Well now that the title sucked you in you'll read my trip report. And you can decide if it is the girl or the locomotive that I'm so in love with.
Well I have always wanted to work behind Southern Pacific GS4 No. 4449 and I had some extra cash burning a hole in my pocket, then again that could have been cinders from all the steam engines I've worked. But none the less it was announced that the 4449 was running the Portland Holiday Express. And even though it is a short 5 mile train trip I thought it would be fun to fly out there and work it. Plus my business partner with the RailCenter lives out there so I could also accomplish some things on our Amtrak Charter (You'll see a post soon about that Second weekend of June) in the actual office. So it was all wins.
I stirred from my warm and cozy bed around six AM to drive to the airport. And now you are probably wondering where Amtrak comes in. Keep reading I had my sister drive me to the Atlanta Airport three hours away so that I could fly on the No Frills Airline known as Spirt Airlines. My mother went with her and they spent the entire day shopping and didn't return home till the next day around one AM. I hear they had a fun time. I arrived at the airport right around 10 which was the baggage cut off for my flight. Then I went past security which wasn't that bad all things considered for ten AM in Atlanta Hartsfield. I took the Air Train to my concourse. I made a mistake and bought the wrong soda from the machine so I should definitely learn to read closer. So I had to buy a second one. Then I ran off for my plane.
I had a window seat in the second to last row of the A319 for the five hour flight to LAX from Atlanta. The flight was a bit turbulent. But I used it to catch up on my reading, some marketing plans for the Amtrak Charter, and sleep. The scenery arriving into LAX was definitely interesting and I spotted a Santa Fe Blue Bonnet Geep pulling a train. If that shows you what I look for from a flight.
Even though the same plane continues on to Portland my final destination they forced everyone off the plane and I ran into the Terminal to attempt getting food at Burger King which wasn't making Hamburgers. So I had a decent ish chicken sandwich. They didn't seem to understand the question "What food is ready right now." As my connection was only twenty minutes.
The second flight was fairly fast and I was on the aisle of the row I had been on earlier. Our landing was in a bad cross wind. And in what Portlandians were calling a blizzard which was fascinating. We ended up sitting on the tarmac for an hour waiting for a plane ahead of us to get deiced. After getting off the plane and claiming my bag. I asked my business partner whom I was staying with how I should get to his place and he said take the Red line to the end of the line which I did. The first car of the two car train was completely packed and standing room while the second car was empty and had tons of open seats. The motorman made a smart remark about that. And we took off in a winter wonderland toward Beaverton.
From the train I saw that traffic on all of the roads was backed up and several accidents had happened. What isn't supposed to be a super long trip took a long time because of heavy traffic, and frozen switches. I barely missed the Alaska RDC's on the Westside Express Service. But none the less I found my partners car and we took off for a good Burger at some local irish Pub. And it was very good and Tom and I got caught up on all of my steam stories. Which can easily fill a book by now. And things about our charter and what our goals on it are. And why I'm pro PV (Probably because it pays me well and its a bias). Then we went to his townhouse and we made up my bed on the floor of the living room and went to bed.
DEC 15: The Cascades to Charlie
Tom and I woke up early and got me to Portland Union Station by seven AM for my eight AM train and it looked like a winter wonderland outside. He dropped me off and of course I roamed the surrounding block looking at the station in the snow and taking plenty of pictures. I checked in for my train No. 500 and received a window on the Sound side of the train. Then went to the front of the boarding gate to wait on the train. It ended up getting stuck at Oregon City for about an hour and finally arrived about an hour behind schedule. I quickly found my seat and settled into Car 9 Seat 17.
Mostly I just sat and relaxed on the trip taking tons of pictures of the winter wonderland that was passing outside of my windows. At the Puget Sound I smelled smoke and then we stopped as we broke down for about fifteen minutes. At least it was a great place to look out the window. I met Charlie at King Street Station and he took me on a lovely tour of the city by Street Car to a bar named Charlie's which reminded me of Cheers of Boston. Thank you again for picking up the tab on that. Then we rode the Monorail and seen a few of Seattle's many sights. I definitely need to make another trip up there to see it all. Thank you for being such a great host Charlie. All too soon it was time to get back to the Amtrak Station to board No. 509 which I was in business class.
On the train I met Julia who was in the seat pair with me who was the most lovely, intelligent, sweet, caring, kind, well spoken, etc..... girl that I have ever met. We hit it off right off the bat and talked the entire way into Portland where we arrived late and I don't think we cared about that. We decided around Vancouver that we didn't want to stop talking so we decided to walk to Portland City Grill to have dinner which ended up being closed due to snow. So then we walked around downtown Portland for about an hour looking for a place that was open till we settled on an Irish Pub.
We hit it off again so well that when we looked at our watch it was 1247 and the TriMet Normally shuts down at 1 AM with the last train departing its respective end points. And I didn't want to leave a beautiful young lady on the street seeing it is one way service on the streets we walked a few blocks to where both directions stop side by side again. And we waited and waited and no train. Then as we got cold we decided to walk further down the line towards her place where hopefully we would find a train that would let us get warm. But no avail so we called an Uber. The Uber driver asked how long we had been dating and he thought it had been three years. Try more like a few hours. After she was dropped off at her apartment I had him play on the radio the Cure Friday I'm in love as it was now Friday.
Well Tom had planned on showing me the Columbia River Gorge seeing that I had never been out that way before. So we got started early as we had to be back in Portland by 3 to have a private tour of the rail museum as they were closed due to snow but made an exception for an out of town worker to come in. So we drove out to Hood River photographing several trains in tons of snow in the Gorge. Including the Baby Builder on the BN side. At Hood River we saw that the Mt. Hood Railroad had a freight ready to go so we actually ended up chasing it to Milepost eight on their line. We had a quick lunch at the local McDonalds. And because we were railfaning alongside roads with a 40+ speed limit I had my railroad safety get on plus an AAR Radio that Tom has for his trips on my safety vest so I looked like a railroader in the Gorge.
