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Winterail's 25th Show - A Car Trip

by Chris Guenzler

3/7/2003 Up early so Richard and I could leave for Stockton at 5 AM. We drove straight north up Interstate 5 but near Gorman where we stopped for breakfast, Richard's check engine light came on in his car. I once spent a day here on that Feather River E trip as I drank that time away sitting on the floor of the lobby. We drove on to Bakersfield to the Ford Dealer and spent two hours there while they checked out the problem. It turned out it was something the dealer in Orange failed to correct during Richard's last engine work there. They OK the car to be driven to Stockton and we were off again. With the Union Pacific finishing up major track work on the line over the Tehachapi Mountains, I did not expect to see many trains along their line as we headed north up the San Joaquin Valley. We did see the San Joaquin Valley Railroads local plus a pair of UP freights.

We pulled off in Tulare with a stop at JD Haskel's grain elevator to catch their engine. After shooting pictures of this unique engine we returned to our northbound trek. We ran through Fresno and Madera to Road 20 and a half where we headed over to the BNSF track.

We pulled off to the shoulder and no sooner than I had poured a cup of Coca-Cola, the former 199 train blew by in a blaze of speed. Most impressive!

No sooner than he went by we knew Amtrak 713 was due so we waited and were rewarded by this view.

We followed Santa Fe road northwest to Planda where two BNSF units came into the siding to wait for Amtrak 714 to fly by through town. We ran into Merced pacing the BNSF units happily bouncing along on their way to Empire for their pickup. We made our way through Merced and out along J7 or Santa Fe Avenue. We went by Castle Air Museum and stopped for gas in Balico. At Empire we managed to get across the tracks at a crossing two blocks north of Yosemite Road as a BNSF freight was blocking that crossing. Continuing north through Riverbank and on to Escalon. From here it was an easy trip to Stockton where we checked in to the Best Western for our two night stay.

Stockton 3/7/2003

Once checked in, I walked over to the KFC to get some Chicken Strips for Dinner which I enjoyed back in the room. After we stopped by a market we were on our way to Stockton Crossing when as we crossed the California Central Traction tracks we saw a train.

After Richard did some very good driving, we managed to catch him on film.

After that, I gave Richard the Railfan Tour of Stockton as we arrived at Church Street in time for both Amtrak 704 and the Altamont Commuter Train 02.

We next drove to the Pentrex Pizza Party for a night of slide shows. I presented the long program called "Steam in my Life" after the break. There was a good variety of subjects shown and I really enjoyed the steam in China part. Over all, it was a great evening of slides and I want to thank Alan Barrett and all of Pentrex for another fantastic slide show. We drove back to the hotel and called it a night.

3/8/2003 I enjoyed a breakfast in the restaurant before we headed out for the big day, the reason we came to Stockton, Winterail 2003.

We went by the Stockton Terminal and Eastern and shot their Alco switchers sitting outside the shops. We drove over to the crossing and right when we were about to leave, a UP northbound came out of the old Western Pacific Yard on its way north. After the long train had passed, we drove on over to the Winterail Site.

Winterail 2003

Once we pulled into the parking lot I started looking for the person who was buying my extra ticket since Richard of Let's Talk Trains decided he could not go. I put the ticket up on the Trainorders's Amtrak Discussion Board and within 17 minutes Dave posted he wanted it. A few e-mails later we were all set. So I waited for twenty five minutes before I went in and found Ken Ruben, the official caller of Let's Talk Trains who was about to call the show. At ten, I gave him a countdown of what was going on in the studio. He then called and after a few brief words to Richard and CJ, he handed me his new cell phone and I was live on Internet Talk Radio. I told Richard that we missed him there before giving my current mileage which was 730,073.9 on 3/8/2003. I went back outside still looking for Dave and after having a steak sandwich I decided to check out the swap meet. I bought a Louisville and Nashville 1 employee timetable 9/10/1972 which had both of the lines I rode in Kentucky back in December. I also picked up a Duluth, Missabe and Iron Range Timetable 93 8/1/1981. I was talking to Ken Meeker when Daniel found me to tell me that Dave was outside. I exchanged a ticket for cash before going out to get in line to get inside the theater. Once we were in at 11:30 AM after Richard and I had found a seat, I went back to the swap meet buying Southern Pacific Historic Diesels Vol 9 Alco PA/PB Passenger Locomotives by Joseph A. Strapac and also bought the Milwaukee Electric by Noel T. Holley. I was back in plenty of time for the start of the show along with the other 1000 people.

Winterail Afternoon Show

The show started with "Life with Winterail" by Vic Neves which was a light hearted look at the first 25 years of Winterail. It was a great blast form the past. After a short break, then it was "Passenger Trains from the Past - Sight and sounds" by Phil Gosney around Memphis as well as a lesson on train horns. Up next, it was the Reno Branch by Bruce Blackadar, a look at the changes over the last 30 years. The following program was called "The Road Less Traveled" -San Joaquin Valley Branchlines by John Ford which was a real good insight into the lines around Fresno. After another break, it was time for the Winterail Shorts. First, it was "My Hometown Railroad" by Dick Dorn, a look at the Sacramento Northern line in Yuba City. Second up was the "Powder River Basin" by Chip Sherman. The third and last short was the NWPwhY show by Phil Brahma and Chris Goepel which was very entertaining. Following a twenty minute break, it was time for "Acquainted with the Night" by Brian Plant, an excellent program using night photography. "A Railfan Primer" by Ken Rattenne which was a "tongue in cheek" look at Railfans. It was a real funny show. That great show was followed by the audiences Three Favorite Slides.

Richard and I drove back to the hotel where I went to Subway to get dinner and Richard went to a Mexican Restaurant for take out. We went back to Stockton Crossing and caught a long UP freight heading north. The Check engine light went out much to Richard and my surprise. We drove back to the Winterail site.

Winterail Evening Show

We arrived back to a very warm auditorium and following the awarding the photo contest winners being announced, they awarded the Winterail Hall of Fame Award to that excellent photographer Ted Benson. The show resumed with "Changing Colors, Fallen Flags: 25 Years of Western Railroading" by Bill Meeker which was a great look back over a very interesting period of time. Next it was "One Last Look" - Erie Lackawana Electrics by Bob Bahrs which showed New Jersey and the late period of their service there. Since I had visited that area I found it a fascinating look at that operation plus I saw a few cars I have since ridden in on tourist lines. The final show was a two part program called "Southern California Railroading" by Gordon Glattenburg which was the true blast from the past of the show. Seeing a very undeveloped Southern California was a great way to end another excellent Winterail show. Special thanks to Vic Neves, his staff and all the hard working roadies for an excellent show. We drove back to the hotel where I called it a night. It had been a great day of meeting old and making new friends.

Heading home 3/9/2003

We listened to the CD's I had brought on the trip home. A few UP freights in the wrong places, we made great time stopping for gas in Bakersfield. Near the top of the Ridge Route near Gorman again, that check engine light came on again. We stopped at Santa Clarita for lunch at In and Out before driving the rest of the way to drop me off in Santa Ana thus ending another great Winterail weekend.