Cascade Rails
June 17-28, 2011

Don Winter


This trip was to attend the 2011 NRHS Convention in Tacoma, WA. As usual, we traveled out and back on Amtrak.

The Journey North (6/17-6/19)

Friday, June 17th, 2011

Since the Coast Starlight leaves mid-morning, we would have to arise at dawn to pack and drive down to Los Angeles in time to check bags before the deadline (allowing contingency time). So, we opt to drive down the day before and spend the night at the Metro Plaza Hotel, across from the station. (We also choose not to depend on boarding the train at Emeryville or Oakland, after a trip up there in a San Joaquin, since that will often not occur until too late in the evening for sufficient sleep.)

We leave home a bit before 2 pm, and drive the usual route through Lancaster and Palmdale (and Pasadena) to LA's Chinatown area, getting there somewhat after 4 pm. After checking-in at the hotel, we walk over to Union Station and get the tickets out of the machine. Later, we go to our usual restaurant on Olvera Street for dinner.

Saturday, June 18th, 2011

We get up this morning, have the included breakfast, and check-out of the hotel. At checkout, we encounter Dave Arthur, who has just come in on Train 3, and is passing the time until his Metrolink train by using the computer in the lobby. We chat for a few minutes before getting the car and driving over to the MTA garage, where as usual we park on the fourth (down) parking level, in the 'FlyAway' area. We then take the bags we're checking to the Amtrak counter and check them to Tacoma.

For the Coast Starlight (only) there's a first-class passenger check-in and waiting area at the Traxx bar, so we head in that direction. On the way, we encounter Bill and Beth Gill, who have been in San Diego for a few days and have come up on the train this morning. (This means they had to get up at 4:20 am!) We find seats in the Traxx restaurant area, and get drinks from the lounge,. Later, the conductor appears, and we check in with him. Chris and I then head back to the car for the rest of our luggage, and walk up onto the platform for Track 10, where the train is ready for boarding. The Gills are in the Family Room in car 1430, while we're in a Roomette in car 1431.

I walk the platform to get the consist, finding two private cars on the rear end, include Chuck Jensen's Kitchi Gammi Club. As I turn to walk back to the front of the train, I'm hailed by Becky Gerstung, who is riding in that car, and we chat for a few moments. The car has to go all the way to Seattle, since Amtrak can't/won't remove it in Tacoma..


P42                    193
P32                    510
Baggage            1260
Dorm               39017
Sleeper             32027
Sleeper             32113    Vermont
Sleeper             32068
Pacific Parlor    39973    Napa Valley
Diner                38058
Lounge             33041
Coach              34072
C-ach-Arcade  34512
Coach              34113
Coach-Bagg.    31017
Private            800708    Mount Vernon
Private            800705    Kitchi Gammi Club

Train 14, 6-18-2011



Los Angeles

 10:20 am

10:21 am

Burbank Airport 10:42 10:43
Van Nuys 10:52 10:57
Simi Valley 11:23 11:20-24
Oxnard 11:55 11:54-57
Santa Barbara 12:48 pm 12:46-56 pm
San Lujis Obispo 3:43 3:25-42
Paso Robles 4:45 4:46-52
Salinas 6:36 6:36-50
San Jose 8:27
Klamath Falls 8:25 am 7:43-8:24 am
Chemult 9:40 9:37-40
Eugene 12:44 pm 12:32-44 pm
Albany 1:30 1:27-37
Salem 2:03 2:08-15
Portland 3:40
Vancouver, WA 4:36 4:38-41
Kelso-Longview 5:14 5:38
Centralia 5:57 6:22
Olypia-Lacey 6:23 6:43-46
Tacoma 7:11 7:28

Coast Starlight route description

The train leaves on time. At 11:09, the train meets Train 774 at Chatsworth. We make arrangements with the Gills for the four of us to eat in the Pacific Parlor Car for lunch. When the dining car steward comes around to take reservations for lunch, we're somewhat surprised (and he's much more surprised) to see that it's Tim, who had been steward on Silver Lariat on the recent Northern California Explorer excursion. At lunch, Nanette in the Parlor Car seats us at two tables, across from each other, since they're not overloaded for that meal. There's a Surfliner at Goleta as we pass by that location. From 2:44-47 pm, we stop at Waldorf to meet Train 792. We meet Train 11 at South San Luis Obispo (the scheduled meeting point) at 3;23 pm.

