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Domes Over Donner Pass

Sierra Nevada Mountains, CA

May 24-26, 2008

Story and photographs by Richard Elgenson
RailNews Network writer

I was curious about the rail connections between the two former independent rail lines around the CA/Nevada border.  Chris Skow explained the route conncections to me.  Few passenger trains traverse the Feather River Canyon while Donner gets Amtrak passenger traffic on a daily basis.  They are two contrasting routes with the rail line through the Feather River Canyon, installed just above river water level and the Donner, ex Central Pacific and Southern Pacific route having been cut out below ridge line.  Many years ago, I had followed a UP train westbound through the very beautiful Feather River Canyon.   Todays journey over Donner, or as staff William put it "through Donner" had snow on the ground and warmth inside the historic CZ cars.
While standing in the Silver Lariat vestibule with Bert, I admitted that this trip is my first time on a train over Donner Pass.  He gave me an astonished look and said "you, out of all people have never done this?"  For my first rail  traverse over/through Donner, I was starting on the top.  What a way to go by private car?  It does not get any better than this.  My comparison was going to my first Long Beach Grand Prix car race by getting genreally unavailable Pit Row Suite tickets, again first class, starting on top.  One can get used to this type of treatment.

Later, I asked if there was beer aboard.  William told me that beer was "not a hot seller."  After the more domestic choices, I selected Sierra Nevada Pale Ale.  Being on the beautiful Silver Lariat, I had to have a Sierra Nevada while crossing the mountains north of Lake Tahoe.  I know the guy who makes my beer at home, so mass produced national brand beers are not my favorite.  There you go BBC Blackwell.
I wandered back to the Lariat dome and sat with a pretty young blonde woman railfan.  I had spotted her back at Emeryville and knew from the red tag on her bag she was going to be on the private cars. Chelsea, from San Francisco, was travelling alone becasue her friend had become ill and could not attend the Domes over Donner trip.  We chatted most of the way over the pass during lunch, which was comprised of salad, stuffed ravioli with a light cream sauce and vegetables.
I noticed railroad snowsheds on the opposite side of the valley and made plans to photograph them on the return trip.  I was just too busy enjoying company and lunch to take many photos
The Sierra Nevada weather cleared up slightly.

Truckee is another California Zephyr stop. It is a gateway to the north shore of Lake Tahoe, a 14 mile drive to the south.
Above left, it looks cloudy towards Nevada and  in California on the right.
Amtrak picked up many passengers in Truckee.

Domes Through Donner Continued