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The California Zephyr Detour Trip across Wyoming 7/24/2004

by Chris Guenzler

California Zephyr 5 7/24/2004

Carl and I walked up to the train at 8:56 AM and boarded the rear sleeper 32019 Room 12 on the lower level. This CZ had P42DC's 186 and 136, Baggage 1235, Transition 39043, Coaches 34016, 34097 and 31042 {coach/bag}, Lounge 33012, Diner 38060, Sleepers 32002 and 32019, Express Trek 74009, Express 71101, Express Trek 74062 and Express 71220, 71214 and 71043. We departed Denver at 9:27 AM {8:20 AM} with Arthur as our excellent sleeping car attendant.

The train headed out of Denver following the route the Challenger took a few hours earlier through the 36th Street Yard and passed Pullman Junction the place the old Kansas and Pacific {UP} came into Denver. Tom Tuttle stopped by a short but pleasant visit. The CZ passed the Beltline Connection {old Rio Grande} before crossing the former CB&Q {BNSF} Amtrak line at Sand Creek. Our train rolled north picking up speed through Commerce City as we ran through the industrial north side of Denver. Curt Katz, a coach car attendant on this trip, told over the PA System about our detour route and had prepared a route guide for our trek cross Wyoming. He would walk the train delivering the guide for those who wanted one. Curt also does the cartoons for Railfan and Railroading Magazine. The CZ ran north through Hazeltine, Brighton and La Salle on this mostly cloudy and dark morning. The public was still out after taking pictures of the Union Pacific 3985 and to catch our CZ speeding through their towns. We crossed the farmlands between towns and had US Highway 85 to our west. Curt stopped by to give Carl and I his route guide. It was a pleasure to finally meet him in person. We slowly rolled through La Salle where the local power included two Rio Grande GP-40's unaltered.

The CZ crossed the Platte River before entering Greeley passing the tree fronted depot. We ran by the Best Western Hotel where I had stayed on my "Go east, Christopher to Greeley" trip. It became a wet morning as the CZ went through Eaton, Ault, Pierce and Nuun. US 85 crossed over the tracks to head due north to Cheyenne.

The weather improved as the CZ went through Carr then climbed into the rolling hills towards Speer.

The CZ entered Wyoming, made the big curve to go under Interstate 25 then over the old Colorado & Southern {BNSF} tracks.

Our train made the final curve into Speer where it came to a stop. The passenger cars from the Union Pacific 3985 trip were taken down the leg of the wye behind our train. Here the CZ waited for a welded rail train to head east before we headed up the Borie Cutoff. While on this section of track I met Nancy from San Antonio and I gave her a Coca-Cola since Nancy is a Coke lover and Amtrak is not!

The CZ curved off the Borie Cutoff and crossed over to Track 1.

We next passed the former Amtrak stop at Borie. A bus used to bring passengers out here from downtown Cheyenne. The CZ quickly got up to track speed as we ran through Granite and Burford as we climbed steadily. At Granite we passed a westbound stack train with UP 3880 on the point working hard.

West of Granite the CZ takes the curve with snow fences behind to get under Interstate 80 for the second time since leaving Borie. We ran through the low clouds that came right to the ground before Burford.

The clouds lifted before we took Runby Curve above Burford.

Here is the Union Pacific 3985 heading east on the same curve during a photo runby on the "Union Pacific 3985 over the Sidney and Yoder Subdivisions. Not! But instead...." trip.

The CZ took a few more curves before cresting Sherman Hill at an elevation of 8015 feet, the Highest Point on the Union Pacific Railroad.

The CZ took a few more curves now descending to my favorite rocks on Sherman Hill.

Our CZ curved into Dale where Mainline 3 rejoins our pair of mainlines.

At Hermosa the CZ entered the 1800 foot Hermosa Tunnel.

A minute later our train exited the same tunnel.

At Hermosa the CZ crossed over to Track 2.

The CZ now descents towards Laramie.