It's not clear why we lose time heading over Cuesta grade or down the Salinas Valley. The first train we meet is a southbound UP freight (light engines) at Salinas, and we don't meet another until a southbound Caltrain at San Jose, which is after we've had dinner in the Pacific Parlor, again with the Gills. At 8:44 pm, we meet Train 774 just north of San Jose. Darkness falls, and we're in bed, before reaching Jack London Square.

Sunday, June 19th, 2011

At 4:30 am, I awake in the Sacramento River Canyon, where the locomotive's headlight is sweeping the rock walls as we curve back and forth—how different from two weeks ago! At 6 am, when I awaken again, the top of Black Butte is obscured by a dirty brown cloud, but Shasta, behind it, is quite clear, with only a girdle of clouds at a medium level. At track level, the sun has not yet risen, but the far side of the mountain is in full sunlight. The sun shows up in my window at 6:18 am. By 6:27 am, that lower layer of cloud obscures the mountain completely. It's 40ºF outside. At 6:29 am, there is a southbound freight, UP 7857, in Andesite siding.

I get Chris up after 7 am, and we eat breakfast in the Parlor car just as the train enters Oregon. The Gill's have elected to eat in the Diner, as have our sometime NRHS-Convention acquaintances from Davis, who evidently boarded during the night. Between Klamath Falls and Chemult we meet one southbound BNSF manifest. There are still large snow patches at Cascade Summit and on the west slope. On the way down, we meet a UP double-stack and overtake a UP manifest.We eat lunch, also in the Parlor car, on the last stretch into Eugene. There are some fourteen people eating lunch in this car at once, and Nanette seems overwhelmed by the numbers. Heading north in the Willamette Valley, after many detectors saying "66 axles", we pass one that says "62 axles". That can't mean the rear car was become uncoupled, since it's a six-axle car!

At Albany, we're delayed because some baggage to be unloaded there ahs not been found. I turns out to be underneath  bags headed for Portland. Along here, we keep hearing the locomotive crew asking about "track breach protection". This is something we've not heard before. We meet Train 11 at Clackamas before arriving in Portland 21 minutes early. The fuel truck that should have fueled the locomotive at Portland didn't show up because a power failure at it's depot prevented it from loading fuel. The crew thinks we should be able to make Seattle with just enough fuel to do so. We at dinner in the Parlor car, somewhat earlier than we would have liked, due to the projected arrival time in Tacoma. North of Vancouver but south of Kelso-Longview, we have a 17-minute wait for a southbound Cascades Talgo. This is undoubtedly due to the use of only one platform at the latter, even on a double track line. Later, we meet Train 509 at Olympia.

Sometime during the day, Bill Gill has called Bill Chapman, who meets the four of us at Tacoma Amtrak, with his SUV which handily takes us and our luggage over to the Hotel Murano at which we will be staying for the next week. At the hotel, we go to the NRHS Registration Room, where we're served by Trent Stetz. The registration folks remain open for a few minutes to serve the sudden flood of registrants off the arriving train.

At the Convention (6/20-6/27)

Monday, June 20th, 2011

The first Convention event is at 2 pm, so Chris and I sleep in and then have breakfast (instead of lunch) at the hotel restaurant. As we gather for the buses to the first event (in Chehalis, about an hour south), we encounter Mia Mather, Alex Mayes & Teresa Renner, Doug White, Doug Walsch and his mother, and Carl Jensen. Howard Brown comes up to say he had "missed us in West Virginia' (meaning the R&LHS Annual Meeting), and I explain that was the same weekend as the Northern California Explorer, and we had already ridden all of the lines covered in WV.

