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The Detour of the California Zephyr Across Wyoming 7/24/2004

by Chris Guenzler

03/11/2004 - Summer Detour of California Zephyr to Track Historic Transcontinental Railroad Route.

Early on the morning of March 11, 2004 someone posted this message on which I took a great interest in as I read it.

National Railroad Passenger Corporation 60 Massachusetts Avenue NE Washington, DC 20002

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE Contact: Marc Magliari 312 880.5390 ATK-04-020 March 11, 2004


Some Colorado and Utah stops affected during parts of June and July

CHICAGO - Scheduled track improvements on the Union Pacific Railroad west of Denver will require Amtrak to use an alternate route for the California Zephyr between Denver and Salt Lake City during four, eight-day periods this summer. The detour will follow the historic transcontinental railroad route through Wyoming and Utah on freight rail tracks that passenger trains have not traversed since 1997.

From June 8-15, June 23-30, July 8-15 and July 23-30, Amtrak will be unable to use the Union Pacific route through the Moffat Tunnel west of Denver. On those days, the California Zephyr will detour between Denver and Salt Lake City via a northern route through Wyoming, making no intermediate station stops. On the days the train detours, Amtrak will provide alternate motor coach transportation between Denver and Glenwood Springs and Grand Junction, Colo., only.

Passengers traveling between Chicago and Denver or between Salt Lake City and the San Francisco Bay Area (Emeryville) will be unaffected.

Service to Fraser-Winter Park, Colo.; Granby, Colo.; Green River, Utah; Helper, Utah and Provo, Utah, will be suspended on the days of the train's detour. Passengers already ticketed to those stations are being notified of the service suspensions.

Amtrak will also notify all passengers ticketed between Denver and Salt Lake City during the 32 days of the detour and/or the alternate transportation from Denver to and from Glenwood Springs and Grand Junction. Passengers will be offered travel on alternate days or refunds.

The detour route will follow a portion of the original transcontinental Union Pacific route that was completed in 1869. While the scenery is less mountainous than the California Zephyr's regular routing, it offers broad vistas of the high plains and an opportunity to see pronghorn antelope and other wildlife.

Amtrak regrets the service disruption and has notified the affected communities. However, the Union Pacific Railroad has said the improvements are needed to maintain safe and timely operation of trains through the Moffat Tunnel route.

For more information about the California Zephyr, fares and schedules, call 800.USA.RAIL or visit

--Originally posted at:

I called Ray and Steve at Trainweb about us covering the event and they thought we should. I made the reservations for two people, got a hotel room in Denver so we were all set. The other party canceled with two days until the trip. Ray asked Carl Morrison, another Trainweb writer to come on the trip and they got his name added to the reservation so we were all set to go.

Thruway Bus to Bakersfield 7/21/2004

The bus pulled into Santa Ana on time and I took the front seat as the other four passengers boarded. We ran up the 57 Freeway to Fullerton where Carl boarded with him taking a seat in the back of the bus. I dozed to LA where the bus filled up a little more but I retained my two seats. This bus was extremely cold making it hard to sleep as I was in shorts knowing the valley temperatures of the morning. I asked the driver to warm the bus but he did not believe that it was cold. We did Glendale, Van Nuys and Saugus but I still was cold and could not sleep. Finally someone else complained and the driver adjusted the temperature of the bus. I was extremely glad to step off that bus into the much warmer morning air of Bakersfield. The train crew opened the train up as soon as we stepped off the bus which was a great gesture on their part to make our transfer easy.

San Joaquin 711 7/21/2004

The train had a consist of F59PHI 2001 pulling Coach/Baggage 8205 Monterey Bay, Cafe 8802 Sacramento Valley, Coach 8002 Feather River and Cab Car 8306 Mt San Gorgonio. Carl and I boarded the Feather River for his trip to Stockton and mine to Hanford. The Station was not even open when we arrived and up to ten minutes before we left but the cafe was so I ordered a cup of tea. Our train departed Bakersfield on time and after passing through the BNSF yard we headed out into what was left of the night. The oil refineries looked beautiful lit up in the night sky. Day began as we rolled through Shafter then onto Wasco where two passengers detrained. The Sierra Nevada Mountains stood out against the ever lightning sky as the train made its way to Corcoran. The sun rose as we made the final miles into Hanford where I detrained.

