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19,000kms zig-zagging across the USA and Canada, April/May 2018

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More good stuff as you roll through Texas!

Did you get off in my hometown of Austin, or was the stop too brief?

 

Looking forward to the next Chapter as you roll across the Desert along the Mexican Border!

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More good stuff as you roll through Texas!

Did you get off in my hometown of Austin, or was the stop too brief?

Looking forward to the next Chapter as you roll across the Desert along the Mexican Border!

We were so far behind schedule that the Austin stop was super short. I would have liked to stand on your soil, but it wasn’t to be :-(

 

I don’t even know if they slowed to a stop - they might have exchanged the passengers on the go like the old-style mail trains :-)

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Oooh, Mexico! Best shot is several minutes AFTER you leave El Paso, so don't relax thinking it's over. You will go out of El Paso looking over a freeway and the Rio Grande River, with the Mexican side seemingly a long way off (good views if you have a long lens and a clear window). Then you will cross the Rio Grande (which is at that point the boundary between Texas and New Mexico), and a big hill will be on your left. Sometimes there are border agents in official vehicles parked or driving alongside. After the hill, you'll get a real close-up of a small neighborhood across the fence. It will only last a minute, but it is the best close-up view.

 

post-4795-0-49393600-1525031705_thumb.jpg

 

post-4795-0-78502500-1525031637_thumb.jpg

 

These photos are five years old, but I am sure it hasn't changed.

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Oooh, Mexico! Best shot is several minutes AFTER you leave El Paso, so don't relax thinking it's over. You will go out of El Paso looking over a freeway and the Rio Grande River, with the Mexican side seemingly a long way off (good views if you have a long lens and a clear window). Then you will cross the Rio Grande (which is at that point the boundary between Texas and New Mexico), and a big hill will be on your left. Sometimes there are border agents in official vehicles parked or driving alongside. After the hill, you'll get a real close-up of a small neighborhood across the fence. It will only last a minute, but it is the best close-up view.

 

(fab pix snipped - thankyou for them!)

 

These photos are five years old, but I am sure it hasn't changed.

Stand by!

 

It was a fascinating area. My photo gear is not even basic as I really prefer to look through the wide angle of my eyes, but I caught something in my camera, no worries!

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CHI to LAX Train 421 (Part Four) 29 April

 

I discovered mid-morning that Dianne was really Dianna. We’d met up again with daughter Abby and in the course of our conversation I’d mentioned that I had connectivity.

 

She was surprised because she hadn’t and was trying to re-arrange an Amtrak booking. I asked he what her carrier was and she replied Verizon. Hah!, I thought, I was forewarned through this forum that Verizon wouldn’t have the coverage that I had with the forum-recommended carrier I was with, so I offered to lend her my tablet enabling her to sort things out.

 

Then she couldn’t work how to log out from the app, and nor could I, so rather than have her details remain on my machine, I said I’d delete the app there and then in front of her, and reinstall it when I’m in the LA station courtesy of Amtrak’s bandwidth.

 

As we were doing this, we passed through Marfa, the setting of one of controversial director Ken Park’s films about disaffected and disengaged youth. It’s a great movie and I was super pleased when I saw where we were. I can imagine a young person’s life there and why it might have been the basis of the fictional story in the film Marfa Girl.

 

SCA Armando had arranged bookings for midday and evening mealtimes and I asked him if they were for the same clock-times as we were currently observing. He told me they would be.

 

Not long after, a catering announcement was made that the dining car was observing the next time-zone already, even though we were not formally to enter it for some many kilometres yet.

 

So it meant that I had a wee bit longer to contemplate how good the mussels might be.

 

We passed through country which was quite familiar to me. A fair bit of central Australia looks similar. If you exclude geo-specific infrastructure like power poles and the like, you could be transported from one place to the other and not note much difference, save for the shade of the soil. We are a bit more red, you are a bit more light-brown.

 

You have a twin in parts of South Australia, north of Port Augusta.

 

When it was mussels time, I went to the diner to see the familiar figure of James sitting solo, and LSA Debbie motioned for me to sit with him. Shortly afterwards we were joined by Nancy and then Ray. We four were all travelling solo.

 

James was more conversational this time. It would have been hard for him not to be because Nancy, Ray, and I could all talk the back leg off a horse. James had slept through the San Antonio car-switching and so not left the train. He was a bit miffed when he heard about the chance to experience the fiesta and Riverwalk.

 

Nancy was returning home to Tuscon after spending time with rellos in Corpus Christie. She is retired but still active as a volunteer with Weight Watchers although she herself was well within recommended BMI levels. I only mention this because she rold me that WW has a policy of only accepting as colunteers those who have themselves gone through the program, and she had at one point been well over recommended weight.

 

She was travelling coach, unlike her three table companions who were obviously made of weaker stuff than she.

 

She also provided some context to the big event the previous evening in San Antonio. She said she thinks it was something to do with the Alamo.

 

I’d bumped into Ray just a short time before as he passed by me heading to the shower. We’d introduced each other and it was clear he’d be an entertaining fellow to dine with, so I was pleased when he appeared at the doorway and Debbie directed him to complete our table.

 

Ray was an ex-military flyer and had boarded the train at Del Rio at stupid o’clock. He’d been a navigator, and had served in a couple of air bases in Oz: one near Perth in WA, the other in Queensland.

