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By Fred Dunn

In June, 2008, I traveled to Chicago by way of Portland, taking the Coast Starlight to Portland, and the Empire Builder from Portland to Chicago.  My report on this trip can be found on  I returned from Chicago on United Airlines, using frequent flier miles.  Since the frequent flier miles entitled me to a round trip ticket, I booked a return to Chicago in October.

This report describes my return to Chicago on October 7 on United Airlines, my short time in the Windy City, and my return to California (Sacramento) on the California Zephyr.  After spending two nights and one day in Sacramento, I returned to Fullerton via the San Joaquin train to Bakersfield, the Bakersfield bus to LA, and Metrolink to Fullerton.

Tuesday, October 7

On Tuesday, October 7, my daughter Julie drove me to the Fullerton Station, where I boarded Metrolink train #703 at 7:18 a.m. to Los Angeles Union Station.  It arrived in LA ahead of schedule at 7:56 a.m., and I proceeded to the bus plaza, where I bought a ticket for the Fly-Away Bus to LAX, which left at 8:12 a.m.  The bus arrived at terminal 7 (United) at 8:48 a.m.  I had printed out my boarding pass the night before, so with my boarding pass in hand, I proceeded to the automated baggage check-in, where I checked my bag.  

I then went through security, and was cleared into the terminal at 9:05 a.m.  I went to MacDonalds and had an Egg MacMuffin for breakfast, and then spent the next hour or so reading a book that I had brought along.  The flight boarded at about 10:35 a.m., and a big hassle developed with people wanting to stow luggage in the overhead storage, which quickly filled.  I think the airlines have created a problem for themselves by charging a fee for the first bag checked.  Now everyone will want to carry it on board and there is not enough room.  (I didn’t get charged for my checked bag, I think because I had made the reservation before the fee was announced.)  I had an aisle seat and lucked out, having an empty middle seat next to me.  We took off on time at 11:00 a.m.  We landed in Chicago at 5:05 p.m., and I got my bag and was at the Blue Line Station in the airport by 5:45 p.m.  I took the Blue Line to the LaSalle St. Station, arriving at 6:40 p.m.  It was pouring rain, and I had to walk about 6 blocks to my hotel, but luckily, I remembered to bring an umbrella, so I didn’t get too wet.  I checked into my hotel, the Travelodge, and then went across the street to a Subway to get dinner.  With the rain still coming down, I went back to my hotel room and called it a night.

Wednesday, October 8

The next morning I awoke, showered, got dressed, and had two cups of the in-room coffee.  I then went downstairs to check the weather outside.  It had stopped raining, but was still gray and damp.  Since this was my only full day in Chicago, I decided to make the most of it.  I grabbed my umbrella, and started out on my walking tour.

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Art Institute of Chicago
Michigan Ave Scene

Millenium Park, Crown Fountain
Millenium Park, The Bean
Chicago Cultural Center
Millenium Park, Jay Pritzker Pavillion

Moving on from Millenium Park, I continued my walk toward Navy Pier.

Navy Pier
Ferris Wheel

From Navy Pier, I headed back toward Michigan Ave. and Wacker Drive.  After several hours of walking, I was getting tired and decided to take the Chicago River Architecture Tour, a 90 minute boat tour.  While waiting for the tour, I took some pictures of the area.

Wrigley Building (1925)
Michigan Ave. Bridge (1920)

At about 10:50 a.m., we boarded the boat for the tour. 

London Guarantee Building (1923)
Chicago Tribune Tower (1925)
Jewlers Building (1926)
Kinzie St. Railroad Bridge (1915)

Sears Tower (1974) in the Clouds
Merchandise Mart (1931)

Navy Pier
Exiting Boat at End of Tour

Upon completing the tour, I decided to head back toward my hotel via State Street.  Since it was by then approaching one o’clock, and I had not had anything to eat all day, I was looking for a place to grab some lunch.  I stopped at a restaurant around State St. and Van Buren Ave., and had a sandwich and a beer.  After lunch, I left the restaurant, but inadvertently got my directions mixed up, and started walking back in the direction from which I had come.  I continued on for a few blocks, until I noticed that all the streets that I was passing I had passed before.  I got out my map and realized my mistake, and headed in the correct direction toward my hotel.

My hotel, the Travelodge, looks reasonably modern from the exterior, but the interior shows it to be fairly ancient.  This is particularly true in the economy rooms such as the one I was in where the windows look out on air shafts and on office windows next door.  The elevator operator (yes, one of the three hotel elevators is an original, and still requires an operator) told me that the hotel was built in 1930.  But I can’t complain.  The room was clean and the price was reasonable (by Chicago standards).

