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Union Pacific 3985 West The Pacific Limited 1992

by Chris Guenzler

It was less than three weeks before my next and longer encounter with the Union Pacific 3985. I wanted to ride the entire length of the old Western Pacific from Salt Lake City to Oakland. I ordered my tickets and upgraded to Dome seating on all of the Pacific Limited segments westbound from Salt Lake City. My convention ticket would get me from Niles to Oakland. I had ridden on Amtrak the Salt Lake to Weso segment but always at night. Weso to Portola would be new trackage as would Sacramento to San Jose. Through the Feather River Canyon this time I would be in a Dome for much better viewing. After the wonderful UPRRHS Trip over Sherman Hill I couldn't wait. To pull this trip off evolved a one region All Abroad America Fare so I could return from Sacramento after I dropped the Geo Metro off at my brother Bruce's house, then to Salt Lake City on the Desert Wind and when I was back home on a Sunset Limited round trip to Deming, New Mexico.

The Desert Wind 7/13/1992

I took a San Diegan to Los Angeles so I could catch the Desert Wind. I was off on the Desert Wind again this time to Salt Lake City to ride a steam train with the conductor joking about me not getting off in Barstow again to ride a steam train from there. When he heard of what I was about to do he announced it over the PA that Amtrak can take you to your dreams. I was absolutely right on that count. The trip over Cajon was one of the busiest ever and we made our way through freight trains all the way to Barstow. We passed through Yermo without delay and Afton Canyon was really colorful. Storms were brewing over the mountains east of Cima Hill sending flash floods down the stream beds. The Ivanpah Lake had all sorts of water running into its usual dry basin. We made Las Vegas early with ten dollars won in the slots and a pint of Kessler picked up for the evening. I had a quiet evening of drinking secretly as the train made the way up Meadow Valley Wash into the night. I turned in after Caliente and slept until about twenty minutes short of Salt Lake City.

7/14/1992 We arrived in Salt Lake City early and I found a place to have an outstanding breakfast. I walked over by the Mormon Temple before returning to the Union Pacific Station to wait to board the Pacific Limited. It gave me a good chance to look around the impressive building with the artwork depicting the Union Pacific's opening up of the west.

The Pacific Limited Salt Lake City to Elko 7/14/1992

I boarded the first Dome Car, the Harriman which was the first of four on this train and took the right hand front window seat which would be my home on each of the segments. This would give me an unobstructed view of the Union Pacific 3985 at work. We left right on time by backing up to reach the UP mainline before pulling forward with the train making the turn at Grant Tower where we crossed the Rio Grande mainline. We headed west out of Salt Lake City with very few through passengers 40 and about 120 going only as far as Wendover. We picked up speed as we went through Buena Vista and made a beeline to Garfield. We passed the Kennecott Smelters at Smelter before we switched off of the Lynndyl Subdivision of the Union Pacific for the Lake Subdivision and the ex Western Pacific rails. We ducked under Interstate 80 and started our lake shore running of the Great Salt Lake. We ran on a causeway between the lake and the highway. We ran off of the causeway climbing a short rise passing Delle siding before we came to a stop at Marblehead.

We unloaded to do our first photo runby of the day. The train backed around a curve with the Marblehead Mountains in the background before it came storming up the grade past us. We reboarded and the 3985 pulled west to Clive where we did runby number two, this one on tangent track with those mountains in the background again. We climbed the hill to Knolls before we crossed the southern end of the Bonneville Salt Flats where the land speed records were set. We sped west across the flats past Barro, Aruinosa and Salduro before we pulled into Wendover, a passenger stop and servicing stop. Through passengers had to remain on the train while those going back to Salt Lake detrained for the buses. This was an excellent time to explore the rest of the train and to get to know everyone in our Dome car which was becoming a sauna, which we nicknamed as such.

When we left Wendover, our car attendant came up to ask us if we wanted to move to another cooler Dome car with all of us refusing as we were really enjoying ourselves. We headed west out of town and it was announced that we would do another photo runby at Ola, eight miles from town.

