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Rolling back to La Junta

by Chris Guenzler

With the year I was having at McFadden, I needed a good trip to relax before finishing the school year. I choose the Southwest Chief to La Junta as it is relaxing, will give me the best scenery and I love the route so it is always fun. I got a room both ways so I would be in the best position to attain my goal of a relaxing trip. I made my hotel reservation again at the Mid Town Hotel and worked the days just waiting to go!

Pacific Surfliner 583 5/20/2005

I parked my Geo in the Parking Structure and hung the parking permit from my rear view mirror. I dropped off the other half of the permit with the Amtrak agent then walked out to the platform. Metrolink 686 came into Santa Ana before Surfliner 583 arrived. It had a consist of Surfliner Cab Car 6904, Coaches 6409 and 6413, Coach/Cafe 6305, Pacific Business Class 6802 with engine 450 in the push mode. We did a quiet Anaheim stop as the Angels were out on a road trip before we arrived into Fullerton. Looking up at the Trainweb Office on the 2nd Floor of the Fullerton Depot, I still can not believe that they are moving out of the station for offices about three blocks east of the depot at 400 East Commonwealth Unit 7. I am writing this trip in one of my old notebooks and I enjoy reading the old rough drafts of some of my earlier trips like the one I am reading now about the Spirit of Washington Dinner Train, the Izaak Walton Inn and the new at that time Portland Streetcar back in April of 2002. That story killed off most of the trip to Los Angeles Union Station where we arrived at 5:47 PM.

Southwest Chief 4 5/20/2005

The Southwest Chief was sitting across the platform from my arriving Surfliner 583. The consist of my train to La Junta had engines 178, 100 and 144, Baggage 1251, Transition 39031, Sleeping Cars 32022 and 32117 Wisconsin, Diner 38024, Lounge 33015, Coaches 34086, 31036 and 31042 with a lone Express Trek 74018 bringing up the rear. Chuck was my Sleeping Car Attendant who I had on my Sunset portion of the Texas Eagle back in April. He directed me to Room 13, lower level of the Wisconsin. I listened to some of Queen "Rarities" as we waited for our departure time. The Southwest Chief departed LAUPT at 6:45 PM, on time on a very warm clear evening. Our car had a PA System that we could not hear the Dining Car opening announcements saying it would not be opening to 7:15 PM. Not hearing it was because our car's PA was set on local and not train which Chuck fixed. We pulled into Fullerton and they called us in to dinner. Joining me for Dinner tonight was Carl going to Winslow then onto New York along with Ronald and Cathy going home to Cleveland. Conductor Castro stopped by the table to say hello and it was good to see him again. I enjoyed a New York Strip off of Menu 5 along with a Chocolate Sundae. The dining experience lasted with great conversation to just before San Bernardino where I took a fresh air break. I sat in my room listening to more of Queen as the Southwest Chief climbed up and over Cajon Pass via Sullivan Curve on an almost full moon night with plenty of freight action. After our stop in Victorville, I made up my bed and called it a night with me being very happy to be back on the rails again.

5/21/2005 I woke up just as the train was leaving Flagstaff on a bright sunny beautiful clear morning. Since I have traveled and have taken so many pictures of the route, I will attempt to give you one or many more new views along the Southwest Chief route. It always amazes me how quickly you leave to forest and return to the desert. While waiting in the lounge car for Breakfast as the Southwest Chief crossed Canyon Diablo, a few brief views of the Meteor Crater came into view. At 6:30 AM I was seated at a table in the Dining Car with Lee going to Dodge City, Ramona going to Albuquerque and Adriana going to Newton then heading south to Oklahoma. I ordered French Toast and Sausage which was filling. I returned to my room, kicked off my shoes, read the Arizona Daily Sun and listened to two of the CDs from a four disc ABBA Box Set I own. I listened to the ABBA song "The Visitors" as I watched Arizona turn into New Mexico before we reached Gallup.

As always the Red Mesas east of Gallup on a very pleasant morning of train riding.

We took the North Track for the climb to Thoreau as the South Track was busy with BNSF freights. ABBA took me to Grants and I went to the lounge car to enjoy the north view as the Southwest Chief sped east. I was back in my room at Laguna to listen to Mick Jagger "Wandering Spirit". That title could be applied to me.

