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Coldest Winterail Ever!

by Chris Guenzler

It was time for another Winterail and this year Chris Parker would be joining me for his first time experience of this fantastic event. Chris decided he would drive and to make it easier for him since he lives Torrance I would meet him that Friday morning in Burbank via Metrolink from Santa Ana. A major winter storm was bearing down onto Southern California so we had to keep an eye on the weather until departure time. The storm was finally scheduled to arrive Friday night and thus our plan for an early Friday morning was on.

Heading north to Stockton 3/10/2006

I was up early at 3:25 AM and prepared for the trip north. I drove to Santa Ana and purchased my Metrolink Ticket to Burbank. Metrolink 681 came into right on time and I boarded Cab Car 603 lower level. The train rolled through the predawn darkness to Orange, Anaheim, Fullerton and Norwalk as I enjoyed my first Coca-Cola of this trip out of my baby cooler. We arrived into LAX at 5:22 AM on Track 8 with my soon to be arriving Metrolink 901 on Track 6. I enjoyed the very cool morning air before my train pulled in. We departed at 5:48 AM then headed to Glendale and Burbank which was the last stop for Train 901.

I detrained for a picture of Train 901 then spotted Chris across the parking lot. Chris had rented a Ford Crown Victoria which is the same type of car lots of police departments use. We headed north on Interstate 5 listening to music I bought along. As we neared Gorman we encountered snow flurries and were very happy to be just going through. Over the Summit and as far as Fort Tejon the flurries continued. We dropped down the grade to Grapevine where we paused to get some snacks. We continued north up I 5 to CA 43 which we took north to Shafter. Here we paused to take pictures of the historic Santa Fe Station.

Views of the Shafter Station.

An old time crossing signal. We next headed north to Wasco.

There we photographed the Savage locomotive that works there. We had a green signal as we headed north towards Corcoran where we visited the station which has some really great historical pictures. On the way out of town we found our first train in the siding.

BNSF 4548 East.

Coming to a stop was the BNSF 4631 West at Corcoran.

BNSF 7639. Next we drove to the southside of Hanford hoping to photograph all three locomotives.

Of the three only the Mighty Cow was in a spot where we could get a picture. The sky turned black and it poured as we headed north to Burris Park to photograph the SP 0-6-0 1205 which was as we learned when we got there once on display there but had since moved.

Here is the SP 1205 now on display at Portola which I had shot of the Trains Unlimited Tours Domes to the Feather River Railroad Days. We drove into Kingsburg.

The Southern Pacific Kingsburg Station under restoration. We drove to Selma for gas for the car and Carl's JR. for lunch.

Knowing the Southern Pacific Station was in Pioneer Park was our next goal. Back onto CA 99 into Fresno.

In Roeding Park was freshly painted Southern Pacific 1238 on display there. We continued north to Avenue 20 where we exited to follow the BNSF along Santa Fe Road towards Le Grand.

At Le Grand we found the former Santa Fe Station. From there it was on into Merced passing there after another downpour we took J7 north along the BNSF. North of Denair we found our first BNSF northbound in the siding waiting for an eastbound.

A couple of views of the BNSF 4631 West.

About fifteen minutes later, the BNSF 4565 East passed by our location. Back in the car, we drove on to Empire.

Here we found the BNSF 4762 West. Also here was the Modesto, Empire and Traction switching.

A few more views of the Modesto, Empire and Traction. From here we drove to the Modesto Amtrak Station.

Amtrak 713 arrived in Modesto. We tried to get Ken Ruben off of the train by having his name announced by the conductor and told his party meeting him at Stockton was here to get him. Later we learned Ken had slept through the announcement. We drove through Riverbank and a few miles north we saw a headlight.

BNSF 4781 East came flying around a corner. Back in the car we headed west out of Escalon and into another heavy rain shower. We made our way to CA 99 and north to Waterloo Road in Stockton where we pulled into the Best Western. At check in we found Ken Ruben and after we got our room we walked over to KFC for dinner. Later the three of us headed to the Friday Night affair.

