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Trip Report April 2006 Sacramento Revisited by Fred Dunn

Trip Report

Sacramento Revisited:

SP Shops / Sacramento Southern Crossing of UP Tracks

By Fred Dunn

Edited by Carl Morrison

[ Click on any photo for a double-sized copy; Click BACK in your browser to return to this report. ]


My friends and I decided to take advantage of the Amtrak “companion rides free” offer to revisit the SP Sacramento Shops and the Railroad Museum.  We had made this trip in June, 2005, and a brief description of the trip is included on my website (  

We bought tickets for travel from Fullerton to Sacramento on Apr 24, via bus from Fullerton to Bakersfield, Amtrak San Joaquin from Bakersfield to Stockton, and bus from Stockton to Sacramento.  Our bus was scheduled to depart from Fullerton at 5:50 a.m., but it didn’t arrive until about 6:20 a.m.  Two of our railfan friends, Lloyd and George, arrived at the station to see us off.  George even brought doughnuts.  

After getting a late start from Fullerton, the rest of the trip went pretty much according to schedule, and we arrived in Sacramento at just about the scheduled arrival time of 3:30 p.m. 

The travelers: Herb, Fred, Chuck, Roger in Fullerton
Our train at Hanford

We walked from the Amtrak station to our hotel, the Vagabond Inn, which is conveniently located across the street from the station, and is the closest hotel to the museum.  We noted that our rooms had refrigerators, so we walked to the nearby Rite Aid Drug Store and purchased some liquid refreshments.  We returned to my room, where we enjoyed a few drinks before going out for dinner.  For dinner, we went to a nearby Chinese restaurant where we had a very enjoyable combination dinner.

Roger, Chuck and Herb enjoying happy hour

The next morning, we partook of the complimentary breakfast at the Vagabond Inn, and then decided to revisit the SP Shops, which we visited last year.  We went back over to the Amtrak station, crossed all the tracks, trying to be as unobtrusive as possible, and walked across into the SP shops area.  We walked to the rear of the erecting shops where the turntable is located.  As we were inspecting the turntable, we saw two CA State Park Rangers in the same area, and figured that the jig was up; we expected to be immediately expelled from the area.  But, much to our surprise, they didn’t say anything to us.  

The turntable
Close-up of turntable with Boiler Shop in background

Since nobody seemed to care that we were there, we got bolder, walking around the area as if we belonged there and exploring all the rolling stock that was out in the open.

SP Harriman Cars
SP steam crane

 Santa Fe 2925
Santa Fe 2925 running gear

Santa Fe 5021
The experts examine Santa Fe 5021 running gear

Old steam locomotive carcass
SP Dynamometer car

SP crane
SP crane built 1944; modified to diesel 1978

 Santa Fe rail diesel car (RDC)
Sacramento Northern wooden boxcar

SP rotary snowplow
Another rotary snowplow

While we were exploring the area, the museum workers in the boiler shop backed out the USAF 1655, which the Sacramento Southern uses to move cars on the North side of the UP tracks.  As we were leaving, we observed the new transfer table, and I peered into the windows of the erecting shop to try to get a picture of ATSF 1010 (used on Death Valley Scotty Special), which is stored there.

Sacramento Southern ex USAF 1655

Transfer table
ATSF 1010 photographed through dirty window

We finished our tour of the SP shops shortly before 11:00 a.m., and then proceeded to the museum, where we spent most of the rest of the afternoon.  We went over to the Central Pacific station in Old Sacramento, where some equipment was being moved.  

Activity outside CP station
Granite Rock #10 being towed
The guys taking a rest after a day of walking

We returned to the hotel where we had a few drinks before heading out for dinner, again at the same Chinese restaurant.  We discussed what we wanted to do the next day.  We decided that we would view the Sacramento Southern crossing of the UP tracks.  We were told by museum personnel that this was scheduled for 1:00 p.m. the next afternoon.

The Sacramento Southern is the operating railroad of the California Railroad Museum, and runs all of the tourist train operations.  They also have one commercial customer, a wood products company that is located South of the museum, which they service once a week.  In the SP days, there were diamonds allowing the Sacramento Southern to cross the SP tracks.  But when UP took over, they removed the diamonds, claiming that they were high maintenance items.  As an alternative to the diamonds, UP agreed to install temporary tracks for the Sacramento Southern to cross the UP tracks once each week (Wednesday at 1:00 p.m.).  

The location of the crossover is behind the museum at the approach to the UP bridge over the Sacramento River, and we arrived there shortly before 1:00 p.m. on Wednesday.  The Sacramento Southern crew was already there, but the UP crew did not arrive until about 1:30 p.m.  While the job is tentatively scheduled for 1:00 p.m., it actually gets done whenever the dispatcher grants track and time, which was about 1:45 p.m., after a UP freight crossed over the bridge.  We were told by the Sacramento Southern crew that the previous week they didn’t get the ok to begin until 4:30 p.m.

UP train passing at location where crossing is to be installed

The grade of the Sacramento Southern has been raised as it approaches the UP tracks at right angles, so that when the temporary track is installed, it sits on top of the UP tracks.

Sac. Southern tracks interrupted at UP tracks
Another view

UP arrives.  Rails to be installed seen in background
Getting ready

Moving East rail in place
Positioning East rail

Moving West rail in place
Finishing installation

Sacramento Southern crossing UP tracks

On most days, the Sacramento Southern has freight to deliver to their customer, as well as empty cars to return to UP.  On this particular day, they had no freight to deliver, just empty cars to transfer to UP.  So once the empties were moved across the UP tracks, the crossover was removed.  But it still took about four UP employees several hours to accomplish all this.  It is hard to believe that doing this every week is less costly than maintaining diamonds across the UP tracks, especially since the diamonds are located at the approach to the bridge over the Sacramento River, where train speed is slow.

UP bridge.  Note high water level
Bridge date 1911
At the conclusion of the afternoon activities, we went back to the Vagabond Inn for our daily happy hour, and discussed where to go for dinner.  After two days of Chinese food for dinner, we were ready for a change, so we went to a hamburger place in Old Town, Fannie Anne’s.  It was good, inexpensive and enjoyable.

On Thursday, Apr. 27, we had an early breakfast at the Vagabond Inn, then checked out and caught the 8:00 a.m. bus to Stockton.  At Stockton, our San Joaquin train left approximately on time at 9:25.

Roger & Herb enjoying the trip
Chuck missing all the fun

We arrived in Bakersfield right on time and transferred to our bus for LAUPT.  We arrived in LA shortly after 4:00 p.m. and our Amtrak connection to Fullerton was scheduled to leave at 5:10 p.m.  However we were able to catch an earlier Metrolink train using our Amtrak tickets, and wound up back in Fullerton before 5:00 p.m.

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