The buses take us south on I-5, and our bus has commentary from Arlen Sheldrake on the lines we pass along the way. At the boarding location, there's just time to patronize the facilities before the train backs into the wooden platform for boarding. We sit in the open car forward of the coaches, with Howard and Mia. While we're waiting to start, Gary Kazin takes a photo of us, with me searching for something in my briefcase. We also encounter Pete and Sylvia Smykla, whom we haven't seen since Berlin (the Poland trip), in 2007.


2-8-2                 15
Open                801    Mt. St. Helens
Coach              602    City of Centralia
Coach              601    City of Chehalis
Open                751    Penerl

Chehalis-Centralia route description

The train departs at 4:21 pm, in glorious temperate sunshine, along this former Milwaukee Road line through the edge of the temperate rainforest, performs a photo runby at Milburn from 5:00 to 5:21 pm, and reverses at Ruth from 5:33 to 5:47 pm, returning to its origin just after 6:30 pm. The assembled company then partakes of the included barbecue, during which Mia rushes off to get a cabride on the steam locomotive that has her absolutely beaming! The buses have us back at the hotel around 9 pm, after a run north in which Mt Rainier is clearly visible.

Tuesday, June 21st, 2011

This morning forms the first of seven straight early (for Chris and me) morning starts. We're down in the lobby in time for the first bus over to the Tacoma Amtrak station, at 7 am. Our schoolbus proves to be one intended for kindergartners, to which many of us take strong objection. While we're waiting for our 8:13 am Cascades Talgo to appear from Seattle, several trains pass by on the adjacent BNSF freight line (with UP trackage rights): a southbound BNSF train of autoracks with BNSF 5033, 4593, 8198, Oakway 9009; a southbound UP double-stack with UP 7615 and 4002 on the point, and a northbound BNSF coal train with BNSF 5905 and 5733 on the point and BNSF 8936 and 6261on the rear. The Cascades is a little late arriving in Tacoma, and even later leaving with 170 people to board.


Cabbage            90251
Power car            7960
Business Class      7450
Business Class       7550
Diner                     7800
Bistro                     7300
Coach                    7500
Coach                    7400
Coach                    7425
Coach                    7402
Coach                    7403
Coach                    7404
Coach                    7401
Baggage                 7101
F59PH                     468

Train 501, 6-21-2011




8:13 am

8:23 am

Olympia-Lacey 8:49 9:03
Centralia 9:10 9:22-24
Kelso-Longview 9:56 10:08
Vancouver, WA 10:34 10:43 (arr.)

On boarding (our first time in coach on a Cascades Talgo), I'm surprised to see that every other row of seats is adjacent to a window pillar, and thus the first sets of people to  board occupy the alternate rows of seats that have full window acess. As we emerge from the Point Defiance tunnel, we move from sunshine into thick fog, making the views over Puget Sound invisible. (We'll see them from a dome, later.) As we head south, the Convention folks move through exchanging our tickets for the northbound 4449 run for Boarding Passes. After some confusion, Mia, Chris and I end up with Boarding Passes for Silver Lariat, our favorite private car. Greg Molloy appears, to collect the consist from Chris, and tells us he and the Jennings are in Business Class, having bought their tickets for this run separately from the Convention offering.

On the way south, the train passes the two southbound trains that had gone by us at Tacoma Amtrak, and then meets a northbound UP double-stack at Chehalis, Train 500, a northbound UP manifest at MP 114, a northbound UP double-stack, a northbound BNSF grain train, and another northbound BNSF grain train (both of the latter south of the destination grain elevator at Kalama). At Vancouver, Train 501 is further delayed as 170 people debark, on the outer platform (due to BNSF trackwork on the bridge southward). Many men process rather quickly through the men's room, while Train 501 departs and has a discussion as to whether it or 4449 will occupy a single-track segment in Oregon.

Meanwhile, 4449's passengers are trying to deploy themselves on the inner platform (even though the train will arrive on the outer platform), in locations matching their Boarding Passes. Chris and Mia agree who will go to which doorway to baord our car and head directly for the dome. Eventually, the headlight is seen on the bridge and I grab a couple of photos of the arriving steam train. The ladies do their thing, but the Capuder kids (from New Jersey) beat them into the dome. However, we still get front table seats.

