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Published by membersonly, 2018-07-31 13:44:48



BLNI Extra 43 August 2018 – Travelling the Railroads of America

[D-39] USA – Travelling the Railroads of America

This is the account of a two-week (mainly) railway holiday in the USA undertaken by two members,
one of whom had never been to the USA before. The main objective was to travel two of the
transcontinental routes known to be under threat, partly from Donald Trump’s administration putting
forward a budget that would effectively end support for some of the longer Amtrak routes, and partly
because the new CEO for Amtrak wants to eliminate these non-profitable routes.
Our two members flew to Chicago O’Hare airport, arriving at Terminal 5. There is a Skytrain link
between the terminals and the Metro line terminal, which is between Terminals 2 and 3, but this was
known to be working restricted hours due to renovation works. It uses French VAL technology, which
features fully automated, rubber-tyred people mover cars, so apart from the inconvenience of having
to take a bus, our members were not too upset about missing it. The information on the website for
alternative arrangements proved to be wrong, but local advice quickly saw our members on a free
bus to terminal 2 where they were able to purchase three-day subway (metro) and bus only tickets
for $20 which proved to be a very worthwhile purchase. The line from O’Hare into Chicago is the Blue
Line and loops through the downtown area on its way to Forest Park. It runs most of the way between
the two sides of a major freeway – a quite common practice with urban American railways. Our two
weary members alighted at UIC Halstead and walked the ten minutes or so to their Chicago Hotel.
The Chicago metro is called the "L" (short for "eLevated" and not, as one might think, “Loop”),
electrified with third rail and 102.8 miles long. The oldest sections of the "L" started operation in 1892,
making it the second-oldest rapid transit system in the Americas after New York City's elevated lines.
There are eight lines (all named after colours) with five doing combinations involving the downtown
Loop, two running north/south through the City Centre in tunnel plus a suburban shuttle. So, despite
the "L" gaining its name because large parts of the system are elevated, portions of the network are
also in tunnels, at grade level, or in open cut. In a 2005 poll, Chicago Tribune readers voted it one of
the "seven wonders of Chicago" and a trip around the downtown Loop is strongly recommended.
Chicago has three urban and inter-urban railroad systems. The “L”, the Metra system which is heavy
rail and goes further out on a number of branches, and the South Shore Line (SSL) which heads for
South Bend International Airport in Indiana and is operated by the Northern Indiana Commuter
Transportation District (NICTD).
The SSL offered a sensibly timed start and the interest of a street running section which preliminary
research had indicated to be up for rerouting. SSL trains leave from Millennium Station, formerly
Randolph Street station, which is also used by Metra trains heading south on the rather limited
Chicago electrified system as all other parts of their network are worked by diesels and push/pull
double deck stock. A Blue Line metro train took our members from UIC Halstead back the way they
had come the previous night as far as Washington. A curious feature of American urban systems is
that stations on different lines have the same names, as these are normally based on a particular road

which may be many miles long and crossed by several railroad routes. It was now necessary to walk
to Millennium Station, which has an inconspicuous entrance and took a little time to find.

The entrance to Millennium station, complete with hustler after a handout.

Many North American stations have attractive upper areas and are very unattractive at platform level. Millennium station’s
South Shore Line platforms are no exception. It was necessary to walk up the platform to find the train and one of the two
coaches with open doors.

Tickets for the South Shore Line can be purchased from dedicated ticket offices (not open until 09:00),
from ticket machines on the concourse, or from the Conductor on the train for a small extra charge.
Since one member was eligible for a senior discount (+65) they decided to purchase from the
Conductor, which was cash only and obtained a most unusual paper ticket.

The ticket cost $6.70 as indicated by the V shaped ‘marginal projections’ on the top

Initially the service follows the Metra electrified route south before diverging east to follow the south
shore of Lake Michigan, though well inland with big factories and steelworks between the line and
the actual coast. Eventually these are left behind and ahead is Michigan City where there is a long
street running section, right down the middle of the road with one stop on it and a second just past
its eastern end adjacent to the main SSL depot just after a major road crossing.

