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The Feather River Express 4/1-2/2006

by Chris Guenzler

I saw a post on in early February about the Feather River Express that would run on April 1st and 2nd. About twenty minutes later, a link was posted about how to get tickets online. I followed the link after making a phone call and purchased my ticket. A few minutes later, I received a confirmation e-mail. I told Chris Parker about it and he wanted to go. He came over one night and we went through the same steps I did and thought we had purchased his ticket also.

About a week before the trip, I posted a question asking about if the Feather River Railroad Museum would be open since I had a friend coming with me. That led to an E-mail asking me who was traveling with me. It turned out that Chris did not have a ticket and the train was sold out. He made some phone calls and I placed postings on three railfan boards --, and -- hoping to get Chris an extra ticket. I watched the boards for days, but nothing. Chris then had an idea. He would ride with me to Oakland, take the California Zephyr to Sparks, a Thruway Bus to Sacramento, before riding the train at the California State Railroad Museum. We kept in contact right up to the night before the trip.

The Trip North to Oakland 3/31/2006

I arose at 4:52 AM and prepared for the trip, checking my E-mail and packing before driving to the Santa Ana train station. I left the car there until early Monday morning, then bought my Metrolink Ticket to Los Angeles.

Metrolink Train 603 pulled into Santa Ana on time and I boarded the Cab Car. As I traveled to Los Angeles, I enjoyed a Coca-Cola. We arrived into LAUPT at 7:12 AM and I walked out to the Bus Plaza, where I found Chris Parker waiting for me. A couple of minutes later, the bus driver loaded the bus and at 7:28 AM, we proceeded to Glendale to pick up a single passenger. It started raining before Sylmar and continued up the south slope of the Grapevine. Chris and I talked the entire way to Bakersfield, making for another nice bus ride. We pulled into Bakersfield thirty minutes early. Our train had BNSF 4084 leading our train to Oakland. BNSF 4331 West passed through the station before the door was opened.

The Bakersfield Station.

Our train had guest BNSF 4084 leading our train to Oakland.

BNSF 4331 West passed through the station before the door was open.

San Joaquin 713 3/31/2006

This San Joaquin train featured the BNSF C44-9W 4084, Amtrak P42DC 160, coaches "Santa Ana River" 8009, "Russian River" 8007, "San Gabriel Valley" 8003 and cab car "Point Arena" 6964. We left Bakersfield on time, running to Wasco, where a new station was being built. North at Elmo, we ran through the siding around a BNSF eastbound freight, and at Allensworth we met Amtrak 702 in the siding waiting for us. A compression failure on our P42DC was the reason the BNSF unit was on the point of our train. We stopped in Corcoran, then Hanford and Fresno.

Views of the California Cafe Car.

Views of a California Coach.

San Joaquin 713 at Fresno.

View of the train with the Fresno station sign. Later at Gregg, we held the main to meet BNSF 4606 East. We continued on to Madera and at West Sharon, met BNSF 4090, then backed into the siding to let a late-running San Joaquin 714 pass by heading south. After a slow order at Le Grand, we made our way to Merced for a fresh air stop. Here Chris enjoyed seeing the use of the California Car wheelchair lift for the first time. A BNSF eastbound freight blocked our view of the Castle Air Museum at Atwater before we paused at Turlock/Denair then onto Modesto.

On the way there we spotted this cloud trying to form a tornado. My camera is out and ready just in case it does.

More views of the not so friendly cloud. We then heard a report that a BNSF Remote Control Unit had derailed east of the Bakersfield yard. The afternoon became more interesting as we turned northwest into Riverbank and headed into the storm. Did it ever pour, complete with flashes of lightning. At East Stockton, we passed a late-running San Joaquin 716 before arriving into Stockton.

I enjoyed a Coca-Cola as the train crossed the California Delta. The train proceeded to Antioch as the rain continued to fall. The rain let up as we stopped at Martinez and the clouds became interesting as we continued west down the Carquinez Straits to San Pablo Bay, which was beautiful in today's unique light. The train stopped at Richmond, passed through Berkeley and on to Emeryville. We passed the Amtrak coach yards, and down the middle of the street at Jack London Square, arriving Oakland at 5:18 PM {4:25 PM}. We said goodbye to Conductor James and started walking to the Jack London Inn.