We detrained and the Union Pacific 3985 backed down a slight curve before it came blasting by us in more perfect light. Once on the move again, the UP 3985 pulled up the grade to Cliffside before hitting the toughest section of the grade of Silver Zone Pass as it climbed to the Arnold Loop and rounded it in a most impressive manner.

We climbed to Silver Zone the summit of the grade of the Toano Mountains before we descended into the Steptoe Valley. We made our way down to Shafter in the middle of the valley where the Western Pacific used to cross the Nevada Northern. We traveled about two more miles west before we stopped for the last and most memorable runby of the day. All 40 of us detrained and the 3985 started to back up. Just then, out of a scrub a badger popped his head up and was startled by the photographers took off running for its life with everyone except me in the photo line chasing the poor creature trying to get a picture of him.

Here came the Union Pacific 3985 doing a great runby with only me paying attention and Steve Lee having his head out of the cab window wondering where all of the photographers had gone. They all came back and we reboarded after what will forever be called the "Badger Runby!"

We climbed the grade to the tunnel under the Pequop Mountains before we reached the Clover Valley and Spruce siding. Neither of the two grades were much of a challenge for the Challenger as the entire Western Pacific was built with only a grade of 1%. We turned north up the valley crossing Highway 93 about half way to Wells which we passed on the western outskirts of the town before we turned north running above the Southern Pacific. We now had the Humboldt River running along us to the north and we arrived at Alazon where we went onto the Southern Pacific line in the paired trackage that runs as far west as Weso just east of Winnemuca. The Humboldt River was crossed and ran between the WP main line and us. We turned to the southwest and went through Halleck before we went through Osina Canyon passing through a short tunnel. 3985 turned to the south before we arrived in Elko and pulled into the Union Pacific's Elko yard. We detrained and were taken by bus to the Red Lion Motor Inn for our night's stay.

I had dinner, took a walk around town finding the WP GP-7 727 and caboose on display and where Amtrak stops. A trip to a liquor store before a little gambling in the casino where I left ahead before turning in for the night.

The Pacific Limited Elko to Winnemuca 7/15/1992

With an early afternoon departure planned, this was the morning to sleep in and relax. I walked around town and just enjoyed the morning. We were taken down to the train in plenty of time for pictures of the UP 3985. We got word that if we waited for a hotshot SP freight, the UP 9362 west, then the railroad would be ours. When an ETA was announced we all boarded and waited for it to pass. Once it zoomed by, we slowly moved out of the yard and onto the SP mainline for our trip west. We opened the front Dome vent to aid in cooling the interior of the Dome. We went through around downtown Elko before heading for Carlin Canyon our first scenic highlight of the day. We plunged into a short tunnel before crossing the Humboldt River then into another longer tunnel as the river made a large horseshoe canyon prior to our second crossing of the river. We next passed through the town of Carlin and the small SP yard there. We turned to the southwest for our run through the very beautiful Palisade Canyon where we did our first runby of the day. The SP rails run on the north side of the river and the ex WP rails on the south side.

The sounds of the UP 3985 were incredible when it performed the runby. We continued west past the old station of Palisades before crossing the river, plunging into a short tunnel before running beneath the ex WP at Barth before we did another photo runby.

Photo Runby 2 at Barth. On the move again, at Harney we passed an eastbound UP freight on the parallel track before turning to the northwest at Beowawe. It was at Harney near the bridge of the fourth crossing of the Humboldt River on August 12,1939 was the sight of the famous unsolved train wreck where a rail joint was split and the rails were moved four or more inches killing 24 people.

We went straight to Shoshone were we rounded Shoshone Point and turned west. We headed along I 80 to our south and we made our way through Argenta, past the gravel pit east of Romy before turning northwest again to Battle Mountain. We sped down the rails through Valmy where across the valley was a coal feed power plant. We turned to the southwest as we rounded another point to enter Emigrant Canyon. We passed through Preble before reaching Golconda. West of there, we turned northwest before rounding Button Point and then running straight down the middle of the valley through Tule to Weso where we left the SP rails for those of the ex WP for the rest of our trip west. We crossed the Humboldt River before coming to a stop near the Winnemuca ex WP depot with Winnemuca Mountain to the northwest. We were bused into town to the Red Lion Inn for another night of gambling, dinner and drinking before I called it a night after the shortest day of riding but never the less still satisfying.

