In June, 2008, I traveled to Chicago by way of Portland, taking the
Coast Starlight to Portland, and the Empire Builder from Portland to
Chicago. My report on this trip can be found on
www.trainorders.org/dunn. I returned from Chicago on United
Airlines, using frequent flier miles. Since the frequent flier
miles entitled me to a round trip ticket, I booked a return to Chicago
This report describes my return to Chicago on October 7 on United
Airlines, my short time in the Windy City, and my return to California
(Sacramento) on the California Zephyr. After spending two nights
and one day in Sacramento, I returned to Fullerton via the San Joaquin
train to Bakersfield, the Bakersfield bus to LA, and Metrolink to
Tuesday, October 7
On Tuesday, October 7, my daughter Julie drove me to the Fullerton
Station, where I boarded Metrolink train #703 at 7:18 a.m. to Los
Angeles Union Station. It arrived in LA ahead of schedule at 7:56
a.m., and I proceeded to the bus plaza, where I bought a ticket for the
Fly-Away Bus to LAX, which left at 8:12 a.m. The bus arrived at
terminal 7 (United) at 8:48 a.m. I had printed out my boarding
pass the night before, so with my boarding pass in hand, I proceeded to
the automated baggage check-in, where I checked my bag.
I then went through security, and was cleared into the terminal at 9:05
a.m. I went to MacDonalds and had an Egg MacMuffin for breakfast,
and then spent the next hour or so reading a book that I had brought
along. The flight boarded at about 10:35 a.m., and a big hassle
developed with people wanting to stow luggage in the overhead storage,
which quickly filled. I think the airlines have created a problem
for themselves by charging a fee for the first bag checked. Now
everyone will want to carry it on board and there is not enough
room. (I didn’t get charged for my checked bag, I think because I
had made the reservation before the fee was announced.) I had an
aisle seat and lucked out, having an empty middle seat next to
me. We took off on time at 11:00 a.m. We landed in Chicago
at 5:05 p.m., and I got my bag and was at the Blue Line Station in the
airport by 5:45 p.m. I took the Blue Line to the LaSalle St.
Station, arriving at 6:40 p.m. It was pouring rain, and I had to
walk about 6 blocks to my hotel, but luckily, I remembered to bring an
umbrella, so I didn’t get too wet. I checked into my hotel, the
Travelodge, and then went across the street to a Subway to get
dinner. With the rain still coming down, I went back to my hotel
room and called it a night.
Wednesday, October 8
The next morning I awoke, showered, got dressed, and had two cups of
the in-room coffee. I then went downstairs to check the weather
outside. It had stopped raining, but was still gray and
damp. Since this was my only full day in Chicago, I decided to
make the most of it. I grabbed my umbrella, and started out on my
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Art Institute of Chicago
Michigan Ave Scene
Millenium Park, Crown Fountain
Millenium Park, The Bean
Chicago Cultural Center
Millenium Park, Jay Pritzker Pavillion
Moving on from Millenium Park, I continued my walk toward Navy Pier.
From Navy Pier, I headed back toward Michigan Ave. and Wacker
Drive. After several hours of walking, I was getting tired and
decided to take the Chicago River Architecture Tour, a 90 minute boat
tour. While waiting for the tour, I took some pictures of the
Wrigley Building (1925)
Michigan Ave. Bridge (1920)
At about 10:50 a.m., we boarded the boat for the tour.
London Guarantee Building (1923)
Chicago Tribune Tower (1925)
Jewlers Building (1926)
Kinzie St. Railroad Bridge (1915)
Sears Tower (1974) in the Clouds
Merchandise Mart (1931)
at End of Tour
Upon completing the tour, I decided to head back toward my hotel via
State Street. Since it was by then approaching one o’clock, and I
had not had anything to eat all day, I was looking for a place to grab
some lunch. I stopped at a restaurant around State St. and Van
Buren Ave., and had a sandwich and a beer. After lunch, I left
the restaurant, but inadvertently got my directions mixed up, and
started walking back in the direction from which I had come. I
continued on for a few blocks, until I noticed that all the streets
that I was passing I had passed before. I got out my map and
realized my mistake, and headed in the correct direction toward my
My hotel, the Travelodge, looks reasonably modern from the exterior,
but the interior shows it to be fairly ancient. This is
particularly true in the economy rooms such as the one I was in where
the windows look out on air shafts and on office windows next
door. The elevator operator (yes, one of the three hotel
elevators is an original, and still requires an operator) told me that
the hotel was built in 1930. But I can’t complain. The room
was clean and the price was reasonable (by Chicago standards).
