USA June 2014
This trip was specifically planned around doing the National Railroad Historical Society’s convention at the Arkansas & Missouri Railroad in Springdale; due to the fact that their would be at least five days of special trains, covering all of the A&M network, and all would be Alco hauled!
We actually struggled a little to fit other Alco related things around this but thankfully the York Durham Heritage Railway, based near Toronto, Canada, would offer us a lifeline at the start of the trip so we started our trip in Toronto. Towards the end of our planned time we managed to get the only working Alco RS2 in America out working for us at the Nevada Northern Railway in Ely, Nevada; so a plan came together nicely in the end which saw us doing Toronto – Chicago – San Francisco by rail, with a few other bits thrown in.
Air Canada – Booked through Expedia – £680.45
AC857 1205 Heathrow – Toronto
AC780 0810 San Francisco – Montreal
AC864 2005 Montreal – Heathrow
Chicago – Chicago Parthenon Hostel, 310 South Halsted Street, Chicago, IL, 60661
£51 for one night
A 7 minute walk from the main Canal Street entrance of Union station. The front desk is manned 24/7 so we had no problem getting in at stupid o’clock. As we were leaving before breakfast the following morning we managed to negotiate a deal which saw the credit card fee and tax knocked off the bill, saving us more than enough to spend on breakfast the following morning at the station.
The rooms at the Parthenon were nothing spectacular at all and actually quite the opposite; rough around the edges, a little shoddy, sparsely decorated and not that clean really. The room had three beds in it and we were assured that we would be the only two people in it, having paid for a twin room to ourselves anyway. It wasn’t an en-suite room and the bathroom was down the corridor, which housed the toilets, sinks and shower facilities in one room. Having never stayed in a hostel before the facilities were as expected and for the sake of the few hours we’d be using them for they more than sufficed and the Parthenon isn’t a bad option at all for a short overnight stay.
Springdale – Residence Inn, 1740 South 48th Street, Springdale, Arkansas, 72762
$89 midweek nights, $69 weekend nights – $56192 total for 6 nights
A single bedroomed suite with sofa bed in the lounge at the discounted A&M railroad rate. The lounge was spacious with a fully equipped kitchen, table, coffee making facilities and HD TV and the bedroom with queen bed had its own TV, sink and bathroom. Both rooms were air conditioned and Wi-Fi was free throughout the hotel. There seemed to have been a little confusion when I booked the room about whether breakfast was included in the rate, which wasn’t mentioned on my booking confirmation, but as we were told the breakfast times at check-in we didn’t bother asking about it and just took it that it was included; whether it actually was supposed to be or not remains to be answered but we had no problems at all.
St Louis – Sheraton St. Louis City Centre Hotel & Suites, 400 South 14th Street, Downtown St Louis, MO 63103
£71 for one night
As the hire car drop-off was in the Sheraton lobby we changed our original booking on Booking.com and actually saved about $15 in doing so as well. The room had two queen beds and was massive, it had a lounge room attached which was equally as massive. All the mod-cons were accounted for and the only complaint I had was the fact you had to pay for Wi-Fi if you wanted to use it.
Ely – Bristlecone Motel, 700 Avenue I, Ely, Nevada, 89301
£47 for one night
A large room with two queen beds, small bathroom and large separate washing area. The room had air-con, large TV and a microwave, along with coffee making facilities and free Wi-Fi. We’d originally booked two nights here but as our Amtrak train was so late the hotel cancelled off the first night for us, through Booking.com, after the cut-off period and didn’t charge us for it.
San Francisco – Hotel Howard Johnson, 190 El Camino Real, San Bruno CA94066
£151 for two nights
A 20 minute walk from the new Caltrain San Bruno station; not the one shown on Google Maps!
Check-in was quick and the room we were given was clean & sizeable with air-con, two queen beds & flat screen TV. Breakfast was included and Wi-Fi free throughout the hotel. Free transfers are offered from the hotel to nearby San Francisco airport.
Purchased through Amtrak’s website during an online sale!
350 1404 Detroit – Pontiac
355 1740 Pontiac – Chicago Union
301 0700 Chicago Union – St Louis
302 0640 St Louis – Chicago Union
5 1400 Chicago Union – Salt Lake City (California Zephyr)
5 2305 Salt Lake City – Emeryville (California Zephyr)
Tickets purchased at the departure station. Tickets are available for all types of journeys and some include cross transfer between the various UTA modes of transport; the excellent value day passes allow up to four people on the same ticket and are valid on the whole UTA network, including Frontrunner for just $15!
Tickets purchased at the departure station. Everything is based on zonal fares but there are day passes available for various zonal combinations; all available from the ticket machines on every platform.
Sunday 8th June 2014 (A warm welcome to the USA!)
We’d started our day in Windsor, Ontario, Canada and arrived into the USA via the Windsor – Detroit tunnel crossing on a bus.
To see the Canada Report use this link: Canada June 2014
It seemed we’d picked a bad time to ride the tunnel bus as the traffic was moving quite slowly and once we got out of the tunnel on the US side all three bus waiting platforms were occupied so we had to wait 25 minutes for a place to become available before we could be processed; bizarrely all three buses vacating at the same time, leaving the whole place empty. Our day went severely downhill from that point onwards……..
As we were the only two people, of the six on our bus, that needed to be processed as foreigners the bus ended up departing without us as it took longer to process foreigners than locals and then thanks to a good bit of US Customs & Border Protection hospitality we spent the next 45 minutes in their company being treated like outcasts and basically being told to shut up and not talk among ourselves by the woman that seemed to be the boss that day. Even though I had a visa, which is a whole other story indeed, it took 45 minutes to process me and for the whole time I was sat waiting I felt like a criminal and even after all that I was told I had to pay $6 to enter the country even though I had a valid visa. If it hadn’t been enough messing about getting the visa initially this whole scenario was enough to put anyone off having to be treated like a criminal to enter a country, which they actually wanted to go to, and nearly miss their train as result. I think that it was only because I told the guy processing me that we had a train to catch 24 minutes from the time he asked to have a look through my bags, that he only half-heartedly looked and let us go. The result being us legging it out of the CBP towards the Marriot Hotel; where we’d been told there would be taxi’s to get us to Detroit Amtrak station.
Just as we got to the entrance road a taxi was heading away from the hotel entrance and we were straight in; the only problem being he didn’t have a clue where the Amtrak station was in Detroit. Thanks to Vic having written down the address the taxi driver soon had it in his SatNav and we were away, arriving at the station with less than 10 minutes to spare; the taxi costing a flat fare of $15.
Amtrak train 350 to Pontiac was 10 minutes late arriving into Detroit and did so with P42 #34 leading and #126 on the rear. Both were powering and the conductor later told us that all trains on the Pontiac line were T&T to allow the load 5 trains to get up to 110mph, in the section where they could, quicker than they would when only using one loco. That’s just the 8400hp for 5 coaches!
Having arrived into Pontiac we had plenty of time to get some photos of the T&T train we’d arrived on and 10 minutes after arriving the Canadian National car train we’d passed at the last station came rumbling through for a bonus photo.
The hot afternoon was spent in the only food place we could find in Pontiac, as pointed out to us by the conductor as we approached on the train, McDonalds; about a mile walk from the station. Other than that there really was little else to do in the 2h47m fester we had before we headed back to Chicago for the night. One bonus was that Pontiac was the first station we’d found the new Amtrak timetables at, which started the following day; bizarrely right alongside the Spring 2013 edition was still on display.
Thanks to some cracking Amtrak regulating en-route to Chicago we were 45 late by Jackson so the Genesis units had a bit of time to claw back at that point. As we managed to get into the front coach at Pontiac we could hear #126 through the air vents by the windows; it sounded quite good too. Needless to say we didn’t claw back any time and lost more en-route; arriving into Chicago Union an hour late, just after midnight!
Thankfully our digs for the night were only a short walk away; and booked that way due to the late arrival and early departure we had anyway. The Chicago Parthenon Hostel was about a 7 minute walk from the main Canal Street entrance of Union station. The front desk is manned 24/7 so we had no problem getting in a stupid o’clock. As we were leaving before breakfast the following morning we managed to negotiate a deal which saw the credit card fee and tax knocked off the bill, saving us more than enough to spend on breakfast the following morning at the station.
The rooms at the Parthenon were nothing spectacular at all and actually quite the opposite; rough around the edges, a little shoddy, sparsely decorated and not that clean really. The room had three beds in it and we were assured that we would be the only two people in it, having paid for a twin room to ourselves anyway. It wasn’t an en-suite room and the bathroom was down the corridor, which housed the toilets, sinks and shower facilities in one room. Having never stayed in a hostel before the facilities were as expected and for the sake of the few hours we’d be using them for they more than sufficed and the Parthenon isn’t a bad option at all for a short overnight stay.
|34||Detroit||Pontiac (Michigan)||0700 Chicago Union – Pontiac||350||Amtrak GE P42DC’s 34/126 T&T Multi|
|126||Pontiac (Michigan)||Chicago Union||1740 Pontiac – Chicago Union||355||Amtrak GE P42DC’s 126/34 T&T Multi|
Monday 9th June 2014 (Welcome to Arkansas)
After a 5 hour doss we weren’t exactly wide awake as we exited the hotel but the short walk back to Chicago Union station soon woke us up. There were plenty of options for breakfast and the money we’d saved at the hostel the previous night was put to good use, prior to us boarding our 0700 Amtrak “Lincoln Service” to St Louis, MO.
Genesis P42 #63 was found at the head of train 301 to St Louis while the train was full enough, it wasn’t wedged to the gunnels, making for a pleasant enough journey to St Louis but for the ignorant fuckers that seemed quite content with not only deafening themselves en-route but also subjecting the whole coach to the crappy music they were injecting into their heads; one guy actually even played the same song over and over again and nothing else……
Having been only a few minutes late from Alton, IL, we were anticipating a bonus early arrival into St Louis but any hopes of that were soon dashed when the conductor announced that we were being diverted into St Louis due to engineering works taking place on the bridge normally used to get the train into the city, over the river. This was due to the road part of the bridge apparently being removed from above the railway section. As a result we took a freight route into St Louis, skirting the river once we’d crossed it, before reversing and propelling the stock into St Louis Gateway station; having waited for train 22, Amtrak’s “Texas Eagle” heading for Chicago, to depart round the opposite curve to that that we propelled round, just the 4h30m late! The result of the diversion was us being 25 minutes late into St Louis.
