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The Coast Starlight Detour down the former SP Valley Line 10/26/2008

by Chris Guenzler

I saw a post on Trainorders on a Sunday night before the Tennessee Weekend about the Coast Starlight Detour down the former SP Valley Line. Once I confirmed it on the Amtrak web site I called Marti, my excellent night time Amtrak agent in Santa Ana, who booked me north on the San Joaquin to Martinez then over to Sacramento on a Capitol Train. Sunday back to Los Angeles on the Coast Starlight. Why? The Coast Starlight would be detouring down the former Southern Pacific San Joaquin Valley Line then over the Tehachapi Mountains and down Soledad Canyon. The BNSF did not have to capacity to handle the train on their railroad thus the unique detour. My new mileage would be from the switch connection to the old Western Pacific at Lathrop all the way to Kern Jct in Bakersfield. I have always wanted to ride this piece of railroad in fact it is the last piece of mainline railroad in California I needed to ride on. I called Steve and suggested we make this a Train Rider Travel Group Trip. I picked up my tickets on the way at the Santa Ana Train Station on the way to the airport on that Iowa Interstate QJ Steam for Flood Relief Trip. The week leading up to the trip I just could not wait to ride down that last piece of California mainline railroad for me.

North to Sacramento 10/25/2008

I was up at 4:30 AM and finished packing then I did a few chores around the house before I drove down to the Santa Ana Train Station. I parked the car near the tracks and noticed that the Thruway Bus was already there. I walked over and when the driver saw me he opened the door and took my ticket. I was the lone passenger on the bus as we left Santa Ana on time and went to Fullerton where we picked up five more. We arrived at LAUPT at 6:35 AM and sat until we left at 7:45 AM with Ken Ruben also now on this bus. I listened to the new Alice Cooper CD "Along Came a Spider" and did Sudoku Puzzles until we neared Bakersfield. We arrived there at 9:45 AM and boarded the Surfliner Style Cab Car.

San Joaquin 713 ready to leave Bakersfield on time. I put on "Indiana Jones and The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull". Just before Fresno we went and had lunch and I then watched Daylight Productions "San Diego Steam Special". After that I watched the Bonus Material of the Indiana Jones DVD.

This would be the start of our Coast Starlight Detour tomorrow morning in Stockton. Ken detrained at Stockton and he took a bus to Sacramento. After that I watched "Yes 90125 Live" which took me almost to Martinez. I detrained there and sat outside in the sun on a pleasant late afternoon. I took Capitol Train 634 to Sacramento. We lost 15 minutes waiting for a track crew to clear and listened to the Alice Cooper again which took me to Sacramento. There I was met by Chris Parker, Ken and Anton. I went into the station and upgraded to a Sleeper for tomorrow's trip. We walked over to the Vagabond Motel and checked in. From there we walked over to Fat's City for dinner. I returned to the motel and watched USC beat Arizona State before calling it a night.

10/26/2008 Chris Parker and I were up at 5:10 AM and prepared to leave the Vagabond Inn for the station at 6 AM. We walked over to the Sacramento Amtrak Station but decided to wait out on the platform.

Coast Starlight 11 10/26/2008

The train backed into the station and soon I had my luggage in Room 6 of the 1132 Car. I then got the consist and went to get a picture of the Coast Starlight drumhead on the rear door of the train. This Coast starlight had Engines 141 and 115, Baggage 1720, Transition 39008, Sleepers 32027, 32077 and 32064, Pacific Parlor Car 39972, Diner 38056, Lounge 333026 with Coaches 34078, 34504 and 34094.

Looking towards the engines on the Coast Starlight.

The rear of the Coast Starlight. There was no drumhead on this train. I found Chris Parker and we checked to see what time the dining car opened.

The Pacific Parlor Car.

Chris Parker enjoys the Pacific Parlor Car.

Anton riding in the Pacific Parlor Car.

Me sitting the Pacific Parlor Car.