Travelodge (Formerly Harrison Hotel)
Ancient Steam Radiator in Hallway
Checking my pedometer, I found that I had walked almost 8 miles during
the day, so I didn’t feel like venturing too far away for dinner.
I wound up eating in the Thai restaurant in the hotel. I then
returned to my room where I watched tv for awhile, and then went to bed.
Thursday, October 9
I woke up about 7:00 a.m. (late for me), made my pot of in-room coffee,
shaved, showered, etc. and checked out of the hotel by about 10:00
a.m. I walked the short distance to the bus plaza at Michigan and
Harrison Avenues, where I boarded the #7 bus which took me to Adams and
Canal Streets, and the entrance to Union Station. I proceeded to
the Metropolitan Lounge (for sleeper passengers) where I checked my
bags. Since I had about three hours before the boarding of train
#5, the California Zephyr, I spent the time exploring the area around
Union Station, and the station itself. Union Station is on the
west side of the Chicago River between Adams and Jackson Streets.
Including approach and storage tracks, it’s about nine and a half city
blocks in size, and is almost entirely beneath streets and skyscrapers.
Union Station (1925) Grand Hall
Grand Hall Exterior
Chicago River at Jackson St.
Sightseeing Boat, Boeing HQ in Distance
After exploring the area around the station, I decided that I’d better
have lunch somewhere before getting on the train, because the first
meal on the train would be dinner, starting at 5:30 p.m. In
walking from the Metropolitan Lounge to the Great Hall, I noticed the
Metro Deli and Café, which is just off the tunnel between the
Great Hall and the train concourse, under Canal Street. This is
the station's largest restaurant, a cafeteria-style eatery with a large
circular bar in the middle of the room. The food was basic but
plentiful, and the prices were surprisingly inexpensive. I had
meatloaf (huge portion), mashed potatoes and corn for $6.95. I
ate at the bar, where I had a pint of Bud draft for $2.50 (Thursday
After finishing lunch, I walked back to the Metropolitan Lounge where I
collected my bags and waited for the boarding announcement. At
about 1:40 p.m., we were escorted out of the lounge and down what
seemed to be at least one quarter mile of underground tunnels to our
train. I boarded my car, number 532, where I met my car
attendant, J.R. Stokes. I then proceeded to my room, number 9,
which is upstairs at the end of the car.
The train pulled out on time at 2:00 p.m., and we gradually worked our
way out of the downtown Chicago area, and then passed through the
Chicago suburbs for about another hour. Once we got out of the
suburban areas, it seemed like there was nothing but miles and miles of
corn. We arrived at Galesburg, IL at 4:41, about on time, and
then proceeded to Burlington, IL, where we crossed the Mississippi
Corn, Corn, and More Corn
Crossing Mississippi River
Mississippi River Auto Bridge
I went to dinner at 6:00 p.m. The seafood of the day was baked
salmon, so I tried that. It came with mashed potatoes and mixed
vegetables. The salmon portion was large, and it was quite good.
While we were eating, our train came to a stop because we were behind a
freight train that was having some kind of problem. We sat for at
least an hour, not moving again until 7:15 p.m. By the time we
got to Mount Pleasant, IA, we were 1 hr, 45 min. behind schedule.
Friday, October 10
I got up about 5:30 a.m. (M.D.T.), showered and went to
breakfast. I had the french toast and bacon for breakfast.
The Amtrak french toast is supposed to be great, but I was not
impressed. We arrived in Fort Morgan, CO at 8:07 a.m. and in
Denver at 9:50 a.m. We received copies of USA Today in Denver,
where I learned about the stock meltdown of the previous day, which
didn’t do much to brighten my spirits. In Denver, I checked out
the consist of our train, which was as follows:
My car attendant said that the normal complement was three coaches
rather than four. He said that a third sleeper is frequently used
between Chicago and Denver, but it is taken off in Denver. I
found this hard to believe because I thought the most popular portion
of the trip was between Denver and Sacramento/Emeryville because of the
dramatic mountain scenery. At any rate, no cars were taken off in
Denver, and the above consist traveled to Sacramento, where I got off.
Some mechanical repairs delayed our departure from Denver, which
finally occurred at 11:05 a.m., three hours late.
Denver Union Station
Passing Coal Train Climbing out of Denver
We entered Moffat tunnel at 12:45 p.m., and departed Winter Park at
1:06 p.m., 3 hours late.
