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Early Summer 1988 Izaak Walton Inn Trip 6/1988

by Chris Guenzler

Another school year at MacArthur was winding it's way to a close and with summer right around the corner it was time to plan a trip. I thought about where I wanted to go and came up with a simple solution, why not go back to Essex, Montana and enjoy a three night stay there. A call to my brother Bruce who made my reservation using a All Abroad America Fare to get me to Essex plus a round trip to both El Paso and Albuquerque over the next two weekends once I got back. I went down to Santa Ana to pay for my tickets then waited for the day to arrive when the trip would start.

San Diegan 573 6/17/1988

My Father drove me down to the Santa Ana train station where I waited in the June gloom for my train to arrive. I boarded the Amcafe sitting down to enjoy my first drink of the morning. The train had arrived right on time and a minute later I was off on another trip. I was really looking forward to this trip back to Montana, a place I had always loved. The Amfleet train had no problems making it's schedule as we reached both Anaheim and Fullerton on time. I had my second Screwdriver from Fullerton the rest of the way to Los Angeles Union Station where I detrained from one train right onto the next.

Coast Starlight 14 6/17/1988

By now I knew the whole Coast Starlight route like the back of my hand as we left Los Angeles on time. After my ticket had been taken, I went to the lounge car taking a left hand seat where I would spend my day. Once the lounge was open downstairs, I ventured there for more screwdrivers. We made a fast pace through the San Fernando Valley and through the tunnels into the Simi Valley. Once we reached Oxnard, I had my usual Hot Dogs, Chips, Cookies and Coca-Cola for lunch. I sat back watching the blue waters of the Pacific Ocean with the Channel Islands off shore out of the floor to ceiling windows of the Sightseer Lounge Car. Santa Barbara came and went as the Starlight headed west by the state parks, over the trestle at Gaviota and left Highway 101 behind on our run for Point Conception. We turned north there to cross Vanderburg Air Force Base with a brief stop at Surf to get block clearance. What a wonderful trip we had along the Coast and once we turned inland, I switched sides of the car to be ready for the climb over Cuesta Grade after San Luis Obispo where we arrived 18 minutes early. Once on the move again, we climbed Cuesta meeting our sister train today at San Margarita waiting for us to pass by. I went back to my seat for the run down the Salinas Valley and after Salinas I had an early dinner of a Steak. This took my passed Moss Landing, Watsonville and through the Pajora Gap. Back in the lounge car, I enjoyed the last of this long day of June all the way through San Jose then on the Oakland where we arrived twenty minutes early. I detrained for some air and most of the train's passengers got off leaving a very light load heading north. We were so light in fact, our car attendant said everyone in our car could have their own seat including couples. We left Oakland on time and I enjoyed our now night passage through the Carquinez Straits in the lounge car enjoying my nightcaps. Once passed Martinez and over the drawbridge. I called it a night stretching out over my two seats sleeping the night away.

6/18/1988 Long days in June turn into short nights and all too soon it was getting light again as we left Dunsmuir on time in the twilight of the morning. That was all it took to get me up and dressed before heading to the lounge car for views of Mt Shasta. It was a beautiful clear morning as I enjoyed a light breakfast of cookies and a few rounds of screwdrivers. There was no one in the lounge car this morning but me as the coach passengers must all be sleeping well. The conductor walked by amazed that I was the only one enjoying this beautiful morning. I guessed God wanted me up to enjoy it. By the time we had reached Grass Lake a few people floated in asking me what they had missed by sleeping. I didn't have the heart to tell them. We arrived at Klamath Falls early and I enjoyed a nice morning walk in the very cool air. Heading north, Upper Klamath Lake looked fantastic this day and I enjoyed the views of the east face of the Cascades all the way to Chemult. I'm always impressed with the Starlight crossing of Cascade Summit but I do prefer it with snow. I enjoyed a few more drinks the Starlight descended to Oakdale before running along Lookout Point Reservoir. We arrived in Eugene early and more fresh air was taken. We made our way north up Oregon's Willamette Valley through Albany and Salem before arriving in Portland early as the southbound Starlight was waiting for us to leave. I detrained and had an hour and a half to wait for my next train inside Portland Union Station.

