#11 SEA-LAX via Tehachapi Pass
Posted 08 April 2011 - 01:09 PM
April 8 - flying MKE-SEA
April 9 & 10 - On #11 SEA-LAX
April 11 - flying LAX-MKE
Come back soon!!!
Posted 18 April 2011 - 09:16 PM
And now the blog:
FRIDAY, APRIL 8, 2011 --- I left Milwaukee, WI on an AirTran flight on the evening of Friday, April 8th. I was sorta hoping to get a morning or atleast early afternoon flight from MKE-SEA since I was off work that Friday anyway, but for whatever reason the night flight was a lot cheaper... and since I have been to Seattle several times I figured it wasnt worth the $150 extra to get the morning flight in. I left Milwaukee around 7:40PM CT and arrived in Seattle at 9:59PM PT. Pretty boring flight... but of course each flight reminds me why Amtrak is so much better than flying. With 4-5 weeks vacation every year, I have been trying to take the train more and cut back on flying... but since the Tehachapi Detour was sorta last-minute trip and I didnt to burn a whole week using #7 and #4, I decided to fly. Upon arrival, I ended up taking the light rail to downtown Seattle. I was originally planning to stay at a motel by the airport, but my friend Robert who was also going on this trip suggested splitting a room in downtown Seattle. So, we did that... had a nice place a few blocks from the station.
SATURDAY, APRIL 9 --- Even though I'm definetly not a morning person, I decided to get up early and walk around Seattle a bit. I got up early and hit the sidewalks... while my friend Robert joined me a little later. Leaving the hotel at 6AM and walking around until 9AM, we were able to cover some pretty good territory. I walked down by the aquarium, waterfront park, Pikes Place, hit the first Starbucks, and made it all the way to the Space Needle. I sorta wanted to take the monorail back but it wasn't open yet... so we ended up catching a bus back to the hotel. I think we walked about 3 miles in all. From there it was time to get the bags and head over to King Street Station. We both noticed the train hadn't backed into the station yet... I did a quick walk above the station and noticed the train out in the yards. Robert texted me the conductor was collecting tickets so I made my way back to the station and checked in. Finally, I'd say #11 backed in around 9:20AM. The conductors did a good job of getting everyone on and I think we left on-time, or at the most 5 minutes late. Of course, I did my usual Coast Starlight move of throwing the bags in the room and staking my claim in the PPC lounge car chairs. Very nice scernery thru Tacoma down to Seattle. I had all my meals in the PPC car the whole trip... I sorta dont like you only have 2 options... but I make do because its just a special experience eating in the PPC. I had a nice attendant named Tom -- he'd come to the PPC and narrate for us from time-to-time. He explained the whole story behind the architectural failure about the Tacoma Narrows Bridge. We got into Portland early so there was time to explore around the station, hit the gift shop, and even get some photos of the train and the Talgo on the track next to it. Missing though was the Empire Builder which was usually parked on the track next to where #11 comes in. Chatting with the agent, that day's #7 and #8 were cancelled due to flooding in North Dakota. They ended up putting A LOT of PDX-CHI passengers on the train, routing them on #11 PDX-SAC and then over to Chicago on #6. So, the train was pretty full out of PDX. Out of PDX, they did the wine tasting... which was actually "new". The "new" part being it was free for sleeping car passengers, no coach passengers allowed even if they wanted to pay the $10, and new wines and cheese. My thoughts are I sorta liked paying the $5 especially if it went to rehab of the PPCs... I was sorta glad on the NO coach passengers... not to sound like a snob, but the fact is many people pay extra for sleepers for the PPC access and it should be reserved as something special if you're dropping $300 extra for a room... the new wines were better quality... but the new cheese was horrible. I liked the purple moon cheese they had... the jalopeno and burnt cheddar or whatever was not good at all in my book. Anyway, out of Eugene we started climbing the Cascades... it was light for most of the way up to the Summit... got some nice shots I think. Robert and I ended up to around Klamath Falls talking. We were the last two in the PPC... it was kinda cool feeling having the whole car to ourselves!! I actually stayed in the PPC for about 20 minutes after Robert left -- and wow -- a whole PPC with just me in it!! VERY odd feeling. Glancing over at the GPS I saw it was Midnight and we just crossed into California... so I figured time to goto bed!!!!