Our Train Above Colorado River
At 3:45 p.m. we stopped at a siding about one mile east of Burns, where
Eastbound train # 6 passed us.
Stopped to Let Train #6 Pass
We departed Glenwood Springs at 5:09 p.m., 3 hr., 16 min. behind
Since I skipped lunch, I made an early dinner reservation for 5:30
p.m. I had the flat iron steak with mashed potatoes and
corn. It was very good.
We arrived in Grand Junction, CO at about 7:15 p.m.
Old Station, Grand Junction, CO
Grand Junction, CO
We arrived in Green River, UT at 9:05 p.m., a little over three hours
Saturday, October 11
Having gone to bed early last night, and gaining an hour with the time
change, I woke up at 4:15 a.m. (P.D.T). I showered and went to
breakfast when the diner opened at 6:30 a.m. We are still over
three hours behind schedule.
Approaching Winnemucca, NV, the mountains had what appeared to be a
fresh dusting of snow, and the town of Winnemucca itself had a light
coating of snow. We left Winnemucca at 9:38 a.m., still 2 hrs. 40
min. behind schedule. We arrived at Sparks, NV at about 12:00
noon, and Reno at about 12:30 p.m. I went to the diner for lunch
when we left Reno. The choices were limited – an Angus Burger or
a salad. I had the Angus Burger.
Snow Dusted Nevada Mountains
Hunter with Dog and Rifle Near Sparks
Leaving Reno, we traveled along the Truckee River, arriving at our next
station stop of Truckee.
Truckee River East of Truckee
From Truckee, we continued up the mountain toward Donner Summit.
Climbing Toward Donner Summit
Approaching Tunnel # 13
Above Donner Lake
Above Donner Lake
Snow Sheds at Norden
Soda Springs Ski Area
Continuing down the mountain, we arrived at Colfax at about 4:00
p.m. Colfax was the terminus of the Nevada County Narrow Gauge
Railroad, which connected Grass Valley/Nevada City with the Southern
Pacific Line at Colfax. The line transported millions of dollars
of gold and silver bullion from the mines in Grass Valley/Nevada
City. The old depot in Colfax is still standing, although it now
has some other commercial function
Nevada County Narrow Gauge Depot
We arrived in Sacramento at 5:55 p.m., a little over two hours behind
schedule. My car attendant, J.R. Stokes was there to help me with
my luggage, and I gave him a well deserved gratuity when I
departed. This man was one of the most conscientious car
attendants that I have ever encountered. He was constantly
reminding me of meal times, so that I wouldn’t miss a meal, he kept our
car supplied with hot coffee and cold juices, he was constantly
cleaning the toilets and bathrooms, and he was generally helpful and
Leaving the train, I walked to the Vagabond Inn, my hotel for the next
two nights, which is almost directly across the street from the
station, but which requires a walk of about two blocks to reach.
Southern Pacific Sacramento
Sunday, October 12
I got up at 6:30 a.m. and partook of the extensive continental
breakfast provided by the Vagabond Inn. I then went back to the
station and purchased tickets for my return to Fullerton the next
day. Since I had visited the Railroad Museum twice in the last
few years, I decided to spend the morning visiting Sutter’s Fort, which
I had toured several years ago.
I walked to J and 6th Streets, where I waited for the number 30 bus to
Sutter’s Fort. Since this was a Sunday, there was a limited bus
schedule. I waited about a half hour, and was just starting to
think that I could have gotten there quicker by walking when the bus
appeared. I arrived at the Fort at about 10:20 a.m. I
walked around the outside, then bought an admission ticket ($4.00) and
explored the inside.
Entrance to Sutter’s Fort
South East Bastion
The following description of Sutter’s fort is from the
California State Park’s website at
"Fort" built by Swiss immigrant John Sutter more than 150 years ago
was not only located at a pivotal point in California. It was a pivotal
point in history. This combination of big dreams, bold adventures and
reality all manifest themselves at Sutter's Fort State Historic Park
and help bring California history to life.
John Augustus Sutter was born in
Europe to Swiss-German parents in
1803. After several financial reverses, like millions of others in
Europe during the time, Sutter set out to make his fortune in America.
After a series of adventures that ranged from Missouri and Santa Fe to
Hawaii and Alaska, Sutter finally made it to California and arrived in
Sacramento in the late fall of 1839.
