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Winterail 2005, the Railfan and Railroading Slide Show, Sierra Railfan Trip 2005 and get to and from on Amtrak

by Chris Guenzler

This year for Winterail I decide I would take Amtrak to Modesto, rent a car, do a show at the now Railfan and Railroading Friday Night Slide Show and do a Sierra Railroad Railfan Trip if they offered one again this year. I bought my usual two tickets to Winterail and when they came in the mail there was no Sierra trip post card like last year. I called the Sierra about it and a few days later they announced it on their web site. Ken Ruben wanted to join me this year so I set everything up for the two of us. Motel 6 on Navy Drive would be the hotel and Mike of AAA now in their Corona Office got me a rental car that would pick us up at Amtrak. They would be closed Sunday but had a key drop off box. I got Amtrak tickets Los Angeles to Modesto via the Thruway Bus that leaves at 7:45 AM from LAUPT. Metrolink would get me to LAUPT and Surfliner 796 would get me home. Let this adventure begin!

Metrolink 601 3/11/2005

I drove down to the Santa Ana Train station and used the Metrolink Ticket Machine to purchase a one way ticket to Los Angeles Union Station, the first portion of this trip. Train 601 came in right on time with Metrolink Cab car 635, Coaches 123, 156, 114 and 154 with engine 872. We left Santa Ana the usual time that I get out of bed to go to work. It was an overcast morning as we made our way to LAUPT with stops in Orange, Anaheim, Fullerton and Norwalk as the train filled up with commuters all on their way to work. We arrived into LAUPT early with all the commuters now making their mad dash off to work. I had plenty of time for a picture of the train before I headed off to my Thruway Bus for Bakersfield.

Thruway Bus 3/11/2005

I walked out to the bus waiting area and continued to listen to Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull solo CD called "Secret Language of Birds" which I had started on the train. Ken showed up a few minutes later before we boarded the bus to Bakersfield for part two of my northbound journey. We left LAUPT at 7:40 and headed to Bakersfield via Glendale. We escaped the overcast skies at San Fernando now under the bright clear winter sky as we traveled north over the Grapevine. Our crossing of Tejon Pass was as green on the hills as I had ever seen it from the near record rainfall this storm season. We pulled into Bakersfield at 9:51 AM and walked to our train to Modesto.

San Joaquin 713 3/11/2005

Our train had engine 182 named Governor Tommy Thompson, Coach 8031 Mattole River, Cafe 8802 Sacramento Valley, Coach 8001 Sacramento River and Cab Car 8813 MT Lassen. The rear two cars had 114 Kindergartners taking their first train trip to Wasco. We departed Bakersfield on time at 10:15 AM as the train headed northwest to Wasco where the buses were waiting for the kids. We met San Joaquin 702 at Angiola before we proceeded to Corcoran. For lunch Ken tried a Chef Mario Honey Mustard Chicken that wouldn't heat with him having to take it back to the attendant twice. I stayed safe by having a hot dog. I got to enjoy plenty of fresh air at Corcoran as there was a freight train ahead of us having a major problem. We learned that the freight train second unit had lost its pilot and it fell and was dragged across several grade crossings damaging them. "Every trip is an adventure!" as I always say. During our delay I talked with William Burket, our engineer, about all sort of railroading stuff. We left Corcoran at 12:24 PM{11:18 AM} and slowly made our way north at 10 mph across the rural grade crossings that hadn't been inspected for damage yet before we resumed track speed.

We ran down the siding at Guernsey around a track maintainer worker on the main line. We met San Joaquin 712 at King Park before we pulled in and out of Hanford at 1:03 PM{11:36 AM}. Our train took the siding at Shirley for BNSF 6856 East. Ken called the rental car office advising them that we were running late and they told us to call back when we were twenty minutes away from Modesto. We crossed the King River before sprinting to Fresno which we departed at 1:40 PM{12:20 PM}. Our train ten minutes later crossed the San Joaquin River then met San Joaquin 714 at Gregg tucked in the siding out of our way. Madera was done at 2:00 PM{12:41 PM} and proceeded to Merced with the BNSF dispatcher keeping all the freights out of our way.