The west end of the Michigan City street running section looking towards Chicago. The picture was taken through
the open cab door/front window on 12 June 2018. Would any road driver seriously want to go straight on??
Unfortunately, it was impossible to grab a quick shot at the 11th Street station on this section as the practice is for
the Conductor to open just one door in the middle of the train on all services.

It is fascinating but slow, and easy to understand the proposals to build a bypass around the city.
Studies have, however, recommended relocating the tracks alongside the road, but a decision has yet
to be made, so the street running section is safe for a while at least. The line ends at South Bend
International Airport, reached from the east by a slow run after turning 180 degrees by traversing
three sides of a square after approaching South Bend from the west with several road crossings to
end at the south end of the airport terminal. There are plans to create a more direct link to the north
end of the terminal building, but this requires purchase and demolition of properties and has yet to
be approved. The man assisting with ticket purchase from the machine at the airport thought this was
at least three years away. If both schemes come to pass, then the running time from South Bend
Airport to Chicago will reduce by over 30 minutes.

The route map at South Bend Airport station makes clear the route the South Shore Line takes. There are two
platforms, but the one behind the map shows little use.

After a short layover at South Bend Airport our members returned to Millennium station, which the
Conductor insisted on referring to as Randolph Street. Bus 151 leaves from outside the station and
goes to Union Station, one of two terminals for the Metra system, the other being just north and
parallel to Union Station at the Ogilvie Transportation Center. Union Station mainly serves the
southern and western branches of the Metra and is divided into North and South concourses, each
with their own set of platforms. Our members wanted to travel on the Metra to Big Timber, trains for

which leave from the Northern concourse. Only single tickets can be purchased and no discount was
available for seniors without a special card requiring advance application and completion. The reason
for selecting the Big Timber branch was that one member had travelled on several Metra branches
before, using a day pass only available at weekends, which meant that services which only operated
on weekdays were his targets. On the line in question, the final section of the Chicago to Elgin line,
from Elgin to Big Timber, only has services on weekdays.

The second type of locomotive in MPI's MPXpress commuter locomotive catalogue. 10 of Metra’s MP36PH-3S have
been converted to MP36PH-3C to improve emissions and fuel economy. Locomotive 415 is ready to depart Chicago
Union’s North concourse for Big Timber. Chicago Union is yet another US terminus underneath the (much more
attractive) ticket hall level.

The service is locomotive hauled with double decker coaches which have an unusual feature. A central
open space joins the upper and lower decks and is partly occupied by a luggage rack. This means the
upstairs seating is all single seats and the conductor can inspect tickets from both levels when walking
along the lower level. It’s a design not seen in Europe.
Once at Big Timber our members needed to buy tickets for the return journey, but the ticket office
was closed and there were no ticket machines. In these situations the Conductor sells tickets, without
the usual $5 penalty.

The DVT of the traveller’s double deck diesel powered Metra train seen at Big Timber station. The driver’s position
on this type of stock is on the upper deck and some others seen had a forward-facing passenger seat below.

Chicago Metra and South Shore Line map courtesy of RedWordSmith wikimedia commons

Chicago “L”, courtesy of SameBoat wikimedia commons

One member went back to Chicago, the novice as far as Elgin for a more adventurous move. This
involved one of the infrequent buses from Elgin to Geneva, which was not covered by the three-day

ticket as too far out, but was just $2.50, station to station taking 41 minutes. Here he took a train to
the end of the line at Elburn and returned to Chicago, arriving back into the Ogilvie Transit Centre as
a nice bonus thereby gricing a second branch. It is probably important to point out that the lines
involved continue as freight-only through routes, so they are not really branches.
The following day saw our members scheduled to depart from Chicago Union (south concourse) on
Amtrak train 5 to San Francisco, but since departure was not until 14:00, there was clearly opportunity
to undertake more exploration of the Chicago rail system. The metro three-day ticket was the easy
answer, so the northern part of the metro system was selected. This involved a Blue line train to
Jackson for an interchange shown on the map with the Red Line, but following signs involved exiting
the first station for a street level walk to another one nearby also named Jackson.
This line was taken northwards, noting that once out of the downtown Loop the ‘L’ is four track to
Belmont, with the outer lines used by rush hour only limited stop commuter services. The Red Line
ends at Howard, but services continue on two branches.

