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California Zephyr 2004 Part X

California Zephyr through Wyoming?!

Part III - Returning from Denver to Sacramento through Wyoming.

By Carl Morrison for  July 21-26, 2004

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Comments and/or corrections welcomed at

(Click any photo of the Challenger and others below for a double-sized photo, click BACK in your browser to return to this page.)

Chris and Tom Tuttle, (left). Downtown Denver from the front of the train station (above).
I called friend, Larry Reffitt, from the Denver Station to ask if catching our daughter's garter at her wedding had brought him any luck in that department!

For other photos from the station click here.
We depart Denver at 9:27 AM, but we WILL BE GOING THROUGH WYOMING according to Tom Tuttle, Assistant Conductor!

Denver station east side from platform.


Arthur, our excellent sleeping car attendant. to Sacramento, gave us a morning paper and mentioned the services available, like last call for breakfast.  He called us and his other car passengers by first name throughout the journey.

Tom Tuttle, sat across from our room when we started out and chatted with Chris before starting his Assistant Conductor duties.  Tom mentioned that Arthur is the most professional attendant he'd worked with!


At his own espense, Chris Katz, Cartoonist, Illustrator, Writer, Historian and Coach Car Attendant on this Wyoming Amtrak California Zephyr run, printed an excellent Route Guide for this Wyoming Detour that had been going on for some time (see beginning of part 1 for details). Cover (left) and map (above) used here with permission.

--Reference:  Curtis Lawrence Katz, "Ranger of the Rails" 2646 W. Winnemac Apt.l 1-E, Chicago, Illinois 60625.


9:55 a.m. we were at mainline speed, fully cloudy, in the high 60s.  Light rainfall in Greeley, CO.  Farmer's Market still going on.
Rail fans, who had earlier photographed the Challenger which passed this way, were still out to photograph us as we passed.  We were a unique sight on this track.

Lounge Service Attendant, (LSA) Robert, gave good announcements over the P.A. concerning what he had for sale.  Chris bought a blanket for the bus ride home, and I bought an Amtrak hat.


The observation car's occupants, including many railfans on the trip just for this unique detour, were ready for action, following Curt's Rail Guide.
Sasha, in the observation car, was using water colors to catch the scenery.


Curt's route guide mentioned windmills generating electricity,

and a buffalo ranch, near the CO/WY state line.


We spot, at a wye, the UP excursion train, without the Challanger.

The snow fence research continues, with this rare metal one.


Pretty typical Wyoming scenery, train signals, snow fences, and a water tower or windmill.
Noon, Charlie and Kathey Stuart, with whom I had lunch in Wyoming, planned to be on the Sunset Limited at this time, but the expectation of an Amtrak bus caused them to take the train to Chicago, then the CA Zephyr on west, encountering this detour, which these Jacksonville, FL folks didn't seem to mind.  I chose the tuna salad with swiss cheese sandwich for lunch.

Still overcast and hazy, we continued on smooth track westward.
A cut on the horizon where a train track passes from a wye ahead, plus a barbed wire fence! (I think I dated Barb Wire in high school)

Plains gave way to occasional interesting rock formations,

followed by hayfields in the valleys.  Pictures taken from dining car.


With more snow fences.

Angus beefsteaks on the hoof. Cows also like to watch trains.

Domestic cattle and wild antelope and prong horn deer abound.

I call this 'Steam Engine Rock' at Colores.


Red rocks of western Wyoming made it begin to look like Utah.


Chris discovered that one coach was totally unused and is doing  his discovery dance here!  Later I used a seat here, in the Solitude car, to photograph and write.
Union Pacific's ever presence in Wyoming.

Laramie station is closed since no passenger trains pass this way, except on detours, any more.  This was called, as the station plaque declares, The Overland Route.


The Amtrak station looks like someone turned the key and left after work except that it has been closed for years since the Pioneer was discontinued.

But the cyclone fence poves it is closed.

A nice historic plaque can be seen behind the fence.

At the right, we took a 'stretch' break here where Richard Chamberlain, left, walked as he did at every stop, and Sasha took a stretch.



Platform near the first car.  Conductor and pedestrian overpass.
Curtis Katz, coach car attendant, was the fellow who drew the detour map and wrote the article for the brochure he self-produced.

Pedestrian overpass at Laramie, WY.

Downtown Laramie.

Abandoned 30 something truck, irrigation, and snow covered mtns.


Snow fences are still abundant.

Milepost 578. One horizontal mark = 1/4 mile, etc.