Our departure at Merced 2:46 PM {1:20 PM} was delayed by track workers getting out of our way. We made our way to Turlock/Denair departing there at 3:10 PM{1:42 PM}. We called the rental agency before we arrived there so they would be waiting for us at Modesto. The train sprinted to Modesto where Ken and I detrained at 3:23 PM{1:57 PM} ending our northbound Amtrak adventure.

Getting the Rental Car 3/11/2005

James from Enterprise met us at the front of the Amtrak Modesto Station and drove us to the Enterprise Offices on McHenry Avenue. What I was told about the Sunday drop off and what I would really do were two different things. As I always say, "Everything works out if you let it!" Since there was no key drop off box like I had been told over the phone, I would have to slide the gate over and do a few other things to leave the car on Sunday. After an extended stay they finally gave us an almost brand new Nissan Sentra. After the usual checking over the car, Ken and I drove to Rite Aid to get him some film before we drove north to Stockton. As I drove I was quickly impressed with this car I was driving. We checked in to the Motel 6 on Navy Drive{the one west of Interstate 5} and put our luggage in our room. There was also a biker group who checked into this low price establishment. A few minutes later, we were off to the Friday night event.

1st Annual Prewinterail Media Show and Pizza Party 3/11/2005

Following the opening announcements, I did a short program of the Nevada Northern Winter Photo Freight 2004 and last years Sierra Railfan Trip after Winterail. Next was the first of the power point presentations called the "Yosemite Valley - Before and After" by Steve Cope. Richard Barnes showed his "MOW on the Coast Line after the storms." Raffle prizes were given out between the shows. We returned to slide programs with Steve Dorsett showing the "UP Washy Line" plus some of the BNSF and Camas Prairie in Washington. Matt Vue showed his program titled "Various Normal". Tom Mongolian showed us his "SP 1970-1975". Drew Jacksich didn't do his planned show but showed us "SP along the Peninsula and more." One of Railfan and Railroading finest staff members Steve Barry showed us "Eastern US Steam Photo Freights". Bob Wershila did a program I really liked called "WP in the 1970's". To break up the evening a live auction was held. Phil Gosney showed "Donner Pass" views from his Amtrak engine service from Emeryville to Reno, another excellent program. Bruce Blackader showed "UP Specials around Reno". Mike Pechner showed us his "30 Years of the NWP". Mike Huggins gave us " UP South City Job", a look at a switch job on the Caltrain's Commuter Line. It was then time for the lone open slide show which was by Nate Muhlethaler which was on overview of his best work but a highlight was Central Mexico. At the end I always feel great after seeing all these great programs plus meeting all my old and now new friends at this event. A special thanks to Mike Huggins for putting this show all together and to Railfan and Railroad Magazine plus the NRHS for continuing the Friday Night Slide show tradition. A great time was held by all.

I drove Ken and I back to the Motel 6 where I called it a night and Ken went visiting. I was in a sound deep sleep at 4:00 AM when a motorcyclist playing extremely loud rap music was being chased around the motel parking lot by the security guard. He did not catch him from what my dear friend Barry Christian told me when he saw me on the way to Denny's later that morning. Mental note: "Stay at the Best Western in the future."

3/13/2005 After watching CNN, we drove to Denny's and I gassed up the car so I wouldn't have to worry about it when I brought the car back tomorrow. "Bring it back with the same amount of gas 3/8 of a tank or more. I would return it almost full as this car gets great gas mileage. On the way to Winterail Ken needed cash so I stopped at a Wells Fargo Bank for him. We drove to the venue and I parked on the street for easy access.

Winterail 2005 3/12/2005

This is the first year that I ever got to Winterail before the swap meet opened. Outside I purchased a great looking Milwaukee Road Electric T-shirt. Once inside, I finally bought a Chicago, Milwaukee, St Paul and Pacific Montana and Washington Division Joint Timetable No 1 January 1, 1976. At another table I bought a Central Railroad of New Jersey Timetable No 2 October 25th, 1964. At the Daylight Sales table I bought a Great Northern Empire Builder T-shirt. Ken called Lets Talk Trains and later I gave Richard my current rail mileage of 852,382.7. I ventured out to get in line to enter the auditorium at 11:30 AM. Once inside, I saved three seats about three quarters the way up.