4-8-4                4449
P42                     201
Baggage               ???    Gordon R Zimmerman
Coach              82540
Coach              82710
Coach              82530
Diner                58107
Coach              82560
Coach              82620
Full Dome            511    Nenana
Dome             800392    Plaza Santa Fe
Dome             800190    Silver Lariat
Dome-Obs     800xxx     Silver Solarium

The train leaves Vancouver at 11:25 am, overtakes one of the northbond BNSF grain trains, and meets southbound Train 11. The buffet lunch is served in the Turquoise Room of Plaza Santa Fe, and we take it back to our seats. One of the passengers in our dome is Carl Fowler, of Rail Travel Center, who used to live out here and gives a running commentary. The "mountains are out", and we can see Mount Adams, Mount Hood, Mount St. Helens, and Mount Rainer.Bart and Sarah Jennings come though giving the first of their seemingly interminable pitches for next year's Convention in Cedar Rapids, IA.  We meet a southbound Cascades, overtake the northbound UP double-stack, and meet a southbound BNSF manifest and a southbound BNSF double-stack. The train arrives in Tacoma at 2:20 pm. The schoolbuses are at Amtrak to ferry us back to the hotel, where I'm greeted by Trent Stetz whom I castigate for the provision of a kindergarten schoolbus. He says this has already been taken care of, but the bus company apparently doesn't care, since they provide similarly cramped buses on subsequent days.

We have the rest of the day free (Chris and I have chosen not to go to the reception, tonight), and eat dinner in the hotel restaurant, with a glorious view of Mount Rainer our of the large windows.

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2011

This morning we have an 8 am departure aboard "luxury motor coaches" for the Northwest Railway Museum in Snoqualmie, about an hour northeast via I-5 and SR-18 to just north of I-90. As we arrive in Snoqualmie, we pass by the storage tracks with ex-Northern Pacific rotary snow plow #10, a number of rusting freight and passenger cars, and eight rusting steam locomotives. We leave the buses at the museum, in a former NP depot, and board the museum's train for a run up and down their several miles of line and a visit to their workshops about a mile down the line.

loco.              60-ton Bladwin-Whitcomb
Observation    OWR&N 1590
Coach            SP&S 272
Coach            SP&S 276
Coach            SP&S 213 (1912 wooden)
loco.               60-ton Baldwin-Whitcomb

Northwest Railway Museum route description

Seated across from us is Rick Kirby, Chief Mechanical Officer of the group restoring ex-Santa Fe 4-8-4 2926 in Albuquerque. The train departs on this former NP branch, northward, at 9:50 am, heading one mile to the end of track adjacent to the Snoqualmie Falls, which are not really visible from the train, where we sit from 9:59 to 10:11, and then head south, past the depot, to the other end of the track at North Bend, where we reverse at 10:39 am, and stop at the workshops at 10:49 am.

As we boarded the train, each person was given a colored card, which turns out to designate a group for the tours at the workshops. Chris and I have red cards, and tour in the sequence: building; track work' collection; tools; car 218 restoration; chapel car restoration. The newer workshop, in which we will be seated for the barbecue lunch to follow, was built in the last twelve months, and has three track with concrete flooring. The cars in the collection are being restored to a common date of 1953, although most await restoration. There are a total of nine steam locomotives (including a Shay, a Heisler, and three logging Mallets), and as we will see, one has been cosmetically restored and is located adjacent to the depot. The older workshop has two tracks, one of which holds wooden car 218, a sister to 213 on our train, which is under restoration, and the other of which holds the 1898 Chapel Car.

The NWRM has clearly done a good job on constructing its maintenance buildings, but it remains to be seen if the museum has sufficient resources even to bring all of its collection, now stored rusting out in the open, into its covered storage, much less provide cosmetic and/or operational restorations.

