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Rails To Rodeos - 2006

A January rail adventure on the Southwest Chief, California Zephyr, and Coast Starlight

between Los Angeles and Denver

Photos and Report by Carl Morrison,

Trip Report:

Southwest Chief – FUL to DEN


Fullerton, CA

I arrived about 7:00 pm for the 7:20 departure.  With no friskings, exrays, boarding pass lines, parking problems with Amtrak, 10 minutes at a station prior to departure is plenty of time!  Train 4 which had originated in Los Angeles 35 minutes earlier, was on time.  I had already checked with the Conductor or Train 4 that had gone through town the previous night and learned that I could have dinner in the diner after boarding here in Fullerton, so when I put my things in the luggage area downstairs in car 0431, and met car attendant, Ron, he confirmed that I could go on to the diner for dinner.  Last call would be in San Bernardino at 8:30.  I put my small bag in room 2 and went to the diner.

Riverside, CA

I enjoyed dinner through Riverside and San Bernardino with a couple from Australia and a gentleman from the south.

San Bernardino, CA

Victorville, CA

Arrived at 9:44, only 4 minutes late.  Once we were above Cajon Pass, we accelerated to maximum speed (79 mph) until I went to sleep.

Barstow, CA

Needles, CA

Kingman, AZ

We entered Mountain Time.

Williams Jct., AZ

Flagstaff, AZ, 6:01 a.m.

Still on time, I was in bed, but I heard Don’s voice when he boarded here as planned.   The car attendant invited him to stay in an empty room until I awoke.  I went downstairs and greeted him and then got ready for breakfast at 6:30.

Winslow, AZ

We had breakfast together and adjourned to the lounge car to watch the scenery through the large windows.

Gallup, NM

Albuquerque, NM

This is a crew change stop, so we had time to walk through the station and out to old Route 66 in the chilly air.  Next to the current antique station, they are building a new station and this day they were roofing the new station with clay tile.


The consist looking east from the lounge car, then the sleepers.


The consist looking west starting with the diner, then the sleepers.

Crew change with shopping time in Albuquerque, NM.


The lounge car gets its windows washed.

Lamy, NM

The scenery doesn't change much from San Bernardino, CA, to Lamy, NM, but it starts getting redder as you continue on from Lamy.  Lamy station (above left) is the closest station to Santa Fe, NM, and is where the Australian couple departed for their visit to Santa Fe.


Past Lamy, east of the train, it was sunny, but the frozen streams verified that it was cold at this higher altitude.


Someone's idea of a perfect campsite.  I-25 in the cut beyond the trailer.

Las Vegas, NM

Raton, NM

This was our final destination on the Southwest Chief, so we detrained and waited only 15 minutes in the cold weather or the warm waiting room, for the Amtrak Bus, which would take us the 220 miles/4 hrs. 25 minutes to the Denver Union Station.


Denver, CO

The bus stopped first in Raton at the MacDonalds, then again in Pueblo, Colorado Springs, arriving in Denver on schedule at 10:25 pm.  I called Larry, who was to pick me up in Denver, to keep him abreast of our time schedule.  I reported in both Raton and Colorado Springs that we were on time.  We met at Union Station as planned.

A Livestock Show and Rodeo has always, well at least for 100 years, been held in January in Denver.  Since it would be going on when I'm in town, I planned to attend a day or two of this historic event.


The first morning in the Denver area, I awoke to falling snow, an experience I hadn't had since the late 60s in Indiana.  It continued to accumulate and I drove into Denver for the rodeo and am proud to announce I did not hit anything!

My destination this day, the Rodeo at the coliseum.

Lots of acts between the 10 rodeo events.

The ProRodeo featured barrelman Ryan Rodriguez, One-armed Bandid, Westernaires, Frontier Airlines Mutton Bustin as well as a full 10-event competition rodeo.


Westernaires horse drill team with lights in a darkened arena.

Bucking Bronco and rider.


Tribute to stage coach drivers


Six-horse drawn freight wagon.


"One Armed Bandit" (really), best rodeo performer for years.  Yes, those are two trained buffalos and he's standing on the
saddle, all on TOP of his transporter!

Black Angus judging. 1st place brought $75,000!


One of many booths at the Livestock Show.


Raffle bike for the Rodeo Hall of Fame.


Outdoors between the coliseum and the arena were food booths...

...with Ice Cold drinks!

<<<Mike's Camera had a booth set up where they would take your picture and put it online for viewing or sale.  With my new cowboy shirt purchased at the Corral West booth, I couldn't resist.

