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My second Trip to the Izaak Walton Inn 7/1987

by Chris Guenzler

After finishing another school year doing my PE duties and coaching at MacArthur, it was time for another trip. Without too much thought it dawned on me that I should make another trip back to the Izaak Walton Inn. A quick phone call to brother Bruce and the next day I had a reservation number using an All Abroad America one region fare. I went to the Santa Ana station to pay for it and with tickets in hand now waited for the day to arrive.

San Diegan 571 7/10/1987

The train pulled in on time and I boarded the Amcafe car for the fast trip to Los Angeles. I enjoyed my first drink of the trip as we made our way through Anaheim and Fullerton with me having number two around Santa Fe Springs. It was a beautiful July morning, a title of my favorite Uriah Heep song. We ran on time all the way to Los Angeles where I detrained off the San Diegan for the Coast Starlight.

Coast Starlight 14 7/10/1987

Taking a wide window seat on the west side of the Starlight, the coach filled up but I remained with two seats. We left Los Angeles right on time and headed across the Los Angeles River before reaching Dayton Tower and the very impressive Southern Pacific Taylor Yards. After the stop in Glendale, I was sitting in the lounge car enjoying a few drinks watching the San Fernando Valley fade into the Santa Susana Mountains through the tunnels and into the Simi Valley. After the usual Hot Dog lunch and another drink we had arrived at Oxnard. It was clear as could be with me already able to see the Channel Islands before we had passed through Ventura. The trip along the Pacific Ocean shoreline was extremely enjoyable on this trip. The offshore oil wells really stood out as we made our way to Santa Barbara. We made a speedy trip west to Point Conception before turning north towards Surf as we crossed Vandenberg Air Force Base. I returned to my seat and did some word search puzzles to the servicing stop of San Luis Obispo. I was back in the lounge car for the crossing of the Cuesta Grade to Santa Margarita where we passed a slightly tardy southbound Coast Starlight. I did my puzzles as the train made it's trek down the Salinas Valley to the town of Salinas. Armed with the earliest dinner reservation, I enjoyed a steak as the train passed through Elkhorn Slough and into Watsonville. Following the trip through the Pajora Gap we passed through Gilroy on our way to San Jose. We made it almost to Oakland in daylight and I went to the lounge car for my nightcaps as we headed along San Pablo Bay to Martinez. After crossing the drawbridge there, I returned to my seat and curled up for the night.

7/11/1987 Up early as the train pulled in Dunsmuir on time. I enjoyed the trip around the Cantara Loop while I was having pancakes for breakfast. Mt Shasta was out the window and I finished by Black Butte. It was another beautiful morning as we ran nonstop to Klamath Falls where we arrived thirty minutes early. I enjoyed a nice long morning walk before departure time. Heading north I was enjoying my morning screwdrivers as the train made its way towards Chemult passing Root Beer Falls. The summer crossing of Cascade Summit while enjoyable I do prefer the winter snow covered views of this fabulous Southern Pacific line. We made our descent to Eugene before we ran on time up the Willamette Valley to Portland arriving there thirty minutes early. I detrained off the Starlight to a nice warm Oregon afternoon.

Empire Builder 28 7/11/1987

I boarded the coach behind the Sightseer Lounge car taking a right hand window seat as usual. My ticket was taken while we were still in Portland so I was in the lounge car as the train departed Portland on time. We crossed the Willamette River and minutes later crossed the Columbia River to Vancouver, WA our first stop. I enjoyed my usual hot dog dinner and dinner drink. Here we turned east for our run up the Columbia River Gorge. Freight trains were filling all the sidings as we made our way east. While the north shore line was busy, the Union Pacific on the Oregon bank of the river was equally busy. Both the Burlington Northern and UP put on a great show. The wind was really blowing through the gorge and Mt Hood was standing tall over Oregon. As we approached Wishram, there was a BN train on the bridge off the Inside Gateway waiting for our train to clear. We made our way further east as the sun sank slowly into the western sky. This was all taking place as I was enjoying my nightcaps. I turned in after Pasco and slept into Montana.

7/12/1987 Waking up just east of the Libby Tunnel, after I freshened up I went to the dining car for a French Toast breakfast to start my day. I detrained for a few moments while the train was changing crews at Whitefish. Once on the move again, I was enjoying the trek to West Glacier on another beautiful morning. We made our way along the southern boundary of Glacier National Park. The trains were busy here this morning but we made our way east climbing the grade with no delay. About Red Eagle, I returned to me seat and minutes later the conductor found me and we went down stairs to wait. We passed the Izaak Walton Inn and slowed as we made the curve to the platform and came to a stop. I stepped off the train to start my visit to Essex.

Izaak Walton Inn

I was picked up and taken to the Inn where I checked in, had my bags held and rented the car for only one day. I went outside and jumped into the car heading east in search of Amtrak. I beat the Builder to Summit and as the train approached I thought it was a rare event that a person gets to take a picture of a train you just got off of miles away.

I waited for several eastbounds and I followed the third on to the Two Medicine Bridge for the scenic Big Sky Montana Shot.

I visited my favorite liquor store in East Glacier for a large bottle to last for my two night stay in Essex. As I walked out of the store, a BN westbound stormed through and I was in chase. I chose the Summit shot to capture him passing against the great Montana mountain backdrop.

