Sacramento Sizzle: RailFair 99 and the 1999 NRHS Convention
June 19th-27th, 1999

Don Winter

The NRHS 1999 National Convention is being held in Sacramento, California, in conjunction with the RailFair 99 railroad equipment and people gathering held at the California State Railroad Museum to celebrate the sesquicentennial of California’s statehood.

Saturday, June 19th, 1999

We’re only going to be gone for nine days (eight nights), so it is much more cost effective and timely for us to drive to downtown Los Angeles and at LAUS. We leave home about 7:30 am, and make use of the “Car Pool” lanes to arrive at LAUS, park, and walk through the tunnel to the station by 8:30 am. We are not checking any baggage this trip, so I go to sit in the garden until it’s time to board, and Chris goes to get coffee. We read the morning newspaper while sitting in the hazy sunshine, until about half an hour before train time, when we walk down to Track 10 where our train is ready.

Coast Starlight Route Description


Pacific Parlor
MHC (to Oakland)
MHC (to Oakland)

Train 14, 6-19-1999



Los Angeles






Simi Valley






Santa Barbara



San Luis Obispo



Paso Robles






San Jose















Sacramento (actual arr.)



We find our sleeping car at the front of the train, and set up our gear in our “Daytime Parlor Room” (Economy Bedroom). There’s about 20 minutes before departure, so I walk the platform to record the consist. The train departs 12 minutes late due to the late arrival of train 759, lead by F59PH 452. The train departs via the Metrolink line on the west side of the Los Angeles River, passing under the new light-rail bridge that replaced the former Santa Fe span for the Pasadena subdivision, and crossing over the river to the former SP line on the east bank by the recent three-track bridge below the Pasadena Freeway adjacent to CP Dayton.

At San Luis Obispo, we pass train 11, with locos 119 and 117, which arrives at 2:55 pm. At Santa Margarita, we take the siding to pass SP 195 east, from 3:52 pm to 4:10 pm, but never actually stop. From Soledad into Salinas, the rails follow alongside US 101 again. Along here, there is  signal problem at MP135.7, which requires us to stop and flag the signal, remaining at a slow speed until an operational signal is reached. This takes from 6:00 to 6:23 pm. Just south of Salinas, there is a spur to the west that has private carts stored on it. (Wayne Yetter and his son operate Calif. Rail Tours. Cars Santa Fe Plaza and Royal Gorge are headquartered there.  The Hialeah also shows up from time to time as do other cars to be serviced and kept in running order.) There is a signal stop at Tamien from 8:07 to 8:10 pm.

Our train goes into the West Oakland yard, and spends 12 minutes (9:44-9:56 pm) dropping off the two Material Handling Cars on the rear. We arrive in Sacramento just after midnight and take a cab to the hotel, a couple of blocks away. After checking in, we go right to bed.

Sunday, June 20th, 1999

We arise mid-morning, go to the NRHS Registration Room to get our tickets and goodie bags, then head over to Railfair 99, two blocks away on the other side of the pedestrian tunnel under Interstate 5. One of the museum’s 19th-century locomotives is stationed at the entrance as a very large symbol of what’s within. We get our tickets for the day and go on in. The Railfair grounds have been arranged to include the public facilities of the California State Railway Museum, as well as the majority of the Sacramento River front in the Old Sacramento area. The railborne visitors are arrayed on the tracks on the river side of the original Central Pacific Depot, south of the main CSRM building and turntable. There are exhibits within the old station, and exhibitor tents to its east. Further south, alongside the freight house, are food and drink booths. Booths for the various societies exhibiting or otherwise present at the event are arranged around the railborne exhibits.

It is obvious that several hours will be required to pay even a cursory visit to all of the booths and exhibits. It is also obvious that, even though it is only late morning, the weather is very hot today, and seems likely to be so tomorrow. (This is, after all, Sacramento, known for its mid-year heat.) So we decide to spend a couple of hours here getting a feel for what’s here, then come back for the last two hours of the day, in early evening, and do the same again tomorrow. We patronize a number of the societies’ booths for T-shirts and the like, and take the opportunity to climb up to the cabs of UP 844 and UP 3985, and step into the cabs of ATSF 3751, SP 4449, and BNSF 4419, the C44-9W that has accompanied 3751 to the fair. We also visit a couple of the smaller museums in the block adjacent to the main museum building.