 

Ray was heading to LA to fly to Singapore, and then to Japan, so he had the better part of his journey in front of him.

 

We had a pretty decent cross-table discussion over our meals, and Debbie was commendably on the ball, cheerful and efficient, despite this being the fifth day of her six-day roster.

 

As the only member of the paid workforce represented at the table, we each thanked James for earning the income to pay the taxes which would keep us in the style to which we had become accustomed. He took it in good spirits, but was out of there as soon as he’d knocked off his dessert.

 

Nancy, Ray, and I continued our gas-bagging a wee while longer before we arrived in El Paso. It was then time to have a good look around this fascinating border region, cameras cocked and ready.

 

The El Paso stop was relatively brief, and I decided to go to the observation sight-seer car for the next section of the trip. I’d not sampled that before, thinking that it might be a bit hard to get a seat, and my roomette provided a decent enough view for me. But the re-configured train from its San Antonio stop had our sleeper at the rear, and required us to travel through the SSC to the diner.

 

It was on that journey I’d seen that the SSC was only sparsely occupied, so I decided to give it a burl.

 

It was very good.

 

I think I’ll do it again.

 

We crossed the Rio Grande (I’m confident I correctly identified this river) into New Mexico and followed the snaking border fence for a few kilometres as we climbed to the plateau.

 

Then an astonishing bit of railway infrastructure - no sooner had we reached the flat, the tracks opened out to be about ten across, with well-marked pathways between, and massive fuel and water feeding stations at their start and finish. It went for what seemed like three kms or so, beautifully neat and clean, and laid out as if I were running a fiddle yard for a model railway - dead straight parallel tracks, closely aligned - just a beautiful piece of functional design.

 

We crept through it, so there was plenty of time to rubber-neck.

 

I think this was at Strauss in eastern New Mexico.

 

There’s an Australian artist whose work is based around such industrial and infrastructre architecture - Jeffrey Smart - and I really enjoy his pictures. In fact, I have a print of one which depicts some wagons in a mixed-goods cargo train. It hangs above my computer in my study at home. I flashed to that without thinking, and it brought me up with a start.

 

If you have a chance, check out his work. You’ll either really like it, or it will leave you unmoved and scratching your head as to why he or anyone else finds art in that.

 

It’s mid-afternoon, and I’m going to wrap it up here with an evening and a night to go, and catch up the remainder of this trip once I’m in Sacramento after a ride on part of the Coastal Starlight’s run tomorrow.

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Marfa Girl https://www.imdb.com/title/tt2168854/?ref_=nv_sr_1

 

Jeffrey Smart https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jeffrey_Smart

 

If you search for Jeffrey Smart then select Images, youll get a good sample

 

A Sunday football game across the border at El Paso post-14273-0-63545100-1525039893_thumb.jpeg

 

Crossing the Rio Grande post-14273-0-00283200-1525039805_thumb.jpeg

 

The snaking border fence (with a bit of a gap) post-14273-0-91497100-1525040000_thumb.jpeg

 

The Strauss refuelling area (west end) post-14273-0-97554700-1525040091_thumb.jpeg

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Nice photos. Well, they have changed the border fence a bit -- it looks like they built the ground up so the fence sits higher, and you don't get as good a view of Mexico as before. I am sure they have motion sensors trained on that gap...

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Glad you seem to be having a great trip!

 

Ahh, the real deal - an overnighter! And with a diner, although who knows for how much longer. As AU had forewarned me of this perfidy, I was unsurprised when later that day, LSA Nathan approached our table at the end of our meal to tell us of the possibility of the diner being removed, and exhorting us to join the campaign to save it.

The removal of the diner on the Capitol Limited has (sadly) been confirmed, with some extensive discussion about it here.

 

Some important bullet points are that the diner will be removed on June 1, replaced by cold, prepackaged and ready to eat meals, served in what was once a dining car, but is now a "sleeper lounge". Enjoy the diners while you can.

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It is now breakfast, wake-up, and head to work time in Sacamento on Tuesday morning 1 May.

 

I’ll have my May Day march as a solo venture around Sacramento today, but first I have to bring us from where I left us somewhere in New Mexico.

 

CHI to LAX Train 421(Part Four) 30 April

 

Monday 30 April was going to a bit of a long one, as I had booked myself for the 14 hour run LAX to SAC on the Coastal Starlight, so factored in to how I thought I should best manage things for the rest of Sunday 29 April.

 

I also considered the possibility I could rearrange some of my packing, leave a bag at the SAC station baggage-area and so not have the 500 metre walk after midnight through the unfamiliar streets of Sacramento from the station to my digs as an obvious solo traveller. I did that to keep options open, aiming that if I did so, I’d reclaim the stored bags in daylight business hours when there were likely more bods around, and I could walk like I knew I was going.

 

In the afternoon of that penultimate day we were in Arizona and passed through some lovely meandering track as the train made its way through some deep eroded gullies east of Benson. Some old track alignments came into view periodically, and I reckon the surveyors and engineers would have enjoyed the mental tussle of how to get the track properly set.