Seven miles from Laramie the CZ curved by the colorful rocks at Colores. I called the last few minutes of Lets Talk Trains, the Internet Radio Show every Saturday morning 10 to 12 PDT or in the archives 24 hours a day seven days a week. I met several railfans before the CZ arrived in Laramie, a fresh air stop. I really had enjoyed our trip over the fantastic Sherman Hill!

The CZ departed Laramie at 1:12 PM and headed west towards Rawlins. Our CZ started crossing the semi rolling landscape as we traveled around the northern end of the Snowy Mountain Range.

Some of the interesting rock formations east of Rock River.

The town of Rock River, Wyoming. The CZ sped west to Wilcox where on June 2nd, 1899 the famous Hole in the Wall Gang robbed the Union Pacific Railroad. This robbery was the basis for the movie "Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid". Antelope were grazing along the track as the CZ sped by.

The CZ blew through Medicine Bow with the depot now a museum.

To the south of our route is the Medicine Bow Range with its highest peak of Elk Mountain at 11,162 feet. Large alkaline dry lakes were passed before Ramsey.

The UP built lines of snow fences to keep the drifting snow off of their mainline tracks. There was a parade of eastbound UP freights that started well before the CZ reached Hanna that has a UP Rotary Snowplow on display in a park in town.

A UP ballast train approached Hanna off a branch line west of town.

The CZ burning up the track miles towards Durrant. Before Walcott we met the eastbound California Zephyr at track speed. The CZ then crossed over to Track 2 so we could get by the fleet of eastbound trains.

The CZ rolled through Sinclair with the refinery of the same name.

At Rawlins the CZ slowly rolled through the mainline fueling racks. We picked up speed, crossed back over to Track 1. The CZ continued to climb as it made the way to Riner.

The CZ then climbed the rest of the way to Creston for the first of two crossings of the Continental Divide as a UP freight approached. The railroad crosses a basin where the water has no exit to any ocean so this is how the UP mainline crosses the Continental Divide twice.

Across the basin the CZ ran to Wamsutter passing more eastbound freight trains.

The buttes to the north signaled our arrival at Red Desert.

The CZ crossed the western side of the basin for our second crossing of the Continental Divide at Tipton. West of here the mainline separated for several miles.

The CZ ran through Table Rock as thunderheads built to the north. The mesas here look like the miniature versions of the ones in Utah. The CZ then crossed Bitter creek where there were many antelopes along the edge of the creek.

The train ran to Black Butte with the butte to the south.

Our CZ curved into Point of Rocks. I watched thunderheads building to the south as the train ran through Thayer and Baxter then into Rock Springs. Carl and I had a 5 PM dinner reservation with a grandmother and grandson from Clearwater, Florida. I had a New York Strip Steak and an ice cream sundae.

We stopped at Green River to change crews but a freight train was on Track I the only one with a platform to we could not do a fresh air stop so no one could detrain and I did not get to say good bye to Tom Tuttle.

Castle Rock stands guard over the town of Green River. We left Green River, Wyoming at 5:37 PM versus the scheduled time out of Green River, Utah at 6:15 PM. Remember also we left Denver one hour and seven minutes late.

The CZ crossed the Green River

The train then climbed away from it to Peru.

The CZ then ran across a relatively flat plateau with mining or industrial spurs taking off from the mainline. We passed Alchem and then Westvaco where trona is mined and has billed itself the Trona Capitol of the World.

The CZ ran west to Granger where the mainline to Pocatello and the Pacific Northwest takes off. We quickly returned to open range lands with capped oil wells. The CZ ran through Verne with its center siding accessed off of both mainlines.

Our train made a turn to the left towards a butte in the distance then crossed Blacks Fork.

At Hampton our train passed yet another butte near our route.

The countryside at Carter was interesting as the CZ continued to roll down the Union Pacific rails west.

Ranching came into play again as the CZ continued on to Bridger.

Out of the west came upon another UP eastbound.

There were stacks of railroad ties were along our route next.

After passing under Interstate 80 two beautiful peaks came into view before the CZ rolled on into Spring Valley.

The CZ climbed to the Altamont Tunnel which we entered a few minutes later.