The Pacific Limited Winnemuca to Portola 7/16/1992

Up early the next morning I took the walk after breakfast to the train for the third day of riding behind the UP 3985 this day on all new trackage. We left on time, this time we tried the Dome vent in the rear down to see how the top of the Dome would do today. The "Sauna" was not too bad yesterday so we were all hoping for better results today. With Mt. Winnemuca to the northwest we left town on time with the Humboldt River to the south which we slowly moved away from heading west.

We ran below Little Labts to Mount before we reached Raglan. We sped across the Desert valley through Gaskell on the way to Jungo where west of there we did our first photo runby of the day.

Photo Runby 1. Following a great show by the UP 3985 we continued west snaking our way to Antelope. We turned northwest across the barren desert to Floka were we made a curve by Pulpit Rock to Sulphur. We passed the siding at Ronda before we got stopped by a red signal just east of Cholana with the Pahsupp Mountains to the south. A call went out to the dispatcher who was having trouble clearing the signal. Telling the crew it might be ten minutes or more, they asked if they could do a photo runby while they waited. A positive answer was given, we all detrained, the UP 3985 backed before charging by us staying in the red block.

Photo Runby 2. As soon as we were all back on the train, the signal turned green and off we went west. We passed the Trejo Hot Spring prior to Trejo then ran along the edge of the Black Rock Desert before we arrived at our servicing stop at Gerlach.

With Granite Point to the north we left Gerlach heading across the valley before we turned to the northwest to Phil where we rounded the north end of the Fox Range. Here we entered the Smoke Creek Desert as we ran southwest to Reynard before turning south to Sano. From here we climbed the grade to Sand Pass. We pulled down to the curve to turn west where we stopped for our third runby of the day. It was well over the hundred degree mark as we detrained and all climbed up a steep slope to stand for the runby which just also happened to be the location of one of the largest rattlesnake dens in the world. There were holes everywhere but with the heat we hoped that we would not meet any of those creatures.

Photo Runby 3.The train backed far around the curve and with the Smoke Creek Desert in the background came charging and smoking around the curve below. It was one of the most impressive locations for a runby ever and as we all walked back down to the train everyone was talking about how great that runby was. That was everyone except the UP steam crew who were worried about the passengers being put through that experience. If they did not like the looks of the next runby location they would keep the train going. The Pacific Limited People assured the UP crew that the next location would be easy on all of the passengers. It was a wait and see situation for the passengers on the train who were all satisfied with the three runbys so far.

We climbed the rest of the way to Sand Pass before with Mission Peak off to the north we descended to Flanigan where an SP freight was waiting to come off the Modoc Line. We crossed into California and passed Calneva siding before passing the Herlong Army Depot. We turned south down Long Valley through Doyle and under Highway 395.

Photo Runby 4.

Photo Runby 5. We passed the old station stops of Constantia and Red Rocks prior to stopping to do our last two runbys of the day. On the move again we made a brief turn to the west before turning south through Scotts and running to Reno Jct where we turned west and plunged into the Chilcoot Tunnel. We emerged into the Sierra Valley, the largest flat spot in the whole Sierra Nevada Mountain chain. We crossed the valley to Hawley where the Loyalton Branch joined before we traveled through the short canyon by Rocky Point and on into Portola where we tied up the train for its two night stay.

We detrained and walked over to the Portola Railroad Museum to view some new engines the group has gotten since my last visit.

The buses arrived so everyone boarded the buses down to Reno for my two night stay at the Sands with my room overlooking the SP mainline through town.