Ken and I were joined by Jeff Wells who sat with us this afternoon. The first show of Winterail 2005 was called "Postcards from Promontory" by Father Dale Peterka which took old Union Pacific post cards and compared them with modern pictures which was very interesting. Throughout the day door prize numbers were called out. The second show was "The Modoc" by Phillip A Brahms. This show was look at the very historical former SP Route in northeastern California. The Winterail Shorts were next with "The BCR's Final" by Justin Tugnetti and Keith Ode followed by "Indiana Railroad" by Ted Smith-Peterson. From my travels on BC Rail that presentation really warmed my heart. The first of today's movies was a DVD about "Ross Rowland: Giant of Steam" by Marc Balkin which was a fascinating look at Ross' interesting love of steam engines throughout his life. The last of the afternoon presentations was movies by Don Olsen narrated by Fred Kruck called "Santa Fe in the West" and "Rio Grande in Colorado". Fred's narrating really made this program special. After all these great shows, I drove Ken, Bill Davidson and I to the Black Angus for dinner. I enjoyed a 12 ounce Filet Mignon with plenty of Coca-Cola. We got back to the show venue with plenty of time and even got the same seats.

They presented the photo contest winners with 15 year old Alex Ramos winning the color award. Dick Dorn did a 15 minute show to the photo work of John Illman who won this year's Winterail Hall of Fame Award. More door prize numbers were called and all of the prize contributors were thanked. Vic Neeves then made a political statement about the lack of Amtrak Funding and to contact your representative to restore total funding. All of the rest of the evening programs would be digital, a first at Winterail. Mel Patrick's "Night Vision" which I saw a couple of years ago at the Friday Night Event but was even more impressive this time on a larger screen. After a break, we enjoyed "California Rails Still Shines" by Ryan Schwingle. The next show started with a hilarious commercial for "Uncle Petes Used Locomotives in Roseville before we enjoyed Wendel Bowies "Logs Rolling" a program about the scorched logs from the Arizona moved in unit trains to mills in California. The night's final program was "Chicago Union Station" by Mel Patrick. I learned plenty that I didn't know about Chicago Union Station from Mel's program. A special thanks to Vic Neeves and Ken Meeker for presenting Winterail 2004. Ken and I returned to the Motel 6 for another night of motorcycles and noise.

3/13/2005 Ken and I were up early and left for Oakdale and the Sierra Railroad at 5:45 AM. We took Interstate 5 down to French Camp Road where we stopped at a gas station for some goodies and more Coca-Cola for me. French Camp Road and CA Highway 120 follows the old Tidewater and Southern to Escalon where we crossed the BNSF mainline and Amtrak Route. It was about ten more miles for Escalon into Oakdale where we parked in the Sierra Railroad Station parking lot.

Sierra Railfan Trip 2005 3/13/2005

As we pulled in to parking lot, the Sierra Railroad was making up our train for our Railfan Special. I went inside to pick up our tickets for the day's event.

The train backed into the station as I was there to watch.

Sierra Railroad Baldwin S-12 42 in the brief morning sunshine.

Other Railfans are enjoying photographing our Sierra Railfan Special.

The Sierra Railroad S-12 42 Builder Plate. The complete consist of our train was the S-12 42, Baggage Generator Car, the Nevada Falls, Yosemite Falls, Half Dome and El Captain. We boarded the Half Dome at 7:15 AM and departed at 7:30 AM. Steve Sedaker was seated across the aisle at a table and was great company on this trip.

Passing the Sierra Railroad Shops and the various equipment. I spotted fellow OCRHS Member Mark Johnson out video taping our train this morning as we headed out of Oakdale this cloudy morning. The train climbed out into the sand hills.

We did our first Photo Runby at the first location of last year at MP 6. This year I chose a lower elevation but enjoyed watching the others climb the hill. A good time was had by all. I got to talk with Ted Benson, an early railroad photographer hero of mine.