A few minutes later, our CZ exited the Altamont Tunnel.

The train passed a westbound UP freight waiting at Altamont.

The CZ proceeded down the valley to the Bear River.

Our CZ crossed the Bear River before running to Millis. This river flows north then turns west into Idaho before it turned south and dumps into the Great Salt Lake.

We stopped at Evanston before we passed the nice station building there.

The CZ started climbing the east face of the Wasatch Mountains as the UP 9533 East was approaching our train.

One last look at Wyoming before the CZ entered Utah crossing the state line as the CZ climbed the short but steep grade up the Wasatch Mountains.

The train curved into the summit of the grade at Wasatch.

The mainline separates as the eastbound dropped off quickly. Our train stayed high with a great view and some deep cuts. The eastbound mainline passed through several tunnels on this route.

Minutes later the CZ entered Tunnel 5 and crossed over the eastbound mainline at Curvo.

At Curvo the CZ started the descent towards Weber Canyon.

It went down and down! The eastbound mainline was across the valley. The red colors of Utah looked fantastic in the late afternoon light.

Below Emory the Red Canyon Walls became the target of my attention.

I could not get enough of these beautiful views.

The CZ ran down to Echo and the sun shone on the red cliffs one last time. We paralleled Interstate 84 through more reddish canyons then passed through Heffner. There was a pair of dikes running up the canyon walls called the Devil Slides. We crossed the Weber River and plunged into the Taggart Tunnel.

Here is a view of the SF Zephyr with a UP high speed SD-40-2 on the point at Taggett, Utah in 1980. The sun had set and twilight took hold. The train then played hop scotch with the Weber River. Connie Johnson spent some time with Carl and me in the lounge car. The CZ ran on to Morgan and followed the Weber River to Strawberry. We followed the river through the Devils Gate then Unitah before reaching the Salt Lake Valley floor at Riverdale. Carl and I called Steve of thanking him and telling him we were detoured and giving him an update of our trip. The CZ ran through Riverdale Yard before making the big turn west at the two large grain elevators.

Here is the UP 3985 coming around the wye at Ogden on June 21st,1982.

The CZ crossed the Weber River for the last time before ducking under Interstate 15. The CZ turned south passing through Clearfield then over Roy Hill. We ran through Layton, Kaysville and Centerville before we came to a stop at a red signal at Woods Cross. The Moon and the Great Salt Lake was turned to the west while the Wasatch Mountains are to the east. We sat for over twenty five minutes before a UP Directors Train flew by at track speed at 10:30 PM. The CZ proceeded to North Salt Lake before rolling through the west side of UP North Yard so I got a little more new mileage as the Desert Wind always took the track on the east side of the yard. The State Capitol of Utah was standing guard of this important city. Downtown Salt Lake City has sure changed since my first trip through here in 1980. We turned to the west at Grant Tower before we backed into the new Amtrak Station at 11:08 PM. Carl and I went outside to enjoy the warm Salt Lake City night time air. For the night Carl was given the empty room 11 across the hall so we would both sleep in our lower berths. I was off to dreamland before the CZ left Salt Lake City.

7/25/2004 Waking up east of Battle Mountain when the dining car made its first call, I went to enjoy a French Toast and Sausage breakfast before I took a shower. I figured out that the CZ was running over two hours late. West of Preble there was a UP freight eastbound running on the old Western Pacific. We arrived at Winnemuca where the UP 4124 East was waiting in the siding. We all got a long fresh air break as two of the coaches were having their toilet tanks pumped. Carl found a 70 MPH sign over in some weeds while we were there before we left Winnemuca at 9:05 AM {6:19 AM}. The conductor told me of our delays since leaving Salt Lake City on time last night. We followed one UP freight train into Elko but the most damaging was another UP freight that we followed almost to Winnemuca who kept having major problems. We made another stop at Ocala as our crew died on the 12 hours of service law. The good news was that the new crew was already here to take us on our way west. Next Sleeping Car 32002 lost all of their toilets and their passengers would have to use the toilets in our car. We had no more delays and the CZ ran to Fernley where we joined the Truckee River for our journey into California. We came to Sparks which is now a quick stop at 12:09 PM {9:24 AM] then the CZ rolled into Reno.