Hanford 7/21/2004

Following pictures of our train, the agent told me there was a McDonalds two blocks away where I would enjoy my usual breakfast of Hot Cakes and Sausage. I toured the station and found a Coca-Cola machine that made me happy before I went out to the platform to watch the BNSF pass through Hanford.

A flashing yellow turned to a green signal before the BNSF 8011 East, a bare table train, flew through Hanford.

Just behind him came a dead heading southbound Amtrak train. Yesterday bussing was done between Merced and Fresno for highway bridge construction in North Fresno. This set must have come down from Merced where they must have tied up last night. It was on the way to Bakersfield to become San Joaquin 713 later this morning.

BNSF 4759 East came next through Hanford.

Next the BNSF 4097 West rolled by with a general freight in tow through Hanford.

BNSF 5158 West was next in the parade of freight trains I saw. At 8:52 AM Amtrak 701 pulled into Hanford 20 minutes late and I boarded the Cab Car taking a backward facing seat to try to get some rest.

San Joaquin 701 7/21/2004

This train had a consist of B-32BWH 2051 pulled Coach/Baggage 8203 Bodega Bay, Cafe 8813 San Fernando Valley, Coach 8003 American River and Cab Car 8311 Mt Palomar. I tried the single seat at the end of the car but a lady talking loudly on her cell phone caused me to move to a more quiet location in the car. I slept almost to Madera which we departed 46 minutes late. At Sharon we slowed for a BNSF eastbound and at Planda for Amtrak 712. At Merced we waited for the BNSF 5709 East to pull into the long siding there. I would have to say with what I witnessed in Hanford and from this train the BNSF must be doing a record business. At Empire the Modesto, Empire & Traction had a pair of 70 Tonners working the BNSF interchange yard there. The Valley Lift in Empire is no more since the new BNSF yard handles all the BNSF business in the north San Joaquin Valley. We made a brief stop in Modesto before running through Riverbank and Escalon then sprinting the rest of the way into Stockton. We slowed as we approached the connection of the Union Pacific to the Stockton Ace Station. We headed north to Lodi where we sat for a few minutes while a UP freight got into the siding at Acampo. 701 ran through Galt then by the siding at Need. My train crossed the Consumes River before it ran through Elk Grove. We passed a northbound UP freight in the Elk Grove Siding before we crossed Calvine Road near my brother Bruce's house. We ran by the Siemens Plant where there was a pair of California Cars being worked on. We stopped before Florin and slowly ran by the Sharp Depot then onto Polk. Our train picked up speed, ran under the Sacramento Light Rail and onto Elvas where we turned west to the Sacramento Amtrak Station arriving 1:20 PM or one hour late.

Sacramento 7/21/2004

I stored my bags in the baggage room before I headed over to Old Sacramento. I went to the Railroad Museum Store for a copy of CTC Board.

I walked over to the Sacramento River meeting a Railfan from San Jose and we got a UP train crossing the I Street Bridge. My San Joaquin train then came out onto the bridge before it backed into the storage tracks for an afternoon of cleaning and servicing. My brother Bruce got off work at 3 PM and after driving to his house we took a dip in his pool. Later we went to the store followed by barbecuing some hamburgers. I had a nice visit with the family before calling it an early night.

7/22/2004 We drove back to the Amtrak Station and I bought a roundtrip ticket to Emeryville.

