Springtime in the Rockiesóthe R&LHS 2006 Convention
June 7th-13th, 2006

Don Winter

Introduction

The R&LHS Annual Convention is in southern Colorado this year, and since I have been wanting to ride the Cumbres & Toltec and the Durango & Silverton again, we decide to go. Bus transportation is being provided between Albuquerque and Pagosa Springs (where the convention is headquartered), and thence to/from the excursions, and will take us to Santa Fe on the way back. Thus, we will also spend a night with John and Diane Smith before returning home from Lamy.

The Journey East (6/7-6/8)

Wednesday, June 7th, 2006

Because Amtrak's website will not sell bus tickets for the sequence of the Tehachapi-Bakersfield bus and then a Bakersfield-Los Angeles bus (and the reverse), even though this can be done when buying tickets over the telephone and the Customer Service person in LA even comments on that possibility, we leave at 2 pm to drive down to LA, via the Foothill and Pasadena Freeways once we get into the San Fernando Valley, and are in LA Union Station with a couple of hours to spare before the train will depart. Knowing that our train will depart from track 12, we leave the luggage in the car (just inside the MTA parking garage), taking only the minimal number of bags into the station with us. We check-in with Customer Service (it's our answer to 'why are you here so early?" that elicits the observation about the double-bus possibility, which we had used once when Rolland Graham was making the arrangements), and also get our dinner reservations while we're showing our photo IDs.

We sit in the north courtyard, where Ed Miller greets us when he arrives. Later, I see Russ Davies, with Jim (an R&LHS Board Member) and Peggy Caballero, in the Traxx bar. At 6 pm, we return to the car to get the luggage, thereby avoiding the line-up back in the concourse, and go to the train. When we get to the platform, the consist of a very late Sunset Limited is just being removed from Track 11. On the platform, I run into Ken Ruben, who has come down here to see Jed Hughes (who will be riding coach to Albuquerque), while I'm walking the train to collect the consist.

[consist]

P42            136
P42             89
F59             456
Baggage      1351
Transition    39018
Sleeper       32016
Sleeper       32070
Diner           38018
Lounge        33020
Coach         34031
Coach         34035
Coach         31105
Box Car     74098
Box Car     74053
Box Car     74070
Box Car     74088

Train 4, 6-7-2006

Schedule

Actual

Los Angeles

6:45 pm

6:46 pm

Fullerton

7:20

7:18/26

Riverside 8:03 8:12/19
San Bernardino 8:29 8:38/51
Victorville 9:40 9:52/57
6-8-2006    
Winslow                               PT 5:59 am 6:46/47 am
Gallup                                   MT 8:41 9:23/29
Albuquerque 12:21 pm 12:30 pm

Also on the train is 'Mac' Dow, another R&LHS Board member whom Russ knows, and two other guys, from San Luis Obispo, that none of us knows as yet. Our dinner reservation is for 8 pm, while Russ, 'Mac', and the Caballeros are eating at 7 pm (as does Ed Miller). After an acceptable dinner, with adequate service, we go to bed.

Los Angeles-Albuquerque Route Description

Thursday, June 8th, 2006

I awake as we pass the Darling Cinder Pit, and we're both up and eating breakfast as the train leaves Winslow. Later, we tell the person handing out lunch reservations that we're getting off at Albuquerque, and thus have to have an 11:30 am lunch reservation, or none at all. At 11:30, the train has reached Dalies, and it seems as if there won't be time for lunch, but immediately on turning onto the line towards Isleta, the train stops and then moves forward slowly, so we do decide to have lunch. Ed Miller also comes into the Dining Car for lunch, but the others do not, because the most recent note from the organizers (Mike and Sigi Walker) says that the bus will make a lunch stop 'soon' after leaving Albuquerque..

The train is into Albuquerque just a few minutes late (instead of the half hour early that it had once appeared it would be), after running through slow orders and trackwork on the way in from Dalies, but the bus is not there ('phone contact says it has just left the airport), so those with checked luggage collect it, and the rest of us congregate at the intersection of the railway station and Greyhound bus station facilities. Chris assists Mac Dow with moving his bag from train to waiting spot, and then to the bus when it arrives.

