Private Train to Kelso
October 15-18, 2010

Don Winter

This trip is to ride the Barstow-Kelso Flyer, a private train from Los Angeles to Kelso, run mostly to publicize the possibility of future excursions from Barstow to Kelso and return. The train is to run on Saturday and Sunday, but we have to spend the nights before and after in Los Angeles, driving down the day before and home the day after.

Friday, October 15th, 2010

We leave home about 1:30 pm, and are at the Metro Plaza Hotel by around 4 pm. They can't find our reservations, but no matter: we get the usual room and make a reservation for Sunday night. Chris uses a cart to bring the luggage up, and when she takes it back, she meets Bob and laura Drenk, who have come in from San Bernardino on Metrolink to be ready for the morning.

Latter, we walk over to Olvera Street, to our favorite Mexican Restaurant for dinner, going to be early, mindful of the morning's early alarm.

Saturday, October 16th, 2010

We get up at 6:30 am, have the included breakfast, drive over to the MTA garage, park on level four, and walk into the station concourse, where we find Bob and Laura, Jed Hughes, and Gary Herod, who has the arrangements book in which to check us off. Later, we see Mike McGinley and Bill Hatrick (owner of Overland Trail). Others arrive, whom we don't yet know. Time passes, and the train does not arrive in a platform for boarding. First, we hear that Pacific Sands has had to have a wheel re-profiled, and then that one of the assigned locomotives won't start. Someone jokes that Amtrak should just use the 'Pepsi-Cans' that have been sitting around for years, but it transpires that they already have, and that's why the batteries are flat! At about 9:45 am, we're told that the train is in Track 11, and we all walk down that way. The train is just backing in, and even when it gets there, John Caesternacke (sp?), owner of Silver Splendor, can't get the door oepn, and has to go around through Tioga Pass. We decide to sit downstairs in Silver Splendor, since we only really need to dome between Barstow and Kelso (for detailed route descriptions). The Drenks sit nearby.

[consist]

P32                          510
P32                          509
Coach                   82630
Lounge    Overland Trail
Sleeper       Pacific Sands
Dome       Silver Splendor
Coach                   82576
Business         Tioga Pass

Train 968, 10-16-2010

Schedule

Actual

Schedule

Actual

Los Angeles

8:45 am 9:59 am

6:15

8:21

Fullerton

9:30 1:13-17 5:30 7:41-46
Riverside 6:48

San Bernardino

10:30 11:34-39 4:15 6:26-29
Barstow 12:45 pm 1:34 pm 2:20 4:21

Train 970, 10-17-2010

       
Barstow 8:45 am 9:54 am 2:15 3:55
Kelso 10:45 am 12:11 pm 12:45 pm 2:14 pm
      Train 969, 10-17-2010

Southern California Route Descriptions

A few people board at Fullerton, and a lot more board at San Bernardino. During the trip, there are interesting conversations around us, including one in which Mike McGinley describes how some of the engineering decisions about Metrolink where made on the Green River Golf Course, on a weekly basis. Climbing Cajon Pass, we take the shortest (original) route. Nearing Barstow, we stop at the 'stairs' to pick up a pilot, and then run around the balloon track before backing into the station through the on-line fuel racks.

Here, we get off the train to collect box lunches, but since there is not much seating that is in the shade, Chris and I get back on the train to eat. After lunch, we patronize a stand run by Robert C DelGrosso, owner of Great Northern Pacific Publications, where I buy the current (2010) BNSF Locomotive book. Chris buys a big bag of nuts from another stand. We then walk around to the bus stop, where we board a bus that is doing both the advertised trip to the Barstow yard and a trip around the Barstow Murals (whatever they are). The murals seem to be modern painting covering aspects of area history. After we've been to see them, we change guides, and head for the yard.

Barstow Yard

To get to the yard, we go beyond Highway 58, and then back under it and under the wye at the west end, passing the Receiving Yard, Diesel Service, the Terminal Offices (where Bob and Laura Drenk once worked), RIP Track, Car Repair Shop, Hump, Main Retarders, 46 Bowl Tracks, Terminal Tower, a string of old locomotives in the 800-series  awaiting the end of their leases, Hump Tower, Bowl Tower, Departure Yard, and East yard (the old yard).

Returning to the depot, we board a bus to go out to the Hampton Inn, which proves to be in the Lenwood area. Here, we have a room for the night, and eat the included barbecue dinner. (Some people head back to the train to sleep in sleeping rooms on the train.)

Sunday, October 17th, 2010

We arise at 6 am, to have the included breakfast before boarding the (promised) 7 am shuttle bus back to the depot. In the event, the bus doesn't leave until 7:20, and then only after some serious prodding. It turns out not to matter, because (a) the same locomotive (509) won't start again, and (b), the safety nazis won't allow us to cross over to the second track (where the train is currently parked) to board, because someone fell doing so the previous afternoon. It takes over an hour for the crew to conclude that they locomotive can't start, and that the train will run with only once locomotive for the rest of the trip. The train is then moved back to Track 1 for boarding.

While we wait, we learn more about what this leg of the trip is all about. (We had been to Barstow and back the previous year.) There are four rangers from the Mojave National Preserve present; the train is now to be divided into three sections, for local dignitaries (the two easternmost cars), First Class (the two middle cars), and coach (mostly local trippers in the two westernmost cars). Now we can see why the two Amtrak coaches are located where they are. Because those who slept on the train have already had access to it, more than half the dome seats are taken by the time we get to board, but we do manage to get dome seats for the run out to Kelso. Again, the train departs over an hour late.

Yermo to Kelso Route Description

Progress is halting at first; we stop at Daggett to get clearance from the Union Pacific, and then at Yermo to wait for an intermodal train to clear the single track ahead, all told taking up another half hour. The passage of Afton Canyon is not as spectacular as I remember it from previous trips (especially the one in March, 1971). There are now no visible signs of the former existence of the Tonopah and Tidewater at Crucero.

At Kelso, the rangers act like we're school children, insisting that we "must" do this and that. There are only enough seats for those who are eating the supplied lunch to sit down at any one time, and while the crew is running the locomotive around the train, we're not allowed on the train, again for "safety" reasons. It may be alright to expect schoolchildren to stand for an hour, but not people of retirement age! The content of the museum that has been made out of the Kelso depot is no doubt interesting to folks who are new to the area and/or railroad, but is pretty basic stuff to most knowledgeable rail enthusiasts.

The train is again 90-minutes late leaving Kelso, and two hours late, leaving Barstow. At Summit, we run quite suddenly from sunny skies into thick marine-layer fog. On the descent, the train takes the route through CP Walker and past the sites of the daylighted tunnels. After San Bernardino, the train is quite empty, and I manage to have an interesting conversation with Mike McGinley on the propsects for high-speed rail engineering on the Fullerton-LA section of the line. In LA, we move the car over to the hotel and check in. By this time, our choices for dinner are quite limited, so we go to Phillipe The Original with a younger couple (Scott and Lesley) who have been on the train.

Monday, October 18th, 2010

It's almost 9 am by the time we get up today. We have the included breakfast, drive up to Bristol Farms in South Pasadena, and then drive home, arriving there by 12:30 pm. We run into several rain showers along the way, one of them quite heavy.