We also see, and watch localized operations of, a number of replicas of very early steam locomotives, including Best friend of Charleston, John Bull from RR Museum of PA, John Molson from Canadian Railway Museum, and De Arend from Utrecht, Netherlands.

By early afternoon, we’re ready to get some lunch and retreat from the heat, not necessarily in that order (which means we’re not going to get lunch at one of the food booths). We get our hands stamped on the way out, and have lunch (actually, breakfast) at the adjacent Denny’s. Then, we retreat to our hotel room for the afternoon. Returning to Railfair in the evening, we go through the Amtrak passenger cars that are visiting, along with some of the other visiting passenger cars (private and museum cars once owned by SP, UP, ATSF, WP, and private individuals such as Lucius Beebe (the Virginia City). While looking through the cars, we meet Ken Harrison, a stalwart of the Espee mailing list, on a former Union Pacific streamliner car.. We observe a few of the smaller steam locomotive visitors running up and down their assigned pieces of track. These include: Bear Harbor Lumber Co,. no. 1, from Eureka and another 0-4-0 lumber co. loco from Eureka, with a four-wheel wagon carrying a large diameter log almost as big as the loco, Granite Rock 10, a Porter-built 0-6-0, Eureka & Palisade wood-burner, Eureka, Mittole Lumber Co. narrow gauge 0-4-0ST, no. 1, a couple of former sugar company narrow gauge locos, and Edison Portland Cement 0-4-0T, no. 3. We also see horse-drawn streetcars and a steam tractor.

We patronize the CSRM bookstore, and have dinner at the Mexican restaurant in Old Sacramento. Then we go to bed so we can be up while it’s still relatively cool on Monday morning.

Monday, June 21st, 1999

This morning, we return to RailFair for the first half of today’s visit (spliced by a period doing other things, to avoid the midday heat). We observe a number of the smaller visitors, including narrow gauge locomotives and those with geared-drives (Heisler, Shay, etc.) These include: 18" gauge 2-4-0T, Gwen, originally from the British Isles, W. H. Eccles Lumber co.: Heisler, no. 3, from Sumpter Valley, OR, City of Prineville, OR, 3-truck Shay, 1, Graham County RR 3-truck Shay, no. 1925 (also the year of its build), Passumpsic RR Heisler, 1, Fillmore & Western 0-4-0T, Sespe, Sierra Railway 2-8-0, 28, operating Handcars and "Motor Cars" (Track Speeders), an antique SP Fire Truck (from SD&AE), KTSO (Japan) 36" gauge loco 6, Hawaii Railway 5, 2-4-2, and Tucson, Coractin & Gila Bend 100 (Gas-Electric Passenger & Express car)

There are also historic and current diesel locomotives from both the mainline rialroads and shortlines, with some of the historical diesels owned by the California State Railroad Museum (CSRM). The historical diesels include: "WP" 2001, 1st GP20 built, from Portola RR museum, "SP" 5623, GP-9 in Black Widow paint (privately owned), Klamath Northern 206, Baldwin-Lima-Hamilton (CSRM), Sacramento Northern SW-1 408 (CSRM), Howard Terminal 8, a Whitcomb diesel (CSRM), and SPMW 7070 Steam Derrick (CSRM), lifting Howard Terminal 8. Current diesels included: UP 7514, an AC6000W, FerroMex 3704, a C30-Super 7, and Amtrak F59PH 456 with a Talgo trainset

We also take a good look at former SP 4-6-2- 2467, owned by the Pacific Locomotive Association in the bay area. As we head off for lunch and our other activities, we encounter Warren and Martha, from Lancaster, PA, with whom we have shared seating in first class cars on excursions at previous conventions.

Lunch today is fast food, after which we walk the several blocks (mostly through a covered shopping mall) to the Sacramento Light Rail system’s tracks. We choose first to ride out to the new extension to Mather field, on the line to the southeast, and then to the other end of the line, to the northeast in the center of Interstate 80, before returning to where we started. In the early part of our ride, we observe state employees using the light rail trains to travel between geographically separated state office buildings. On the way back through the mall, we stop in the Great Train Store to take a look at what they have. I see a couple of books of interest, but they’re at full price here. I decide to check if they’re available in the CSRM bookstore, where we can get a discount. We then retreat to our hotel room to wait out the heat; on the way into the hotel we run into Russ Davies, who is taking a smoke break outside the hotel door. Russ is up here both to attend Railfair and the convention events, and to spend some time researching in the CSRM Library.