To complete the rest of the day’s journey we had to collect a hire car and drive the 350 miles to Springdale, Arkansas, where we’d be spending the next week! The car was hired though Budget, who’s office was actually in the lobby of the very imposing Sheraton Hotel, right next to St Louis station. It didn’t take us long to get sorted with the car and as a result of the Sheraton’s proximity to the Amtrak station and the fact that we’d be dropping the car off there again we changed our pre-booked hotel in St Louis, for the following week, and cancelled the original booking at the Pear Tree Inn. Our new, non-cancellable reservation at the Sheraton actually worked out cheaper than the Pear Tree Inn anyway; which was a bonus all round.
We set off from the Sheraton at 1300 and were on the I44 westbound within minutes, which is only 1.5 miles from the hotel. As were drove down the access ramp onto the Interstate the Satnav told us the next turn we had to make was in 277 miles! And relax……….
The whole 350 mile journey took us just under 5 hours; a journey which we did in one go, without stopping at all. We were checking in to the Residence Inn in Springdale just after 1800. We’d stayed at the Residence Inn before, mainly as the hotel offered a discount for those travelling on the Arkansas & Missouri Railroad; which of course we were. To get the A&M rate I had to ring up and book the hotel over the phone, which was simple enough, and we got ourselves a single bedroomed suite with sofa bed in the lounge at the discounted railroad rate. The lounge was spacious with a fully equipped kitchen, table, coffee making facilities and HD TV and the bedroom with queen bed had its own TV, sink and bathroom. Both rooms were air conditioned and WiFi was free throughout the hotel. There seemed to have been a little confusion when I booked the room about whether breakfast was included in the rate, which wasn’t mentioned on my booking confirmation, but as we were told the breakfast times at check-in we didn’t bother asking about it and just took it that it was included; whether it actually was supposed to be or not remains to be answered but we had no problems at all.
Having dumped our stuff and recharged for 10 minutes we then walked next door to the Holiday Inn where our A&M adventure would begin for the next 6 days. The whole point of actually being in Springdale was to ride behind the A&M Alco’s but not just to ride on any old train. These trains were planned by a gentleman called Barton Jennings, who is a “rare mileage” fanatic; to me and you that would be a track basher. Bart had been roped into planning the National Railroad Historical Society (NRHS) convention specials for the last couple of years and this year the convention would be held at the A&M Railroad with 4 special trains run just for the convention, covering almost all of the operational track that the A&M currently ran on; we were also hoping that we’d get at least 5 new Alco’s out of the trip.
The convention headquarters had been set up at the Holiday Inn and the point of walking over was to register and collect our tickets. All of which was very efficient and didn’t take a moment at all to do. Bart was in the lobby at the time we registered and it was great to catch up with him before he had to rush off and attend the A&M’s safety meeting. Bart’s wife, Sarah, seemed to have drawn the short straw as she was the one registering everyone and handing out their tickets. Brenda Rouse, the A&M’s Passenger Train Manager, was also milling about and it was also nice to catch up with her before the safety meeting commenced; all the catching up saved the pleasantries that would have had to occur the following day and would allow everyone to get on with what they needed to do instead.
The only thing left to do that evening was food, which was done at a Mexican called Guadalajara. The idea being that food needed to be in walking distance so that a few beers could be consumed and this place was about a 10 minute walk from the hotel. The food was very good, the service also and everything was fresh and piping hot; there was no faulting it at all.
Even though it was only about 2130 when we left the Guadalajara we were the last out and they would have been stacking chairs on tables around us if they could! Fully fueled, relaxed and having had a few beers sleep was definitely not hard to come by that night.
|63||Chicago Union||St Louis Gateway||0700 Chicago Union – St Louis||301||Amtrak GE P42DC – Via alternative bridge into St Louis|
Gen for Monday 9th June 2014
(Other than in the moves above)
34/126 350 0700 Chicago Union – Pontiac
154 22 1000 (06/06/14) Los Angeles – Chicago Union (Texas Eagle)
Tuesday 10th June 2014 (All aboard for Bentonville)
All of the NRHS charters on the A&M were timed to depart at 0800, which meant getting up before 0700 to get breakfast in and then driving the 10 minutes to the A&M station, almost 5 miles away. The weather wasn’t too good that morning either but it didn’t spoil that moment of excited anticipation as the loco for the morning run to Bentonville came into view as we approached the level crossing by the A&M Depot in Springdale. The number on the side of it did though; bloody #68! It wasn’t enough to have had it on our first, second and third trips to the A&M, we were now going to have it on our fourth as well, having already had over 1500km off the damn thing! Thankfully attached to the south end of the two coaches was Alco C420 #44, which was indeed new and made the fact that #68 was attached to the opposite end almost bearable.
To say the trip to Bentonville was massive was an understatement and the train had sold out very quickly. However the fact that it was only load 2 seemed very strange indeed, especially as there was a waiting list and plenty of other coaches that could have gone down the branch with the train. Once we’d departed we discovered that the train wasn’t even that wedged, with quite a few seats being empty.
Even though we managed to be among the first onto the train to get seats by the engine going north there wasn’t much thrash to be had at all as the line was a bit of a totter out of town and again once onto the Bentonville Branch. The general consensus was that this train would be the last passenger train to run down the branch and would certainly be the last to cover what was currently the last ¾ of a mile up to the current limit at MP336.1. The A&M had don a deal with the local school for the land and the last ¾ of a mile would be lifted during the summer of 2014, the 3 miles beyond that already not being used by the railroad anyway; which would limit the Bentonville Branch to 4.1 miles as opposed to the potential 7 miles that could be used.
Just outside Bentonville we had two photo run-by’s, where anyone and everyone was allowed off the train. The NRHS mob then set up photo lines so everyone was kept in line and stragglers didn’t get into people’s photos by just doing their own thing; it was all very well executed, as was the alighting and boarding again, albeit a little over the top with the safety concerns and only getting people on/off through one set of doors. Still we probably brought the average age of those travelling down quite considerably so it was understandable as some weren’t very mobile at all.
During the short out and back trip to Bentonville the changing face of the A&M Railroad could be seen in many places but mainly at the Springdale Depot where a newly constructed shed had resulted in the demic locos that used to be dumped round and about the shed area being moved further north of town. One line of locos was positioned just north of the yard area, beyond the first level crossing heading north and another line was dumped in a siding just north of the north yard area, which had housed different locos on our previous visit and we were surprised to see two Alco C420’s among the line. Both lines were as follows (see the day’s gen for full list of spottings and workings):
Nearest to town:
MLW M420W 74, Alco T6 15, MLW M420W 3553, Alco T6 12, Alco C424 604, MLW M420W 76, Alco C424 605 & Alco RS11 352
Furthest from town:
Alco C420’s 62 & 64, MLW M420W 3554 & Alco RS11 xxxx
Also demic on shed were the following: Alco C420’s 46 (no batteries) & 66 (to be converted to a cab-slug)
We had a couple of hours in the afternoon between the morning Bentonville trip and the afternoon photo freight to Mountainburg and return, this was spent in a café round the corner from Springdale station chewing the cud with some of the NRHS mob. We had grand hopes of the photo freight being a proper full length freight with a raft of wagons and about 4 engines but it soon became very evident that 44 & 68 would be the power and as the train was shunted together it became even more evident that it wouldn’t be a massive load; the idea being that the train would be positioned with the few freight wagons visible for the photos and the passenger coaches out of sight at the rear; so Bart told us.
Our NRHS charter departed Springdale at 1400, on time. With the 8 freight wagons behind the locos there wasn’t much thrash to speak of way back in steerage. The weather that afternoon was quite changeable from glorious sunshine to pouring rain yet we managed to avoid getting completely soaked in one of the downpours and the sunshine was quite kind to us really.
Photo-stops were done at places that are inaccessible by road, the first spot being at the south portal of Winslow Tunnel. It wasn’t the easiest of locations to get a trainload of people down onto the tracks at and the underfoot conditions weren’t the best; everyone also had to spray themselves with bug spray to prevent being bitten by the local ankle biters; which apparently you’d know about that night if they’d managed to get you!
All safely back on board, the second and third photo-stops were at both Trestle No.1 & Trestle No.3. Everyone was de-trained just south of the trestles and the train backed onto the trestle and positioned for the photos. As the edge of the trestles are narrow and there’s no angular shots to be had people were allowed up to the edge in small groups to get photos at either side before cycling back to the main group. After the first few groups of 10 it managed to degenerate into a free for all and when the sun made a brief appearance those that knew what they were doing were dashing all over the place to get the best photos they could; before it disappeared behind the clouds again.
All safely back on board after Trestle No.3 we were en-route to the next location when Bart came through the train to warn people that the terrain at the next location was definitely not for the non-agile and if people couldn’t handle tough terrain they weren’t to even contemplate getting off. It soon became evident as the train was stopped just south of “Howard Fork of Frog Bayou Bridge” to allow people off, just how difficult it may be to get to a decent photo location.
The ballast was high to start with, then people had to scramble down the embankment by the trestle edge, about a 10ft drop, to walk almost the length of the trestle on the ballast/mud covered ground; and that was only to reach the edge of the river that the trestle crossed. To get the angular shots there was a whole host of undergrowth to negotiate and trample through but the effort was well rewarded and while standing on a rock, surrounded by the shallow river on all sides, the sun came out and lit up the train, positioned on the trestle, superbly.
