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To the Twin Cities via Portland

by Chris Guenzler

After I lived TrainFestival 2009 and got home, the final major trip would be the NRHS Convention in Duluth plus a bunch of new things before in Wisconsin and Minnesota. To get there it would be the Coast Starlight to Portland and the Empire Builder to the Twin Cities. Picking up a rental car there my first stop would be in Spooner, Wisconsin for the Wisconsin Great Northern Railroad. The next day would be the Camp 5 Railroad then drive to Janesville stopping at a few places on the way there. I would then visit the Brodhead Depot Museum then the Mid-Continental Railway Museum followed by the mini train in the Wisconsin Dell and the Colfax Station Museum. The next day it would be the Excelsior Trolley and the Station Museum in Dassel in Minnesota. The Milwaukee Road 261 would be visited, then the Minnesota Transportation Museum followed by a visit to the Iron Horse Central Railway in Chisago City. The next day would be the NRHS Convention Train to Duluth, The Lake Superior Limited, and the Vista Cruise Lines Harbor Dinner Tour that evening. The Hull Rust Mine Tour - Museum of Mining - Ironworld would be done one day and the next day the Arrowhead Vacationer Steam Train to Two Harbors and then the Skally Limited Excursion Train that afternoon. The Meeting Day I would do the Lake Superior Railroad Museum Train to Two Harbors and the NRHS Banquet that evening. The next day would be on Duluth to Grand Rapids, MN on the Duluth & Grand Rapids Day Express Excursion Train followed by the trip back to the Twin Cities. That night I would leave on the Empire Builder to Portland and the Coast Starlight towards home. Carole Walker, my excellent travel agent, booked the rental car and all the hotels for the trip and I had everything planned out before summer even started. I packed earlier and was all set to go the morning of the trip. My mother drove me down to the Santa Ana Train Station and I made it over to Track 1 to start my next adventure.

Surfliner 763 8/3/2009

I boarded Pacific Business Class on the lower level for my trip to LAUPT and started writing.

A notice of Sadness: The Death of Richard Hamilton

Sunday night just as I was packing, I checked for anything about the trip and first spotted a post that the Lets Talk Trains web site was down. There had been no show last weekend due to Richard's illness and not a show yesterday. That post was linked to another post that was titled "A Sad Note" that told that Richard Hamilton had passed away either late Thursday night or Friday morning. That news really hit me hard. I had known Richard back in the days of the San Diegan Club which he formed and was a member until the end of that when he started Lets Talk Trains. I listened to the first show and then called in on the second show. CJ his co host named me the Amazing Chris Guenzler and would say it with a bang. Richard just could never say it the way CJ did. Through the years I was a guest many times on his show in the three studios he used. I would take the train down to San Diego normally stay in Chula Vista at the Best Western Baymont Inn and Richard would pick me up. Richard had the best handle bar mustusche that I had ever seen and I always held him in the highest esteem. Richard also worked at Poway where we would operate the trolley and twice Richard took me on trips on the Coronado Belt Line. Richard used to just look at the pictures on my web site and only occasionally would read the full stories. Richard was always full of life and a good friend. He joined us on the Overall Million Mile Trip and because of this I had not only him now but also Harold Marshall who is also on the Million Mile DVD Set. One of my fondest Richard moments was on that trip when we did a three hour show from the lobby of the Depot Inn & Suites. With no phone lines Richard got the idea that you could e-mail us at LTT and suddenly we got all sorts of e-mails the kind we needed to do the show and the kind you did not need spam. We had a blast together that day and I thought his show would be on for years. At least we all got seven years of Lets Talk Trains and I had all those years of Richard's friendship. He is one person I will never forget! I wrote this aboard Surfliner 763 heading to LAUPT which arrived early into LAUPT. I rented a luggage cart and headed down into the station to the Traxx Bar.

Pre Departure Traxx Bar

I checked in and got myself an Orange Juice and worked a little bit more on this story while I waiting for the Conductor to arrive.

Conductor Bobbie Lee took tickets in the Traxx Bar area before we headed up to the train.

Gold Line Train coming into LAUPT.

A Metrolink Train with ex Comet Car Utah Transit 319.

Coast Starlight 14 8/3/2009

The Coast Starlight at LAUPT with New Jersey Comet Cars on Track 13. The train consisted of Engines 6 and 64, Baggage 1720, Transition 39019, Sleepers 32054, 32113 Vermont and 32115 Washington, Pacific Parlour Car 39975 Willamette Valley, Diner 38040, Lounge 33041, Coaches 34059, 34113, 34055 and 34022. I was in the Vermont Room 2 with Veronica as my Sleeping Car Attendant.