Travelodge (Formerly Harrison Hotel)

Ancient Steam Radiator in Hallway

Checking my pedometer, I found that I had walked almost 8 miles during the day, so I didn’t feel like venturing too far away for dinner.  I wound up eating in the Thai restaurant in the hotel.  I then returned to my room where I watched tv for awhile, and then went to bed.

Thursday, October 9

I woke up about 7:00 a.m. (late for me), made my pot of in-room coffee, shaved, showered, etc. and checked out of the hotel by about 10:00 a.m.  I walked the short distance to the bus plaza at Michigan and Harrison Avenues, where I boarded the #7 bus which took me to Adams and Canal Streets, and the entrance to Union Station.  I proceeded to the Metropolitan Lounge (for sleeper passengers) where I checked my bags.  Since I had about three hours before the boarding of train #5, the California Zephyr, I spent the time exploring the area around Union Station, and the station itself.  Union Station is on the west side of the Chicago River between Adams and Jackson Streets.  Including approach and storage tracks, it’s about nine and a half city blocks in size, and is almost entirely beneath streets and skyscrapers.

Union Station (1925) Grand Hall

Grand Hall Exterior

Chicago River at Jackson St.
Sightseeing Boat, Boeing HQ in Distance

After exploring the area around the station, I decided that I’d better have lunch somewhere before getting on the train, because the first meal on the train would be dinner, starting at 5:30 p.m.  In walking from the Metropolitan Lounge to the Great Hall, I noticed the Metro Deli and Café, which is just off the tunnel between the Great Hall and the train concourse, under Canal Street.  This is the station's largest restaurant, a cafeteria-style eatery with a large circular bar in the middle of the room.  The food was basic but plentiful, and the prices were surprisingly inexpensive.  I had meatloaf (huge portion), mashed potatoes and corn for $6.95.  I ate at the bar, where I had a pint of Bud draft for $2.50 (Thursday special).

After finishing lunch, I walked back to the Metropolitan Lounge where I collected my bags and waited for the boarding announcement.  At about 1:40 p.m., we were escorted out of the lounge and down what seemed to be at least one quarter mile of underground tunnels to our train.  I boarded my car, number 532, where I met my car attendant, J.R. Stokes.  I then proceeded to my room, number 9, which is upstairs at the end of the car.

The train pulled out on time at 2:00 p.m., and we gradually worked our way out of the downtown Chicago area, and then passed through the Chicago suburbs for about another hour.  Once we got out of the suburban areas, it seemed like there was nothing but miles and miles of corn.  We arrived at Galesburg, IL at 4:41, about on time, and then proceeded to Burlington, IL, where we crossed the Mississippi River.

Corn, Corn, and More Corn
Galesburg, IL
Crossing Mississippi River
Mississippi River Auto Bridge

I went to dinner at 6:00 p.m.  The seafood of the day was baked salmon, so I tried that.  It came with mashed potatoes and mixed vegetables.  The salmon portion was large, and it was quite good.

While we were eating, our train came to a stop because we were behind a freight train that was having some kind of problem.  We sat for at least an hour, not moving again until 7:15 p.m.  By the time we got to Mount Pleasant, IA, we were 1 hr, 45 min. behind schedule.

Friday, October 10

I got up about 5:30 a.m. (M.D.T.), showered and went to breakfast.  I had the french toast and bacon for breakfast.  The Amtrak french toast is supposed to be great, but I was not impressed.  We arrived in Fort Morgan, CO at 8:07 a.m. and in Denver at 9:50 a.m.  We received copies of USA Today in Denver, where I learned about the stock meltdown of the previous day, which didn’t do much to brighten my spirits.  In Denver, I checked out the consist of our train, which was as follows:

P42 Genesis engines 100, 114
P32-8WH CA DOT engine 2051 (formerly Amtrak 501)
1260 Baggage
39012 Transition Sleeper
32091, 32031 Sleepers
38021 Diner
33000 Lounge
34063, 34061, 31021, 34072 Coach
32028 Sleeper

My car attendant said that the normal complement was three coaches rather than four.  He said that a third sleeper is frequently used between Chicago and Denver, but it is taken off in Denver.  I found this hard to believe because I thought the most popular portion of the trip was between Denver and Sacramento/Emeryville because of the dramatic mountain scenery.  At any rate, no cars were taken off in Denver, and the above consist traveled to Sacramento, where I got off.

Some mechanical repairs delayed our departure from Denver, which finally occurred at 11:05 a.m., three hours late. 

Denver Union Station
Passing Coal Train Climbing out of Denver

We entered Moffat tunnel at 12:45 p.m., and departed Winter Park at 1:06 p.m., 3 hours late.

