Pacific Northwest Coastal Mountains and Rivers—NRHS 2005
July 1st- 11th, 2005

Don Winter


The Pacific Northwest Chapter located in Portland, OR hosts this year’s NRHS Annual Convention. Trains Unlimited Tours is running an inbound excursion that was originally planned to start in Sacramento and run via the Feather River Canyon, BNSF High Line, and Deschutes River canyon. In the event, BNSF denied use of the latter, and UP denied use of the former (late in the game), so the final routing uses the UP Shasta Line, a portion of the McCloud Railroad, and the Central Oregon & Pacific Coos Bay Line, arriving in Portland down the UP Willamette Valley line. The original plan was for just five cars, but since the first announcements, a number of other cars have been added to the train, which now starts from Emeryville. We will get to Emeryville using the Amtrak San Joaquin, and return from Portland using the Coast Starlight and San Joaquin trains.

The Journey North (7/1-7/4)

Friday, July 1st, 2005

The trip between Tehachapi and Bakersfield (both ways) is by Amtrak California’s buses, so we leave home at 11:30 am, parking the car in the K-Mart parking lot and walking to the Amtrak bus stop next to the Burger King. The bus arrives just about at its 11:55 am scheduled time, and has us in Bakersfield at 12:45 pm, with a half hour to go until train departure. Station staff is collecting large bags to go into the baggage area in the cab car, so we turn over three of our bags as requested. I go into the depot to get the latest schedules, and then we board the cab car, taking a pair of forward-facing seats in the rear half of the upper level of this California Car. Shortly afterwards, we see Barbara Sibert walking along the aisle, with several other people (including Jed Hughes and others we have seen on previous trips) in tow. This is the Pacific Railroad Society contingent heading for the TUT excursion, and they sit in the several seats around and behind us.

[Stockton to Bakersfield route description][Martinez to Stockton route description]

The train leaves pretty much on time (scheduled at 1:15 pm), but loses half an hour almost immediately (waiting for 712 at Lopez, the first siding north of the end of double track). I later learn that Greg Molloy was on that instance of 712, making a round trip from Emeryville to Bakersfield. We lose more time along the way, since for the first portion of the trip there is literally a BNSF train stopped in every siding we pass until we reach Kismet, 140 miles to the north (3 westbound manifest, 6 eastbound intermodal, 3 eastbound bare-table, 2 eastbound manifest, and train 714, + 1 eastbound bare table north of Kismet—note that there are no westbound intermodals in this list). BNSF’s hotshot trailer train, Z-WSPNBY, leaves Bakersfield yard just behind us, so BNSF will want to expedite the northward passage of both trains. There are many interesting conversations with the PRS folks along the way. They will be seated as a group in the parlor class car Colonial Crafts for the next three days, while we have seats in the dome class car Super Dome, one car ahead of them. At Martinez, we stop on the outer track to meet train 718, which is using the inner track. Arrival in Emeryville is only 35 minutes late.


F59PH CDTX 2008
8017    Tuolumne River
8004    San Gabriel River
8813    San Fernando Valley
6463    Muir Beach
6964    Point Arena

Train 715, 7-1-2005




1:15 pm

1:17 pm








































Saturday, July 2nd, 2005

The special train is expected to pull into the platform at Emeryville at 6:30 am, so we get up at 5:30 am in order to have time to get out of the room without a rush, check out, and walk back to the station with the bags, humping them up the footbridge stairs again. On the platform, I tell Greg Molloy that Pete Smykla (on the Eastern Europe trip) had asked me to remind him that he stilled owed Pete half an ambulance fare from the llama incident. After he stops laughing, Greg says that his bill for that incident included an ambulance charge. I also introduce myself to Ed Graham, with whom I have corresponded electronically, so that he can put face to name, and chat with Bob Brewster, who is riding in Cedar Rapids. Later, we greet Bobj Berger, one of the TUT crew, who had been our tour leader on the Copper Canyon trip in 2004.

Meanwhile, we have checked our big suitcase in with the TUT folks for transport to Portland in the baggage space on the train. At 6:40 am, our train arrives (not in the advertised order of cars), and we walk alongside until the train stops with us adjacent to the vestibule in Colonial Crafts that we will use to board Super Dome, which has no vestibule. John Kirchner, our car host, and Rod Fishburn, owner of Colonial Crafts, help us on board. Up in the dome, we take seats at a table for four, occupying the forward-facing seats. At almost departure time, we’re joined by an elderly couple from Salem, OR, for whom this is their first train excursion, and who seem nonplussed by the fact that all the good seats are taken some 25 minutes after the train arrived in the platform.

[Oakland to Sacramento/Haggin route description]

The train departs at 7:15 am. Not long after leaving, Al Weber comes around with the pre-registration forms for the 2006 Convention, and I fill mine out (as does Greg, who is visiting our car at the time) and hand it back before Al leaves the car. Leaving Martinez, at 7:53 am, we see that the piers for the new road bridge being built on the east side of the railroad bridge are well along. We meet a westbound Capitol near Suisun, and another one in Sacramento. In Sacramento (8:58-9:06 am, ahead of time), Stan Hunter and his significant other are the last passengers for the Super Dome, and they have difficulty finding two seats together. This is at least partly because TUT has sold all 51 seats in the dome space as individual seats, but since some of these are as groups of three at the ends of the car, people have not been good about making the third seats in those locations available to others. Normally, this matters only at meal times, since many people spend the rest of the time hanging out of the open Dutch doors in the vestibules. We soon observe that Steve Miller also boarded in Sacramento, and that car owner Steve Sandberg, president of the Friends of the 261, owner of Cedar Rapids, Super Dome and Missouri Valley, all on this train, is here, as is Rob McGonigal of Classic Trains magazine.

