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The New Sacramento to Bakersfield San Joaquin 2/21/1999

by Chris Guenzler

I for one had waited years for this service to start. I really did not like always having to take the bus from Stockton to Sacramento and vice a versa. As you all know, I am not the world's greatest fan of buses. When the new service was announced, I called my brother Bruce to see if I could come up for a short visit and then went down to my ever friendly Amtrak agent in Santa Ana for a round trip. Going up two days before the new service would commence, I took a day off work and left on the after midnight Thruway Bus to Bakersfield taking the train to Stockton before busing up to Sacramento in the usual way. I spent two nights with my brother's family and early on that Sunday morning, Bruce drove me down to the Sacramento Amtrak Station where I would be on the first revenue run out of Sacramento.

San Joaquin 702 2/21/1999

The train was out on the far station track ready to load. The engine was on the west end of the train with a cab car on the other end. The train was of course all California Cars with one of each of the type of those cars on our first run. At 6:20 AM, the train pulled west passed the switch before it backed all the way to Elvas Tower where once the signals cleared we headed south starting my new mileage that would end once we returned to the usual San Joaquin route at Stockton. I rode at the rear door taking pictures once the early morning light allowed. As I walked back to the rear door, the train was not crowded but had a good load of passengers for a first run so early on a Sunday morning. We went under the Sacramento Light Rail Line, passing the junction with the Placerville Line before heading south through the industrial area of southeast Sacramento. We passed the Siemens Plant where transit cars are built. I was excited as we passed Calvine Road which is the grade crossing I use to get to my brother's house. Every time I crossed the tracks there I always wondered when I would be riding across the rails there. Today was the day! The train headed south through Elk Grove before passing under and over Highway 99. We crossed the Consumes River and then the Mokelumne River. We sped through Galt where the branch to Ione takes off from the former SP Valley Main {UP}.

The train passed through Acampo before entering Lodi, with the Lodi arch over the main drag and restored station. This will be a future stop once all of the track upgrades are done to this line by the state of California. We bridged Dry Creek before we headed into Stockton stopping in the middle of the street at the Altamont Commuter Train Station located on a stub track with the old SP Stockton Depot at its north end. We were here for ten minutes which was used as a smoking stop as well as one to stretch one's legs.

Once on the move again, we went underneath the Highway 4 bridge before rounding the new connector back onto the old Santa Fe Valley Route thus ending my new mileage for this trip.

To say that the rest of this trip was just the usual San Joaquin Trip would be a misstatement. As I walked back to my seat I ran into Ray Burns and Steve Grande of Trainweb who offered me to sit with them for a while. It was my first real opportunity to just sit and chat with these two very interesting rail travelers. I then finally got a chance to meet Gene Poon who writes for Rail Travel News and I always love reading his stories. Kirk Schneider of my Orange County Railroad Historical Society and editor of "California By Train, Bus and Ferry" also stopped by for a visit. Cindy Ray of Amtrak West Marketing came by as well. There we many State of California Transportation people on this first run. I got to talk with the head of the Caltrans Rail program and this was one of the times I wished someone wasn't on a train. As I was having a real nice conversation with this very knowledgeable person when who but Peter Warner walks up and starts babbling information about the Ethan Allen schedules of the train which goes to Rutland, Vermont. Talk about me being embarrassed by a rail fan. We both walked away from Peter and continued our discussions back in the cab car.

Peter is very knowledgeable of train schedules but goes a little too far most of the time. One night in Solana Beach, he started talking to me. I walked outside the building with him babbling and following me like a puppy dog around the building to the west entrance. I walked back through the station with Peter still following me and Julie the Amtrak agent having a good time laughing at this ridiculous spectacle. I walked around the outside of the other side of the station and this time when I walked in to the building, I told Julie to call the San Diego Sheriff as I was being stalked. Peter took off and that was the last time I saw him. Julie and I had a good laugh about that whole situation.

The rest of the trip down the San Joaquin Valley was typical and we arrived in Bakersfield early. I walked over to the Thruway Bus for the trip over the Grapevine to Los Angeles. We arrived at 1:58 PM and I hustled to the waiting to leave San Diegan 578. Once I was seated, the train pulled out on time. It was a quick trip back home to Santa Ana ending an interesting new way to get to and from Sacramento.