At 1:27 pm, after lunch, the train takes us back to the depot, arriving at 1:33 pm. Here we will have until 3 pm to inspect the collections. We buy a book on the Tacoma Eastern authored by the man who leads the restoration team on the Chapel Car, and I sppend most of the time sitting at a picnic table on the grounds. At 3 pm, the buses take us all for a short visit to Snoqualmie Falls, and then separate, some going back to the hotel, while other head for the Seattle Waterfront where we will have a dinner cruise at 6 pm. It take us only a half hour to get there, so we have two hour to kill. Chris and I chat some with Alex and Teresa, and then with Mia, who has been on the Seattle Traction Tour.

As the week progresses, those who had been booked to return east on Amtrak's Empire Builder get the news that their intended trains will not be running through the section from Havre, MT, to St. Paul, MN, due to the flooding in Minot, ND that will have the line closed at least until the second week of July. The quickest off the mark get the few remaining sleeper spaces on a routing via Sacramento, after the Convention is over, while others leave early to take that route and some are routed as far south as Los Angeles to make connection to the east, once the Convention is over..

On the dinner cruise, which covers the area of Puget Sound around the Seattle waterfront, we sit with Bob Brewster, who has just arrived, and who regales us with predictions of doom and gloom about every turn the boat makes and every ship we see. At the conclusion of the cruise, we board buses for the return to Tacoma, taking what seems like longer to climb the steep streets to I-5 than it does to drive the 30 miles south to Tacoma.

Thursday, June 23rd, 2011

This morning, we depart the hotel at 7:30 am to walk to the nearest Tacoma Link (streetcar) station for the 7:42 am train to Freighthouse Square. Our excursion will depart from the latter after the last morning Sounder train has come in from the north, and then departed again for Seattle. Freighthouse Square station is well provided with fast food and drink outlets, but not well provided with seating not connected to those establishments. Today's event is divided into two groups, the second of which will leave the hotel by bus at noon.

After the Sounder train has come and gone, the assembled excursionists are urged to walk westward, across the street at the end of the platform, and our train soon comes from the Tacoma Rail yard, somewhere further east, and stops adjacent to where we stand, west of the grade crossing. (There is no track adjacent to the platform that continues southward; the platform track ends at a bumper.) We will take two trains this morning: this one, provided by Tacoma Rail, from here to Eatonville, and then a Mount Rainier Scenic train, headed by their Willamette locomotive (a west-coast built version of a Shay geared locomotive), from Eatonville to the latter's shops at MIneral, where we will have lunch and swap with those in Group B who had ridden up there by bus.

SD40-2"            3001    (clearly, at one time, and SD45 or SD45-2)
SD40            3000
Diner            40000
Coach          40020
Coach          40010
Coach          40030

Tacoma Rail route description (including Mount Rainer Scenic)

The Tacoma Rail train leave Tacoma on the advertised, at 8:45 am, makes a good trip up the 3.8% grade, and stops at Eatonville at 10:44 am. Here, we all leavel this train, which backs down the line to make way for the Mt. Rainier Scenic rain to back down, and we then board the latter. I'm at the back of the crush of passengers, talking to Howard Brown, when I realize that Chris is up at the front, handling Mrs Walsch's wheelchair. (The latter is being boarded first.) This means that by the time I board, and we've chosen to sit in a coach, not the open car up front, my seat is already secured.

Willamette    Rayonier 2
Open Car                681
Coach                      901    Elbe
Baggage                 8085
Coach                      802    Mineral
Open Coach             541    Clopen

The train departs Eatonville at 11:25 am. It soon becomes apparent that its has a maximum speed of 8 mph (due entirely to the locomotive), and we will not be getting to Mineral any time soon. It also soon becomes apparent that while those in the open car, ahead, may be getting great views of the steam locomotive, they will also be getting quite wet. In fact, they will be getting drenched!  We make a five minute stop for reasons unclear, at nowhere in particular (12:29-34 pm), and a 43-minute water stop at Elbe, the Scenic Railroad's normal boarding point (1:17-2:00 pm), during which we see the Group B buses go by at about 1:30 pm. Mt. Rainier is not visible today, even from the limited spots where it normally can be seen from up here.

