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Glenwood Springs, Colorado, Room with a Brew package at the Hotel Denver.

Glenwood Springs, Colorado, via Amtrak California Zephyr

Destination:  Hotel Denver - A Railfan's Dream Hotel with station and track view rooms.

September 16 - 22, 2013

Photos and text by Carl Morrison,, except where noted.


Hotel Denver and Amtrak Station in Glenwood Springs, Colorado.  No Amtrak trains passed here during our visit because of the serious flooding in Colorado.

After this report was filed,  Glenwood Chamber Resort Association gave me permission to use this aerial video of the Amtrak Station, Hotel Denver, and Hot Springs Bathhouse across the river.  Notice that the Hotel Denver is literally out the front door of the station and across the street.

Click the photo below to see a silent aerial video of the Glenwood Springs Amtrak Station.

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Click Here to have Henry Mancini's Silver Streak play in a separate window as you watch the silent video below.


Photo credit: Glenwood Chamber Resort Association. 2013 and Vicky Nash, Resort Trends, 970-948-4923,

Table of Contents

  1. Hotel Denver - Glenwood Springs, Colorado, "Trackside  Hotel with Station and Track View Rooms"
    1. Glenwood Springs Amtrak Station
    2. Glenwood Canyon Brewing Company is located on the first floor of the Hotel Denver.
    3. Glenwood Hot Springs pool a short walk from the Hotel Denver
    4. Hotel Colorado nicknamed "the little White House of the West" after extended visits by Presidents Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft.
    5. Eateries in downtown Glenwood Springs
  2. Aspen, Colorado, a nice day trip from Glenwood Springs that can include Benedict's Monastery
  3. Georgetown Loop Railroad and Idaho Springs
  4. California Zephyr - Sacramento to Glenwood Springs, Colorado, almost.
  5. California Zephyr - Return from Glenwood Springs to Emeryville, California on a rare Wyoming reroute.
    1. Do not use "hotelsone" to make your hotel reservations, unless of course you want to pay 50% more than the hotel's rate.
  6. Coast Starlight leaves us standing on the platform in Emeryville - Car Attendant for 1130 never opened the door.

Hotel Denver - Glenwood Springs, Colorado, "Trackside Hotel with Station and Track View Rooms"

Don Roe and I take a long Amtrak trip each year.  We each use 15,000 Amtrak Guest Rewards points and purchase a one-way roomette for a one-zone trip.  The US is divided into 3 zones and the western zone goes from the Pacific Coast to Denver.  This year, after visiting a favorite destination at least 3 times, The Izaak Walton Inn between East and West Glacier, we decided to go to Glenwood Springs, Colorado.  Don attended seminary in Denver so he still has friends who might drive over from Denver.  To set up this trip, I first communicated with Vicky Nash, Media Relations Representative Resort Trends, Inc. in Glenwood Springs ( wanted to do a rail destination report with many photos for  I wanted to stay in a hotel that had a view of the station and/or tracks, much like other rail hotels on which I have reported.  Vicky had exactly what I wanted, and put me in touch with Candace Carnahan, Director of Sales and Marketing, AGM, who made all the arrangements for our stay.  We enjoyed the "Room with a Brew" package and the historic hot springs pool that Glenwood Springs has been known for since 1888 with Teddy Roosevelt being a popular visitor. 


Hotel Denver, our perfect railside hotel.


Hotel Denver and Glenwood Canyon Brewing Company


Hotel Denver, left, is only a few steps from the Glenwood Springs Amtrak California Zephyr Station


The unique curved windows of the Hotel Denver's entrance show the closeness of the Amtrak Station.


The attractive lobby where friendly staff will welcome you.

The Tile Floor

Located at the west end of the first floor, this floor was hand laid in 1921 with in individual one-inch tiles.  The west end of the Hotel Denver was built at that time, and this area served as the hotel desk and guest lobby from then until a major restoration was made in 1985.  The tiles were "rediscovered" in 1993 and left exposed.


800/IMG_5157.jpg   800/IMG_5297.jpg

Roxie (above, left) welcomed us, informed us that our room was ready, and gave a little history of the hotel.  Candace Carnahan, (above, right) is Director of Sales and Marketing, AGM.   Candace made all arrangements for our stay and was amenable to all our changes because of the flooding in Colorado during this time.

Mike Bosco acquired the Star Hotel after WW1, and in 1938 he acquired Art Kendrick’s Denver Hotel. The properties were combined into what we now know as the Hotel Denver. The brick walls in the brewpub and hotel rooms are reminders of the seven buildings which were once here.  More history of the Hotel Denver is on their website.


Evidence of 7 former buildings being combined as the Hotel Denver is the interior, enclosed, 3-floor atrium.

The Clock (above left)

The clock has been in the Hotel Denver since the early 1930's, when the hotel was owned by Art Kendrick.  Art acquired the clock for $30 from a jeweler in Aspen named W. J. Rawles.  Mr. Rawles' father brought the clock to Aspen over Independence Pass in a wagon.  The exact age of the clock is unknown.


Next to the elevator there is a balcony (left) on each floor overlooking the atrium.


Look for these historic items in the lobby area.

The Train

According to Rock Island Rail officials, 50 mother of pearl pictures were created shortly after the turn of the century and were given to hotels as a promotion.  Rock Island paid $50 each for these fifty pictures which were made by Western Sand Blast Company in Chicago.  Because of the mother of pearl inlay, each picture was hand-created individually, with no two pictures alike.  The backgrounds are also unique to each picture, and were painted in free-hand.  Other known locations for the pictures are the Broadmoor Hotel in Colorado Springs, the Pioneers Museum in Colorado Springs, and the Smithsonian.




The Piano

The Piano was built in 1885 in New York of rosewood.  Before the turn of the century, the piano was transported by riverboat up the Missouri River, and down the Yellowstone River to be unloaded at Big Horn, Montana.  Mule train completed the journey to its home n Sheridan, Wyoming, where it belonged to the Wright family.  In 1977, the piano was brought to Glenwood Springs and is currently on loan from the Steve Carver family.  The piano was restored by the Wood Shop in Carbondale.




Nice quote on the lobby wall, but they should have listed the author - Heraclitus


Our room 305 was exactly what we wanted - 2 queen beds with a depot and track view.  What we did not expect was the spaciousness of the room and the antique furniture pieces including a table and chairs - Don's favorite hotel furniture.


The beds had quilt covers and windows were low enough that we could see the train action from a seated position.


There was another set of windows in our room since the remodeling used two original rooms.  This alcove provided room for a closet and antique cabinet.




Another 3rd floor room, also has an excellent view of the station and track 312, a single bed room.  With a simple turn of the chair in room 312, below, you have another railfan's perfect room.  Since there are 7 buildings included in the Hotel Denver, there are several corner rooms which Manager Candace says are good view rooms as well. 


View from our Denver Hotel room 305 in Glenwood Springs, Colorado.  The bus was used to transport passengers to and from Denver and Glenwood Springs to Grand Junction to board the California Zephyr at its terminus from the west coast. We hitched a ride to Denver and took the first


There are many restaurants and saloons within walking distance of the Hotel Denver for breakfast, lunch and dinner.  The hotel looks very photogenic upon returning for the night after a rain shower.

Glenwood Springs Amtrak Station

Amtrak Train & Railroad Museum

"Roll into Town like Teddy Roosevelt

Ride the rails to Glenwood Springs aboard Amtrak’s California Zephyr. Whether you’re headed eastbound from San Francisco or westbound from Chicago, plan stop in Glenwood Springs. When you arrive in town, you’ll disembark at the historic Glenwood Springs Train Depot, which was designed by Austrian-bornarchitect Theodore von Rosenberg, who also conceived the stone bathhouse building at the Glenwood Hot Springs.

With daily Amtrak arrivals and departures, it’s easy for Amtrak travelers to extend their stay in Glenwood Springs. Many of the town’s hotels and restaurants are conveniently close to the station, so stay and give yourself time in Glenwood springs to soak it all in.