Nice touches in this room was Coast Starlight Head Rests and Shower Bag of goodies. The Coast Starlight left LAUPT on time and headed for our first stop at Van Nuys. At Simi Valley, off duty conductor Bob Riskie stopped by for a quick visit. At 11:30 AM I went to the Dining Car for lunch and had a Angus Beef Burger and vanilla ice cream. I was seated with a gentleman going to Portland and a couple visiting Sacramento, Seattle, Portland and San Francisco. Since I had an inland room, I sat in one of those big comfy chairs in the Parlour Car and enjoyed the coastal views along the way.

Scenes between Oxnard and Santa Barbara our first fresh air break of this trip. We left Santa Barbara on time and headed to San Luis Obispo our next fresh air break.

I put on my new DVD of "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" Special Edition.

Scenes between Santa Barbara and Surf.

The Santa Ynez River.

The Santa Maria Valley.

Union Pacific power at Guadalupe. The train ran the rest of the way into San Luis Obispo, a fresh air stop. The train left SLO on time and went over Cuesta Grade and down to our next station stop of Salinas. At 5:00 PM I went to the Dining Car for dinner. I was seated with a lady going to San Francisco and a couple going to Seattle. I had the Braised Flat Iron Bordelaise and Snicker Cake Dessert. After dinner I returned for more of the Holy Grail Disc 2. I next put on the DVD of Jethro Tull 25TH Anniversary as we continued on the way to our next fresh air stop at Salinas.

Elkhorn Slough.

North of Watsonville.

Engines of Granite Rock as we entered the Pajaro Gap. The next DVD was Yes "Live at Montreux 2003". The train then ran to our next station of San Jose.

The smoking engine has been doing this since I saw it Los Angeles this morning.

A Caltrain heads back to the City by the Bay, San Francisco. The Coast Starlight left San Jose and headed out into the night to Oakland on time. After Yes I called it a night just south of Oakland as I made up my room and that was it for tonight.


Mount Shasta was out my window when I woke up this morning. I went to the Dining Car for breakfast sitting with my friend going to Portland and two gentlemen heading to Klamath Falls. I enjoyed French Toast and sausage patties. After breakfast I rode in the Parlour Car in one of those nice comfy chairs the rest of the way to Klamath Falls which we arrived into thirty minutes early. I enjoyed the fresh cool morning air and the Coast Starlight departed K Falls on time. I put on my DVD of Rush "Rush in Rio". After Chemult we finally went through the siding at Mowich due to track gang equipment on the mainline.

Three views of Odell Lake before the train entered the tunnel at Cascade Summit and drop down one of my favorite pieces of railroads in the United States.

Looking down before the tunnels near Cruzatte. That DVD took me down to past McCredie Springs where I put on the Aerosmith DVD "You Gotta Move".

Lookout Point Reservoir. At Dougren we were slowed by a crew working on the west switch there before we ran the rest of the way into Eugene, our next fresh air break. The train left Eugene eighteen minutes late and headed next to Albany. The train then lost 15 minutes north of Eugene due the grade crossing gates not working.

Willamette & Pacific Shop Complex at Albany just before we did our station stop. We had to stop once for a few minutes right before our stop at Oregon's State Capitol City of Salem. The air conditioning went out in our sleeping car and our attendant called for help. From here we headed into Portland meeting the southbound Coast Starlight at Hito. The air conditioning like magic came back on. From here we headed for Portland Union Station arriving there at 3:56 PM {3:40 PM}. I made my way into the Portland Metropolitan Lounge and learned wireless would be put in very soon. At 4:18 PM we were walked out to my next train, the Empire Builder.

Empire Builder 28 8/04/2009

The Baby Empire Builder consisted of Engines 158 and 22, Lounge 33021, Coaches 31031 and 34024 and Sleeper 32023. My Sleeping Car Attendant is Bouchaib and I have Room 4 in the 32023.

The train left Portland on time and headed towards Vancouver, Washington.

A BNSF train had crossed the Willamette River alongside of us.

Our train crossed the Columbia River into Vancouver, our first station stop of the trip. I headed to the lounge car for a view of the Columbia River.

Beacon Rock was passed.

The Columbia Gorge came into clear view through the trees.

Bonneville Dam.

Looking up the Columbia River Gorge.

Bridge of the Gods with a Union Pacific westbound train heading towards Portland.

Views across the Columbia River towards Oregon.

A small island in this view.

Mount Hood.

Views across the Columbia River.

Looking up the Columbia River.

Mount Hood.

Wind Surfers in the Columbia River Gorge.

Looking across the Columbia River at Oregon.

The Dalles Dam.

The view across the Colombia River.

Another view looking up the river.

Mount Hood.

One more view across the Columbia River.

The Railroad Bridge at Wishram.

The Empire Builder at Wishram during a windy fresh air break. I think Wishram in the Indian dialogue must mean windy as every time I have been here it has been windy. Back on the move, I cleared the camera memory stick and worked on the story as the train rolled along the Columbia River to Pasco, our next fresh air break. I then made up my room and called it a night as I wanted to be rested for Marias Pass in the morning.

Click here for Part 2 of this story