While it might have been a relatively easy task getting everyone off the train, getting folk back on was a completely different ball game. It was very evident that some people on the ground shouldn’t have been allowed off the train in the first place and due to issues when spotting the train to get people back on it made life even harder for two of those individuals, of the older age group, very much so. They actually had to be pushed back up the embankment and then assisted up the steps onto the train! Definitely a learning curve for the A&M in managing the people they have travelling that one; and hopefully a learning curve for those that think they’re still invincible while in their senior years…….
The last of the southbound photo-stops going south was at the town Schaberg, a more sensible location after the three previous ones. After that the train continued to Mountainburg where, depending on what you’d booked for the evening, buses waited to take people back to Springdale, having brought folk down that were only doing the return trip to Winslow or Springdale. We’d booked the whole kit and caboodle and would be staying with the train all the way back to Springdale that night so took the opportunity to get some dinner from the A&M’s newly acquired restaurant car.
There were choices for food and I opted for pulled pork with BBQ sauce; and a good choice it turned out to be. We shared a table with a guy who was returning back north with the bus, who unfortunately had a bogey hanging from his nose that he hadn’t realised; it made it very hard not to look while he was speaking but equally it wasn’t the sort of thing you wanted to look at while you were eating; it was an interesting meal!
The return trip back to Winslow was all about night photography, all of which was done at Winslow. The first of the two shots was done at the south portal of Winslow Tunnel, this time in complete darkness. The locos were unhooked from the train and positioned with the leading loco just coming out of the tunnel. The NRHS guys then set up a load of spot flashes that were synchronised to one of the guy’s cameras. We were all positioned and set up and then the camera settings were given out. Basically a countdown was given, shutters were opened and the flashes went off. To the naked eye nothing was lit up but the results on the screen were something I’d not expected and it all suddenly became clear how these night photo-shoots worked at that point. Everyone was allowed to rotate three times, left, right and centre, and there were a few shots done at each point to allow everyone the opportunity to get the photos they wanted.
Once the Winslow Tunnel portal shots were done everyone was back on, the locos re-attached and the train moved to just south of Winslow station; where two buses were waiting to take folk back to either the Holiday Inn or Springdale Depot. Before they departed the train was positioned for another night shoot, everything the same as the previous shot, just a different location. Most people then disappeared back to Springdale by bus leaving the hardcore to travel back with the train; which actually amounted to 8 fare paying passengers plus some A&M staff and one NRHS volunteer!
We had the pleasure of Mrs Know-it-all on the way back north, which wasn’t an issue initially but at one point she was insistent on the fact that we must visit Sacramento Railway Museum and just wouldn’t leave it alone; her husband, who was quite sociable, could see we weren’t really that interested and basically told her to shut up in the end, which thankfully she did.
While we expected to get back to Springdale quite late we were subjected to a bit of shunting literally yards from where we would get off; which was a little insulting really. Fortunately we had absolutely nothing to get up for the following morning, unlike the NRHS mob who were being transferred to the nearby Eureka Springs Railroad by bus at 0515! So the moment we got off it was highball to the hotel and bed; alarms set to make last orders for breakfast.
|68||Springdale||Bentonville MP 336.10||0800 Springdale – Bentonville (NRHS Charter)||68 Extra||A&M Alco C420 – Alco C420 #44 dor|
|44||Bentonville MP 336.10||Springdale||1030 Bentonville – Springdale (NRHS Charter)||44 Extra||A&M Alco C420 – Alco C420 #68 dor|
|44||Springdale||Mountainburg||1300 Springdale – Mountainburg (NRHS Charter)||44 Extra||A&M Alco C420’s 44/68 in multi – mixed train as a photo freight for NRHS Charter|
|68||Mountainburg||Springdale||1900 Mountainburg – Springdale (NRHS Charter)||68 Extra||A&M Alco C420’s 68/44 in multi – mixed train as a photo freight for NRHS Charter|
Gen for Tuesday 10th June 2014
EMD SD70Ace’s 70, 71 & 72 spare at Springdale all day then to Fort Smith at approx. 2300
Alco C424 #34 – Rogers Turn
Alco C420’s 42/58, 56 & 54 & Alco C424 #32 at Springdale mid afternoon
The Photos Bentonville
The Photos Mountainburg
The Photos Night Photos at Winslow
Wednesday 11th June 2014 (Oooops, we’ve missed it!)
Having had a decent lay-in and a leisurely breakfast we headed off to Springdale station to have a quick chat with Brenda; the idea being she would find out where the local freight turns were and we’d head off and chase them for the afternoon. What we didn’t bank f when we pulled into the car park was the three old coaches not being in the depot, where we’d left them last night. Brenda duly informed us that they were at Van Buren having worked one of the A&M’s regular trips that morning at 0800. Doh!!!!
All was not lost though as Brenda’s husband Larry was the engineer and she rang him and told him that Vic & I would be driving to Winslow to ride the train Winslow – Van Buren – Winslow; which was certainly better than nothing. Our move would be the return leg of the Van Buren – Winslow for the return leg of the Springdale – Van Buren back to Winslow. Thankfully we’d already filled the car up with fuel and were able to point it straight towards Winslow and having entered Winslow into the Satnav we were on our way.
As Winslow is nothing more than a crossroads in the middle of nowhere, with only a few buildings, whatever we entered into the Satnav for Winslow would have taken us there; and it did. We were there within 45 minutes and had plenty of time to dump the car and find a decent location to photograph the train arriving. Of course 44 & 68 were the locos, something we hadn’t quite expected as the train was only load 4 and could have been worked by a single Alco. Unfortunately when we asked Larry about the locos and the chances of them being swapped during the NRHS convention he informed us that 44 & 68 were dedicated to the passenger train for the whole season; mainly as they had decent dynamic brakes and were now among the few that actually had them. This news what exactly what we hadn’t wanted to hear!
The shunter greeted us as the train arrived and we were allowed into the open window coach, which was behind the locos heading towards Van Buren. As the run was virtually all downhill there wasn’t much to listen to but it was good to have the coach to ourselves and be allowed off by the shunter before the locos ran round to propel the train into the station at Van Buren. He even suggested that we visit the Cottage Café, over the road from the station, for the best pie in town. He wasn’t wrong either and the coconut pie, which was more like a meringue to us English folk, was well worth purchasing.
Larry Long, who is a conductor on the A&M’s passenger trains and someone who we’ve met many times, showed us to the front coach on the way back. This coach being a newly acquired coach for the A&M and is a dome car that used to be part of the California Zephyr set many moons ago. We let the fare paying folk sit upstairs in the dome while we chatted to other folk downstairs in the seating area. Luckily for us said folks were complaining at being cold and the front door was opened for a while to allow some warm air in; and of course some thrash as we climbed up to Winslow summit. I have to say the air con in the coach was very efficient indeed and also very cold as a result!
Thankfully the engineer and shunter knew we needed to be dropped off at Winslow as the on board staff had completely forgot when we went to remind him! The brief stop at Winslow was only to let us off as it wasn’t a booked stop and normally people can’t get on or off trains at Winslow at all! We had plenty of time to then beat the train back to Springdale and spent at least 15 minutes on the West Don Tyson Parkway over bridge waiting for the train to head into town.
No sooner had we pulled up in the car park at Springdale, just after the passenger train had arrived back, did Alco C424 #32 pull up alongside the crew office just north of the level crossing; it was working the “Springdale Turn” and heading southbound to deposit cars and shunt local business sidings during the process. As it was a lovely sunny afternoon and the train switched at every set of sidings heading south out of town we had ample opportunity to get shots at most levels crossings; our last shot being of the train as it crossed South Thompson Street Bridge, at which point we called it a day and headed back to the hotel to get cleaned up before heading to the Guadalajara restaurant again for food and a few beers.
|44||Winslow||Van Buren||1230 Winslow – Van Buren||A&M Alco C420’s 44/68 in multi|
|68||Van Buren||Winslow||1430 Van Buren – Springdale||A&M Alco C420’s 68/44 in multi|
Gen for Wednesday 11th June 2014
Alco C420’s #44 & #68 – 0800 Springdale – Van Buren, 1100 Van Buren – Winslow, 1230 Winslow – Van Buren & 1430 Van Buren – Springdale
Alco C424 #32 – Springdale Turn
Thursday 12th June 2014 (Which locos should we choose today?)
Having got to the station in good time, to make sure we got decent seats in the open window coach, we found 44 & 68 preparing to shunt the two portions of the train together at Springdale. As we’d been told by Larry Rouse the previous day that both 44 & 68 were dedicated to the passenger train for the whole 2014 season we were under no illusion that we’d be getting them for the whole trip; having had to previously persuade the A&M to swap 68 off the train when Bart had run some other specials back in 2012. The power of the people seemed to have worked back then during a shops tour and there was one of those once the train had returned from Fort Smith on this very day; so Mr A&M Fleet Engineer would be getting a talking to about his choice of traction…….
As we’d travelled to Van Buren in the open window coach the previous day we knew which windows opened in the coach and were lucky enough to be among the first into it to choose our seats; mainly because the first bunch of folks boarding didn’t go right to the end of the train as they were told and attempted to set up camp in the air-con coaches.
The photo-stops en-route to Fort Smith were in very sensible locations; unlike the previous day’s escapades. Maybe they’d had to be toned down a little due to the issues the previous day with less mobile people getting off at places they really shouldn’t have? Either way, all were at suitable places along the route and we stopped at Shady Grove, West Fork & Mountainburg.
Despite our ever increasing disdain for the #68 the pair sounded good going up the hill to Winslow with the whole A&M fleet of coaches, load 6, behind them; #44 being the superior of the two with a very meaty growl emanating from its stack. Having crossed the UP tracks just south of Van Buren and then over the A&M bridge that spans the river just beyond, arrival into Fort Smith Frisco station was a bit of an anticlimax really. Those that wanted to wonder round town for a couple of hours could get off and do so, the alternative option being to stay on board and have lunch in the dining car; we chose the latter option as there didn’t seem to be much on the photo front occurring at Fort Smith, only the three Fort Smith Railroad locos being visible on the FSR shed, 1612, 2038 & 2031; all of which could be photted from the train anyway.