Capitol Corridor 523 7/22/2004

My first train of the day had F59PHI 2010 pulling Coaches 8025 Mokelume River and 8022 Pitt River, Cafe 8810 Owens Valley Coach 8002 San Joaquin River and Cab Car 8301 Mt Whitney. The train departed Sacramento on time into the morning darkness as I was reading my new CTC Board about the former Western Pacific 7th Subdivision that I would be riding tonight. I got a chocolate chip cookie and orange juice for breakfast. This trip this morning is just a time killing event.

The sun rose after the Suisan Fairfield stop and the train sped across the marshes to the bridge over the Carquinez into Martinez. I rode in the cab car which is the quiet car on this train and it is so silent that most of the passengers were sleeping. The train rolled along the Straits in bright brilliant sunlight before we ran under the cloud deck to San Pablo Bay. We did our stops at Richmond, Berkeley and into Emeryville on time. I checked out the station building before I went outside in the cool windy morning air to wait for my next train. Amtrak San Joaquin 712 came into the station and boarded a large crowd plus I got to see the wheelchair lift work properly. It departed for Bakersfield on time.

Capitol Corridor 522 7/22/2004

The train had Cab Car 8302 Mt Shasta, Coach 8006 Merced River, Cafe 8806 Cochella Valley, Coaches 8024 Consummes and 8009 Santa Ana River with F59PHI 2006 pushing. After they took my ticket I slept all the way to Martinez where a lady on a cell phone was talking so loud you could have heard her two cars away. Later we stopped at Fairfield before rolling by a stopped Coast Starlight at Tolones running well over two hours late. As we returned to the Sacramento Valley it will be another very hot day. I will sure miss all that cool air in Emeryville. We pulled into Davis with that very beautiful restored station my brother Bruce used to work at years ago. The train crossed the Yolo Causeway then went through West Sacramento and across the Sacramento River into the Amtrak Station. I detrained and walked over to Denny's and had a Fabulous French Toast Platter. I stopped by the Vagabond for some Coca-Cola before returning to Amtrak to wait for Carl. Bruce had to go to the bank so I walked with him to Wells Fargo with a museum inside. Here I found two pictures of Billy Miner who had robbed the Wells Fargo twice. Billy fled to Canada and introduced Canada to the phrase "Hands Up!" I first learned about Billy Miner in the Melodrama in Kamloops on my Rocky Mountaineer trip. We returned to Amtrak and Carl met us as we walked in the door.

California Zephyr 6 7/22/2004

Bruce told us that the California Zephyr {CZ from now on} was still in Emeryville and that our sleeper was on the front of the train. At 11:18 AM they announced that the CZ was on the move and it would be here at 1 PM. A toilet in a handicapped bedroom was the problem and the passenger had to be reaccommodated in another handicap bedroom in another car. After a while Carl and I went out to the platform and into more of a cooling breeze. Off of a Capitol Train that had been parked came Engineer Ernie and who I had known on the Surfliners who had just transferred is now working out of Sacramento. The small world is happening on this trip as well. Bruce came out to give us an update right after a westbound UP freight and a local passed the station.

Amtrak San Joaquin 701 came in only 8 minutes late today.

Our CZ finally came into view at 1:10 PM and came to a stop. The conductor had to find our car attendant Applegate who was off doing other things. We boarded Sleeping Car 32017 Room 4. The eastbound CZ had P42DC's 201 and 129, Baggage 1161, Sleepers 32045, 32017 and 33020, Diner 38035, Lounge 33022, Coaches 34086, 31510 {ex smoker} and 31005 {ex smoker}, Express 71192 and 71273, Express trek 74052 and Express 71212. We left Sacramento at 1:26 PM {11:32 AM} and headed east towards Elvas Tower.

As we neared there I saw two large puffs of smoke coming from between our sleeping car and the one ahead. We came to a stop and here came the conductors plus a UP Hi-rail truck stopped at our scene. Smoke was coming out from under the car and began to fill our car. We learned that a head end power had exploded and the hot end had set the ties under the train on fire. They made us all exit the car so we had to sit in the lounge car. They backed our train into Sacramento to attempt to solve this problem. They let us out onto the station platform and I went out to watch them fixing the problem.

