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A snow trip to the Izaak Walton

by Chris Guenzler

After my second Summer stay at the Izaak Walton Inn, I wondered what the place would look like with snow. There would only be one way to find out and that was to book a trip there. I called the Inn and got the dates I wanted to stay with no problem. I called my brother Bruce with the trip I wanted and he booked it for me. For this trip I had to buy a few things such as "Moon Boots" and Ski Bibs. I knew my UP jacket would keep me warm enough as would my little used long underwear. I paid for my tickets at Santa Ana and just worked the days off at MacArthur until departure day arrived.

San Diegan 573 3/17/89

It was an overcast morning as Amtrak 573, an all Amfleet train pulled into Santa Ana. I boarded the Amcafe and started the trip off with a Screwdriver. I was really looking forward to this trip and enjoyed my drink through both Anaheim and Fullerton. We made a fast trip to Los Angeles where I detrained off one train to board the next.

Coast Starlight 14 3/17/89

I walked straight onto the Coast Starlight and went upstairs taking a left hand coach seat with a large window and relaxed until departure time. The Southwest Chief arrived and it's passengers transferred onto our waiting train. We departed Los Angeles Union Station right on time and by Glendale I was in the lounge car having my first drink on this train. Here I met three Australians travelling to Portland and ready to party. We had two lounge cars on this train as Bernard was in the Buffet Lounge ready to serve anything and everything. "I have all the spirits you need!" That was all it took to relocate me and my new friends to the rear lounge. Good laughs were the call of the day and we laughed all the way to Ventura where our attention turned to the blue Pacific Ocean. The Channel islands were all visible and the off shore oil wells looked like attacking ships off the coast. At Santa Barbara we picked up a large group of passengers in the rear coach going to San Francisco. I pointed out the coastal sites to my Australian friends as well as the Vanderburg Air Force Base. Once we turned away from the coast I went back to my seat to catch up on my reading. At San Luis Obispo I detrained for some fresh air after the southbound Coast Starlight left on time.

Back on board the Starlight left San Luis Obispo right on time and headed up Cuesta Grade with me enjoying a drink in the buffet lounge. I have always loved this climb with the Stenner Trestle, the Goldtree Horseshoe Curve and the tunnels on the way to the summit. Once through the tunnel, we made our way down the green Salinas Valley to our next station stop of Salinas. We continued through Castorville and out to Moss Landing with the estuary looking very beautiful in the late afternoon light. I enjoyed my a steak dinner in the dining car as the train headed through the Pajora Gap and on into the Gilroy Valley as the sunset in the west. We made our way through the darkness to San Jose where I visited Bernard one last time for a box of nightcaps as his car and the last coach would be cut off in Oakland to return to Los Angeles tomorrow. I returned to my seat, enjoyed my drinks before we arrived in Oakland early. Once we were underway again, I sat and watch as the train ran along San Pablo Bay and into the Carquinez Straits. We arrived at Martinez and after crossing the drawbridge there, I curled up across two seats and called it a night.

3/18/89The next morning I awoke as the train pulled into Dunsmuir under overcast skies. We were on time and left heading along the Sacramento River to the Cantara Loop and up to Mt Shasta City. There would be no sign of Mt Shasta on this trip as it was buried behind clouds as was Black Butte. We made our way north as I enjoyed breakfast of French Toast as the Starlight crossed the Hotlum Trestle on a very eerie morning passing through low clouds on the north flank of Mt Shasta. I enjoyed my morning Screwdrivers as the Starlight made it way into Oregon and it's stop at Klamath Falls on a very chilly morning. Leaving on time, we passed Upper Klamath Lake with the peaks of the Cascade hidden away by clouds. It was a quick trek to Chemult before we travelled over a snowy Cascade Summit. The trees covered with snow was breath taking. We passed the cover bridge below Oakridge and ran along Lookout Point Reservoir. We arrived Eugene early and ran with no delays the rest of the way north up the Willamette Valley to Portland Union station where we arrived fifteen minutes early. I detrained and entered the wonderful building where so many passengers over the years had boarded their trains to so many unlimited destinations. I wait for my train to Essex, Montana.