Oakland 3/31/2006

Capitol Train 541 pulled into the Oakland Station. With a light rain we set up for more action across the street from the Jack London Inn under an awning.

Capitol Train 540 headed for Sacramento.

Another deadhead move to the coach yards.

A westbound Union Pacific came down the street next.

The Amtrak then beat the freight through Jack London Square.

The freight chasing the Amtrak.

Behind him came our train deadheading to the Amtrak Coach Yard.

After all that action, we crossed the street to check into the Jack London Inn getting Room 326 overlooking the tracks. After checking my e-mail hoping for good news about Chris getting a ticket, we walked over to the waterfront.

View of a container ship being turned by a hard working tug.

A view towards the western hills across the San Francisco Bay. We ate at Tony Roma's, where I enjoyed a steak while watching the trains pass through Jack London Square. We walked back to the hotel by way of the former Western Pacific station. We watched the History Channel's program about Saddam Hussein and a link to the Nazis of Germany. It was a fascinating program which I learned more about several present and past issues, as the trains rolled by outside our window. I took a waterfall shower and then called it a night.

Oakland 4/1/2006

After another "Waterfall Shower", I went to check e-mail before joining Chris for a continental breakfast. We checked out and walked to the station in a light rain. While Chris was buying his ticket to Emeryville, I heard a UP Eastbound approaching.

UP 5775 East rolled through Jack London Square. Knowing our train would be coming into the station, we relocated to the pedestrian bridge.

Our Capitol Train for Emeryville came into the station from Jack London Square. We boarded this train but it would not leave until 7:15 AM.

San Joaquin 712 sat ready to head south to Bakersfield. Capitol Train 520 left Oakland on time and we were off for the quick trip to Emeryville.

Eastbound Feather River Express 4/1/2006

As the rain continued I detrained to look for shelter. Chris went off so I would not be seeing him again as I met a few friends. I decided to relocate under the pedestrian bridge for more cover. It stopped raining so I moved to where my car would be stopping.

San Joaquin Train 712 running late came through Emeryville.

At 8:12 AM our Feather River Express pulled into Emeryville.

A WP herald was added to the front of the 146. I found my name above my seat.

View inside the Great Dome.

Views inside the Overland Trail.

Our train passed through Port Costa with the former Southern Pacific Ferry Dock pilings.

The view towards the bridge at Martinez before our train pulled into that station. Our train was loaded from front to the rear.

Crossing the Carquinez Straits. We stopped later at Davis then crossed the flooded Yolo Bypass. The open Drawbridge before Sacramento cost us a few minutes.

Randy Jackson, from Albuquerque, who had been with me on many Milwaukee Road 261 trips, and I would share a table in the front cafe for the trip. I called Lets Talk Trains, the internet radio show, that airs every Saturday morning from 10:00 AM to 12:00 noon Pacific Time or 24/7 in the archives. The train stopped in Sacramento where another large group of passengers boarded.

The Feather River Express took the connection at Haggin to get to the old Western Pacific. The train once onto the former WP pulled into the siding at Del Paso for a westbound UP 3498.

Flooded areas north of Del Paso. At Pleasant Grove we met a late running Coast Starlight before we ran across the Bear River into Marysville. At Binney Junction there were plenty of happy passengers as we continued straight on the former Western Pacific.

The Sutter Buttes before we had a slow order for water against the embankment. We ran on to Oroville where we picked up the final six passengers for this trip.

Western Pacific steamer 164 is on display across from the Oroville Station.

After Leaving Oroville we crossed the Feather River and started on the relocated trackage built because of the Oroville Dam on the original river route. We skirted the western flank of Table Mountain. Our train ran through Kramm and Elsey before we caught up to an eastbound stack train we could see ahead of us.

The train stopped before Tunnel 4 to wait for the stack train to go through James on the other side of the tunnel. There was a work gang at James, so after we received permission to pass through their limits, we proceeded through James. Our train crossed the west branch of Lake Oroville on the lower lever of the Highway 70 bridge then plunged into Tunnel 5.

A red signal before Tunnel 6 caused another stop for the train. The signal then turned yellow and we proceeded through Tunnel 6 and 7 to Dark Canyon. After a short period of daylight, we headed into the longest tunnel on this railroad today, Tunnel 8, an 8,856 foot affair. We exited out onto the arched North Fork Bridge and returned to the original Western Pacific route through the Feather River Canyon.