Empire Builder 28/B 6/18/1988

The boarded the "Baby Builder" about ten minutes before departure and I was in the Sightseer Lounge Car when the train left Portland. I enjoyed my usual hot dog lunch as a dinner and sat back to enjoy the view. We crossed The Columbia River to our first stop of Vancouver, WA. before heading east into the Columbia River Gorge. Mt Hood was standing proudly in the southeast as we started our eastward trek. Wind surfer were out having a great time on the river as we flew by them heading east. After we went thought the Cape Horn Tunnel, across the river the 620 foot Multnomah Falls were seen. We passed beneath Beacon Rock before passing Bonneville Dam. We went under the Bridge of the Gods before leaving the rain forest for the near desert country further east. More falls could be seen across the river before we arrived at Bingen-White Salmon. Mt Hood became visible again as we neared The Dalles Dam. We ran along it's lake to the railroad bridge that's the north end of the Inside Gateway line to Northern California prior to our arrival to Wishram. Minutes later, we ran beneath the US 97 bridge then ran by the John Day Dam. We made a turn to the north to run onto Pasco where we arrived a few minutes early as the sun was getting ready to set. Heading northwest into the night,I enjoyed my nightcaps before calling it a night.

6/19/1988 I woke up just east of Libby,MT and enjoyed the trek through the Flathead Tunnel, third longest in the United States. I went to the lounge car for my cookies and eye openers before we arrived at Whitefish. After a crew change we headed towards the Southern Boundary of Glacier National Park. We arrived at Belton{West Glacier} then headed east into that wonderful canyon that takes the Empire Builder to Nyack and double track where we met a westbound train. It was a clear Montana morning yet the peaks are hidden in the shadows. It is too bad this train does not ran east in the afternoon and west in the morning. Back to single track at Paola where the train runs through the tunnels to Pinnacle. At this point of the run, I was back to my seat to pick up my stuff getting ready to detrain at Essex. The conductor came by and we went down stairs just before the train rolled by the Izaak Walton Inn. The Builder pulled around the corner to the stop at Essex where I detrained to Larry welcoming me back to the Izaak Walton Inn.

The Second Izaak Walton Inn Stay

This time my track side room was ready and after checking in I ditched my bags in my room and went out to do some hiking and train photography. I started out in front of the hotel catching a few train in front of the old Essex Depot. I hiked east along the tracks past the Snowshed and then got lucky with an eastbound train in great light.

After a helper headed east, I walked back to Essex and caught 8 more freights including this one in front of the old Essex Depot.

Even though the sun was setting behind the mountains, the trains kept a rolling through Essex in both directions. It was an impressive showing of the Burlington Northern Railroad. I enjoyed a chicken dinner before heading to the Flag Stop Bar for a few nightcaps before calling it a night.

6/20/1988 After a good breakfast and I picked up the keys to the rental car before heading east down US 2. Amtrak had gone east as I was getting the car so I easily beat him to Summit. I did not see the front of the train in Essex so imagine my surprise when a BN SD-40-2 was leading the train east.

I sat at the Summit Overlook for a few minutes and was rewarded by a westbound freight.

After he passed I went to Bison where Amtrak had met yet another freight. On the move again, I caught Amtrak on the Two Medicine Bridge from US 2 before following him to Browning for on last picture. Seeing a westbound waiting in the siding meant I could get back to the Two Medicine Bridge for a picture of him there

Once we had cleared, I stopped by the liquor store in East Glacier for supplies before heading west. Another westbound was on the first's tail, so I knew I could get well ahead of him and drive west of Essex towards West Glacier scouting out photo locations along the way. I choose to catch the BN 6929 along the was at Paola and Red Eagle before catching him on last time in the canyon between Nyack and West Glacier.

The scanner came alive with the dispatcher talking to a train right behind this one so I went to West Glacier to wait for him to come along

I headed back down US 2 to Essex and enjoyed the late afternoon parade of trains by the old Essex Depot. Once the sun was behind the mountains again, I called it a day but what a full filling day of train photography it was. I enjoyed a steak dinner before retiring to my room for a night of drinking.