The Pacific Limited Portola to Sacramento 7/18/1992

We assembled down outside the hotel and waited for the buses. After an hour after they should have been there to pick us up, a group of us decided to get a taxi and split the cost to Portola. We arrived in Portola which gave us all a chance to visit the Feather River Railroad Museum and to get pictures of their newly arrived Oregon Northwestern Baldwin diesels. After a complete look around the museum, the rest of the sold out train riding group arrived and we all boarded the train. With me in my usual front right hand Dome seat I was ready for my second trip down the Feather River Canyon. Today, we opened both end vents about half way and had our best results yet of keeping the "Sauna" cool. We left on time and passed the museum on our way out of town. We traveled west down the Humbug Valley through the old station site of Mabie before passing a narrow canyon and staying high up on the canyon side as the stream dropped below. We then crossed the high Clio Viaduct over Betteron Creek before reaching Blairsdan siding. We were now in the valley of the Middle Fork of the Feather River as we made our way through Two Rivers to Sloat and entered the Long Valley. We went past the old sawmill and entered the tight canyon before we left in plunging into the long Spring Garden Tunnel to switch watersheds. We passed through Spring Garden siding before we rounded the Williams Loop, making a 360 degree turn. Photographers were everywhere along the route but were concentrated here. I knew what the Keddie Wye would be like just by the numbers here. We ducked under Highway 70/89 and passed the old station site of Massack before winding above the Quincy Valley to Quincy Junction where to the west of there we did our first photo runby of the day.

We stayed high above the Spanish Creek as we made of way to Keddie. We passed through the small yard before passing the switch for the route through the tunnel to the High Line of the former Western Pacific. We curved out onto the bridge with the UP 3985 whistling as we crossed the Keddie Wye with photographers on every location of the hill that was possible. Add in the people chasing the train and Keddie was a very busy spot.

We plunged into the tunnel right off of the bridge before crossing another bridge prior to entering the next tunnel. Across the canyon along the wall was the High Line gaining elevation while our route continued to drop as we made our way to Sloat with the highway jammed with pacers while the photographers made many an illegal move to get by them. It was quite a show being put on by the drivers on Highway 70 as we headed west. We headed down Spanish Creek through Grays Flat before reaching Virgila. We entered the Serpentine Canyon before we passed above Rich and French Bars where a large amount of gold was taken out of the canyon. We curved our way to Belden where we joined the North Fork of the Feather River. We came to the lake of Rock Creek Reservoir before we went through the Honeymoon Tunnels along its shore. We passed the dam before winding our way down the Feather River Canyon by Badger Flats before reaching Tobin where the railroad went over both the Feather River and Highway 70 at the same time on a truss bridge. We now wound our way along the north side of the canyon above the busy highway below. We curved over the Rock Creek Bridge before pulling into Merlin where we did a photo runby right in the Feather River Canyon itself.

Photo Runby 2.

Photo Runby 3. Great planning had to be done in finding locations where a whole train could detrain safely and with enough room for the photo lines to be made. The UP 3985 sounded incredible as it echoed off of the canyon walls and looked great as it put out a great plume of smoke. Once back on board, we passed the Elephant Buttes on the other side of the canyon before we reached Pulga where we crossed the Feather River on a truss bridge while the Highway 70 crossed high above us. We made our way along the south side of the canyon to Poe before crossing the Feather River on the concrete arch bridge at North Fork. We plunged straight into a long tunnel before bursting into daylight at Dark Canyon before a series of tunnels that put us on the lower level with Highway 70 on the upper level of the decked bridge over the West Branch of Lake Oroville. We went through James before ducking under Highway 70 and entering the tunnel that made a 180 degree turn that took us again under Highway 70 as we ran on the north slope of Table Mountain.

Photo Runby 4. We wound our way around to the west side of Table Mountain crossing Coal Canyon and later Cottonwood Creek before we did our last photo runby of the day just to the east of Kramm. Once on the move again we rounded to the south side of Table Mountain with Thompson Flats below before we went through a few deep cuts to cross the Feather River before passing the diversion dam to enter Oroville and our next servicing stop where the passengers got their meals.

