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To the Cold North via Centralia and Quincy

by Chris Guenzler

Three more weeks before school is out for Christmas Vacation and I am off on part two of my two region All Abroad America Fare.

12/16/1993 The now usual non descriptive San Diegan to Los Angeles followed by an uneventful Southwest Chief to Kansas City, the only difference is the Great Indian Guide and a sky of mid level clouds all the way across Arizona and New Mexico.

12/18/1993 Arrival in Kansas City was to an overcast, cold day. I hung out at the station until eleven, stored my bags in a locker, then walked over to the Hallmark Center to see what movies were playing. I saw Mrs. Doubtfire with Robin Williams. Really enjoyed the movie before I dashed back to the station in a heavy rain shower to await my next train.

St Louis Mule 359 12/18/1993

I boarded the St. Louis Mule. This was an all Horizon car train heading for the train's namesake city in a pelting rain storm. The train left right on time and the conductor while taking my ticket thumbed through them and was amazed at all the places I had been and to where I was going. "You are my first All Aboard America traveler I have ever had. You must really like trains!" he said. What do you think? We leave on the Kansas City Terminal Railroad tracks used by the Santa Fe and the Union Pacific. We crossed the north/south running Burlington Northern and Kansas City Southern lines before we reached the ex Missouri Pacific (UP) and climbed the hill to our first stop at Independence.

We continued to Lee's Summit. By Warrensburg we are really speeding through the night. I had a dinner of hot dogs, chips and a drink. Knowing I had a bus ride ahead of me. I had three more drinks prior to St. Louis. At Sedalia we rejoined the river level freight line and passed numerous freight trains at speed. Jefferson City, the state capitol building was all lit up. We followed the Missouri River to our next stop at Hermann. Here five teenagers boarded my coach for Kirkwood. They were a wild bunch. Two of them were going to light up a cigarette, the conductor came by to collect tickets and pointed out the train's nonsmoking policy. He left and they removed their seat head rest napkins, rolled then up and had an all out paper wad fight. When they finally left the train at Kirkwood, the remaining passengers cheered after they had gone. The remaining miles into St. Louis passed quickly I am off the train, through the depot, and out the door to wait for the thruway bus for Centralia.

Thruway Bus and Centralia 12/18/1993

After fifteen minutes a bus pulled up and the passengers boarded. Within minutes of departure we were crossing the Mississippi River to Illinois and driving down the Interstate towards Centralia. About forty-five minutes into the trip, the driver announced we would be making a fifteen minute smoking stop. We pulled into a McDonald’s where three of us walked across the street to a gas station, bought a six pack and quickly downed two Heinekens each. Back on the road again the bus ride was not so bad as we turned off the Interstate and headed north coming to a stop at the Centralia platform. There was no station building so we would be waiting for the train on the bus.

We had an hour and a half until train time so the driver told us that we could get off the bus and take a look around town if we wanted. I walked down Main Street and found a bar. I decided to go inside and have a drink. I walked in and sat down at the bar where the woman bartender asked me for my ID and said "We do not serve people from California here!" I said "Why not?" Silence, so I explained how I came to be here and the reason behind my visit. She still refused to serve me. I looked around and noticed slot machines and other illegal gambling games. I realized that I was in an illegal gambling den. Well, after I sat there a few minutes the manager came over and wondered why I had not been served. I told him my reasons for being here and the manager responded with "We have to be careful who we let into this place. Anything you want is on the house." Now that is more like it as I ordered a seven and seven followed by two more. The bartender came back and apologized to me. I said "That is ok, but how would you like to come to California and not be able to be served anywhere?" She just smiled and said "I am so sorry!" As I got up and walked out, I turned saying "Apology accepted!" I left the bar to return to the bus and wait for my train.

City of New Orleans 59 12/19/1993

The southbound pulled into Centralia right on time. I boarded a Horizon coach for the fifty-five mile trip to Carbondale. The last time I rode over these rails was on the River Cities. I just sat back and watching the Southern Illinois countryside pass by for I knew that the next stop would be mine at Carbondale. Why Carbondale? Centralia had no station. I would be waiting outside in who knew what kind of weather for over four hours, versus the warmth of the Carbondale Station, and only a two hour wait. Which would you take? I arrived in Carbondale on time, walked inside the station and found the agent. I told him I would be over in the corner getting a little sleep as I waited for the northbound train and to please wake me when it was near. I took my bags, made a low chair out of them on the floor, put my pillow down, laid covered up with my Amtrak blanket and fell asleep.