The Baldwin takes one curve on this railroad.

More curves equals more pictures of our Baldwin pulling our special train.

The train ran through the Dodge City Curves for a Photo Runby off the same hill as last year. Our Baldwin sure sounded good as it rolled below us.

We did a second Photo Runby at this great location.

The train rolled east to the Windmill, our next runby location.

Windmill Photo Runby 1.

A Photo Line.

For Windmill Photo Runby 2, I crossed back over the fence for a tighter photo. Today we had a total of 43 passengers aboard our Railfan Special. Our train then ran to near the Turkey Barns.

Just around the curve we stopped to do our next Photo Runby.

Since the sun was not out, a view from the normally shady side with an interesting stream and bluff in the foreground.

Our next runby location was for a going away shot at Crabtree Road. I shot the forward shot going by the Warnersville Ranch.

The going away picture of this runby.

Ted Benson's marker lights sure made for a better picture. We headed further east to Coopersville Road for our next runby location.

The back up move.

I walked further down the road for a picture of our train going by the MP 17 sign.

In the going away picture climbing down off the electrical tower is the legendary climber of anything James Specker.

We headed east the last few tenths of a mile to the Rock River Bridge at MP 17.7 where the Sierra Railroad 42 and train was posed on the bridge.

The many angles of our train on the Rock River Bridge.

We shoved back to Warnersville where the 42 ran around the train for our trip back to Oakdale. Our train then backed east to the Crabtree Road grade crossing.

We were all surprised when a group of classic cars came rolling down Crabtree Road only to be stopped by our train.

We cleared the crossing and then the car parade began.

Views of the cars and our train.

After the cars left, we did another Photo Runby so here is the back up move.

The westbound Photo Runby at Crabtree Road.

We proceeded west to the Turkey Barn curve for our next PhotoRrunby. Here is back up move.

A few minutes later, we did another great Rhoto Runby.

We returned to the Dodge City Curve area for another Photo Runby. Here is the back up move. I climbed the hill higher for the runby shot.

A Stan Praisewater photo with me in shorts enjoying my hobby to the fullness.

Here is Photo Runby from the hill.

Once we were all back on the train we headed to MP 6 for our final double Photo Runby of the trip. The back up move.

Photo Runby 1.

Photo Runby 2 at MP 6. We ran straight back to Oakdale after doing 16 photo runbys on this great Railfan Trip. A special thank you to Engineer Larry Ingold - Vice President of the Sierra Northern, Conductor Mike Edwards - manager of all train operations, Shelia Gaiser - switching engineer and conductor, Cecelia Banks - server and cocktail waitress, Brittany of the wait staff and Lillian a train manager. A special thank you to Ted Benson for all of his knowledge and picking out excellent Photo Runby locations. All these fine people combined provided an excellent Sierra Railroad Railfan Trip 2005. We arrived back in Oakdale at 2:00 PM.

Homeward Bound 3/13/2005

After Ken bought some trinkets for some friends I drove CA 104 that turned into McHenry once we neared Modesto. Ken called Modesto Cab to get us a taxi to Amtrak but Enterprise gave me the wrong address of where we picked up the car. Remember, we were driven there so I didn't have a need to know the address. We returned the car following their instructions that they had given me on Friday. Once I had closed the gate, we discovered we had given the taxi cab company the wrong address. Ken recalled Modesto Taxi Cab and about ten minutes later CAB 10 pulled up with a fantastic driver who got us back to Amtrak with 32 minutes to spare. I tipped her $6.50 for her outstanding job and service she provided. I checked the status of our train before heading out to the platform, enjoying a Coca-Cola and catching up on the story since Oakdale.

