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The Millionth Rail Mile Trip

Everything works out if your plan it!

by Chris Guenzler

The plans had been made for months! arranged a major event to go along with my breaking the million mile rail mark on trains I have ridden. I would be given a send-off party at Knowlwoods Restaurant in Fullerton before boarding the Southwest Chief for La Plata. I planned the big event to occur at MP 425.5 of the Burlington Northern Santa Fe {BNSF} Marceline Subdivision, which is in the middle of the Missouri River bridge just east of Sibley, Missouri. More festivities were planned when the Southwest Chief arrived in La Plata. I would show my Million Miles of Riding Trains slide show the night I arrived in La Plata and be on the Internet radio show Lets Talk Trains, live from La Plata, the next day. Returning home, I would reboard the Southwest Chief heading east to Galesburg, then catch the California Zephyr to Sacramento, before heading south on the San Joaquin. When I returned home from the Strasburg and Indiana trip, I had to fine-tune my rail mileage to be at the right number to leave Santa Ana to hit MP 425.5 right on target.

Can I really make it work? 4/21/2007

I came up with one plan after another to make it work. In each case, I would be off by 1.5 or 1.7 or 2.1 or 3.7 miles, etc. I finally came up with a plan to be only nine-tenths of a mile off. It should not be too much of a problem to find a section of track only 0.9 miles close to home. It dawned on me that the Irvine Park Railroad was a 0.9 mile rail line, so on Saturday, April 21st, 2007, I drove to Irvine Park for a train ride.

I bought my ticket and walked out for a few quick pictures of the train that would be so helpful in my millionth rail mile quest!

I took a seat in the rear car sitting backwards. Before we left, they asked to take some pictures of me on their train. I guess this was the start of my few minutes of fame.

So after that was done we took a train ride which was really a lot of fun and gave me a chance to see a park I used to go to when I was a kid. Once done, I thanked the crew before returning home then called Let's Talk Trains and gave Richard an update on rail mileage and the fine-tuning of my rail miles. I next checked my Metrolink Employee Timetable for the mileage to San Clemente. With the Surfline closed for work on the double-tracking project between Santa Ana and Orange, my rail riding options were limited to Metrolink weekend service.

I boarded Metrolink 656 and checked with the conductor. The mileage in there timetable is to San Clemente Pier, not their San Clemente North Beach station. The conductor would not make a special stop there to help me so I made a round trip to San Juan Capistrano for the needed 44.0 rail miles, but now would need an additional 15.2 rail miles to reach my target. On the way home I had a quick thought, "What is the rail mileage from Orange to Fullerton?" Believe it or not, the mileage is 7.6 one way, so a round trip would get me the 15.2 miles I would need.

So on Sunday April 22nd, I drove to Orange to ride to Fullerton and back. I even saw a pair of BNSF freights while I waited there. That left me 133.2 rail miles to travel to reach the magic pre-departure mark. That was easy since it is the round trip mileage from Santa Ana to Solana Beach.

After work on Monday April 23rd, I arrived at the Santa Ana Amtrak station in time to take Pacific Surfliner 578 to Solana Beach for 66.6 rail miles.

Once there, it was only 66.6 rail miles back to Santa Ana. After I upgraded to Pacific Business Class, I returned on Pacific Surfliner 785 and when I stepped off that train, my goal was complete. I would leave Santa Ana for La Plata with all the rail miles needed to hit my mark at MP 425.5 on the Missouri River Bridge on Friday morning. I love it when a plan comes together.