Finding accommodations couldn’t be any easier, simply walk across the street,or across the pedestrian bridge that spans the Colorado River, to check in to the lodging establishment of your choice. There’s plenty from which to choose including historic hotels, attraction lodging, value-priced motels and bed and breakfasts, all within walking distance. If hotels know you’re arriving by rail, they’ll send a car to pick you up.

Getting around Glenwood Springs is a breeze, most activities and attractions are also within walking distance of the train station. Glenwood Hot Springs Pool, Spa of the Rockies and the Yampah Spa and Vapor Caves all face the depot from the opposite river bank. Within a few blocks, there are enough eateries to satisfy early any craving. You’ll find brewpubs, award-winning restaurants, fine dining, creative martinis, barbecue, Italian, sandwiches, ice cream, Chinese and much more.


Station History

The station at Glenwood Springs officially opened on June 18, 1904 and celebrated its 100th birthday with an event in 2004. When the station opened, the Denver and Rio Grande Western (D&RGW) Railroad ran its “Scenic Line of the World” through it to capitalize on the beauty of Glenwood Canyon.

The building is styled similarly to the Hot Springs Lodge, made of Frying Pan River red sandstone and composed of a jerkinhead cross gable flanked by medieval brick towers with pyramidal roofs. Throughout various restorations, most recently in 1990, the architects managed to restore the depot’s original roofing and retain the original long oak platform benches.

In September 2003, the Glenwood Railroad Museum opened in the old Ladies’ Waiting Room. Today the museum uses about one-third of the station, with Amtrak still actively using the other two-thirds.

Glenwood Springs was first settled by James Landis in 1879, and was platted and incorporated on August 25, 1885. With the completion of the first class Hotel Colorado and the growing fame of the town’s main attraction, the Hot Springs Pool, Glenwood Springs began to establish itself as a resort destination. The Glenwood Hot Springs, the largest natural hot springs pool in the world, has drawn visitors for over a century, including presidents William Howard Taft and Theodore Roosevelt.

For centuries, the Ute people had used the hot springs for therapeutic and ceremonial purposes.

John Henry “Doc” Holliday, the infamous gunslinger, is buried here. Glenwood is the gateway to Aspen, 40 miles to the south.

This facility has a waiting room and is staffed by an Amtrak employee.

Glenwood Springs is served by two daily trains.   


Street-level entrance to the Glenwood Springs, Colorado, Amtrak Station.



The station with street-level entrance across from the Hotel Denver, and track-level entrance for train passengers.  Pedestrian bridge across the railroad, river, and Interstate 70 down the track.


A Union Pacific freight passes the Glenwood Springs Station.  Since there were no California Zephyrs arriving at the station during our stay, nor for days after, I had to settle for a photo of a freight passing the station. You can also see how close the Hotel Denver is to the action with room 305 overlooking it all.


Trackside of the Glenwood Springs Station has the same unique curved glass windows as the Hotel Denver's entrance.


Stairs from street level to track level within the station.  Ticket window at the left.


This sign is unique with the only transportation provided in either direction during our stay being by Ambusses because of the severe flooding on the Eastern Slope. 


A railroad museum occupies the eastern room in the station.


The western portion of the station is the waiting with classic benches.


Hotel Denver has a "Room with a Brew" package which includes a $20 voucher for the Glenwood Canyon Brewing Company, just left of the hotel's marquee.



This package is sure to put a smile on your face. The fun includes two adult passes to the world famous Hot Springs Pool, a $20 gift card for food and beverages at The Glenwood Canyon Brewing Co. and a reduced room rate at the historic Hotel Denver.


Roxie said our room was ready early, so as soon as we dropped our luggage, we headed through an interior door to the Glenwood Canyon Brewing Company.  As we checked in we were offered an additional $5 certificate for there if we did not want our towels washed the first night.  Needless to day the lunch was free and delicious.


Glenwood Hot Springs pool

Our stay at the Hotel Denver included a one day Glenwood Hot Springs pool pass for each person.  The procedure for using the pool is to ask the front desk for a Hotel Denver towel and bag to be returned within one hour of the pool's closing at 10 p.m. (You agree to a $25 fee if you do not return it).  I was apprehensive about using the pass.  However, the front desk personnel at the hotel reassured me that there were lockers for 50 cents for your street clothes and another quarter if you want to use the bubble chairs.  While in the pool I learned from the lifeguards that the water comes out of the spring above the pool at about 120 degrees.  The water is purified by taking out algae, etc., and enough chlorine is added to meet state minimums.  The water first enters the therapy pool at between 102 and 104 degrees.  The big pool, 40' x 100', is 90 to 93 degrees year round.  The big pool is 4.6 ft. deep, so I was able to walk the entire pool for exercise.  There are swimming lanes and one diving board.  Showers are available before and after your swim in the sulfur spring water.  From the hotel, walk west 1/2 block, across the pedestrian bridge, and down steps to the entrance.


The red-tiled roof of the pool house from the pedestrian bridge.


The diving board end of the 100 ft. long pool with the 40 ft. therapy pool beyond.


Therapy pool, left, beginning of the big pool, right, bath house behind.  Hotel Denver on the bluff beyond.


The spring where the 100+ degree water comes to the surface.


The water is 122 degrees at Yampah Spring where the water comes from the earth. Then it is cooled with city water to 104 degrees when piped to the therapy pool.
At about 50 degrees air temperature when I was there, the first cooling pool gave off plenty of steam.  I cannot imagine how much steam rises when there is snow on the ground.


History of the Hotel Colorado


Established by silver magnate and banker Walter Devereux, construction began in 1891 at a cost of $350,000. Edward Lippincott Tilton designed the building as a replica of the Villa de Medici. Local materials used include cream-colored Roman brick and Peach Blow Sandstone; imported items included 12,000 yards of carpet and 2,000 rose bushes. The Hotel Colorado opened on June 10, 1893 to a program including a fireworks display, an orchestra in the ballroom, and dining at midnight for the 300 couples in attendance.

The hotel quickly became a popular summer retreat, earning the nickname of "the little White House of the West" after extended visits by Presidents Theodore Roosevelt and William Howard Taft. The teddy bear is alleged to have been invented during President Roosevelt's 1905 visit when the hotel's maids presented him with a stuffed bear pieced together with scraps of fine material.

On September 16, 1925, live music and speech was broadcast by way of telephone from the hotel's ballroom to Denver radio station KOA.

In 1942, the hotel was leased to the United States Navy for use as a hospital. The U.S. Naval Convalescent Hospital was commissioned on July 5, 1943 and served over 6,500 patients by the end of 1945. The hospital was decommissioned in 1946.

In 2003, a time capsule was buried in the courtyard. It is scheduled to be opened in 2043.

The National Trust's Historic Hotels of America added the Hotel Colorado to its list in April 2007.

Famous visitors

Actor Tom Mix, his wife and several production crew members stayed at the Hotel Colorado during the filming of The Great K & A Train Robbery in summer 1926.

In addition to the visits by Presidents Roosevelt and Taft, former President Herbert Hoover addressed a luncheon at the hotel on August 2, 1939.



Edward Lippincott Tilton designed the building as a replica of the Villa de Medici. Local materials used include cream-colored Roman brick and Peach Blow Sandstone; imported items included 12,000 yards of carpet and 2,000 rose bushes.  Notice how the 'shrubbery' has grown so high as to almost hide the front of the historic hotel.


Walking across the pedestrian bridge, above left, from the Hotel Denver and Amtrak Station to the Hotel Colorado, one passes this art piece, "Beaver" by Cynthia
Fernster.  What first caught my eye was the adornment of the natural vegetation.  I do not think it was part of the sculpture, too colorful, but it surely made the beaver more realistic.


Immediately inside the Hotel Colorado in Glenwood Springs, Colorado, you will be silently greeted by the bust of Theodore Roosevelt.  Presidents Roosevelt and Taft's frequent stays at this hotel earned it the name, "the little White House of the West".