While the train was serviced in the A&M’s Fort Smith Yard we were served up a very American lunch in the form of toast with beef, mashed potatoes and gravy with a side of green beans! As random as that may seem to us English it was actually quite nice and went down a treat.
We only had enough time to rush off and get a quick photo when the stock was backed into the Frisco station to collect everyone; literally the time it took to board everyone. We were then Springdale bound, with no photo-stops at all en-route back. Even though we were at the rear of the train we could hear 44/68 hammering away up to Winslow from where we were.
We were back into Springdale just after 1700 and as we’d not previously booked on the 1730 shops tour we had to negotiate with Bart to be included. Luckily for us there were a couple of no-shows and we were allowed to tag on; the agreement with the A&M seemed to be a maximum of 50 people only. Even more lucky for us was the fact he didn’t charge us the $20 fee for the tour and just told us to tag along, which was awfully nice of him.
The group was split in two with each being given a guided tour of both the new car shops and loco maintenance facilities; the A&M having spent in excess of $2M on upgrading their facilities for a sustainable future.
The car shops was a simple affair with just one road through it but bizarrely no pit. The newest acquisition in there being a shunt loco replacement which was remote controlled and could pull up to 8 loaded wagons or 12 empties; this took away the need for a T6 to shunt the wagons as required and basically left the C&W shops self-sustainable to do what they needed, when they needed to do it.
The loco shops were in pristine condition, inside were GE “slug” #80, Alco C420 #57 on exam and Alco RS1 #20. The latter having been returned to service in April of 2014 having been stood outside stored for a god 5 years and probably more. It couldn’t be used at the moment though as it needed its windows replacing with FRA approved glass. We were told that it would likely be used as a shunt loco on the A&M network.
We used the opportunity to quiz head honcho Casey about his loco fleet and this is what we gleaned:
Currently there are 13 Alco’s in service at the A&M; ultimately the only C420’s to remain in service will be the 50’s, with all the 40’s and 60’s either being sold or scrapped.
Alco C424’s #32 & #34 have recently returned to the A&M after a spell on load in New York, both have remote control and will be kept in service; currently being used for the local turns ex Springdale.
Alco C420’s #48 & #60 have been sold to Future Fuels in Indiana.
Alco C420 #66 was shortly to become a cab-slug. This would make it easier for using a slug as #80 required a loco at each end for blowing up at level crossings; this issue would be negated with #66 retaining its cab.
Alco RS32 #30 & Alco T6 #14 were currently leased to an industry in Munroe, Louisiana and Alco T6 #16 is currently leased to an industry in Pine Bluff.
Alco T6 #18 was in the process of being returned to service. It was anticipated that this would replace RS32 #30 in Munroe allowing #30 to then potentially go elsewhere on hire or be used for switching on the A&M network.
The A&M had only recently got into the leasing out loco’s business and all their loco’s are currently leased with maintenance included.
The new EMD SD70ACe’s (#’s 70-72) have improved the A&M’s reliability since their arrival in early 2013. The 3 SD70’s can haul 9000 tons up the hill to Winslow in one go where as 8 Alco C420s could only manage 6000 tons so they used to have to “double the hill” and split the train to make two separate runs up it! As a result of the EMD’s arrival the A&M save between 10-13000 gallons of fuel per month!
We didn’t end up quizzing Casey about swapping the locos as other people were on the case; however he did confirm during conversation that #44 & #68 were the dedicated locos for the passenger train during 2014. As we left the shops Brenda was about to get on Casey’s case about the locos so we left everyone to it.
No sooner had we got back to the car to head back to the hotel did Alco C420 #54 arrive into town with the returning “Springdale Turn”. It stopped just south of the yard limits though and the engineer that got off told us it would be there for a good 30 minutes as it had to wait for the “Rogers Turn” to arrive back in from the north and immediately behind that was the Amtrak display train, which was going to be on display at the A&M shops for the following two days as part of the NRHS convention.
We were almost beaten by the sun by the time everything appeared but in the evening sunlight Alco C420’s #58 & #42 arrived back into town light engine; #42 only needing a notch on the throttle to darken the horizon! As they were shut down on shed #54 set off with its train and headed towards the Springdale North Yard. This almost scuppered our photos of the Amtrak train, which was hot on the tail of the C420’s which had just arrived, but thankfully just cleared our line of sight in time as cabbage car #406 led the train onto the A&M car shops road with GE P42 #42 providing the power behind it. Coming in with this formation would have to result in the A&M dragging the train back to Monett with one of their own locos as there was no way to turn the formation at Springdale and the cab of the P42 was facing south!
Evening bonus photography over we went to relax at the Guadalajara Mexican again to recharge and prepare ourselves mentally for another day of 44/68 the following day; our faith in the A&M swapping them being non-existent!
|44||Springdale||Fort Smith (Frisco Station)||0800 Springdale – Fort Smith (NRHS Charter)||44 Extra||A&M Alco C420’s 44/68 in multi|
|68||Fort Smith (Frisco Station)||Fort Smith (Frisco Station)||Stock Shunt to Fort Smith Ysrd to run locos round||A&M Alco C420’s 68/44 in multi – via Fort Smith Yard (RR)|
|68||Fort Smith (Frisco Station)||Springdale||0800 Springdale – Fort Smith (NRHS Charter)||68 Extra||A&M Alco C420’s 68/44 in multi|
Gen for Thursday 12th June 2014
Alco C420’s #44 & #68 NRHS Charter 0800 Springdale – Fort Smith & 1430 Fort Smith – Springdale
Alco C420’s #42 & #58 – Rogers Turn
Alco C420 #54 –Springdale Turn
Alco C420 #57 – Fort Smith Turn
Friday 13th June 2014 (What could possibly go wrong….)
Of course, #44 & #68 were already shunting the stock when we arrived at the A&M Springdale Depot. Brenda did actually tell us that Casey had said he’d “sort something out” for the trip to Monett on Saturday and she was thinking he may use the Alco RS1 #20 but we weren’t so convinced, mainly due to it needing the FRA approved glass fitting.
Our travel on the A&M’s regular Springdale – Van Buren – Winslow – Van Buren – Springdale was in first class! We opted to travel in the open window coach southbound though and Larry Long showed us to our “personal” coach before leaving us be.
The highlight of the journey was seeing how the poor old cows were that had been hit by a train near Van Buren a few days before we arrived. As we’d gone south two days previous one was already smelling rather ripe but the second was sat up as though nothing was amiss and we actually thought it was just sat by its mate waiting. It turned out that it had actually also been hit and had damaged both its front legs, Larry had been told that the local farmer was going to try and save it by injecting it to get it moved; those plans seemingly not being the case when we passed by and both were being picked at by vultures!
Having got a few photos as the train was backed into Van Buren we then joined the train for the trip to Winslow and return; taking up our first class seating in the lounge car #107 and doing just what it said on the tin and lounging.
The return journey from Van Buren to Springdale was spent in our personal car, #104, with the opening windows. Thankfully we had enough time on arrival back at Van Buren to get some excellent coconut pie from the Cottage Café over the road from the station; we even treated Larry Long to a piece as well.
As we approached the northern outskirts of Fayetteville we were held as the “Springdale Turn” was somewhere ahead of us. Bizarrely what happen was Alco C424 #34 approached from the north light engine, picked up a couple of wagons from a siding ahead and then propelled them back down the main line in front of us; we then followed immediately behind at a safe distance, ultimately running by it after it had shunted into a loop. The moment we’d passed by though the #34 was off its train and running round to head back north.
Back at Springdale our afternoon was perfectly set up as Alco C424 #34 was just approaching from the south with the “Springdale Turn” which we drove south to Porter Avenue for as it shunted a business just south of town. There are numerous level crossings south of Springdale that are easily accessible and we caught it at the following: Main Drive, Porter Avenue & Caudle Avenue before heading north of town to the south end of the Springdale North Yard where #34 began switching cars from various trains; we assumed to make up the Fort Smith train for the night, out of the Monett train from that morning and stuff that had been collected by both the Rogers & Springdale turns during the day.
#34 was another loco that only needed nothing up to darken the horizon and the half an hour we spent watching it shunting was an entertaining one. Having got all the shots we needed we headed back to the Residence Inn quite early for a change and did food at an Italian restaurant, just a bit further up the road from the Guadalajara Mexican. The food wasn’t up to much though and we wouldn’t be using it again. It was ok if you liked your Italian food to be decimated and turned into slop!
|44||Springdale||Van Buren||0800 Springdale – Van Buren||A&M Alco C420’s 44/68 in multi|
|68||Van Buren||Winslow||1100 Van Buren – Winslow||A&M Alco C420’s 68/44 in multi|
|44||Winslow||Van Buren||1230 Winslow – Van Buren||A&M Alco C420’s 44/68 in multi|
|68||Van Buren||Springdale||1430 Van Buren – Springdale||A&M Alco C420’s 68/44 in multi|
Gen for Friday 13th June 2014
Alco C420’s #44 & #68 0800 Springdale – Van Buren, 1100 Van Buren – Winslow, 1230 Winslow – Van Buren & 1430 Van Buren – Springdale
Alco C424 #34 – Springdale Turn
Saturday 14th June 2014 (The beginning of the end of England’s World Cup campaign)
Another early-ish arrival at the Springdale Depot to secure our seats at in the open window coach for the trip of the week to Monett. Both Bentonville & Monett had not seen passenger trains for many years; the only ones actually serving Monett at all are the A&M’s yearly run “customer specials” which generally involve BNSF & UP as the main line railroads that link at either end of the A&M metals. As a result of the “rare miles” on offer the train was the fullest of the NRHS operated specials during the convention week and being on the train first was a much needed bonus!
As we’d expected the A&M hadn’t swapped the locos and No’s 44/68 were already sat at the north end marshalled to the train; so much for Casey “sorting us out” eh!!