2nd Annual Railfan and Railroad Pre-Winterail Pizza and Slide Party 3/10/2006

This year the party was held at the same place as Winterail which made it easier to get to. I had gotten an e-mail saying that if the programs ran long the last two slide presentations including mine might not be shown. We all met outside in front and after paying my fare I renewed many old friendships.

The show started at 6 PM with Drew Jacksich showing "Southern Pacific Railroading on Donner Pass". Richard Barnes next gave us a tour during his "Railfanning the Pacific Northwest". Robert Scott next had an excellent presentation called "Rails in the Heartland". Marty Peterson shared his program "Railroading on the Central Oregon and Pacific". A fantastic program was next given by Tom Moungoven entitled "Steam on the Modoc." One friend of mine Aaron Hockley then presented the "North Slope of Hood". The Editor of Railfan and Road Magazine Steve Berry did "Steve's Steamy Shorts" a great collection of recent steam events. Ken Storey provided us with "Great Railfan Trips 2005". A very good friend of mine Barry Christensen showed "Gateways to the South". Nate Muhlethaler gave us "Central Mexican Railroads". Marc Balkin showed a future Mark 1 Video program called "West Coast Railroading in the 1950's on video". With that they were out of time. Keith Ardinger's program "Short Lines of the Northwest", my Santa Fe/BNSF Needles Sub" and Mike Pechner's show on the "4449, The early years" were not shown that night much to the disappointment of many in the audience. I really wanted to see the "4449, The early years". We returned to the Best Western having a good laugh when a CD got stuck for several seconds and then a radio show with great jokes. Back at the Best Western we all got a good night sleep.

Chris and I got up then walked across the street to Perkos for breakfast. After that great meal, we drove over to the Stockton Terminal and Eastern shops for some pictures of old Alcos.

Views of the Stockton, Terminal and Eastern formerly used Alco engines. Once we had our fill of pictures we returned to the Best Western to pick up Ken to drive to Winterail 2006.

On the way there we caught the Central California Central Traction at the old engine house.

Winterail 2006 3/11/2006

We arrived to Winterail at 9 AM but had to return to the hotel after dropping Ken off as I had forgotten my Photo Contest picture. A quick trip back to the hotel solved that problem and soon I was at the swap meet with everyone else at this great event.

From the pictures above you can tell it is a very busy affair. I purchased several Railroad Public Timetables. I enjoy these as seeing all the routes I could have ridden had I been born at an earlier time? Ken called Lets Talk Trains, that Internet Radio Show that is on every Saturday morning from 10-12 Pacific Time or 24/7 in the achieves. He had Vic Neves, the Producer of Winterail give a rundown of this year's event. Chris was off enjoying the swap meet so I went and got a place in line to get into the main hall for the Winterail programs.

At 11:30 AM the doors opened with me getting three seats half way up. Chris found me and later we showed Ken where we were sitting.

The video projection area as all shows this year for the first time are digital.

This year's show started at Noon with the Pre-show Announcements. The first program was "Wheat Country" by Bob Clarke, Ruth Hills and Mark Perry. Following a ten minute Break, Tim Tonge provided us with "Roll on Santa Fe, Abo Canyon." The next show was the "Last Years of the Pickering" by Tom Moungoven. The "Santa Fe Kite Shaped Route" by Glen Icanberry gave an interesting view of Southern California. "Suburban Symphony" by George Hiotis gave a stunning glimpse of daily New Jersey Transit Commuter Train operations. Following that was "Growing up in the Bay Area's Southern Pacific during the 1950's" by John Harder. Next was a preview of a future PBS Program called "Dome Car Magic" by Rick Luckin. Next was the Three Favorite Slides and as always a few good laughs were had by all in attendance. Once that was done we broke for dinner. The three of us had gotten a reservation at the Black Angus and enjoyed a fine dinner.