The Hotel Colorado's lobby area is certainly a flashback to opening day, June 10, 1893, with its fine furnishings and warm colors.  However, as with all restorations, it undoubtedly looks better today than back in 1893 considering the mode of transportation of the day and the fact that the streets would have been muddy and populated with horses and muddy boots.  The aroma in the hotel nowadays is an improvement from yesteryear as well, I would guess.


The front desk area has hints as to why Presidents an other wealthy guests liked Colorado - bear and bison hunting as well as other abundant species.





This large photo in the Polo Lounge indicates that there might have been a polo grounds in the area.


The front porch has a bar and seating at tables and wooden chairs on out on the lawn.  Guests come in the side entrance nowadays so this porch is a quiet place.


A walk through the front porch and yard, then east on the street allows a view of the therapy pools.  Circling around the east end of the pool one can find the Glenwood Hot Springs pool house entrance.



A few steps up to the pedestrian walkway and across the city street, I-70, the railroad, and Colorado River and you are back at either downtown Glenwood Springs, the Glenwood Brewery, or the train station.


The photography bridge is a good location from which to take a shot of the station and Denver Hotel with the river and tracks in the photo. My title shot for this report was taken from here as well.


Looking north from the pedestrian bridge or your trackside window in the Hotel Denver, you can spot the Iron Mountain Tramway which takes visitors to the Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park.  One can also see the Cliffhanger Roller Coaster high on the mountain's edge.


Eateries in downtown Glenwood Springs, Colorado

About sunset, we strolled west from the Hotel Denver on 7th Street in search of a nearby restaurant for supper. We passed plenty of popular eating establishments with waiting lists on this September Wednesday evening.



We settled on Doc Holliday's Saloon, partly because there was no waiting list, and more importantly because they had good food.  Overheard at the Glenwood Canyon Brewing Company, "Food in a bar is better than a drink in a restaurant."


John Henry "Doc" Holliday (August 14, 1851 – November 8, 1887) was an American gambler, gunfighter, and dentist of the American Old West who is usually remembered for his friendship with Wyatt Earp and his involvement in the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral.

As a young man, Holliday earned a D.D.S. degree and set up a dental practice in Atlanta, Georgia. In 1873 he was diagnosed with tuberculosis, the same disease that had claimed his mother when he was 15. He moved to the American Southwest in hopes that the climate would prolong his life. Taking up gambling as a profession, he subsequently acquired a reputation as a deadly gunman.

During his travels, he met and became good friends with Wyatt Earp and his brothers. In 1880, he moved to Tombstone, Arizona, and participated alongside the Earps in the famous gunfight. This did not settle matters between the two sides, and Holliday was embroiled in ensuing shootouts and killings. He successfully fought being extradited for murder and died in bed at a Colorado hotel at the age of 36.

The legend and mystique of his life is so great that he has been mentioned in countless books and portrayed by various actors in numerous movies and television series. For the 125-plus years since his death, debate has continued about the exact crimes he may have committed.


Doc Holliday's grave is in Linwood Cemetery, a short hike from 12th and Bennett Street, according to the "Official Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association's Trail & City Map 2013-2014."
Pioneer/Linwood Cemetery is located just east of Glenwood Springs atop Jasper Mountain.  Vehicles are not allowed on the road to the cemetery.


The following day, we decided to drive up Hwy. 82 to Aspen.  Paralleling the highway on an old railroad right of way is the Rio Grande Bike Trail.  Before departing, we had breakfast at Daily Bread, a short walk from the Hotel Denver.


Aspen, Colorado, a nice day trip from Glenwood Springs

While doing desk research on Glenwood Springs, I discovered that Aspen was close enough to visit as a day trip (about 150 miles via 4-lane highway) in a rental car or a bus from Glenwood Springs.  My traveling companions had attended summer seminars in Aspen and knew of St. Benedict's Monastery near Snowmass on the way.


Soon after departing Glenwood Springs southbound, I spotted lighter-than-air travel off the cliffs.

St. Benedict's Monastery


St. Benedict's Monastery is a monastery in mountainous country of the U.S. state of Colorado. It is located in Pitkin County in the unincorporated town of Snowmass about 18 miles (29 km) northwest of Aspen. The monks are members of the Order of Cistercians of the Strict Observance, commonly called the Trappists.

Currently the monastery is home to about 16 monks. The monks live communally in the monastery. Their day is balanced by prayer, work, reading, and contemplation.

St. Benedict's is located on over 3,000 acres (1,200 ha) of a scenic, semiarid valley in the foothills of the Elk Mountains, near the Maroon Bells-Snowmass Wilderness. The monastery protects a large amount of open space in a sensitive area near important wildlife migration routes. The monks manage their ranchlands, operate a cookie bakery, and offer retreat facilities for groups and individuals. The retreat house and guest hermitages are located about 1 mile from the main monastery building.

The monastery was founded in 1956 as a foundation established by the Trappist community at St. Joseph's Abbey in Spencer, Massachusetts. The community celebrated its 50th anniversary in 2006.

St. Benedict's is the home of Father Thomas Keating, a popular writer on Centering Prayer and one of the founders of Contemplative Outreach.



Tim Bryan knocks on the Monastery's door replicating a painting of Jesus in practically every United Methodist Church in the Midwest.


This very large church bell along the entry walkway could surely be heard over the 3,000 acres of the monastery, or at least across the pasture to the buildings of the retreat center. 


Since the Monastic Community asked that silence be maintained, we did not ring the bell!



The Bookstore was the highlight for Tim and Don.









These candles were so delicate, I thought I should put my hand in the photo as a size indicator.




I found the grounds most interesting as a photographic opportunity.





In this third week of September, only the very top leaves of the Aspens had turned golden and fallen.



Driving from the Monastery to the main road to Aspen, I spotted a Madonna on a log barn, something you do not see every day.  The red barn behind the log barn was picturesque as well.



On to Aspen

Aspen is a city in and the county seat of Pitkin County, Colorado, United States. It is situated in a remote area of the Rocky Mountains' Sawatch Range and Elk Mountains, along the Roaring Fork River at an elevation just below 8,000 feet (2,400 m) above sea level on the Western Slope, 11 miles (18 km) west of the Continental Divide. As of the 2010 census, there were 6,658 permanent residents.

Founded as a mining camp during the Colorado Silver Boom and named because of the abundance of aspen trees in the area, the city boomed during the 1880s, its first decade of existence. That early era ended when the Panic of 1893 led to a collapse in the silver market, and the city began a half-century known as "the quiet years" during which its population steadily declined, reaching a nadir of less than a thousand by 1930. Aspen's fortunes reversed in the mid-20th century when neighboring Aspen Mountain was developed into a ski resort, and industrialist Walter Paepcke bought many properties in the city and redeveloped them. Today it is home to three renowned institutions, two of which Paepcke helped found, that have international importance: the Aspen Music Festival and School, the Aspen Institute, and the Aspen Center for Physics.

In the late 20th century, the city became a popular retreat for celebrities. Gonzo journalist Hunter S. Thompson worked out of a downtown hotel and ran unsuccessfully for county sheriff. Singer John Denver wrote two songs about Aspen after settling there. Both of them popularized Aspen among the counter cultural youth of the 1970s as an ideal place to live, and the city continued to grow even as it gained notoriety for some of the era's hedonistic excesses as well, particularly its drug culture.

Today the musicians and movie stars have been joined by corporate executives. As a result of this influx of wealth Aspen boasts the most expensive real estate prices in the United States and most middle-class residents can no longer afford to live there. It remains a popular tourist destination, with outdoor recreation in the surrounding White River National Forest serving as a summertime complement to the four ski areas in the vicinity.

The downtown has been largely transformed into an upscale shopping district that includes high-end restaurants, salons, and boutiques. Aspen boasts Ralph Lauren, Dior, Louis Vuitton, Prada, Gucci, Fendi, Bvlgari, Burberry, Brioni, theory and Ermenegildo Zegna boutiques.