En-route north there was a massive bonus as we were sidelined at Exeter to let the southbound BNSF grain train pass by en-route to Springdale. As we were in first everyone was allowed to detrain and position themselves on the crossing to photograph the train as it passed by heading south. Usually the train is worked through to Springdale by BNSF power and on occasion the BNSF power is topped by A&M power; on this occasion the train was headed by A&M Alco C420’s #58 & #42, piloting BNSF’s #6024. What a bonus that was indeed! Unfortunately though as we’d had to wait almost 30 minutes for the train to pass it was the only photo-stop we had en-route to Monett and the air-con constantly cutting out on the dome car saw to it that we had no other photo-stops at all that day. The delays caused by trying to fix the air-con at various places meant we had to rush back to Springdale as some people had late afternoon flights from the NW Arkansas Regional airport.
Quite what all the fuss about BNSF not allowing passenger trains into Monett is about didn’t become evident when we rounded the curve into the Monett Yard; it was completely empty, not a wagon it sight! Other than folk trying to rectify the air-con on the dome car we were straight into the yard, locos run round and away south again, without interfering with anything at all. Unfortunately there were no BNSF trains in the vicinity when we were.
Lunch on board the train was far from its usual standard and to be honest the chicken salad was far from a meal at all; it barely touching the sides. Still it was on-board food and drink and at least we were back early to be able to get food elsewhere.
The run back south with 44/68 was a good one, our car 104 being right behind them for the southbound journey. With no photo-stops and no further delays heading south we were actually 2 minutes early back into Springdale; arriving at 1458. The Amtrak Exhibition Train was open to look round and there was a second tour of the shops for those that couldn’t do the Thursday tour. Bart was apparently on the case to attempt to get something different for the train the following day and while thought it would prove fruitless we asked him if he could campaign for Alco C420 #42, if not that #52; the latter having appeared on shed during our absence and was in a prime spot, and the right way round, to make it very easy for it to replace #68 in the pair.
Despite my growing dislike for #68 I spent the grand sum of $50 + tax on an Atlas model of it at the A&M shop. Said models actually being produced for the A&M and produced without motors, hence the $50 price tag as opposed to the $150 price tag attached to the previously produced production models with motors.
As there were no local turns at the weekend it allowed us to retire to the hotel for an afternoon of relaxation while watching England’s rather dismal performance against Italy in their opening game at the Brazil World Cup 2014. The score being 2-1 to Italy; who seemed to be breezing around the pitch towards the end of the game while young England players were suffering from cramp. While England being beaten by Italy wasn’t really a shock the other game in our group produced a massive shock as Costa Rica beat Uruguay 2-1; this making England’s defeat look like a moral victory. Of course we didn’t know what would follow for England and Italy at that point!
An early evening meal and few beers at the Guadalajara Mexican whiled away the evening; we thought it best not to do the Italian; for more reason than one………
|68||Springdale||Monett||0800 Springdale – Monett (NRHS Charter)||68 Extra||A&M Alco C420’s 68/44 in multi|
|44||Monett||Springdale||1045 Monett – Springdale (NRHS Charter)||44 Extra||A&M Alco C420’s 44/68 in multi|
Gen for Saturday 14th June 2014
Alco C420’s #44 & #68 NRHS Charter 0800 Springdale – Monett, 1045 Monett – Springdale
Alco C420’s #42 & #58 piloting BNSF #6024 with a grain train for Springdale
Sunday 15th June 2014 (The end of an excellent A&M experience; would it be our last?)
When we opened the curtains at the Residence Inn for the last time we were greeted by pouring rain; which was very fitting as almost every time the NRHS had run train during the convention week the weather at the start of the day hadn’t been anything like photographing weather, this day being by far the worst.
We weren’t quite as early as we’d have liked to have been at the Springdale Depot that morning but it didn’t matter in the end as the open window car, #104, only had half a dozen folks in it anyway. Just as we pulled up at the Springdale Depot the barriers went down in front of us and the familiar sight of a pair of A&M Alco C420’s came into sight, propelling the stock in during the morning rain. The #44 was against the stock, as expected, and we paid no attention to the second loco; until the number came into view and it wasn’t what we’d expected! The number on the cab side was #52 and not #68. We couldn’t quite believe what we were seeing; all the pestering for a different loco and the A&M chucked one out the day after the convention had finished. The train on this day actually being the regular A&M trip to Van Buren being diverted to Butterfield instead; but with some tickets sold to the convention goers. Apparently a few folk were a little annoyed by the #52’s appearance a day too late but we certainly weren’t and were treated to a cracking run with a cracking pair of engines; both #44 & #52 being equally as good as each other and both being better than #68.
The northbound run to Butterfield was without any photo-stops, mainly due to the rain. At Butterfield we were allowed out to get photos while the locos ran round and the only photo-stop we had was at Exeter on the return journey; where the rain had stopped and it suddenly became a lot brighter than it had been most of the morning. From that point on it only got brighter and we arrived back into Springdale with glorious sunshine beaming down. The run back giving the thrash of the whole week at the A&M, the pairing of 44/52 being well worth waiting for and a fitting end to a cracking week, even if the #68 had haunted us for almost all of our 4th visit to the railway.
We couldn’t leave without saying our goodbye’s to the A&M conducting staff along with those that really made the whole week work, Brenda & Bart. Hopefully we’d see both again soon, Bart at the 2015 convention in Vermont where we’d hopefully be getting some new track in for Alco’s, and Brenda in the UK if she managed to make her trip across the pond in September. For now we were St Louis bound in our trusty hire car and thanks to the early finish at Springdale we were in Sheraton Hotel in St Louis just after 1900; which was a massive bonus.
We’d originally booked a different hotel in St Louis but when we figured out the hire car drop-off was in the Sheraton lobby we changed our booking on Booking.com and actually saved about $15 in doing so as well. The room had two queen beds and was massive, it had a lounge rom attached which was equally as massive. All the mod-cons were accounted for and the only complaint I had was the fact you had to pay for WiFi if you wanted to use it.
Food that night was at the Hard Rock Café in the old St Louis Union station building complex. The whole place has been developed with food places but there’s also plenty of historical bits dotted around the place. Food at the Hard Rock was excellent and plentiful; there was a decent selection of beer as well.
We weren’t late out of bed that night as we had an early start the following morning.
|52||Springdale||Butterfield||0900 Springdale – Butterfield||52 Extra||A&M Alco C420’s 52/44 in multi|
|44||Butterfield||Springdale||1045 Butterfield – Springdale (NRHS Charter)||44 Extra||A&M Alco C420’s 44/52 in multi|
Gen for Sunday 15th June 2014
Alco C420’s #44 & #52 0900 Springdale – Butterfield & 1145 Butterfield – Springdale
Alco C420 #68 – shut down on shed at Springdale………!
Monday 16th June 2014 (Only 3045km to Salt Lake City; it shouldn’t take long!)
With the Sheraton being over the road from St Louis Gateway station we didn’t have to get up a long time before our 0640 Amtrak departure to Chicago and even when we did arrive at the station only 20 minutes before departure boarding hadn’t commenced; and only did so 10 minutes before departure.
We were glad to find train sporting 8400hp for the run to Chicago, with both Genesis P42’s, #64 & #56, being new ones as well. As we only had a plus 1h40m at Chicago for our long distance run on the “California Zephyr” to Salt Lake City we were hoping for no issues en-route and were quite glad to find us departing over the correct bridge from St Louis and not heading over the freight bridge as we had done the previous week on the inbound journey.
We had a decent run back to Chicago and were only 35 late arriving, which is almost respectable for Amtrak by the look of their current reliability. This allowed us ample time for lunch in the food court upstairs before heading to the Amtrak departure lounge for sleeper class customers. Inside which was rammed with people, the departure screen giving a clue as to why; the Texas Eagle due away at 1345, the California Zephyr due away at 1400 and the Empire Builder due away at 1415 were all showing delayed, apparently due to mechanical issues on the shed outside the station. The arrivals screen wasn’t much better with the inbound Texas Eagle due in at 1352 expected at 1500, the inbound Empire Builder due in at 1555 expected at 2100 and the pick of the bunch the inbound California Zephyr due in at 1450 expected at 0300 the following morning!
While everyone waited, in a room that probably looked very much like the common waiting area next door, at least we were treated to free drinks and nibbles before boarding and thankfully our train was the first to be called out of the three delayed on the screens.
We’d travelled long distance in coach class on Amtrak and decided that as we were on board for 31 hours that we’d get a roomette this time, which included all food on board in the price and should at least guarantee a decent night’s sleep. There wasn’t much space in the roomette once the beds were put down but during the day there was enough to relax and chill in the privacy of your own space.
Our 1608 mile journey kicked off at 1439, 39 minutes late and only went downhill from that point. The big problem being was that our arrival time into Salt Lake City was 2305 the following night and the later the train got the more rancid our overnight plans got; what we needed was the train to be either bang on time or 6 hours late!
Before we’d even departed Chicago with our Genesis P42’s #197 & #89 the restaurant car staff had been round to hand out dinner reservation times to the sleeping car passengers and we were left to relax and enjoy the evening before being called to dinner at 1930; very civilized it was too. The steak on board was very good, probably the best meal I’d had on Amtrak and a journey on any Amtrak train with a restaurant car, without having the cheesecake would be sacrilege!
Having been up early we weren’t late out of bed; the train being over an hour late by the time we did call it a day.
|64||St Louis Gateway||Chicago Union||0640 St Louis – Chicago Union||302||Amtrak GE P42DC’s 64/56 T&T Multi|
|197||Chicago Union||Salt Lake City||1400 Chicago Union – Emeryville||5||Amtrak GE P42DC’s 197/89 in multi – California Zephyr – 6h10m late at Salt Lake City|
Gen for Monday 16th June 2014
GE P42DC’s 64/56 302 0640 St Louis – Chicago Union
GE P42DC’s 197/89 5 1400 Chicago Union – Emeryville (California Zephyr)
Tuesday 17th June 2014 (Welcome to Denver, Colorado; here’s 4 hours to discover it!)