San Joaquin 716 3/13/2005

Our train pulled into Modesto at 3:29 PM and left at 3:33 PM {3:25 PM}. Ken's 3751 hat flew off his head but he retrieved it before we departed. Our train in the push mode Surfliner Style Cab Car 6961 Point Arguello, Surfliner style coach 6463 Muir Beach, Cafe 8810 Owens Valley, Coach 8011 Yuba River with engine CDTX 2004. We made our way south to Turlock/Denair departing 3:45 PM {3:38 PM}. I relaxed on the train as it made its way to Merced 4:10 PM {4:03 PM}. We met San Joaquin 715 at Planda waiting in the siding for us to pass. Ken and I went to the cafe for dinner with me having a hot dog and Ken have a Chef Mario Chicken Dinner which was heated properly. Anthony our Cafe LSA has to be the best one I have ever had in all of my 852,000+ rail miles. He can take three different orders at once and not a single mistake. He checks up on you and keeps his car very clean. He takes true pride in the service he provides.

We paused at Madera at 4:42 PM {4:39 PM} before we arrived into Fresno. We departed Fresno on time at 5:10 PM heading south along Calwa Yard to the UP Crossing which had a UP waiting to the south for us to clear. We met San Joaquin 717 at Conejo running down the siding not really delaying us any. We departed Hanford at 5:48 PM {5:46 PM} and off into the overcast evening we went to Corcoran where we departed at 6:07 PM {6:02 PM}. Our train held the main for San Joaquin 703 at Allenworth before we sprinted to Wasco at 6:42 PM {6:36 PM}. We had a short delay at Shafter waiting for an eastbound freight to clear but got into Bakersfield at 7:11 PM or ten minutes early.

Thruway Bus 3/13/2005

I was first on the Bus 68012 and a few minutes later Ken joined me for the trip to LAUPT. One male passenger got into a heated discussion with the driver when first he said he wanted to go to LA and this was the Surfliner connecting bus. Next he claimed he was going to take Metrolink to Santa Ana but there is no late night service on Metrolink and never any service on the weekend. Finally he decided he would take Amtrak to Santa Ana. He got on the bus but then couldn't decide if he wanted to go to Santa Ana. Our driver told him this bus would get him to a train in LA or wait another hour for a bus to LA or two hours with a bus all the way. A few minutes later, he walked off the bus saying he wasn't going and off into the misty night he went. Our driver realizing he didn't have his ticket went in chase of him. Ten minutes later they came back and he sat behind the driver. We departed Bakersfield at 7:35 PM , five minutes late heading to LAUPT. He then started talking about his breakup with his girlfriend and his baby. He was one angry young man. To drown him out I put on Secret Language of Birds as Ken fell asleep to all of his ramblings. It rained crossing Tejon Pass and in Sun Valley in the San Fernando Valley. We arrived into LAUPT at 9:24 PM with our driver doing a great job of driving in less than ideal conditions. Ken walked me up to the platform of Track 9 and 10 but they were doing work on them so I knew my train would come in either on Track 11 or 12. The Starlight was due in at 10:20 PM running late so I knew we would be leaving LA late tonight.

Surfliner 796 3/13/2005

My train pulled in at 9:36 PM and I said my goodbye to Ken and boarded Surfliner Coach 6410. This train had engine 460 pulling Pacific Business Class 6851, Coach/Cafe 6305, Coaches 6405 and 6410 with Cab Car 6951 Point Loma. I returned to my seat after getting the consist just as our friend from the bus boarded. Our engineer was trying to get into the cab car to set things up for our departure when our friend blocked the door he was trying to enter. Our engineer nicely told him to move out of the way with our friend getting rude and nasty towards our engineer. Our friend finally crossed the line to far and was told to get off the train. Our conductor helped remove him from the train. It got quiet outside and I thought I better inform the crew about this guy. As I was doing that, he returned trying to get back on the train. Our train crew plus two red caps kept that from happening.

I returned to my seat and put Kansas "Live at the Whiskey" on to kill the rest of the delay. The Starlight arrived at 10:30 PM {9:00 PM} and 796 departed LAUPT at 10:40 PM {10.10 PM} and I was off for home. My ticket was collected and I visited the cafe for a large Chocolate Chip Cookie. I relaxed the rest of the way home. Fullerton was at 11:12 PM {10:42 PM}, Anaheim at 11:19 PM {10:51 PM} and then into Santa Ana at 11:26 PM {11:00 PM}. I walked to my car and drove home ending another excellent rail adventure.