Facebook Page

A Circle Trip via Oakland

by Chris Guenzler

Closing in on Day 3900 of my sobriety, I thought a trip to celebrate might be in order. After that wonderful stay at the Jack London Inn in Oakland back in August, it made me think about staying there in the future. The wheels in my mind started rolling and an idea came to my brain. Why not book a Coast Starlight Trip to Oakland on Saturday and San Joaquin 712 home. I went down to Santa Ana to pay for it then made an on-line reservation at the Jack London Inn. I picked up my tickets at Santa Ana then just had to live the days before the trip. Day 3900 came on Thursday September 22nd, 2005 and two days later I was packed and ready to go on Saturday September 24th.

Surfliner 763 9/24/2005

The Surfliner pulled into Santa Ana a few minutes early in push mode. My train to Los Angeles had Cab Car 6906, Coaches 6412 and 6407, Coach/Cafe 6302, Pacific Business Class 6805 and engine 454. We made our Anaheim and Fullerton stops before we made a fast trip to LAUPT arriving a few minutes early. I talked to a few of my Amtrak friends before I started to wait for my Coast Starlight.

Coast Starlight 14 9/24/05

The Starlight backed into Los Angeles Union Station at 9:30 AM. This Coast Starlight had engines 158 and 159, Baggage 1241, Transition 39022, Sleepers 32111 Washington, 32075 Connecticut and 32084 Kansas, 33039 Sightseer Lounge (substituting for the Parlour Car), Diner 38046, Lounge 33019 and Coaches 34034, 34512 and 34039. We departed LAUPT on time and headed out into the very cloudy San Fernando Valley with me riding in Coach 34512 along with Kevin Densdale from Chettenham, Gloucesterhire, England. My car attendant is the wonderful Erika. The train stopped at Van Nuys then through the Santa Susana Mountains to Simi Valley. I finished my newest book "Whole Lotta Led; Our Flight With Led Zeppelin" by Ralph Hulett and Jerry Prochnicky. It is a wonderful look at the career of Led Zeppelin and how the author's lives were affected by the band. For information clicked on the link below.

The book web site

Since we arrived into Simi Valley early, we had an extended fresh air break there before we ran early into Oxnard. We soon had reached the shoreline of the Pacific Ocean with me listening to the "Ocean" by Led Zeppelin from their "How the West was Won" triple CD. I put it on as soon as I sat down on the Starlight and that song is where I am at listening to it. That music took me almost to Santa Barbara, our first official fresh air stop of the trip. We left the low clouds in Santa Barbara and before El Captain I spotted dolphins frolicking in the surf. I now listened to Trevor Rabin CDs called "Trevor Rabin" and "Face to Face" took me west to Point Conception and onto Vandenberg Air Force Base.

Next it was the "Bigger Bang" the newest by the Rolling Stones took me north. At Guadalupe I received a 5 PM Dinner Reservation. We arrived into San Luis Obispo early and I enjoyed a lengthy fresh air stop during our crew change. We left San Luis Obispo on time and I was at the rear door of Coach 34039 to photograph the climb over Cuesta Grade.

Leaving the San Luis Obispo Station.

West San Luis Obispo control point.

The starting of the climb out of San Luis Obispo.

Passing Cal Poly San Luis Obispo.

Looking back at Cal poly.

Out into the Central California Countryside.

The Steener Trestle.

As we started up the Goldtree Horseshoe Curve you can see where we will end up in a few minutes.

My train at the top of the Goldtree Horseshoe Curve.

The east end of Chorro Siding.

A look at the Goldtree Horseshoe Curve.

The Stenner Trestle from above.

The west end of Chorro Siding.

West end of Tunnel 11.

East end of Serrano Siding.

Serrano Siding.

West end of Serrano Siding.

Former Tunnel 10.

Highway 101 has a steep climb to get to Cuesta Summit.

West end of Tunnel 9.

West end of Tunnel 8.

Between Tunnel 7 and 8.

West end of Tunnel 7.

West end of the Summit Tunnel 6.