City of New Orleans 58 12/19/1993

I got an extra hour of sleep in Carbondale. When the agent came and woke me up he told me he let me sleep an extra hour because the train was an hour late. We then said the train would be here in five minutes and I would board the low level coaches outside the door. I packed up and walked outside into the very cold Southern Illinois early morning air where the conductor asked me my destination I said Chicago. He let me board the first Horizon coach before it was attached to the City of New Orleans. I picked a right hand seat, he took my ticket and told me that I could have both seats as tonight it is going to be a very light load. Just as the City of New Orleans arrived, I fell asleep during the switching moves, and fifty-five miles after we departed I would be on new mileage all the way to Chicago.

I woke up at Champaign-Urbana riding the new trackage from Centralia north to Chicago. I walked forward to the dome car and found a seat in the dome where I placed my jacket on it to save it while I went to get some breakfast and screwdrivers. Taking them back to the dome I found forward facing seats free. I moved to them and would enjoy the rest of my first ride to Chicago on this route in a dome seat. We crossed the Kanakee River then pulled into its namesake city. Speeding across the Illinois farmland I was amazed at just how flat the earth is here. Remembering this area was glaciated, with the power of the glacier acting like a bulldozer pushed everything out of the way making it a level surface. Thinking about the great power that it took to do that just blows me away.

We stopped in Homewood now running along the Metra Electric line to the west of our tracks. I saw a Metra outbound train heading south so I will put that line on my list of routes to ride. We passed through the Illinois Central Markham yard then crossed the Calumet River. Minutes later we ducked under the Conrail mainline the route of most of the Amtrak trains that travel east of Chicago. We ran along Lake Michigan giving me a good view of it and Solider Field the home of the Chicago Bears, then turned west on the St. Charles Air Line crossing two station leads, one at grade from Lasalle Street Station and over the other one from Union Station. The elevated route gave an excellent view of the Chicago skyline, a magnificent tribute to 20th Century Man. We left the Airline then backed the rest of the way to Chicago Union Station with me now having completed the whole route of the City of New Orleans.

Metra 1301/1314 12/19/1993

I walked into Union Station noticing that Train 1301 to Aurora would leave in twenty minutes, so I headed up to the ticket counter, purchased a Metra Weekend Pass for five dollars so I could make a round trip out to Aurora this morning. \While it is the same route of the California Zephyr and the Illinois Zephyr takes except for the last two miles would be different into the Transit Center in Aurora. I figured that with all of the station stops I should be able to get a good look at all the small towns and villages verses blowing through them all at sixty plus like I do on Amtrak. Today it will be like a turtle's walk through them while tonight and tomorrow it will be the Hare's sprint through them. Sounds like I am writing a children story now?

I took a seat on the upper level, storing my bags on the baggage rack above the aisle in the Gallery car. The train left right on time, passing the Metra coach yards and curved onto Burlington Northern's triple track mainline speeding towards Aurora. We made our first stop at Western Ave. and then proceeded to Cicero after which we passed by the BN's vast Cicero Yards, their main Chicago facility. From here on we started our three to four minute running between station stops. The train gets rapidly up to speed and then slows equally as quickly to a stop on its run out to Aurora. With each stop just taking a look at the station building you can get a feel for what the community is like. At Brookfield half of the car's passengers left the train to go to the Chicago Zoo with the remaining passengers detraining at Highlands or Downers Grove. We sped west to Naperville and then stopped at the park and ride station at Route 59. This is very modern looking station compared to all the other ones on the line. Approaching Aurora we cut off of the BN mainline and headed past the overnight storage area facility and came to a stop in Aurora. During my layover in Aurora I watched the Illinois Zephyr pass by with an all Horizon consist and a Canadian National freight using BN trackage rights to get to Chicago. I inspected the ex CB&Q roundhouse which is the Aurora Transit Center. The trip back to Chicago was quick and I got to see how the triple tracks are used by locals, freights and another "Dinky" (a short name for a Metra Train) that the dispatcher has to contend with. I got off the train back in Chicago very impressed with the train's handling.