From right to left, the 2-car Dempster Skokie shuttle is in the south end turnback siding, with an all stations Red
Line plus a Brown Line fast service approaching Howard at 09:00

From Howard the Yellow line goes west to Dempster Skokie and is definitely a suburban rather than
an urban railway and halfway along it was noticed that former electrification masts were still present.
Subsequent research revealed that the Yellow line was built on the former course of part of the
Chicago North Shore and Milwaukee Railroad, also known as the North Shore Line. This was an
electrified inter-urban system which closed its last lines in 1963 and partly overhead wired at 650V
DC but which continued into Chicago itself on third rail. The Dempster Skokie North Shore line had
closed on March 27 1948, reopening as part of the “L” on April 20 1964 using a combination of third
rail and the previous overhead. The overhead section was removed in 2004.

There is only one intermediate stop before Dempster Skokie is reached. This is very much end of the
line and very shortly our members were returning to Howard to tackle the second branch, the Purple
Line to Linden. Out of rush hours this is a second shuttle, but at peak times it becomes a through semi-
fast service to/from the Chicago Loop, and the track layout at Howard includes a big flying junction
over the Yellow Line with and no less than THREE loops facing in opposite directions.,+CO+80478,+USA/@39.9994327,-

Approaching from Linden, one of the loops is visible as the train takes the flying junction towards Howard

In due course our members returned via Howard using the Red Line as far as Belmont where there
was time to visit the Brown line which ends at Kimball. Staying with the Brown line service, a different
route is taken into Downtown Chicago, onto the elevated circular loop railway.
This is quite fascinating and offers snapshot views of Downtown Chicago.

View of downtown Chicago from the elevated section of the ‘L’

On the Loop of the Chicago ‘L’. Note the absence of any barriers between the track
and a long drop to the ground.

The Brown line makes a full circuit and sets off back north to Kimball, so our members (having done
the full loop anticlockwise) got off at Merchandise Mart and changed to another Brown line train but

this time getting off at the first station on the loop at Washington/Wells. Changing platforms meant
an Orange Line clockwise train could be taken which takes the south to east curve south of
Merchandise Mart and a curve off the Loop towards Midway. The first stop off the loop was Roosevelt,
so from here another Orange line train could be taken (and another required curve back onto the
loop) to Quincy – which is the closest metro station to Chicago Union station. A brisk 10-minute walk
saw our members arrive at the south concourse with 35 minutes to spare. Train 5 was waiting on
Track 22.

Train 5 is the westbound California Zephyr running from Chicago Union to Emeryville, which is on the
east side of San Francisco Bay. Our members had reservations in Roomettes as far as Salt Lake City. A
Roomette is a small two berth room with the two facing seats folding down to form a lower berth and
a fold down upper berth which completes the transformation into a twin bunk sleeping compartment.
The two sleeping cars were number 0531 and 0532 and each has a Conductor to check your ticket
(booked and printed back in the UK), direct you to your roomette and generally look after you during
the journey. That includes making the beds at night and converting back to seat style in the morning.
Three meals a day are included in the price of the sleeper ticket and were taken in the adjacent
restaurant car, with reservations needed when the train is busy – the Restaurant Manager asks which
30-minute slot you want or you get ‘wait listed’ and called as seats become available. Roomettes on
some trains have a toilet and washbasin, but not the California Zephyr. These are down the corridor
along with the shower and you have to wear shoes when out of the roomette. They insist.
When planning your grice of US rail lines it pays to know whether local passenger routes are used by
Amtrak trains, because if they are there’s normally little point in doing the local line. In the case of
Chicago, the Metra line to Aurora is used by the California Zephyr, but annoyingly not the final mile
short section into the lower level Metra station. Once Greater Chicago is left behind the first major
interest is crossing the Mississippi to enter Burlington in Iowa. Iowa is endless fields of Corn and Soya
during the passage of which night falls and the first night is spent on the train.

