Mainline Steam in Oregon, California, Nevada and Utah
July 11th- 31st, 1992

Don Winter


The National Railroad Historical Society’s annual convention is in San Jose, this year. We haven’t previously paid much attention to NRHS, because everything they did seemed to be at the other end of the country, and until now we haven’t been able to travel there routinely. We can sample their activities in San Jose without crossing the country, and made plans to do so.

Former Southern Pacific 4-8-4 4449 and Union Pacific 4-6-6-4 3985 will be attending the NRHS Convention, and will have inbound and outbound excursions getting there and back. Let’s Travel Tours and Mountain Outin’ have arranged tours from Los Angeles to take the inbound 4449 excursion from Portland to San Jose, and the outbound 3985 excursion to Salt Lake City. We negotiate an option where we spend the intervening five days in San Jose for the Convention. The tour that starts all of this is going to spend a week in the Portland area before taking the inbound excursion. Naturally, we will be using Amtrak to get to Portland, and to return from Utah at the end of the second tour.

Pre-Convention (7/11-7/20)

Saturday, July 11th, 1992

For the start of the trip, we drive down to LA Union Station, and turn the car over to Henry to return it home. We take our bags inside the station and turn them over to the tour leaders who will handle them to our sleeping car. After getting something to drink, we wait in the patio area until it is time to go out to the train (Amtrak 14, the northbound Coast Starlight), then walk through the subway and up the ramp to the platform. I take the time to walk to the front of the train, then its time to leave. Shortly after departure, we meet Ed von Nordeck when he comes around to our room as part of greeting everyone. While Ed is there, the Amtrak On-Board Services Chief, Don Norville, also stops by to say hello. Don is aware of our group, and wishes he were going along at least on the steam-hauled segments of the trip. Our room is on the right-hand side of the train, so we’re on the side away from the ocean; however, we’ve traveled on that side a number of times before (most recently just last year), and it will be interesting to see what’s on this other side of the train.

Coast Starlight Route Descriptions



Train 14, 7-11-1992



Los Angeles









Santa Barbara



San Luis Obispo






San Jose















Klamath Falls


















Sunday, July 12th, 1992

We arrive in Portland over two hours late, making it impossible for those arriving on the train to make the planned visit to the Rose garden. Instead, we head directly from Portland Union Station to our hotel, a Red Lion Inn on the east bank of the Willamette, just north of the Steel Bridge. As we arrive at the hotel, the bus carrying those who have flown north from Los Angeles this afternoon also arrives, bringing Rolland Graham with it.

There are still several hours of daylight left, so after settling into our room, Chris and I head out to ride the Portland MAX Light Rail system, which runs across the Steel Bridge just south of the hotel. We start out by riding outbound to Gresham, which has a segment running alongside the UP line between Union Station and the Columbia Gorge, and another segment down the middle of an Interstate Highway, finishing with a single line segment for the easternmost mile or so. Returning the way we came, we stay on the tram as it crosses the upper deck of the Steel Bridge into downtown Portland We detrain at the western terminus (currently in downtown), then catch another tram back as far as the boundary of the downtown fareless zone and walk across the Steel Bridge back to the hotel.

We have dinner as the sun sets over the Willamette and the wharves alongside it, with sunset approaching 10 pm, then go to bed.

Monday, July 13th, 1992

We use the buses today to drive north into Washington State for a visit to the eruption-devastated volcano, Mount Saint Helens. First, we go up the Toutle River valley, east of Kelso-Longview, WA, to the temporary Visitors' Center (a new one is being built further up the valley, within good viewing distance of the mountain), then return to the Interstate and go north to the road that runs across the Cascades north of Mt. St. Helens (and south of Mt. Rainier). Along this road we are treated (?!?) to vistas of clear-cut hillsides once densely forested but now bare of all but stumps and debris. Turning southward on the east side of the mountains, we reach the area where the blast from the volcanic eruption had flattened all of the trees. Climbing through this area, we reach the exposed ridge from which the blasted face of the mountain itself can clearly be seen, along with the debris-dammed valley where Spirit Lake had once been. After a sobering ranger-guided visit to this area, we return to Portland along the road crossing the Cascades on the south side of the mountain, back to Longview and the Interstate.

For dinner, Chris and I walk to a Chinese Restaurant across the river in downtown Portland.