[Haggin to Binney Junction route description]

North of Haggin, the train spends 45 minutes (9:33-10:18) in Pleasant Grove siding, awaiting the southbound Coast Starlight, which is running over four hours late, since it passes us at 10 am compared to a scheduled departure from Sacramento of 6:35 am. (This lateness is doubtless due to the UP trackwork blockade north of Eugene, which will impact our running times all the way to Portland, waiting for delayed trains.)  Shortly afterwards, we make an eight-minute stop to fix the HEP connection between two of the cars, and shortly afterwards pass a northbound UP double-stack.

[Binney Junction to Klamath Falls route description]

We make a twelve-minute stop at Chico to wait for a southbound UP manifest. As we run northwards, Bob Miller, our tablemate for the day, keep identifying every river we cross as the “Sacramento River”, and I have to tell him in turn that we’re crossing the American River (in Sacramento), the Yuba River (in Marysville) and the Feather River (north of Binney Junction). We finally do cross the Sacramento River nearing Tehama, and then follow it almost all the way to Mount Shasta City. At the Pit River Bridge, we observe that the water in Shasta Lake is quite high this year. We make a 21-minute stop at Delta for a southbound UP manifest, but meet another at Gibson and a southbound UP double-stack at Sims without incurring any further delay.

Approaching Dunsmuir, two members of the TUT train crew come around confirming hotel assignments for the night, and since Chris Skow is right behind them, I ask him pointedly why people in a premium class who booked in the first week after the announcement (ourselves) are being sent to hotels 50 miles away (Yreka) from where the train will be parked tonight (McCloud). Chris tells me his tale of woe about cancellations, which is real enough, but I point out that our previous assignment was to the furthest distance hotel on the list he had then, apparently just because we’re at the end of the alphabet as far as names are concerned, and he has no capability (since he’s computer illiterate) of allocating things on any other basis than last name. In fact, he’s apparently even incapable of inverting the alphabetical list for the second night, and those who are furthest away on Saturday night will also be furthest away on Sunday night. Chris walks away in the middle of one of my sentences.

McCloud River Railroad Route Descriptions

We arrive at Mount Shasta City about 45 minutes late. Then, it takes over 45 minutes (rather than the allocated half hour) to split the train and add a McCloud Railroad locomotive to each segment. The locomotive on our second segment then overheats on the way up the 4% grade on the slope of Mount Shasta, and starts small fires along the lineside where railroad personnel are stationed to handle them, leading to a further loss of time. Radio traffic instructs the crew on the locomotive to open a small door on the long hood to open a valve that operates the shutters. Train handbrakes are set while this is going on. The anticipated photo runbys at the switchback on the line to McCloud are then complicated by our evident inability to reach McCloud before the dinner train (which some 70+ people from our excursion train have paid to ride). Finally, it is decided that these passengers will switch to the Dinner Train when all three trains meet at the switchback.

When we reach the latter, many passengers from our first segment are out on the hillsides taking photos, but not all of those who need to switch to the Dinner Train have left their car on the first segment, so our second segment and then that first segment are backed up until those passengers can get off at the switchover spot. Meanwhile, the Dinner Train arrives on the lower segment of track. Eventually, the passenger switch is made, all three trains are pulled into the tail track, the Dinner Train departs upwards, and we back down to McCloud, second segment first. This all takes from 6:25 to 7:15 pm.

The exigencies of the track layout at McCloud cause the second segment (that we’re on) to unload out by the roundhouse, with its passengers shuttled into the town on school buses. Then, at the station, there is considerable confusion as to which motor coach is going where, since the labeling on the buses doesn’t match that on the TUT manifest. Finally, all is sorted out, and an hour after arrival (and three hours after scheduled arrival, with no runby for those on the second segment) the buses depart for the hotels at 8:50 pm. It takes over an hour to get to Yreka, with a stop in Weed along the way, so we get there a little after 10 pm. Our departure for the return will be at 6:45 am, with that bus taking us only to Mount Shasta City (not McCloud, which denies us the opportunity to participate in the early morning activities at the McCloud Railroad’s yard). We eat dinner at the adjacent Denny’s and go to bed, with only seven hours remaining until we have to get up in the morning.

Sunday, July 3rd, 2005

Our 6:45 am bus from Yreka has to stop to pickup passengers this morning at more hotels than the one taking us there last night had dropped people off at. We hear that some passengers had had to pay (again) for their night’s stay, on the grounds that ‘no representative of TUT was there to authorize the charges against the TUT prepayment’! They will be refunded by TUT, on presentation of their hotel bills.