 

Diana (I finally got the spelling right) had told me that she’d seen her first saguaro cactus of the trip, something she was happy about as she’d spent some time in Arizona. I’d mentioned I’d noticed a tall plant with small red flowers at the tips and asked if she could identify it. She said they were ocotillo. I’d spotted them at the tops of the gullies, rather than in the more sheltered and wetter gullies, so they must be quite hardy.

 

They caught my eye because they are similar at first glance to the (mostly) WA Kangaroo Paw dry country plant.

 

We were also on the lookout for the aeroplane graveyard around here which Diana mentioned she’d often see from her car, but it proved to be in a slightly different part of the state. There was one small one which we could see out the north side of the train which was good enough as a proxy.

 

We arrived at Tuscon and I went for a bit of a wander up the front to check whether we were still attached to locos #151 leading #131, or whether things had changed at San Antonio.

 

There was a refuelling operation going on, and I was able to identify that the engines had been changed as I suspected, and that our power was now coming from locos #165 led by #192.

 

Ray and I had synchronised watches to catch up at a table again for an evening meal and then he ducked downstairs to wash up just as we were about to set off on the forwards journey to the diner, and then not reappear.

 

After a brief moment, I decided I’d slowly walk to the dining car. Our sleeper was now the last carriage, so the journey took a time, but Ray still did not reappear behind me and I thought there’s a chance we’d therefore be separately seated, given the seat-lotto regime in place in the diner. The walk was easy, as we were still stationary at Tuscon.

 

I opened the diner door, and there he was, already seated solo. It then dawned on me that he’d left the sleeper and walked along the platform for a fresh-air pre-prandial amble.

 

I wish I’d thought of it myself.

 

Anyway, we were soon joined by Shirley, who was making her way back home to Bakersfield, to join he 80+ yo mum after spending the previous seven years in Plano in Texas as a care-giver. She said it was time, as her husband had died recently, and she thought it was good to be around for her mum.

 

I asked if she thought it appropriate that we toast her spouse’s memory when our drinks arrived. She was taken with the idea and quickly agreed, a little touched I think.

 

So we did. I reckon it’s always a good thing for mates to celebrate the memory of a good friend gone, not in a maudlin way, but with gratefulness that we were able to share good and/or tough times together, celebrate the miracle of that, and be the better for it, despite missing their presence.

 

Shirley presumed Ray and I were old friends of many years’ acquaintance, such was the relationship and conversation between us. Ray replied that we’d only met about twelve hours before, but I told Shirley that Ray was pulling her leg and that we’d been mates for at least ten years.

 

I then asked Shirley to decide who was telling her fibs, Ray or me, and suggested we should each make our case and let Shirley work out the truth.

 

Ray rold the truth: that we had just met on the train, that he had boarded at Del Rio and had never before clapped eyes on me.

 

I spun a yarn about how we had met a decade before, had worked together since then, and as evidence of the legitimacy of my claims, told Shirley a little of Ray’s back story, all based on what Ray had told me at previous meal-times.

 

We then asked Shirley’s decision.

 

She said my story was real and that it was clear we had been long-time acquaintances.

 

Which only goes to show that lies are usually much more convincing than the truth - a view I’ve held about politics and the commercial world for about fifty years. When it’s done for fun, it’s a hoot. When it’s done for real, it’s a very bad thing.

 

Our table trio got on so well, and I ate at the pace of an Aussie, negating their more north American plate-clearing skills, and our cross-table conversation was so expansive, that eventually Debbie turfed us out and we called it a night.

 

Ray kindly invited me to share some smuggled wine in his cabin, but I politely declined, as tomorrow was a horribly early start, and then I had another fourteen hours on wheels ahead of that. I also mentioned I wanted to rearrange my worldy travel possessions to give me the widest options for the post-Sacramento section. Were it any other night, I’d have been in like Flynn.

 

Packing sorted, shower had, zen wind-down protocol in place, I got horizontal for the last time on the Texas Eagle, in preparation for de-boarding at silly-o’clock.

 

I awoke just before the knock at the door from Armando, around 0315h, just before Pomona, and saw that we were now well ahead of schedule. I commandeered the vacant roomette opposite as my dressing room and luggage-staging area, then awaited arrival and disgorgement, rather in the manner of an 18th century French nobleman with the guillotine in prospect.

 

We pulled up at the platform about 0430h, then I along with Ray and Diana (with Abby as a new recruit), reclaimed our radical youth and staged a sit-in on the train until the lounge opened at 0500h.

 

That accomplished, our bags stashed, a farewell made to Ray on his way to Japan by way of Singapore, Diana, Abby, and I braved the cool morning air in search of Philippe’s.

 

Philippe’s found, breakast ordered and consumed, I said my goodbyes to Diana and Abby, then went off for an explore in the work-day awakening LA downtown, hoping to be able successfully to navigate myself back to the station in a couple of hours for my next ride.

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Another nice chapter and pics of your journey, thanks for sharing!

 

And FYI, it's OK to consume your own Adult Beverages in your Room in the Sleepers, but only Alcohol bought on the Train can be consumed in Coaches, Lounges and the Diner.

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Another nice chapter and pics of your journey, thanks for sharing!

And FYI, it's OK to consume your own Adult Beverages in your Room in the Sleepers, but only Alcohol bought on the Train can be consumed in Coaches, Lounges and the Diner.

