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The Spirit of California Dies 17 9/30/1983

by Chris Guenzler

Jerry Brown was a very good governor when it came to starting and adding new train service in California. The overnight Spirit of California was one of those trains he started running from Los Angeles to Sacramento. When Governor Dukemagen came into office almost the first thing he did was cut the funding for that train. With September 30, 1993 set for the final runs, I got a ticket for a rommette and made my one and only trip aboard the Spirit of California.

I boarded the San Diegan at the beginning of an unusual September rainstorm for the quick trip to Los Angeles where across the platform sat the very last Spirit of California. I got settled in my room, bought my usual new train drink from the Amdinnette before returning to my room for departure. The train left Los Angeles on time and headed out into the night of very heavy rainfall. While the rain was pounding the outside of the train, I was drinking my private stock that I had carried with me and by Oxnard I had called it a night. I spent a very peaceful night of slumber in my sleeping car named the Pacific View. A fitting name for this route. I called it a night after Santa Barbara.

10/1/1983 I awoke as the train was being serviced at Oakland. I stepped off the train into the very cool Bay Area air for my first daylight view of the final Spirit of California. Behind the two F-40PHs were a baggage car, to Amfleet 60 seat coaches, the Amdinnette, three sleeping cars with mine being the last and a fire damaged Dome car being shipped to a private party. The train departed Oakland on time as I was having a breakfast of orange juice and chocolate donuts followed by a series of screwdriver chasers. With my room on the eastside of the train, I missed the bayside views but once past Martinez my view improved as the train climbed the grade to the Carquinez Straits Bridge with the moth ball fleet floating off in the distance through time. Once past Fairfield-Suisan City the train headed into a fog bank and I compared this to the fact the train was heading to its own funeral and could do nothing to change its fate. Once we had left Davis, the Spirit of California made it's final run across the Yolo Bypass and it's crossing of the Sacramento River to its final on time arrival into Sacramento. As I stepped off my sleeeping car for the final time with the media and railfans all here to record this event for historical reasons, I stopped and gave one last good look at the train that had been called the Spirit of California. It was a good little train, got me to my destination safely and on time then it really hit me. The Spirit of California is dead. The Spirit of California died with me aboard. Long live the Spirit of California, its memory won't die until I do.

To Home

I met up with a railfan who gave me a tour of railroad spots in Sacramento like the Western Pacific Yards and other points of interest.

I was routed home on the last bus/train/bus connection to Los Angeles down the San Joaquin Valley. I spent the day in Sacramento doing a little shopping and visited Old Sacramento with an early dinner at Fulton's Prime Rib. At the Sacramento Amtrak Station I met the Spirit's onboard crew who were deadheading home to Los Angeles the same way I was going. It was a quick bus trip to Stockton then aboard Amtrak's San Joaquin 710 and I met the crew in the lounge car where we had a fare well party to the Spirit of California all the way down the valley to Bakersfield. We all transferred to the buses for the trip over the mountains to Los Angeles where I was picked up and driven home to Santa Ana ending a very memorable and moving trip on the Spirit of California.