It was immediately evident when we got up for breakfast that we were nowhere near where we should have been and it was explained over the public address system that we’d lost time overnight due to speed restrictions of 25mph on the UP operated tracks en-route and also due to a tornado near Omaha, Nebraska, which had apparently wiped out a small town and left one person dead.
We should have arrived into Denver, Colorado, at 0715 but breakfast had been long finished in the restaurant car by then and we eventually arrived 3 hours late after some delays getting through the UP yard at Denver and then having to draw round a wye before propelling our train across the main lines into the newly opened Denver Union station; which Amtrak had only been using since the 28th February 2014.
There were building works going on all around the station area and it looked very much like Denver was going to introduce either a commuter line or light rail system with the amount of platforms the station would have once completed. While the train was being serviced, and the locos fuelled, we had time to get some photos before re-boarding and taking up seats in the lounge car for the journey through the Rocky Mountains towards Glenwood Springs, CO. All the windows of which had been cleaned by the cleaning crew, with very long brushes, and just as everyone got settled and was ready for departure did the conductor give us all a 4 hour extended stay in Denver! He announced that Union Pacific had closed the line about an hour out of Denver for 4 hours and that we’d be waiting at Denver Union until it re-opened. Everyone was allowed to do as they pleased in the 4 hours but must make sure they were back on board within the 4 hour time frame. This was not good news for us at all as at 7 hours late it could potentially result in us not getting to the Nevada Northern Railway in Ely, Nevada, for the 0930 train on Wednesday morning at all.
With no real choice we went to have a walk round town, just like most of the rest of the train. Greeting everyone at the end of the platform though was the train conductor who was actually telling everyone to be back with the train for 1300 and not 1500 as previously advised; it seemed that UP may well have us away earlier than they’d originally anticipated; which was a little better news for us. However whatever happened our booked hotel in Ely that night was going to be of no use at all. We’d anticipated arriving at about 0300 in the morning as it was, after the 236 mile drive from Salt Lake City and arrangements were in place for the key to our room to be left under the mat outside it so we could get in out of hours. As it now stood the room was a pointless requirement so I borrowed the conductor’s mobile phone and rang the Bristlecone Motel to let them know. The woman answering was fine with what I’d told her and was even going to ring Booking.com to get the first night of our two night stay cancelled off at no charge; this was a massive bonus as we shouldn’t have been able to cancel it on the day and while using some free WiFi in town the e-mail from Booking.com came through confirming the modification to our booking and cancelling the first night free of charge.
Denver didn’t offer us much in the way of things to do in the short time we had there but the view of the station front was well worth taking pictures of. With everyone back on board we actually departed Denver at 1315, 6h10m late, and then sat in the yard at the opposite side of the main line for almost an hour before heading up the pass to the Rocky Mountains. Due to the heavy rains UP had been having problems on one of the tight curves that headed up the pass and had been shoring it up and re-ballasting while we waited at Denver; evidence of which could be seen as we ambled by at slow speed. There were plenty of UP folk about and the moment we’d passed by men were out on the tracks behind us with a gauging stick to check if the tracks had moved at all.
Even though we were late, the run through the mountains was cracking. The scenery was different during the three stages of the journey and quite spectacular in places, my favourite part being the run through the canyon, with rapids flowing in the bottom, towards the end of the pass between Granby & Glenwood Springs, CO; the latter part of which we enjoyed from the confines of the restaurant car, where we found out that two people had actually missed the train in Denver and had to get some road transport to Fraser Winter Park to catch us up!
As UP had shafted us at Denver it seemed like they’d done their utmost to keep us going through the mountains and the only thing we actually stopped for, other than at booked station stops, was a train heading in the other direction which was already sat waiting for us but too long for the loop; thus preventing us having a clear run through it. Once it had got going it was plain sailing from then; all 9 of the engines in its consist were powering away as it climbed away from us, that was the two on the front, three a third in from the front, three two thirds in from the front and the one on the rear!
In light of the train’s lateness we obviously had an extra night on board and were praying that nothing went wrong in the night to result in us losing any more time. We’d arranged with the coach attendant to make sure we were up 30 minutes before Salt Lake City and had also set our alarms for 0500 just in case. Our California Zephyr was a little over 6 hours late when we went to bed, having been over 7 hours late at one point……..
Wednesday 18th June 2014 (Welcome to Salt Lake City; where are all the taxis?)
I was awake at about 0430 and after about 15 minutes of wondering where we were my curiosity got the better of me; especially as we’d been stood the whole time I’d been awake. I found the conductor in the adjacent dining car who told me that we’d been stood waiting for a UP train, which was about to pass us. It had reportedly had something hanging down from its consist and the crew had been to rectify the issue before it could proceed and clear the section ahead. We were approx. 30 minutes from Salt Lake City and had been stood for almost 45 minute by the time we got on the move; our train having clawed back quite a bit of time only to lose it on the doorstep of Salt Lake City. We ultimately arrived at 0520, 6h15m late.
For us this arrival time couldn’t have been any better; it was almost perfect for the time we needed to get from Salt Lake City to the airport, collect our hire car and then drive the 236 miles to Ely, Nevada. Any earlier and we’d have been out of bed earlier than we needed to be for a decent night’s sleep and any later and we’d have been pushing it to get to Ely for 0930.
As it was taxis at Salt Lake City became our sticking point that morning. There were only two in the parking lot, one was already about to go and the other wouldn’t take us to the airport. In the end we managed to get on that randomly turned up to send a second to collect us; this one would have been ours had I actually been able to fin Vic at that point but he’d gone wondering off round the Greyhound Bus Terminal to try and find some transport. In the end the same taxi driver returned about 10 minutes later and took us to the airport; the one he’d ordered for us not having turned up at that point. The journey took about 10 minutes and cost just under $20 on the meter. This was ultimately claimed back through the car hire company at the airport who paid up to $20 taxi fare for you to get to them.
Hertz soon had our car ready and we were Ely bound by just after 0630, which taking into account the fact we would go back an hour the moment we crossed the state border from Utah to Nevada meant we had about 4 hours to get to Ely for our 0930 train.
Once on the I80, less than a mile from the airport, we only had two turns to make before we’d be at our destination in Ely. The scenery en-route was nothing short of spectacular and exactly as I’d expected from a Nevada landscape. Heading out of town we passed snow-capped mountains in the distance, these gave way to a more arid landscape but still hilly and as the I80 reached the brows of certain hills we could see where we’d end up 10’s of miles in the distance as the road headed down into the plain and then back up the other side. The highlight of the journey had to be the Bonneville salt flats, between Salt Lake & Wendover; it was like a total white-out on both sides of the interstate as we passed through the middle of them.
It was a very simple journey, if not a boring one in the sense of the straight drive but we pulled off the I93 and onto the road which led down to the Nevada Northern Railway’s East Ely station at about 0900. Just poking out from behind the statin as we approached was the orange nose of the railway’s 1948 built Alco RS2 #105; the one and only reason we were where we were at this point in time. The railway had agreed to put the RS2 out on the two days we’d be visiting, the obvious caveats applying, and when we’d originally asked #105 required some repairs to a water leak, which looked to have been fixed; especially as it was actually running when we got out of the car, and was also attached to the stock; definitely a good sign!
With half an hour to spare we collected our pre-booked tickets, the booking having been made on the railway’s website with a round trip costing $27 per person, and then got the cameras out to photograph the RS2 to death before departure!
The whole Nevada Northern Railway Museum site is situated on the outskirts of Ely, Nevada, and looks just like a scene you’d find in a western movie with old style buildings and wooden water towers and loading bunkers; it was certainly a very fitting look for a museum, which obviously had been part of a working railroad in the not too distant past.
The train for the day was formed of a bright yellow caboose, open air flat car and two coaches, both of which had started life in the Chicago suburbs as commuter cars over 100 years ago! The train we were travelling on was the only train of the day and was billed as a “Keystone” service in the timetable, running from Ely to Keystone and return. For some reason #105 had been shut down prior to departure but spluttered back into life a few minutes before departure; throwing a plume of thick black Alco clag into the air as it growled back into life!
The train was propelled out of the station and into the yard at the south end of the station limits before heading via the “avoiding line” and up the grade towards Keystone. The line speed was quite low and as such didn’t yield any prolonged thrash from the RS2 as it climbed its way to Keystone but when it was given a bit it certainly sounded the part and only needed a notch or two to be pouring out black clag everywhere. At 66 years old the little RS2 seemed to be in decent shape, even if on tick-over you might have been given a different impression and during the northbound run we had a crew swap half way, the second crew seeming a bit more hungry for getting the power handle to notch 8 quicker! It turned out that both crews were on railway experience weeks at the Nevada Northern and this was their train driving experience day.
At Keystone there is a wye and the trains heads straight round the curve onto it upon arrival, at the end of which is a ghost village, erected by the railway for their ghost train experience. The train then reverses round the northern part of the wye to rejoin the main line and head back down the hill to Ely. The rails are visible in the distance as they head away from Keystone although there is a stop sign ahead and a pile of dirt over the tracks preventing the railway from running any further.
Despite the glorious weather it had been a cool morning and we’d actually needed to change out of our shorts for the journey, and put our jackets on to ride in the open air car! By the time we arrived back into Ely though the sun had warmed the air up sufficiently for the jackets go be surplus to requirement.
Included in the ticket price is a tour of the Nevada Northern’s shops; which is optional. On arriving back in the yard the train is then shunted straight to the shops, where people taking the tour are dropped off, before then drawing forward and back into the station to drop everyone else off. Once off the train the tour is given by one of the railway’s very knowledgeable chaps; the guy giving our tour gave the impression that he used to work at the railroad when it was operational and back during the steam days too.
Inside the shops were every other loco, both steam and diesel, that the railway owned, other than three stored Alco’s round the back of the shed. The list is as follows:
EMD SD9 #204 – operational but on its 90 day exam
Alco RS3 #109 – out of service requiring repairs to cylinder liners and stripped of its batteries
Baldwin VO1000 #801 – out of service
Baldwin Lima Hamilton S-12 #802 – out of service
GE ???? #??? – undergoing repairs? (some sort of 25 ton?)