At the Convention (6/7-6/11)

Thursday, June 8th, 2006

When the bus shows up, it pulls in at the far end of the bus station facilities, so we all have to walk over there to load the luggage and board the bus (which is already more then half full) We leave the station area about 1:10 pm, just as the (now 15 minutes late) train also leaves. We then go (back) to the airport for one more passenger before heading north (past 1:30 pm) via I-25, US 285, and US 84 to Pagosa Springs, in Colorado. Among those already on the bus are J Parker Lamb, and Roger Simon and his dad, Dave. On the way, Mike Walker hands out registration packets. The lunch stop is at a casino at the intersection of SR 502 with US 84/285, from 2:45 pm to 3:30 pm. Those of us who had lunch on the train are happy we had done so!

Along US 84 is a seven mile stretch where the road surface has been removed as part of a construction project. This slows our progress considerably. (This is Bus 2, and when Bus 1 had passed through here, two hours before, rain had been falling and the bus was sliding all over the place. At least we don't have that problem!) In part due to our late start from Albuquerque, and in part due to this delay, we don't arrive at the hotel until 6:15 pm, just as the evening's Hospitality get together, before the Board Meeting at 7 pm, is starting. I manage to make contact with Adrian Ettlinger, who says that with the text I had sent him, we really don't need an extended discussion on this trip and can handle matters by e-mail. By the time we've checked in and taken the luggage to the room, it is too late to eat even the hors d'oeuvres at the reception before that meeting starts, so we abandon our plans to sit in that meeting as guests. We do, however, eat enough of the goodies not to need dinner this evening, while we chat with Russ, Jed, and others. Then, mindful of Friday's early start, we go to bed.

Friday, June 9th, 2006

Today's excursion is on the Durango & Silverton, departing from Durango at 8:15 am. The railroad wants us on the train at "7:45 am", ostensibly so that they're sure we're coming. Durango is just over an hour from the Pagosa Lodge, so the buses are slated to leave at 6:35 am, and be ready for boarding at 6:15 am (after bringing over the small number of people who have had to be accommodated a mile down the road at the Holiday Inn Express, for the one night only). We thus get up at 6 am, grab our packaged breakfasts (ours are specially designated to have apple juice instead of orange juice) and coffee from the hotel, and board the bus. in the event, the buses get away at 6:39 am. Tickets for specific seats on the train are handed out on the bus (we're assigned to specific buses, as well), and we're in our seats by 7:49 am. Once we're there, and have taken our seats, there is time to use the toilets in the depot before the train departs. Some people go up front to take pictures of the locomotive before we leave. In our car, Ann Miller, whom I've never seen or heard of before, makes a peremptory announcement that group members in this car are not to go forward of the Concession Car during the train trip. Since I have no notion who she is, I think this is nonsense, and the announcement treating us like little children. (It would appear that those who traveled from Albuquerque in Bus 1, at least, would already have known who she is, but many of the rest of us don't, and this car is populated largely by folks from Bus 2.)

[Consist]

2-8-2     481
Coach    273    Home Ranch
Coach    331    Trimble
Coach    335    Elk Fork
Open      400
Concess. 126
Coach     323    Animas River
Open       405
Open       415
Coach     337    San Juan
Open       407
Parlor       B2     Cinco Animas

Denver & Silverton Narrow Gauge route description

On the way north, I take notes for adding detail to the Route Description (now included in the one referenced just above), while enjoying the scenery that's just as gorgeous as it was in September, 1994 (our previous ride on this line). Along the way, Jacki Pryor, the R&LHS Archivist in Sacramento, comes through the coach and we chat for a few minutes. In Silverton, at 11:45 am, Chris and I have lunch at the Chattanooga Cafe, and then walk around town taking photos of the locomotives (481, 482, 473) and trains (three of them) running the services today, as well as the dead and cold locomotive 493 in the yard by the depot (away from the loading tracks in the center of town), and some of the old freight cars in that area. Then, with ice-cream cups in hand, and more coffee from an adjacent cafe, we board our train for the (2 pm) return journey, once it has turned on the wye and pushed back into the loading tracks.