Much later in the morning after we left the BNSF mainline at Dalies, the Southwest Chief descended into the Rio Grande River Valley.

At Isleta, the line to Belen came in and this would be future ride for me once the new New Mexico Railrunner starts service in November. I will be writing a story for you about then.

The Rio Grande River before we arrived into Albuquerque with the Mick Jagger CD ending there as we arrived thirty-two minutes early. I walked over to Cold Stone for a Vanilla with crushed Kit Kat Bars ice cream and went by Century Theater to see how many showings of the new Star Wars movie "Revenge of the Sith" they had. I planned to see it the day I returned home to Santa Ana. I returned to the train and stood in the shade on a very hot day. I noticed that the Wisconsin had been in Coast Starlight service by the remains of an Amtrak West decal with the famous pointless arrow Amtrak symbol. I wished that Amtrak would return to the arrow instead of the "Three Sheets in the Wind" symbol. I know that symbol is really two rails disappearing over a hill but the "Three Sheets" is what I and the railroad crews all call it. I saw an ex Surfliner Engineer Ruben and talked briefly about things in Albuquerque on a rather hot day for May.

We departed on time with me listening to the Rolling Stones "Secret Gig" as I enjoyed another Coca-Cola. I took a nap from Nueva all the way to Chapelle. I slept through Lamy, Apache Canyon, Glorieta Pass, the Pecos River and Starvation Peak. I took a nice shower to bring me back to life.

We arrived into Las Vegas and the Wisconsin stopped right in front of the La Castanda, the former Santa Fe Harvey House.

The Southwest Chief passed the foundations of the Fort Union Corral part of the Fort Union National Monument. The fort was located at the western junction of the two branches of the Santa Fe Trail where the Mountain Branch joined the Cimarron Cutoff.

The train passed Wagon Mound on our way to Raton after I switched to Emerson, Lake & Palmer "In the Hot Seat". That took me to 5 PM and my dinner time on the Southwest Chief which was served by Douglas, a one legged waiter who does a fantastic job. I had another New York Strip with Bruce who was having Rack of Lamb going to New York. While we were eating the train did a fresh air stop at Raton.

The Southwest Chief climbed Raton Pass towards the Raton Tunnel and Colorado.

The Southwest Chief climbed Raton Pass to the Raton Tunnel and Colorado. The train then descended the 3.4% grade of the north flank of Raton Pass to Trinidad. I always enjoy any crossing of Raton Pass. I was now listening to the Scorpions "Crazy World".

After we left Trinidad on time, we made our final sprint to La Junta arriving twenty-five minutes early. It was another excellent Amtrak trip on the Southwest Chief.

La Junta 5/21/2005

I walked over to the Mid Town Motel and had a second floor room which I had to cool down to enjoy it. The room had not been used in days and La Junta had been very hot. I walked over to Love's Gas for some shampoo before I called it a night.

5/22/2005 I enjoyed White Toast, Crispy Bacon and an Orange Juice at the Copper King Cafe before I looked around La Junta. I saw a BNSF loaded coal train while on my walk. Picked up some more Coca-Cola at the motel's Coke machine for 50 cents before I packed up, checked out and walked back to the Amtrak station.

Southwest Chief 3 5/22/2005

The Southwest Chief pulled into La Junta ten minutes early at 8:05 AM. This train had engines 93, 63 and 510, Baggage 1253, Transition 39022, Sleepers 32043 and 32025, Diner 38060, Lounge 33012, Coaches 34005, 34064 and 34054 with Express Trak 74048, 74041 and 74039. I boarded Sleeper 32043 and had Room 11 on the lower level. The Southwest Chief departed La Junta on time to take me home. We passed an eastbound grain train at Mindeman.

The Spanish Peaks also known as the Mother's Breast by the American Indians were seen on a very humid morning on our way to Trinidad. I was listening to the Patrick Moraz "The Story Of I" for the first musical choice of the morning. As we came into Trinidad we passed an eastbound BNSF piggyback train.