Tuesday, July 14th, 1992

This morning, we ride the buses out through Hillsborough to Banks, OR, where the Port of Tillamook Bay Railroad meets the residual Southern Pacific branch from which it was carved a couple of years ago. We're going to ride the POTB's RDC passenger cars attached to the rear of the every-other-day freight to Tillamook, which today will run as a mixed train. The train sets off in mid-morning, initially heading northwest across the valley, then turning westward onto the curving, climbing route through and across the coastal mountains.

The single track winds up through heavily-wooded valleys containing cascading streams, crossed by spindly bridges giving view of waterfalls. All this is best viewed from the rear vestibule of the rear RDC, where a number of us congregate for much of the spectacular climb. At times, there is sufficient open space on a curve to permit photographing the entire train, but at others all we can see looking forward are the RDCs themselves. Eventually, we pass through a tunnel and onto the gentler coastal slope of the mountains. The gradual descent follows an ocean-bound stream through lush vegetation resembling the coastal rainforests of the Olympic Peninsula to the north of us. The view from the rear is no less spectacular, so I retreat to the relative comfort of my seat in the now overly warm RDC.

By mid afternoon, the train reaches the Pacific Ocean, and turns south along the last third or so of the line to Tillamook The line passes through fascinating rock formations carved by eons of ocean wave action, passes through scenic fishing villages and eventually reaches the shores of Tillamook Bay, which it follows around the east end to the south side of the bay, where the POTB Yard and the end of our trip is reached. The buses are waiting, but there's still time to get some shots of the POTB's locomotive facilities before boarding for the trip back to Portland. Thankfully, given the excessive warmth that had latterly prevailed in the RDCs, the buses make a refreshment stop near the top of the Coast Range before descending through the homeward-bound rush hour traffic into Portland and back to our hotel.

Wednesday, July 15th, 1992

We check out of the hotel this morning and head for our next lodgings in Hood River, on the south side of the Columbia River gorge.

We arrive at the hotel in early afternoon, and spend some time exploring the area, particularly alongside the river. The Democratic Party National Convention, nominating Bill Clinton, is on television at present, and we watch the nominating speeches and subsequent ballot before eating dinner in the hotel's restaurant. After dinner, I practice using my new camera tripod on the balcony (over looking the Columbia and Bingen on the north bank), in preparation for the night photo shoot at the NRHS Convention next week.

Thursday, July 16th, 1992

The Hood River Railroad's scenic train departs from a depot adjacent to the Union Pacific mainline, about half a mile from the hotel. We head over there in the morning, for a roughly 9 am departure. The train starts out heading backwards, because there is a switchback not far up the canyon, beyond which we travel in the forward direction for the remainder of the climb along the Hood River to the plateau above. Once on the plateau, we are treated to magnificent views of snow-covered Mount Hood the rest of the way to the railroad's terminus.

After arrival in the latter, lunch proves to be one of Rolland Graham's famous picnics, served al fresco. There is also time to inspect some old railroad cars, before setting off on the return trip. Along the way, we have a photo runby, before reaching Hood River mid afternoon. Boarding the buses, we head downriver to take a riverboat cruise on the segment of the Columbia River (actually, a man-made lake at this point) behind Bonneville Dam and as far east as The Dalles. Among other things, this provides us with good views of Burlington Northern trains on the north bank, and Union Pacific trains on the south bank.

Back in the hotel, we watch Clinton's acceptance speech before going to bed.

Friday, July 17th, 1992

We again check out this morning, and board the buses to head for our communal breakfast (which turns into brunch) at a location a few miles downriver. Although the meal is very good, its overall effect is spoiled for me by the tour member at our table who insists on forcing everyone at the table to join in a religious circle of hand holding and prayer during the meal.

Brunch takes so long that we have to scrub the planned visit to Bonneville Dam. We do visit the sights along the gorge, including Multnomah Falls and a climb up to a spectacular overlook, before heading back into Portland to ride on the Willamette River (name?) Trolley line. This latter uses a diesel-powered generator on a trailer to power the motors on a restored trolley car.

Following the trolley ride, we check into a different hotel in Portland. Chris and I head over to the downtown shopping district to Radio Shack, where we buy a radio scanner that covers the railroad radio transmissions. This will make the upcoming steam excursion(s) that much more interesting. We have to be up quite early in the morning, so we go to bed relatively early.