The Millionth Rail Mile Trip Departure Day 4/25/2007

I woke up at 4:30 AM and picked up the newspapers. Once in the kitchen, I found the article by Tom Berg on the bottom of the front page of the Orange County Register. I read it as I fixed my breakfast. Then I updated the website before I drove around to try and find some extra copies, but none were to be found at such an early hour. I drove to work, stopping at a 7-11 and picked five extra copies of the Register. Two copies were to be laminated for future use and I started my day at work. The children in the classrooms in which I worked were very excited about my Millionth Mile rail trip and breaking that milestone. During third period, Mrs. Cano came over to Mrs. Mehl's room, saying she needed me. As I walked into her room the students gave me a standing ovation. I walked back into Mrs. Mehl's class and received a standing wave ovation. At First Lunch, Mrs. Andrini brought in a chocolate cake for a 1,000,000 rail mile send-off party. I was sky high! We saved the other half of that fantastic cake for Mrs. Andrini's 5th Period math class, as those children had come a long way and really had improved their math skills. As they enjoyed the cake, I read the Register article to them before fielding their questions. Sometimes I think children would make the best reporters as they ask to-the-point questions. After a testing meeting, I said goodbye to Mrs. Devine's History class and then Mr. Holte's Science class before driving home to finish packing. At 4:00 PM, my mother drove me to the Santa Ana Amtrak station. I bought a Metrolink ticket for Fullerton before Marti, my fantastic night-time Amtrak agent, drove me and my luggage over to Track 1 in the cart. After two other Metrolink trains came and left, I now waited to start the first short part of this very important rail trip!

Metrolink 609 4/25/2007 Let the trip commence!

Metrolink 609 pulled into Santa Ana and I boarded the cab car for the trip to Fullerton. I met my Amtrak conductor, Buck Cleveland, who would be working the Los Angeles to Kingman portion of the Southwest Chief. It was a quick trip with stops in Orange and Anaheim. I detrained at Fullerton and no one met me so I walked over to Knowlwoods Restaurant.

A Millionth Rail Mile Send Off Party At Knowlwoods 4/25/07

Our normal Train Travel Meetup meeting was changed to April 25th. I arrived and Steve Grande gave me a blue trip shirt and five white Million Rail Mile shirts that my friend Tom Anderson designed. I talked to everyone before I ordered a hot dog and a chocolate malt. My mother finally got to meet all my friends. Carole Walker gave me a bottle of Coca Cola. Charles Varnes of the Pacific Railroad Society came to wish me well on my trip. My mother Nancy, Carole Walker, Bob Manning of Palm Springs with Steve Grande and Richard Elgenson, Tom Anderson, Winston Walker and wife, Anton Lazaaro, Tony Escarcega of Mexicali, a reader of my website who decided to make this historic trip with me, Andy Smith, Dan Dalke, Pat Moran, Mr. Seawright, Chris Parker, Barbara Zepinko, the wife of Steve Grande, Richard Hamilton of Lets Talk Trains fame and my old and dear friend Jeff Hartmann all made the event and wished me well on my journey.

C.M. A picture from our Nevada Northern Winter photo freight trip was a gift from Carl Morrison. That trip was one on which I had the most fun!

C.M. I autographed a few T-shirts at the party and I must say writing on women's shirts with them wearing them was the most fun of all.

C.M. The back of the shirt. Tom Anderson designed the shirts, the Million Rail Mile hockey jersey and a Million Rail Mile sweatshirt, doing a fantastic job with all of them.

C.M. Charles Varnes of the Pacific Railroad Society came to wish me well on my Million Rail Mile Trip.

C.M. My mother Nancy in Black with Mrs. Walker.

My mother, Carol Walker and me.

Bob Manning of Palm Springs with Steve Grande and Richard Elgenson.

C.M. Tom Anderson, myself and Winston Walker.

Anton Lazaaro.

C.M. Anton along with his dream girl.

C.M. Tony Escarcega of Mexicali, a reader of my web site, decided to make this historic trip with me.

Andy Smith.

Dan, Pat and Mr. Seawright.

C.M. Chris Parker and I.

C.M. Barbara Zepinko, the wife of Steve Grande.

C.M. Richard Hamilton of Lets Talk Trains fame and me. My old and dear friend Jeff Hartmann made the event and a good time was had by all. At 6:45 PM my luggage and I were driven over to the Amtrak Station.

I had gone up onto the bridge to check out photo angles. I came back down and while I was visiting with members of our group I spotted Maureen Angle coming my way. Maureen is the all-time best science teacher that I have ever worked with. It was her classroom experiment that lead me to getting sober. She always knew that I would reach one million rail miles ridden and in just a few minutes I would be leaving on that trip. I suggested that we go up onto the bridge to watch my train pull into Fullerton. A few minutes passed before we saw a headlight coming.

Special thank you to C.M. Carl Morrison for the use of his excellent pictures.

Click here for the Southwest Chief Trip East