GE 75-ton #80 – out of service
GE 85-ton #81 – out of service
Baldwin 4-6-0 34942 1910 #40
Baldwin 2-8-0 1917 #81
Alco 2-8-0 44604 1909 #93
Alco RS3 #13 – ex Leighigh & Hudson River then SMARCO
Alco MRS1’s #2080 & #2081 – both donated to the railway, intact, but with a caveat that they are not used for hauling trains!! One may well donate cylinder liners to RS3 #109, assuming 251 liners fit a 244 power unit?
We spent most of our time inside the shops shying away from the group tour and getting our photos. We also snook outside and went round the side of the shed to get some sneaky pictures of the stored Alco’s outside; something we later did with permission when the sun was better in the afternoon.
Having finished our tour and got the photo’s we needed we headed to the Bristlecone Motel, which was only a mile away from the station. The woman at reception remembered speaking with me the previous day and was thanked for allowing us to cancel the previous night off without charge. The room we were given was a large room with two queen beds, small bathroom and large separate washing area. The room had air-con, large TV and a microwave, along with coffee making facilities and free Wi-Fi. It was nice to relax in somewhere bigger than a 6×3 room for a change!
Having chilled for a bit we ventured out to get some food and ended up using the Silver State Restaurant on Highway 50, only about a mile from the hotel, then we headed over to the Nevada Northern Railway again to see what was going off and attempt to get back round to the rear of the main shed to get more pictures of the stored Alco’s as the sun had gone round far enough to be on them in the late afternoon.
The RS2 #105 was found in the main yard area by the station being used for attaching/detaching training with the four guys on the “Railroad Reality Week”. Despite our initial intentions to just sneak round the back of the shed to get our photos there were still quite a few folk around the shed so we asked someone as we approached; and it wasn’t a problem at all to head round the back where we took all the time we needed to get the photos we wanted.
There wasn’t a great deal to do in the small town of Ely of an evening, other than gamble on the slots! We opted for a few beers at the Ramada Copper Queen Casino and watching folk gamble, before settling for food at the Twin Wok just over the road, and only round the corner from the hotel. Talk about wanting to tidy up around you, the place was quite full when we entered but the staff were so keen to get people out the food was out, eaten and plates taken away almost instantaneously!
After another beer we were more than ready for a good night’s sleep after our double Amtrak overnight.
|105||East Ely Depot||East Ely Locomotive Shops||0930 East Ely – East Ely (Keystone Train)||Nevada Northern Alco RS2 – Via East Ely Yd (RM), Keystone Wye (RMx2), East Ely Yd (RM)|
Thursday 19th June 2014 (What to do in Salt Lake City?)
A leisurely morning really, although due to the Silver State Restaurant being a little busy we had to wait over half an hour for our breakfast, and rush it down, before heading over to the Nevada Northern Railway for a second trip with RS2 #105.
Unlike the previous morning the sun actually made it quite warm and it turned out to be a scorching morning on the open air coach; which was a lot more frequented than it had been the previous day. We did the same run as the previous day, up to Keystone, this time the “Railroad Reality Week” guys were left behind to do something else, leaving the regular crew to drive the RS2; the trainees were better at giving it what for!
Obviously we gave the shops tour a miss when we got back and made a quick-ish getaway once we’d filled the car up; we were Salt Lake Airport bound to drop the hire car off. The return journey didn’t seem as tiring as the outbound had and we stopped a few times en-route to get some photos of the Nevada landscape.
Between Wendover & Salt Lake we overtook a UP train, heading towards Salt Lake itself, and managed to pull off the Interstate to get photos of it at Grantsville by Cargill’s Industry. Despite overtaking it again we only managed the one shot of it before the railway headed away from us and inland towards Salt Lake City. Bizarrely we could have actually got another shot of the train had we been paying attention when stood at North Temple station later that day, as the same train rounded the curve and ran through to the yard just beyond the station! That was about 90 minutes after we’d last seen it from the car……
Dropping the car off was efficient enough and well signposted, with the airport being just off the I80 and very convenient really. Rather than get a taxi back this time we’d figured out that we could use the Utah Transit Authority (UTA) TRAX (Metro) from the airport to North Temple where it interchanges for the UTA Frontrunner train service, which is worked solidly by MPI MP36PH-3C’s.
UTA offers a cracking value ticket which is simply titled a Group Pass, which costs $15 and is valid on the whole UTA system on the train, light rail, bus & street car systems after 0830 for the remainder of that day; we bought one from the ticket machine on the TRAX platform at the airport station, with no hassle at all.
The afternoon was simply spent doing “Hovercraft”, as we’d nicknamed the MPI MP36’s, between Salt Lake Central and North Temple; much to the bemusement of the UTA staff that kept seeing us get on every train departing towards North Temple for the 2 hours we were riding about!
There are 9 engines out at one time on the Frontrunner circuit and we got them all in, easily. We even had time to do a bit of photographing off the footbridge at North Temple in the late evening; the sun being perfect. The bonus being a completely random shot of a Frontrunner train departing, at the same time as a G&W freight was heading out of town; the timing couldn’t have been any better at all!
Cranking finished for the day I used the free Wi-Fi at the Greyhound bus terminal next to Salk Lake station and found our Amtrak California Zephyr to be over 3 hours late so with that in mind we walked the mile or so into town to the Squatters Pub and Brewery, which was quite full for a midweek night. I can recommend their Respect Your Mother Amber and the food was cracking; just what we needed to top the day off and prepare us for another night on Amtrak. We opted to walk back to the station via the roads and not through the park as we had done on the outward walk; although those dosing on the grass would have had a rude awakening as every inch of grass in Salt Lake City seemed to be getting a watering courtesy of the City’s sprinkler system!
The Amtrak office at Salk Lake City didn’t open until 2200 and was quite full by the time we arrived after 2300. There was no queue at the counter though and we managed to change our travel arrangements, to get us from Emeryville to San Francisco, quite easily. Rather than getting an Amtrak California train to Oakland and doing the Bay Area Rapid Transport (BART) to San Francisco and then trying to get to the Caltrain station at San Francisco we paid $2 more and booked on the connecting Amtrak bus from Emeryville, which terminated at the Caltrain station in San Francisco, taking the hassle factor out of things, especially with the “Zephyr” being late.
Amtrak GE P42’s #96 & #122 turned up with our Emeryville bound California Zephyr at approx 0135, 2h30m late. Boarding wasn’t done until everyone had got off the platform and even then none of the roomettes were ready as a large party of folk has just got off at Salt Lake City and they all had to be made up from scratch before people could board. We weren’t far off 3 hours late by the time we departed. There was no messing about in our compartment, beds were made, bags stowed and doss…….
|105||East Ely Depot||East Ely Depot||0930 East Ely – East Ely (Keystone Train)||Nevada Northern Alco RS2 – Via East Ely Yd (RM), Keystone Wye (RMx2), East Ely Yd (RM), East Ely Locomotive Shops (RM)|
|4||North Temple||Salt Lake Central||1639 Ogden – Provo Central||Front Runner MPI MP36PH-3C|
|19||Salt Lake Central||North Temple||1650 Provo Central – Ogden||Front Runner MPI MP36PH-3C|
|8||North Temple||Salt Lake Central||1709 Ogden – Provo Central||Front Runner MPI MP36PH-3C|
|11||Salt Lake Central||North Temple||1720 Provo Central – Pleasant View||Front Runner MPI MP36PH-3C|
|15||North Temple||Salt Lake Central||1739 Ogden – Provo Central||Front Runner MPI MP36PH-3C|
|17||Salt Lake Central||North Temple||1750 Provo Central – Ogden||Front Runner MPI MP36PH-3C|
|7||North Temple||Salt Lake Central||1809 Ogden – Provo Central||Front Runner MPI MP36PH-3C|
|10||Salt Lake Central||North Temple||1820 Provo Central – North Temple||Front Runner MPI MP36PH-3C|
|20||North Temple||Salt Lake Central||1854 Pleasant View – Salt Lake Central||Front Runner MPI MP36PH-3C|
Gen for Thursday 19th June 2014
Utah Transit Authority (UTA) Frontrunner
MPI MP36PH-3C’s – 4, 7, 8, 10, 11, 15, 17, 19, 20
The Photos at Nevada Northern Railway
The Photos UTA Frontrunner
Friday 20th June 2014 (None of this is on my map…..)
We were up for breakfast; of course it would have been rude not to be when it wasn’t costing anything! After which we settled for the run through Reno and over the Donner Pass, a very scenic journey indeed.
After lunch the familiar site of Martinez soon approached in the late afternoon and we were treated to a nice sunset over the bay as we approached Emeryville, where we arrived 3 hours late. The connecting bus was waiting outside the station doors for us but wasn’t in a rush to go anywhere, mainly due to waiting for checked luggage to be got off the train; which then had to be collected by the owners as the guy that usually did the transfer had refused to do it after being pushed the previous day!
Whilst we had plenty of time to make the 2040 Caltrain from San Francisco to San Bruno we managed to miss it by less than 10 minutes thanks to all the drop-off’s being completely wrong for the Caltrain stop. Despite the bus entering San Francisco over the Bay Bridge, which isn’t far from the Caltrain station at all, it then heads away from the Caltrain station and drops off along the piers first, before having to negotiate the San Francisco one way system to get back to the Caltrain station; the result being us missing the 2040 train by minutes and the next one not being for an hour!
Subway on the station had to suffice for our evening meal as there wasn’t much else on offer within walking distance of the station. Tickets on Caltrain are done by zones and a single to San Bruno only cost $3; San Bruno being the last station in zone 1.