I chatted with Alex at The Vickers Collection 525 E. Cooper Ave Unit 107 Aspen, CO 81611 970.925.9484



A park not far from the Court House is this chrome bumper art piece, El Conquistador by Lou Wille



This wood chuck was also loitering in the same park.





Don reading after a visit to Explore Booksellers.


The most expensive Interstate in the system through Glenwood Canyon with a bike trail, the Colorado River, and the railroad.

We learned that the California Zephyr westbound from Glenwood Springs had been rerouted through southern Wyoming starting in Denver.  Rather than face an Ambus ride from Glenwood Springs to Salt Lake City to meet it, Tim drove us to Denver.  We stayed overnight and caught the 8:15 a.m. westbound California Zephyr in Denver and enjoyed the rare ride through Wyoming to Salt Lake City where it followed its normal schedule on to Emeryville, California.



Georgetown Loop Railroad

After sunset, we made a quick stop at the Georgetown Loop Railroad.  I was surprised to find No. 9 still breathing and the property unfenced allowing me to take some photos.  I had heard of this tourist railroad, but had never stopped.  This railroad is now definitely on my list for a future visit and hotel stay nearby.







Idaho Springs

A few miles farther down the mountain we stopped in Idaho Springs for supper at a Beau Jo's pizza parlor.

The City of Idaho Springs is a municipality in the U.S. state of Colorado that is the most populous settlement in Clear Creek County, Colorado. Idaho Springs is located in Clear Creek Canyon, in the mountains upstream from Golden, some thirty miles west of Denver. Local legend is that the name of the city derived from annual visits to the radium hot springs made by an "Indian" (Native American) chief and his tribe who journeyed there each year from Idaho to bathe in the magic healing waters.

Founded in 1859 by prospectors during the early days of the Pike's Peak Gold Rush, the town was at the center of the region's mining district throughout the late nineteenth century. The Argo Tunnel drained and provided access to many lodes of ore between Idaho Springs and Central City. During the late twentieth century, the town evolved into a tourist center along U.S. Highway 6 and U.S. Highway 40, which ascend Clear Creek Canyon through the historic mining district.

The town today is squeezed along the north side of Interstate 70, with a historical downtown on its western end and a strip of tourist-related businesses on its eastern end. It also serves as a bedroom community for workers at the Loveland Ski Area farther up the canyon. The town today is the largest community in Clear Creek County, but, for historical reasons, the county seat has remained at Georgetown.


Downtown Idaho Springs


We ordered a 16 inch pizza.  However, as it turned out it was more 'rolled edge' dough than ingredients.  They call it, "Our Mountain Pie is The Legendary Colorado Style Pizza! A pie topped with mountains of  ingredients and our hand rolled edge. Any  leftover crust can be covered with honey and eaten as a dessert!"  Not what I had in mind.





California Zephyr - Sacramento to Glenwood Springs, Colorado, almost.

I like to take a
Amtrak trip each year in a roomette using 15,000 Amtrak Guest Rewards points one way.  My travel buddy, Don Roe, uses his AGR points for the opposite way.  This year we told the AGR agent we wanted to go from Fullerton, California to Glenwood Springs, Colorado.  We had been told that, since the Coast Starlight from Los Angeles does not arrive in Emeryville soon enough to meet the eastbound California Zephyr, we would need to stay overnight in Emeryville.  We were willing to do this.  Don tried 4 different calls to Amtrak Guest Rewards to make such arrangements, but instead we were forced to take an Amtrak Surfliner from Fullerton to Los Angeles, a bus to Bakersfield, California, a California Amtrak train to Stockton, and finally a bus to Sacramento, where we still had to stay overnight to meet the California Zephyr the next day.  Two train Rides and two bus rides to get to Sacramento seems unreasonable since the Coast Starlight goes from Los Angeles to Sacramento.

I had already made the return reservations which was the California Zephyr from Glenwood Springs to Emeryville, California, overnight in Emeryville, then the Coast Starlight back to Los Angeles, and a Surfliner the last 30 miles to Fullerton.  In fact, when I made these reservations, the experienced AGR agent said, "I see that you know the drill."  (Then why didn't the 4 agents Don talked with "know the drill"?)

After our two buses and two trains to get to Sacramento, we checked into the Vagabond Inn.  Many train travelers stay at the Vagabond between the California Zephyr and the Coast Starlight (and people like us who took the multi-vehicle trip).  Always when I stayed at the Vagabond Inn before, to walk from the Sacramento Station to the Inn meant walking two blocks to get across the street from the station where the Inn is located.  This time, however, there has been a pedestrian crosswalk installed so one can walk out the front door of the station then directly across the street to the need for the long walk or a short cab ride if you a not able to walk that far


The photo above was taken from the balcony of the Vagabond Inn showing the new cross walk light saving a two block walk.


Out the front door of the Vagabond Inn, you can walk through the parking garage under I-5 and arrive in Old Town, right next to the California State Railroad Museum.


A Denny's used to be next to the Vagabond Inn, but it is now a Perko's, which is a northern California company.  We had dinner here and the quality was about the same as Denny's.  The Vagabond Inn offers a breakfast for guests so no need to go to Perko's.  A 20% discount is given to Vagabond Inn guests - ask at the hotel desk how to get this discount.


The Vagabond Inn now provides free shuttle service to the train station.  Since our bags were quite heavy, we decided to have the driver take us to the station.  If you have a train leaving very early, however, check at the desk if the shuttle "is running" at that time.  Many times hotel shuttles are piloted by an 8 to 5 hotel employee so it might not be available when you need it.


The former Southern Pacific Station is being remodeled, so no photos worth taking inside.  The Starbucks on the southwest corner of the station is still there.


One portion of the remodel was to straighten the track past the station.  This meant that it is now a longer walk because the platform is much farther away than before.

This Sacramento Business Journal writer posted this report more than a year earlier than out trip, but it has several interesting facts about the remodel project:

Aug 9, 2012, 11:26pm PDT Updated: Aug 10, 2012, 3:05pm PDT

Rail project hits mile marker with passenger platforms, track relocation starting on Monday.

Melanie Turner
    Staff Writer- Sacramento Business Journal
    Email  | Twitter  | Facebook

Passengers boarding Amtrak and Capitol Corridor trains at Sacramento Valley Station on Monday will depart from new passenger platforms a block and a half north of the existing platforms.

While it is still an active construction site, the completion of the majority of the track relocation project signals big progress in a $41 million project intended to improve passenger safety and efficiency of train operations — and makes room for the city’s future intermodal transit facility that will allow passengers to transfer between Amtrak trains and Sacramento Regional Transit District buses and light rail.

The project also aims to connect the transit station and downtown grid to a planned future cultural and entertainment district in the historic downtown rail yard. The 244-acre redevelopment project is often touted as the country’s largest.

While financing is still a big hurdle for that project, first steps are moving ahead to establish necessary infrastructure.

The new tracks, two tunnels, a water transmission line and new passenger platforms were built under a $41 million city contract with Granite Construction Inc. of Watsonville.

The 4-year-old project went out to bid twice before construction began in May 2011.

In moving four lines of track about 500 feet north of existing tracks and platforms, contractors have replaced more than a half-mile of track and straightened the track alignment to help trains move through the area more efficiently.

There are now four passenger lines, instead of two, surrounded by two freight lines.

Two bridges over the new railroad tracks and two of three planned tunnels are finished. A pedestrian and bicycle tunnel, connecting Old Sacramento with the planned Central Shops in the Rail yards, and two railroad museums, is on track to be completed next spring. Work is set to begin in mid-September.

Meanwhile, the new passenger facilities just north of Sacramento Valley Station at Third and I streets are set to open with a 5:30 a.m. train Monday.

For now, a temporary asphalt path leads from the station into a central passenger tunnel connecting to the platforms.