I have now made a note of that :-)

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Train #14 Monday 30 April

 

After a great walk around parts of LA city at workday wake-up time, during which time I picked up some items for the backpack, I made it back to the station in time to board the Coastal Starlight for the 14hr run to Sacramento.

 

I have a sorta decent sense of direction, and when exploring a new area on foot I always operate on the basis that one can never be lost if one is not trying to go somewhere in particular. I was just on the wander, with a sorta idea about which direction I needed to go to get back to the station.

 

It was the start of a working day, so I did felt neither conspicuous nor vulnerable, while on my exploration.

 

But one thing always catches me out when I leave my half of the world. For me, living south of the Tropic of Capricorn, the sun is always in the northern sky. For all residents of the USA (except for those in Hawaii) the sun is always in the southern sky.

 

I’ve found myself heading in exactly the opposite direction because of this, so have to think and rethink which direction I’m walking in when I do definitely want to head somewhere particular.

 

But I successfully made it back with enough time to attend to some ablutions in the Lounge, collect my bags, and roll to the relevant platform in time to board and find a suitable seat.

 

I had a different strategy today than on the previous trains. To counteract the overeating I’d subjected myself to on the previous rides, despite dropping one of the three meals each day, I decided Philippe’s breakfast was going to do me for the day.

 

Additionally, because of the unpleasant time of de-boarding at SAC, I was not going to be looking for fellow passengers to have a natter with, and intended mostly to zen out in my seat. I was also not going to deploy my gadgets, using only a tablet and a little camera.

 

I had a west-facing seat, and in the first row, so in exchange for not having an unneeded table, I had no chair in front to obscure the two windows available to me. I thought I that was a good deal.

 

Luggage stowed, USA to Oz power-plug deployed, I hunkered down and took the mindset of taking an international flight, but without the flight attendants bringing me things to eat and drink.

 

I enjoyed the climb out of LA through the twists and turns and tunnels of the climb to Simi Valley station.

 

The USA side of the Pacific Ocean appeared after a little while, so I Iooked across in the direction of home and my non-traveller partner Niki. The view was a bit hazy, and the islands off the coast were barely visible. There were a number of oil rigs in the distance, at one point, a line of seven of them.

 

Shortly afterwards, I had cause to thank the citizens of California for being excellent hosts and making me feel at home by populating the landscape with Eucalypts. There were two species I recognised: the Blue Gum, and the Stringybark. If possible, I would have liked to have a sniff, and perhaps crush a couple of leaves for a smell of home.

 

[An aside: a long time ago, I was on a mixture of private time and work time on an eight-month break from Oz, during which time I went around the world. One of the organised work times was when I spent a couple of days in Spain’s Donana National Park (there’s a tilde above the first n in Donana of course, but I can’t work out how to find it on this keypad). I was being driven around by one of the Rangers when suddenly we came upon a stand of Eucalypts and she was kind enough to let me to bring a bunch of leaves into the vehicle to stave of homesickness.]

 

The appearance of the gums animated me a touch, so I went in search of the rearmost carriage in an attempt to see the front of the train on some of the sharp curves we were undertaking, and to find out if the rear window was clean enough for some pix.

 

It was then I discovered that we had a private car attached. There was an Amtrak official in the last seat of the last car, and she spotted I was taking pix in the space behind the back row and engaged with me. I asked about the private car and she confirmed it was, and she said it was the Zephyr private car. It was a domed vehicle, and there were pax taking in the view from there.

 

I decided to risk the sight-seeing car and got prepared to get out of my bubble a bit. I saw a party of three in a central six-seats section and asked if the single was free. It ceartainly looked as if it were. The bloke of the party waved his hands, and in one of the Slavic languages I couldn’t further identify, indicated that his party was not complete and that the seat was actually occupied by someone temporarily absent.

 

I said “No worries, when your fourth, fifth, and sixth members turn up, I will happily vacate it”, and sat down. He shrugged his shoulders, likely in recognition that his bluff had been called.

 

I spotted we had now climbed to the top of the rise, and to the train’s west there appeared to be an abandoned isolated air force or other military base. I suspect it was of WWII vintage. It had various rail lines running in and out of it, now in obvious disrepair. There were the type of bunkers here and there which looked like the type of structure in which armaments or explosives are held. I can imagine it would have been a hive of isolated activity when operational, but seems now to sit idle.

 

Shortly afterwards, there was a large sulphur-producing plant on view, still functioning.

 

Two of my Slavic-speaking neighbours gave it away, leaving just the bloke who sought to wave me away holding fort in valiant defence of his six-seat balliwick. Not long afterwards, even he gave up holding the territory as a lost cause.

 

My recollection is that we hit our first serious agricultural area not long after that as we lost altitude to the San Luis Obispo station where there was a shirt break. I decided to head up along the platform to the power end to check our loco numbers. On the way, I saw some train staff unloading what appeared to be a wrecked crossing barrier from the baggage car to a small platform vehicle. I thought there had to be a story behind that.

 

I successfully got my loco shots and returned to my seat in the SSL, ready for the climb from there to Paso Robles and the ensuing twists and turns as it gained altitude over a short distance.

 

Two women, who told me they were headed to San Jose on a trip they would otherwise take by car, then occupied a couple of the seats. They pointed out the Highway 101 well below us which they’d have been on, and described how its earlier and narrower version was locally known as Dead Man’s Pass, such was its traffic risk.

