Pacifica Tribune columnistNORCAL EXPLORER
We rail fans (aka train buffs and rail heads) love nothing more than riding in heritage equipment over rare-mileage routes. So it was no surprise that 600 enthusiasts from all over the country signed up to take the Northern California Explorer around northeast California, June 3-5. In vintage dome cars and "ancient" Amtrak Amfleet coaches, we left the Bay Area and went up the Feather River Canyon (40 years since the last regularly scheduled passenger train ran there), then along the Highline-Inside Gateway (freight only for the past 60 years), and finally back home on the Shasta route in broad daylight (a rare treat, since Amtrak service northbound and southbound on this line is at night only, missing all the incredible scenery). Along the way, we stayed overnight in hotels at Oroville and Klamath Falls so that all our travel would be in daylight. All the rivers, creeks, lakes, and ponds we saw on the trip were filled to overflowing. Mount Shasta was covered with snow down to the 5,000-foot level. Everywhere we went was green, dotted with wildflowers and teeming with wildlife (deer, antelope, egrets, freshwater pelicans, hawks, eagles, and ducks). I rode in a comfortable Horizon lounge car (leather upholstery) amid a small group of railroaders, including a retired train conductor, a locomotive engineer deadheading home, a joyriding railroad dispatcher, and a knowledgeable railroad blogger, Chris Guenzler, who has traveled more than a million miles on Amtrak, chronicling his adventures on sites such as Train Web and Train Orders. I enjoyed their fascinating railroad shoptalk and war stories while gazing out the window at the passing wonders of nature. Trains and Travel International (traintrips.biz) organized this excursion in conjunction with the Central Coast Railroad Club. I have included here in the column some of Chris' photos from the trip, but to see them in living color, check out my post on Pacifica Riptide: "Northern California Explorer: Heritage Train Trip and Rare Mileage Through Unspoiled Wilderness.