Our Train Above Colorado River
Colorado River
Colorado River
Colorado River
Colorado River
Colorado River

At 3:45 p.m. we stopped at a siding about one mile east of Burns, where Eastbound train # 6 passed us.

Stopped to Let Train #6 Pass

We departed Glenwood Springs at 5:09 p.m., 3 hr., 16 min. behind schedule.

Glenwood Springs
Glenwood Springs

Since I skipped lunch, I made an early dinner reservation for 5:30 p.m.  I had the flat iron steak with mashed potatoes and corn.  It was very good.

We arrived in Grand Junction, CO at about 7:15 p.m.

Old Station, Grand Junction, CO
Grand Junction, CO

We arrived in Green River, UT at 9:05 p.m., a little over three hours behind schedule.

Saturday, October 11

Having gone to bed early last night, and gaining an hour with the time change, I woke up at 4:15 a.m. (P.D.T).  I showered and went to breakfast when the diner opened at 6:30 a.m.  We are still over three hours behind schedule.

Approaching Winnemucca, NV, the mountains had what appeared to be a fresh dusting of snow, and the town of Winnemucca itself had a light coating of snow.  We left Winnemucca at 9:38 a.m., still 2 hrs. 40 min. behind schedule.  We arrived at Sparks, NV at about 12:00 noon, and Reno at about 12:30 p.m.  I went to the diner for lunch when we left Reno.  The choices were limited – an Angus Burger or a salad.  I had the Angus Burger.

Snow Dusted Nevada Mountains
Hunter with Dog and Rifle Near Sparks

Leaving Reno, we traveled along the Truckee River, arriving at our next station stop of Truckee.

Truckee River East of Truckee
Truckee Station
Downtown Truckee
Downtown Truckee

From Truckee, we continued up the mountain toward Donner Summit.

Climbing Toward Donner Summit
Approaching Tunnel # 13
Above Donner Lake
Above Donner Lake
Snow Sheds at Norden
Soda Springs Ski Area

Continuing down the mountain, we arrived at Colfax at about 4:00 p.m.  Colfax was the terminus of the Nevada County Narrow Gauge Railroad, which connected Grass Valley/Nevada City with the Southern Pacific Line at Colfax.  The line transported millions of dollars of gold and silver bullion from the mines in Grass Valley/Nevada City.  The old depot in Colfax is still standing, although it now has some other commercial function

Downtown Colfax
Former Nevada County Narrow Gauge Depot

We arrived in Sacramento at 5:55 p.m., a little over two hours behind schedule.  My car attendant, J.R. Stokes was there to help me with my luggage, and I gave him a well deserved gratuity when I departed.  This man was one of the most conscientious car attendants that I have ever encountered.  He was constantly reminding me of meal times, so that I wouldn’t miss a meal, he kept our car supplied with hot coffee and cold juices, he was constantly cleaning the toilets and bathrooms, and he was generally helpful and courteous.

Leaving the train, I walked to the Vagabond Inn, my hotel for the next two nights, which is almost directly across the street from the station, but which requires a walk of about two blocks to reach.

Southern Pacific Sacramento Station

Sunday, October 12

I got up at 6:30 a.m. and partook of the extensive continental breakfast provided by the Vagabond Inn.  I then went back to the station and purchased tickets for my return to Fullerton the next day.  Since I had visited the Railroad Museum twice in the last few years, I decided to spend the morning visiting Sutter’s Fort, which I had toured several years ago.  

I walked to J and 6th Streets, where I waited for the number 30 bus to Sutter’s Fort.  Since this was a Sunday, there was a limited bus schedule.  I waited about a half hour, and was just starting to think that I could have gotten there quicker by walking when the bus appeared.  I arrived at the Fort at about 10:20 a.m.  I walked around the outside, then bought an admission ticket ($4.00) and explored the inside.

Sutter’s Fort

Entrance to Sutter’s Fort
South East Bastion

The following description of Sutter’s fort is from the California State Park’s website at

The "Fort" built by Swiss immigrant John Sutter more than 150 years ago was not only located at a pivotal point in California. It was a pivotal point in history. This combination of big dreams, bold adventures and reality all manifest themselves at Sutter's Fort State Historic Park and help bring California history to life.

John Augustus Sutter was born in Europe to Swiss-German parents in 1803. After several financial reverses, like millions of others in Europe during the time, Sutter set out to make his fortune in America. After a series of adventures that ranged from Missouri and Santa Fe to Hawaii and Alaska, Sutter finally made it to California and arrived in Sacramento in the late fall of 1839.

