NRHS Board Meeting in San Jose, November 2nd-7th, 2005

Don Winter


The first NRHS Board Meeting since I was appointed as a National Director for At-Large members, following the adoption in Portland of the new by-laws permitting this, sees us going just 300 miles up to San Jose. Taking advantage of our presence there, we choose to add a day before the scheduled events to permit us to ride a segment of BART and some segments of the San Jose area’s VTA Light Rail system that we haven’t previously been able to ride. In conjunction with the places we will go as part of the scheduled events, we will then have ridden all of BART, the Muni Railway, and the VTA Light Rail.

The Journey North (11/2)

Wednesday, November 2nd, 2005

As usual, we take the bus from Tehachapi at 11:55 am, riding down the mountain to Bakersfield, where we check the luggage through to San Jose and board the train.


F59PH             2011
8201                San Francisco Bay
8002                San Joaquin River
8807                Imperial Valley
8303                Mount Diablo

Train 715, 11-2-2005




1:15 pm

1:22 pm




























Bakersfield to Stockton route description

The train departs late due to a late arriving connecting bus. Due to several events involving an airbrake connecting hose that comes loose between the locomotive and the leading passenger car, the train loses about 25 minutes on the way to Stockton. This means that darkness falls before we reach Stockton, rather than as we arrive there, as I had anticipated. Nonetheless, I make a reasonable number of additional notes on the route description that I’m carrying with me, getting it ever closer (along with the notes made on the return trip) to a complete representation of reality.

In the southern part of the San Joaquin Valley, the cotton fields have been harvested. A day that started out sunny with partial high clouds becomes thick cloud north of Shafter, but further north the sun comes back out and at various points we can see both the foothills west of Yosemite and the coastal mountains around Mount Diablo between the Livermore valley and the San Joaquin Valley (not possible in summer due to haze).

On the way north, we pass or meet the following trains:
1:12 pm, BNSF 4040, 903, 4476, 4368, wb UPS trailers in Bakersfield (& 6:15 pm in Stockton)
1:15 pm, BNSF 973, 4689, 4065, 4508, eb UPS trailers @ E. end of Bakersfield Yard
1:27 pm, BNSF 4605, 7657, wb coal train @ W. end of Bakersfield Yard
1:32 pm, Amtrak train 712 @ Lopez
1:36 pm, eb double-stack @ Una
3:23 pm, eb double-stack at East Bowles
3:26 pm, Amtrak train 714 @ Bowles
3:55 pm, nb manifest with both head-end and rear power @ Gregg
4:30 pm, Amtrak train 716 @ Le Grand (causing us an 8-minute delay)

In Stockton, the two buses taking people to Sacramento and beyond are ready and waiting, but the San Jose bus doesn’t show up for another 20 minutes, and ends up leaving Stockton at 6:20 pm. Of the four timetabled stops along the way, we only have riders wanting to go to Livermore and Dublin, so we omit the Tracy and Fremont stops. Livermore proves to be at the ACE train station and local bus station, and one of the eastbound ACE trains makes its stop while we’re at the bus stop there. The Dublin stop is in the bus station adjacent to the BART station in the freeway median there, to which we will return briefly on Thursday.

We reach San Jose Diridon at about 7:50 pm. and take a taxi to the Doubletree Hotel near the San Jose airport, where we eat a less-than-inspiring meal in the coffee shop before going to bed.

In San Jose (11/3-6)

Thursday, November 3rd, 2005

We awake to a beautifully sunny day in San Jose, and are out at the Metro-Airport VTA Light Rail stop before 8:30 am. We just miss a train going in the direction we want to go, so after we buy our day passes for the VTA system, we have almost 30 minutes to wait before a car going to Winchester comes along. That station is at the end of the new line following the ex-SP Vasona branch, which turns away from the line to Santa Teresa, that we had ridden back in 1992, at the San Jose Convention Center. On the way south on First Street, we are treated to a dissertation on today’s African-American political science by a group of people sitting immediately behind us on their way to college/work for the day. We are not supportive of the message, but keep that to ourselves.

From the west end of the Convention center, the new line turns north until it reaches the street across the north end of Diridon station, where it turns west, passes under the Coast Line tracks, and turns south to its stop at the west end of the pedestrian subway under Diridon station. Thence the line turns southwest alongside the former SP branch and follows that line out into Campbell, where the line ends at the Winchester station. We return on the same line as far as Diridon, where we walk through the pedestrian subway to the depot, buy our round-trip tickets on Caltrain to San Francisco, patronize the snack bar, and read the notices on the ongoing bus bridge around the UP track work on the line between Santa Clara and Newark to discover that the work will prevent us from riding Amtrak Capitol trains on that line on the coming Sunday.

