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The Sierra Coast Limited 5/17/2004

by Chris Guenzler

This trip was one I would have done in full if I had not been committed to the Rare Mileage Trips sponsored by the Southern Appalachian Railway Museum in a week and a month later the Milwaukee Road 261. Todd Clark of Trainorders put together a great five day trip going Los Angeles to Oakland to Sparks and return with three private cars. These cars were the Pony Express built in 1941 for the Canadian Pacific Railway as a Horse Car and now an open air observation, the Silver Lariat, built for the CB&Q as their 4718 California Zephyr Dome Coach later Amtrak 9452 and the SP 131 Los Angeles former Southern Pacific Business Car with an open rear observation platform. Todd posted he needed the new Amtrak schedules for his tour brochure. It went unanswered for two days. On April 10th I made one of my usual Saturday morning Amtrak trips and when I went into the Santa Ana train station to check the status of my train, Gary the agent handed me a brand new Amtrak National Timetable with a cover date of April 26th, 2004. I later was surfing the Net while listening to Lets Talk Trains when I remembered Todd's post on Trainorders. I posted the Coast Starlight schedule. I took an afternoon round trip to Solana Beach before returning home and posting the California Zephyr schedule. I next E-mailed Todd and then called him letting him know what I did. He thanked me and I was really glad I could help him out. About thirty minutes later I received an E-mail from Todd thanking me again with an offer of a trip from Santa Barbara to Los Angeles.

The days before the trip I started checking the southbound Coast Starlight 11 arrival times into Los Angeles. The train was ten minutes late into Los Angeles on Friday, 32 minutes early on Saturday but then it fell apart. Sunday night's arrival was not until 7:20 AM Monday morning and the southbound train the cars would be put on was 3 hours and twelve minutes late when I checked on it first thing Monday morning. At work I checked off and on throughout the day not sure if I was going to do it or not. I was not looking forward to a bus ride home from Los Angeles in the middle of the night. I went home and checked for the last time with the train out of San Jose and an estimated arrival into LAUPT of 10:20 PM I decided to chance it and go.

Surfliner 775 5/17/2004

I arrived at the Santa Ana train station in time for a picture of the magnificent building. I checked the status of 775 learning it was already out of Irvine and stopped to get some Coca-Cola. When I was purchasing it, the train pulled in four minutes early so I headed out to board the train. I boarded Superliner Coach 31018, took an aisle seat and cracked open a Coca-Cola. Assistant Conductor Maurico collected my ticket before I walked the train for our consist. We had F59PHI 451 pulling the 6802 Pacific Business Class, 6304 Coach/Cafe, 6408 Coach, 31018 Superliner Coach and the 6903 Cab Car. We stopped in Anaheim and Fullerton before making our way towards Los Angeles.

We crossed the Los Angeles River and Alameda Corridor on the flyover with a Union Pacific train about to enter the corridor below.

Santa Fe 3751 was being prepared for the trip to San Bernardino for the station rededication taking place there next month. We arrived LAUPT early and I switched to a forward facing window seat for my trip the rest of the way to Santa Barbara. 775 left LAUPT on time and headed west across the San Fernando Valley to Chatsworth where we waited for a Union Pacific Tri Level Auto Rack Train to pass us in the siding there.

The train passed through Santa Susana Pass before it went into the siding at Hasson for a late running Surfliner 784. We made our way to Camarillo where a three unit UP local occupied the siding. I was in relax mode this afternoon as 775 made its way to Oxnard then onto Ventura.

Now for my favorite part of the trip to Santa Barbara, the run along the Pacific Ocean.

The train later passed Rincon Point before it arrived into Carpinteria.

From there the train ran the rest of the way into Santa Barbara arriving early and ending my first late afternoon trip ever to the magical county seat of Santa Barbara County.