In the lounge car of the California Zephyr on the Mississippi bridge heading for Burlington

Another thing that prospective long-distance US gricers need to know is that there are sections where
two routes are available. Some are taken only by trains in one direction, others at dispatchers’
discretion (dispatcher = signalman) and still others in the event of operational issues. This means there
are sections of the route where you need to PAY ATTENTION. Purchase of a good GPS logger is
recommended to avoid having to get up in the middle of the night. The important sections where a
choice of route exists are detailed in ‘PSUL The World beyond Europe’ website at:
Our two members had come prepared with maps (SPV rail maps of the USA by geographic area from, relevant US maps loaded onto mobile phones equipped with
GPS and a full listing of alternative routes. Details are included separately in this BLNI, but suffice to
say what was expected was not always what you got!

One of numerous occasions where Amtrak long distance services following their booked routes have alternative
routes - some can be well over 30 miles in length. This one on the California Zephyr has two options running
either side of the small hamlet of Tabernash in Colorado and is just 2 miles long with the Zephyr taking the longer
southern route as the more direct northern one was occupied by the freight in the picture. The Conductor even
announced on the PA that this was unusual, but the train was over three hours late at this time.....

One diversion was completely unanticipated and only discovered from the Conductor much later. This
was south of Omaha, when the train was delayed in the middle of the night and sent through the
freight yard due to a blockage on the main line. The next day saw the train arrive at Denver several
hours late. Reversal is needed here, and all Amtrak long distance trains use single cab locomotives
(usually in pairs) so the whole train must be turned. This is done at a ‘wye’, which in European parlance
is a triangle, sometimes built for the purpose, but in other locations part of an existing layout of
junctions – the latter being used at Denver.

Loading baggage at Denver. No chance of a photograph of the two locomotives!

A long wait at Denver was always in the schedule, but this was heavily exceeded, partly due to the
need to pick up two extra carriages, one of which was a dome car needed for the Rocky Mountain
section coming up shortly. A number of Siemens EMUs operating local services passed through the
station. These are operated by RTD Bus and Rail (branded as TheRide).

RTD (Regional Transportation District) operate 8 light rail lines in Denver, centred on Denver Union station.
The service is operated by EMUs under 750V DC overhead wires, one of which is seen at Denver Union

The lounge car offers good viewing, but at the cost of reflections which detract from photography.
Nevertheless, the spectacular gorge scenery is evident, as is the dome car at the back of the train

The Front Range of the Rockies is ascended
through spectacular scenery to Moffat tunnel,
then the train gradually descends through a
number of fine gorges where rafter’s moon at
the train just like it says in the guide books.

The train was running over Union Pacific
metals, and they had imposed a speed
restriction due to high temperatures which
meant the train was losing even more time.
Dark falls after Grand Junction. Arrival in Salt
Lake City was scheduled for 23:00, but was
actually at 02:05, so it was two very tired
travellers who braved the streets for the
fifteen-minute walk to their hotel.

Salt Lake City is famously home to the
Mormon faith and has both a light rail system
called TRAX and a heavy rail line called
FrontRunner which runs between Provo and
Ogden/Pleasant View. This forms an
integrated system operated by the Utah
Transit Authority (UTA). A recent BLNI
reported that the end section of the line from
Ogden to Pleasant View was to close to
passenger services on 12 August as the low
ridership meant that it was uneconomic to pay
for Positive Train Control (PTC) as required by
new legislation. Services to Pleasant View
being rush hour only, this meant most of the
day was available to tackle the light rail TRAX
Since our members were starting after 08:30
a Group Pass, valid for one day and up to four
people travelling together, was used. Costing
$15 this includes TRAX, FrontRunner and
buses. Note that the system map, whilst free
of copyright issues, is old enough not to
include Ogden to Pleasant View – probably a
good thing since it will soon be correct again!

Gricing TRAX proved to be a slightly tedious task as the urban area varies little, and most stations are
at road junctions with gated crossings so the pattern of operation is always the same. The south of
the system ends with two branches from the delightfully named Fashion Place West, one to Draper
Town Center, the other crossing the railroad and passing the tram depot to run through empty
wasteland to Daybreak Parkway where there was absolutely nothing except a huge car park and a bus
station. The SPV map suggested this had been built on part of a freight branch and a connection onto
the UP network and some sidings off the tram route were very shiny confirming their suspicions.