Saturday, July 18th, 1992

We check out of the hotel this morning, leave our luggage behind, and head over to Portland Union Station to board our southbound steam excursion. There in the platform is a complete set of historically-correct, restored Daylight-painted coaches (and a first-class car at the rear), headed by former Southern Pacific GS-4 4-8-4 4449, also painted in Daylight colors. Before boarding the train, I walk up front to take a good look at 4449. There's an opportunity to visit the cab, which I take them up on along with a couple of other members of our tour group. Engineer Doyle McCormack, leader of the 4449 crew, is not in the cab during this visit.

Our tour group is seated all together in one specific coach and part of the adjacent coach. The train departs on time and heads south along the SP line to California. This is the same route that we used coming north on the Coast Starlight, all the way from Portland to San Jose. The major difference we will see is that the entire route will be covered in daylight, on this train, much of Sunday's trip being over parts of the route normally covered in darkness.

As we pass Brooklyn Yard, the restoration crew for former SP&S 700 gives us a whistle salute. A few miles further south we come alongside a highway and have our first encounter with the auto-borne train chasers who will be with us all weekend. Many people in our group have not been aware of this phenomenon until now, and are fascinated to see how many cars are trying to keep up with us on this not-yet-rural road paralleling the tracks. Quite a number of us have radio scanners tuned in to the channel being used by the train crew, so the radio traffic is audible throughout the coaches. This is especially noticeable the first time we pass a hotbox detector that triggers on the cylinders and firebox of the steam locomotive up front. "Stop your train!" announce the scanners in unison, "Stop your train! First hotbox, axle one, right side; second hot box, axle one, left side; third hotbox, axle two, right side . . . ." At first, those without scanners don't know what to make of this, but it is soon explained, and by mid-day the passengers are chanting in chorus along with the scanners whenever we pass a detector. (Because this detector behavior is anticipated with the hot parts of the steam locomotive, we don't have to stop for announcements regarding the axles on the locomotive itself.) During the day, Steve Smith from the Central Coast Chapter of NRHS hands out cars printed with the radio channels in use in the Bay Area, for us during the upcoming Convention as well as the inbound and outbound steam excursions.

The climb to Cascade Summit is quite fascinating with the steam locomotive up front as we twist and turn around the mountainsides. Just east of the summit, we have the first photo runby of the day -- my first runby on a major steam excursion! Later on, we have another alongside Upper Klamath Lake, just before reaching Klamath Falls, our destination for the day. Some members of our group have been spending the day sitting in the open doors of the baggage car that permits photography without window glass in the way for many more people than can be accommodated at the vestibules in the coaches themselves. After a full day's trip, one member of our group—Peter ,from Pasadena—is covered in soot from his knees to his forehead (he's wearing shorts). When we board the bus in Klamath Falls to go to the motel, Peter is not allowed to sit down (legal requirements notwithstanding), and is instructed to take a bath as soon as he gets to his room in the motel.

Chris and I eat dinner at a nearby restaurant, then go to bed quite early (for us).

Sunday, July 19th, 1992

We arise early (for us), leave the luggage outside the rooms, and return to the Amtrak station on the bus. (The bus will return to the motel to collect the luggage, then drive it to Sacramento; yesterday, it had done the same thing from Portland to Klamath Falls, so that the bags were waiting in our room when we got to the motel.) On the train, we are in the same coaches as yesterday. As the train gets underway southbound, we see our bus pulled off to the side of the road at the first road bridge, with our driver joining the people waving at the train as we pass. (The driver knew nothing about railfanning when we first met him a week ago.)

Along the side of Mount Shasta, we perform a photo runby with the Shasta Valley to the west laid out in front of us as background to the train. We stop to take water at the siding at Black Butte, from the water spigot supplied by the water tank that is still standing there. As we approach Cantara Loop, on the descent to Dunsmuir, I go forward to the baggage car to squeeze into one of the open doorways for long enough to take a picture as the train passes around the tight horseshoe curve across the Sacramento River. The latter is quite a small stream at this point.