We’re dropped off by the bus at 8:10 am, at a grade crossing on the north side of Mount Shasta City (on the McCloud line), and board our segment of the train when it arrives (first) going backwards, at 8:22 am, some 37 minutes after the train’s scheduled arrival at this point. While we’re waiting here, we’re greeted by Doug Peterson (whom we had met on the previous October’s Montana by Steam trip), who is apparently staying locally. At the junction with the UP main line, the train is reassembled, but it then transpires that the lead locomotive (the privately-owned F9, in Black Widow colors) has an air leak in its controller, and it has to be removed from the train, leaving us with the two Amtrak P42s to haul us northwards. They’re perfectly up to that task, but the result is that by the time the train is reassembled and the brake tests made, it leaves Mount Shasta City about two hours late on the day’s plans (scheduled departure 8:45 am, actual departure 10:58 am). While the train is waiting here, the northbound Coast Starlight passes at 10:05 am (about four hours late), and southbound UP manifest and UP bare table trains also pass by.

Steve Sandberg comes around to tell us that the reason the toilet on this car failed on Saturday was that the car has a holding tank that is only good for 200 flushes (100 gallon tank at half a gallon per flush), and that we should thus conserve toilet capacity. He also tells us that the leak in the toilet is of fresh water, not sewage, and thus is not a health hazard. John Kirchner, car host, puts a sign on the toilet that later becomes an “out of order” sign again.

John Anderson appears and complains to John Kirchner about the ‘graffiti’ on the sign, after saying hello to us. Later, John Kirchner asks who the hell that was, telling him what to do, because John Anderson, although calling himself a train master for the front half of the train, has not been in any TUT car host meetings. It turns out that there is a shadow crew on the train, working for Burt Hermey, owner of Silver Lariat and the provider of the original five cars that TUT had signed up, to “do the things that Chris Skow’s people don’t seem to be doing”. John Anderson has seen Chris (Winter) making trash-bag runs in Super Dome and on that basis accuses John Kirchner of not doing his “job”. But the latter says that he was asked to come along as a “car guide”, and became aware of his car host responsibilities only after the excursion started. John Kirchner later complains to Chris Skow, and by Monday morning all seems to have been patched up.

[Klamath Falls to Chemult route description][Chemult to Portland route description]

A southbound UP manifest is waiting for us at Grass Lake. The train remains very late at Klamath Falls, where those who had opted to ride the “chase bus” from Mt. Shasta City finally get to reboard (1:42-2:00 pm, instead of 11:40/50 am), and naturally picks up no time at all crossing the Cascades. We meet a southbound UP manifest at Modoc Point and a southbound UP bare table train at Calimus. After an uninterrupted passage over the Crescent Lake and Cascade Summit segment, we have to stop fro seven minutes at Fields for another southbound UP bare table train. We then meet a southbound UP manifest (with helpers) at Heather, and another one, also with helpers, at McCredie Springs. We stop at Oakridge for 21 minutes, with a southbound UP manifest meeting us right after we’re stopped. No explanation for the additional 16-minute stop is available. The Lookout Point Reservoir, whose state of emptiness I had commented on on the way back from Montana in October 2004, is now completely full.

 Just when it seems that we might make up some time going into Eugene, where the dinners will be picked up, we’re stopped in Judkin, the last siding before Eugene, to meet a southbound UP manifest, and wait for the southbound Coast Starlight, which is also very late due to the UP trackwork blockade, to do its station work in Eugene before we pull in. As a result of this, we’re almost three-and-a-half hours late out of Eugene, in spite of taking only half an hour to load the dinners.

[Coos Bay Branch route description]

Darkness falls not far into the westward trip from Eugene, and the ca. 10 mph journey in darkness seems to last forever. At Beck’s siding, arrival time 12:10 am on Monday, we all load into school buses, which depart half an hour after arrival. Our 30 miles journey to Reedsport (rather than the nine mile journey to Florence that most passengers enjoyed) takes about 45 minutes (much too far for adults in a school bus, with luggage in their laps), and we get to bed in the hotel at about 2 am. Fortunately, the bus back to Florence won’t be until 10:30 am, allowing at least the possibility of a full night’s sleep, albeit much later than we would have liked.

Monday, July 4th, 2005

As advertised, the school bus and its driver are back at the hotel for a 10:30 am departure, taking us the 21 miles to the old town portion of Florence (down by the river, but not on the ocean), where we’re expected to have lunch and await a 1 pm departure to head back towards the train. We eat lunch, and then patronize the souvenir shops, buying some cat stuff. Then we ride the buses back towards the train, but not initially all the way. Instead, we stop just west of the Siuslaw River Drawbridge, where most of us pile off the buses and take up positions for a newly-instituted runby at this spot (to replace any thought of one later in the day).

As we stand along the edge of the Siuslaw River, facing south, news starts going around that one group of people had no hotel rooms at all last night, the hotel having given them away because no-one had called them to tell them that the expected guests would not be there until after midnight. Most of them had had to sleep in seats on the train overnight. (Calling the hotel would seem to me to have been Chris Skow’s responsibility, but even after the incident regarding prepayment the previous night, he seemed to think that prepayment guaranteed rooms no matter what.) With this news, I think better of my plan to confront Chris on the issue of sending the last people in the alphabet the furthest distance for both nights.