The southernmost end of the light rail system is Draper Town Center, which, it can be seen, is not actually very close
to the city centre. American cities seen determined to colour code their light rail or metro routes, and Salt Lake City
is no exception. The blue dot by the ‘to Salt Lake Central’ signs means this is the Blue line.

Fortunately, there is also a tramway from the bay at Central Pointe to Fairmont which adds variety.
This is also on the course of an old freight railroad and sections of the old rails have been left in-situ.
Doubling appeared to be in progress on a section near Central Pointe. The industrial heritage of the
area is commemorated by information plaques at the stations with special mention of the industries
once served by the railroad. The branch from Central Pointe to West Valley Central was next, with the
return train taken to Arena where a change of train was needed to get to Salt Lake Central, one of the
termini of the northern part of the tram system, and with connection onto FrontRunner services. The
plan was to first travel from Salt Lake Central south to Provo. The FrontRunner lines initially run
alongside the Union Pacific/Amtrak lines on the east side before crossing to the west by a flyover

north of a station named South Jordan. Before Provo the two lines separate by a hundred metres with
buildings between them before coming back together at Provo. As usual there was little in the way of
refreshment near the station, and a short walk towards the centre found only a coffee shop.

Frontrunner locomotive 19 on the train at Provo ready to work the 16:17 Provo to Pleasant View

The same loco and stock formed the northward service to Salt Lake Centre, Ogden and Pleasant View
and was the target train of the day. North of Salt Lake City the railway is lined by industry and
commercial development most of the way to Ogden where there is a railroad museum with some of
the exhibits outside in the station area. The train continues a further 10 miles to Pleasant View but
was held part way waiting for a very long freight to slowly rumble past. The UTA station at Pleasant
View is on a short stub off the Union Pacific line to Pocatello and only four passengers got off, two of
whom were our members. The inbound delay meant the southbound train back to Ogden was late
departing – this time with just three passengers! A word with the Conductor ensured that the
connection at Ogden was held a few minutes allowing our members to get back to Salt Lake City and
continue their light rail grice by changing at very useful interchange at North Temple onto the TRAX
light rail line to Salt Lake City Airport, which goes overhead at this station. That left just the branch to
University station to be visited, from where there was a fine panorama over the city, albeit after
darkness had fallen. A full day, but very successful. Baggage was reclaimed from the hotel, and one
of the last TRAX trains taken to Salt Lake Central. The Amtrak website had revealed that the California

Zephyr was again three hours late, and this was confirmed by the staff at the ticket office, which
doubles up as a waiting room. So the 23:30 departure was actually at 02:30. Sometimes you wonder
why you do it...

Pleasant View is the name of the station and clearly it is just that. Rather a shame that due to late running your
members had less than 5 minutes to soak it all in.

The train did eventually arrive, passengers got off, baggage was unloaded and those waiting were
allowed to board. The roomette was in coach 0531, but this time cabin number 003. One member
checked the route out of Salt Lake City as there were two options, while the other (in the windowless
upper bunk) went straight to sleep.
The only advantage of the late departure was that the section of railroad west of Wells was traversed
in daylight, so the very lengthy alternative routing could be checked at a sensible hour – though more
sleep would have been welcome.
After breakfast our two members transferred to the adjacent observation car and took over a table
for the rest of the journey.

Another picture affected by reflections, but the very dry, scenic nature of the journey west of Wells is clear. The
bridge in the distance is the parallel alternative routing sometimes used, the distance between the tracks varying
from yards to miles.