San Jose to Santa Clara route description    Santa Clara to San Francisco route description

We take the 10:10 am train 139, headed north, which keeps time all the way to its destination. I take the opportunity to make copious notes on my embryonic route description of this line, on which we will travel four times between Mountain View and Millbrae, three times between Mountain View and San Francisco, and twice all the way between San Jose and San Francisco, in the next three days. Arriving at San Francisco’s 4th & King Caltrain terminal four minutes before the appointed 11:41 am, we transfer to a Muni N-line tramcar and ride it up the Mission Bay line, past the baseball stadium, and then down into the tunnel to Embarcadero, where we detrain.

We eat lunch at a fast food café up on Market Street, before returning to the station to take the BART line under the bay and out on the segment from San Leandro to Dublin/Pleasanton, which we have not ridden before. As the train passes over the viaduct segment in West Oakland (both ways), I take some photographs of the railroad infrastructure in the Desert Yard, West Oakland, and harbor areas. The line east to Dublin runs in the median of I-580 across the East Bay hills. We return directly from Dublin on the next train after arrival, transferring back to Muni N at Embarcadero, and catching the 3:07 pm Caltrain 158 from 4th & King as far as Mountain View, where we arrive two minutes late (4:17 pm) after being as much as three minutes late earlier on the trip south.

Here, we cross the tracks to the VTA Light Rail station, after being surprise by an empty Caltrain blasting northwards at track speed, hidden by the train we had just left until the last moment. A 35-minute ride on the 4:27 pm trolley, through the office and light-industrial areas of Mountain View, Sunnyvale, Santa Clara and San Jose takes us to the Karina VTA station (the next one north of Metro-Airport), from which we walk back under US 101 to the hotel.

Here, we stop at the NRHS registration desk to get our tickets for the next two days and our ‘goody bag’, chat with arriving friends for a while, and repair to our room until it’s time for dinner, for which we walk back to the Denny’s next to the Karina light rail station.

Friday, November 4th, 2005

Rain has fallen overnight, and heavy overcast is present, as we arise to catch the bus to the first excursion of the weekend. In the lobby, on the way to the buses, we meet Greg Molloy, who points out Bill Chapman across the room, and then run into Donald Bishop and Nina Lawford-Juviler. We also chat with Chris Parkin, from southern California, whom we had met on the R&LHS Tehachapi trip three weeks before. We see some other folks from that area who are here just for the excursions, as well.

The two buses take the 68 excursionists over to Sunol, in Niles canyon, where there is a former SP depot, used as a gift shop etc., and from which the Pacific Locomotive Association runs its excursions on this former SP line. This is the “original Western Pacific” (in contrast with the later one that merged with UP in 1982) completion of the first transcontinental railroad, built between Sacramento and the Bay Area over Altamont Pass in 1865, and abandoned in 1984 by SP. There is no train present when we arrive at 8:30 am, so we all mill around, in intermittent showers, as the Central Coast Chapter folks try to find out where their train is. While we’re here, Dianne Pastorino walks up to introduce herself, and her husband Braley. At 9:00 am, the gift shop opens, but after inspection we buy nothing. At about 9:15 am, a train arrives, headed by former SP passenger GP-9 5623 now restored in black widow colors, hauling two Harriman-style former SP commute coaches and a gondola all decorated for the line’s Xmas train. This leaves westward at 9:20 am, a bit later than anticipated. (The PLA claims we were scheduled for 10 am.)

The line to the west of Sunol runs through Niles canyon, passing the PLA’s facilities, where its other locomotives and cars are stored, many awaiting restoration but some quite beautifully restored, before entering the narrowest part of the canyon (the part that the parallel ex-WP line bypasses in tunnel), in which it crosses both river and two-lane road twice on through-truss bridges. At the west end of the line, adjacent to an operating UP line in Niles, we have a photo runby before reboarding the train and returning eastward. We pass our starting point and continue to the east end of the operable line, at Haystack Road, almost to Hearst. We then have another runby just a little bit further west before finishing up at Sunol again at about 11:30 am.

One bus is going direct to Roaring Camp for this afternoon’s excursion on the Roaring Camp & Big Trees railroad, while the other will stop at the hotel on the way. We travel on the direct bus, passing through San Jose and then up into the Santa Cruz Mountains, descending to Felton on the south side, and proceeding to the tourist line’s facilities. Lunch is a barbecue in the hall at Roaring Camp. As we board the train of narrow gauge cars hauled by “Dixiana”, a Shay geared steam locomotive, we discover that some of the excursionists have wandered off, and we have to wait for a few minutes until Wes Ross is located before we can leave for our trip up the mountain to Big Trees, up on Bear Mountain, site of some California Redwoods.

It transpires that this tourist railroad was built as a tourist railroad in the 1960s, and has never been a logging railroad, in spite of appearances. The original route up the mountain used a high wooden trestle at one point, but it burned in the 1970s and that part of the route was bypassed in favor of the two switchbacks used today. The ruling grade on the line is 7.5%. Both ends of the line have loops for turning the train as part of the normal operations, so we go backwards only on the middle segment of the switchbacks. The locomotive is at the front of the train the rest of the way.