Metra 2117/2138 12/19/1993

After a nice lunch upstairs in the station's food court, I returned to the Metra ticket area for a schedule for the train to Fox Lake. The name intrigued me and my curiosity got the better part of me so I had to go see what was there. I walked to the north platform to find the Metra Train 2117 waiting on Track 6 for its departure time. I walked to the front of the train to inspect the F40C locomotive as it was the first time that I had ever seen one of them in person. Metra is the only company that has these engines and their sides are different from all other engines. I dragged my bags upstairs and took a right hand seat. I am finding out that Metra trains always depart on time on their schedules.

We headed north out of Union Station, curved under the CNW tracks, crossed the CNW line to Geneva, passing the Milwaukee Lines maintenance base and stopped at Western. We traveled north with the Metra line to Big Timber leaving off in a northwest manner and then crossed the CNW's Harvard line at Mayfair. The north side neighborhoods are row houses and reminds me of some TV sitcom show that I had seen. This is the double track mainline to Milwaukee served also by Amtrak and we passed an inbound Hiawatha Service train. The buildings changed to single family homes and businesses as we started the speed, stop, speed segment of the trip. We stopped at places like Golf, Glenview and Northbrook. Thinking about their names I can picture in my mind what they were like when they were first named.

Leaving Lake Forest, we sped through Rondout where we then turned off the Chicago-Milwaukee mainline and headed northwest towards Fox Lake. I was asked by a passenger named Steve why did I have bags with me and where was I going? I told him Fox Lake just to see what is there. He asked me if I would like to go and watch some of the Packers-Viking football game, in a Packer's Bar. It seems the northern part of Illinois are not Bear fans but they love the Green Bay Packers, and I do have a warm spot in my heart for the Packers so I agreed to go. We passed through Libertyville and Grey Lake before we passed the overnight storage area and arrived in Fox Lake. I had an hour and a half layover so we walked over to the bar and watched the second quarter with Green Bay ahead. At half time we walked over to the lake and there Steve and I said our goodbyes with him heading home and me returning to my train. I took a few pictures at the layover facility then boarded the train for an uneventful ride back to Union Station where I went directly to the food court for dinner. After dinner I went to the south waiting area to wait for my next train.

The Illinois Zephyr 347 12/19/1993

The waiting room was full of Christmas season travelers all waiting for their trains to various destinations. With each boarding announcement the crowd thinned out some, however when the gate opened for Train 347 only a few of us travelers walked down the platform to the train. It seems that Quincy is not a major tourist destination. I was surprised at the train's consist as it was not the Horizon set that I had seen this morning but a five car Superliner set. All the Quincy passengers being seven of us, were loaded into the rear car due to the shortness of the Quincy station platform. The train left Union Station right on time and headed out into the night down the racetrack I had ridden this morning. We passed a late running California Zephyr which was over three hours late. We stopped at the La Grange Road station and also Naperville then flew by the commuter station at Aurora.

Sitting in front of me was a family from Quincy and when they saw my set of tickets the conductor took one from and heard I was going to Quincy, they started up a conversation with me. I told them of my train travels and where I had been with them really interested in my travels. They asked me where I was staying and when I said the Travelodge the husband suggested I come home with them, drop off his wife and kids then he would take me out and show me the town. I agreed to this plan so we talked all the way to Quincy passing through Plano, Medota, Princeton, Kewanee, Galesburg and Macomb. As the train was making the final miles to Quincy I remembered I was ticketed all the way to West Quincy but with the Mississippi River flooding of 1993 the train no longer terminates there instead it makes its final stop in Illinois. We arrived in Quincy, a small station in an industrial area in the northeast side of town.