A more permanent, covered walkway out to the tunnel is expected to be completed in the next six to eight weeks, said Hank Doll, construction manager with Vali Cooper & Associates.

Leading into the tunnel, passenger will find benches, a water fountain, a ticketing machine and a customer service desk. Landscaping will come later.

The tunnel itself features LED lights and brick accents to match the central depot.

“We put a lot of effort and thought into trying to make this a passenger place,” said city senior architect Hinda Chandler, standing in a vestibule where arches over ramps and stairways lead passengers up to platforms.

The platforms are equipped with giant fuel pumps for the trains. Historically, fuel trucks have been used.

“Now you’ll just see a truck once in a while,” Doll said.

In another move to cut down on greenhouse gas emissions, a unique partnership between the Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority and the Sacramento Metropolitan Air Quality Management District means trains that now idle, spewing diesel fumes during routine cleaning of their interiors, will have lights, heat and air conditioning powered by electricity instead. State grant money helped pay for eight clean-power units.

And while the platforms are a short walk from the main station, there will a “red cap service” for people, such as the elderly, who request assistance. Eight trams, similar to large golf carts, will be available to escort people, said Vernae Graham, an Amtrak media relations manager. Two carts have the capacity to carry 15 people each and six others can carry seven people apiece.

Luna Salaver, a spokeswoman for the Capitol Corridor Joint Power Authority, said Capitol Corridor is particularly pleased that passengers will have a safe way to get between the train station and the tracks. Today, passengers looking to catch a train walk, in some cases, “at grade” across the tracks, she said.

Capitol Corridor, she said, is encouraging people to allow extra time to walk the additional 500 feet.

Funding for the project has come mainly from federal stimulus programs and state Proposition 1B and 1C, which voters approved in 2006.

Representatives of the city of Sacramento, Amtrak, Capitol Corridor and the California Department of Transportation hosted members of the media on a tour of the facilities Thursday.


Notice how the long walk ends - it drops into a tunnel so passengers can get under the tracks and up another ramp to get to the platform.  This provides for safe passage of riders so they do not have to cross any tracks.  If you feel tired dragging your bag all this distance, you have the two elevations to navigate.  Hint: take the "people mover" (cart) out to the train with your carry on luggage.  The light rail still has its platform closer to the station (above).



I walked to the head end and spotted the fueling station mentioned in the article.


So, a full day after we left home, we were in Sacramento and on the California Zephyr headed east to Glenwood Springs, Colorado.


I like to travel in an upstairs room. Traffic through the car to the diner and sightseer lounge is on the upper level, so no stairs must be navigated if you have an upstairs room.   On the California Zephyr, the sleeper cars are on the rear of the train, unlike the Southwest Chief.  Our sleeper car happened to be the last car on the train, so I could venture to the end of our car and see down the tracks out the back door.


The Sightseer/Lounge Car was a remodeled version with half tables and half seats facing the windows.  Don always likes to spend time at one of the tables to do his professional reading, and I like the tables, each with electrical outlets, to use my laptop for editing trip photos. 

Since it was the beginning of the trip, and I had no photos to edit, I read Henry Kisor's current eBook
novel, "Hang Fire" on my iPad.  I first learned of Henry through his book, Zephyr - Tracking a Dream Across America  which is about this very train.  After reading Zephyr, I learned of his murder mysteries and have enjoyed each of them.  A train ride is a great place to read.  From your reading, you can look up at any moment and watch the world go by.




An announcement came over the all-train public address system inviting passengers to the Sightseer/Lounge car to hear volunteers from the California State Railroad Museum in Sacramento give a commentary about the history of this route.  I know a Trails & Rails coordinator and route guide author, Robert Tabern, who works with the Empire Builder and the Southwest Chief.  California State Railroad Museum volunteer, Al Gallardo, above, said that from 1865 on, there were up to 10,000 Chinese who worked on the Central Pacific Railroad.  When the transcon was completed, they moved on to other railroad construction projects in the US.

Trails & Rails Program 

Heritage Appreciation during Your Train Ride Trails & Rails Logo

800/Trails&RailsLogo.jpgTrails & Rails is an innovative partnership program between the National Park Service and Amtrak, providing rail passengers with educational opportunities that foster an appreciation of a selected region's natural and cultural heritage. It also renews the long tradition of connecting railroads with National Parks.

Since the beginning of the 20th century, railroads played an active role in developing America's national parks, encouraging vacationers and long-distance travelers to take the train to these highly sought-after destinations.

Through the program, Amtrak passengers can connect to public lands and engage in a better understanding of the need to preserve and protect these special natural and cultural resources. As an example of this philosophy of stewardship in action, rail travel to parks and protected areas provides a fuel efficient and environmentally friendly way to visit public lands.


When California State Railroad Museum volunteer, Mas Hatano, took over the microphone, we were looking down the American River Valley 1500 ft. below.  The American River runs through Sacramento.  I talked with Mas about his volunteering at the California State Railroad Musuem and he said, "All you have to know to work there is where the restroom is." 


Soon we were passing the Roseville, California, Union Pacific rail yards and maintenance facility.


When passing the Roseville Yard, I always look for the rotary stored here for snow removal in the Sierra in the winter.  Mas pointed out a "baloon track" (not a Wye) for turning the snowplows.




This Sightseer/Lounge passenger was well outfitted with his sketch book, tunes, drumsticks, and camera.


The alternative route through the Sierra from Sacramento through Reno and beyond is I-80.


I like the vintage station signs giving essential facts about the historic route.



Fall colors were developing even though it was mid September.


Donner Lake and I-80 above Truckee, California.

About this time of day it was "Last Call" for lunch.  We made our way to the Diner.  When you have a room on an Amtrak train it includes 3 meals a day.  Menu prices are quite high for coach passengers in my opinion.  There is a cafe on the lower level of the Sightseer/Lounge car where ala carte items are sold.  Prices are still high, so many short distance coach passengers bring their own food and drink to be enjoyed in the Sightseer car or their coach seat with tray table.  For this lunch I selected the angus burger with chips and blood-orange sorbet. 


On my way back to my room, I ventured a few more feet to the back window for this shot.




Another form of snow handling equipment awaits winter in Truckee.


I like the view from the Zephyr down the Truckee River toward Reno, Nevada.


With the slow, sharp curves, you can get a nice photo of the front half of the train beside the river.



Several unused, one-lane or single-track steel bridges cross the river along the way.  Because of the sharp turns on both ends, I presume it was a former highway bridge.  It looks like it is now a nice bike or hiking trail.


This single-track steel bridge was on the second track alignment and still in use as we passed on a newer bridge.


A dam holds back water (above) so it can be diverted into an acquaduct (below).



We again cross the Truckee river with a view of the aquaduct and a railroad bridge from the second rail line down the mountain.


Railways, waterways, and highways heading down the mountain.


A large vintage barn from an earlier era.


This large resort, with the river directly behind it, seems to be a victim of low occupancy.


The Reno stop is now below street level and does not block the many streets in downtown Reno.


Reno is a change of crew stop which usually also means a stretch and smoke stop.


I thought this passenger was dressed as if he was riding the original Zephyr.


Inside the Reno Station are many historic photos at track level.


The 1910 Johnson-Jeffries Train with two 2-8-0 engines bringing passengers from California to the "Fight of the Century".


City of San Francisco, 1936.


Rising up out of Reno, a view from the last Amtrak car.



Sparks, Nevada (above), used to be a crew change station.  Now the crew changes in Reno.  Our train traveled slowly through Sparks, past the Nugget Hotel, separated from the tower by a container train.


The conductor pointed out wild mustangs along the way east of Reno.


Typical high desert scenery between Reno and Winnemucca, Nevada.


Winnemucca, Nevada, at Sunset.  New, large platform for the two Amtrak trains a day.



Last shot of the day at Winnemucca, but dinner still awaits in the diner. 