Back in Durango, at 5:30 pm, we have time to patronize the gift shop (I need a new sweatshirt) and visit the DSNG museum in part of the roundhouse, before making our way over to the historic Strater Hotel, where the two of us are among those having second shift at the buffet dinner there, at 6:45 pm. While we're waiting in the lobby, Cliff Vander Yacht comes over to say hello, the first time we've met face-to-face. At dinner, we share a table with Cornelius ('Corny') Houck, and his wife, from Cincinnati, along with the two guys from San Luis Obispo. Corny is a long-time R&LHS Officer, as well as being one of the founders of the Colorado Railroad Museum in Golden (a suburb of Denver). After dinner, the buses stop in a park where a former D&RGW C-17 2-8-0 is in the process of restoration before heading back to the lodge in the deepening darkness. On the way, Russ and Jed get into a strong disagreement about whether there was once a railroad called the New Mexico Central that operated south out of Santa Fe. (Russ produces the supporting materials for his position on Sunday's trip out of Santa Fe.)

Back at the lodge, where "Chuck's Books" is set up in the lobby, there's time to peruse the massive number of books on offer, before going to bed.

Saturday, June 10th, 2006

We don't have to be up quite so early this morning: the Cumbres and Toltec Scenic's train from Antonito to Chama departs Antonito at 10 am, we should be there a bit over half an hour in advance, and the drive will take about two hours. So, the bus will leave the lodge somewhere between 7 and 7:15 am, and be ready for boarding at 6:45 am. We get up at 6:30, half an hour later than yesterday, get our breakfast packages and coffee, and board the bus. A map would suggest that the fastest way to Antonito would be to take US 160 to Alamosa and then head south on US 285, but apparently the buses would not be happy climbing the west side of Wolf Creek Pass (something about hairpin turns), so we actually take US 84 back to Chama and then go over the mountains on Route 17, paralleling the CATS. We get to Antonito as early as was desired, in spite of some time lost passing a cattle drive of 153 animals heading west on the highway, just east of Antonito, take photos of the locomotives and cars sitting at this end of the line, board our assigned cars, sort out some stupidity in seating assignments, and are ready to go long before the train leaves (on time).

[Consist from Antonito to Osier]

2-8-2     484
Coach    522    Cresco
Coach    504    Sublette
Coach    503    Big Horn
Coach    513    Conejos
Coach    514    Pagosa Springs
Coach    501    Antonito
Coach    503    Lava [Concession]
Coach    505
Coach    500    Alamosa
Open    9613
Parlor    510    Chrene Quales ?

Cumbres & Toltec Scenic Route Description

[Consist from Osier to Chama]

2-8-2     484
Parlor    511    Joseph C "Joe" Virgil
Open    9615
Coach    517    Chama
Coach    512    Osier
Coach    523    Los Pinos
Coach    520    Cumbres
Coach    515    Coxo
Coach    521    Santa Fe
Coach    522    Cresco
Coach    504    Sublette
Coach    503    Big Horn

As before, I take notes to add details to my route description (included in that referenced above). At Sublette, the locomotive slips on starting away from the water stop. The included lunch at Osier is good (we have the soup and salad bar), although the time allowed is a bit tight for those traveling through in a westward direction. Departing Osier in the other train (trains return, locomotives run through, the other locomotive today is 488), there is a small contretemps with some of the seating assignments in the other car to which our groups is assigned, apparently because the railroad has overbooked (there is also an NMRA group on this train), so some of our people have to sit in the three cars added to the rear of the train at Osier (taken from the other train) after we have boarded the train.

A group is hosting restored Rio Grande Southern 'Galloping Goose' 5 on the line today, and we get to photograph and visit it in Chama after arrival of our train. Apparently, it had some difficulty running over the line, in that road traffic approaching grade crossings as it did did not recognize it as being a train, and thus did not yield to it! There is nothing else to detain us in Chama, these days, so we bus back to the lodge in Pagosa Springs, with plenty of time to browse 'Chuck's Books' some more before the happy hour and the start of the banquet this evening.