We piled into their van and drove the mile to their house where we dropped off the wife and kids with me saying goodbye to them and them thanking me for such a nice pleasant evening. We drove to the Travelodge where I got my room and dumped my bags into it before we went out on the town of Quincy. We went to two very nice club/bars before we called it a night. We drove across the Mississippi River into Missouri so I could get to West Quincy my ticket's destination. He showed the high water mark about eight feet up on a sign post giving directions to Quincy. I am amazed right where we were driving at this very second was under eight feet of water this last summer and that West Quincy like so many other Midwest towns were submerged. In California we think of a flood as being like Malibu Creek overflowing its banks as seen on our television news. That is a drop in a bucket compared to this. I can now understand why the town fathers of Quincy built upon the bluff to the east of the river not the lowlands to the west. We returned to Quincy, he dropped me off at the motel and we said our goodbyes. I made a request for a five-thirty wakeup call before retiring for the night.

The Illinois Zephyr 348 12/20/1993

Five-thirty came all too soon that morning and after a quick shower the taxi pulled up outside of my room and I was off to the train station. The cab driver asked me what I was doing for breakfast and when I said I had not thought of it, he said that we had enough time to go through the drive through at Hardees to get something to go. I got hot cakes, sausage and a juice and we arrived at the train five minutes before departure. I went upstairs in the Superliner coach, found my seat and ate an outstanding breakfast. The train left right on time and we had the same crew from last night from Galesburg. This conductor took my ticket then looked through my receipts and asked if there were any trains in the Western United States that I have not ridden yet and I responded with "Just the Empire Builder between Chicago and Havre which I am doing that one later today" "What are you going to do on your layover in Chicago?" he asked. "Go to Waukegan!" "Why?" he asked. "To see what is there" I said. He then said" I wish I could see all of America like you are doing!" I guess I am just one very lucky guy doing the country this way by train! It was an overcast morning as we headed up the BN (ex CB&Q) Kansas City-Galesburg mainline at a good rate of speed through the landscape of farms. This is what I would call typical Midwestern scenery and out in a few of the fields are farmers cultivating there fields. It is a little odd on such a cold December morning but once I think about it turning your soil so moisture from new snowfalls can get into it seems like a good idea. Makes me wonder what kind of a farmer I would have been if I would have been born into that kind of life? When I am on the train, I often wonder how I would fit into other societies and communities if I ever ended up in one of them? We pulled into Macomb and I see the General Store. What kind of small town business man would I have been? I think that I would be good at that because I am so good with people.

Speeding towards Chicago, the sun made a brief appearance and we went through miles of frosted fields. There is no kind of activity in any way with all the crossroads deserted. After about thirty minutes of rural running, we passed along the southwest side of BN's Galesburg yard, a major locational yard on their system before returning to the Chicago-Denver mainline and our train stopped at Galesburg. On the double track mainline to the east we passed several freights in quick succession which broke up the agricultural dominated landscape. With the sun now up and out, at each of the small towns I now get a good look at each of them. Of the next four Kewanee, Princeton, Mendota and Plano, I liked Plano the best of all. It appears to be a nice American small town. We sped into Aurora, crossed the Fox River and wondered if there is any relationship with Fox Lake before we ran down the middle track of the three towards the Windy City. Compared with my Metra riding yesterday, that is a high speed run with all the commuter stops being zipped by. We stopped at Naperville and La Grange Road before we arrived back in Chicago Union Station on time. I walked over to the CNW station with the wind blowing cold off of Lake Michigan, and being a Monday, I purchased a round trip ticket to Waukegan.

Metra 803/838 12/20/1993

This will be the second of the three CNW lines that Metra operates that I will have ridden. This one actually goes on out to Kenosha, WI but since they only operate mid day trains as far as Waukegan I will settle for that on this trip. We left on time and I wondered if I will get to see Lake Michigan today? With station names of Lake Forest, Lake Bluff and Great Lakes I thought so. We left the usual CNW way over the Metra Milwaukee Lines but after the stop at Clybourn the train switches off to the north and we passed the row houses of the north side of Chicago. I looked for Wrigley Field, home of the Chicago Cubs but never saw it. I am told as baseball stadiums go it is the shortest of them all. This train operates like a trolley and all eleven stops came in quick succession with names like Wilmette, Winnetka and Glencoe. The countryside began to open up and I began to see the lake off in the distance. The further we headed north the better the views got and by the time we reached Lake Forest I had a clear view of Lake Michigan. We stopped at Great Lakes, the site of the Great Lakes Navy Base. I have heard that people get sent there for their basic training. Within five minutes the train pulled into Waukegan where I detrained for some cool Illinois lake air before I reboarded, sitting on the inland side for an uneventful trip back to Chicago.