Someone else, however, does confront Chris—one of the mileage collectors, not someone who had no room for the might. This person is irate because he has not been provided with the means to go to the train and ride the few miles west from the siding to the drawbridge that the train is running for the photo runby. He demands that Chris give him a refund because of this omission. The screaming match almost becomes a shoving match until Al Weber steps between them and tries to explain the realities of running excursions (it’s the ‘daisy pickers’ that provide the critical mass to meet the minimum load) while Chris walks off yelling that he doesn’t want mileage collectors on his trips in future. This incident reflected poorly on both participants.

The photo runby goes well, however, with excellent photographs of the train on the drawbridge, as well as roster shots of all of the cars as they pass by on the bridge. Attached to Cedar Rapids are three CORP locomotives: 3819, slug 4166 and 4000, to haul the train back to Eugene. After beating the train back to the siding (the buses pass it alongside the road about two-thirds of the way along), we reboard the train. A woman who has been part of a four person group taking up all five seats at one end of the car, who is nowhere near first in line at the boarding spot, complains because no-one is giving way to let her board first (as a woman, it seems). When I suggest that such expectations should have gone away with women’s liberation/equality thirty years before, she accuses me of being “very angry”; it seems to me that she’s the one with the anger problem, at the loss of her supposed “female privileges”.

The return trip to Eugene is as slow as the outward one, but at least we can see the scenery (trees and river) this time. Largely because the train left the siding (loaded, eastbound) at 2:51 pm instead of 1 pm, we’re later than anticipated into Eugene (7:01/39 pm instead of 5:00/45 pm), but still ahead of both the southbound and northbound Coast Starlights. The latter finally makes it to Portland over eight hours late, just behind the special train. At 7:32 pm, Amtrak 11, the southbound Coast Starlight, pulls into the other platform at Eugene, but waits for our departure before opening the doors for passengers to unload.

There is a backlog of southbound freight trains (as well as Amtrak) due to the day’s blockade, so we eat the excellent dinner (as had been the previous night’s) as we wait from 8:01 to 8:49 pm in Alford, a siding about twenty miles north of Eugene, to meet Amtrak 506. We then back out of the siding and pass a northbound UP manifest waiting in the same siding. We meet a southbound UP manifest as we arrive at Shedd, and wait there ten minutes for a southbound UP bare table train. Darkness has fallen by the time we pass through Albany, with many people watching out for fireworks displays along the way. The train makes a brief stop in Salem to let the Millers off at almost 11 pm, and arrives in Portland Union Station at 11:58 pm (compared to the advertised 9:30 pm), which is good since there are persistent rumors that someone on the operating train crew goes ‘dead on the law’ at midnight.

The special train is split at the walkway before the passengers are allowed off, to permit the Amtrak passengers also to have access to the depot. The Amtrak train arrives as we reach the depot, and although our baggage has been unloaded from the train, the depot staff insists on dealing with the Amtrak passengers’ baggage first. When we have the checked bag, it transpires that there are only two of the four planned NRHS buses actually available for shuttling us to the hotel, so we have to wait for the buses to cycle around for a second trip. Chris Skow flees immediately after the train arrives!

At the hotel, there’s no reservation for us, even though we had confirmed its existence on Thursday. There are, however, two reservations for the “Donald Winters” from New Jersey, and it seems that they have checked in on our reservation, overriding our address in the system. Eventually, we get the room that wasn’t used, and are able to get to bed by 2 am (again), this time facing a 6 am alarm for our “7 am last bus” excursion in the morning.

In Portland (7/5-7/10)

Tuesday, July 5th, 2005

Today’s excursion is on the “Lewis & Clark Explorer”, the set of ex-BC Rail Budd RDCs operated by the State of Oregon on the Astoria Line, running west from the Portland area along the south bank of the Columbia River. For obscure reasons apparently having to do with Amtrak politics, this train starts from Lynnton, OR, first station along the Astoria line west of the BNSF junction. We do manage to be down at the lobby level, and out where the buses depart from, in time to be on the second bus departing the hotel for this excursion. At Lynnton, we manage to get forward facing seats on the middle RDC, right behind Joe and Elissa Williams. I’m interested to note that these are the exact same RDCs  (ex-BC 10, BC-31 and BC-11) that we had ridden on on the BC Rail trip in late 1997.

[Astoria Line route description]

The train gets started in a timely manner, backing out of its spur at 7:35 am and then heading forward along the line towards Astoria at 7:43 am. Among those we have seen for the first time at this convention, this morning, are Donald Bishop and Nina Lawford-Juviler, as well as Alex Mayes, who tells us he had retired during the previous week, and Teresa Reuter. Not long after we start, Nina comes by to talk to Chris. I’m somewhat surprised about how little of the Columbia River we can see during the early parts of the trip, while the line is still heading northward, but when the river does come in sight, the views are very interesting. Later in the trip, with the line heading west, there are three drawbridges over major inlets. At each one of them, a train must first stop at a stop sign, and then proceed at walking paces across the bridge. In each case, the bridge tender has first had to row out to the bridge and then swing it for rail traffic using a manual level system before we can cross. The same bridge tender drives to all three bridges for this purpose. We have a photo-runby at the middle one of them (Blind Slough), which amazingly takes only 18 minutes to accomplish.