I drove west to the snowshed where a grain train had derailed during the winter but they decided to wait for the spring thaw to clean up the mess. Well all that grain fermented and that attracted the Grizzly Bears who then started to eat the grain thus producing drunken Grizzly Bears. They were attempting to clean it up and it was amusing to watch the men attempt to work around the bears. These were not the only bears to be acting strange this early summer. There was one east of the snowshed at Essex who thought he owned the tracks. The freight trains made enough noise to scare it off but the helpers were having all sorts of problems. As I was watching the cleanup, over the scanner the helpers had come out of the snowshed only to find the bear sitting on the tracks. They blew the horn, used a broom to try to nudge him on his way and then a fire extinguisher but all these methods did not work. They asked to dispatcher to allow them to reverse to the Essex Crossover so they could head up the other main. They did this only to find the bear now sitting on that track. Luckily, a westbound freight showed up a few minutes later and that sent the bear a running.

With the sun disappearing over the ridge, I headed back to Essex and returned the car. I went out in front of the Inn and when I looked down the track here came an eastbound BN freight.

That was enough railroading for one day so I went and had a Fried Chicken Dinner before I visited the Flagstop Bar for a drink. I then retrieved my bags and headed upstairs to my room to start my night of drinking.

7/13/1987 Day two started with breakfast and then a walk to get a picture of the Empire Builder. I decided to sit up on top of the snowshed for the day taking pictures as the trains came and went.

Of course one always keeps an eye on the sky and when I saw the dark black clouds heading my way I headed quickly back to the Inn getting back under the porch when the sky let loose with rain and the sound of thunder echoing off the canyon walls. It was incredible. The trains though just kept rolling on through so once the rain stopped I was back outside. A few more freights came through as did more showers so it was good to be near the Inn. After an early dinner, I set up for the westbound Empire Builder going by the Essex Depot.

A visit to the Flagstop Bar for one drink before I headed to my room for another night of drinking.

7/14/1987 My last day in Essex started as usual with breakfast, a walk and a picture of the Empire Builder.

Next about an hour later came a westbound freight heading through Essex.

I hiked west down to the Essex Crossover and was rewarded by this freight

The trains came and went throughout the afternoon. Later an eastbound came into the Essex Yard and came to a stop with me capturing this image.

When I returned for dinner I learned that the westbound Empire Builder was three hours late so after an excellent steak dinner I spent the remainder of my stay in Essex in the Flagstop Bar. Larry came down to get me and we drove down to the platform to wait for the train which showed up about twenty minutes later. I climbed aboard the Empire Builder saying good bye to Larry thanking him for another excellent stay at the Izaak Walton Inn in Essex, Montana.

The Empire Builder 7/27 7/14/1987

I found a pair of seats on the left hand side in the Portland Section of the Builder and after the conductor took my ticket I walked to the lounge car for a pair of nightcaps which I enjoyed before turning in for the night before we reached West Glacier three hour forty minutes late.

7/15/1987 I woke up at the crack of dawn finding the Baby Builder just leaving Spokane over four hours late. We crossed the Latah Bridge to leave town then headed down the canyon through Cheney before we climbed to Sprague. I always wanted to see this part of the line in daylight and this was going to be my chance. Now if I could have been on the Seattle section instead that would have been fantastic but I was grateful being here. We made our way through the rolling hills to Ritzville and at Lind went under the former Milwaukee Road grade. Providence came next followed by Connell before Cactus, a name you wouldn't normally associate with the state of Washington but we are in the very dry part of the state. Mesa lived up to it's name before we dropped through Sagemoor and grade to the Columbia River and on into Pasco. The conductor came through asking if I was connecting to the Starlight and I said I was in Vancouver. He said not to even worry as we would reach there by eleven thirty. We made a quick trip down the Columbia River Gorge with the freight trains staying out of our way and arrived at Vancouver fifteen minutes earlier than promised. I detrained and enjoyed the cool July late morning turning into afternoon as I waited for the Coast Starlight out in the sun.

Coast Starlight 11 7/15/1987

I was tired as the Coast Starlight as it pulled in to pick me up. I found my usual right hand large window seat and curled up for a nap. I slept through Portland and woke up near Salem to the sounds of the dining car steward asking people about dinner reservations. I took the earliest seating and just relaxed until being called after Eugene. I enjoyed a steak dinner then sat in the lounge car watching Cascade Summit fade from daylight into night. I managed to keep my eyes open until Chemult before I curled up over my two seats for the night.

7/1619/1987 I woke up after Davis still feeling very tired. I enjoyed my cookies and screwdrivers along the Carquinez Straits to Oakland where I detrained for some fresh air. The Starlight was running on time and continued to do so though San Jose to Salinas. I napped up the valley but was wide awake as we descended the Cuesta Grade to San Luis Obispo. I enjoyed a steak along the waters of the Pacific Ocean as our on time running continued the rest of the way to Glendale before we arrived at Los Angeles Union Station forty minutes early. My connecting San Diegan was waiting and the crew let us straight on. It left on time and fifty minutes later, I stepped off the San Diegan at Santa Ana ending another great trip to Essex, Montana and the Izaak Walton Inn.