I took the semi underground route back to Union Station and went to the food court for a late but most full filling lunch. I walked back downstairs and for the first time I went to the north waiting area used for the Hiawatha Service and the Empire Builder. Knowing how they do the boarding in Chicago when I see the conductor I asked where I will board the Empire Builder. He points to a door but said "Do not move there until you see the train pull in because it will not leave on time, in fact I have not been told when it will arrive so we can load and be on our way!" Our train time came and went. Finally after about fifty minutes the Empire Builder pulled in and was ready for boarding.

The Empire Builder 7/27 12/20/1993 A trip through Winter

Even boarding a late train is a wonderful experience as I am looking forward to my first trip on the Empire Builder. This will be my first trip on the train through Wisconsin, Minnesota and North Dakota. Actually this will be my first time in North Dakota. It will also be new mileage from Rondout to Havre. The USA Today weather page showed very cold temperatures across the Northern USA plains so that is another reason why I am excited as it will be my first true winter experience on a train. My seat is located on the part of the train that goes through to Portland while the main body of the train goes to Seattle. My car is only half full leaving Chicago and my car attendant said that down line boarding projections show that I will be able to have my own set of seats all the way to Vancouver.

After a mere eight minutes of boarding, the train pulled out of Chicago Union Station to start my 2,251 mile trip to Vancouver. Tonight's journey will be over the tracks of the ex Milwaukee Road (Soo Line) to the Twin Cities and the Burlington Northern to the West Coast. I am following the same route that I did earlier today when I went to Fox Lake as far as Rondout but this train only makes a single stop at Glenview. I sat in the lounge car which gave a much better view of the countryside on this very late afternoon. By the time we crossed into Wisconsin with me having my new state drink we were traveling through the darkness of night. I had a 5:30 dinner reservation which came all too soon and had a thick cut of Prime Rib. We pulled into Milwaukee just as my dinner arrived and we left the hometown of the Bucks and Brewers an hour twenty minutes late. After finishing dinner, I returned to the lounge car. Tonight I will play a game with myself. There is a place called Tunnel City where there is a single tunnel on our route tonight. I will sit here having a few drinks and try to find it. We passed through Portage, Wisconsin Dells, and Tomah. About fifteen minutes later I could see the snowy landscape rise and then if on cue the train plunged into the tunnel and my game was complete. Gee, that was fun as it allowed for a diversion from a very slow evening on the train tonight. We followed the streams downgrade to our final stop in Wisconsin of La Crosse right before we crossed the Mississippi River into Minnesota. I went downstairs and bought my welcome to Minnesota drink before I returned to my coach seats to sleep as the train ran along the west shore of the Mississippi River towards the Twin Cities on this night.

12/21/1993 When I awoke the following morning just as the train was crossing the Red River of the North and entered North Dakota stopping in Fargo. We left two hours late so the good news was I got to see the entire crossing of North Dakota in daylight. The landscape is snow covered and the sky is a low hazy overcast. Touching the window I can tell it is really cold out there and I am glad to be on a nice warm train. The train is kicking up the snow as we travel directly north to Grand Forks where the station is located on a curve to the west of town. While we had been traveling on the Burlington Northern since Minneapolis and now we were on the ex Great Northern mainline. The Great Northern was built by James Hill who dreamed of a line from the Twin Cities to the Pacific Coast and steamship lines to the Orient. His dream came true and because of his efforts this opened up traffic to and from the Orient. In 1929 he started a new train to represent what the Great Northern stood for and named it the Empire Builder. It became one of the most excellent passenger trains in our country's history and its name lives on in the Amtrak era. Heading due west I was sitting in the lounge car having my welcome to North Dakota and a few other screwdrivers just staring out at the wintery landscape. The snow is driven into clouds that obscures my view of the countryside. The station stops are about an hour apart and are all small wheat growing towns of the northern plains. Devil's Lake is a favorite of sportsman

Rugby is an agricultural center and also has the title of being the geographical center of North America. Located just a mere fifty miles from Canada it gives you an idea of just how big Canada really is, and after I had crossed it by train that idea was forever in my mind. Approaching Minot, I saw a set of tracks coming in from the southeast. Just outside of town I saw a Soo Line freight heading towards Portage and Canada. We pulled into Minot which is a servicing stop for the Empire Builder so we would be here for fifteen minutes. The crew announced that "The outside temperature is a minus five degrees and if you are going outside, bundle up!" I detrained with two goals to shot a picture of the train and to get a newspaper. I walked to the front of the train and found our locomotives are covered in thick icicles.