After a few more pictures of the UP 3985 and train we were off again passing the Oroville yard with the dredge tailings off to the west. We split the hills before passing through Palermo to cross Wyandotte River to Craig siding. Miles later we crossed the South River before reaching Tambo before crossing the SP East Valley mainline at Binney Jct. We curved on the levee of the Feather River around Marysville before we crossed the Yuba River on the south end of town. We passed through Olivehurst, under Highway 70 then over Bear Creek and Ping Slough to reach Pleasant Grove. Straight as an arrow we crossed Curry Creek through Rio Linda and stayed on a levee through Del Paso. We enter northern Sacramento before we crossed the American River and entered the state capitol of California. We crossed all of the Alphabet Streets, went by the old WP Depot before ducking under the light rail line and Business Route 80. We pulled into the old Western Pacific yard where the train would be tied up for the night. I was taken to the Amtrak depot where I called my brother Bruce to come and get me as I would be spending the next three nights with his family.

The Pacific Limited Sacramento to San Jose 7/19/1992

Bruce followed me in my Geo Metro to the Amtrak station where I left my car and he then drove me back to the train for my final day on the Pacific Limited. We all boarded our usual seats with our efforts having paid off, as our Dome car was nice and cool. We left on time and headed south out of Sacramento. We crossed Morrison and Laguna Creek before passing through Franklin with most of the town out waving us through. We crossed the Consumnes River followed by the Mokelume River prior to our passage through Thornton. We sped down to Highway 12 before crossing Bear Creek and entering the north end of Stockton. We crossed the Southern Pacific at El Pinal before passing the old WP Stockton Depot. We made our way to Stockton Tower crossing the Santa Fe to reach the old Western Pacific yards. At the south end at Ortega the old Tidewater and Southern took off before we crossed over French Camp Slough. We ran along the east side of the Sharp Army Depot before crossing the SP Fresno mainline. Next we crossed the San Joaquin River followed by the Raine Slough before reaching Carbona. We crossed the California Aqueduct prior to ducking under Interstate 5 and reaching the Altamont Hills. We curved our way to Midway siding where we did our first photo runby of the day as well as static engine shots.

Photo Runby 1. We reboarded and once we were under way for a few minutes we stopped again for another photo runby.

Photo Runby 2. Quickly performed, we reboarded for a few more minutes trip to just short of the Redmond Cut where we did number three. This one had a funny moment, when some guy wanted quiet and got upset by the sound being given off by all of the windmills. He got really mad until I told him, "We'll wait here for you while you go and unplug them all!" Everyone laughed at that joke before we settled down and the UP 3985 ran by.

Photo Runby 3. Below us was the former original transcontinental Central Pacific right away that was abandoned a few years ago. We climbed the last few miles before crossing over the former path of rails and the road to the summit of Altamont Pass where a large group of people were waiting for us. We started our descent with the cars pacing us down the parallel road as we wound our way down the west slope of Altamont Pass, Near the very west end we crossed over the Greenville Trestle and dropped into the Livermore Valley. We made our way west through Livermore with people everywhere watching the 3985 pass by and traveled by the gravel pits at Radum. We curved to the south at Pleasanton before we started our trek through Niles Canyon. We went to Hearst before turning west passing the Niles Canyon Railroad which runs on the former CP route across the canyon with their train out whistling at us. We passed through the long tunnel which led us to the west end of the canyon to Niles Jct. We pulled forward across the Southern Pacific where an ex WP GP-35 coupled onto our rear and pulled us backward south down the San Jose Branch. We moved south through Newark and Warm Springs before we crossed Coyote Creek. We entered the yard at Milpitas where the UP 3985 was removed due to the fact that a bridge further south on the way to San Jose would not support the great weight of the UP 3985. The diesel pulled us the remaining six miles through the outskirts into San Jose. I detrained after an exciting ride all the way from Salt Lake City to San Jose. A special thank you to the Union Pacific Steam Crew and for the Pacific Limited Group for making this all possible.

A group of us were taking Amtrak to Sacramento so we taxied to the depot to wait for an on time Coast Starlight. I had an enjoyable dinner in the diner prior to Oakland and rode the lounge car the rest of the way to Sacramento. I drove in my car down to my brother Bruce's house for the next two nights.