Arriving at Astoria at 12:06 pm, we’re done with the rail portion of the trip, since the convention folks have arranged for two sections of riders, one of which (ourselves) has ridden westbound and will take the buses back to the hotel, while the other set has come to Astoria on the buses, and will ride the RDCs back to Lynnton. Chris and I start to walk towards the town center in search of lunch, and we encounter Jim Compton, who is in the second section and has already eaten lunch. He tells us that most of the restaurants are located near 11th Street, another four or five blocks away. We eat in a riverside restaurant in that area, and then ride the Astoria trolley out to the end of the line and back. On the trolley, a family that had eaten in the same restaurant proves to be carrying a kitten, and Chris takes pleasure in petting it.

Back at the buses, some 20 minutes before the planned departure time, the two buses that are sitting here are already almost full, with no double seats left. (The third bus has taken half a busload of people out to Fort Clatsop, and is late in returning (it hasn’t left there yet, a 45-minute drive away). I ask Kerrigan Gray, the bus host, who had been on the Inbound Excursion with us, and whom we had met on the train going to Minneapolis the previous year, if he would please arrange for two of the singles to move together to free up a double seat for us. He does this, but while he is doing it, Frances and Michael Mohr try to board that bus, and Frances is visibly and audibly angry when she is told that Kerrigan has arranged that seat for us, especially when she sees it is for us!

The two full buses leave on time (3 pm), leaving half a bus load of people to wait for the bus coming back from Fort Clatsop. Kerrigan wants to get at least these two buses back to Portland on time, so that he can get them out to Lynnton on time to meet the eastbound RDCs. To that end, rather than following the rail line east on the Oregon side of the river, we cross over to the Washington side at Longview and use I-5 south into Portland. As we get off, I complement Kerrigan on getting us to the hotel nine hours earlier than the last two nights, at which he laughs heartily!

Although we’re back at the hotel before 5 pm, neither of us wants to start on riding the MAX light rail system tonight, since we’re too tired from the lack of sleep, and instead we take a couple of hours nap before getting a pizza for dinner and going to bed early.

Wednesday, July 6th, 2005

We don’t need to be up quite as early this morning, as today’s steam-hauled excursion is departing from Portland Union Station at 9:30 am, and thus the last bus can be relatively late (for an NRHS Convention). In the stub platform on the southwest side of Portland Union Station, private cars Pointe St. Charles, J. Pinckney Henderson, Dover Harbor and Vista Canyon, not being used in any of the excursion trains, are parked for the duration of the convention. Today, we (intentionally) have Parlor/Lounge class, and ours turns out to be on the lower level of Silver Lariat, where we sit just behind the Al Webers. The train turns out to be hauled by both local 4-8-4s, ex-SP 4449 and ex-SP&S 700, a first in the preservation era. The line east to Wishram is too busy for photo runbys (and there are safety concerns as well), but there will be plenty of time to photograph both 4-8-4s during the reversal, rearrangement, and servicing period at Wishram. Before we’re allowed to board, we have to wait while the train is put back together, after being split at the depot walkway to allow access to the farther platform.

[Portland-Vancouver, WA, route description]

[Vancouver, WA-Wishram route description]

The train is turned over to the railroad on time (9:15 am), but doesn’t actually get started for another 23 minutes for BNSF operational reasons, and then stops twice more while leaving the station for another eight minutes delay. The trip east is uneventful, from my perspective at least. At 9:53 am, we meet the westbound Empire Builder on its way into Portland. From 10:28 to 10:34 am, we stop because the hot parts of the steam locomotives have triggered at hotbox detector. (We then ignore other detectors alarms from the same axles for the rest of the day.) At 11:58 am, we meet a westbound BNSFD manifest at North Dalles. We then stop from 12:17 to 12:34 pm in an area where the crew had hoped to hold a photo-runby, only to have permission refused by the dispatcher. At Wishram (arrive 1:15 pm), the barbecue lunch is excellent, and permits me time to photograph parts of the train turning process using the Oregon Trunk wye and bridge, the process of swapping the locomotives so that 4449 can lead on the return trip, since 700 had led eastbound, and the servicing process. However, passengers are not allowed to reboard the train until the latter is complete, which results in everyone standing around for a time period that is far too long for anyone (including most of the older passengers) with difficulties standing for lengthy periods of time (which includes both of us, even through we don’t yet qualify as ‘elderly’). While we are waiting, in addition to a westbound BNSF intermodal and two eastbound BNSF manifests, the eastbound trash train passes slowly through the platform track, offending everyone’s olfactory sensibilities.

The trip back to Portland, departing Wishram at 3:50 pm, is also uneventful, at least for us. We meet an eastbound BNSF manifest at North Dalles, stop for ten minutes to respond to an “excessive alarms” message from a hotbox detector, meet an eastbound BNSF manifest at Bingen-White Salmon, an eastbound bare table train and an eastbound manifest at Stevenson (seven minute wait for the latter) and an eastbound intermodal at Skariania. On the way out, we had passed the westbound Portland section of the Empire Builder, more or less on time, and on the way back we meet that same train heading east at Skarmania, again more or less on time (costing us a 15 minute delay). On the way back, we hear the distressful news that Martin O’Rourke, leader of the Washington DC Chapter and the Dover Harbor maintenance crew, has died recently. The train arrives back at Portland Union Station at 7:05 pm.