Later, we go back to Railfair, and take a walk around the entire inside of the CSRM building itself (which we have visited a couple of time previously). This time, however, visitors are being allowed in the cab of former SP Cab-Forward 4-8-8-2 4294, so we quickly take the opportunity to do this. We also go out on the balcony overlooking the turntable to take some more photographs, including exhibits being turned on that turntable. We take time to look at the large collection of model railroad exhibits, as well, most of which are not standard parts of the museum collection. Chris finds a booth selling railroad-themed games on CD-ROM, so we buy a set of those. We also return to the CSRM bookstore to buy (at a discount) a couple of books I had noted at full price at the Great Train Store. We eat dinner and go to bed, needing to be up early (for us) in the morning for the first excursion.

Tuesday, June 22nd, 1999

We have eschewed today’s McCloud River Railroad visit to ride an Amtrak-run excursion through Franklin Canyon to Richmond. We’ve chosen to ride in the full-length dome car. The train is timed to load and depart from Sacramento after Amtrak train 11, the Coast Starlight, has departed the station (presuming it is on time), and before the station platforms are required for eastbound and westbound Capitols. So, we arise early and walk over to the station in plenty of time. Our excursion train is not yet present, and train 11 has still to come, so it is evident we’ll have some time to wait before departure. Fortunately, we bought coffee and water at the hotel, so we’re prepared. This is the first time this year that we’ve encountered many of the regular attendees, so we spend time chatting to some of the PRS people, to Helen and Smoke Shaak, to Whayne and Margie McGinniss and grandson Eric, and to Frances Mohr. I also encounter Greg Molloy and Dave Arthur (who is here for this rare mileage train only).

Train 11 arrives, does its station work and car servicing, and departs. A UP freight passes through the station platforms. Then we hear that our train is following the eastbound Capitol up from West Oakland, where the consist was assembled. Meanwhile, the westbound Capitol arrives and departs, followed by the eastbound. Finally, our train arrives and we climb aboard. A car or train host named Erroll (who is one of those running the convention) gets into an argument with Dave Ackerman (an NRHS national officer at this time) as we board the train. We find ourselves sitting across the car from Steve Miller and Stan Hunter, later to be joined by Tom Glover, who have some part in running buses and local excursions later in the week. They’re discussing their assignments for the Rio Vista (trolley museum) trip on Wednesday, but we don’t know who they are until Jeff Wells, a PRS member whom we know from previous trips, shows up and stops to talk to Steve. Jeff works at the Amtrak Reservations center in Riverside, and it transpires that he has to deal with Steve (who runs Amtrak California bus activities for CalTrans) in the course of his job.

Sacramento, Stockton, San Francisco Area Route Descriptions

Today’s train is running over the following subdivisions:

·        UP (former SP) Fresno subdivision from Elvas to Stockton

·        BNSF (former Santa Fe) Stockton subdivision from Stockton to Richmond

The train has an engine on each end (F40s 231 and 353), so could go either way, but it departs Sacramento eastbound, passes over the former WP line, and turns south (railroad west) at Elvas Tower (which will be closing in the upcoming months), after waiting for a freight to clear. We’re taking the ex-SP route to Stockton, which Steve and Stan obviously know very well, and on which they have humorous nicknames for almost every location and lineside industry. We pass the depot at Lodi, and then the big city arch next to the tracks, seen in the Pentrex video of this line. Just north of Stockton, there used to be a diamond crossing between the ex-SP and ex-WP lines that now has been replaced by a junction. The former WP line has been abandoned from here, through Stockton, to Lathrop, to the south.

Adjacent to the former SP depot, now used by Altamont Commuter Express, the train comes to a stand at the junction with the curve onto the BNSF (former ATSF Valley line) at the flat crossing ahead. We’re late enough that we have totally lost any path that BNSF might have planned for us on the line to Richmond. There has been a maintenance blockade on the line between Stockton and Richmond earlier in the day, clearing by our originally scheduled passage, that has caused trains to stack up either side of that location, that are now desiring passage across this single-track railroad. So, we have to wait for several BNSF freights, and two Amtrak San Joaquins, to cross in front of us. Finally, just before noon, we pull eastward onto the BNSF line and stop to pick up our pilot crew at the BNSF Mormon Yard. When we start away again, the train is running in the opposite direction.