Golden, CO

Another attraction in the Denver Area is the Colorado Railroad Museum  (  At 17155 West 44th Avenue, P.O. Box 10, Golden, CO, 80402-0010.  800-365-6263.

I called and was pleased to know they are open year-round, unlike some tourist trains in the area.

The Colorado Railroad Musuem is "the largest railroad museum in the rocky Mountain West.  The locomotives and cars on exhibit are surviving examples of thousands that once ran in Colorado and adjacent our 14 acres.  Most of the track is narrow gauge, with rails 36 inches apart.  Standard gauge is 56 1/2 inches wide" (4 ft. 8 1/2 inches).  Some of the museum grounds is 3-rail to accommodate both narrow and standard gauge stock, or 4-track as on the turntable.  There are 70 items of equipment in four groups:  locomotives and motor cars, passenger cars, cabooses, freight and other cars.  They provide an excellent Guide to Eshibits at the colorado Railroad Museum.  Descriptions below are from that guide.



<<--^^683 (S)  Denver & Rio Grande 2-8-0 was built in 1890 for freight service on the then newly completed starndard gauge main line between Denver, Pueblo, Glenwood Springs, and Salt Lake City.  It is the only surviving D&RGW standard gauge steam locomotive and was purchased by the museum from Southern San Luis Valley Ry., to which it had been sold in 1947. 



Milk train with Ice Cold Milk!


5771, 5762 (S)  This pair of Rio Grande 1955 vintage streamlined "F9" diesel locomotives operated over two million miles through the Rockies pulling both freight and passenger trains, including the California Zephyr and Rio Grande Zephyr, before retirement in 1984.  Each unit could produce 1,750 horsepower and together are representative of the first generation of diesel locomotives which replaced steam power in the 1940s and 1950s.


This "F9" is my favorite era of diesels.  I used to watch these on the B&O behind our Indiana farm, hauling freight and passengers between Cicninnati and St. Louis, through the local stations of North Vernon and Seymour, Indiana.  I still have my Santa Fe O-gauge model trainset with an "F9".


^^^Navajo (S) Atchison Topeka & Santa Fe stainless steel sleeping/observation car built in 1937 for the Super chief, the worls's first streamlined, diesel-powered all-Pullman train.  Running from Chicago to Los Angeles at speeds of up to 100  miles-per-hour, it was known for years as "the train of the Hollywood stars."

Cabooses served as office and home-away-from-home for freight train crews.  Interiors were spartan but domfortable and always featrured a cast iron stove.  Numerous cabinets provided storage for supplies. 


49 (N)  Built by D&RG shops, this car served until 1938.  The carbody was in very poor condition when purchased by the museum in 1984, and it has since been restored to its original four-wheel configuration by museum volunteers.  A lantern could be placed in the compartment on the roof of the cupola to signal the engineer at night.



Interior views of Caboose 49


Interior views of Caboose 49



Galloping Goose

2, 6, 7 (N)  are three of the "galloping geese" used 1931-1951 to replace steam trains  on the Rio Grande Southern between Durango, Telluride and Ridgway in south-western Colorado.  They were built from used Buicks, Pierce Arrows, and spare parts to haul passengers, mail and freight.  Their nickname, Galloping Goose, was inspired by the motion of the cars as they ran over uneven track and by the sound of their horns, which was quite a change from the then-familiar steam locomotive whistles.



5629 (S)

Chicago Burlington & Quincy [which became part of Burlington Northern in 1970] built this 317-ton 4-8-4 at its West Burlington, Iowa, shops in 1940.  It was a "dual service" locomotive, being ablt to haul 20 passenger cars at 80 mph or 100-car freight trains, and was used on Chicago-Twin Cities and Chicago- Denver main lines until 1956.  In 1963, CB&Q gave the locomotive to National Railway Historical Society for exhibit at the musuem.  It was moved on specially built spur track from the rail line across West 44th Avenue.

A couple of 'big wheels' at the museum!


We finished our visit by going to the model display in the basement of the depot/entry building.  An excellent display and great historical displays of Colorado railroading upstairs.

One thing that I did not have time to do in Denver was to visit the Forney Museum of Transportation. They have a 'Big Boy' -The World's Largest Steam Locomotive,  Forney Locomotive • Railcars, Cabooses, Coaches
and a Diner, plus other transportation pieces.  Check it out on the Internet:

Links for Rails to Rodeos:

Southwest Chief
Fullerton, CA to Denver, CO

California Zephyr
Denver to Glenwood Springs
Glenwood Springs to Sacramento

Coast Starlight
Sacramento to Los Angeles, CA

Official Amtrak Schedules
of all three trains

Schedules and Costs for the
three Amtrak Segments.

Print Resources for
Colorado Trains