Reno held a bit of a surprise with its station below ground level – apparently relocated about ten
years ago. Now came the scenic section of this leg of the journey as the train headed into the Sierra
Nevada up the Donner Pass, emerging from the Donner tunnel to start a long descent with yet another
section where two routes exist and have to be watched for. The end of this section coincides with
leaving the mountains and passing the huge Union Pacific railroad shed at Roseville. Ahead was the
state capital of California, Sacramento, where the light rail station and tracks are glimpsed from the
Amtrak station. The train crosses the Carquinez Strait by the Benicia–Martinez Bridge which was built
between 1928 and 1930 for the Southern Pacific Railroad and is the second longest railroad bridge in
North America. Now the north shore of the strait is followed to Richmond, where the BART station is
adjacent to the Amtrak station – of which more anon. Ahead is Emeryville where the California Zephyr
ends rather ignobly at what is really a glorified suburban station – but having magically regained an
hour on the timings. Presumably booked recovery time. After an annoying wait the Thruway coach
appeared for the connection to the temporary Transbay Terminal over the bay in San Francisco. Our
members would have several days here to recover and undertake exploration and sightseeing.

The first day was dedicated to the MUNI metro and the
heritage tram service. A three-day MUNI pass (three
consecutive days) is available which covers Metro, trams,
cable cars and buses. It costs $33 and bearing in mind just
one return trip on a cable car is $14, is excellent value. The
MUNI website identified where sales outlets could be
found, and just one block away from our members’ hotels
was a Walgreens store where they could be purchased over
the counter. Starting point for the expedition was the
combined MUNI and BART station at Powell Street, right
next to the very busy cable car terminus. It was necessary
to show the paper ticket to the man on the barrier, but after
that they stayed in our members pockets throughout the
entire day. The MUNI metro system is divided into two
parts by the Market Street Subway (subway in this context
meaning tunnel) and Twin Peaks tunnel, the latter opened
in 1918 and still one of the world's longest streetcar or light-
rail tunnels at 2.27 miles. Posters informed our members
that they had arrived just in time (by a week) as the tunnel
would close from 25 June for two months (with bus
replacement) for essential renovation works that would
extend the 100-year-old tunnels life and remove speed

Powell is in the Market Street subway and MUNI light rail trains were taken first to Embarcadero
(where the Market street subway ends) then to 4th and King where the N line ends on a stub by the
Caltrain station at 4th Street and King, of which more later. Some versions of the MUNI system map
seem to show that the T Line starts across the road, but this is not correct as a curve allows through
running from Ingleside (runs as the K line as far as West Portal). The T line is the most recent line to
open, in 2007, and is reserved street running most of the way to Sunnydale. The return journey took
in the curve at 4th Street and King and our members headed back towards Powell along the
Embarcadero (the road along the Bay shore). However, having passed several vintage trams on the
line to and from 4th Street and King, they decided to leave the light rail service at Brannan and change
to the E line (Embarcadero) tram to Jones and Beach on Fisherman’s Wharf. At Brannan trams are
boarded on a separate low platform and in due course tram 1006 turned up. This is an original 1948
built San Francisco Municipal Railways streetcar (trams being known as streetcars in America). The E line (also known as Market &
Wharves) runs along Embarcadero past the Ferry Building, Pier 39 (heaving with tourists) and along
Fisherman’s Wharf (nearly as busy) to end on the loop at Jones and Beach. Several trams were lined
up here and our members selected an F line service with an ex Milan tram, number 1859 built in Milan

in 1928,, subsequently purchased by the MUNI and now
painted in the current orange Milan livery.

With permission from MUNI metro

Streetcar 1859 on the loop at Jones and Beach

Inside ex Milan streetcar 1859 which dates from 1928 and has signs in both Italian and English