The Southwest Chief climbed Raton Pass twisting and turning as it climbed to the state line of New Mexico before it entered the Raton Tunnel. Geddy Lee of Rush "My Favorite Headache" took me to Raton. We did an extended fresh air stop at Raton as we were early and left on time with me preparing to take a needed nap. After a restful and relaxing sleep, I woke up in the exact same place that I did eastbound yesterday. I went to the lounge for a Chocolate Chip Cookie from Shirley Robinson, the fantastic LSA in the lounge. Sitting upstairs, I met Duncan from England heading to Flagstaff to do a driving tour to Denver. I pointed out Starvation Peak and told the story of its name. We also enjoyed the "S" curve and the crossing of the rain swollen Pecos River. I returned to my room for the climb to Glorieta Pass. I then was back in the lounge car with Duncan for the descent to Canyoncito where we met Train 4, the eastbound Southwest Chief, and Apache Canyon. I was back in the room at Lamy for Yes "Live at the House of Blues" as we departed on time. Dining Car Steward Ken Levinson gave me a 5 PM dinner reservation.

We ran extremely fast to Albuquerque and arrived into town at 3:30 PM, twenty-five minutes early and will be here until 4:45 PM. The El Amigo Catering Inc. trailer which has been serving Amtrak passengers for 18 years known for their famous homemade Burritos and has expanded to include souvenirs. I bought a $5 Indian Blanket for someone special in my life. Cheryl's Bus is AWOL on the trip. With it being 98 degrees out, the shade of the bridge was most welcome as a place to enjoy a cool southern breeze.

The Southwest Chief departed Albuquerque a few minutes late at 4:49 PM as our outbound crew was late arriving to our train. I went to the Dining Car for my 5 PM dinner reservation off of Menu 2. I was joined by Marti with her grandson Conner going to Chico via the San Joaquin Route. Dorothy is my server for the meal with me having a New York Strip along with my usual dessert. Diane going to Flagstaff then onto Phoenix joined us at 5:30 PM. Good conversations across the aisle with Canadian train riding and the North American Rail Pass discussed. I was back in my room by West Baca and returned the second CD of Yes. Our train arrived at Gallup on time and I used the station time to take a shower. Since the sun was coming into my room brightly, I rode backwards and put on Richie Blackmore Rainbow "Long Live Rock n Roll" as we rolled west into Arizona.

The moon was rising in the east at Pinta.

The Southwest Chief rolled into the Arizona Sunset. I visited with Shirley as she was eating her dinner in the Dining Car and we got caught up on things. At Winslow, I made up my bad and called it a night.

5/23/2005 Up at 4:50 AM for the 5 AM Breakfast serving with a last call at San Bernardino. I was seated as the train was still climbing the north flank of Cajon Pass as night was still in total control. We crested Summit and started downgrade as twilight had just begun to take hold. I enjoyed my French Toast and Bacon along with conversation with Richard and Elaine prior to our pre dawn arrival into San Bernardino. Jethro Tull "Under Wraps" was my first AM musical choice of the morning as we did Riverside. The sun rose though a hazy sky as we started our run to Fullerton. We ran into the low clouds as we ran through Santa Ana Canyon. More Tull was enjoyed as I listened to "Broadsword and the Beast". We left Fullerton at 6:51 AM {6:34 AM} and made our final sprint to LAUPT arriving there at 7:21 AM, fifty-four minutes early. A special thank you to all my onboard Amtrak Staff and Train Crews for an excellent trip and making it a big success. I love early arriving trains!

Metrolink 600 5/23/2005

I missed a connection to Surfliner 564 by a minute as it started to pull out as we came to a stop. I knew of another option to get me home instead of waiting for Surfliner 566, Metrolink 600. I walked over to the ticketing machine at the south end of the platform and bought a one way ticket to Santa Ana. I saw Conductor Richard Albitre before walking to the first coach. This Metrolink Train had engine 871, Coaches 130, 103, 167 and 147 with Cab Car 635. REO Speedwagon "A Decade of Rock n Roll" was my final musical selection for this trip. We left LAUPT on time and made quick work of the miles. This Metrolink Train stopped in Norwalk, Fullerton, Anaheim, Orange and my stop in Santa Ana. We arrived into Santa Ana on time ending another excellent and relaxing completely on time rail adventure.