This amazes me as hot as F-40PHs run but with our sixty MPH speed and our engines working melting the snows off of the roof combined with the low temperatures and wind chill all goes to prove just how cold the weather was that our train had passed through last night. I photographed our train, grabbed a newspaper and returned to the warmth of the train.

The train continued across the frozen landscape to our final stop in North Dakota of Williston then a little under thirty minutes we crossed into Montana which the train will travel across the rest of this day. We are following the Missouri River and my mind turns to the journeys of Lewis and Clark who explored this new frontier just as I was doing today from this train. We were now running two and a half hours late after meeting a freight train. The countryside had turned to rolling hills as we started to cross the Fort Peck Indian Reservation. Our new conductor was pointing out the sights as the afternoon continued on. We stopped at Wolf Point and I looked out at this town because I always wondered what was here. The town proved to be what I had thought it would be, a typical northern plain wheat growing town. We departed west out into clearing skies and about forty five minutes later I saw a big "G" on the hillside which meant that we were arriving in Glasgow which is known to fossil hunters as one of the best places to practice their art in North America. Almost sixty minutes west we came to Malta where we met our sister eastbound train. About ten minutes west of town we passed the location where Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid robbed the Great Northern getting away with nearly seventy thousand dollars.

We lost the last of the daylight as the train continued to speed west. Further west the PA came alive with the story of Chief Joseph and the Nez Perce Indians attempts to flee to Canada but were hunted down by the US Army. It was near here Chief Joseph spoke his most famous words, "From where the sun now stands, I will fight no more forever." I went to the dining car and had a dinner of Beef Shish Kebab as the train arrived in Havre ending my new mileage on this route. The Great Northern S-2 2548 locomotive on display is decked out in Christmas lights and is a very nice scene while dining. We are running three hours late as the train leaves Havre speeding west out into the Montana night. I had a couple of nightcaps then went back to my coach seat and fell asleep thinking that to see the Rockies you better take this route either westbound in June or ride it eastbound most days of the year.

12/22/1993 I woke up in Spokane and we were still three hours late. The good news is I will get to see the entire route from Spokane to Vancouver in daylight plus we are out of the cold and are on good fast track so we might make up some time. I walked up two cars to the lounge car in our shorten Empire Builder and found the car deserted. The Seattle section had already left so as I sat down in the lounge car we pulled out of Spokane in broad daylight. It is a clear cool morning as we headed west out of town and crossed Latah Creek on a very high bridge where the junction with the line to Seattle is at its west end. We took the line that leads to Vancouver. We headed through the canyon to Cheney where you can see the grades of the abandoned lines due to the BN merger of 1970. As I was drinking my eye openers (screwdrivers) the countryside has turned to rolling hills, all dormant from the winter's cold and we passed just to the north of Spaque Lake. We then traveled through a landscape called Rattlesnake Flats. I think I would not take a walking visit of this area ever and near Hatton we crossed under the former Milwaukee Road abandoned grade. We then followed the Esquatzel Coulee down to Pasco where I detrained to get a newspaper.

We crossed the Columbia River and this is one of my favorite journeys on the entire Amtrak system, the ex Spokane Portland and Seattle, north bank route of the Columbia River. I saw where the Snake River joins into the Columbia River almost doubling in size. Across the river I saw a Union Pacific freight train heading towards Hinkle. On the river there is the usual barge traffic while we run along under the canyon's cliffs. We traveled south until the river made its big bend to the west and we entered the Columbia River Gorge. We passed under a highway bridge that links Oregon with Washington, the first of the bridges that we will go under that serves that purpose. On each siding there is a freight train waiting our passage before they can continue to their destinations.

