Facebook Page

Getting to the Relaunching of the Empire Builder

by Chris Guenzler

Sometimes in my life I have no plans. I just had planned to stay home the rest of the summer and rest up for work. One Sunday morning in mid August an E mail changed all that. I was now going to cover the Trains Unlimited Domes to the Feather River Railroad Days. I got set up to take the San Joaquin up to Oakland and back from Sacramento. A nice weekend trip. Next a phone call on Tuesday from Steve at Trainweb now had me going to Seattle to cover the relauching of the Empire Builder and riding to Whitefish. That would get me back to Oakland with an extra day so I could ride all of Bart and ride Caltrains Baby Bullet. Fred Dunn would be traveling with me as far as Portland so he could cover the Relauching of the Empire Builder from Portland. I got my tickets on Thursday and packed Friday morning before being taken to the Santa Ana Amtrak Station. Let the trip begin!

Surfliner 763 8/19/2005

Standing on the platform having nice pleasant conversation with some of my future passengers is always a great way to start a trip. I spoke with Gary, our outstanding Amtrak Agent here at Santa Ana as Surfliner 763 pulled into the station. This train had Cab Car 6905, Coaches 6408, 6412 and 6414, Cafe/Coach 6303, Pacific Business Class 6803 and engine 454 pushing. We passed the low level Surfliner 564 at Orange before stopping at Anaheim and Fullerton where fellow Trainweb writer Fred Dunn joined me. We arrived into Los Angeles Union Station on time and would sit on the First Class Benches on the platform to wait for the Coast Starlight to back in.

Coast Starlight 14 8/19/2005

It was well past the departure time before the Coast Starlight backed into LAUPT at 10:45 AM. The power for our train was the 118, 116 and 57 with Baggage 1248, Transition 39021, Sleepers 32019 South Dakota, 32072 Arkansas and 32093 Missouri, Parlour Car 39974, Diner 38040, Lounge 33048, Coaches 34061, 34515 Kiddie Car, 34034 and 31009. Fred and I visited the Parlour Car with me enjoying a pair of cinnamon rolls prior to returning to our Deluxe Room B. We departed LAUPT at 11:16 AM {10:15 AM}.

Deluxe Room B in the South Dakota rolled along the Los Angeles River. Note that the Coca-Cola by my the window is my official drink. Brandy was our Sleeping Car Attendant. We reached Van Nuys after some stop and go running departing there at 11:51 AM {10:42 AM}. West of Van Nuys we waited for Surfliner 774 to pass on its way to San Diego. We headed to Simi Valley 12:25 PM {11:23 AM} and then onward to Oxnard 1:02 PM {11:55 AM}. Our coastal running started after Ventura on a beautiful clear day to Santa Barbara, a fresh air stop at 1:55 PM {12:48 PM}. Since Ventura I have been sitting in those big comfortable chairs I love in the Pacific Parlour Car. Dolphins were spotted playing before Gaviota. On a day this clear I truly enjoyed the views of Point Conception, Jalama Beach and Point Arguello before we crossed Vandenberg Air Force Base. Our train took the siding at Tangair for Surfliner 799 which was a Surfliner consist. The jointed rail beforeGuadalupe sure brought back some rail riding memories. Good conversation with a fantastic lady from New York sure killed the time to our next fresh air stop of San Luis Obispo.

The engine crews change at San Luis Obispo.

A different view at SLO. We departed San Luis Obispo at 5:02 PM {3:43 PM} before we started climbing Cuesta Grade.

Climbing the Goldtree Horseshoe Curve. Fred and I went to the Dining Car at 5:30 PM for dinner off Menu 2. Our waiter was the always fantastic Ricky Williams and I had the New York Strip with a Chocolate Sundae. Fred enjoyed his Catfish and Key Lime Pie. I returned to the Parlor Car for more good conversations as the train traveled north down the Salinas Valley. At King City we met the southbound Coast Starlight just over seven hours late. We followed the UP 4250 west to Soledad. The UP 4250's Conductor jumped off of that train and threw the switch to keep us on the mainline. We picked him up and took him to his train's head end. This train had the UP 4250 and CSX 7861. After the fresh air stop at Salinas, I had Brandy make up the room for the night and watched so I would know what to do in the future. I next went to the Parlour Car Theater and watched most of "Sahara". Following that I took the Upper Bunk after losing the lower bunk to a coin flip with Fred. I called it a night.

