fairly clear view looking down onto the plains. We rounded the Big Ten Curve as I took my final pictures of this part of the trip as we rounded the curve into Rocky.

From there I just sat back, listened to music and relaxed the rest of the way to Denver. We backed into Denver Union Station and arrived at 7:15 PM, fifteen minutes early. I walked west through the tunnel up to Track 3, which I went up to shot a picture of the Denver Rail Car DMU which was sitting there. From there I walked to the La Quinta Inn where I would spend the night.

Denver Light Rail 4/20/2003

Up early on a beautifully clear Easter Sunday morning, I stopped by a McDonald Express to get Hot Cakes and Sausage which I took back to the hotel's lobby. I walked back over the bridge to the RTD-Downtown Civic Center Station and shot a picture of the LRV I would be riding when it came in. After he did the station work he pulled down to a stub end track to switch ends. This car only runs to I 25 and Broadway acting as a shuttle to the main route, 30th-Downing to Littleton-Mineral. We made an "S" curve to access the BNSF/UP Joint Line right-of-way and crossed Cherry Creek. Our first stop was the Pepsi Center to the east home of the Colorado Avalanche and Denver Nuggets and the Six Flag Elliot Gardens. We curved to the east to the Invesco Field at Mile High, home of the Denver Broncos to the west. The Skyline of downtown Denver is to the northeast. Our next stop was Auraria-West Campus then we turned south where we joined the mainline. We reached 10th and Osage right across from the former Rio Grande Burnham Shops with cars for the Ski Train laying over. We next passed the RTA Light Rail Shops before climbing a viaduct to Alameda. That was a good stop for me to switch trains at as a southbound UP freight showed up then a LRV to 30th Street before I boarded a train to Littleton.

We ran to the I 25/Broadway stop racing that UP freight on the paralleling Joint Line. We climbed up and over an industrial lead before reaching Evans. We passed the front of the freight and reached Englewood and onto Oxford. I must say that this line does give one an excellent view of the Front Range of the Rockies. We climbed over the Joint Line on another flyover before we reached Littleton Downtown in a trench. The train then ran to its final stop on the south end of the line at Littleton-Mineral. I detrained before the LRV went down to the end of a stub track to switch ends. Now I will sit back and relax to enjoy the ride up to 10th and Osage where I will pick up the story there.

\One the way north after Mineral, that southbound UP freight struggled by. We turned east onto new trackage after 10th and Osage headed by the Auraria College before arriving at Colfax at Auraria. From here the line turned north into downtown Denver crossing Cherry Creek then headed underneath the Colorado Convention Center expansion building under construction with the Denver Center to the west. A future stop is planned here. We turned right onto a downtown loop stopping at 14th-California. Here we turned left onto California running on the right shoulder stopping both at the 16th and 18th California Street Station stops. At 16th Street you could connect with the 16th Street Free Mall Ride that could take you back to Union Station or east to the Civic Center Station on that route. At 19th Street we turned east to Welton Street where we headed north with stations at 20th, 25th, 27th and 29th/Welton. At 25th Street the line becomes single track until 30th and Downing where there is a two track station. Here I detrained while they switch ends. One train comes in before the next one leaves heading back to Littleton-Mineral. After the layover we headed south back to 19th Street where this time we went one more block west to Stout Street where we turned south stopping at 18th, 16th, and 14th-Stout street. Once we had reconnected with the way we came out on the downtown loop, you have ridden the complete Denver Light Rail System with me. I headed back to 10th Osage to catch a "C" line train back to Union Station. I visited Track 3 for some bright light pictures of that Colorado Rail Car Company's DMU.

Once I was done with that, I headed out in front of the station to get a picture of the street side of Denver Union Station. As I walked back to the La Quinta, I thought how lucky I was to be here in Denver on such a beautiful day as I returned to my room for a little rest after a few shots of the BNSF engine facility. Since I had completed goal number one in Denver which was the light rail system, at 11:30 AM after MASH was over on the TV, I was off to do goal number two, a baseball game at Coors's Field. I dropped off my bags at the front desk.

Colorado Rockies vs San Diego Padres 4/20/2003

As I walked over the bridge to Coors Field I did a little railfanning along the way with a BNSF freight just had to curve beneath me as I passed overhead.

I entered the ballpark and headed up to the third deck walking to the northwest corner to enjoy the view of two BNSF freights passing on the Joint Line. To get my hot dogs in order to sample one in every ballpark I visit, I had to return to the lowest level. Here I got two hot dogs, and an unlided Coca Cola. No lids or straws at Coors Field. I returned to my third deck seat right behind home plate, pleased with my seat selection. Music selections vary from ballpark to ballpark but I must say I enjoyed Jethro Tull's "Bungle in the Jungle" blasting loudly from the PA System. I took in the end of the Padres batting practice. I enjoyed my meal as well as watching the ground crew prepare the field for play. Once the game started, we went two scoreless innings on the coldest day I have ever watched a baseball game on. In the bottom of the second, Charles Johnson hit a two run blast for Colorado. That was followed by a solo blast by Chris Stynes. The Rockies added another run in the third and two more in the forth. For the seventh inning stretch "God Bless America" was sung before the crowd sang "Take me out to the Ball Game". In the bottom of the 7th, Jay Patton hit a two run blast for Colorado. The Padres tried to rally in the ninth but it was all too late, losing to the Rockies 8-0 before 28,005 fans.