This was our next fresh air stop so I photographed the Zephyr at the new station.

A passenger had fallen and the Reno Paramedics were called to meet the train and assist. We left Reno at 12:26 PM {9:38 AM}.

The path of the future Reno Trench could be seen as we left town. Carl and I went to lunch sitting with a pair of cousins, one from Salt Lake City the other from above Sonoma. I had an Angus Beef Burger and my last sundae of the trip. We got mooned along the Truckee River. We stopped at Truckee before the CZ made the final climb on Donner Pass.

The CZ came to halt and sat at a red signal at Shed 12 {MP 197 was outside my window} for an extended delay starting at 1:51 PM. A freight train was stuck in the summit tunnel of Donner Pass with several major problems. I took a nap using my new Amtrak blanket with the new company emblem on it that I bought for the bus ride home tonight. Not! After an hour and a half nap, I went to visit my new friends in the lounge car to see how they were holding up during this delay. The veterans of Wyoming were doing fine but our new Reno passengers were not taking it to well. I returned to my room and here is the scene. To the west is the front of the train on a curve, two high red signals and Snow Shed 12. To the south are trees above a cut with rocks of various sizes. To the east, thunderheads were building while to the north was Donner Lake down in the valley with Interstate 80 on the opposite side of the valley with a single peak with snow on it. I saw a Thruway Bus heading to Sacramento for San Joaquin 704 at 4:25 PM that we would not be on it like we were scheduled. The eastbound CZ was stuck on the west side of this mess. We lost the toilets in our sleeping car at 4:10 PM meaning we would have to walk four cars to use the bathroom. "Every trip is an adventure!" The Electric Light Orchestra "Out of the Blue" was my musical selection for this delay on Amtrak. The conductor's ETA of 4:40 PM to be on the move again came and went with everyone on board noticing. Finally at 5:29 PM the eastbound CZ rolled by so it made it through the tunnel. This stopped the jokes about us being here until the first Winter snows! This was now Carl's all time longest delay and I hoped it does not get to be a 14 hour delay like mine in San Antonio on that Janesville Jaunt trip. At 6:17 PM we finally moved with the passengers in the lounge car cheering. We went through Shed 12 before stopping again for just two minutes before we ran through the Summit tunnel and on to Norden.

Carl and I went to the dining car for a limited menu off both the lunch and dinner menus. I had fish, a halibut I think. We sat with a couple from Melbourne, Australia. During our meal we paced the UP 5701 West, the delaying train, towards Yuba Gap. We finished our last CZ meal as the train passed through Emigrant Gap saying farewell to this excellent dining car crew. We continued our descent through Blue Canon in the shadow of the ridge we were following westbound. Gold Run came next followed by Long Ravine before we did a quick stop at Colfax. Darkness took hold as the CZ descended the Sierra Foothills to Auburn where for the second time today our crew died on the 12 hours of service law {a new record}. I took this time to call home letting my mother know I would not be home late tonight. Now with our fourth crew of the day, we ran to Roseville at 10:04 PM {2:39 PM}. The CZ made a final sprint towards Sacramento before slowing for yard limits for the last few miles. We pulled into the Sacramento Amtrak Station at 10:34 PM {2:39 PM} ending another totally interesting Amtrak adventure on the California Zephyr.

Carl and I went into the station and I signed a voucher for which they gave us money for a room at the Vagabond plus cash for breakfast. Carl and I walked over there and got a room. We checked our E-mail at their Business Center before calling it a night.

San Joaquin 702 7/26/2004

We packed, checked out and headed back to the Sacramento Amtrak station. Our southbound train pulled up to the platform with Cab Car 8313 Mt Lassen, Coach 6465 Moonstone Beach {Surfliner}, Cafe 8805 Yosemite Valley, Coach/Baggage 8201 San Francisco Bay with F59PHI 2004 pushing. Carl and I sat in the Surfliner seats in the Moonstone Beach. I saw my brother Bruce briefly before we departed on time. While we were waiting the Coast Starlight came in with no Parlour Car on time and departed on time with the Great Charters Dome with rear platform Patrick Henry on the rear. Tickets were taken and we went to get breakfast as we headed south down the valley.