I did not place in the photo contest but this was the image I used. After the Photo Contest winners were announced, the Winterail Hall of Fame Award was given to Dick Dorn. Next, the NRHS Special Achievement Award was given to Dick and Shirley Steinheimer. The programs then continued with "Warren McGee's Northern Pacific". The final long program was by Jeff Bass who provided us with the "Tones, Textures, Colors, Faces. Railroading". For the first time "The Shorts" were at the end of the programs. This year "The Shorts" were the "11th Hour" by Mike Johannessen, "3751" by Steve Crise, "While you lay sleeping" by Kit Courter and "Cold enough to Snow" by Mike Danneman. With that last short program Winterail 2006 came to an end. The three of us return to the Best Western for the night.

The Trip Home 3/12/2006

We got up at 6:15 AM and loaded the car. Ken found us and I returned the keys to the office before we headed south. I did not want Ken to wait in Stockton so I had suggested we drive him to Merced which we did.

South of Merced during a light rain shower we found a train to photograph, the UP 3878 West.

Further south UP 5692 West. Continuing south on the road south of Madera we saw our first I 5 Closed Over Tejon Pass. We both wondered how CA 58 over Tehachapi Pass was doing. We stopped for gas just north of Fresno and got the number for Road Conditions. CA 58 was closed from 12 miles east of Bakersfield to Mojave. If it and I 5 stayed closed all day we would have to go home via Santa Maria something both of us really did not want to do. We continued south and the next road condition sign was off. Just south of Selma the next sign was on.

Here is the sign just south of Traver as we continued south.

Almost to Bakersfield we stopped for a pair of pictures of the snowy mountains ahead. We called the Road Conditions again and the CHP was now escorting cars on CA 58 but I 5 was still closed. We drove into Bakersfield to look for another SP steam locomotive.

We parked in front of the Kern County Museum.

There we found Southern Pacific 4-8-0 2914 on display.

Also here out front is an Amtrak Coach 7515 ex SP 2439 79-C-1 coach with baggage elevator on display here. When we were done we headed east towards the Tehachapi Mountains. At Kern Junction we got stopped by a westbound BNSF freight. On the move again after passing the Union Pacific Yard we saw a headlight out of the east.

BNSF 4712 West arriving into Bakersfield. After a picture we headed east on the Edison Highway and by Sand Cut. As we descended towards Bena we spotted an eastbound train running well ahead of us. Knowing we could get to Tunnel 2 well before him we took our time and arrived there well before our train.

UP 5742 East climbed up and through Tunnel 2. We decided to head to the loop but spotted a westbound descending through Bealville. We returned to Tunnel 2 and waited for the train.

BNSF 5480 West comes out of Tunnel 2 and dropped down the grade. We tried again to head for the loop but this time we spotted a westbound train sitting at Cliff. We went to Bealville and I lead Chris to near Tunnel 3.

BNSF 4678 West slowed by a red over red signal that finally turned to Red over Yellow.

The power for our train at Tunnel 3. We drove up CA 58 spotting our eastbound UP again just before we pulled off at Keene. As we drove up the road towards the loop we encountered a snow storm. Chris parked near the Loop Monument and I lead the way on a path on the hill that overlooks the loop as the snow continued to fall.

UP 5742 East made its way around the Tehachapi Loop. We decided to head east and once we got back to CA 58 and reached Cable we caught up to our UP freight again. We headed to the highway bridge coming into town.

On last view of UP 5742 East. Chris knew of a good restaurant in town so we went to it for lunch.

We ate at the Apple Shed where I had a Tri Tip Sandwich.

After lunch, a view of the Tehachapi Station before we stopped by Trains, Inc Hobby Shop where I got the 2006 Tourist Train Guide. On the road again we took CA 58 east to Mojave and south of there took Sierra Highway through Rosamond, Lancaster and Palmdale. From there I had Chris drive through Soledad Canyon.

Here we saw the Vasquez Rocks. At the west end of the canyon we took CA 14 in a rain shower to I 5 which we took back to Santa Ana. We dropped my bags off at the house before Chris drove me down to the Santa Ana Train Station where I picked up my car ending an excellent and truly unique Winterail Weekend.