I had salmon, vegetables, rice, with Sierra Mist to drink with Tahitian Vanilla Bean Gelato for dessert.  We turned our clocks ahead one hour before bed at 9/10 p.m.  I had a nice night watching the full moon from my lower berth on the California Zephyr.  Up at 7 for a shower and breakfast of vegetable omelet, raisin bread toast, decaf and OJ. 



Although the west flowing Colorado River was muddy and full, rafters were arising from camping for the night on the shore as we passed.

We learned that we would be transferred to buses in Grand Junction because of track washouts between Glenwood Springs and Denver.  We had heard in Sacramento that this might happen.  Even earlier information had led us to believe that our train would terminate in Glenwood Springs and those with destination stations beyond would be bussed.  The final decision was to bus those with destinations beyond Grand Junction, which included us going to Glenwood Springs.  We boarded the appropriate bus for the ride from Grand Junction to Glenwood Springs.

The LSA said the rumor was that the California Zephyr, westbound, would begin a reroute the next day from Denver through southern Wyoming to Salt Lake City, Utah where it would follow the usual route to California.  Therefore, we would be bussed to Salt Lake City if this was true.  Don immediately began thinking of getting us to Denver so we could take the reroute through Wyoming rather than that awfully long bus ride.


There were three buses and a bit of confusion, however all passengers got on the correct bus before any departed from Grand Junction.


Our bus arrived in Glenwood Springs in good time after a shower during the trip.  This photo was taken from the front door of the Hotel Denver, just across the street from the Amtrak Station.

For photos in Glenwood Springs and Aspen, return to the Table of Contents above and start reading there.

California Zephyr - Glenwood Springs to Emeryville, California on a rare Wyoming reroute.

There were track washouts between Glenwood Springs and Denver and Amtrak had announced that the westbound California Zephyr would detour at Denver through southern Wyoming to Salt Lake City.  Those passengers holding tickets to board between Denver and Salt Lake City would be bussed to meet the train in Salt Lake.  During the day before our scheduled return, we called Amtrak Guest Rewards and had them change our tickets to board the westbound California Zephyr in Denver, thus avoiding the bus ride.  

We canceled our second night reservation at the Hotel Denver and Don's friend, who had come over from Denver to take us to Aspen for the day, agreed to take us back to Denver so we could meet the 8 a.m. westbound California Zephyr in Denver the next morning.  We stayed the night at the Hampton Inn Cherry Creek Denver for $153.  We called a cab at 6:10 a.m. and arrived at the station before 7.  At the station, we learned that the train was 1:14 late.  I took the time to walk, which I had not been able to do while riding on the train.  I walked east then west of the temporary Denver Station. 

Back at the station, I met Quinn, a pipeline worker who travels by Amtrak, staying in hotels each night.  Now that I think of it, that would be the most economical way to travel on Amtrak - purchasing a coach seat and getting a hotel near the station and seeing the town for a day before going on by coach.

Finally, the train arrived, we boarded and began our journey from Denver toward Cheyenne then westward toward California.


Temporary Amtrak Station in Denver, Colorado

The Ticket Agents at Denver handed out "ReRoute Guides" for the Wyoming trip.  I received the same guide in 2004 authored by "C. L. Katz 2004" a coach car attendant on that trip.  The guide was presented by Colorail P. O. Box 480452, Denver, CO  80248 or

The following information is full sized, so it may take some mousing to read it all, but it should be large enough to read.





What you can see within walking distance from the temporary Denver Amtrak Station:


Denver Rockies Stadium (left). Old Station and temporary station under farthest bridge.


Fueling truck awaiting the Zephyr's arrival which will back into the station.  Curved temporary track and platform cover.  White cover beyond is new platform when track continues straight past the remodeled station.


Rockies Stadium and downtown Denver beyond.


Denver Station, trackside, currently being remodeled.


While walking before our train arrived, I found a stack of new concrete cross ties.  I use this photo to show how rails are clipped to the concrete ties.


Traveling pardoner, Don Roe, doing his professional reading in the Sightseer/Lounge car as I edit photos taken at St. Benedict's Monastery while we speed north from Denver to Wyoming.  Drinks and newspaper from our sleeper car attendant, Johnny.


Hand picked tomatoes north of Denver.  These tomatoes will probably end up in the produce section of the grocery rather than machine-picked salsa and ketchup tomatoes.  This is the first day of the reroute, so workers along the railroad have a shiny Amtrak train to watch go by for a change. 


We noticed that the highway parallel to our tracks was slowed to one lane across this river.  We also knew that this rail route had been closed the previous days perhaps because of the need to inspect for damage to the bridge we were riding on at the moment.  You can see that the water had receded from a previous high mark.



These workers at a grain milling operation along the railroad seemed surprised to see an Amtrak train on this track.


The western plains states have many vintage windmills in the large pasture lands.  This one, near the Colorado/Wyoming border, is still operational pumping water up from  a  well into a tank for the range beef cattle using wind power rather than electricity.  The U-shaped device to the right is an oil-soaked scratching pad that cattle can rub against and walk under for relief from pesky flies.   Dairy cattle do not have such large pastures and are brought to the barn morning and evening for milking when the milkers apply fly spray.


The conductor announced the approaching large bison herd on the right side of the train.  It was the Blue Mountain Bison Ranch, P.O. Box 1460 Lyons, CO 80540.

Blue Mountain Bison is a Bison ranch located in the foothills of Colorado. With five thousand acres of rugged terrain including open fields of mountain grass, aspen, ponderosa pine and the north fork of the Little Thompson river, Blue Mountain Bison is a picture perfect place for buffalo to roam, just an hour north of Denver and 15 miles west of interstate I-25.  The Plains bison of today is making a welcome comeback. There are over 250,000 bison alive today from Mexico to Canada. Bison can be found in all fifty states of the union. Over 95% of the bison alive today are found on private ranches raised for breeding stock, meat and by-products.

Bison or as they are also known, buffalo, have long been a symbol of the old American west. A symbol representing power, freedom and the spirituality of nature You can find bison as team mascots, on a ten-dollar bill, stamps, a nickel, two state seals and a 2000, 2003 special silver dollar U.S. mint coin.

The plains bison is found in North America, the woods bison is found in Canada and the Wisent is found in Europe. The bison alive today developed during the last ice age and made their way to North America where they could be found from the East Coast to the West Coast. The Native Americans of the west had a special relationship with the bison herds, but all Native Americans utilized the bison.

There was an unchecked slaughter of bison in the late 18th century. As people moved west the bison populations declined until there were no bison left east of the Mississippi and as people headed to the new frontier further west the populations were decimated. Bison were considered undesirable because of their wild tendencies and their awesome power. What could have turned into another dodo bird, instead became a success story due to several individuals who made an effort to preserve and protect the remaining animals. Many of the remaining animals left in the wild were collected and put on either private ranches, zoos or on preserves. Many of those preserves have turn into national or state parks where the public can view bison. Bison are making a comeback on private ranches and on reservations across North America. There are twice as many buffalo today then there was just ten years ago.

Bison Facts:

  •     Both Males and Females develop horns.
  •     Males can weigh over 2000lbs, [2,000 pounds = 1 ton] and stand over 7 ft tall. Bulls do not fully reach their adult size till 5-6 years of age, although they can start breeding as a yearling.
  •     Females are only half the size of males and can weigh up to 1400lbs at only five and half feet tall. They reach their adult size by 4-5 years of age, but will usually have their first calf by 3.
  •     The females have one calf a year. Gestation is roughly 265 days.
  •     The calves are born orange in color and weigh around 40lbs.
  •     By the time the calves are yearlings they will weigh over 600lbs.
  •     Bison are wild animals even when found on private ranches.
  •     Bison are herd animals based on social groups usually related females.
  •     Bison Males are loners as they age
  •     Bison establish positions of rank by fighting. Higher ranked animals get to lead, drink, and eat first when moving from area to area.
  •     Bison Males will fight for the right to breed although vocal and non-verbal clues- maybe enough to send a rival running.
  •     Bison Males court one female at a time and get so caught up in the courting they do not have enough time to eat and will lose 10-20% of their body weight during the rut.
  •     Bison are great athletes- they can run faster than a horse, jump higher than six feet and pivot on either their hind legs or front legs.
  •     Healthy bison have no natural predators. Only weak and sick animals are vulnerable to natural predators.
  •     Bison can live to thirty.