Beautiful blue sky with white puffies and horizon to horizon views.
While sitting in the vacant "Essence of Sewage" car as the lone occupant, a fellow, Mr. Negative I believe was his name, sat across from me.  He believed the world's problems were caused by "Joe six pack and Suzie coffee cup trying to collect and store more stuff."  No, I don't know what he means and he seemed disappointed that I didn't ask or laugh.  I moved on before or after him, I don't remember.  I saw him later on the trip, always alone, I wonder why?

Spotted fresh water pelicans (white) on a pond we passed.  Sometimes antelope and cattle shared the same pasture.  Excellent, smooth ribbon-rail track, even on the upper level of the train which, it seems to me, would have more movement.
So little feed in on the range, the cattle have to take their lunch with them when you turn them out in the morning!  And, they have to walk a mile for a drink.  Lots of exercise makes for lean beef, I guess!

Hay cutter and rake.

Red hay baler that makes those big round bales pulled by a deer...John Deere.

Antelope and prong horn deer were very plentiful, but hard to catch in a photo.


The first thing you see is those white rear ends.

Prong horn deer.

Water tower, left, and, above, retired rotary snow mover at Hanna, WY.


Wyoming is a leading mining state.

Thirty-six telephone poles per mile. That's what you do on the train in WY. The tallest thing in WY is a telephone pole...the state flower.

One more payment and it's MINE!

Green River Depot , right, with yard tower atop, shot out of dome liner, over a freight.
We had dinner early so we could sleep, but it was 5 pm, that's early for supper!  We ate quickly for the "Stretch Break" at Green River, but there was a freight train between us and the platform so no one got off except the crew for the change of crew.  We were soon off at 79 mph for points west and eventually Salt Lake City.

Castle Rock in Green River, Wyoming


Castle Rock in Green River, Wyoming

Green River Valley, west of town.


Twin Peaks at 6:52 pm after passing under I-80, near MM 897.

Indians may call our train "Disappearing Silver Streak" as we entered Alamont Tunnel.


Bear River was liked by my observation car companion from Iowa because it had "cattle and lots of grass."  There were 4-ft. tall cranes (sandhill?) in the wet fields as well.

A former slow antelope at Evanston, WY, along the rails.
At the WY/UT border, back lighted insulators look lighted.  It gets so cold up here, they have 'heated switches' so they do not freeze up.  Propane tanks and a tin tunnel to the switch is the giveaway.

Descending the Wasatch Mountains in the late afternoon light.

Being in the last car makes for great shots of the train ahead.


Out of one tunnel on the lower track


With I-80 just around the corner.

and into another one, with the shadow of our train.

Right:  At Curvo, our train out of a tunnel on the upper track, then crossing over a tunnel outlet on the lower track...unusual shot, huh?


CZ decends the Wasatch Grade.

Weber Canyon

Rail Fan

Connie Johnson, right, was among many who traveled this Wyoming Detour for the unusual mileage it covered.  She has been on the following named Amtrak trains:  The last Pioneer, this Zephyr Detour, California Zephyr, Desert Wind, Southwest Chief, Surfliner, and Coast Starlight. In Canada she has ridden the Rocky Mountaineer.  She got off in Salt Lake City for a connection back to Denver, where she lives nearby.


The crew on this Calilfornia Zephry was the best, overall, we've had these 4 days of rail travel.  Expecially our car attendant, Arthur, the Assistant Conductor, Tom Tuttle, and the entire Dining Car Staff, especially Craig, who even brought coffee refills without being asked.

Salt Lake City

SLC completed our detour run (Denver to Salt Lake City) on the seldom used freight tracks of the Union Pacific on the old UP Overland Route.

Observation Car

Entering Salt Lake City after dark, near midnight, there were seven of us, all rail fans, discussing things in general.  I've never been on a detour route like this, so the fact that so many railfans take routes like this surprised me.  The next day, one couple who had been in the Observation Car listening to us discuss e-mail spam, said, "I thought about a computer after listening to you guys talk last night, and I decided definitely....not to get on!"

Donald Merchant, right, was gracious enough to send some corrections and additions to this story, thanks, Don!  Donald is a member of the Intermountain Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society (NRHS), the National Association of Railroad Passengers (NARP), the Union Pacific Historical Society, and the Rio Grande Modeling and Historical Society.  Check out the NARP, which lobbies for the preservation of Amtrak and passenter rail in general throughout the United States at:
Don Merchant

Sunday July 25, 2004, Salt Lake City, UT, to Sacramento, CA on California Zephyr, Efficency Rm. #12

The Diner opened for breakfast at 6, but there was no announcement so sleeping passengers could still sleep.  The first announcement was at 7 am, which must be the official Amtrak time to arise.  I showered, in an extremely hot shower with no  temperature control!  I went to breakfast and had 'Railroad French Toast' (why not!) with bacon.