Empire Builder 28 3/18/89

On the way out to the train I photographed Dale McCormick's F-45 743 which was sitting on one of the station tracks with three Daylight painted cars behind it.

I took a right hand big window coach seat and settled in for the overnight trip to Essex. We left Portland Union Station right on the mark and headed out of town. We ran by the Portland Terminal Yards before crossing the Willamette River and run onto the drawbridge over the Columbia River to our first stop at Vancouver, WA. I rode in the lounge car and enjoyed a dinner of Hot Dogs, Chips, Cookies and Coca Cola. The "Baby Builder" headed east along the Columbia River into the Columbia River Gorge which was absolutely beautiful in the late afternoon light. The UP was putting on quite a freight train show on the south side of the gorge while the BN had freight trains in every siding waiting for our passage. Mt Hood was buried behind the blankets of clouds We made Wishram as the sun was setting in the west then headed east into the night. Even in the dark the upper reaches of the gorge are still absolutely beautiful. We made great time to Pasco and after a breath of fresh air followed by my nightcaps, I called it a night and slept into Montana.

3/19/89 Waking up on the now combined Empire Builder was interesting as one had to find where the lounge car's location was after the combining of the Seattle section with our Baby Builder. It didn't take to long for me to find our bartender for my usual eye openers. We were closely in on Whitefish where we would make a crew change. It had snow recently here and it was a beautiful winter scene. We left on time with me enjoying the views through Colombia Falls and onto Belton{West Glacier}. The canyon east of Belton was stunning and we passed two westbound freights between Nyack to Paola. I returned to my seat as the train went through Pinnacle and by Essex Crossovers the conductor came to get me and we went downstairs to wait to detrain me. We passed the Izaak Walton Inn and came to a stop at the snow covered platform where I stepped off of the Empire Builder.

The Izaak Walton Inn Stay 3/19/89

Larry was waiting for me to take me to the Inn. We got quickly reacquainted before we arrived at the front porch. I went inside but my room wasn't ready, so I checked in and got my rental car. Larry introduced me to Ron from Wisconsin and I invited him to join me in a couple days of train chasing. We went out to the car and headed east in chase of the same train I just got off of. We caught him at Summit and set up for him between Bison and East Glacier. We hiked up to the tracks through the snow and waited for the Empire Builder to arrive a few minutes later.

We followed the Empire Builder east shooting pictures of it at the Two Medicine Bridge and at the "S" curve at Browning. We visited the Blackfoot Indian Museum there before we waited for a westbound at the highway bridge west of town. We raced him west shooting him at the Summit sign.

Next came three more westbounds, one we shot at the traditional Summit site.

We ran down to East Glacier where I made a liquor store stop and a roast beef sandwich before we headed west to Java East where we waited for an eastbound freight.

We headed back to the Inn where I got into my room and showered before heading to the Flag Stop Bar to enjoy a couple of drinks and the pictures on the wall. I enjoyed a dinner of Fried Chicken before heading up to my track side room for a night of drinking.

3/20/89After having breakfast and watching Amtrak head through Essex, Ron and I headed east down Highway 2 east of Summit and another hike netted us a photograph of the Empire Builder. We caught a westbound and followed it west through Essex as we headed towards Whitefish. We caught three trains on the way there stopping in the canyon east of Belton for this shot.

We went on to Whitefish where we shot the depot plus the Anaconda Aluminum NW-5 # 900.

We stopped off at a liquor store for a fresh supply of Kesseler for me before we headed east. As we went through Columbia Falls I spotted a Two Truck 3 former owned by Sholtz Land.

We headed back catching a helper set at Belton as well as a westbound passing the depot. Heading east on US 2 we caught another westbound in the canyon.