8/20/2005 During the night, we departed Sacramento at 2:50 AM {11:59 PM} and I was up just as we left Redding at 6:17 AM {3:14 AM}. I went to the Parlour Car just as the train was about to cross the Redding Trestle. At 6:35 AM the Dining Car opened with me having French Toast and Sausage. We stopped at Central Valley to meet the southbound Coast Starlight running four and a half hours late. The Sun rose right after we started to move so it would be yet another aylight trip up the Sacramento River Canyon. I noticed we now had the Silver Hostel, a dome car, on the rear of our train. Later at Conant we went into the siding for the UP 4984 West followed by the EC4 Rail Detector Car. I pointed out the Castle Crags and Mount Shasta for my Parlour Car Passengers. We departed Dunsmuir at 8:59 AM {5:04 AM}. I pointed out the Shasta Springs and the Cantara Loop. At Mott UP 6403 West was holding the mainline. Passengers were busy taking pictures of Mt Shasta. After Black Butte I was not feeling that well and returned to the room for some rest. Later before Klamath Falls I walked back to the rear coach in order to get a picture of the Silver Hostel during the fresh air stop.

The Silver Hostel had been added in Oakland while we slept.

The rear of the Coast Starlight at Klamath Falls. We departed Klamath Falls at 12:33 PM {8:26 AM} and headed north out of town.

Running along Upper Klamath Lake I spotted this view on the opposite side. Fred and I talked for the next hour as the train run north to Chemult 2:04 PM {9:40 AM}. I sat in our Deluxe Room enjoying the crossing of Cascade Summit.

I caught this picture of Rooster Rock before Oakridge. I went to see the first few minutes of Sahara I had missed last night while Fred enjoyed the Wine Tasting in the Parlour Car. I enjoyed Lookout Point Reservoir down about twelve feet from my last visit by it in July.

The Coast Starlight at Eugene on a hot afternoon.

The Coast Starlight departed Eugene at 5:24 PM {12:44 PM} and headed north. At Shedd UP 5831 East was in that siding as we went flying by. At Hallawell we had the southbound Coast Starlight in that siding running already an hour and a half late. We did Albany at 6:14 PM {1:30 PM}. The UP 3123 West delayed us at Millersburg. I had another steak for dinner but still did not feel like my old self. At Renard we waited for Cascade Talgo 507 to pull into the siding behind a freight so we could run to Salem 7:04 PM {2:03 PM}. We made our way to Portland Union station arriving there at 8:16 PM and I said my goodbye to Fred whom I knew was glad to be getting off this train at a decent hour. I still had four more hours to go to Seattle. We left the Sierra Hostel in Portland and departed at 8:53 PM {4:05 PM}. I napped by putting down the lower bunk and by using the chair made it like my usual roomette.

8/21/2005 I slept to within twenty minutes of Seattle and woke up my old self. A little sleep always does wonders for me! The Coast Starlight arrived into Seattle at 12:44 AM {8:30 PM} ending a very interesting trip.

Seattle 8/21/2005

I took the first Taxi Cab to the Kings Inn for the rest of the night. I visited McDonald's for breakfast and Ralphs for some goodies.

A look at the Space Needle later that morning. I called Amtrak to get a coach round trip to Havre as there is not much to do in Whitefish all day. This would give me another chance to ride over Marias Pass. Who would not want to do that? I watched some TV Land before checking out. I walked down to the Waterfront Trolley.

Waiting for this Waterfront Streetcar 605 to take me back to the Amtrak Station.

A view down the tracks along the Seattle Waterfront.

Car 482 heading into the passing track. At King Street I paid for my new tickets and stored my luggage in the Baggage Room for the early afternoon.

King Street Station Restoration Progress 8/21/2005

The station at Seattle has been in a state of restoration for the last year. These pictures will give you an idea of what the final station will be returned to.

The fantastic Compass Rose on the Entrance Floor of King Street Station.

Above the way to the Trains.

Above the exit to the street.

A look at the present old "Bus Depot Drop Ceiling" to be removed.

One of the doors out to the platforms.

One of the lightning fixtures.

A restored Upper Wall.

One of the restored Upper Windows.

A look at the present ticket counter and seating area.

Looking up between the old "Bus Depot Drop Ceiling" you can see the true beautiful King Street Ceiling.

The door to the Baggage Room. I hope you have enjoyed seeing the beauty of King Street Station being restored. I would know wait for the Relaunching of the Empire Builder. But first I will take a walk to kill time. I walked south down to the Amtrak Yards to see what I could see.

The view into the yard with Safeco Field in the background.

The Beach Grove 10001

The Open Platform of the Beach Grove. I walked back to Pioneer Square in search of Coco-Cola but found something more interesting to photograph.

Waterfront Street Car 605 came from the east and went into the passing track.

Car 605 now waited for Car 272 to show up from the west.

Car 272 now can head to the south end of the line at the Financial District. I now returned back to King Street Station.