We stopped for a stretch (even without a platform) at Winnemucca, NV, pictures below:

Sewage truck pumps out one coach.  If the conductor only would have known what was to come, he would have had all the cars pumped out.

I found a 70 mph sign while kicking around in the weeds, but couldn't get it in my suitcase as a souvenir, so had Chris take this picture.  This actually tells a story why the Wyoming route is 3.5 hrs. faster than the Glenwood Springs route...there are more miles at full speed on level straight track than on the CO route.
Back on the train, I made a photo CD to clear room for the pictures I was downloading from this trip.

Most polite gentleman on the train!
Taylor Senn, of San Antonio, TX.
BNSF engine with old Santa Fe colors with Nugget Hotel in Reno behind.


Behind the fence, the new cut to lower the railroad tracks through downtown Reno.
The freight cars we were pulling from Denver to Sacramento
The first one was a satellite controlled ref. unit.
We arrived at Reno at 12:15 (scheduled 9:39).

Long, tall, Richard Chamberlain walks the platform as he did on every stretch stop.
We went to lunch in the diner immediately after Reno and finished by Truckee.  Two youngsters from a sleeper, an older girl and younger boy, who I had had breakfast with today, joined us for lunch. They were very nice polite youngsters, and by their conversation I reasoned that they were not sister and brother.  I tried to figure out why they would be on the train together, being too young to have eloped!  Finally my curiosity was killing me and I asked if she were escorting him to a federal prison.  That brought a smile and an explanation about a complicated arrangement whereby cousins could go to Salt Lake city on a round trip and all get a segment of travel on the train.

Shots, above and below, 'Truckin' up to Truckee' from Reno.  A docent from the California State Railroad Museum explained that the trees were Lodgepole and Jeffrey Pine and are second growth of no more than 125 years of age.  Originally, all the trees were cut by the railroad for bridges, ties and show sheds.


Truckee Station

Plaque near station shot from observation car on train.

Downtown Truckee.

Donner Lake, a view we had for 4:26 during my longest one-spot-delay of my train riding career while UP freight, which broke down on Donner Pass, was repaired and moved.  This lake was named for the Donner Party which was caught by an early, 22-ft snowstorm on October 31, 1846.  Some left the party and sought help at Sutter's Fort.  As our delay became longer and longer, some in the observation car hoped it would not start snowing, knowing the past history of this very spot!

During the wait, I learned from crew members that employees are being given more and more to do in both coach and sleeper cars.  Coach gets no tips and sleepers are getting fewer.  Coach attendants first had one car to attend to per person, now they have been assigned 2, 3, or 4.  
1284  1285
Richard Chamberlain, Pacific Grove, CA, runs a cross country run through the woods along the Rip Van Winkle Open Space.  He recently rode the Georgetown Loop, Pikes Peak, Royal Gorge, and Durango and Silverton trains.  He taught science and computers and loves trains.  Hmmmm, sounds like me!
Our delay here was from 1:51 pm to 6:17 pm.  The docent immediately picked up saying that there were 37 miles of snow sheds west of Truckee originally.
The diner crew, after our 4 1/2 hr. delay, prepared a dinner of leftovers for us.  Our dinner partners were Roger and Jean Edwards.  They were from Melbourne, Australia, traveling around the world on 3-month study leave to 5 educational conferences, one in Greece and their next destination being Yosemite.  For dinner, Chris and I chose fish, rice, vegetables, but no dessert was offered, so I ventured to the cafe car for an oatmeal cookie!

American River canyon at sunset.
After dinner, we descended the steepest part of the track, into Blue Haze Canyon.  It was named this because of the smoke from the many lumber mills here.  Hydraulic (water pressure) mining had washed away many hills in search of gold.

The town of Colfax was a shipping point for the vineyards and fruit orchards in this area.  There was a narrow gauge railroad here for 60 years.

Deep shadows in the deep canyons.

We arrived in Sacramento Station at 10:34 pm and walked to the Vagabond Inn which Amtrak had given us money to pay for and money for food since we were too late (8 hrs) to make connections to our homes in Orange County.  We both had anticipated internet in the rooms like I had had earlier on this trip, but they only have internet connections in the single rooms and we had a double.  We did use the computer in the lobby to check our e-mail

Monday, July 26,  After our 5:36 wake up call, we boarded the San Joquin 702 for Bakersfield.  Waiting on the platform, the Coast Starlight arrived heading south.  Chris remarked that it might leave SAC on time.  We boarded an excellent appointed car for our ride south.