6/2119/88 My last full day in Montana started later than normal as I slept in and Amtrak went by just I had come down for breakfast. I had a relaxing breakfast of French Toast before starting my day of picture taking after checking out. I drove east to Summit catching a train there before going east and climbing up a hill for an eastbound.

After a few more train over the scanner I heard a Track and Time being given for the next four hours over a single track part of the railroad which meant no trains until later. By now, it was late enough in the day I could drive back to Essex and gas the car to return it in no big hurry. I returned to the Inn and about twenty minutes later an eastbound came roaring through Essex.

The eastbound freights ran like trolleys for the next hour and I called it quits right after the last rays of the sun had passed over the peaks. One last dinner of Fried Chicken and a few rounds in the Flagstop Bar. Larry came to tell me how much he enjoyed having me here again and that my Amtrak train was right on time. It pulled in twilight and once again I said my good byes to Essex, Montana and the Izaak Walton Inn.

Empire Builder 7/27 6/21/1988

I boarded a near empty Portland section coach and the attendant said "Any seat is fine because we are only getting ten more on so there will only be twelve of you west of Spokane." I ventured to the lounge car for my nightcaps plus the longest twilight viewing of the year since today is the summer solstice. By the time we reached Whitefish in the dark I was ready to go to sleep knowing the sun would be up early in the morning.

6/22/1988 We arrived in Pasco early and I was off into the station to get a newspaper. This was followed by my cookies and Screwdriver ritual as the Baby Builder made its way down the Columbia River Gorge. We left Wishram under clear skies but the clouds were flooding the gorge so I was glad we had that clear trip east. The clouds do give the gorge a different kind of feel to it. It is always an enjoyable trip under any circumstances. We arrived Vancouver early where I detrained out a very cloudy morning saying good bye to my Baby Builder

Vancouver 6/22/1988

I chose Vancouver as the spot to wait for the southbound Coast Starlight for two reasons. One I hate the way they board trains in Portland and two I could watch the freight action here to kill the time until my departure plus get a better seat here. Between the freight trains and the drawbridge action it was a busy place.

Coast Starlight 11 6/22/1988

Boarding the Portland Coach the attendant found me a nice right hand large window seat and I settled in as the Coast Starlight crossed the Columbia River. At Portland the car's passengers got off leaving me and two other people alone. They boarded only ten more people and we left Portland on time. The Dining Car Steward came by asking what time I would like to eat as they had a very light load today but from Oakland south it would be busy. I took the earliest one he had before visiting the lounge car for my first drink of this train's trip. I sat in the lounge car just enjoying the world passing outside the window. I was called to dinner after Eugene and finished it by the Covered Bridge west of Oakridge. We climbed Cascade Summit in the last light of day and we finally escaped the clouds. I enjoyed my nightcaps before calling it a night at Chemult.

6/23/88 This date is my brother Jon's birthday and I wake just as the train is leaving Davis and heads west down the Cal P mainline towards Oakland. The Mothballed fleet looked great in the morning light. We crossed the drawbridge and arrived at Martinez where I started my morning screwdriver ritual. The trip along the straits and San Pablo Bay was fantastic and we arrived Oakland early where a large group of passengers boarded but didn't fill up our coach. We made our way to San Jose then south to Salinas where I took a nap. I awoke near Santa Margarita as we neared Cuesta Grade which I enjoyed starting my afternoon drinking as we descended. We arrived early and departed on time after the northbound Starlight arrived. The trip along the Coast was spectacular and I enjoyed a steak dinner with an ocean side table as the train rounded Point Conception and headed east to Santa Barbara early. I enjoyed a few after dinner drinks as the train made it's way to Oxnard and up the Simi Valley. I returned to my seat as it was just starting to get dark as the train prepared to stop at Glendale. We made the quick run to Los Angeles Union station arriving twenty seven minutes early. I detrained and waited on the platform for my San Diegan Train 586 to load to take me home to Santa Ana thus ending another great Amtrak trip plus a fun and fantastic stay at the Izaak Walton Inn in Essex, Montana.