I returned to my seat at Santa Margarita and talked with Kevin talking all the way to Paso Robles. At 5 PM I went to the dining car sitting with Dave who is returning to Seattle to move his family to the San Diego. Across from us was a Hispanic couple with a delightful 16 month old daughter. We passed the southbound Coast Starlight at San Ardo running hours late while waiting for my dinner to arrive. I enjoyed a New York Strip and Chocolate Sundae off of Menu 2. I paid for my meal just after we exited Tunnel 5. I returned to my seat for Sweet "Live at the Marquee Club" and when "Restless" started we had arrived into Salinas for our next fresh air stop. We departed Salinas on time and in daylight no less and headed towards Moss Landing reaching there just as the sun was setting. Beautiful is the only word to describe the low light magic that was taking place along the water's edge. We passed through the Pajora Gap in twilight and after I told Kevin that we were crossing the San Andeas Fault, he hoped that we would not have an earthquake during his visit to San Francisco. From Gilroy it was Chicago "If You Leave Me Now" as we sped up the Caltrain shared line to San Jose where we arrived early for yet another fresh air break. Something told me our luck had run out as I heard the conductor talking about backing out of the San Jose Station at departure time.

With a Union Pacific freight train blocking our forward exit from San Jose, we backed a half mile to a switch to run through the station on Track 5. Before we did that the conductor gave us a rundown of what was going on but would not give us an Oakland ETA. My coach mates knew we were in trouble. We pulled down to near the College Park Station where we would sit and wait for a UP freight on the right and a Capitol Train on the left. Caltrains kept running by us during this delay as track work ahead was delaying us. The nice lady across from us summed it all up nicely when she said into her cell phone, "Typical train stuff!" We just sat then lost head end power. At this point I said "Remember! Every trip is an adventure!" That got a whole lot of laughs. Thirty minutes later we escaped San Jose and the HEP returned at 10 PM long after we should have left Oakland. We came to another stop for more track work before Newark and talk about rock n roll as we were bounced around our coach. We stayed on the Mulford Line and the talking killed all the time the train took to get to Oakland which we arrived into at 11:18 PM or one hour and forty six minutes late.

Oakland 9/24/2005

I walked the two blocks through the very active night life of Jack London Square to the Jack London Inn. I checked in and did my e mail in the lobby before heading to my room for the night.

9/25/2005 I woke up, watched the Weather Channel and ESPN for sports scores. Then it was down to the lobby where I checked my e mail and checked out of the Jack London Inn. I walked back to the Amtrak Station getting to watch Capitol Corridor Train 520 depart for Sacramento sitting out in the very crisp Bay Area morning air. The UP 3192 West rolled through the Oakland Station as my train was arriving from the Amtrak yard.

San Joaquin 712 9/25/2005

My train to Bakersfield was in push mode with Cab Car 6961 Point Arguello, Cafe 8812 Sonoma Valley, Coach 8027 Smith River and Coach/Baggage 8201 San Francisco Bay with engine 2015. We left on time with a single conductor to handle this run. It appears that the Oakland Crew Base is very short handed. We proceeded down Embarcadero Street running in front of the Jack London Inn before we run by the UP and Amtrak Shops on as beautiful clear morning. We stopped in Emeryville and Richmond before we reached the shores of San Pablo Bay. Near Crockett we turned east to run along the Carquinez Straits to Martinez.

Martinez was a brief fresh air stop that allowed for these pictures of our train and Cab Car 6961 with its unique decorations. We headed east to Antioch before crossing the California Delta where we met San Joaquin 711 at Holt. Our train boarded a large group at Stockton. My book for this southbound trip was "Amtrak's Long Distance Service; Can It Be Made Viable?" by Gordon Gill who I met on my last southbound Coast Starlight Trip. We did Modesto, Turlock, Merced and Madera as I enjoyed the book. Fresno was a nice fresh air break as was Hanford. My cruise friends going to San Pedro for their boat had another couple sitting two cars back going with them. At Hanford the husband got off and went into the station. Our conductor called "All aboard!", checked for any runners then highballed the train. A few minutes later he got a phone call from Hanford stating a male passenger had gotten left behind. Why did he go into the station? To use the bathroom. His friends had a good laugh and I told of the Puerto Penasco Trip when Brad got lost. We all had a good laugh! Corcoran and Wasco were fast stops before we made our final sprint to Bakersfield arriving here ten minutes early.

Thruway Bus 63180 9/25/2005

The bus driver loaded the passengers then the luggage which was followed by Amtrak Bakersfield workers loading the checked baggage. We left Bakersfield at 1:55 PM and arrived at Los Angeles Union Station at 3:53 PM. That was plenty of time for the 4:10 PM departure of Surfliner 582.

Surfliner 582 9/25/2005

This Surfliner taking me home to Santa Ana had engine 460, Pacific Business Class 6800, Coach/Cafe 6351, Coach 6403, Superliner Coach 31046 and Cab Car 6904. We departed LAUPT on time and I just relaxed back to Santa Ana arriving there on time which ended a fantastic circle trip to Oakland.