Harlon Beck and Larry Follis, a new road foreman from Bakersfield worked on the problem. The fried electrical connector was cut with a yellow hack. At first they cut the remaining part off at the same length but after a few moments of thought they cut the cable top different lengths. They used duct tape to cover the newly cut sections of the multiple cables. Next they short looped the train so that the head end power will only go down the other side of the train to provide the power to the rest of the train. They turned on the power and it all worked. Remember "Every trip is an adventure!

There was only a small piece left of the cable that had caused all our problems. It was then "All aboard!" and we reboarded the CZ and left Sacramento for the second time today at 2:39 PM {11:32 AM}. Applegate finally introduced himself to Carl and I before Carl headed back to lunch. The air conditioning quickly cooled our car and cleared the car of the smoke. We reached our furthest point we had been at Elvas and we came to a red just a short distance east. It turned upgraded to a yellow signal and we were off. The CZ crossed the American River and we were off to the races. The CZ ran by the JR Davis Yard in Roseville and the large diesel facility there before we stopped at Roseville. We passed the UP 5424 West parked on the Mainline 1 with no crew as the CZ left town. We headed up Number 2 track through Rocklin and climbed the grade through the Sierra Foothills into the pine trees to Colfax, our next passenger stop at 4:26 PM {12:45 PM}.

The CZ crossed the Long Ravine on the climb to Norden. I listened to Jethro Tull while Carl worked on his story on his Apple laptop. The train climbed through Gold Run, Midas and Emigrant Gap as well as passing those purple wildflowers that were out in force. From Yuba Gap to Shed 10 I shot pictures along the way.

I had a 6 PM dinner reservation having a nice meal with a couple from Chicago and "Parky" Wetherell, a Parkinson's Survivor who has ridden a bike 28,000 miles in 4 years. He has a web site at and is going to Omaha to do a Missouri to Mississippi River Bicycle Ride. Put your rear tire in the Missouri, go all the way across Iowa then put your front tire in the Mississippi River when you are done! Council Bluffs to Clinton! You really got to respect his determination in life. I enjoyed a T-Bone Steak and a sundae. What a great dining car experience!

After entering Nevada we stopped for some reason at Verdi before we reached Reno. Here they have started their downtown trenching of the railroad through town so we got on a relocated mainline. Yeah, new mileage! We came to a new temporary Reno Station across from the former SP freight house. We left Reno at 8:03 PM {4:13 PM} with Carl and I having a great time traveling together. Sparks was an off and on stop then the CZ headed east into the Nevada night. Carl had a 7:45 PM dinner reservation since he had a late lunch but they skipped 7:45 and did a last call which Carl went to. The Nevada Sky is absolutely filled with stars and a crescent moon. Carl returned, I made up the room and we called it a night.

A Day of Slight Disappointment but nothing Major! 7/23/2004

I woke up at Knolls siding in Utah and took a shower.

The CZ crossed the Salt Flats and I watched the sun rise over the Wasatch Mountains.

Minutes later we ran along the south shore of the Great Salt Lake with Antelope Island off to the north.

The CZ ran through Smelter with the large smokestack and a few minutes later saw the Control Tower for Salt Lake City International Airport. At Grant Tower we turned south onto the former Rio Grande Freight Mainline. I picked up a little new mileage as the CZ rolled into the new Amtrak modular station. This is the third Amtrak station I have used in Salt Lake City. The UP Station for the Desert Wind and Pioneer, Rio Grande Station for the Desert Wind and California Zephyr plus the Rio Grande Zephyr and now this new one. The train was serviced, engine refueled and crew changed.

We sat down for breakfast with a couple from Northern Virginia. Lisa ordered a Pepsi that exploded. Today a Pepsi, yesterday a head end power cable!