 

The pair left and then a bloke I’d heard in conversation with some others behind me took one of the seats in that group of six. I’d already come to the conclusion that he was a good conversationalist and so introduced myself. His name was Scott and he was on a long holiday by train to a rainforest in Oregon after travelling from his home south of Chicago to LA on the SWC, and thence to Oregon on the CS.

 

He was a worker in the John Deere plant and he had the ability to take a long period of absence annually around this time of year which he filled in by travelling and engaging in other more active pursuits. These two train trips were his first, and he was enjoying things on rails.

 

As we were then in serious, industrial-strength, agricultural farmlands, we took the opportunity to go John Deere spotting. Their green and yellow colour-scheme makes them easily visible, and he saluted each one for keeping him in employment.

 

As I was reviewing the shots I took at SLO, I saw that I had captured a woman, clearly and identifiably, who I saw was also now our companion in the group of six seats. Scott agreed it was she. I approached her to show her what I had captured, indicated I would delete it if she sought it, but that now I had the opportunity to ask her, wanted to request her permission to keep it. She asked me if I intended to publish it, and after hearing I would do so, but likely only on my social media, she gave me approval.

 

I took my leave from the party, and made my way back to my seat which I intended to remain in for the balance of the trip.

 

By now, the sky was darkening, and we were approaching San Jose. I took a short moment out of the train to capture the station name. I saw, as we slowed into the station, that many platforms had the station name and track number displayed and hoped I could then run a visual joke based on Dionne Warwick’s famous song and the track number on the LP on which it appeared.

 

Alas! The station name and track number displays were for the suburban service, and we had pulled in on a numberless and nameless track right by the station building. I now formally hand over responsibility to capture and publish that visual joke to another AU member with access to the station, and the LP.

 

As darkness fell, we crossed into the Oakland and Emeryville stations with the huge docklands between, before leaving the city lights and the last stretch.

 

The car attendant tapped me on the shoulder as we neared Sacramento, not too far behind time, and I gathered my possessions and departed the train.

 

I decided I would walk all my belongings to my new digs - it wasn’t a great distance and I figured I could easily navigate myself.

 

I arrived unscathed, and soon went horizontal again.

 

Train #14 was pulled by loco #79 and led by loco #171.

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Niki is across this water post-14273-0-92456800-1525234209_thumb.jpeg

 

The private car attached to the CS identified as the Zephyr by the Amtrak official on the train post-14273-0-15062200-1525234352_thumb.jpeg

 

Awaiting the train at SLO. OK, she wasnt awaiting the train, she was ON the train, its just the name of my composition :-) post-14273-0-03808000-1525234514_thumb.jpeg

 

The locos take a break at SLO post-14273-0-58801100-1525235095_thumb.jpeg

 

Whats the story? post-14273-0-64455900-1525235243_thumb.jpeg

 

Looking down on Hwy 101 post-14273-0-43152300-1525234739_thumb.jpeg

 

Ag lands abuts forest, including a stand of Eucalypts post-14273-0-61908600-1525234805_thumb.jpeg

 

Loco #171 has had a tough life post-14273-0-38145000-1525235547_thumb.jpeg

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Many thanks to the fab suggestioneers on SU who proposed that Sacramento visitors head to the Califonian Railway Museum.

 

I did precisely that today, International Day of the Worker, and spent a few hours having a good look at things. I had a go on the driver simulation, but pulled up a foot short. The bloke managing things said I’d get hired on that showing.

 

I then made a quick trip to the Capitol Building in time to take a one-hour tour as it gave me the opportunity to see close up your system of government and compare it to the one I have as a Victorian. Thankyou Clem.

 

After that, I dropped in to the Amtrak station to sort out the best way I can get to and from Stockton, as part of the way to see another rello for a couple of days. The station agent was right on the ball, and issued me with something right on the money to get me back to SAC in time to catch Train #6 on Friday.

 

In response to my query, he also advised me I could leave a bag in his tender care to save me schlepping it to and from Stockton as long as it contained no electrical items or other dangerous gear, for a mere ten dollars. That seemed like a fair deal.

 

The Rail Museum ticket-seller had earlier advised me I could re-enter same day with my original purchase, so I had time to return there for a look at some bits I’d not seen on visit one.

 

I caught the very interesting film, but have a little comment about two sections of it which occur so close together I could not escape them.

 

In a scene showing how the railway brought news quickly across the world and into peoples’ homes, a bunch of newspapers was seen being thrown off a train and into the hands of the recipient. Then we close in on the headline. It reads “Britons Thwarted at Gallipoli”.

 

There are thousands of Australians and Kiwi dead buried there as a result of this failed WWI misadventure, and thousands more who brought their injuries back with them. I also have sympathy for my Irish friends’ likely chagrin at this, although, to be fair, the Irish had not yet won their legal independence.

 

It’s not the museum’s fault. It’s not the Railway’s fault. It’s not the newspaper’s fault. It’s the film producers’ as that shot was surely not taken from footage of the era.

 

But it’s grating never the less.

 

Only a few seconds later, again to illustrate how well the railways manage the distribution of goods, a single sulphur-crested cockatoo, a magnificent member of the parrot family which lives for more than eighty years, and in flocks of hundreds, gregarious beasts that they are, is passed over in a tiny cage that likely will be its home for the next several decades, to a smiling woman.