Following a service stop in Dunsmuir, we continue down the Sacramento River Canyon. This is great scenery that Amtrak normally passes in complete darkness. Along here, the scanners call out a hotbox reading for an axle that is on the tender, not the locomotive!  We have to stop for this one. The steam crew packs the axle with ice, and after awhile we continue. As the train passes over the line relocation segment through the Shasta Lake are, we see how drastically low the water level has fallen during the current drought. Next to the campground where Chris and I had stayed with the infant Henry, back in 1974 (when the water level was at its maximum), not only is there no water at all in that arm of the lake, but there are eight to ten foot tall trees growing at the bottom of the former valley, where a small creek still runs.

After crossing the Pit River on the lower level of the bridge that also carries Interstate 5, and then crossing the Reading Trestle to rejoin the pre-diversion right-of-way, the train proceeds to Sacramento down the oh-so-hot Sacramento River Valley, now a broad agricultural area. Once in Sacramento, our bus takes us to a motel in West Sacramento that, to Rolland's horror, has changed hands since he had reserved our space there and isn't close to meeting our requirements. (This same facility will accommodate us on the UP trip following the Convention, as well.) Chris and I walk across the Tower Bridge into Old Sacramento, to have dinner at the same Chinese Restaurant we had patronized there during RailFair 1991.

Monday, July 20th, 1992

This is a short day's trip, so the train doesn't leave until 10 am (compared to 8 am the previous two days). We do a runby at Bahia, near Benicia along the Cal-P, in the flatland on the right bank of the Sacramento River, then cross over the Carquinez Strait on the massive railroad bridge. Here we have a surprise -- the train has to stop on the bridge, because the center span has been raised to permit a large ship bound for the Port of Stockton to pass. We eat our box lunches during this enforced wait.

After a service stop in Oakland, the train runs down the East Bay to San Jose, arriving there mid afternoon. For this particular tour group, this is the end of the tour itself, although many people will travel back to Los Angeles together, tomorrow. For tonight, we all have hotel rooms at a Red Lion Inn next to San Jose Airport.

NRHS Convention (7/21-7/25)

Tuesday, July 21st, 1992

Today, Chris and I check out of the Red Lion, and take a taxi the few blocks to the (much cheaper) motel at which we will spend the next five nights, and where we will be joined by another tour group for a Sunday departure on the UP steam train. We then take the San Jose Light rail tram down to the NRHS Convention Hotel in the center of town, to check in at the Registration Desk and get our excursion tickets and goody bags. We spend the rest of the day familiarizing ourselves with these materials, and planning our separate trip for Wednesday.

Wednesday, July 22ndh, 1992

Because the dome space on the UP excursion today was full by the time we ordered, and because we will travel the exact same route on Sunday, we have elected to take a Caltrain/Amtrak routing to and from Stockton, today, filling in the part of the San Joaquin route that we haven't previously ridden, and wouldn't otherwise have ridden. We start out by taking the light rail to the Tamien station, south of San Jose, where there is an adjacent Caltrain station (the southernmost point covered by all Caltrain service). From Tamien, we take Caltrain into San Francisco, our first trip on the Peninsula line (but we will be here again with NRHS on Thursday).

San Francisco Area Route Descriptions

In San Francisco, we take the Amtrak bus connection from the Caltrain station over the Bay Bridges to Oakland, 16th Street, where we board the San Joaquin for our trip to Stockton.

San Joaquin Route Descriptions

In Stockton, we pass the time finding a place to buy more Kodachrome 64 slide film. Our return train departs Stockton on time, but meets a freight train in every ATSF siding west of Middle River, and gets back to Oakland over an hour late. Because we would have had almost an hour's wait at the Caltrain station on our planned schedule, the Amtrak bus gets us there in time for a train only an hour later than we had planned. We ride the Caltrain to Tamien, then the light rail back to our motel.

It transpires that those on the NRHS excursion return to San Jose very much later than we had, and then have a long wait for their buses to appear. Part of that lateness was due to difficulties with turning UP 3985 on the turntable in Stockton. We find much of this out in dribs and drabs, as we participate in Convention and post-Convention events.