Even though it is now after noon, we can’t have lunch, because the plans call for the lunches to be loaded during the turnaround at Richmond! We pass the former Santa Fe Stockton depot, now used by Amtrak, and then cross the various bridges and causeways across the delta. Once we’re back on solid ground, freight traffic causes us to stop for awhile in a siding at Oakley. We then proceed in pedestrian fashion until past the junction at Port Chicago where the Amtrak trains go over to the former SP Mococo line at Port Chicago. At the UPS facilities at North Bay, where the hottest freight trains on the line terminate, we again wait in a siding while a couple of eastbound freights pass. Then, traversing the area just above the ex-SP location of Pinole, we finally pull into the BNSF Richmond Yard. Several of our excursionists leave the train here, including one who is also attending on of the San Francisco Opera’s Ring Cycles, who has to get to the Opera House in time for Siegfried, tonight. At last, the lunches are loaded and distributed.

The return journey again starts slowly, with waits for westbound freights at a couple of sidings, followed by a short stop on the trestle near the John Muir home. Then, the various dispatchers are appraised of the time that the Amtrak crew’s hours-of-service will expire, and the tenor of our progress changes. We reach Stockton with no further stops, drop off the pilot crew, and reverse direction (again) onto the former SP line. We’re not delayed again until we reach Elvas Tower, where we take the east leg of the wye, reverse direction again, and head into the Sacramento station. We’ve beaten the crew’s deadline by only a very few minutes.

Chris and I head directly for a Chinese restaurant that’s between the station and the hotel, eat dinner then head for our room and bed.

Wednesday, June 23rd, 1999

Today’s excursion is over the former SP East Valley line, using the UP excursion train pulled by 4-8-4 844. We have tickets for Dome Service in the dome portion of City of San Francisco, the square-end dome-lounge located at the very rear of the train. Again, the train is timed to depart Sacramento between Amtrak 11 and the Capitols, again we’re over at the platform on time, coffee and water in hand, and again train 11 is late. One it leaves, the UP train is backed into the station, and 844 and its crew car replace the diesel on the front. (During Railfair, 844 has been one of the locomotives in steam on the fair grounds, but it was removed late yesterday afternoon to work this train, and will return early tomorrow. We board, and manage to get the rearmost seats in the dome, facing forward, but with direct access to the rear-facing windows for photography. We share a table with a couple of elderly railfans, old friends who haven’t met for years but who have planned to ride this train together, who are in rear-facing seats.

As yesterday, we leave Sacramento heading east, but today we take the northeasterly direction at Elvas. Still to the west of Roseville yard, at Antelope, we come to a stop on the main line. The UP steam crew is not qualified on the East Valley line, and no-one has called a pilot crew to provide us with a legal crew for operating over that line. It takes ninety minutes before we pull down alongside Roseville yard and board the hastily-called pilot crew at the loco depot opposite Amtrak’s replica Roseville depot. With the pilot crew safely on board (but not running the locomotive—that’s still Steve Lee and Lynn Nystrom’s job), the train makes the big left turn east of the Amtrak depot, and heads up the East Valley line.

North of Binney Junction, after passing through Marysville, the train stops for a photo runby. The temperature outside is already well over 90-degrees, and Steve Lee is concerned that if we wait any longer, we will have people getting heatstroke while they’re out of the train. The location isn’t the best I’ve ever seen, but I get some acceptable photos, and then climb back on. Only when I feel the air-conditioning inside the car do I realize how really hot it is outside! Heading north again, we wait for a southbound freight in Chico, cross the Sacramento River, and stop to load lunches in Tehama. All the way north from Roseville, we’ve been seeing a purple-painted bus that appears to have been chartered by a group of railfans to chase this train. We seem to have seen it, and them, at every location at which there is good photographic access to the track. The bus is in Tehama while we’re loading the lunches, but we don’t see it again afterwards. Maybe the heat is too much for them to wait out our service stop!

Lunches loaded, the train pulls onto the southward line at Tehama wye, then reverses onto the main line northward. Here, it enters a siding and stops to service the locomotive. Meanwhile the excursionists are eating lunch. On the return journey, we again stop in Chico to wait for an opposing freight. At Roseville, we have to wait for awhile before entering the Donner Pass line, then stop again to drop off the pilot crew. Reaching Elvas, we turn onto the south line, then reverse the train into the Sacramento station (a backwards trip of a couple of miles). Tonight, we stop at Denny’s, across the street from the hotel for dinner.