Our conveyance to San Bruno was Caltrain MPI MP36PH-3C #924, which made quite a din as it headed out of town and beneath various roads above, and dropped us off 11 miles later at San Bruno; which was where the confusion began! We’d got off at the correct stop yet none of the surroundings were on the map I’d printed out. Thanks to the very good offline Mapdroid app we soon figured out what the hell was going off. It turned out that the Caltrain station on Google Maps was actually a temporary one and the new one, the one we’d just got off at, had opened only a few months previous (according to the hotel receptionist when we got there). The annoying thing about it was that we were over a mile from the hotel, instead of only 2 blocks and a 20 minute walk followed our arrival.
The Hotel Howard Johnson San Bruno was expecting us and thankfully hadn’t given our rooms away when we arrived at almost 2230. Check-in was quick and the room we were given was clean & sizeable with air-con, two queen beds & flat screen TV.
|96||Salt Lake City||Emeryville||1400 (18/06) Chicago Union – Emeryville||5||Amtrak GE P42DC’s 96/122 in multi – California Zephyr – 3h25m late into Emeryville|
|Bus||Emeryville||San Francisco (Caltrain)||Amtrak connectong bus ex California Zephyr||Amtrak connecting bus|
|924||San Francisco||San Bruno||2140 San Francisco – San Jose Diridon||194||Caltrain MPI MP36PH-3C|
Saturday 21st June 2014 (The longest day)
Having decided on a not too early start we did breakfast at the hotel before walking to the station to do a Caltrain bash. Caltrain offers day tickets based on the number of zones you want to travel in. Our plan was to end up at San Jose later that afternoon, which was in zone 4, so our day pass cost $18 from the ticket machine on the platform at San Bruno; a bargain really, especially as an Amtrak single from San Jose to Oakland cost us $17 later in the day!
The first engine of the day turned out to be Caltrain F40 #904, which set the scene for the day, as we did it the short distance to South San Francisco where we waited for the next southbound which turned up with F40 #902.
The hourly service at a weekend made at South San Francisco going north and Heyward Park going south but as it was only a plus 2 we opted for the safer move at San Mateo instead. Although having done that twice and then getting bowled out at Millbrae by the only MP36PH-3C we’d had we opted to be brave and risk Heyward Park to get another engine in; after all everything going north had been at least 5 minutes late all morning. Thankfully our risk paid off and we caned in our 6th F40 of the morning before doing one of Caltrain’s “Baby Bullets” from San Mateo to San Jose with the dud MP36PH-3C #924, which we’d seen heading into town that morning. We opted to do the length of the line on a semi-fast rather than an all stations, the journey time difference being almost 30 minutes.
Caltrain has a depot at San Jose, on it were only few sets, the majority seem to be stabled at San Francisco all weekend. Having done the track to San Jose and having had all the F40’s out we chose to do Amtrak California back to Oakland Colliseum rather than a dud F40 all the way to San Francisco. Amtrak California F59PHI #2001 did the honours, with a very empty train indeed. The move actually worked out better for us as we transferred to the BART at Oakland Coliseum and did it through to Embarcadero. Fares on the BART are listed on the ticket machines and when buying tickets you actually load them up with the amount you need on the ticket machine; which caused us a bit of confusion initially, before it was explained to us! The cost from Oakland to Embarcadero being $4.80.
The afternoon was to be spent sightseeing in San Francisco and we had grand plans but in the end got quite confused by the public transport system maps when trying to get to the Golden Gate Bridge, which we hadn’t realised was actually 7 miles from the Bay Bridge, which we photographed first.
Thank god for Wi-Fi in the Ferry Building, which gave us a few options on how to get to the Golden Gate Bridge by public transport. The most sensible to us being the Golden Gate Transit bus No’s 10, 70, 80 or 101, all of which depart from the Transbay Terminal. We got on at a stop en-route and strangely it cost $4.80 to get to the Bridge and $4 to get back. The bus dropping off at the stop just before the toll bridge and picking up on the opposite side of the road, the bus stop clearly visible as you get off on your way there.
Unfortunately some of the footpaths beneath the Golden Gate Bridge were closed for regeneration so we were pretty limited as to where we could go once there and wary of the time, and not wanting to get back too late, we didn’t hang about as we got out photos from both sides of the bridge in publically accessible locations by just following the footpaths.
The bus journey back to the Transbay Terminal was quicker than the outward journey had been and after getting a few more photos of the BayBridge we used the Muni Metro to get back to San Francisco Caltrain station; on board which you have to pay the driver if you don’t have a ticket!
F40 #904 was our conveyance back to San Bruno, it having been sat at San Francisco since we’d had it northbound that morning judging by the train number it had displayed on it before departure. It didn’t make anywhere near as much of a din under the roadways as the Hovercraft we’d had out the previous night and as we watched it leave San Bruno we watched the last train we’d do on the trip disappear into the distance; our bash officially over at that point.
On the way back to the hotel we found a decent Thai restaurant for food and then it was time to pack and get ready for the long-haul home the following day.
|904||San Bruno||South San Francisco||0800 San Jose Diridon – San Francisco||423||Caltrain F40|
|902||South San Francisco||San Mateo||0915 San Francisco – San Jose Diridon||424||Caltrain F40|
|900||San Mateo||South San Francisco||0900 San Jose Diridon – San Francisco||425||Caltrain F40|
|901||South San Francisco||San Mateo||1015 San Francisco – San Jose Diridon||426||Caltrain F40|
|913||San Mateo||Millbrae||1000 San Jose Diridon – San Francisco||427||Caltrain F40|
|900||Millbrae||Hayward Park||1015 San Francisco – San Jose Diridon||428||Caltrain F40|
|918||Hayward Park||San Mateo||1100 San Jose Diridon – San Francisco||429||Caltrain F40|
|924||San Mateo||San Jose Diridon||1159 San Francisco – San Jose Diridon||802||Caltrain MPI MP36PH-3C|
|2001||San Jose Diridon||Oakland Colliseum||1420 San Jose Diridon – Sacramento||736||Amtrak California F59PHI|
|904||San Francisco||San Bruno||2015 San Francisco – San Jose Diridon||446||Caltrain F40|
Gen for Saturday 21st June 2014
900 – 425 0900 San Jose – San Francisco, 428 1115 San Francisco – San Jose, 435 1400 San Jose – San Francisco then seen on 445 1900 San Jose – San Francisco
901 – 426 1015 San Francisco – San Jose, 433 1300 San Jose – San Francisco
902 – 424 0915 San Francisco – San Jose, 431 1200 San Jose – San Francisco
904 – 423 0800 San Jose – San Francisco, all day in SF then, 446 2015 San Francisco – San Jose
913 – 427 1000 San Jose – San Francisco, 430 1215 San Francisco – San Jose
918 – 429 1100 San Jose – San Francisco
Caltrain MPI MP36PH-3C
924 801 1035 San Jose – San Francisco, 802 1159 San Francisco – San Jose
Amtrak California F59PHI
2001 – 733 1040 Sacramento – San Jose, 736 1420 San Jose – Sacramento
Sunday 22nd June 2014 (The long way home)
As the hotel did free transfers to the nearby airport we booked onto the 0608 minibus departure; having agreed that the 0508 was just way too early but that the 0608 was a little later than we would have liked for our 0810 flight!
We were told that the time to the airport would be about 10 minutes, what we weren’t told is that the minibus would pick up at other hotels first and then stop at all the domestic terminals at the airport first! Still we arrived with plenty of time to spare, having checked in online at the hotel the night before and got the hotel to print out boarding passes for us. Strangely though I was told, once I went to get my bag out of the back of the minibus, that I couldn’t get that myself as there were cameras everywhere in the airport and the driver had to get it for me; I was a little confused at that point what the cameras were actually going to do to me if I did, god forbid, get my own bag out of the minibus! Needless to say I got it myself and had a few words to say about the “not being able to myself”!
Even though Vic needed to check his big bag in it wasn’t long before we were queuing for security. Once through there were hardly any places to eat, which I thought a little strange for an International airport, so I waited for food on the plane; that was until we discovered a trolley service on board our international, 5 hour, flight, everything on which, other than tea/coffee/water, you had to pay for! I was glad to land in Montreal and get something proper down me!
The flight from Montreal to London was a lot better than the one from San Francisco to Montreal and we had seats right at the back of the plane away from everyone and everything. Food on board was included this time, despite the shorter flying time, and all in all it was a decent flight which had us at Heathrow in good time the following morning.
|C-GBHN||San Francisco||Montreal||0810 San Francisco – Montreal||AC780||Air Canada|
|C-FNNW||Montreal||Heathrow Terminal 2||2005 Montreal – Heathrow||AC864||Air Canada|
Monday 23rd June 2014 (It’s always good to be back)
With no issues at the airport, and even I got straight through security without my passport being scrutinized, the underground delivered us to Kings Cross with plenty of time to spare, but not too much, for our 1035 back to Doncaster; and by arrival at which even the spinning around on Caltrain seemed like a distant memory let alone the excellent week we’d spent at Springdale. Regardless of where you’ve been though it’s always good to get home………
|91111||Kings Cross||Doncaster||1035 Kings Cross – Leeds||1D10|
Amtrak – timekeeping across the board for the Amtrak long distance trains seems to be a massive issue at the moment, let alone just on the California Zephyr route. This trip also saw my first attempt at using roomettes on Amtrak; while a bit more costly I would recommend them. All food in the restaurant is included in the ticket price, there rooms are quite spacious when the beds are up during the day but a little cramped during the night. There are drinks and snacks on offer throughout the journey, including hot coffee, at the end of each coach and all in all it’s a lot nicer experience than the superliners, especially when they’re wedge like our train was ex Chicago!
Arkansas & Missouri RR (A&M) – a pleasure to visit, as always. Everyone working at the railway is friendly and you’re treated like a friend rather than someone from another planet. The A&M Alco’s are a dying breed now but it looks likely that the passenger train will remain in the hands of Alco’s as it’s not worth using a GM on such a small load.
Nevada Northern Railroad – while went a considerable distance out of our way to get to Ely it was well worth the trip. We asked if the Alco RS2 could work when we were there and it did; what more could we have asked for.