Thursday, July 23rd, 1992

Today is our first actual NRHS event. So far, the only NRHS folks we’ve met have been those at the Registration desk on Tuesday. Today’s excursion provides an overview of the bay area itself, with a morning run up the Peninsula to San Francisco, an optional tour of much of the San Francisco Municipal Railway (the streetcar lines), a ferry ride across the bay to Oakland (Jack London square), and a return train trip down the former Western Pacific from Oakland (Third Street) To San Jose. A second set of conventioneers will do this in reverse order, but will not have the option of the Muni tour

We take the light rail line from our motel to the convention hotel, then ride a convention bus to the SP Cahill Street station (where Amtrak stops, and where we arrived on Monday). Our train today is basically the Daylight-painted set we came down from Portland on, with the addition of some private cars (Native Son, Columbia River, etc.) providing first class and dome service. The train is hauled by ex-SP P-8 4.6.2 2472, based locally, that had been such a hit at RailFair 91 the previous year. We’re riding in one of the coaches. I get some pictures of the locomotive before boarding starts. The route as far as SF is the same one we took on Caltrain just yesterday, but the steam haulage provides a new interest today.  We stop a couple of times (once at the classic Menlo Park depot) to pick up excursionists at stations along the way, and have a photo runby adjacent to a large bakery that provides wonderful aromas while we wait for the train to unload, back-up, and then come roaring past the photo line.

In San Francisco, an array of trolley buses meets us at the 4th and Townsend station, to take those of us taking the Muni tour up to the Muni trolley barn where the trolley tour starts. At the trolley barn, we leave the trolley buses and wait on the side of the street as several historic trolley cars are brought out from the barn across the street and lines up in front of us. Group members then board the trolleys. We have no idea of the significance of any of them, so board the one immediately in front of us. The trolleys set of westward on the “K-Ingleside” line, descending past SF City College to the west portal of the Twin Peaks tunnel, then westward on the “L-Taraval” line that goes to the zoo. However, we go only as far as a short stub that extends westward from that line where it turns due south. Here is an opportunity for a bathroom break and to look at all the trolleys.

On reboarding, we board a different trolley that happens to have the tour organizer, Don Kehl, as car host. Don gives an excellent commentary as we head first east (the way we came), then south on the “M-Oceanview” line that passes San Francisco State University, then curves around to the east and northeast, and finally northeast on the “J-Church” line that passes the mission and descends into the city center. Before reaching there, however, we stop at a place, not far from the trolley barn where the trolley tracks run in a cut. Here all of the trolleys are run past the assembled conventioneers so photographs can be taken. (This is a new piece of track that will join the M and J lines, but has not yet opened for service.) Finally, the trolleys take us down to Market Street and along the surface (rather than trolley subway below) to the Transbay Terminal.

Here we leave the trolleys and have less than two hours for a late lunch before heading to the ferry pier for our ferry ride across the bay. Many of the restaurants here in the financial district are no longer serving lunch, so there’s only a limited choice of where to eat, but we eventually find a place to eat. This is good, because there will be no time for dinner until very late, as events will prove. Approaching the time for ferry departure, we head for the pier and board the boat. We go up on deck to find a couple of seats. By chance, we are seated near Ray Wood, National president of NRHS, although I don’t engage him in conversation at this point. The ride across the bay is smooth, with good visibility in the late afternoon sun.

All too soon, we’re docking at Jack London Square and disembarking to walk up to Third Street. There’s a mass of people all going the same way! As we reach Third Street, somewhere in the vicinity of the one time Western Pacific station, UP 3985 and its train come slowly towards us along the street. We board a coach named Sunshine Special and take seats on the right side of the train. Although we’ve seen the UP excursion train before (in Los Angeles in 1989, behind 4-8-4 8444), this is the first time we’ve been on it. I find it quite impressive, and in better condition than the enthusiast-maintained cars of this morning’s train. In the coming week, we’ll get to know this train quite well.

At Niles Junction, where the line from Altamont Pass through Niles Canyon comes in from the east, the train pulls east, and then reverses onto the Milpitas line. Some distance to the south, in Milpitas, the train stops and the Challenger (4-6-6-4) is replaced by a UP diesel for the rest of the way to William Street Yard in San Jose. We reach the latter after sunset, but before complete darkness has fallen. However, there are no buses waiting to meet us.

As we start to talk to others, notably Bob and Diane Heavenrich (he’s the NRHS Comptroller), we learn that exactly the same thing had happened on the return from Stockton, the previous night. This is too far from downtown San Jose to walk, and the intervening neighborhood is apparently one that we would not want to walk through after dark. A police car arrives to find out what is going on. The convention hotel’s van arrives, and Ray Wood summons the NRHS Executive Committee to take it to their meeting (already postponed from last night). This means Bob Heavenrich must go; he refuses to go without Diane, so she gets to go too. Awhile later, a single bus arrives. Cathy Bauer says it is for those going to “Cahill” because they have trains to catch to destinations on the Peninsula. I wonder how many of the conventioneers know where “Cahill” is (by name, that is), but realize that everyone who needs it would know the name.