Thursday, June 24th, 1999

Today, we’re using the Amtrak train, again, for a circular trip to Oakland, over Altamont Pass on the way out, returning over the Cal-P. The planned morning routine is the same as before, and plays out the same as before, except this time our train precedes the eastbound Capitol from West Oakland. We’re again in the full-length dome. When the train leaves Sacramento, it stops just east of the ex-WP line, at Haggin, backs down the new connecting track onto that line, then heads off southward on the ex-WP line to Stockton, past the former WP depot now in use as a restaurant. Between this excursion and the one on Saturday’ we’ll cover all of the former WP main line that is still in existence, between Oakland and Keddie. As we saw in Stockton, on Tuesday, it’s no longer possible to travel on the former WP through the Stockton area.

The ex-WP route we’ll be using today is divided into the following subdivisions:

·        Sacramento Subdivision from Haggin (Sacramento) to El Pinal (Stockton)

·        Oakland Subdivision from Lathrop to Melrose (Oakland)

·        Plus a portion of the former SP Fresno subdivision from El Pinal to Lathrop

Our train stops at Amtrak’s Oakland Jack London Square station, where we disembark for a several hour layover. Many conventioneers are heading for a ferry-boat over to San Francisco. We’re going to ride parts of BART that we haven’t been on before. But first, we take advantage of the tourist facilities at Jack London Square (the area of Oakland, not the station) to eat lunch, which we do at an Old Spaghetti Factory.

The BART Fremont line, running underground just two hundred yards east of here, has no stations in this vicinity, so we walk up Broadway into the center of Oakland. There, after a false start that requires us to get a refund later, we buy tickets for BART that will permit return to this station after several hours, and take a BART train going out to the new extension beyond Concord. This will end up quite close to the BNSF line we traveled on on Tuesday. Emerging from the tunnel under central Oakland, and passing through the junction with the Richmond line, the line runs along a freeway median, through its own tunnel between two separate tunnels for the freeway, and into the interior valley. Even with the air-conditioned train, the ambient temperature difference between the interior valley and the land by the bay is noticeable. Also very noticeable is how much this area has built up since our first trip on this BART line, more than 25 years ago. As far as Concord, the line is not new to us, but the suburban fabric surrounding it certainly is. Beyond Concord, we’re into very new housing developments, and even stretches of countryside that have yet to be developed (but surely will be in the next few years). The current end of the line, at West Pittsburg, is on a windy bluff, above Suisun Bay and the towns alongside it.

From here, we take a BART train that returns us the way we came, through central Oakland, above ground in West Oakland, then through the tunnel under the bay and then under San Francisco’s Market Street. We don’t have time both to get out in San Francisco and go to the end of the line, so we choose to continue on the train. Ultimately, it emerges from the tunnel before the Daly City station, then continues to Colma along the route which will one day reach to San Francisco Airport and Millbrae. As we again reverse direction and head back to the East Bay, it become clear that we don’t have time to take the BART Pleasanton extension and get back to our excursion train before it leaves Jack London Square. (Has we taken the more expensive BART ticket, we could have gone to Richmond to board the excursion train, which would likely have allowed time to go to Pleasanton. Oh, well!

We thus get off BART in Oakland and walk back down Broadway to Jack London Square. There we go into the station building itself to use the facilities and collect a few local timetables. While there, we run into Doug Walsch, from New Jersey, and his lady friend Diane, whom he (and we) had met on the BC Rail trip in 1997. After chatting with Doug for awhile, we reboard the train and set off through West Oakland and Emeryville to the brief stop at Richmond, where a few more excursionists board. Then it’s a fast trip along the Cal-P, and we’re back in Sacramento ahead of the posted schedule.

That gives us enough time to go to Old Sacramento for dinner, which we do.

Friday, June 25th, 1999

On Friday morning, we’re going to ride on a portion of the Yolo Shortline not normally used by that railroad’s tourist trains. (The whole line will be used for a photographers’ special on Sunday, but in common with most conventioneers, we’ll be going up Feather River Canyon, that day.) At the appointed time, we board buses for the short ride over to West Sacramento, where our short train is waiting. We have a chop-nosed GP-9, plus a couple of passenger cars with nominal air-conditioning and an open-air car. The weather is entirely too hot for anyone to use the latter; we need even this nominal amount of cooling, between photo runs. The train heads south through first, some industry along the west bank of the Sacramento River, surrounding the “Port of Sacramento”, and then through the open fields of the Sacramento Delta. At two different places, we stop for photo runs, then run the locomotive around by using the siding on the spur to Clarksburg. This involves reversing into and out of that spur! Then, we return to our starting place, all at the stately speed of 10 mph. The buses then return us to the hotel.