I walked back to the hotel railfanning along the way to Denny's for a dinner of grilled chicken for a change of pace. It has been a great day here in Denver and I was looking forward to my next train ride to Chicago. I taxied back to the station, checked in and got number one and stored my bags in a locker. I walked over to the Millennium Bridge to take pictures of the light rail trains and action on the Joint Line.

It is a great railfan location especially in the morning. It provides a great view of Denver Union Station and downtown Denver.

I stayed there until I had my fill, I returned to Union Station, reclaimed my bags and waited for my next train.

California Zephyr 6 4/20/2003

Since I had boarding priority number 1, I was first out to the train and found my usual large window right hand side seat in the first coach in the consist. After I had stowed my gear, I found my ex San Diegan conductor Tom Tuttle who had moved to Denver with his wife Sanya, another ex San Diegan conductor and just had a little baby girl. Tom being the proud parent he is of course shared a pictures of his beautiful daughter Tanya Amber. I did not get to see Chris Nay another ex San Diegan conductor based out of Salt Lake City but seeing Tom again made the trip worthwhile. Tom and I got caught up on things before it was time to depart Denver at 7:55 PM and headed out into the night as I said my good byes to Denver and thanked it for a great time. I listened to Night Ranger but the rocking and rolling actions of the train put me to sleep right after Fort Morgan.

4/21/2003 I woke up just as the CZ was leaving Omaha starting the run along the Missouri River. We crossed the Platte River while I was sitting in the dining car and once we had crossed the Missouri River into Iowa my breakfast of French Toast and Sausage came. They used pape plate and plastic ware this morning. Back at my coach seat, I spotted the ex Rock Island Spine Line that I rode on behind Union Pacific 3985 last June. The book for this trip is John Grisham's "King of Torts". As we crossed Iowa, the sky clouded up putting me on Stormwatch. We arrived at Ottumwa thirty minutes early allowing me a picture of our train with that Adirondack baggage car and a visit inside the depot.

This is the same consist I had seen on Donner Pass on my first day of the trip. We made our way on time the rest of the way across Iowa to Burlington where we crossed the Mississippi River into Illinois.

We continued our on time running across Illinois with just a few sprinkles along the way but with a sky waiting to drop its load. We made our way to Aurora then down the three track "Race Way" to the wye where we cut off our express cars, pulled across the Chicago River onto the ICRR line the Texas Eagle uses then backed into Chicago Union Station at 3:59 PM, eleven minutes early.

Chicago 4/21/2003

I walked off the train straight into the station for a pair of Gold Coast Char Dogs. After that fine meal, I walked the six blocks to the now Rodeway Inn formerly the Quality Inn where I relaxed for the rest of the day and evening.

4/22/2003 My early morning idea was to shot pictures of Metra and Amtrak trains off of the Lake Avenue Bridge. What an excellent location for watching trains. Below you have the north led tracks to Union Station where all the Metra trains from Fox Lake, Big Timber/Elgin and Antioch arrive. Some of these trains come in then go back out on their lines while others deadhead out to the maintenance yard. The unique F-40C operates on the Fox Lake Line and I really wanted a chance to catch these engines on film before they are replaced. Directly overhead is the CTA Green Line before it crosses the Chicago River. To the north is the station leads elevated of the ex CNW Olgive Transportation Center where trains to and from Harvard, McHenry and Geneva plus the deadhead moves to the yard run in and out at a constant pace. At one point I could see six trains in one glance, a Metra train approaching, CTA running overhead and for trains on the ex CNW tracks. This is a train watching paradise. Throw in the Amtrak trains to and from Milwaukee, you could easily see 50 movements or more in an hour and a half. I walked back to the Olgive Transportation Center to the McDonalds there for Hot Cakes and Sausage on a good breezy morning. I returned to the hotel, checked out and had my bags stored. I thought I was going to the Museum of Science and Industry. I first got false directions to the nearest CTA Green Line stop. Next I got off at Roosevelt and walked over to the Museum District, the location on the map was wrong. It was really four miles to the south. Time was becoming an issue, so I walked back to the Green Line and took it to Garfield where I could catch a bus right across the street. Four buses came but headed the wrong way. After 45 minutes of waiting and no bus, I decided to try again on my next visit. I returned to Union Station for a lunch of Char Dogs. I stopped off at Walgreens for some Coca Cola before reclaiming my bags, taxing back to Union Station, picked up a USA Today to read on the trains and to wait for my next train.

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