We have a photo “run”-by at the upper loop at Bear Mountain, elevation 800 ft. (500 ft. above the base), where the conductor also gives a short lecture on redwood trees, and on the return are taken to the line’s shops for a tour of their equipment and facilities in relatively small groups. Then, the buses take us back to the hotel. Once there, the new National Directors (and Alternates) for At-Large Members have an introductory meeting with some of the officers (Greg Molloy, Barry Smith, and Jeff Smith), and we get to meet Clifford Larson and Jack Hilborn for the first time, with the Pastorinos, Bill Chapman (who will have the proxy of Charles Bogart at the Board Meeting on Sunday), and ourselves also in attendance. After individual introductions, Greg gives some background on NRHS for those who are new to its meetings, and there is then a useful discussion of what the new Directors might do, and how National NRHS could change to provide more services at the national level.

Saturday, November 5th, 2005

After rain in the morning on Friday, and clouds the rest of the day, Saturday is brilliantly sunny. We rise early because the buses are leaving at 7:30 am. In spite of agreements made on Friday evening, Jeff Smith doesn’t show up on Saturday morning for our (his and my) planned discussion on the way up to San Francisco, so that discussion never occurs.

The buses take only 15 minutes to get to San Jose Diridon station, where our Caltrain is waiting on track 3. It has an extra car at the rear for our exclusive use, and is pushed by “Baby Bullet” locomotive 923. Chris gets seats up in the gallery section, facing forward. Such that she is sitting with Dr. Albert Howe, from St. Louis, Midwest Regional Vice President until the Board Meeting on Sunday. Also up in this part of the gallery section are Bob & Diane Heavenrich, Donald and Nina, David Flinn, Wes and Shirley Ross, and others we know. The train (423) leaves at 8 am, and stops at all stations on the way up, including two that we did not stop at on Thursday!

In San Francisco, after a bathroom break, we board two historic streetcars, Muni 1007 and 130, at the Muni 4th & King station. Car 1007 is a PCC car painted in maroon and black, representing Philadelphia Suburban, while car 130 is a 1914 car painted in San Francisco Municipal Railway’s old blue & yellow colors.

To start with, we follow the N line around as far as the place where it descends into the tunnel, where we take the surface track around the tunnel entrance and continue northward on the F-line along the Embarcadero as far as Fisherman’s Wharf, where we take the turnback track to avoid being trapped behind cars laying over at the terminus. Back at the Ferry Building, we take the F-line track onto Market Street (the surface line, not the tramway tunnel that these cars are not permitted to use) and head out Market Street to the location just beyond Church Street where we turn south, east, and south again onto Church Street to pick up the route of the J-Church line after it has emerged from the tramway tunnel.

We make a photo stop at Mission Dolores Park, which has a grand view of the city center that I had admired when we passed here going the other way on the 1992 Muni trolley tour, but now have the ability to photograph. We then continue out the J-line to the vicinity of the Muni carbarns at Mission and Ocean, near the Balboa Park BART station, where our 1992 tour had started, and continue along Mission on the M-line, whose route we take around to the north on Route 1, past San Francisco State University, and then northeast to the West Portal of the trolley tunnel under Twin Peaks, where we turn west on the L-Taraval line to the spot where that line turns south to the zoo and we use the stub track at that point to layover long enough for a bathroom break (at a spot that Jeff Ferrier, the tour leader, says is a bad place, but which seems just fine at this time of day).

To this point, Chris and I had been riding in PCC 1007, but we now transfer to the other car, 130, for the rest of the tour. We return on the L-line to West Portal, whence we take the K-line outbound along the same route as the M-line to Ocean Boulevard, where it turns east on that street through the Ingleside district, past San Francisco City College, and again to the Muni carbarn. Here, we turn south onto Mission again, and leave the trolleys to walk over to the BART Balboa Park station just a few yards to the west. After three trains going only to Daly City, we board a train going to the airport and the end of the line at Millbrae, adjacent to the Caltrain station there, arriving at 2:10 pm. We cross the pedestrian bridge to the southbound Caltrain platform, where we board the train (434) that had left San Francisco at 2 pm, and is due to depart Millbrae at 2:24 pm. As we board our added car, up behind the F40 PH, the conductor asks if Mr. (Art) Lloyd is here, which he is somewhere. We depart Millbrae three minutes late, at 2:27 pm.