Santa Barbara 4/17/2004

I checked with the Amtrak agent learning that the Starlight had gotten even later and was now due in about 9:20 PM. With plenty of time to kill I went nine blocks up State Street to a Rite Aide Drug Store for a new watch. I saw a theater on the way there and on my return I stopped there with all four theaters showing the same movie "Troy". I missed the first ten minutes of a showing but as I got there the movie truly took off. As Achilles made his final stand in the movie, the Led Zeppelin song "Achilles Last Stand" played in my head. It was a very well done movie which I really enjoyed. I returned to the station with a new ETA of 9:40 PM. That time would put the Starlight in after 785 had arrived. By now I really did not care so I sat on a baggage cart listening to Chicago XII and Chicago 13. 785 showed up with David Esparza as the Assistant Conductor and I had a brief visit with him. Surfliner 785 left for Goleta and they must have let him go all the way there as there was still no Coast Starlight. Time passed slowly with me spending time with Joel Bingham and at 10:30 PM the Coat Starlight finally arrived and had to do a double spot to let off the Trainorders people as well as board me. I met Stan Garner owner of the Pony Express on the ground who welcomed me to the trip while we waited to board me.

Pacific Coast Limited 4/17/2004

The Coast Starlight arrived at Santa Barbara with this consist. P42DC's 117 and 66, Baggage 1715 , 39037 Transition Superliner Sleeper 32117, Sleeper 32076, Sleeper 32085, Sightseer/Lounge 33048 {used as Parlor Car}, Diner 38059, Sightseer/Lounge 33044, Coach 34116, Kiddie Coach 34515, Coach 34113, Coach 34098, Pony Express 800320, Silver Lariat Dome 800190 and Los Angeles "SP 131" 800335. I boarded the Silver Lariat and spoke briefly with Todd before having a look at the Pony Express. I next ventured through the Silver Lariat and into the Los Angeles for the first time. I went out to enjoy the ride on the open platform which I did from Santa Barbara to Oxnard which was a real thrill. The Los Angeles has flood lights for night time viewing which was a great experience to see this part of the route like this. So the tracks were lit, the stars shone overhead, the offshore oil platforms were all lit up and I could see the surf crashing on the rocks and beach as we headed east. At Oxnard we met a UP freight in the siding at Oxnard before I headed back inside the train for a while. I sat at the dining table inside the Los Angeles and talked with Chris Fussell owner of the ex Amtrak F-40PH 231 who offered me a ride back to Santa Ana. Chris and Ryan Martin were both working as help on this trip. I worked on the story as I enjoyed the ride of the Los Angeles. We left Simi Valley with me riding in the Dome of the Silver Lariat to the first western tunnel. I returned to the open platform of the Los Angeles the rest of the trip through the three tunnels and past the depot at Chatsworth. I went to the Pony Express and talked with its owner Stan Garner who took the picture of me sitting at a table in his excellent car. We had a nice chat all the way to Glendale.

Time to switch days of sobriety 4/18/2004

Midnight came before Bob Hope Airport with me changing dates of sobriety from 3407 to 3408. I returned to the open platform of the Los Angeles for the rest of the way to Los Angeles Union Station where we arrived at 12:34 AM. The passengers detrained ending their trip on the Sierra Coast Limited. Chris and Ryan started cleaning up the cars as Stan and I talked in the Pony Express. Once all the Starlight passengers had detrained and the train's stock had been off loaded about an hour later the train was backed out to Mission Tower in order to be pulled to the yard. Stan buttoned up the Pony Express before we went into the car washer where the entire consist got a great wash. The train was pulled into the maintenance shed to be cleaned and worked on during the nightly layover in Los Angeles. Chris finished up vacuuming the Pony Express and once we said our goodbyes to Stan and Ryan we headed out to his car. Chris went back in to get his bags and a few minutes later we were headed back to my car in Santa Ana. He dropped me off and I drove home hitting the sheets at 3:10 AM for a 5:45 AM alarm clock to get up for work. I woke up tired but grateful I had made that great trip on the 2004 Sierra Coast Limited.