This evening, we’re not too tired to ride the light rail on the Red Line, out to the airport and back into the city center, where we have a Chinese dinner in Portland’s Chinatown.

Thursday, July 7th, 2005

Today’s excursion is over the eastern portion of the Port of Tillamook Bay Railroad—our third crossing, on this trip, of the Oregon coastal mountains without actually reaching the Pacific Ocean The POTB’s most easterly point is at Banks, OR, so we take buses for the hour or so ride out there. The buses deposit us at Banks while the railroad is still switching both our train and a wood products train that will soon be heading eastward on the Portland & Western, POTB’s current connection at Banks. During the wait, we run into Bob and Diane Heavenrich for the first time this trip, and see (but I, at least, don’t speak to) Helen and Smoke Shaak, also for the first time this trip.

As word filters around that the excursion is only going to the far side of the rugged section over the summit, nowhere near the coast or the Port of Tillamook Bay itself, some passengers are disconcerted to find that this trip is not covering the whole railroad. After a while, passengers are segregated according to their boarding locations—for lounge service one way, for coach service another, and we move towards the rear of where the train will board, a road crossing some tens of yards east of the depot. Eventually, the train pushes back to the boarding location, and we board the train at 9:15 am.

Chris and I, along with Bob Brewster, Donald & Nina, and some others we know, are all assigned to the round-end observation car on the rear—the one used by the 4449 folks on their own private train. Except for the two coaches used to strengthen the trainset that had been used by TUT on the Inbound Excursion for Wednesday’s steam run, the trainset used today is quite different from the one we had ridden over the weekend and on Wednesday. On entering the James J. Gilmore, it is quite clear that it does not have anything resembling the original furnishings for a round-end observation—it is outfitted with plastic tables and chairs! Chris and I sit down at a table for two that is not far from the table that will be used for food serving during the course of the excursion. John Bawden, of Philadelphia, another acquaintance from past conventions whom we had not had a chance to talk with this trip, is at the next table with Ken Brooks of the Washington DC Chapter.

[POTB route description]

The train finally departs at 9:23 am. This is going to be another slow trip across heavily wooded mountains, with not a lot scenery-wise to distinguish it from the slow trip across the Coos Bay Line. But first, as we head northwest across the flatlands east of the coastal range, there’s breakfast to be served. In the mountains, there are a number of places that have recently been clear-cut logged, which we learn on this trip is necessary for the re-growth of the species of trees found in the Pacific Northwest, which will not grow in the shade of other trees. Logging, of course, is the reason for the continued existence of this railroad line. A long tunnel near the summit of the line is having its lining replaced, and piles of the old timber lining lay along the lineside on both sides of the tunnel.

Lunch is served, quasi buffet-style, after crossing the summit. On the downslopes, the cars keep ‘snatching’ (slack action) as people are standing in line at the buffet. At the turnaround point, there will be a photo runby, but matters are complicated by the presence of two logging cars in the siding. So, as we arrive (1:06 pm), the lead two locomotives (still in BN cascade green, although lettered for POTB) are cut off and placed in the east end of the siding. Then the train pulls forward with the remaining POTB-painted unit leading the train, so we can get down for the photo-run (1:20 – 2:16 pm). The train backs up, and when it runs forward, it proves to have the other two units on the rear. A second run is made in the other direction, after which the train goes out of sight to the east. When it returns for boarding, there is no locomotive on the western end. By the time we depart eastward, the other locomotive is on the front end of the three locomotive consist, right where it would have been if the siding had been available for the run-around.

The return is as slow as the outbound trip, with the train grinding its way up the grade on the west side of the summit, and a required crew change at Cochran (3:42/45 pm), but loading the buses goes quickly and we’re all back at the hotel by 7:30 pm. this is too late for more light-rail riding, since we can’t be sure restaurants would still be open after a ride, and eating first would result in darkness falling before we could ride. So, we eat dinner at a local pancake house and go to bed relatively early.

Friday, July 8th, 2005

We’re in the second group for the Brooklyn (Yard) Roundhouse tour, departing at 8:30 am, so we’re up a bit later than Thursday, about the same as Wednesday. There are two buses cycling between the hotel and the roundhouse, with each group allowed a nominal one hour at the roundhouse location. Since the bus trip takes only ten minutes (if there are no traffic problems), the time available may be a bit more than an hour. When we get to the roundhouse, before 8;45 am, the people from the first group, including the Heavenriches and several other people that we know (including Jim Compton) have just about concluded their look around, having watched both ex-SP&S 700 and ex-SP 4449 moved from the roundhouse, using the turntable to position them on two outside turntable tracks.