Once we turned westward in Wyoming, a large load of rock passed our train.  We wondered if it would be used to replace some washed out railroad tracks in Colorado.


This group of rocks in a valley was a change from the typical scenery in southern Wyoming of high plains grasslands.  Still "Big Sky Country".

800/IMG_5686.jpg    800/IMG_5687.jpg

Most any train ride in the U.S. will reveal rusty decades-old cars.  Sometimes they are used to control erosion, but the one above right was placed in some kind of obstacle course.


This was a ribbon-rail factory producing 1/4-mile or longer sections of rail which are welded together in a continuous, seamless rail.  Each section of rail from this factory takes up several cars.  The only time you hear the 'clackety-clack' when riding the train nowadays is where shorter sections are used for turnouts and signals.


Another buffalo ranch.  I do not believe the Blue Mountain Ranch was large enough to include this property, but I do not know what 5,000 acres looks like.


Back inside the sightseer/lounge car, I could not help but notice the proud parents of this little girl.  This is the kind of family that can make the best use of a Family Bedroom on the train.



All I could learn from Heward Ranch's gate was that they raised Hereford beef cattle.  Not why they had such unusual haystacks like something one would see in Northern Europe (below).



Windmills of the 21st Century producing electricity rather than pumping water for cattle.


I took this photo to show the Union Pacific snow blower with red blades, but had noticed the giant drag line mining crane peeking over the foothills at Hanna, Wyoming.

This is the Medicine Bow Mine   Owner:  Arch Coal Inc.  Location:  Carbon County, Wyoming, six miles west of Hanna, Wyoming on U.S. Highway 30  Rail Loading Point:  Hanna, Wyoming


I have seen post cards showing houses like this with the title, "One more payment and it is mine all mine!"


This solitary building looks like an abandoned schoolhouse to me.


One of the unused stations of the former Overland Route.




As with most Amtrak trips, you will pass the sister train, headed in the opposite direction, once or twice during your trip.



In Salt Lake City, there was a crew change giving me time to photograph the car in our consist being delivered to the Oakland yard.  I will probably see this car in the future on my home route from LA to San Diego.



California Zephyr in Salt Lake City, Utah, on September 20, 2013, after the first reroute from Denver to skirt the track washout between Denver and Glenwood Springs, Colorado.


At the temporary Salt Lake City Amtrak Station, passengers have to cross active tracks between Amtrak trains and the station.


The light rail, however, arrives on the far side of the station.


The following morning, we were back on the original route and traveling along the Truckee River westward through the Sierra Mountains.


From our roomette, Don watched the Truckee River and the bridges across it as we climbed the mountains heading west.


Fly fishing was in season in this 3rd week of September.


Again, the slow curves allowed me to photograph the front of the train from our roomette.




Truckee, California


This restored gas station in Truckee appears to now be a realty office.


In rain showers, it is comforting to be on a train and leaving the driving to Amtrak rather than driving on slick roads at 70 mph.


Adding a second mainline in terrain like this, the tracks are often separated enough so you can photograph tunnels on the adjacent track.


Since the reroute resulted in a less-than-full train, I asked our excellent car attendant, Johnny, if he would rather make up two lower roomette beds than an upper and lower bed in our roomette.  He said he would know after Salt Lake City.  At that point he said another room was available for the night, so Don and I both enjoyed the bigger, lower berth in our own roomette for the night.  Don gave Johnny a generous tip of course.  Even after breakfast, Johnny informed us that the roomette directly across from ours was now available if we wanted to spend the rest of the day in our own roomette.  The photo above shows how convenient an arrangement this actually is with each of us being able to face forward and use the entire table for our work.  Having roomettes across the aisle meant we could still communicate during the ride when needed.


The Conductor came on the Intercom and announced that we would be here, between Truckee and Colfax for an indefinite time because there was a boulder on the tracks ahead.  The boulder was probably loosened from the rains.  I was happy that we were on a curve with a clearing across the radius allowing this photograph.  Don and I both had work to do, so the time was well spent.  We were actually only sitting at this point for 55 minutes.


The culprit.  The Conductor even alerted passengers when we got to the boulder blocking the adjacent track so we could photograph it.


The boulder, shot from 16 ft. above the track from my roomette window, may not look big, but considering the distance between tracks is 4 ft. 8.5 inches, this is a big rock.


In my mind, not a way to take quality train travel photos, but maybe her real camera is at her coach seat.


A quick shot from our dining car of a sister California Zephyr heading in the opposite direction.

Johnny was an excellent car attendant and the LSA, Joyce's diner crew on this trip was the most fun-loving I have ever experienced.  She said her crew all helped each other at their jobs.  She said she hoped they could stay together as a crew.  They would find out after returning to California.  It was the only crew where I heard laughter between them each meal.  Perhaps this was because Don and I always ate at the last seating, but it was a fun and efficient crew. 


Sacramento, California, from the California Zephyr.


Mothball Fleet in Suisun Bay, near Martinez, California.

Inside the Ghost Ships of the Mothball Fleet

    May 7, 2011
    By Scott Haefner

For decades, dozens of forgotten Navy and merchant ships have been corroding in Suisun Bay, 30 miles northeast of San Francisco. These historic vessels—the Mothball Fleet—served their country in four wars: WWII, the Korean War, the Vietnam War, and Desert Storm. After a decade of impasse, the ghost fleet is slowly dwindling as the ships are towed out one-by-one for scrapping. About 15 retired ships are already gone; by 2017, the entire fleet will be just a memory.

These ghost ships, part of the National Defense Reserve Fleet (NDRF) overseen by the U.S. Maritime Administration (MARAD), were supposed to be ready for duty in the event of a national emergency. Perhaps a few ships are actually “reserve ready” and could be activated, but the vast majority are well beyond their useful lives and rotting away as they wait in line for disposal.

The mothballed ships once numbered close to 400, and in 1959, 324 vessels still lined the waters of Suisun Bay. Although the ships continued to dwindle down over time, approximately 75 remained throughout the 2000s, rusting and leaching toxic heavy metals into the bay as the Bush administration did little to address the crumbling ships.

Many ships in the fleet served in World War II, including the historic USS Iowa, the last remaining U.S. lead battleship. Retired war ships like the Iowa were laid up in Suisun Bay for decades awaiting their next battle, but the call never came. Instead, they have sat unused and largely forgotten. But the Iowa will likely see a different fate than its sister ships who await their ultimate demise at a shipbreaker. Vallejo is currently in a heated battle with the port of Los Angeles (San Pedro) to secure rights to the battleship and turn it into a museum.  [Ed.:  Since this 2011 article, the Iowa is not in San Pedro and available for public viewing.]







Just beyond Suisun Bay is a loading area for new cars from ocean freighters to rail cars.


The Benicia–Martinez Bridge refers to three parallel bridges which cross the Carquinez Strait just west of Suisun Bay; the spans link Benicia, in the U.S. state of California on the north side with Martinez, California on the south. The two automobile bridges are referred to collectively as "The Benicia Bridge". 

Between the two vehicle bridges is a Union Pacific Railroad bridge, the first bridge at this location, built between April 1929 and October 1930 by Southern Pacific. It is used by Union Pacific and BNSF (trackage rights) freight trains and 36 scheduled Amtrak passenger trains each weekday. Passenger trains include the long-distance trains California Zephyr and Coast Starlight and short-haul Capitol Corridor trains.



1929 - 30 Southern Pacific Bridge




C and H (California and Hawaii) Pure Cane Sugar plant with ocean-going freighter dock on the opposite side.


Downtown San Francisco from the California Zephyr before its final destination of Emeryville, California.