Nicely appointed Cafe car and Chris ordering breakfast.  I had a ham, egg, and cheese muffin and cranberry juice.


Surfliner car, Moonstone Beach, much more comfortable than California Cars that made up the rest of the train.  I used the electrical power next to my seat to download the final pictures to my computer.  Vineyards stretched as far as the eye could see on both sides of the track at Lodi.

Chris had called Steve at TrainWeb earlier and now called Ray south of SAC to tell them of our progress...or lack of it, but that we would be home at about 4:30.

We passed Atwater near Modesto, where we saw an Air Museum.  Because we were to get off in Bakersfield about noon, at 11 I had a turkey, cheese sandwich and water, since the bus would have no food or drinks on the 2-hr ride.  We saw cotton fields south of Corcoran.  We passed the Col. Allensworth State Historical Park, a former black community in the Valley.  They have restored buildings including a school and store.

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I concluded that my traveling companion, Chris Guenzler a fellow reporter at, is a 'Walking National Amtrak Route Guide' all by himself!  He is also an advocate for Amtrak, telling those who travel with him of the sites along the rails for photos, as well as the history of Amtrak compared to Via Rail, both of which he has traveled extensively..  

1299  Chris Guenzler

I want to say a public, "Thank You, Chris!" and to say that he has become my Mentor as of this trip with him.  He allowed me to tag along, and repeatedly ask the same questions as to the identity of things we passed.  (He works with special ed. kids and probably realized I needed the same help they do).  He, like a good teacher, simply smiled and told me the answers to my questions again and again, until I finally got it.  Chris, above, is writing his very factual report of this journey, and has posted it with TrainWeb.  I urge you to read his account of this same rail journey.  You will find his account much more factual than mine and I hope both articles give you the complete story.  His reports are at:

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We were at Wasco at 11:23, and into Bakersfield at 11:55.  That's good for our 2 pm connection in LA, but the adventure continues....

In keeping with Chris' Rule #1 on his website, "Every Trip on Amtrak is an Adventure," at 12:06, at the Bakersfield Station where we detrained, we dropped a bag each for the driver to put in the bay of the Amtrak Bus.  We boarded into the front seat so that we could be off fast and to the Amtrak Train 578 at 2 pm to FUL/SAN.  Here's the kicker.  The driver closed the door for the comfort of the passengers and began loading luggage under the bus.  A passenger from within the bus went to the door to get the driver attention because he needed some 'lifesaving medication,' but he never got the driver's attention, and after trying to get out without success, he returned to his seat.  

When the driver completed the luggage loading, he came to the door to enter, and he couldn't get in.  He got Chris' attention by knocking on the door and said, "Let me in."  He told Chris some buttons to push, which he did, but the door still didn't open.  The driver left to ask another driver how to get into his own, fully loaded bus.  The second driver came and realized the bus was locked from the inside (by the passenger who tried to get out), told Chris another knob to turn, and all was well....except another precious 10 minutes had been lost.  Finally, we were on our way, down Hwy. 99, to L.A. Station and our Amtrak train home.

Driver drove very well all the way and Chris was kind enough to fact-check my story thus far on my computer during the ride.  We pulled into the northwest portion of the LA Station and needed our luggage quickly to make the train, the reason for this bus in the first place.  We were kept from getting our luggage by Amtrak red caps getting checked luggage out.  Finally, after helping all passengers off the bus, the driver started unloading the luggage passengers had put in at Bakersfield.  We finally collected our bags, mine was the second to last to come out, and ran:  1) to the front door, 2) through the large LA Station, 3) through the tunnel to the very last track, track 10, 4) up the flight of stairs to the train....Surprise, we were 10 minutes late by then, and the train had left...the tracks were cool.  Chris noticed ample room where the bus could have dropped us within a few feet of our platform, if it had been a real connecting bus as advertised.

With Chris' prior knowledge that Metrolink accepts Amtrak tickets, we walked to track 8B for Metrolink Train # 684 which would leave at 2:50.  We waited on the platform, in pleasant LA Shade, it arrived and we entered the air conditioned car, found a table to type these last few words, and were off to Fullerton for Carl and Santa Ana for Chris.

As Chris tells everyone who travels on Amtrak trains, "It is an Adventure!"

1233 Photo credit:  Chris Guenzler.

Yours Truly,

You keep readin' and I'll keep ridin' (the rails), shootin' (photographs) and writin' travelogues!

Write me now and then so I think folks read my stuff...actually I'd do it even if you deleted every word!

Happy (t)Rails to You, until we meet again,

Happy (t)Rails to You, keep smilin' until then.

Carl "Rusty Rails" Morrison


California Zephyr 2004 Through Wyoming

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