At the latter, we sit with Russ, the Caballeros, Jed, and Ed Miller, making a table entirely from the group that came east on the train on Wednesday/Thursday. Dinner is good. Mel McFarland's discussion of how the Santa Fe bested the Rio Grande (in part, by hiring away its surveyors Holbrook and Kingman) is interesting and amusing, if a little short.

Sunday, June 11th, 2006

This is moving day, so we pack and check out before the buffet breakfast. After breakfast, the R&LHS holds its Annual Meeting, right there in the restaurant. I'm somewhat impressed by Charley Zlatkowicz' laid-back way of leading the meeting, and with the way the meeting is entirely completed in just 40 minutes. However, Charley's opening statement about R&LHS needing to change to meet the future and attract younger members is not (as far as I can tell) met with any actual action to be taken by then society. (Maybe this is something that would have been covered in the Board Meeting that we were unable to attend from its start, and thus chose not to attend later.)

The early conclusion of the Board Meeting gives time for another purchase from Chuck's Books, before we board the bus that is going to the Santa Fe Southern. The bus going directly to Albuquerque leaves at about 9:50 am, while our leaves right on 10 am. Some folks are going to Santa Fe in private cars, also. In spite of the need to traverse the seven miles of road with the removed surface, and several more where the surface has been scraped since Thursday, along with the bus overheating near the Santa Fe Opera, we're at the Santa Fe Southern depot before 1:30 pm. giving some folks the idea that they have time to go purchase take-out lunch before the excursion's 2 pm departure. Those folks are back just at 2 pm!

Santa Fe Southern route description

We're accommodated in a former New Jersey central coach with nice plush walkover seats, and a snack counter at one end. There is also an open flat car (with sides), two other coaches, and a caboose, on this train, all hauled by one of the railroad's chop-nosed Geeps. Again, on the way south, I take notes for detailing a route description. On the way back (we don't go closer than 3.2 miles from Lamy), the Geep pushes and the horn for the grade crossings is blow from (and located in) the caboose!  Russ has made a copy of the material showing the real existence of the New Mexico Central, in this very area, and shows it to Jed, to the latter's satisfaction, and then to others who are interested. On arrival back in Santa Fe, the convention is over (for us, as soon as we have reclaimed our luggage from the bus, although we're pleased to note that the bus host, Ken Miller, checks in that we're actually leaving here, and that our ride has arrived, as he also does for Bob and Roberta Young, who are leaving the bus here, also). We say our goodbyes to our fellow travelers, only one of whom will be with us on the Amtrak ride back to Los Angeles, and greet John and Diane Smith. who have come to pick us up.

The Journey West (6/11-6/13)

Sunday, June 11th, 2006

To be able to accommodate our luggage, John and Diane have left their rather large dog, Monty, at home. So, we put the bags in the back of their SUV, and climb in the front. Passing northwards through Santa Fe, we turn eastward and take the road up to the nearby ski area, for views over the Rio Grande Valley from that location, which is much cooler than down in the city. below. We can see as far as the Sandia Mountains behind Albuquerque, as well as various closer sets of mountains including those directly to the west. Driving back down the mountain, we then head northwest of Santa Fe, crossing above US 285 not far from where the bus had stopped to cool the engine down, and taking the streets the "back way" to John and Diane's house that also overlooks the Rio Grande Valley, with view of those same mountains on the west side.

Although warm inside the house, it is still cooler than outside, with both temperatures dropping quickly once the sun sets behind those mountains across the valley. The lights of Los Alamos and White Rock are visible once darkness has fallen. After dinner and then tea with the evening's conversations (John and I are generally on the patio, and Chris and Diane are in the kitchen, while Monty busies himself with the gift that Chris had brought him), we go to bed in the self-contained guest suite.