By now, it has also become quite clear that the restroom arrangements in the baggage care are inadequate for an excursion of this length. At 2:42 pm, we stop just past a short spur, and then reverse to clear the spur so that a diesel locomotive (ex-NP F9A 7012) can come out and occupy the spur. (Someone comments: "we're only an hour late and they're not ready for us.") We then proceed into Mineral, arriving at 3:02 pm. The diesel assists in switching the train around for Group B's return trip. In the yard are Polson Logging 2-8-2 70,, Shay 17, Heisler 10, the Climax, some diesel locomotives and a number of both freight and passenger cars.

The Group B folks have already had lunch and are wandering around the yard. We're given half an hour to eat and snatch whatever views we can of the yard. The lunch is, of course, barbecue again. In the event, both our buses and the train depart around 3:45 pm. We pass the train, and then park at Elbe to wait for it, giving another photo. opportunity. The buses then head directly for Tacoma, getting to the hotel around 5:30 pm. I don't know what time Group B got back, but it must have been after 9 pm.

In the evening, after dinner in the hotel, Chris and I attend the "Meet the Officers/At-Large Members" meeting, most memorable to me for a conversation with Jeff Smith at which he asked for my help documenting his upcoming project proposals, and then Jim Fredrickson's photographic presentation on his time on Stampeded Pass, 50-60 years ago. These meetings are in a somewhat separate building, out of the (ground-level!) entrance on the back of the fourth floor) and across a small courtyard.

Friday, June 24th, 2011

Today, Chris and I attend the Board Meeting (a requirement for me) and then the Annual Meeting, with a brief respite before the Banquet in the evening. The meetings are down on the meeting floor (1), one level down from the Lobby (2). At the Board Meeting, Steve Wasby's attempts to arrange for a part-time Executive Director so that he can run someone against Greg Molloy in the October Board Meeting's election, fail, while the Strategic Plan passes and Jeff Smith introduces the first glimmerings of two of the developments required under that plan (a Preservation Database and a Photographic Archive). At the Annual Meeting, the new governance by-laws are approved overwhelmingly, starting a one-year implementation period.

The Banquet is again in the building out back, now fully opened-out. We're signed up at a table with Bill Chapman, Arlen Sheldrake, and Steve Wasby, who is in a foul mood following his defeat in the Board Meeting. He snarls at me (perhaps in jest) for voting against him. The after-dinner speech is one of the most boring and irrelevant I've heard at such a gathering.

Saturday, June 25th, 2011

This morning we have overly-small schoolbuses to take us over to the Amtrak station again, However, we're not going there to get on Train 501 at 8:13 am, we're going there to get on the steam excursion that cannot pull into the station until Train 501 has left. So, the buses start a half hour later. Nonetheless, some of us are at Amtrak before Train 501 arrives and departs, and the Amtrak staff have some difficulty getting the platform clear enough for Train 501's passengers and baggage.

Today's excursion has the same consist as on Tuesday, but the train is facing the other way (with the private cars to the north/east), and, for the outward trip, with the locomotives coupled to the round-end observation car (Silver Solarium). Once again, we hav acquired tickets for Silver Lariat, and the ladies plan their strategy for getting our desired seats in the dome. This time, we want a table at the "rear" of the dome, facing the locomotives, so we can see where we're going on the way up the hill. The train, when it arrives, moves much further along the platform than we had anticipated, and the ladies have to follow our vestibule door until it comes to a stop. Even though I'm some way back in the mob boarding the train at our car's vestibule, all is accomplished and Chris & Mia are waiting for me when I get up to the dome.

See Tuesday, with the above modifications.

Stampede Pass route description

Although scheduled to depart at 8:45 am, the train doesn't even arrive in the platform until after 9 am, and departs at 9:17 am. At 9:43 am, we cross over at Auburn, and then turn onto the south leg of the wye to take the Stampede Pass line. From 9:57 to 10:10 am, we stop to inspect the train, after a detector gives us "excess alarms", not just the exempted cylinders and firebox. Nothing is found. We stop at Lester from 11:32 to 11:45 am, for a track inspector to clear his line segment in front of us. (There is no normal traffic on this line at present, due to track reconstruction on the east slope to handle empty unit coal trains heading eastward, starting in a few months.) Reaching Easton, we make an eight minute stop to handthrow a switch, and then stop in the House Track at 1:02 pm.