We get to watch as 700 moves onto the turntable and turns completely around before moving back to where it had been before. We look into the roundhouse, admiring Doyle McCormick’s refurbished PA in Nickel Plate colors and the steam locomotive that is being refurbished. We also look at the other diesel locomotives in the immediate area. When it becomes clear that even if we wait here until 10 am, we won’t be seeing 4449 take a spin on the turntable, we ask if there’s space on the first bus as it leaves (after bringing the third group over from the hotel), and since there is, we get on. I sit and chat with Jim on the way back to the hotel.

With over three hours to go before the start of the Board Meeting, Chris and I decide to take the Light Rail’s Blue Line all the way out to Hillsborough and back, through the tunnel under Mount Washington and on out through Beaverton. This round trip takes from 10 am until almost 12:30 pm, which leaves time for lunch in the hotel (but nowhere else), so that’s what we do.

The Board Meeting has some required votes, but nothing of earth-shatering importance (other than that no-one is yet signed up for the 2007 Convention), since the By-Laws revision (a complete replacement package) had been debated at great length (with much disagreement, apparently, before its eventual approval) at the Spring Board Meeting in Cumberland, MD. The By-Laws issue dominates the Annual Membership Meeting that follows, including much debate of the voting rules as well as motions to table (postpone) the issue for a year, and to remove the provisions for weighted voting that are part and parcel of the proposal for representation of the Associate Members (who will soon be “At Large members”) without providing them with the required number of actual representatives (who might be hard to find) commensurate with their fraction of overall society membership. Eventually, after much use of parliamentary procedures, resort to the legal requirements of incorporation in Maryland, a member standing on a chair to shout a point, and two visits requesting that the meeting hurry up since the hotel staff needs to reconfigure the area for the banquet, the new bylaws are approved, and the meeting concludes after a diversion when a vagrant requests that instead of arguing about bylaws the group should contribute to world peace.

At the banquet, we’re joined at our table by Charlie Bach, from San Diego, and his new girlfriend Miriam. The highlight of the banquet is the speeches by Doyle McCormick and Steve Lee on the future of steam excursions, with much banter between the two (who are apparently great friends). The banquet winds up before 10 pm, allowing a good night’s sleep before another “7 am last bus” (actually, this one is 7:15 am) departure for the Saturday excursion activity.

Saturday, July 9th, 2005

Today’s excursion covers the full southward length of the Mount Rainier Scenic Railroad from Elbe to Morton, WA, with return as far as Mineral before reboarding the buses for the return. The bus trip is scheduled for 150 minutes, but in the event takes only 120 each way. When we arrive at Elbe, at 9:15 am, the railroad is still switching the open cars into the train (having assumed that overnight rain would preclude their use). Our train will be hauled by the railroad’s Heisler and Climax logging locomotives (with their Shay apparently unavailable). Eventually, all is ready and we board. Chris is ahead of me, and finds good seats, but then thinks she must be behind me and continues through the train looking for me. I, however, have boarded considerably behind her, and not noticing our bag on the seats continue through the train looking for her!

Mount Rainer Scenic Route Description

The train sets off at 9:53 am. Mount Rainier is not visible from the usual vista point at the through girder Nisqually River Bridge, being obscured by residual clouds. There is a photo runby at the line’s summit at Divide, from 11:27 to 11:57 am, after which the brake retainers on the cars are set for the descent to Morton. At 12:30 pm, the retainers are cleared. At Morton, in the Cowlitz River Valley, passengers are bused to the Community Hall for a barbecue lunch, while the train is serviced. (The latter requires cutting off the first locomotive before entering the east leg of the ‘wye’ at Morton, and later requires setting the train back into that leg before boarding and adding the second locomotive on the front. Only the locomotives are turned.) The train departs Morton at 2:45 pm.

The projected runby on the return journey is canceled due mainly to the railroad’s fears that the two locomotives might not be able to restart the loaded train on the uphill gradient, but also because departure from Morton is almost an hour late. The train stops from 3:43 to 4:00 pm to service the locomotives. As the train heads slowly northward, the temperature in the closed coaches climbs steadily, with many passengers falling asleep as a result. At Mineral, the last service train of the day (they run only between Elbe and Mineral Lake) comes alongside, and then makes a run-past for the benefit of both sets of passengers, before it heads back to Elbe. Our train reverses into the spur at the railroad’s shops at Mineral, where at 5:02 pm we leave the hot train for the cool buses and a quick (two hours) run back to Portland, arriving at 7:30 pm.

This again leaves no time for both Light Rail riding and dinner, so we opt for the certainty of dinner before going to bed with no early deadline the next day!

Sunday, July 10th, 2005

On Sunday morning, we pack the bags for departure, but there’s plenty of time before we actually need to check out of the hotel. So, we head off to ride the Light Rail Yellow Line, north to the Expo Center near the Columbia River. This requires taking a Blue line or Red Line train west to the Rose Quarter station (or beyond to the Chinatown station), and (at Rose Quarter) walking forward one block to the Yellow Line’s platforms there. Even on Sunday morning, there proves to be a quite frequent service on the yellow line, and we’re soon heading north past UP’s Albina Yard and then out to the end of the line. We return on the same train, and continue on it across the Steel Bridge and through downtown Portland to its western end at 10th Avenue, SW, whence we walk north three blocks to visit Powell’s Bookstore.