The CZ left Salt Lake City at 7:48 AM {4:06 AM} and headed south to the ex Rio Grande Mainline. We would not be going via Wyoming going via the old DRG&W mainline. Despite that news, I still enjoyed my French Toast and Sausage breakfast.

At Midvale we passed the Utah Railroad shop area and the Light Rail Shops. We followed the Jordan River below Point of the Mountain into the Provo Valley. We stopped in Provo where of course no one boarded because our train was not even supposed to be here today.

The CZ started the climb out of the Provo Valley with the Wasatch Mountains in the background. We entered Spanish Fork Canyon and I told the story of Thistle to Carl.

The CZ climbed the Guilley Loops and made our way over Solider Summit. They put on the movie, "Welcome to Mooseport" The CZ passed through Kyunne and then under Castle Rock into Helper.

I asked our conductor, "Why did not we ran across Wyoming as scheduled this morning?" She said "The UP delayed their work by one day so tomorrow the trains would run that way!" I then said, "With no passengers on or off today this has got to be an easy day of work." She just smiled. We left Helper at 11:02 AM {7:15 AM} as the CZ then descended into the Utah Desert with the Book Cliffs to the north. I napped to Green River before enjoying the desert views. I went to the dining car just for a Delicious Chocolate Cake as I was not hungry. We stopped at Cisco to wait for track workers to clear the mainline. I bet they were not expecting the CZ today as it was scheduled to be in Wyoming.

The CZ entered my favorite canyon on the whole Amtrak System, Ruby Canyon where I took some pictures.

After all those great vistas, the CZ entered the Grand Valley and rolled into Grand Junction.

Following a picture of the CZ with a BNSF freight along side, I went into the store for more Coca-Cola.

I spotted a narrow gauge box car across the street northeast of the old Rio Grande Station. We departed Grand Junction at 2:47 PM {11:05 AM}.

The CZ headed east across the Grand Valley and through Dubuque Canyon. At Lacy we met the westbound CZ in the siding running slightly tardy at 45 minutes. We ran through Rifle then made our way to Glenwood Springs departing there at 4:38 PM {12:57 PM}. The CZ headed into a darkened Glenwood Canyon as we ran under some clouds that produced a little rain. At Dotsero we had a red signal that finally changed to red over green with the CZ heading north for Red Rock Canyon. We came to Bond and went in for our 6 PM dinner reservation eating with Al from Akron and Mary from Des Moines. I ordered the "Evening Special" which was Beef Tips which were excellent and had a sundae. While this incredible meal was taking place we did not move a foot with no announcements in the dining car about our delay.

The Colorado River had turned a chocolate milk color meaning there had been flash flooding some place up the mountains. After dinner I found the conductor who said the dining car had turned off their PA system. He had made three announcements about the freight train outside our window that had broken in two and had 32 cars overhanging onto the mainline.

We sat and sat and sat with me listening to Blue Oyster Cult. The freight had to double his train, then the crew had to walk their train before they pumped up the air in the brake line of the train. Every trip is an adventure! At 7:55 PM the freight started to pull forward off the mainline. At 7:59 PM the CZ took off for Granby.

Further east at Yarmony we saw the results of a major derailment. Journey's "Look into the Future" and their first album "Journey" was my evening musical choice as we headed first into Little Gore Canyon then later Gore Canyon. The CZ came to a stop at Kremmling due to a signal problem. We did not reach Byers Canyon in any kind of light as the sun had set long ago. I napped all the way to Rocky Flats before the CZ rolled into Denver. The CZ wyed and backed in first picking up more express cars before we backed into Denver Union Station at 12:40 AM {7:18 PM}. How will all my new friends I met do with their connections in Chicagoland?

Carl and I detrained to walk to the La Quinta Inn. On the way there Carl got to see the Union Pacific 3985 Challenger completely under steam laying over for the excursion train later this morning. We made our way to the La Quinta, checked in and after a well deserved shower called it a night.

Click here for Part 2 of the story.