here, the passengers are allowed off while the locomotives are removed from the east end, turned on the way, run past the train, and attached to the west end. Then, the train makes a photo runby (at speed) for the assembled photographers before the reboarding call is given. I wait until the locomotives are being attached to the west end (forty minutes after being removed from the east end) to get off the train, so as not to run out of standing time too soon, before getting off. I take up a position near the center of things, with Dave Flynn. The runby is excellent, although the before and after activities take much longer than I had anticipated (due to the need to exit the House Track and cross over to the northerly of the two main tracks, and then reverse that process afterwards).

The train leaves Easton at 3:21 pm, reaches Auburn at 5:54 pm, just in time for a Cascades train to overtake it before it pulls out onto the main, and stops at Tacoma at 6:20 pm. By this time, Mia, Chris and I are poised at the vestibule, to get off and get the first bus back to the hotel, so that the ladies can be first in line for Boarding Passes for tomorrow's train. Burt Hermey is amused at the notion we're hurrying off to get in line so we can get back on his car in the morning, so he assists in this activity.

At the hotel, I take our bags back to the room, while Chris heads for the Boarding Pass exchange (which is delayed). Then, we have dinner in the hotel, sharing a table with Judy Decker and her service dog, Chewbacca, having a very interesting conversation. On the way up in the elevator, someone says "oh my God, is that Chris again!", leading me to ask Chris what she had done to him!

Before going to bed, we do the vast majority of our packing for tomorrow's departure.

Sunday, June 26th, 2011

After saying some goodbyes last night, we say a lot more this morning, since many people are not taking today's excursion (only 210 people, compared to yesterday's over 500), and even for those who are, we may not see them in Portland, where we will separate from those heading for the airport or back to Tacoma. Although the usual schoolbuses are provided, Chris and I take a taxi over to Amtrak to handle our luggage, some of which we check with Amtrak, for pick-up in Los Angeles, and the rest of which we arrange to carry on the excursion train. The procedure is the same as Saturday, with the excursion train coming into the platform after train 501 has departed, but this time the locomotives are on the south end of the train.

As Silver Lariat's vestibule comes to a stop next to where we are (by now) standing, Burt leans out and says "no car host". He opens the door anyway, and as we climb aboard (and the ladies head for the dome), I suggest to Burt that he makes a perfectly acceptable car host. "Yes,", he says" and I know more about the car than they do." "One would think so, wouldn't one", I replied, to which he concurred. We get our desired seats at the forward end of the dome in Silver Lariat.

See Tuesday

This time, the train leaves Tacoma right on time, at 8:45 am. As we head towards Point Defiance, the Olympic Mountains are arrayed in front of us, across Puget Sound. After passing through the tunnel, Puget Sound is still as clear as one could wish for, with everything in the distance clearly visible, unlike Tuesday morning. We stop at Centralia from 10:00 to 10:10 am, to replace the radio battery on 4449, meeting Train 500 at 10:14 am. We then meet three northbound BNSF manifests before reaching Kelso-Longview, and northbound BNSF double-stack, unit coal train, and unit grain train, before Vancouver, WA, where we stop from 11:44 to 11:46 am. As we continue to Portland, Mount Hood is clearly visible to the east. We stop at Portland at 12:05 pm.

After saying a few more goodbyes, Chris and I reclaim the on-board bags and take them to the Amtrak First-Class lounge, where we arrange for them to go to our room on the southbound Coast Starlight in a couple of hours. Then we head off into Portlan'd Chinatown, to get lunch.

The Journey South (6/26-6/28)

Sunday, June 26th, 2011 (cont.)

When we get back from lunch, we sit with Judy and Chewie (the dog) in the First Class Lounge for the few minutes until the train arrives, at which point we head for our sleeper and Judy heads for a coach. (She's only going to Klamath Falls, which we will reach before "bedtime".) I walk the train to get the consist, finding Dover Harbor on the Back (the third car that had been parked at Seattle King Street for the week, along with the two that we came up with). Climbing back onto the sleeper, I encounter Bob brewster, who's heading for California to ride light rail and commuter lines.