We find lunch nearby, then pay a visit to the Railroadiana show being held in the hotel’s exhibition area. Thankfully for our finances, we find little to buy, this year. Then, mid-afternoon, we head up to the NRHS Annual Meeting.

From the window of the penthouse room in which the NRHS Annual Meeting is being held, we see both 3985 and 844 on one of the tracks in the old SP locomotive works area. Now, 3985 is expected, since she is supposed to work Saturday’s excursion. But 844 is not. It transpires that 844 has blown a steam flue on Thursday, while we were off on the excursion. This has resulted in steam filling the cab and some relatively minor scalding of the UP Steam Crew members who were staffing the cab at the time. Fortunately, it resulted in no injuries to fairgoers, and no damage to the surrounding exhibits, since no ‘explosion’ occurred. However, UP has decided to remove both locomotives from the fair grounds until they can determine what happened, especially since both were recently repaired using the same tube stock, and as a further precaution, to prohibit 3985 from hauling the Saturday excursion. After some investigation, 3985 will be cleared to return to its base in Cheyenne, WY under steam, and to continue running in subsequent years, but 844 will have to have its motion taken down so it can be hauled back to Cheyenne dead-in-train.

The NRHS Annual Banquet is being held at the Sacramento Convention Center, a dozen block or so east of the hotel. Bus transportation is provided there and back. Before goin in to the dining room, we spend some time talking to Helen and ‘Smoke’. The latter, it turns out, is interested in all kind of big, moving, machinery, and is thus interested in the construction equipment across the street from where we’re standing. The after dinner speech was a glorious set of reminiscences of his early railroading career by Jim Larson, recently retired from Amtrak. Jim’s remarks have since been published, in full, in Trains magazine. Once the events are over, we’re on one of the first buses back to the hotel, and go straight to bed.

Saturday, June 26th, 1999

The UP excursion train is used for today’s run up the former WP Feather River Canyon line to the famous wye at Keddie, and return. This time, we have tickets for the lounge portion of City of San Francisco, at the rear of the train. We’re over at the station at the usual time, with the usual results. While we’re waiting for our excursion trainset to arrive, a number of us, including Bob Heavenrich and Greg Molloy, walk over to where the UP steam locomotives are parked. Steam crew personnel are already at work dismantling the motion on 844. We variously take photographs of the locos and activity, then walk back to the station. An eastbound UP freight passes through the station while we’re walking back from the steam locos. Train 11 arrives and departs, and then we see the UP cars slowly backing into the platform. On the front is a rather grubby UP diesel locomotive. Only one loco for this long train? UP would have a fit if Amtrak sent a train this long onto UP with only one loco! It turns out that a second loco would have been a big help for this train, too.  We board, and secure the rearmost seats in the rear lounge of City of San Francisco, the rearmost spot on the train.  John, from Philadelphia, a frequent companion when we have first-class tickets, is sitting opposite us. Once we’re all on board, and a very uninformative announcement about the loco substitution has been made, the train sets of eastward. At ??, it turns onto the connector track at Haggin for the northbound ex-WP line.

Feather Feather River Route Description

At Oroville, our excursion train stops to load the lunches (and, if a steam locomotive had been our motive power, service the locomotive).

The railroad passes through a tunnel and then crosses a side canyon on a big truss bridge, following the main canyon’s turn to the east as it does so. This is where we ultimately stop for the runby, which includes two passes of the train. Unfortunately, we can’t see the bridge itself from the lineside location, but we can see the train well around the curve.

Our train is only going to Keddie. It turns by pulling onto the highline, reversing through the tunnel into Keddie, and then heading westward again on the main track. For the reverse move, UP Steam Crew Conductor Reed Jackson comes back to our rear car, and opens the door in the square end, letting in copious quantities of the overheated air outside, to general complaint. Once turned, with a new crew for the return trip, the train head back down the canyon. In Oroville, the train stops again at the former WP depot to load dinners, which are distributed to the passengers who have pre-ordered them. It then head off to the south, with a view to returning to Sacramento at the expected time.