Jerry Wayne Howard sitting in the Pacific Parlor Car. At 6:30 AM Ken, Jerry, Anton, Chris and I went to the dining car for breakfast. I had the French Toast and Pork Sausage Patties. We left Sacramento at 6:38 AM and headed east but stopped at CP Haggin to let San Joaquin 702 get ahead of us.

It was still dark as we left Sacramento.

North of Galt the fields stretched for miles.

Sunrise October 26TH, 2008 south of Galt.

The train ran through Lodi, California.

Our train reached the double track as we neared Stockton.

The train came to El Pinal where once the Western Pacific crossed the Southern Pacific but now is the connection between both of the old railroads that are now the Union Pacific.

The train went by the Stockton Southern Pacific Station now serves as the Altamont Commuter Express Train Station and Offices.

Here is were we official started our detour down the former Southern Pacific Valley Mainline. The Sacramento San Joaquin uses the track that heads off to the right to the former Santa Fe at Keddie Jct.

The train went across the BNSF Crossing at the former site of Stockton Tower.

The train ran by the Altamont Commuter Express facility in the old Western Pacific yard in Stockton.

The train went by the old Western Pacific yard in Stockton.

Our train was passing the many industries in south Stockton.

The train went by the Sharp Army Depot.

The train crossed over to take the northwest leg of the wye at Lathrop.

The Coast Starlight is about to leave the route of the former Southern Pacific Sacramento Daylight for the route of the former Southern Pacific San Joaquin Daylight.

Our train is now on the northwest leg of the Lathrop Wye.

We are now officially on the route of the former Southern Pacific San Joaquin Daylight.

This switch started my new mileage today that will last all the way to Kern Jct in Bakersfield.

The crossing is of the former Western Pacific. The track off to the left takes you to Oakland via Altamont Pass which I rode on the NRHS 1999 Convention Circle Trip to Oakland and on the Union Pacific 3985 Trips back in 1992.

After the merger a new connection was built to the former Western Pacific.

Our train was rolling at track speed through Manteca.

The train starts its running along side California Highway 99.

There is still plenty of open farmlands in the San Joaquin Valley.

The train ran by the Ripon Water Tower.

Our train crossed the Stanislaus River south of Ripon.

The train ran by the former Southern Pacific Modesto Station.

The train came to the interchange tracks with the Modesto, Empire & Traction Company.

Our train crossed of the Tuolumne River south of Modesto.

The train came to the former location of the Tidewater Southern Railroad crossing with the Southern Pacific. I returned to the Parlor Car.

Charlie Varnes doing some reading.

The Foster Farm switcher at their grain elevator north of Livingston.

The train crossed the Merced River.

The Pacific Parlor Car.

Our train ran by the Atwater water tower.

The train went by the Turkey Farms.

Our train rolled by the Speedway.

There are cotton fields ready to be picked.

The train ran by the Merced Southern Pacific Station.

The train went by orchards and more orchards and more orchards along our route.

Our train went by another Turkey Farm.

The train crossed the Fresno River.

The train ran by the Madera water tower.

We ran by more vineyards.

The train did the crossing of the San Joaquin River.

Two views of the Union Pacific in their Fresno Yard.

We ran by the Fresno fueling facilities.

The train stopped at the east end of the Fresno Yard to switch out the UP Pilot Engineers.

Here there was an ex Missouri Pacific scale test car.

UP and San Joaquin Railroad engines meet in the Fresno Yard.

The train left the Fresno Yard for points south in the San Joaquin Valley.

There is a grain elevator in Fresno that has its locomotive locked in a pen when not is use.

The former Southern Pacific Fresno Station.

The train ran by the Fresno Arch.

I saw the tracks I rode coming north yesterday at Calwa.

BNSF locomotives and their friends at their Calwa Yard.

Our train ran to the west of the BNSF Calwa Yard.

The train went through the BNSF Crossing at Calwa. Calwa stands for California Wine Association.

Click here for Part 2 of this story!