SUNDAY, APRIL 10 -- I slept pretty hard, but didnt get much sleep though because around 4:55AM our car attendant went through the sleeping car loudly announcing "SACRAMENTO, 30 MINUTES"... UGGGHH!!! My grumpy non-morning person attitude kicked in and I pulled the sheets over my head and tried to goto bed. But, being a light sleeper... didnt do so good at that. My guess is that he was doing that because so many people were on the train getting off at SAC because the Empire Builder wasn't running. I went back to bed for about 30 minutes and got woken up by my cell phone... someone sent me a text message. I thought it might be my friend Brandon, who is an engineer out of OKJ for Amtrak and was thinking about joining us for part of the trip (he had to work and couldn't). It was Robert who was up alread and at the Starbucks by the station. I decided to get up since we were at SAC for 40 more minutes and get some pictures. I am sorta glad I did because next to us was the Operation Lifesaver California engine painted all in yellow... it was pretty cool... check out the pictures. The train (#11) didn't depart until 6:35AM, but when I got back to the train at 6:20AM it was all locked up already and no one was out on the platform. I was a little surprised... but luckily know how to open the doors myself (shhhh!). From there, it was time for breakfast in the PPC car... and then cruising through EMY and OKJ. At OKJ, Robert and I got off the train and met friends Rafi and Brian who were joining us. I think because of their work schedules they couldnt ride all the way from Seattle, so they flew to SFO the day before and joined us in Oakland. The first 10-20 miles out of Oakland was the normal route --- then we figured out where the split was and we climed through Niles Canyon. Our sleeping car attendant Tom got on the PA and did a little narrating and told us about the scenic railroad that passed through the area... you could see it on the left... that would be fun to do sometime. What surprised me about the first part of the detour was how far out of the way you go to go through OKJ. It would have been a much much quicker detour if we just cut off at SAC. I mean looking at the GPS of where we were going, we almost made a complete circle loop around the Bay Area. When we got to an area just south of Stockton, we made a VERY interesting maneuver... connecting from the Niles Canyon line to the UP line down the valley. We did a complete wye!! Check it out in the photos and the GPS... it was quite amazing. There were a few rail fans along the way getting photos. I guess the deal was there was no direct connection between the lines or something. From there, we raced through the valley... hitting Fresno, Modesto, Merced. The old SP depots were pretty much in tact. One of them in Fresno had about a 10-foot high cement fence between the depot and the tracks which was kinda sad. We cruised into Bakersfield around 3:25PM. The conductors announced the new conductors were running late and we'd probably be in Bakersfield until around 4PM. I was pretty happy with this because it gave us time to get some good shots. Of course the Bakersfield station we were at was the UP station and not on the BNSF line where Amtrak normally stops... I am guessing it was either 2 or 3 miles between stations. I walked the train and got some pictures of the station... it was nice and warm out... so I was also enjoying the California sun!! The conductors finally showed around 4:15PM and we were on our way. The PPC attendant was wanting to do the wine tasting going over the pass, but started it out of Bakersfield since it was getting close to dinner time. That sorta made me happy because I wanted to do the wine tasting AND do the pass. So it actually worked out. As the wine tasting wraped up... we started climbing. I have to say... the climb from Bakersfield to the top of Tehachapi was one of the most beautiful routes I have been on. I would definetly compared it to climbing the Rockies out of Denver on #5. And doing the math -- it actually does compare to the climb out of Denver. I mean Bakersfield is at like 300'... and the top of Tehachapi Pass is like 3,700', so a climb of around 3,400', right??? Well, Denver is like 5,300'... and you climb to around 9,000' in the Rockies... also about the same actually. I had mixed feelings going over Tehachapi... HAPPY because it was so beautiful... bad sad knowing it might be 10-15 years before another passenger train does this route again (or atleast a passenger train with enough notice I can get off work and get out to CA to do it). I took some pictures out of the PPC and then right when we got to the loop we all headed to the back coach to get some shots out of the back window. From there... dinner in the PPC... Mojave... and we swung onto the Metro Link tracks. Just outside Lancaster we went into emergency stop mode... I guess some woman was going to committ suicide in front of the train and changed her mind at the last minute. We all saw her run towards a motel and flag down a driver for a ride and they took off. From the scanner traffic, I heard she left her purse and the county sheriff came to take possession of that and try and find her. I think we were there around 45 minutes. From there... sunset... the climb over the final mountain range... and merging with the regular UP tracks just outside of Burbank. From there, it was back to the room and time to get things organized. I think we got into LAX around 9:30PM, maybe 30 minutes late only. I think we would have got in early if it wasnt for the near-suicide attempt in the high desert there. I parted ways with Robert, Brian, and Rafi and headed out. I was staying the night with my best friend from high school, Alexander, who had an apartment in Santa Monica since 2002. He works in TV out there. He arrived around 10:15PM... we stopped by the new Hard Rock in Hollywood... then went over to Canter's in Hollywood. It's a popular spot for seeing celebrities, even though we didnt see anyone that night. I finally called it a night around 1:00AM... just still so excited for Tehachapi and looking at all my photos.
MONDAY, APRIL 11 - Despite the lack of sleep on this trip and lack of being a morning person, I ended up getting up early once again on Monday, April 11th to spend some time with my best friend from high school, Alexander. We got up around 6:30AM. Our first stop was over in Burbank where we went to see the house that was used on the "Wonder Years" and got our picture there. After that, we headed over to the beach in LA. It was quite interesting that all of the beaches there have new Tsunami Warning signs... Alexander said it was because of the recent activity in Japan. From there... I got dropped at the airport and had just enough time to catch my 11:55AM PT flight back to Milwaukee... arriving home at 5:30PM CT.
Fun trip on the Tehachapi Detour!!!
Posted 19 April 2011 - 08:49 AM
A Rookie No More! But Still A Lot Of Track To Travel !!!
Silver Meteor #97(5) & #98 (4), Silver Star #91 (2), Capitol Limited #29 & #30(4), Empire Builder #7,#8,#27(2) (4) Coast Starlight #11 (6) & #14(5), California Zephyr #5 (2) & #6 (5), Cascades #506, City of New Orleans #58 (1) #59 (2), South West Chief #3 (3), Lake Shore Limited #49, Maple Leaf #63 San Joaquin #714, Pacific Surfliner #774, Texas Eagle #422, Cardinal #50, Crescent #19, Sunset Limited #1. Approx. 55,730 miles & 41 states!
Posted 23 April 2011 - 05:52 PM
We got a refund and then had to cancel our plans for the weekend as we've been on the normal route and the delay pushed out all other other plans.
What a disappointment.
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