In Sacramento, he built what came to be known as Sutter's Fort -- with walls that were 2 1/2 feet thick and 15 to 18 feet high -- and developed what he considered to be the real wealth of California -- crops such as grapes and wheat, along with vast herds of cattle. Aligning himself with the Mexican authorities, at one point, with his various land grants, Sutter owned more than 150,000 acres of the Central Valley, and was a generous host to such colorful and historically important characters as John C. Fremont and Kit Carson,

In 1848, James Marshall, a carpenter working for Sutter, discovered gold at the sawmill Sutter was having built in Coloma, on the American River. Before the mill could be finished, word of the discovery was out. Sutter's workers deserted the Fort for the goldfields seeking their fortunes. By the 1850's, all that was left of Sutter's Fort was the central building.

The Native Sons of the Golden West were influential in the restoration of the Fort which began in 1891 and was completed in 1893. Donated to the State of California, Sutter's Fort became a part of the California State Park System in 1947. Sutter's Fort stands as the oldest restored Fort in the United States.

Today, the Fort is furnished and reconstructed to reflect its 1846 appearance. Many activities and programs recreate the past thanks to the volunteers who give their time to share their love of California History.

Sutter’s Fort

West Yard of Sutter’s Fort
Cooper’s Shop

Central Building and Offices
Sutter Plaque
Weaving Room

Beehive Oven
Bakery Stores Room

Doctor’s Office in Central Building
Clerk’s Office in Central Building
Sutter’s Office in Central Building
Carpenter’s Shop
Gunsmith Shop

Blacksmith Shop
Sutter’s Bedroom

Having finished touring the Fort about 12:00 noon, I headed back toward my hotel.  I decided to walk back on L St. (the return bus route) rather than waiting for the bus.  Luckily, when I reached 19th Street, and was near a bus stop, the no. 30 bus came by and I rode it the rest of the way back to the hotel.

Arriving at my hotel, I rested up for a short time and then decided to explore Old Sacramento.

Huntington and Hopkins Hardware
California Southern Tourist Train

Delta King

It was getting to be about 2:30 p.m., and I had not had anything to eat since breakfast, so I walked to the Downtown Plaza Mall, where I had lunch at a Panda Express.  Following lunch, I decided to explore the old SP yards to see if anything had changed since my last visit (see  Most of the rolling stock that was there on my previous visit was now gone.  My guess is that it has been moved inside the erecting shop or boiler shop. 

Erecting Shop
Boiler Shop & Empty Yard

Most of the buildings still seemed to be standing as I remembered them from the last trip, although some new fences had been erected.
SP Shop Building
SP Shop Building
SP Shop Building

While most of the rolling stock that had been there previously was gone, a few new items were visible.

Santa Fe Diesel 543 on Flat Car
Diesel Engine, Presumably from 543

Another Engine and Cars

While leaving the SP yards, I got stopped by a rent-a-cop in a pick-up truck who asked me if I knew that I was on private property.  I told him that I was leaving, and he seemed satisfied at that.  The security seems to have been increased since my last visit here.

By then, it was about 6:00 p.m.  I still wasn’t real hungry since I had a late lunch, so I bought some snacks from the vending machine and went back to my room and watched tv.

Monday, October 13

I requested a wake-up call for 4:30 a.m., since I was catching the San Joaquin train that leaves Sacramento at 6:35 a.m.  While it is a pain having to get up early to catch a 6:35 a.m. train, it certainly beats taking the later bus to Stockton, and then waiting for the train in Stockton.  Coincidentally, the engine on my San Joaquin train from Sacramento was California DOT number 2051, the third engine on my Zephyr voyage from Chicago.

California DOT 2051, Formerly Amtrak 501

I arrived in Bakersfield on time at about 12:00 noon, and then transferred to the bus to LAUPT.  The bus arrived in LA at about 2:25, and I caught the next Metrolink train to Fullerton, which left at 3:20, well before the next Amtrak.  Unfortunately, due to my early rising time, I was tired and fell asleep on the trip to Fullerton.  I slept through the Fullerton stop, and woke up as we were leaving Anaheim.  I got off the train in Orange, and checked the schedule for the next Northbound train.  I saw that there was one due soon, so I sat down and waited.  I got on the next Metrolink that pulled into the station, and a concerned passenger by the door saw me with my suitcase and asked if I was going to Los Angeles.  I said no, I was going to Fullerton.  He told me I was on a train to the Inland Empire.  I said thanks and got off, just before the doors closed.  Had he not alerted me, this trip report might be considerably longer.  The Northbound train to Fullerton arrived about 10 minutes later, and I jumped on.

I arrived in Fullerton at about 4:50 p.m., and my daughter Julie met me at the station.  I was home a little after 5:00 p.m.

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