One member had travelled on similar trams still in use in Milan and pointed out the distinctive sound
made whilst stationary. This service completed the loop and travelled back down Embarcadero,
getting full and standing very quickly as far as Embarcadero MUNI station where a short wiggle allows
access to Market Street, which it follows through the heart of the city to the intersection of Market
and Castro. Another tram, 1078, was waiting to depart back towards Fisherman’s Wharf. This tram
was purchased by Twin Cities Rapid Transit in 1946, sold to Newark in 1953 and ran on the Newark
City Subway until replacement by modern light rail vehicles in 2001. The San Francisco Municipal
Railway acquired it, and several others, in 2004. 1078 was taken as far as Market where Light Rail
exploration continued, the heritage tram lines having been completed. Rather than a lengthy list of
lines and stations visited a few points of interest on the southern part of the MUNI metro system will
be given. Balboa Park was immensely confusing. It is terminus of the J, K and M lines, all of which are
approached from different directions. J and K line routes join together immediately before Balboa
Park and set down on a northern loop.
Trains then travel light, through an underpass, to the departure point further round the loop which
has a depot within it. Follow the signs past the BART station. M line trains approach Balboa Park from
the south and set down in the road before a second depot on the other side of a main road before
proceeding through the depot and picking up at the platform in the road about one hundred metres
north of the set down point, which for the dedicated gricer means another trip on the M line to the
first station.
The N line is interesting because it descends from street level into the middle of the Twin Peaks tunnel
and vice versa. All this gricing took a whole day, with arrival at Powell after nine in the evening –
though they did stop for a curry on the N line back from Ocean Beach.
From Latest News
A final note on the Historic trams. On 15 June they returned to being based at Balboa Park Depot, so
there are in-service journeys to/ from 4th & King/Caltrain Terminus via the rare side of the triangle at
Pier 1 and the curve south of Castro to/from Balboa Park. No timetables are present at stops, so when
they run is unknown. A tram was seen arriving at Balboa Park waiting to go onto the depot.

Day two in San Francisco was a considerable mixture of services in the San Francisco Bay area, starting
with the Caltrain service to San Jose Diridon. To get there our members walked down 4th Street and
were able to observe the construction works for the Central Subway, a combined surface and subway
extension of the T Line, running from the Caltrain Depot (station) north up 4th Street through Union
Square to Chinatown, with completion expected by 2019.

The engineering works for the Central Subway run along 4th Street towards the distant tunnel mouth that will take
the line into Chinatown.

At the Caltrain Depot (which might more properly be renamed San Francisco station) single tickets
were purchased from ticket machines to San Jose Diridon and the 09:45 service (a pair of diesels with
a six-car set) taken as far as Redwood City for a hasty coffee, and the following service (with only a
single locomotive) to San Jose Diridon.

4th Street and King is the Caltrain depot and might be better called San Francisco station. Hardly bustling…

Bi-level stock, similar to that used in Chicago (but minus the central luggage racks) allows the Conductor to inspect
tickets from both levels whilst walking along the lower level. There is a great view out of the front of the train as
the driver’s compartment is on the upper level.

Some evening peak hour services continue south to Gilroy, returning the next day, but this is on the
Amtrak route used by the Coast Starlight, so no need to worry about those. Our members now
purchased tickets from the Amtrak office (seniors over 62 get a 10% discount in California) on the
Capitol Corridor service which provides reasonably regular departures from San Jose Diridon (called
San Jose in their literature) to Oakland, Emeryville, Richmond and Sacramento, with a few trains
extended to Auburn. The plan was to go to Richmond and get stuck into the East Bay section of the
BART, but first the route taken by Amtrak Capitol Corridor trains had to be observed because it differs
from the route taken by the Coast Starlight to Los Angeles – coming up in a couple of days’ time. There
was confusion as to which platform the train was to leave from. Initially they had been told platform
9, but then they saw the guard making his way down the subway and found out that it had been
changed to platform 4 though announcements and platform signs confirming this were not initially in

evidence. As the Conductor announced before departure, ‘sorry folks, the change of train and
platform not only confused you, it also confused the train crew and the dispatcher (signalman), which
is why we’ll be a few minutes late leaving’.
At North Newark the train curved east off the direct route to Oakland used by the Coast Starlight,
then north to call at Fremont and Hayward before re-joining the direct route at North Elmhurst and
proceeding to Oakland Jack London Square, which involves street running! They now did the section
onwards to Emeryville, which at the start involves street running and would allow a different move
to that originally planned in two days’ time, alighting at Richmond. Time to explore the BART.
This is the Bay Area Rapid Transit system, which is mainly third rail and provides faster services than
the MUNI metro to outlying areas of San Francisco Bay. Richmond is the end of one of the BART lines,
and no time was lost buying a ticket to MacArthur.