All this time, we’re standing around on the dirt and ballast of the entrance to the yard (which is right next to the rail entrance, so we’re up against the track). There’s nowhere to sit, and the entire area is quite dark. Another bus arrives. This time, I inform a local NRHS Host that we need to catch the light rail back to our motel, so he arranges for us to get on this bus. Reaching the Fairmont Hotel, we rush out back to the light rail station and we do catch the train. I find it fascinating that the Convention has a slogan about taking the Light Rail to the convention activities, but has no processes in place to facilitate doing so! We grab a quick dinner at the Denny’s adjacent to the motel, and go to bed.

Friday, July 24th, 1992

There are no major excursions on Friday, so that there are no major conflicts with the NRHS business meetings and the annual banquet in the evening. There are, however, seminars to attend and some local tours. We have chosen to go on the tour of the San Jose area Light Rail system. We start out by taking that Light Rail down to the Fairmont, then board the tour train that heads right back where we have come from.  We continue north along First Street, then turn right and have a runby on the stub of the tracks that will eventually head eastward from this point. After the runby, we proceed to the end of track to the west, past the Santa Clara Convention Center, then return south through downtown to the line and branches south of downtown San Jose. Past Tamien, this is again new territory for us. We visit both of the branches, covering all of the extant track on the system, then head back north again to the maintenance facilities just north of the San Jose Civic Center, north of downtown.

At the maintenance facilities, the vehicles in the San Jose historic trolley collection are waiting for us. Tour leader Matt Vurek guides various groups of people to the different historic trolleys. There is time to photograph them all, and ride at least one (each) on the loop around downtown that these trolleys normally run on on weekends. Matt complains that one of the trolleys he was promised has not appeared. At the end of the tour, Chris and I return to our motel to relax for the afternoon and prepare for the evening functions.

When we return to the Fairmont for the banquet, we discover the system for allocating attendees to tables at the banquet. We had been unaware of this, and thus had not signed up for table space. As a result, we find ourselves at the very back of the room, with some other people who had not signed up for various reasons. We find ourselves sitting with Gordon Zimmermann, who is in charge of souvenir sales with the 4449 train, and Jim Replogle, who is distantly related to the family owning the Globe business.

The Night Photo session is to follow the banquet. At the end of the banquet, Ed Graham offers an additional night photo ticket for the asking. I get Chris to go and get this ticket, so she can go to the photo shoot rather than return to the motel by herself. (I have been carrying my tripod all evening, so as to have it when the bus for the Night Photo shoot leaves from the Fairmont.)

The night photo shoot is in the SP yard opposite the Santa Clara Caltrain station, where ex-SP 4449 and ex-SP 2472 are presently located. UP 3985 has not been made available for this session, since UP has chosen not to run it over the SP to get here. Jim Boyd, editor of Railfan & Railroad, is leading this session. The locomotives are set where Jim wants them; the photographers line up with their cameras on tripods, and open their shutters on “bulb”. Jim’s assistants then move around the locomotives firing off flashbulbs until the entirety of the portions of the locomotives in the view of the cameras has been lit to the desired level. The photographers are then instructed to close their shutters. This is repeated three times, for two positions of the locomotives. I manage to get two good exposures out of this.

We’re returned to the Fairmont after the light rail has stopped running for the night. We take a taxi to the motel, and ask the driver who we should call to get a taxi back in the morning, since we have to be back at the Fairmont for Saturday’s excursion before Saturday light rail service starts up. The driver says that is still on his shift, so he’ll be there for us at the appointed time.

Saturday, July 25th, 1992

We arise six hours later, and find our taxi waiting for us, as promised. Today’s excursion is with 4449 and the trainset used on Thursday morning (mostly the same as the one we came down from Portland with), running up to Sacramento and back, with plenty of time in Sacramento for conventioneers to visit the California State Railroad Museum. We are provided with all-day tickets for the Sacramento Light rail system, as well as admission to the museum. After I get some photos of 4449, Chris and I take seats in one of the coaches, in a set that has two other seats facing us. These seats are eventually taken by Bob Vittitow, from Owensboro, KY, and Dave Cooper, from Western Kentucky, both National Directors from their respective NRHS Chapters. Bob tells us he rode all the way out from Kentucky on his motorcycle. His friend Dave questions his sanity on that basis, and we laughingly agree.