We drove back into Portland and had our private tour of the facility. Where I toured my equipment I would be working, and other stuff they have on the grounds. That was a short visit and I had Tom drive me back to Union Station so I could take the Max to visit Julia again. She asked if I would come to her dinner break which was only thirty minutes and she moved her 15 minute break adjacent to it so she would get 45 minutes. So I was fiddling with the TVM machine to buy my ticket and the train I needed to take pulled out right as I got my ticket printed. And it was the last for thirty minutes and I was not going to be late to see her. So I ran from Union Station to Lloyd Center about 1.7 Miles according to google uphill in the Snow and Ice to be ontime for her. And I was on time no thanks to the Maxx. We had a lovely dinner in her work place's cafeteria where I had a lovely chocolate chip snickerdoodle cookie. And we talked for awhile. And we decided to go on another date that same evening. So to kill time I rode the Max to Beaverton to watch WES trains and then we had another dinner of decent size before Tom picked me up and him and I chased the Portland and Western Railroad. Our chase was about twenty miles of the most confusing railroading I've ever seen. I never knew quite which way we were going.
But the line is amazing hills, bridges, street running, and all after dark made for some interesting photography. And our last spot was creepy we could see the train five miles out. And as it illuminated our area I saw that we were right next to a grave yard after midnight.
Well I woke up early to work the Holiday Train and what a blast that was. I car hosted for the first time in ten years normally I'm a paid operations and logistics person. Sometimes compliance as well but I car hosted this trip as that is all they had open. So I was assigned the Plum Creek once and my normal show was to sing a song, then take family pictures, and sing another song, talk to the guests, then time to send them on there way turn and bring on a new batch. Each day had ten trains. I always asked about where people thought I was from, and I got Minnisnowta, Wisconsin, Iowa, Ohio, Illinois, New Jersey, but never my home state of South Carolina.
And of course in conversation Julia came up and people wished me luck with her. It was a great day I ended up working in three of the five cars of the train. And I was super tired by the end of it. Great day with great people doing an amazing event.
I woke up early again to work the Holiday Train and fly home. Julia previously before she knew I was working this train was saying she wanted to ride it but it was sold out. So me ever being the showman told her to come on out and that I would sneak her on via the side door. Then I told the person in charge of the train that and he was ok with it, and had his boarding team turn their backs to the side door I was using to sneak her on. So I snuck her on after walking a mile during lunch break to guide her in and missing lunch. And she got to ride the train for free with permission "even though she didn't know that." And she had a lovely time on the train and I eventually snuck her best friend Melissa on as well. The crew offered me a cab ride in the locomotive for the five o clock train and I offered that instead to Julia instead of me. And they still mandated that I take it, but I took her with me to the cab. You know someone is special if I offer them my cab ride on the most beautiful locomotive in the world to them.
Either way I end up riding in the cab as it was mandated and she was with me. And she got to see how child like that I can be at times. And it was an incredible experience in the cab and really lovely having her up there with me. I'm sorry I didn't take better notes about the cab ride which is the part most of you would be interested in the most I was kinda distracted. And trash talking the runners on the trail next to us who couldn't keep up. Then after that she went back to do some shopping and I went back to work in the coaches. And I was feeling great in the coaches doing my job. Even after I was singing Jingle Bells with my normal dance like feet moves and jumping when I landed on my back but kept the pitch, note, and rhythm of the song going and jumped right back up.
Then Julia texted me asking if I would meet her on the platform at 8 before the last train and of course I said yes. She had her friend drive her back out as she doesn't have a car herself and replies only on mass transit. She was waiting on the platform with a small christmas gift for me a slide of my favorite class of locomotive (Berkshire) on the Richmond and Washington Line (RF&P). Which was so incredibly thoughtful because she had only heard me mention that was my favorite engine once before on Thursday. And she wanted me to have something to remember her from before my flight as I was flying out that same night at 1120. And she was so concerned that I skipped my lunch to walk her in she brought me an amazing soup so I could have dinner. So I spent half my last run trying to get bits of soup and keep my show going. And I had the show go on perfectly even with that.
Another car host drove me to the airport and I had another bigger dinner before security which was ok, a bit overpriced but nice. I went behind security, and caught my flight for Chicago. I was so sick feeling from not drinking that entire day or eating much I spent most of the flight standing in the galley with the stewardesses talking especially because I will be a steward effective JAN 31 myself. And they kept giving me water. Even with the bad turbulence I stood back there till it was getting to a really bad level, train legs work on a plane. I must have drank 20 glasses of water in an hour. Which did help me feel better. I had an hour connection in the massive ORD airport in Chicago where I charged my phone and relaxed some but didn't get food. Then I flew on a very small plane with only 12 rows back to my home state. Where I fell asleep with a neighbor and woke up without one then took over his seat and slept some more.
My dad picked me up from the airport and I had to deal with him griping about traffic for two hours. And him asking questions that a half awake person can't really handle mostly about who Julia was. Lets just say after my mother found out about that on Thursday I had a three hour phone call about Julia and how she was as a person. Which was ok.
I arrived back home and had lunch with my mother, and then I fell asleep for the day. And then I called Julia after I woke up and we talked for an hour.
Now who do you think I love her or the locomotive. I think you know the answer. Be looking in the next week or two for our Amtrak charter in the spring time in the northeast. Photos to be posted with this in about ten minutes.