 

I cheered myself up by going to the model railway exhibits, and having a look at the narow-gauge train displayed on the top floor.

 

But caging cockies? And so far from home? Grrrrrrrrr!

 

I’ll next post in relation to my trip on the Californian Zephyr, which starts on Friday morning. So likely sometime Saturday 5 May.

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(pic snipped)

 

 

What's that of? Sorry if I missed something.
It was more a composition - a detail of the driving mechanism of a huge loco. Me being arty :-)

 

The full pic of the loco is below.

 

It was a magnificent monster - an oil driven steam engine, with two sets of driving wheels operating out of the same cylinders, but so long as to be articulated.

 

And the design was clever as well. It was a forward cab, so the loco driver and fireman didnt suffer from obscured vision, nor get suffocated in the long tunnels on the line the loco was designed to work.post-14273-0-46586800-1525303908_thumb.jpeg

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(pic snipped)

 

What's that of? Sorry if I missed something.
It was more a composition - a detail of the driving mechanism of a huge loco. Me being arty :-)

 

The full pic of the loco is below.

 

It was a magnificent monster - an oil driven steam engine, with two sets of driving wheels operating out of the same cylinders, but so long as to be articulated.

 

And the design was clever as well. It was a forward cab, so the loco driver and fireman didnt suffer from obscured vision, nor get suffocated in the long tunnels on the line the loco was designed to work.attachicon.gif4358ACE1-96D0-42D4-987E-CFF4422297EA.jpeg

 

Wow! That is one crazy looking (and beautiful) thing. Ah, the days when designers could run wild with the coolest design, and weren't bogged down with what was practical or aerodynamic...

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I am very much enjoying your wit and superb commentary on your journey...please keep up the good work! :)

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SAC to CHI Train 6 (Part One) 4 May

 

After a little break in Sacramento having a sqizz at the city, with special attention to the magnificent Californian State Railway Museum and the Capitol, then a few days with my cousin in a small township near Stockton, it was time to recommence the travels.

 

My cousin had taken me to the small foothills settlement of Murphys where we visited a place which did tastings of olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and wine. By chance, we had selected a winery begun by a Kiwi/Oz doctor. When Kaitlin, behind the bar, discovered I was an Aussie, what was a great welcome got even bigger. The samples came out, the tasting fees were waived, and we had a very conversational hour there.

 

The wines were exactly to my taste, as Kaitlin expected, being mostly Shiraz and Cab Sav, big-bodied, dark wines.

 

They were very good, already smooth despite being only a couple of years old. They would be fab in a few more years if you could discipline yourself not to crack them open.

 

The olive oils and balsamics were also marvellous and we had a good sampling of them.

 

My cousin had been taken by the Voignier, a while variety they grow, so I bought a couple of wines, and a bottle each of her preferred oil and balsamic to thank her for taking me there.

 

So it was with mixed feelings I headed towards the tracks again. Those wines were wonderful, and I could have stayed in Murphys for a while, no trouble.

 

Stockton’s STK station is in an unprepossessing part of town and had a scary reputation as far as my cuz was concerned, so I encouraged her just to drop me off and not hang about to wave me goodbye. She didn’t take much convincing.

 

That turned out to be doubly-good advice. The Thruway bus’s departure was delayed an hour because the 711 train from Bakersfield to the Bay area was delayed.

 

It gave me a chance to have a look around at this old Santa Fe station, which has clearly seen better days.

 

I got into a conversation with Ryan, a bloke in a wheelchair, who - like me - was enjoying the early morning sunshine. He told me he was originally from New Orleans, but had left as a child for LA and then to the Bay Area. He was returning there after spending a few days with his daughter in Stockton.

 

After I’d mentioned my Scottish origins, he told me he really liked the film Braveheart about William Wallace and the battles between the Scots and the English of that era. He asked me if the story was true, and I replied that William Wallace definitely was real, as were the many battles between the valiant Scots and the perfidious English.

 

I mentioned there’s a famous statue of and memorial to William Wallace you can see from every passing ScotRail train near Stirling, the site of one of the many battles of those times.

 

That cheered up Ryan, no end. And whenever I think of the Battle of Bannockburn, I am likewise cheered - no offence to my Sassenach friends :-)

 

During the extended delay, I was also able to observe the comings and goings of station business. One station official, a young woman, especially caught my attention because of the calm and values-free way she dealt with the range of passengers she dealt with. One was a young woman who was very unsteady on her feet as she deboarded a bus, and who initially made a plaintive request for help with her bags.

 

A short time later, I saw the woman lying on the ground complaining of being unwell. The station attendant was already with her, obviously on the phone to the emergency services, and calmly sitting by her, on the ground.

 

Once the first-aiders had arrived, she dealt with loads other people’s issues. Many of those she interacted with seemed to have health and/or comprehension issues. She responded with patience and solicitude, even when the same question was asked of her repeatedly.

 

I could imagine someone working at a station like this one and with the demographic it served, could well have developed a less caring attitude, but she managed each issue which arose with a high degree of compassion. I never once saw the slightest evidence of exasperation.

 

Good on her, I thought. When I was finally able to board the bus at 0940h, she was close by it, and I mentioned to her that I had seen the way she went about her work and wanted to let her know that I was very impressed. I reckon when you see good public service work being done, you mention it.