The river through the gorge is actually a series of lakes due to the dams located on it. The first one of these is the John Day Dam which spans the width of the gorge with the railroads on either side relocated away from the river. We passed through our first tunnel of the morning and arrived in Wishram. Heading west, we passed the junction of the Inside Gateway, BN's line to Northern California and then passed The Dalles Dam with its salmon ladders. To the southwest, Mt. Hood is the most visible that I have ever seen it and it dominates the landscape above the river. It is a spectacular sight of one of the most beautiful mountains in the United States. We passed through the orchards areas of the gorge and then stopped in Bingen-White Salmon. Across the river I saw the trains of the Union Pacific speeding one behind another putting on quite a show. The gorge which had been mostly desert up to this point changed to a more rain forest environment. We passed under the Bridge of the Gods and then passed by the final dam of our westward trek, the Bonneville Dam. We entered the last of the tunnel areas passing Beacon Rock across the river from Multnomah Falls then passed through the longest tunnel of the day, the Cape Horn Tunnel. We exited the gorge as the countryside opens up with the lumbering interests taking up locations along the tracks. The river opens up and we traveled through the outskirts of Vancouver before we passed through town to the depot located in the middle of the railroad's wye where I detrained two hours and five minutes late.

I stored my bags in the baggage room then walked to the park where a Spokane Portland and Seattle steam locomotive, a 2-8-2 539 was on display. I took a few pictures and then walked to The Crossing, restaurant made out of railroad passenger cars. I ordered a sirloin sandwich which was prepared excellently and had a round of drinks with lunch. I returned to the Amtrak station and photographed trains until the one I am waiting for arrives and we head for Southern California.

The Coast Starlight 14 12/22/1993

Train time came and went with a rain shower taking the place of the arriving train. The drawbridge over the Columbia River is open and besides watching trains at the Vancouver train station you can also watch the boats out on the river. I t is truly an interesting spot and beats waiting in Portland. There was an announcement that my train left Seattle one hour and thirty minutes late due to head end power problems so I returned to watching the boats on the river with the trains switching in the yard as an added diversion. The time passed quickly and then there was a headlight in the distance as the Coast Starlight arrived in Vancouver.

The train crossed the Columbia River into the state of Oregon as I found a seat and had my ticket collected. I am in a car with all the local traffic to Portland but it is light today so I still had my choice of seats, the advantage over boarding in Portland. I walked up to the lounge car to get a drink before the attendant closed for Portland and went upstairs finding a seat just as the train was crossing the Willamette River then headed along the waterfront where the Head End Power (HEP) went out and stayed out for the next full hour. We arrived in Portland but I found the view of the station tiresome so I returned to my coach finding it full of new passengers with me having an elderly woman from Chemult as a seatmate. The steward passed through the train during the delay handing out dinner reservations so I chose 5:45 in order to eat early before the crossing of the Cascades. My new seatmate and I talked for a while before she decided she needed a nap, so I offer her my little pillow and the seat which she accepted and I returned to the lounge car.

We left Portland and crossed the Steel Bridge. We met our northbound counterpart also running off the advertised schedule. We passed the waterfall and power plant on the Willamette River and then gained speed as we trekked down the Willamette Valley. It became dinner time so I walked forward and enjoyed a New York Strip at a nice and leisurely pace, followed by a trip back to the lounge car for another round of drinks as we traveled south to Eugene under the cover of night. At Eugene the train's interior turns dark again and for the next two hours we sat in front of the Eugene Station with the diner unable to serve passenger due to no power. Thank God I ate early when I did. The Billy Squire song "In the Dark" is playing in my mind. The words have a special meaning tonight!

Off into the night the Coast Starlight finally went. The lounge car is dead and I had the car all to myself as the train started it is climb into the Cascades. I have never seen the Starlight this quiet and the mood inside of the train is just like the snow outside the train, quiet and still. With all the craziness and events that I had witnessed over the years on the Coast Starlight, there is an incredible moment taking place here. Just the train, the snow, the mountains and me. I have never felt like this before as I am in tune with my surroundings totally or that I am in perfect harmony in life at this exact precise moment with the whole universe. It is a feeling that I hope every human being gets to experience once in their life time.