Do not use "hotelsone" to make your hotel reservations, unless of course you want to pay 50% more than the hotel's rate.

In Emeryville, for our overnight stay before boarding the Coast Starlight for Los Angeles, I had searched the Internet for reasonably priced rooms.  The best rate was at the Extended Stay America Oakland - Emeryville.  This hotel was not the quality of Motel 8, nor Motel 6, so let me classify it as a Motel 5, but at a high rate, I thought.  When I checked out the following morning, I saw the rate and it was 50% lower than what I had reserved with hotelsone.  Further communication with them ended in no change.  Therefore, I urge you not to use hotelsone to make reservations unless you are willing to pay 50% more for the room that the hotel's rate.  I should have contacted Extended Stay America directly and found the reasonable price they actually charge.

A short cab ride from the Emeryville Station to Extended Stay America was accomplished and we asked if there was a restaurant in walking distance that we could get to before dark.  The desk clerk directed us to "Rudy's".  We walked about 3 blocks and found a restaurant called, Can't Fail Cafe.  I asked a passing dog walker where Rudy's was and she pointed to the Can't Fail Cafe in front of us and she said she had eaten there the evening before.  We went in.


Can't Fail Cafe, known by some as "Rudy's", 4081 Hollis St., Emeryville, CA  (


Their recent Health Dept. rating displayed prominently under their 4081 address number was not "Fail", and not "Pass", but "Conditional Pass".  After seeing this, I wondered what was conditional about the rating.  In any event, I enjoyed my pulled pork sandwich. 

Coast Starlight leaves us standing on the platform in Emeryville - Car Attendant for 1130 never opened the door.


When I went to bed in Emeryville, I had not turned back my watch from Mountain Time, so we were up an hour early.  There would be breakfast on the Coast Starlight, so no need to have breakfast before boarding.  Extended Stay did have coffee and mini muffins in the lobby. 

After a short cab ride, we were at the station nearly an hour before departure time for the Coast Starlight, allowing me time to photograph the station and passing Union Pacific equipment.



I asked Peter Stewart, employee at the station, about eateries within walking distance of the station.  He listed the Hyatt, Black Bear, and Denny's. 


The Coast Starlight pulled into the Emeryville Station and we walked down the platform to Car 1130 ready to enter our Roomette No. 9.



I was so happy to see that the Coast Starlight had a Pacific Parlour Car in the consist this day that I took a photo of its name, Napa Valley.

The Coast Starlight pulled out of the station and we were dumbfounded.  No car attendant had opened the door to admit us even though my 5-month old reservation should have shown that we were to be in Roomette 9 boarding at Emeryville and going to Los Angeles.  No conductor came anywhere near any of the sleepers.  We went back into the station and talked to the ticket agent.  She said, do you want to go tomorrow.  Ah, let's see, another expensive hotel night in Emeryville, 3 meals and no offer of compensation nor any knowledge if there was room for us the next day, we said no thanks.  Next they offered us a chance to take a train from Emeryville to Bakersfield and a bus to Los Angeles, and a train on out to Fullerton.  Not a ride on the Coast Starlight, the longest ocean-view train ride in America and having a roomette for the day with 3 meals in the diner or parlour car, just a train/bus/train ride home.  We took the same-day option.

Upon our return home, I phoned Amtrak Guest Rewards and asked for my 15,000 points back - the same amount of points it would take to take the ride in a roomette from Emeryville to Fullerton.  They offered 4,000 pts. back - why I do not know.  I asked to speak to a supervisor and instead was transferred to 1-800-USA rail (who could not give me my points back because they are not Amtrak Guest Rewards).  They "started a complaint and gave me the case number."  I have since written them explaining the situation again and asking for the 15,000 points back. 

When I get the final response, I will post it here.  As it now stands, we were left at the station through Amtrak's fault and they are unwilling to make the error right.


After waiting 2 more hours, using the Internet to work on this report, our Amtrak California train arrived and we headed back up the tracks to Martinez, then turned south to Bakersfield.


Don was much less upset than I about being left in Emeryville and calmer minds prevailed.  The Amtrak California car had tables so he could do his reading and I settled down and began taking a few photos, after buying a meal in the cafe car. 


We had another look at the Golden Gate Bridge as we retraced our tracks back to Martinez.


We again saw the Benicia–Martinez Bridge with the Union Pacific Railroad Bridge between, that we had crossed the last afternoon.  We did not cross the railroad bridge this day, instead we turned right and headed down the valley to Bakersfield.


Residential cars on the Ringling Circus Red Unit Train

Don pointed out the Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey train, stationary on a siding.  It was the red unit identifiable by the red shields on the ends of each car.  The blue unit is elsewhere in the US.  Ringling has the two trains to carry performers, staff, equipment, and concessions.  Either the red or the blue units qualify as the longest private train in the world.  I report on the Circus Train each summer when it is in Anaheim, California, and you can see those reports at


Residential cars with the middle door for 1/2-car accommodations for the ringmaster and family; and trainmaster and family; and other high-ranking performers or officials.


Since I was not sure where we were at the time we saw the circus train, I looked up at a freeway sign and realized that we were in Stockton where the circus was performing.


At the Stockton station, to start our trip we had departed a train and took a bus to Sacramento from here.  Glad we did not have a bus ride at this point this time.


We were now at Stockton on the map that was posted on our train.  You can see the stops we made on our way to Bakersfield.






Fresno Station

We took the bus from Bakersfield to Los Angeles and a Surfliner on to Fullerton.  Our original Destination, Glenwood Springs, Colorado, was a great success.  The Hotel Denver was the perfect railfan's hotel with its station and track view rooms.  We were able to change our schedule to board the westbound California Zephyr in Denver rather than Glenwood Springs where rail travel had been terminated because of the severe flooding in Colorado.  We enjoyed the Southern Wyoming reroute which I had not taken since 2004.  The only sore point was being left on the platform, through no fault of our own, on our final portion of the trip from Emeryville to Los Angeles on the Coast Starlight.


For a slide show of all photos used in this report (plus a few extras), in large format, Click Here.

Since the slide show has no sound, you can Click Here to have Henry Mancini's Silver Streak play in a separate window as you watch the slide show.

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[ Table of Contents | | Over 100 of my other train travel reports | | American Passenger Rail Heritage Foundation ]

My Go-To Person in Glenwood Springs:  Vicky Nash, Media Relations Representative Resort Trends, Inc.  970-948-4923 |

Hotel Denver, A Railfan's Dream Hotel with station and track view rooms

Amtrak Phone: 800.USA.RAIL

To Track any Amtrak train in real time, click:  Get Tracking Now at:

Glenwood Railroad Museum, 413 7th Street (East wing of Train Depot), Glenwood Springs, CO 81601, Phone: 970.945.7044,

Great American Stations - Glenwood Springs Amtrak Station

Information from Visit

Amtrak Train Getaway

Train buffs, this package is for you. It combines a scenic ride on the Amtrak train from Denver to Glenwood Springs (and back), with lodging and passes to the world’s largest hot springs pool.  Choose accommodations at either the historic Hotel Colorado or the Ramada Inn and Suites. Package includes a one day Glenwood Hot Springs pool pass for each person, transfers between the train station and hotels and all taxes and fees. or

The Hotel Denver offers a stunning space called The Loft which can host up to 99 people. Located in one of Glenwood Springs’ historic buildings with panoramic views of the Colorado  River to the west, the space is ideal for corporate and social groups.

More information and reservations: 970-945-6589,
888-4-GLENWOOD or 888-445-3696.

Glenwood Springs is located between Aspen and Vail, 160 miles west of Denver or 90 miles east of Grand Junction on Interstate 70 off exit 116.

For writers:  Online press kit available at, press releases at and photos are at B-roll video footage is available upon request.


Lisa Langer, Vice President of Tourism Marketing
Glenwood Springs Chamber Resort Association
970-230-9035 |

Vicky Nash, Media Relations Representative Resort Trends, Inc.
970-948-4923 |