 

The bus arrived, four or five passengers boarded, and we were off to Sacramento.

 

I’d seen via transitdocs that Train #6 was also delayed a bit, so there was no rush upon arriving at the station. I reclaimed my stashed bag, ambled to the platform, and guessed where my sleeper car would be.

 

I was one car off, and soon was welcomed aboard by Dariel who introduced himself, said I was his guest, and that he was to be known as ‘D’.

 

I settled in, plugged in everything I wanted plugged in, then got ready for the ride.

 

Train #6 is being pulled by loco # (I have to find out) led by loco #11.

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Stockdale Station (STK) platform entrance post-14273-0-57113100-1525496778_thumb.jpeg

 

Stockdale Starion (STK) street entrance post-14273-0-97373200-1525496819_thumb.jpeg

 

Sacramento Station from the distant platforms post-14273-0-01252400-1525496867_thumb.jpeg

 

I know its an honour to have something named after you, but if you want to name something after me, please dont make it a passageway post-14273-0-90311500-1525496956_thumb.jpeg

 

Lead Loco #11 leads Train #6 (4) into Sacramento Station post-14273-0-80163800-1525497076_thumb.jpeg

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I am very much enjoying your wit and superb commentary on your journey...please keep up the good work! :)

Thankyou very much railiner. I have today’s almost ready to go, but it’s late, and connectivity has been poor.

 

This post and the last two are courtesy of the fine folk of Elco :-)

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SAC to CHI Train #6 (Part 2) 4 May

 

Settled aboard, and a table issue sorted with the assistance of SCA D, I decided Id have another go of the mussels.

 

The dining car was right next door, so it was a very short run compared to my last days on the Texas Eagle.

 

I found myself seated with two other solos: Justin from the Bay Area, and Andrei, originally from Russia, but on his way to a new job in Reno after working for a few years at You Tube in the Bay Area.

 

We entered Colfax during our meal, then reversed out of Colfax, before returning again. Colfax - the town so good you enter it twice.

 

I didnt have my ears in, so I couldnt benefit from the comms which would explain things, but I let them get on with it anyway.

 

Justin was on his way to meet up with family members in New York.

 

Both he and Andrei were new to Amtrak dining procedures, so - old hand that I am - I guided them through the process. And I recommended the mussels and the raspberry tart.

 

Andrei went for the mussles, Justin for the tart, so I thought my job was complete.

 

We clinked our drinks in Russian (nastrovy) from memory, and Gaelic (slainte), in honour of our tables multicultural background.

 

Justin and I shared an interest in politics, and properly funding public services like trains, so we did well. We pulled Andreis leg about his electoral interference, and he went along with things, taking out his mobile and pretending to call Mr Putin.

 

Andrei had a PhD in mathematics. He was on his way to start an academic job in a Uni in Reno. So he was a bright fellow, and it would have been good to broaden my maths skills were he to have been on board for longer.

 

After a short restorative period back in roomette 6, I headed to the SSC for the view of the climb up the Donner Pass.

 

I asked a woman sitting in one of the notorious bank of six seats in 1-2-2-1 layout whether one of those in the nearby double was free, and she said yes, but her travelling partner would be back shortly.

 

So for the first section of the ascent I gazed out at the wonderful scenery before me. Im not that keen on viewing life through a small screen, so I didnt look at much it other than through my wide-angle eyes.

 

After a while, the womans companion arrived, and as the adjacent double-seater was vacant, I moved across.

 

There was a passenger in the single so I asked if those seats were taken and he replied they were free.

 

From that short exchange it was clear he was an Aussie, so I asked about what brought him here.

 

I generally dont seek out the company of other Aussies on my travels, and my accent is mixed-up enough not to be easily pinged as one myself, so its not that hard to go incognito if I feel like it. After all, Im surrounded by 25 million of them at home, so I feel little need to seek them out abroad :-)

 

I was well rewarded by blowing my cover. His name was Andrew. He now lives in Truckee, and he was returning home after a few days away at a conference in New Orleans. He is in the new media IT industry and can do his work remotely from Truckee, where he and his partner are bringing up their two young kids - one Aussie-born, the other in the USA.

 

He said its an ideal place to bring up his kids and it was obvious why.

 

He was originally from sheep country in western Victoria, not far from where I currently live. So its easy to see why his natural preference is for the country, rather than the city.

 

Although much of western Victorias flock is merino, for its fine wool, his familys farm was for the coarser and harder-wearing wool used in carpets, and for fat lambs: meat production.

 

He was returning from the airport on the train rather than driving as he usually did, and was very taken by it, even although he was tired. He was an excellent guide to what we were seeing, and so I pulled out my speed and altitude app, and the transitdocs site to help him orient himself. The transitdocs site also let him know how timekeeping was going, so he was able to call his partner and update her as to his likely arrival time.

 

We rode through tunnels, around tight curves, and well above the Highway 80 alignment for much of the ride.

 

He asked about the sleepers, so I described them and their various categories, and explained their layouts. He thought it would be a good family experience to go on an overnight train, and I think I bigged it up enough for him to convince him that itd be an excellent thing to do.

 

As we dropped into Truckee, we made our farewells, and he gave me his business card to keep in touch.

