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Southwest Chief to Albuquerque then the drive to Safford, Arizona

by Chris Guenzler

My Spring Break Trip for 2009 started when Bart Jennings sent me an E-mail about his Rare Mileage Trips on the ex Southern Pacific Copper Branches out of Globe, Arizona and Clifton, New Mexico. Randy Jackson and I discussed this via E-mail and he said "Get to Albuquerque and I will drive you from there to the trip". The dates worked out that I could still get a trip to La Plata in. My mind then started working "What if I got a rental car where else could I go. I checked the Internet and found the Branson Scenic Railroad and the Arkansas & Missouri Railroad both had trips I could take. I called both and set myself up for trips on both. I had always wanted to ride the Arkansas & Missouri Railroad and would finally get my chance. I took until the week of the trip to learn that the Eureka Springs & North Arkansas Railway would be operating so I would do their train after the Branson Train. Carole Walker my excellent travel agent booked my hotel rooms and in La Plata I would spend the last night in the Pullman Suite at the Depot Inn & Suites before taking the Southwest Chief home. I worked the days at Jefferson Elementary School where no two days are ever the same and that is why I enjoy working there. I had to get a replacement pair of glasses after my night time ones broke the Monday night before I left. Luckily I got them back the morning of the trip. I then felt like the day was here so I went home and packed before my Mother drove me down to the Santa Ana Train Station and I made my way over to Track 1 via the grade crossing at Santa Ana Blvd.

Metrolink 686 arrived into Santa Ana with one of their new engines pulling the train to Irvine.

Surfliner 583 4/3/2009

I boarded the Cab Car on a very busy train and took a seat on the lower level. Since I had this new computer it only had my stories up through December 2007 so I will be working the next few days on updating the trip page so it is current when I get this story done. The train took the south track at Fullerton but other than that it was just another trip to Los Angeles. I walked over to Track 12 around the end of the platforms and waited for the Southwest Chief to back into the LAUPT.

Southwest Chief 4 4/3/2009

The train backed into the LAUPT with Engines 129 and 61, Baggage 1132, Transition 39016, Sleepers 32116 Vermont and 32086 Louisiana, Dinner 38060, Lounge 33042 with Coaches 34076, 31019 and 34065. I am in Room 4 of the 32086 Sleeper with Lisa as my Sleeping Car Attendant. The train left LAUPT on time and headed to Fullerton our first stop of the evening. I was listening to Queensryche "Empire" while all this was taking place as the sun was setting in the west ending another wonderful day in my life. Chris Parker and Dan were at Fullerton to see me briefly before we headed east out into the night. I had an 8 PM Dinner Reservation so I enjoyed the evening views. I enjoyed the Flat Iron Steak and Vanilla Ice Cream with a family going home to New Mexico. The wife really enjoyed train travel and loves the western end of the Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Railroad. I made my bed up below Summit in Cajon Pass and called it a night.


I got out of bed east of Flagstaff to a mostly clear predawn morning and waited for the Dining Car to open. Interstate 40 along here was closed due to dust storms from the high winds that occurred here yesterday. Freight traffic is seeming to be on the rebound as on this trip I'm seeing or hearing trains passing by us. For breakfast I had French Toast and sausage patties with an interesting man heading to Newton, Kansas.

After shaving I put on the Poison "Live Raw Uncut" DVD to take me into New Mexico. East of Gallup we were delayed by snow covered signals until after the Continental Divide. I next put on Hannah Montana & Miley Cyrus "Best of Both Worlds Concert" and watched the 3D Version. I can relate with her since I live two lives too. One the hard working person at Jefferson Elementary School as Mr. Chris and the other as the Train Rider Chris Guenzler. The train rolled east with no further delays as we arrived into Albuquerque early and I detrained after a very fine trip on Amtrak. I walked out through the station where I meet Randy and Marie and we loaded the car.

The Driving Trip to Safford 4/4/2009

We took Interstate 25 south to Belen to go to a swap meet at the Belen Harvey House.

The BNSF yard set at Belen.

Line up of BNSF freights at Belen. From there we continued south on Interstate 25 passing a southbound coal train on the way to Socorro.

The former Santa Fe Station in Socorro.

The BNSF coal train passing through Socorro. We stopped for lunch at Blakes Lotaburger, which is a New Mexico Tradition. We took US 60 west out of Socorro. The road at points follows the former grade of the Santa Fe branch to Magdalena.

The old Santa Fe water tower still stands in the valley to the north of US 60.

In the town of Magdalena we found the former Santa Fe Station now the town's library and box car museum. We stopped to gas the car and take a bathroom break. Our next stop would be about thirty miles west of Magdalena.

The Very Large Array 4/4/2009

The Very Large Array (VLA) is an astronomical observatory using 27 dish shaped antennas that are connected together to form a single large radio telescope.

Tracks used to move the antennas to their needed locations around the site. Talk about a rare piece of track to ride on.

More antennas across the Plains of San Agustin.

A most impressive scene. We visited the Visitor Center before I did the quick walking tour.

This machine moves the antennas around the site.

An interesting view.

Two hopper cars of ballast are at the ready to be dumped when needed.

View looking down the East Arm of the VLA.

View looking up the North Arm of the VLA.

Another Antenna.

View looking down the West Arm of the VLA.

The Antenna Assembly Building. From the VLA we drove west on US 60 to Datil where we turned onto New Mexico 12. At Reserve we made a cell phone stop since we had a signal there. We took US 180 south to Glenwood where we had dinner at the Blue Front Bar and Cafe. After dinner we drove south on US 180 New Mexico 78 which we took into Arizona where it became Arizona 78. Dropping down to US 191 we passed nine mule deer's. We took US 191 over the hill to US 70 which we took into Safford and checked in to the Best Western Desert Inn for the night. Tomorrow will be the former Southern Pacific Globe Line Rare Mileage Trip.