Monday, June 12th, 2006

John, Chris, and I leave the house at 8 am to head for Bandelier National Monument. Diane stays home, to attend to Monty's needs and to some housekeeping. We head back to US 287, north to SR 502, and then west via 502 and SR 4, through White Rock to the gate to Bandelier NM, where we turn south, pay the $12 entrance fee, and descend the canyon side to the parking lot at the Visitors' Center. We pay the $1 for the trail guide and head out on the loop trail through the Native American ruins, including some on the floor of the canyon (named for the Frijoles [beans] River that runs through it) and some in cliff dwellings in the north wall of the canyon. These dwellings were abandoned in the 16th-century. A couple of the cliff dwellings are accessible by ladders, just like the inhabitants once did, but we don't go in. However, we do watch 51 Cincinnati Boy Scouts go into the largest cliff dwelling, with all of them in there at the same time as their guide pretends to remove the entry ladder! The trail is interesting, and takes us a bit less than two hours to complete, even without going in any of the cliff dwellings.

We return the same way we came, and pick up Diane and our luggage at just about noon, at their house. Monty again has to stay home, and can be seen looking out the window with a mournful look on his face as we leave. We take a different route into Santa Fe, again with many twists and turns and stop signs, plus crossing a dry riverbed on the level, and go to a "Himalayan" (Nepalese, Indian, and Tibetan) Restaurant for their buffet lunch, which is both interesting and excellent. Then, we head south to Lamy, to meet our train back to Los Angeles. We get to Lamy at about 2:15 pm, and find that our train has picked up time since we called Amtrak's voice response system ("Julie') this morning, and is now almost on time, so after taking the time to look at what is being done to the Last Chance Saloon (it has closed and is being turned into a railway museum), we get the luggage out of the SUV and wait in the waiting room, and then on the platform when the train is called..

[consist]

P42            58
P42            167
P42            90
Baggage     1714
Transition    39007
Sleeper        32060
Sleeper        32082
Diner           38004
Lounge        33035
Coach         31044
Coach         34080
Coach         31045
Box Car      74100
Box Car      74039
Box Car      74055
Box Car      74208

Train 3, 6-11-2006

Schedule

Actual

6-12-2006

 

 

Lamy

2:24 pm

2:35 pm

Albuquerque 4:05
4:35
3:38
4:35
Gallup                                   MT 6:58 7:00/04
Winslow                              PT 7:40 8:11/12
Flagstaff 8:41/47 9:18/32
6-13-2006    
San Bernardino 5:20 am 6:04/09 am
Riverside 5:40 6:30/32
Fullerton 6:26 7:17/22
Los Angeles 8:15 7:57

There is a complication in that trains 3 and 4 are both just about here, train 4 being the one that is further behind time, but in the event train 3 pulls in on the far platform while train 4 holds out until train 3 leaves. Our room in this refurbished Superliner 1 is not quite ready (previous occupants just got off in Lamy), so we take seats in another room that is temporarily vacant while we wave goodbye to John and Diane. We discover that the attendant has collected us a dinner reservation for 5:15 pm, which is far too early, but we're able to exchange that for one at 7 pm, which still proves to be too early for my appetite. Leaving Gallup, we lose 25 minutes as a result of being behind a very slow westbound manifest until it clears the West Gallup crossovers.

Due to the time change at the NM-Arizona line, we still have a couple of hours until a reasonable bedtime, watching darkness fall as we head west across the painted desert. There is a heavy smoke plume coming from some place south of the line from near Holbrook, probably from the White Moutnains south of Snowflake. At West Canyon Diablo, a signal drops in front of the train and it has to run at restricted speed to the next signal. We have the room made up west of Winslow, and go to bed before Flagstaff, watching out at the latter for any signs of the  track construction that Russ reported from the trip east. Of course, it's dark, but all I see is what may be a couple of extra tracks just south of the two existing ones (with no space in between), and then the usual buildings on the south side of the line. After that, I turn in.

Tuesday, June 13th, 2006

I awake somewhere near Blue Cut, on the descent of Cajon Pass, and we're fully up by Riverside. Even through the train is 40 minutes late at San Bernardino, the padding in the schedule means it's actually early into Los Angeles. We head immediately to the car, and drive north using the Pasadena and Foothill Freeways to get to Highway 14, getting home a little after 10 am, to a warm greeting from the cats.