Two views of the North Fork Bridge. We were now following the North Fork of the Feather River. At Poe a westbound UP freight was in the siding for our passage.

Views as we headed east towards Pulga.

The train heading under the Highway 70 Bridge at Pulga and there we passed that stack train, the UP 5535 East. The train ran by the Poe Diversion Dam.

Views of the Feather River Canyon between Pulga and Merlin. At Merlin we ran through the siding to get by a high rail truck with its right wheels between the rails.

Our train crossing Rock Creek Bridge. We proceeded across the Highway 70 bridge at Tobin where the SP 8556 was in the siding then onto Camp Rodgers where more red signals were waiting to stop our progress. After stopping at both ends of Camp Rodgers we proceeded east again.

The Rock Creek Dam followed by our passage through the Honeymoon Tunnels then onto Belden where a green signal was waiting for our train.

Joe Harper, the fantastic videographer.

The Feather River Express passed the point where the North Fork of the Feather heads north to Lake Almanor and our route follows Spanish Creek.

Above Twain.

The Serpentine Canyon. At Virgilia we passed the BNSF 41177 East and made our way to Paxton. The train then went through Tunnel 23.

Bridge on the High Line. We then proceeded through Tunnel 24, across a bridge into Tunnel 25 out onto the Keddie Wye.

Our train on the Keddie Wye. Sorry for the blurred image but since this was historical I added to the story. Sometimes my camera does not work to well in low light. The Feather River Express passed through Quincy Jct.

Next our train rounded the Williams Loop then we went into the siding at Spring Garden. It turned into night as we waited for the UP 5425 West and UP 7042 West. A green signal and minutes later we plunged into the Spring Garden Tunnel.

Lyn and Ron Gomes were celebrating their second wedding anniversary on the trip. They were married on the Niles Canyon Railroad on April 24th, 2004. We stopped at Sloat for UP 4232 West. The train then backed out of the siding, and proceeded through the night to Blairsdan, across the Clio Viaduct and into Portola. We backed into the house track and came to a stop at 8:15 PM, ending a fantastic eastbound trip aboard the Feather River Express.

Portola 4/1/2006

As I walked across the bridge over the railroad, the sole on my boot came off. I made my way to Highway 70 and on the way to my motel, I stopped and bought some white glue as that was the only glue this store had. I checked in at the Sierra Hotel and got my room. I made a few phone calls then glued the sole back onto my shoe. I took a great shower and called it a night.

4/2/2006 After a shorter night due to the time change early this morning I arose and prepared for my day. I left my key in the key drop before I walked into town. The sole came off again so the white glue was a waste of time. I made it to the Station Cafe for breakfast of a waffle, sausage and orange juice which I enjoyed at a table overlooking the yard. After a great meal, I walked down to the yard wondering what to do about my footwear.

I took these pictures of the rear of our train with the Silver Solarium with its unique tail light. I started walking towards the engine when a Silver Toyota Highlander pulled up to me, with none other than Chris Parker at the wheel. Chris had taken the California Zephyr to Sparks, stayed at the Nugget and took a shuttle to the Reno Airport to get the vehicle. His new plan was to chase our train, return the car at Sacramento Airport and fly home. We stowed my stuff in his car then drove down to shoot my train at rest in Portola.

Chris saw my foot problem then suggested we go back into town to find a solution. At 8:00 on a Sunday morning in a small town my only choice was town's supermarket. I bought a tube of Super Glue and a pack of napkins. Using the exhaust from the Highlander, we warmed the sole and the boot, cleaned the white glue off, then crazy glued it back together which worked. We drove back to the train and I put my stuff aboard. Once I had done that, I decided to give Chris the "grand tour" of the Portola Railroad Museum.

Portola Railroad Museum 4/2/2006

We drove in to park. The first order of business was to get a good picture of the Southern Pacific 0-6-0 1215 that once was Burris Park south of Kingsburg that Chris and I had gone looking for on the way to Winterail this year.

The Western Pacific lives in Portola. I then gave Chris a complete tour of the museum.

View of some of the engines in the collection.

More locomotives on display.

Quincy Railroad 3 and 4 on display.

Inside the former Western Pacific Engine House. After I showed Chris a few more things outside he drove me back to the train and I gave him directions for his chasing of the Feather River Express. We said our goodbyes and he drove off while I got on the train.

Click here for the westbound Feather River Express.