I read a USA Today as we went south to Lodi and Stockton with the UP having all their freights out of the way in sidings. The train made the turn onto the BNSF and it was off to the races. Our only BNSF delay was for a few minutes at the new Stockton Yard. 702 flew by San Joaquin 711 in the siding at Atwater before we passed the Castle Air Museum and proceeded to Merced. Further south at Madera BNSF 5439 was in the siding there as we were leaving. Sister train 701 was tucked away in the siding at Gregg before we crossed the San Joaquin River and running into Fresno where I grabbed a picture of our train. We headed south holding the mainline at Conejo for a BNSF freight with a KCS unit on it. Our train flew down to West Corcoran meeting the BNSF 5336 West in the siding there. At Allensworth San Joaquin 713 was in that siding as we ran to Wasco. From there our San Joaquin made the final sprint into Bakersfield.

Thruway Bus 7/26/2004

In keeping with my "Number One Rule" on my website, "Every Trip is an Adventure," we arrived in Bakersfield at 11:52 AM where Carl and I detrained, dropped our bags so that the driver would put them in the bay of the Amtrak Thruway Bus. We took the front seat so that we could be off fast and to the Amtrak Train 578 at 2 PM to Fullerton for Carl and Santa Ana for me. Now for the final delay of this great trip. Our driver closed the door for the comfort of the passengers and began loading the luggage under the bus. A male passenger on our bus went to the door in an vain attempt to get the driver's attention because he needed what he called his "lifesaving medication". He failed to get the driver's attention but still tried to get off messing with the door and controls without success before returning to his seat.

When our driver completed the luggage loading, he came to the door to enter, and he could not get in. The driver got my attention by knocking on the door and said, "Let me in!" He told me some buttons to push, which I did, but the door still did not open. Our driver left to ask another driver how to get into his own bus. The second driver came over and realized the bus was locked from the inside [by the passenger who tried to get out] and told me about another knob to turn and all was well...except for the precious 10 minutes had been lost forever!. At 12:11 PM we finally left the Amtrak Bakersfield Station for Highway 99 for Los Angeles.

Our driver drove very well and I enjoyed fact-checking Carl's story that he had written so far on his computer during the trip. Due to more construction at LAUPT we pulled into the far north west portion of the station. We needed our luggage quickly to make the train, the reason for this bus in the first place. We were kept from getting our luggage by Amtrak Red Caps who only got the checked luggage out. Finally after helping all passengers off the bus, the driver started unloading the luggage that we had left on the platform at Bakersfield. We collected our bags with Carl's being the second to last to come out and took off for the train. We hustled all the way along the front of the station, in the front door and through the Station. I saw 578 Boarding on the station board and hoped that maybe we would get lucky. We went up to Track 10 and saw no train waiting. At least there was a Metrolink Train at 2:55 PM our tickets would be good on.

We walked over to Track 8B to wait for Metrolink 684. Some thoughts about this mess. Why can not a bus delivering connecting passengers be bought up to the platform? If that can not be done, why can not the driver be in contact with Station Services so they know that we had arrived? Signs so that people would know where to go would be helpful. How about a live human being who could have told everyone going as far as Irvine about that 2:55 PM Metrolink Train so they would not have to wait until 4:10 PM for Surfliner 582.

Metrolink 684 7/26/2004

Carl and I were greeted by Metrolink Conductor Kim Chadwick who is always an enjoyable person. We had a few laughs before we settled in for our trip home. The trip was quick and after we dropped Carl off in Fullerton, the train took me home to Santa Ana ending another great Amtrak Adventure. Special thanks to Carl for joining me on this fantastic trip. I drove home thinking that "Every trip is an adventure!" and can not wait for my next trip.

For Carl's story click here!