The trip covers the same route we had covered with 4449 on the previous Monday. I take the opportunity of our seatmates to ask many questions about the relationships between NRHS National and NRHS Chapters, the functions of National Directors, and the arrangements and operations of National Conventions. In the process we also hear about what happens at the other quarterly NRHS Board Meetings, including the excursions at those meetings. At Pinole, alongside the bay north of Richmond, we do a photo runby with the bay and Mount Tamalpais in the background. No trains pass behind us on the adjacent Santa Fe line to Richmond while we’re doing the runby.

We eat our box lunches before arriving in Sacramento a little after noon. The return trip will start at 6 pm. Chris and I have been to the museum before (as recently as last year, in fact), so we decide to concentrate on riding the light rail system. We walk the several blocks east to intersect the light rail lines, and take a train heading south through the city center and then east to the end of the line that has been built along the route of the old SP line to Folsom. We then ride all the way to the other end of the line at Watt/I-80, seeing today’s California Zephyr as we come alongside the SP line between Sacramento and Roseville. Returning to the city center, we leave the light rail and walk over to Old Sacramento, where we make a quick visit to CSRM and visit the nearby bookstore.

Nearing the appointed departure time, we return to the Amtrak (SP) station to board the train. For various reasons, including the need to change a bulb in 4449’s headlight, the return excursion is late leaving, and gets back to San Jose much later than advertised. (Fortunately, a box dinner has also been provided, so at least we don’t have the issues of getting dinner.) We continue our conversation with Bob and Dave on the way back. There are photo runs on the causeway, east of Davis, to get them in before the light fades. When we get back to San Jose, our participation in the NRHS Convention is over. (There is an excursion on the SP Coast Line on Sunday, but our UP excursion eastward is also leaving tomorrow.) We take a taxi back from the Fairmont to the motel (the light rail has stopped for the night by the time we get to the Fairmont) and go to bed.

Post-Convention (7/26-7/31)

Sunday, July 26th, 1992

While we were away on Saturday, the other members of our tour group for the UP excursion arrived from Los Angeles, via train or plane and stayed at the same motel we have been at since Tuesday. This morning, we check out of the motel and join them on the bus that will accompany us for the next five days. The bus takes us over to the now-infamous William Street Yard, where the UP train (with diesel haulage) will load. Naturally, it isn’t here yet! It arrives in a few minutes, and we board our assigned coach. We happen to be sitting downstairs from a dome, which has been sold separately. (AS it transpires, the domes get very hot over the next few days, and we become very glad we’re not forced to ride in them.)

We’ll be riding this train all the way to Salt Lake City, taking five days to get there, with overnights in Sacramento, Portola, CA (hotel in Sparks, NV), Winnemucca, NV and Elko, NV, over the entire route of the former Western Pacific railroad east of Niles Junction. The diesel takes us to Milpitas, where it is replaced by 3985 for the rest of the trip. Immediately north of Milpitas, the train turns east to run through Niles Canyon and over Altamont Pass.

Oakland to Salt Lake City route descriptions

We make a couple of stops for photo runbys on Altamont Pass. The temperature is already quite high, even though it’s only mid-morning as yet. The train stops for the night in the South Sacramento yard, where we transfer to the bus. In Sacramento, we stay at the same West Sacramento motel that we had used a week previously. Chris and I eat dinner at a small Greek restaurant just west of the motel.

Monday, July 27th, 1992

We take the bus back to the South Sacramento Yard, and board our (different) assigned car. Today’s run will be up the Feather River Canyon, and the train is full, in spite of it being a Monday. For this run, there is a diesel locomotive tucked in behind 3985’s auxiliary tender (“water bottle”)

We have photo runbys at both Spring Garden and Clio Trestle.

Arriving at Portola, the bus takes us over to Sparks, NV, for dinner and the night’s lodging.