We return to the hotel on another Light Rail train, check out of the room, and leave the bags with the Bell Captain until after lunch, for which we walk to a local restaurant. On returning from lunch, the hotel’s van is already shuttling people over to Union Station for our 2:25 pm departure, so we reclaim the bags, and take the next shuttle over there.

The Journey South (7/10-7/11)

Sunday, July 10th, 2005 (cont.)

After we check two bags through to Bakersfield, we go to the First Class lounge, where we see that Jim Compton, Barry Smith, Bob Brewster, and Mike Crockett (of the Washington DC Chapter) are already there. The southbound Coast Starlight is ahead of time arriving from Seattle, and we get to board in plenty of time for me to walk the platform and collect the consist before departure. However, the four private cars providing TUT’s return service are not yet on the back of the train, and I don’t wait on the station platform for them to appear. In the train, Mike Crockett proves to have the room directly across from us, Barry Smith has the room adjacent to Mike’s, and Bob Brewster is downstairs in the same car.

Because of the time taken in hooking up the four private cars on the rear, the train is a few minutes late departing Portland. However, it loses no more time heading up the Willamette River Valley until UP decides to make it wait for a northbound freight train (or two) at Swain, the last siding north of Eugene. The first freight train then suffers a failure, and it is 111 minutes (4:58-6:49 pm) before it crawls past and the second one follows it, making us over two hours late out of Eugene. Amtrak 14, our northbound counterpart, leaves Eugene at 7:03 pm (over six hours late) as we arrive.

Meanwhile Barry, Bob, and ourselves have arranged to eat dinner together, and we get a reservation for four at 8 pm. In the event, the dining car staff is slow, we pass Oakridge at 8:03 pm, and it’s more like 8:30 pm before we get to sit down in the diner for a reasonable meal and a much better conversation. Not long after dinner we go to bed, still north of the stop at Chemult.


P42                  120
P42                  113
F59PH             456
Baggage           1222
Transition         39021
Sleeper 32042
Sleeper 32129
Sleeper 32073
Pacific Parlor    39974
Diner                38056
Lounge 33048
Coach              34078
Coach              34510
Coach              34093
Coach              34082
Private              Vista Canyon
Private              SP 3105
Private              Silver Rapids
Private              Sierra Hotel

Train 11, 7-10-2005




2:05 pm
2:25 pm





























Monday, July 11th, 2005

I wake this morning at Tehama (6:37 am), before the train makes its stop at Chico, from which it is clear that the train is now 3 hours and 20 minutes late. After breakfast in the diner, where PA announcements seem not to be heard, Jim Compton stops us in the pacific Parlor Car to tell us we’ll be detraining at Sacramento and taking a bus to Stockton for train 714. I find this hard to believe, since at the present pace train 11 will be in Martinez a half hour before train 714 is due to pass through there, but we can’t do anything about Amtrak’s decision. From 8:34 to 8:37, we stop for a northbound UP container train at Del Paso

We arrive in Sacramento at 8:52 am, surely in plenty of time to catch a train leaving Martinez at 10:58 pm, just an hour’s travel ahead? After we leave the train, I head for the rear to list and photograph the four private cars. I can’t initially see all of them, since they’re around the big curve on the east end of the station, but eventually the train moves up to bring them around and I can do so. I joke with Bob Brewster (who is heading east on train 6 today) about what is taking the train so long in the station, since by the time it leaves it has been there an hour and my margin of time ahead of 714 at Martinez has been used up.

In Stockton, the PA tells us that the leading coach of train 714 has been kept completely empty for passengers boarding at Stockton, for which we are grateful, as it fills up almost completely with passengers boarding here. Immediately on leaving Stockton, it becomes clear that the locomotive pushing the train has a problem with its Head-End Power (HEP), and eventually a crewmember has to ride in the locomotive to restart the HEP when it goes down. We meet a westbound BNSF manifest at Riverbank, a westbound BNSF trailer train at Empire, a westbound BNSF double-stack at Figarden, and a northbound BNSF double-stack at Bowles.


Cab Car           8301    Mount Wilson
Café                 8810    Owens Valley
Coach              8031    Mathole ? River
Coach              7205    Monterey Bay
F59PH             CDTX 2008

Train 714, 7-11-2005

































At Hanford, a track on the side away from the depot is currently completely removed between road crossings. We pass an eastbound BNSF manifest at Corcoran West, and meet a westbound BNSF manifest at Corcoran East, one at Allensworth, another one at Elmo, and a westbound double-stack at Wasco. We stop from 4:07 to 4:12 for train 717 at Shafter and meet a westbound SJVR as we enter Bakersfield Amtrak station.

As a result of a couple of stops to restart the HEP and reboot the locomotive’s computer, the train is almost half an hour late arriving in Bakersfield. (This fact is of considerable concern to people from the Coast Starlight who had been booked on train 712 to connect with the Southwest Chief in Los Angeles, who had then hoped to use a bus connection from Bakersfield to San Bernardino to catch up with that train, and who now must use our bus to get to Victorville (which has no station facilities at all) to make that connection.) We give our baggage claim checks to the bus driver, who arranges for our checked bags to be transferred to the bus. It’s a little after 5:30 pm when the bus drops us off in Tehachapi, and we’re home before 6 pm.