The train twists and turns up the SP's Cascade Crossing and even in total darkness the sounds of the train makes the climb impressive. We reached the top of the grade at Cascade Summit and I descended to the lower level of the ounge car for a few nightcaps. Back upstairs, I watched the train pass by Odell Lake followed by miles of forest in total silence except for our passing train. I walked up to my seat just before Chemult saying goodbye to my seatmate. After she had detrained, I curled up to go to sleep thinking of the great day I had from Spokane to Chemult and wonder what tomorrow will bring.

12/23/1993 Waking up on a bright sunny California morning the train is in the Sacramento Valley. We are crossing the Feather River, then crossed the former Western Pacific (UP) before stopping in Marysville. The bad news is that we are over four and a half hours late so there is little chance of seeing the coast views in Southern California. The good news is that I am getting to see all the area that the train normally passes through at night in daylight so there are advantages to running late. As far as for things along the coast I could always book a trip northbound on the Starlight out of Los Angeles in the future. The train departed Marysville and crossed the Yuba River then follows CA State Highway 65 through Lincoln and the slightly rolling hills to Roseville. I love the trip through the Roseville yard because there is always something to see. The conductor came through asking if any of us that are going to Los Angeles would rather get off at Sacramento and take the bus/train/bus combination to Los Angeles to save time as well as to get us there sooner. Almost all the passengers took him up on his offer but I decided to stay for the long haul. I do not care what time I get back to Santa Ana. I want to see how this trip is going to end.

We pulled into Sacramento and my car emptied out leaving me as the only Los Angeles passenger. We left Sacramento passed the California State Railroad Museum before crossing the Sacramento River into West Sacramento then out across the Yolo Bypass and into Davis. Leaving Davis the Starlight made excellent time flying through Dixon, Fairfield, past the Mothballed Fleet, over the drawbridge and into Martinez. From there we followed the waters to San Pablo Bay leading us to Richmond with a brief stop before we high balled to Oakland, our servicing stop this late morning.

We left Oakland at 11:30 A.M. by heading through the West Oakland yards followed by street running through Jack London Square and then rolled by the home of the Oakland A's which was the former home of my beloved Raiders. It is lunch time so it is my standard hot dogs, chips and a drink. We passed the salt plant on the bay, through the ghost town at Alviso and at Santa Clara I saw the San Francisco 49'ers practicing and wondered if they will win the Super Bowl this year? My safe bet is to say "Yes!" Only time will tell and by San Jose we remained four hours late. Heading south from San Jose, I enjoyed the Coast Line through Gilroy, Pajaro Gap, Watsonville, across the wetlands to Castorville then into Salinas. I feel very tired so I decided to take a nap foregoing the exciting scenery of the Salinas Valley. Within minutes the gentle rocking motion of the train put me to sleep.

I awoke just as the train was passing through Paso Robles and at the next siding we met our sister northbound train running late but nothing like us. We descended Cuesta Grade in the very late afternoon sun and arrived at San Luis Obispo right at a brilliant red sunset. They were having a problem watering the dining car so we lost another half an hour but at this point nobody on the train even cares. Everyone in the lounge car is making new friends so we had an early Christmas party. To say the holiday spirits were flowing is an understatement. People are wondering if the train will get to Los Angeles by Christmas Eve (midnight) and a pool is started to see who can guess what time we will arrive in Los Angeles Union Station. As the train traveled along the California Coast in the dark, we were all drinking and singing Christmas Carols with us all having a really good time. I am finally in the Christmas spirit.

The next thing we knew or even cared about was the train had reached Santa Barbara and the train lost a lot of passengers. The lateness of the hour had caused the lounge car to empty out leaving me and my drink looking out at the Pacific Ocean and the night thinking about what a great trip this had been and of all the people that I had met. Oxnard came and went as we traveled up the Simi Valley where it was announced that those few of us traveling south of Los Angeles that busses would be waiting for us at train side. As we entered the San Fernando Valley I returned to my coach seat to pack up.

12/24/1993 At Glendale midnight came and with it the start of Christmas Eve and we arrived at Los Angeles Union Passenger Station at 12:15 four hours behind schedule. I walked down to the end of the platform and boarded the bus for a nonstop trip home to Santa Ana. As I walked home in the darkness of the night, a warm Santa Ana Wind was blowing me home to my bed and the end of another Amtrak adventure.