Tuesday, July 28th, 1992

The bus takes us back to Portola to rejoin the train, which soon heads away east. The train is much emptier today, with some coaches have only a few occupants, and others closed off completely except for passage directly through. One of the people I see in a very sparsely occupied coach is NRHS National Secretary Greg Molloy. Bob Heavenrich is also on this train. A few miles east of Portola, the summit of the line at Beckwourth Pass is marked with a tunnel. The line then descends slowly into basin and range country, which includes several rivers with no outlet to the sea. At Reno Junction, the main line turns directly north, then curves eastward around the edge of the mountains to the west. On thee edge of the desert, while the line is running north just before it makes the big swing east into Nevada, we stop for a photo runby with the east face of the mountains in the background. This is a magnificent site, although I’m not sure it is quite worthy of Bob Heavenrich’s exclamation: ‘This is awesome, just awesome!’

In Winnemucca, the bus takes us to our hotel, then later takes us to a Basque restaurant where Rolland’s entire tour group eats dinner “family style” at long tables. In Winnemucca, we are reminded where we are geographically; when we see a bus labeled ‘Boise-Winnemucca Stage Lines’, we realize we are not very far south of southern Idaho.

Wednesday, July 29th, 1992

Because of the geographical distribution of potential overnight stopping points across Nevada, today’s run will be quite short, taking up only half a day. The number of people on the train has fallen even further than yesterday, with at least half of the cars on the train closed to passengers, with window-blinds fully closed against the desert sun.

In the middle of the run, we have a photo runby in the Palisades area of the paired track along the Humboldt River. By mid afternoon, we’re in Elko, and have transferred to our hotel. Unfortunately, the weather is entirely too hot to sit at trackside and watch for trains. There don’t seem to be suitable warning locations stimulating radio traffic that could alert us to the approach of trains so that we could get from room to trackside (less than 100 yards), either. So, we have a lazy afternoon, taking time only to buy more Kodachrome 64 slide film, and a leisurely dinner.

Thursday, July 30th, 1992

Today, we’re up relatively early again. The run to Salt Lake City is a long one, plus there’s an eastward time zone change on the way. So, we’re back on the train by 8 am, with the crew servicing the steam locomotive before departure.

We arrive at the UP Station in Salt Lake City in early evening. For those of us going home on the westbound Desert Wind, tonight, Rolland has arranged for us to board the train (actually the California Zephyr, before the split) in Provo, 45 miles to the south, so that those who wish to can go to bed before the Salt Lake City boarding time (which will be well after midnight). Others will spend a day or two in Salt Lake City before heading home; they go directly to hotels from the depot.. The bus picks the rest of us up at the UP depot, and takes us all to the Trolley Square shopping center, located in the former trolley barns of the local trolley system. Here, there are a number of restaurants, with price and style to suit every taste. We opt for a Chinese Restaurant with a balcony facing the Wasatch Mountains to the east.

After dinner, the bus takes us south into the night, depositing us at the bare minimum ‘station’ in Provo. (There’s a bus shelter and a paved platform, but no toilets and not even a functioning telephone.) Fortunately, the train is only about 45 minutes late, so it arrives before anyone runs into difficulties because of the lack of facilities. An Amtrak air horn sounds to the east, and the long train of Superliners pulls over the road crossing and into the station. Our Los Angeles-bound sleeper is at the rear of the train. On board the train, some tour members go directly to bed, while others head for the Lounge Car for a drink (hard for some, soft for us) before bedtime.

[consist (from Salt Lake City)]


Train 35, 7-29-1992









Salt Lake City






Las Vegas









San Bernardino






Los Angeles



North of Provo, the line passes the massive steel works at Geneva, destination of the traffic flow of taconite pellets from Minnesota that SP has cleverly arranged for as the back flow of hopper cars that would otherwise return empty after carrying Utah coal to Wisconsin and Minnesota power plants, then passes the former D&RGW Roper Yard and enters the former D&RGW station in Salt Lake City.

Approaching the station, we’re ordered out of the Lounge Car where we’ve been sitting since passing Geneva Steel, so that we’re in our own accommodations as the train arrives in Salt Lake City. Here, the train is split into the main train for Oakland and segments to go to Portland/Seattle as the Pioneer and Los Angeles as the Desert Wind.

Friday, July 31st, 1992

Salt Lake Route route descriptions

UP has trackage rights from Daggett to West Riverside Junction, but the Desert Wind uses the same route as the Southwest Chief from Daggett into Los Angeles.

We arrive in Los Angeles an hour late. Henry meets us, ticked-off because the train is late, and we drive home to Sierra Madre.