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Coast Starlight Detour over Altamont Pass and the Tehachapi Loop

by Chris Guenzler

This purpose of this trip was the Coast Starlight Detour over Altamont Pass and the Tehachapi Loop and I waited until April when the southbound run returned to its normal schedule. It would be the Thruway Bus to Bakersfield, San Joaquin 713 north to Martinez then a Capitol Train to Sacramento for the night. The next morning board the Coast Starlight in a room so I would get three meals and ride the detour and take the last Pacific Surfliner home.

4/7/2011 As the trip neared I thought why take the bus at 5:30 AM when there is a Metrolink Train at 6:18 AM. It would give me 36.0 more rail miles so I choose the train plus got an extra hour of sleep because of that decision. I drove down to the Santa Ana Train Station, parked my Geo Metro then bought a Metrolink Ticket to LAUPT, got my luggage from the car then walked over to Track 1 to wait. Metrolink 603 came in right on time and I was off. It was a quick train trip to LAUPT where I detrained and went to wait for the Thruway Bus to Bakersfield. The trip was delayed a little by heavy traffic near Griffith Park and the freeway stopping above Templin Highway. The bus got us to Bakersfield after the crew had opened the train and the first car was filled with kids going to Wasco.

San Joaquin 713 4/7/2011

The train left with me watching the "Moscow Keith Emerson Band with Marc Bonilla" which took me most of the way to Madera. I paused it to get a Hot Dog and French Fries after the train left Wasco. The train moved right along hitting the rain storm south of Hanford most of the way into Fresno. The sunshine returned with broken clouds as the train continued northbound this early afternoon. The next DVD of the day was "Led Zeppelin Earl's Court 75" as I continued my journey towards Martinez. Watching concerts really makes the trip up the valley far more enjoyable. The Zeppelin DVD didn't finish before I had to clean up before detraining at Martinez which we arrived into early this afternoon. It had been another fantastic trip aboard the San Joaquin 713 today. Now we wait for the Capitol Train to Sacramento and see what else might pass through Martinez while I wait there.

First Capitol Train 541 snuck in and out of Martinez.

Our train will be on the closet track to the station with the red over yellow over red signal.

Next the Union Pacific East came through Martinez. That was followed shortly by a horn announcing the arrival of our train.

Capitol Train 534 4/7/2011

I boarded the 2nd Car from the rear and took a table. I put on my Jethro Tull DVD "Nothing is easy" for the trip to Sacramento. We came into Suisan-Fairfield to a major hail storm taking place as we made our station stop there. This was a first for me in all my miles of train traveling. It became sunny again by Davis, the Yolo Bypass was full of water and the train arrived into Sacramento early today.

Sacramento 4/7/2011

I walked over to the Vagabond Inn and checked in. I decided first to walk over to Old Sacramento to make sure I wasn't seeing things as our train pulled into Sacramento this afternoon.

Santa Fe 2-10-4 5021.

Santa Fe 4-8-4 2925.

Another view of the Santa Fe 2-10-4 5021.

Two more views of the Santa Fe 4-8-4 2925.

One more view of both Santa Fe engines.

Union Pacific Business Car 103.

The Sacramento Southern Excursion Train Set.

There is a tank car here.

Union Pacific 0-6-0 4466.

A Southern Pacific Dining Car.

Klamath Northern 206.

Sacramento Southern 2008.

Union Pacific Caboose 25256. I returned to my room and dropped off my camera. I went next door to Denny's for dinner before returning to my room and watching some television before calling it a night.

4/8/2011 I was up at 5:30 AM and following getting ice for my cooler full of Coca-Cola I checked out of the Vagabond Inn and walked back to the Amtrak Station. There I got a luggage cart to help take my stuff out to the waiting train.

Coast Starlight 11 4/8/2011

I boarded the train taking Room 5 in the 1132 Car. I then walked back to the Parlour Car to wait for breakfast at 6:30 AM. I was seated with the Reynords and another gentleman and enjoyed French Toast as the train left Sacramento on time. This train had a consist of Engines 510 and 456, Baggage 1164, Transition 39041, Sleepers 32072 Arkansas, 32018 and 32068, Pacific Parlour Car 39970 Columbia Valley, Diner 38068, Lounge 33046 with Coaches 34022, 34058 and 34039. The train crossed the Sacramento River and went through West Sacramento then out across the Yolo Bypass to Davis. We ran through Dixon and Fairfield by the USN Mothball Fleet, across the Carquinez Straight to Martinez under beautiful blue skies. The train ran along the Carquinez Straight to San Pablo Bay and on into Richmond. It was a quick run to Emeryville where our San Francisco passengers left the train. The train waited on time there then made its way through the yards then down the street at Jack London Square to our stop in Oakland where people going down the Coast would be bussed to their destination. Here Dave and Kathy Smetko joined me aboard the Coast Starlight. The train left Oakland 30 minutes late at 9:20 AM due to Amtrak putting on the Salisbury Beach on the rear of our train at our departure time.

Looking over to Alameda.

The Home of the Golden State Warriors.

The Home of the Oakland A's and Raiders.

At Elmhurst the Niles Sub, used by the Capitol Trains, heads for Niles. We stayed on the Mulford Line to Newark.

Two views towards San Francisco Bay.

The line which used to go out across the Dumbarton Drawbridge came in from the west at Newark.

At CP Carter we turned left to enter the Niles Sub.

The train heads onto the Niles Sub.

A few minutes later we ran by the Fremont Station.

Our train nearing Niles.

Here we made our way onto the old Western Pacific for our trip through Niles Canyon and over Altamont Pass.

Four views of Niles Canyon.

The tracks of the Niles Canyon Railroad.

The former Southern Pacific Station at Sunol where the Niles Canyon Train leaves from.

Near the east end of the Niles Canyon Railroad. The train ran through Pleasanton and Livermore.

The train is headed for Altamont Pass.

Looking northwest as we near the Greenville Trestle.

The former Southern Pacific Grade from the Greenville Trestle.

The train climbing above the Greenville Trestle.

The Greenville Trestle.

Our train climbing towards the summit of Altamont Pass.

The train climbing Altamont Pass.

Windmills on Altamont Pass.

The Summit of Altamont Pass.

The train starts down the east slope of Altamont Pass.

Views of the former grade of the Southern Pacific Railroad.

The former tunnel of the Southern Pacific Railroad.


Views of the former grade of the Southern Pacific Railroad.

A view looking down into the San Joaquin Valley.

Views of the east side of Altamont Pass.

You pass this lake before ducking under Interstate 205.

The San Joaquin Valley.

Crossing the California Northern Line at Lyoth.

The train crossed the San Joaquin River before we ran by the Manteca Ace Train Station.

Click here for Part 2 of this story