Imagine this, you have just returned
from a 9 day
, covering 2600 miles, mostly on long distance
Not being home 12 hours, I receive an email offer to ride the Domes
Donner tour for TrainWeb.com beginning in the East San Francisco Bay
Area to Reno Nevada with
nights in Sin City north. TrainWeb.com gave me the option
taking the Coast Starlight train to and from Oakland for this Domes
trip which gave me an opportunity to learn more of the Coast Starlight
route to Northern CA. The Domes tickets were to be FedEx'ed to
however, I was already on my way to Oakland. Not to worry, all I
to do was check in with Bill Parks, the Trains Unlimited,
(TUT) tour guide in Emeryville,
the western terminal of the California Zephyr. The Domes Over
are two private railcars which are authentic 1940's California Zephyr
OK, I have been aboard the Silver
Silver Solarium before, but mostly in a working environment. This
promised to be different, very different. Now in the hands of
California Zephyr Railcar Charters, a
Southern California based company, the dome cars are
luxurious in every way compared to Amtrak passenger cars. Each of
these cars has a vista dome, useful for viewing the surrounding
countryside, and a kitchen or galley, useful for nourishment. The
dome arrangement is superior to the Amtrak
lounge, which has windows that wrap up the ceiling. After
short night in the City of San Francisco, I took an Amtrak bus to
Emeryville. This particular Saturday morning, Emeryville was crowded
passengers going in different directions on various trains such as the
local Amtrak Capitol and the long distance CA Zephyr. Out tour
was only to Reno Nevada, 239 railroad miles taking about 7-1/2 hours,
with the private cars
laying over in Sparks
Nevada for two days. Did you know that Reno is so close to hell
you can see Sparks? For me, a major draw of the Domes Over Donner
traverse of the Sierra Nevada Mountains, famous for the ill fated
Donner Party, the building of the transcontinental railroad, and the
wintertime stranding of the City of San Francisco train in 1952.
being late spring, there was little chance of weather related problems
At Emeryville, I checked in
with Bill Parks, the TUT tour guide. The Emeryville Amtrak
Station is busy, even on a Saturday morning, with several Capitol
trains picking up many passengers. The rest got onto the Amtrak
California Zephry train, which
was ON TIME into the station and left one minute late by my
watch. It was not your typical late May California day since it
was overcast and rainy. This has been a crazy weathcr week
since exactly seven days ago it was extremely hot, then mild and cool,
tornados in Southern CA two days ago. About 20 passengers boarded
the Domes over Donner PV cars at Emeryville.
Bill Parks, TUT tour guide shown at Davis California.
In the distance, California's capitol, Sacramento.
This bridge carries vehicular traffic on top and rail traffic on the
Other Domes over Donner passengers
stations up the line. There was plenty of on board staff to wait
on us. According to the press release from Trains Unlimited,
Tours, California Zephyr Railcar Charters, the owners of Silver Lariat
and Silver Rapids (sleeper car) and lesees of the Silver Solarium,
"staff their cars with professionals from railroad executive business
car departments, as well as from fine hotels and restaurants."
The private car staff for this Domes over Donner trip was top
notch, quick and efficient wtih service and great mixed drinks.
Not being much of a hard liquor drinker, I opted for an early morning
Black Russian, mixed by William.
Above, the former Southern Pacific Railroad Sacramento Locomotive Works
facility. This site has been slated for redevelopment.
After the Sacramento stop, I happened
to visit the
Silver Solarium car and noticed something being set up in a small
drawing room. Moments later, a woman guest was led into the room
and her husband and staff sang happy birthday to her. The tour
operator Chris Skow and his wife also boarded at Sacramento. I
was interested in meeting Mr. Skow since we had emailed and spoken via
phone during the week before the trip. Chris is a retired
conductor from Western Pacific and Union Pacific Railroads and operator
of Trains Umlimited, Tours for over 25 years.
Meeting new friends in the Silver Solarium lounge and inside the Silver
Chef Jeffrey MacRill in the Silver
Lariat kitchen/galley. That looks like, hmmm, um, that smells
like, um, it tasted good.
Jeffrey was assisted by Chef Lela Janushkowsky. During the
morning run from Emeryville to Sacramento, staff
brought us any drink we desired, then fresh fruit, chicken sausages,
and coffee cake. Having become hooked on bratwurst, I viewed
chicken as something to be eaten with rice. They had 4 different
clean and healthy flavors of sausages. Knowing the Silver Lariat
philosophy of the best quality food, this was also premium
Above, passing through Roseville, car owner Bert Hermey told me
to watch out for the "fire train" which had stood ready with three tank
cars to put out fires. Colfax Station stands at 2,421 feet above
mean sea level. Just another 4,600 feet to go vertically.
This location is also 144 miles railroad east of San Francisco
and 642 railroad miles west of Ogden Utah.
In the distance between Sacramento
and Colfax, passengers became aquiented with one another. Sitting
with two fellows
from Oakland and Sacramento, the conversation turned to mass
Ken from Oakland said he uses BART for work in San Francisco. At
$3.00 per boarding this is reasonable compared to expensive gasoline
and extremely expensive parking in the City. While walking around
SFO on my way to
meet the tour, I spotted a parking "special" for $17 per day. On
top of that, bridge tolls are around $4.00 per trip. Basic SFO
parking can run $10-20 per day and $20-30 per day in areas such as the
financial district. Bob from Sacramento said he sometimes drives
to Oakland and takes BART over to the city. I asked him if he
uses the CA Amtrak Capitols trains which run from Sacramento to San
Jose which he occasionally does.
An old North Western Pacific caboose in Colfax. It was just a bit
rainy heading east towards Donner Summit. Nature was hiding the
Sierra Nevada from us.
Domes Through Donner Continued