P42                    64
P42                    33
Baggage          1269
Dorm             39007
Sleeper           32050
Sleeper           32111    Texas
Sleeper           32106    Pennsylvania
Pacific Parlor  39974    Sonoma Valley
Diner              38068
Lounge            33016
Coach             34134
Coach-Arcade 34504
Coach             34092
Coach             34049
Pullman          800073    Dover Harbor

Train 11, 6-26-2011




1:50 pm

1:43 pm

Salem 3:37 4:07-14
Albany 4:10 4:41-50
Eugene 5:10 5:37-44
Chemult 8:08 9:07-12
6:35 am
5:52 am
Davis 6:50 6:56-59
Martinez 7:36 7:39-48
Richmond 8:04 8:15-17
Emeryville 8:15
Oakland 8:40
San Jose 9:55
Salinas 11:48 11:57 am
-12:06 pm
Paso Robles 1:28 2:00-12
San Luis Obispo 3:20 3:06-23
Santa Barbara 6:17 6:01-17
Oxnard 7:05 7:07-11
Simi Valley 7:30 7:52-55
Van Nuys 8:05 8:20-23
Burbank 8:15 8:30-32
Los Angeles 9:00 8:51

We overtake a southbound UP manifest just across the river, and meet a northbound UP baretable further south. Amtrak 14 is waiting, somewhat further south than the usual meeting point. We then stop at the south end of that siding for nine minutes, due to alarms from the second locomotive, meet a northbound local, and stop for eight minutes at the south end of Labish (just north of Salem) to wait for a track inspector to clear, turning a two minute late departure from Portland into a 20-minute late arrival in Salem. When George, the first sleeping car attendant, comes around with dinner reservations, we get space in the parlor car for dinner. Because we're downstairs in the third sleeper (there's a large group on board), it's not at our preferred time.

At dinner, we're seated across from a couple who live in England and rode the Great Britain IV back in April. This train went around the island in the opposite direction from the one Chris and I rode back in 2007. On the way up to Pengra Pass, there's a slight delay due to a signal problem, and we meet a northbound UP manifest at McCredie Springs. Somehow, we lose another 35 minutes traveling over the pass. Chris and I are in bed before the train reaches Klamath Falls.

Monday, June 27th, 2011

The train seems to be on time arriving at Sacramento, but is several minutes late leaving there. It takes over ten minutes to offload the large group and their baggage at Martinez. The train then loses more time following a freight train into Emeryville. Chris & I have breakfast in the parlor car. At Newark, Train 527 is allowed out of the Centerville Line ahead of us coming down the Mulford Line. Now that the group has left, and Lorna has cleaned out the room, we move upstairs to a room on the ocean side of the train. Because we have only a single person in the cab, we have to stop to copy a slow order, south of San Jose. Chris & I have lunch in the parlor car at noon. South of Salinas, we twice have to stop to copy Track Warrants.

We meet Train 14 at South San Luis Obispo, as scheduled, We stop at Surf to copy a Track Warrant, and stop for seven minutes north of Santa Barbara station to wait for Train 775. Because George does his walk for dinner reservations in the same sequence as for lunch (rather than giving other people the benefit of getting their reservations first), we have to eat dinner early so as to eat it in the parlor car. After leaving Santa Barbara, we wait for three minutes fo a northbound UP freight. When we get to Las Posas, the crew talks about going over "to the dark side" (Metrolink Dispatching), and sure enough, we're stopped for eight minutes at Strathearn to wait for Metrolink Train 1123, and later at CP Davis we wait a couple of minutes for Amtrak Train 785. Nonetheless, our train arrives in Los Angeles ahead of its padded schedule.

We take the carry-on bags to the car, and then fetch the checked bags from Amtrak Baggage Claim, at the other end of the access tunnel. We then drive over to the Metro Plaza, check-in, get our room, and go to bed.

Tuesday, June 28th, 2011

We get up just in time for the included breakfast, check-out, visit Bristol Farms, and drive home. All seems fine when we get there.