 

I then got into converstation with the occupants of the other side of the six. It was a couple, Ken and Carol. They were from Harrisburg, not far from where Id started my journey in Philadelphia.

 

They were making a long-desired trip now Ken had retired from his job. They started it by train from Harrisburg eventually to the Empire Builder west, then the south-bound Coastal Starlight, and now east on the California Zephyr.

 

He and Carol were entranced by what they were seeing, and proud they lived in a country with such landscape. So they should be, and long should it remain so.

 

We were soon in Reno, and then - in the blink of an eye - we were in the desert.

 

What had been mountains covered in tall conifers, with deep valleys, and patches of remaining snow, was now sand, dotted with short bunches of grass and bubbles of scrub. Not much looked higher than waist level, mostly it was knee height or lower. The farther east I went, the shorter it got.

 

A few kilometres back, it was country which - back in the day - would have taken days on foot to make progress of a few kilometres. You would have little idea which would be the best path because of the denseness of the forest, and steepness of the terrain. Now you could have travelled at trotting pace astride a horse with the whole landscape laid out before you, and navigation easy as a result.

 

And if I had to be a railway labourer in the 1860s, I think Id rather be assigned here than farther west.

 

Highway 80 was out my left-side window, and Fed Ex now did its best to make me feel at home, with several three-trailer trucks heading in the other direction, bringing to mind the road-trains which ply the desert runs across to Perth and up to Darwin in Oz.

 

Fellow road-users here have the benefit of a four-lane, dual-carriageway highway for ease of passing or overtaking. Overtaking one (or even having one pass by in the opposite direction) is a fraught matter on the single-carriageway undivided two-lane Stuart Highway or over the Nullabor in Oz.

 

I had a spot of R&R in my cabin, enjoying the passing scenery, and wondering when Id next get a nibble from my connectivity supplier. I gave it away after a while and conventrated on making some sense of my photos.

 

Around 1930h, I thought Id catch the last hour of the evening meal service. The car was full, and I was directed to the Lounge to await a call. I sat at a table at which another bloke was already sitting at and introduced myself. He said he was Mike.

 

Mile too was awaiting a table. We got to talking, and once he discovered I was a foreigner, asked me what an outsider made of the current USA political environment.

 

As a guest in anyones country, I never initiate such a discussion, or give a gratuitous assessment about how that country is run, or should be run. But I am always interested in having an open and invited discussion on just about anything. So Mike and I got to talking.

 

I havent yet had someone offer themselves as an out-and-out supporter of the current administration. Mike was from California and had an engineering background. The engineers Ive met are calm analysts, driven by facts over emotion, and I prefer to operate that way as well. So our conversation was quite wide-ranging, and of mutual interest, so we agreed that when called, wed go in as a pair to be sure wed be seated together to continue solving the worlds problems.

 

Mike was on his way to Salt Lake City. He wanted a break, and he wanted to hear a choir singing, but couldnt remember which choir it was. I asked if he was referring to The Mormon Tabernacle Choir, and he said he thought that was the one he was hoping to hear.

 

When we were called, things had quietened down. There were plenty of tables and we were seated together without asking. After a while, we were joined by Nora.

 

I have a friend in Melbourne who was Chilean-born, so a native Spanish speaker, but who is also deaf. The manner of Noras speaking reminded me of my Melbourne friend. Nora didnt make any specific reference to it, nor asked us to make any special considerations, but she had the facial animation and hand gestures of my friend, which I know is a feature of those who are hearing-impaired and who sign.

 

She moved her head to get as much a front-on view of our faces when we were speaking which I know can be unsettling if you dont know why. I figured she was supplementing her hearing by trying to lipread.

 

I know lip reading someone speaking with a different accent can be difficult. I met a profoundly deaf woman at an event I was at in Melbourne and just by lipreading she was able to work out I was not speaking with a traditional Aussie accent.

 

Nora was also going to Salt Lake City. She joined in the conversation when she worked out we were discussing international and political history. It was wideranging and direct, as we Aussies like it. There was no skirting around the issues, as Mike mentioned hed like to hear my view of how I think the USA is thought of in internationally. Mike was also interested to provide his take as a USA citizen about what he thinks the USAs attitude to the ROTW is and why.

 

It was a rancour-free and open discussion, one which we both enjoyed. As neither of us felt personally affronted by unvarnished accounts, we kept at it until the Dining Car crew eventually threw us out. Mike was a coach traveller, so I ordered a raspberry tart and two forks, and we repaired to the Lounge Car to knock it off.

 

Before we knew it, it was 2130h and time to call it a day. It was also early afternoon in Oz, and I wanted to find out if I had connectivity and check in with Niki.

 

Not until we neared Elco was this possible, so in the meantime I asked SCA D to assist me make the bed, and ventured into the shower.

 

This shower was in the best condition of all the Amtrak showers Id been in. There were only a few towels in the space, just enough for the next couple of users rather than a store-room of them, the seat was clear, the powerpoint was visible (until then, I didnt know there was a powerpoint in the shower), and the place was very tidy.

 

When I emerged, I saw D in the lower level and I mentioned that he kept the cleanest most useable shower of all Id seen. He thanked me for commenting, and appreciated that Id noticed he kept it well.

 

It was time to call it a day.

Edited by mcropod

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