In Sacramento, he built what came to
be known as Sutter's Fort -- with
walls that were 2 1/2 feet thick and 15 to 18 feet high -- and
developed what he considered to be the real wealth of California --
crops such as grapes and wheat, along with vast herds of cattle.
Aligning himself with the Mexican authorities, at one point, with his
various land grants, Sutter owned more than 150,000 acres of the
Central Valley, and was a generous host to such colorful and
historically important characters as John C. Fremont and Kit Carson,
In 1848, James Marshall, a carpenter
working for Sutter, discovered
gold at the sawmill Sutter was having built in Coloma, on the American
River. Before the mill could be finished, word of the discovery was
out. Sutter's workers deserted the Fort for the goldfields seeking
their fortunes. By the 1850's, all that was left of Sutter's Fort was
the central building.
The Native Sons of the Golden West
were influential in the restoration
of the Fort which began in 1891 and was completed in 1893. Donated to
the State of California, Sutter's Fort became a part of the California
State Park System in 1947. Sutter's Fort stands as the oldest restored
Fort in the United States.
Today, the Fort is furnished and
reconstructed to reflect its 1846
appearance. Many activities and programs recreate the past thanks to
the volunteers who give their time to share their love of California
West Yard of Sutter’s Fort
Central Building and Offices
Doctor’s Office in Central Building
Clerk’s Office in Central Building
Sutter’s Office in Central Building
Having finished touring the Fort about 12:00 noon, I headed back toward
my hotel. I decided to walk back on L St. (the return bus route)
rather than waiting for the bus. Luckily, when I reached 19th
Street, and was near a bus stop, the no. 30 bus came by and I rode it
the rest of the way back to the hotel.
Arriving at my hotel, I rested up for a short time and then decided to
explore Old Sacramento.
Huntington and Hopkins Hardware
California Southern Tourist Train
It was getting to be about 2:30 p.m., and I had not had anything to eat
since breakfast, so I walked to the Downtown Plaza Mall, where I had
lunch at a Panda Express. Following lunch, I decided to explore
the old SP yards to see if anything had changed since my last visit
(see http://www.trainweb.org/dunn/2006d24a/). Most of the rolling
stock that was there on my previous visit was now gone. My guess
is that it has been moved inside the erecting shop or boiler
Shop & Empty Yard
Most of the buildings still seemed to be standing as I remembered them
from the last trip, although some new fences had been erected.
SP Shop Building
While most of the rolling stock that had been there previously was
gone, a few new items were visible.
Santa Fe Diesel 543 on Flat Car
Diesel Engine, Presumably from 543
Another Engine and Cars
While leaving the SP yards, I got stopped by a rent-a-cop in a pick-up
truck who asked me if I knew that I was on private property. I
told him that I was leaving, and he seemed satisfied at that. The
security seems to have been increased since my last visit here.
By then, it was about 6:00 p.m. I still wasn’t real hungry since
I had a late lunch, so I bought some snacks from the vending machine
and went back to my room and watched tv.
Monday, October 13
I requested a wake-up call for 4:30 a.m., since I was catching the San
Joaquin train that leaves Sacramento at 6:35 a.m. While it is a
pain having to get up early to catch a 6:35 a.m. train, it certainly
beats taking the later bus to Stockton, and then waiting for the train
in Stockton. Coincidentally, the engine on my San Joaquin train
from Sacramento was California DOT number 2051, the third engine on my
Zephyr voyage from Chicago.
California DOT 2051, Formerly
I arrived in Bakersfield on time at about 12:00 noon, and then
transferred to the bus to LAUPT. The bus arrived in LA at about
2:25, and I caught the next Metrolink train to Fullerton, which left at
3:20, well before the next Amtrak. Unfortunately, due to my early
rising time, I was tired and fell asleep on the trip to
Fullerton. I slept through the Fullerton stop, and woke up as we
were leaving Anaheim. I got off the train in Orange, and checked
the schedule for the next Northbound train. I saw that there was
one due soon, so I sat down and waited. I got on the next
Metrolink that pulled into the station, and a concerned passenger by
the door saw me with my suitcase and asked if I was going to Los
Angeles. I said no, I was going to Fullerton. He told me I
was on a train to the Inland Empire. I said thanks and got off,
just before the doors closed. Had he not alerted me, this trip
report might be considerably longer. The Northbound train to
Fullerton arrived about 10 minutes later, and I jumped on.
I arrived in Fullerton at about 4:50 p.m., and my daughter Julie met me
at the station. I was home a little after 5:00 p.m.