Heading east, we caught more westbounds at Nyack, Red Eagle and Paola before headed back to the Inn. Following a couple of drinks in the Flag Stop Bar, I enjoyed a steak for dinner before retiring to my room for another night of drinking.

3/21/89The last day with the rental car was a slow day of train watching. After another good breakfast we chased Amtrak east getting another shot east of Bison before returning to the Summit for an eastbound freight.

We caught a meet at Bison with an LMX unit on there point of a westbound.

More hiking into locations yielded more results.

Over the scanner we heard Track and Time being given to work crews for the next three hours so we went to East Glacier and the liquor store there to pick up more supplies before having a look around the station and hotel there. We drove west to the snowshed near the highway east of Java and scouted for future photo locations. We drove west to Belton searching for an eastbound which we followed back to Essex. I filled the car with gas before we went back to the Inn to return it after three great days of Montana railroad photography. The westbound parade then started and we caught several trains out in front of the hotel. All too soon the sun headed down and the shadows took over ending another great day. Off to the Flag Stop Bar for a couple rounds of drinks before another Fried Chicken Dinner. I sat by the fire in the lobby for a while before heading to my room for my last night of drinking at Izaak Walton Inn at Essex, Montana.

3/22/89 Up early for an eastbound Empire Builder and good breakfast. It started to snow so I went out for a quick picture.

Once that let up, I went hiking east down the railroad. I caught a picture of a freight on both sides of the snowshed near the hotel. I enjoyed a nice morning walk that took me across the Goat Lick Trestle to West Java. I waited only a matter of minutes before a freight led by a pair of Oakley SD-60s showed up.

After the freight passed, I sat in the sun waiting for another train to come. After a couple of hours of nothing, the helpers came from the east stopping at the red signal. Seeing me there, they asked if I wanted a ride back as they had seen me taking pictures for the last three days. Of course I said yes, so I climbed up into the lead SD-40-2 for the trip back to Essex. We crossed the Goat Lick Bridge and before the snowshed I took a picture of our forward view.

The ride ended much to quickly and after it ended, I photographed our helper engines.

I went back to the Inn and checked out having then hold my bags until train time later this evening. I went walking around the yard catching freights at various locations. The afternoon passed all too quick and I was back in the Flag Stop Bar for one last time. Following another great Steak Dinner, I sat around the fire thinking about my visit and all the things I did while I was here. Larry told me the westbound Builder was right on time and a few minutes later he drove me to the platform and we waited for the Empire Builder to pull in thus bringing this visit to the Izaak Walton Inn to an end.

Empire Builder 7/27 3/22/1989

The Builder pulled in right on time and I boarded with the station stop only being 45 seconds. I walked up stairs getting the look from people like "Where did you come from?" When we passed the Izaak Walton I said, "I stayed there for the last three nights!" I found a seat and settled in for the night after a few nightcaps were bought from the lounge car. I called it a night in Montana and would wake up in Washington.

3/23/89I woke up as the Baby Builder was cruising along the Columbia River just south of Pasco. It was a cloudy morning and once in the Columbia River Gorge the rain started the rest of the way to Vancouver where I detrained on time. Here I hide out under the station's overhang watching the trains roll by on a very wet morning until my Coast Starlight arrived later that afternoon.

Coast Starlight 11 3/23/1989

I was glad to board this nice warm train on a rather chilly day. The rain stayed with us as headed south through Oregon. The Starlight was running on time and before Eugene I enjoyed a Steak dinner. We crossed the Cascade in a light snow storm and I enjoyed it all from the lounge car as I enjoyed my nightcaps. I went to bed after Chemult and slept almost to Martinez the next morning.

San Joaquin 708 3/24/1989

I detrained to catch the San Joaquin down the valley to Bakersfield where I bused to Los Angeles to catch San Diegan 580 home to Santa Ana ending another relaxing Amtrak adventure.