We leave the train at Mountain View at 3:15 pm, five minutes late, with the group walking over to the VTA Light rail station, where we are prevented from boarding the trolley until A Central Coast Chapter person can show our group ticket to the tram driver, taking the VTA light rail train to Karina station and walking back to the hotel en masse. At 4:30 pm, there is a pre-meeting meeting of the Board of Directors, designed to allow questions to be raised and comments made outside the formal record that will be made at the actual board meeting on Sunday. After a cocktail hour at 6 pm, the banquet follows at 7 pm, with entertainment being an audiovisual slide show on the Salinas valley portion of the Coast Line, by Elrond Lawrence. Everyone else at our table is from upstate New York, including Donald and Nina, William Sanders from Champlain valley, and a couple representing the Rochester Chapter. Amazingly, the banquet is over by 9 pm, meaning that we don’t have to go to bed immediately afterwards, and can watch some of the late football game.

Sunday, November 6th, 2005

The NRHS Board Meeting this morning is at 8:30 am. We’re a few minutes late for it, since we made an incorrect assumption about how we could get to that room from our hotel room, but we still get there before the meeting is called to order. Interestingly, the National Directors for At-Large Members all end up sitting in a cluster in two adjacent rows, intentional only on the part of those who came later. In spite of being completely non-controversial, the meeting overruns its stated end time of noon by almost an hour, requiring some people to leave before the end of the meeting to catch their booked transportation home.

For me, the big news of the meeting was in the agenda: our long-time convention companion Whayne McGinniss has died. Presumably, although this event has been since the Portland convention, that explains his absence at the convention, also. Much of the meeting dwells on the difficulties national NRHS is having with getting enough volunteer resources to perform the needed tasks, but some of us notice that those making the complaints don’t seem to be offering to help, and that some of the needed tasks must take place in Philadelphia and this cannot be performed by those of us living elsewhere in the country.

After the meeting, and after chatting with new Midwest RVP Al Weber in the hotel lobby, Chris and I set out for the Karina light rail station, to ride the one leg of the VTA system that we haven’t been on already. On the way, we run into Bob and Diane Heavenrich, who are doing the same thing but starting out heading in the other direction from ourselves. We ride out First Street, turn east through Milpitas, and then south back into San Jose along Capitol Avenue to the end of the line at Alum Rock, have lunch at a Hometown Buffet at a shopping center next to the McKee station, and return to Karina the same way we came. Later, we walk back to Denny’s for dinner.

The Journey South (11/7)

Monday, November 7th, 2005

After two days of sunshine, today has heavy overcast both in the Bay Area and the San Joaquin Valley. After checking out of the hotel, we take a taxi at about 8:30 am over to Diridon Station, where we check the luggage to Bakersfield, and whence our bus to Stockton leaves at 9:20 am. The bus driver uses his cell ‘phone to find out that there is a massive traffic accident on I-680, so he uses I-880 to I-580 (with the BART Dublin line in the freeway median) as the route today, missing the Fremont stop but making those at Dublin, Livermore, and Tracy. We get to Stockton about 15 minutes ahead of the train to which the bus is a connection.


F59PH             2012
8201                San Francisco Bay
8002                San Joaquin River
8807                Imperial Valley
8303                Mount Diablo

Train 714, 11-7-2005




















1:56/ 2:10













Train 714 is on time departing Stockton, and indeed is well ahead of time arriving at each station down the line until Hanford, where it has to wait for train 715 to clear the station before proceeding into it. The track layout in the ten miles or so north of Hanford has changed, with a new segment of double track (Two Main Tracks) apparently replacing the single track between a couple of sidings, with two newly-installed sets of crossovers replacing the south end of the more northerly siding and a set of intermediate signals between sidings. Because train 714 crosses over to the easterly track for the Hanford station stop, and we’re sitting on the east side of the trains, it isn’t truly clear how far south the two tracks continue in this revised track layout.

Trains that we meet or pass on the way south include:
12:15 pm, wb manifest @ Riverbank
12:24 pm, wb double-stack @ Modesto-Empire Junction
12:49 pm, wb trailers @ Fluhr
1:07 pm, wb double-stack @ Planada
1:13 pm Amtrak train 713 @ LaGrand
1:20 pm, wb intermodal @ Sharon
1;25 pm, wb manifest @ kismet
1:53 pm, Kyle RR Geep on SJVR @ Hammond
2:01 pm, wb manifest, led by BNSF 4000, @ Fresno
2:25 pm, eb trailers @ Bowles
2;28 pm, wb trailers @ Conejo
2;57 pm, Amtrak train 715 (loco 2014), n. of Hanford
4:08 pm, Amtrak train 717 @ Una

Our train is as much as 20 minutes late after the delay at Hanford, but gets to Bakersfield only five minutes late. On walking the train after arrival, it transpires that the set of coaches is the same set we had ridden on northbound the previous week! The bus to Tehachapi (and beyond) is waiting, and our bags are transferred to it. We leave the bus at the Burger King and use our car, parked in the K-Mart lot, to get the rest of the way home, arriving before 6 pm.