About a mile south of the former WP yard, the locomotive strikes an obstruction that has been placed between the tracks by vandals, rupturing its fuel tank. This means that the locomotive will have to be set out as inoperable. Since we have only one locomotive, that also means we must find another to replace it. After some radio chatter, the decision is made to reverse the train to Oroville yard, where, a freight train was observed working with a couple of locomotives pointed in the correct direction for our needs. So, we back up to the yard and change locomotives, then set off south again, well behind ‘schedule’, even for an excursion train. The junction with the former SP, in Sacramento, is achieved with no further delay, and the train pulls east so it can back into the station.

This means that Reed Jackson shows up to open the rear door (which is fine at this time of night) and instruct the engineer during the reverse move. This causes a number of the passengers to ask if he’s “a real conductor” (he is, but he’s not the current legal conductor for this train), since a legal conductor who had started out with us this morning, as he did, would long since have exceeded his allowable working time in the hours-of-service law. Our observations to this effect cause Reed to say “I hate railfans who know what they’re talking about.” The reverse move into the station is completed, and the 1999 NRHS Convention ends, just before midnight. We walk back to the hotel and go to bed.

Sunday, June 27th, 1999

We’ve (foolishly, as it turns out) chosen to return home via the San Joaquin and the bus connection from Bakersfield. We can do this leaving Sacramento in very late morning, rather than rise at 5 or 5:30 am to catch the Coast Starlight at its nominal 6:20 am departure from Sacramento. (The vagaries of train lateness are such that its is not possible to estimate the times at Sacramento from the latest data available at the time we would need to go to bed to arise that early—the latest times then available would be from Eugene, OR, much too far away to give a useful estimate unless the train were already many hours late at that point.)

We rise around 9 am, have breakfast at the hotel (where we see Tom Glover, again), then head over to the depot to catch our bus. The bus has come from Redding, already, but has adjacent seats for us. It leaves more or less on time, and is into Stockton with plenty of time to spare. It’s, again, very hot today, but we find a place to sit in the shade for the few minutes until our train arrives.

San Joaquin Route Description


F59                  2001

Train 714, 6-27-1999






























Bakersfield (arr.)



We’re on the rear “California Car”, in coach (since there’s no Business Class service on the San Joaquin). This means we must get food and drink (coffee, water) from the food service car, several cars in front. We happen to be sitting right behind the space the conductor and assistant conductor have reserved for themselves. This means we can hear the conductor, on several occasions, tell the dispatcher how may people there are on the train with tickets for each of the various bus destinations from Bakersfield. Several times, she stresses that the ticket count for Los Angeles will require three buses for Los Angeles, today. At Merced, we’re almost on time, but we pull into a siding, wait for train 713 to depart, then back out of the siding and pull forward into the station. This delays us about 10 minutes.

Since we’re in the rear car, and have luggage to dig out of the storage area, we’re among the last passengers reaching the depot area after arrival in Bakersfield. When we walk over to the buses, it transpires that, in spite of all of the efforts by the conductor, there are only two buses for Los Angeles. Eventually, some twenty of us are left behind when the two full buses for LA depart. Now, it’s extremely hot in Bakersfield today, and the attempt of all twenty of us to get in the shade while awaiting the promised third bus attracts the attention of the Amtrak agent on duty. She comes out, ascertains that the Van Nuys bus, which still hasn’t left, has room for all of us, and herds us onto that bus (checking with the driver that he will, indeed, go to Los Angeles “eventually”).

Although our bus left Bakersfield last, it is still somewhat empty and thus passes the other buses climbing up the Grapevine onto the Ridge Route on Interstate 5 to Greater LA. However, our bus stops at Saugus, Van Nuys Flyway (terminal for buses to LA Airport) and Van Nuys Amtrak station (used by San Diegan trains), and then heads east across the San Fernando valley to the Glendale station. The only people left on the bus now are the twenty refugees. Surely, we will be in LA soon. But no, the driver takes the Pasadena freeway and goes out to the bus stop at the Hilton Hotel in Pasadena (where there is no-one waiting) before returning south and finally reaching LA Union Station. We reach LAUS at almost 8:30 pm, only 45 minutes earlier than the scheduled arrival of the Coast Starlight! We walk the few yards to our car, and drive home, hot and steaming (in more senses than one). In future we’ll think very hard before taking the mid afternoon southbound San Joaquin on a summer Sunday.