The BART timetable booklet refers to an ‘Excursion ticket’ costing $6.40 and valid for three hours
unlimited travel provided you returned to the same station. This seemed ideal for our member’s
purpose, but no such ticket could be found on the ticket machines, so enquiries were made of the
station staff.

Ticketing proved interesting. There is a BART card on which money can be loaded in an Oyster card
type system. This saves $0.25 per fare, but costs $5 to buy, so a lot of journeys are needed to recover
the cost. Paper tickets also store monetary value, but without the $0.25 discount. It turns out that the
excursion ticket is the default fare for any journey beginning and ending at the same station within 3
hours WITHOUT leaving the BART system via card reading machines, and if a station other than the
starting station is used to exit the system (presumably within three hours), only the fare between the
two stations is charged to the card. This makes gricing the BART system very cheap. A word of warning
however: the ticket machines require you pay in cash dollars, then add/deduct in 5 cent increments
to the correct fare, which you get from tables on the machine. Only then will you be offered an option
to purchase a ticket with the correct stored value and get any change. You can also feed the card back
into the ticket machine later and top up the value. Easy when you know how, very confusing if you
Our members decided to tackle the Yellow line branch to Antioch first. Until recently this ended at
Pittsburg Bay/Bay Point, but an extension has recently been opened to Antioch, as reported in BLNI.
The electric trains now continue past Pittsburg/Bay Point for about ½ mile to the Pittsburgh/Bay Point
Transfer Station, which is in the middle of a large noisy highway with no pedestrian access. Here
everybody detrains and boards a 2x2 car Stadler DMU in an adjacent platform for the 10-mile journey
to Antioch, calling only at Pittsburg Center. The tracks continue into the distance where an extension
is already being constructed to Oakley.

Pittsburg/Bay Point transfer station, BART EMU on the left and DMU to Antioch on the right. Noisy roads on either

Despite appearances on the Antioch departure screen, this DMU is just a two-stop shuttle to interchange with the
onwards BART EMU service to San Francisco Airport, a journey that will take 1h 40m. Note London DLR style
description of the train being 2 cars. It was actually 2 DMU’s of two coaches so totalling 4 cars. You do not want to
wait very long at a number of BART termini as they are in the middle of busy Freeways and are VERY noisy.

Back to MacArthur and a Brown line train to Warm Springs. This is yet another recent extension, this
time from Fremont, and further extension into the northern suburbs of San Jose is under construction.
The aim is to continue to Central and Southern San Jose, but this is as yet unfunded.

Our members returned to Bay Fair for the Blue line branch to Dublin/Pleasanton which completed
the East Bay branches with the exception of the short premium fare line from Coliseum (adjacent to
the Oakland Raiders NFL stadium) to Oakland International Airport. This proved to be a rubber wheel
on concrete tracks system with ticket gates to ensure the premium fare was paid, so our members
gave it a miss and caught the next train to San Francisco which goes under San Francisco Bay by the
3.6-mile-long Transbay Tube tunnel and after a couple of stations Powell combined MUNI
Metro/BART station was reached, close to our members hotel.

The final day was devoted to the cable cars, sightseeing and an evening trip to polish off the southern
part of the BART system.
The San Francisco cable cars are truly iconic and a major visitor attraction, hence the queues at Powell
and Market, which is terminus for the Powell and Hyde and Powell and Mason cable cars.

Note there are four cables for three routes, plus two non-passenger Cable Car Unusual Lines [CCUL’s?] on and off
the California route which must be used by Depot runs as there is no connection between the lines at California
and Powell.....

A small turntable here allows the single ended cars to be turned, a much-photographed operation.
All three cable car routes are street running and must stop at road junctions. One of our members
had travelled on the entire system in the 1980s, but his memories were rather faded and he decided
to do it again. Our other member was surprised to discover that not only do the cable cars ascend the
steep streets, but they also descend others to complete the journey. They are not like funiculars! The
two lines are common until shortly before the winding house, which also houses the cable car
museum, after which they take separate routes north. The two northern termini both have turntables.

Turning the cable car at Hyde and Beach, western terminus of the Powell and Hyde cable car route. Early in the
morning it was not busy – but later there were big queues.

The central section of both lines takes different routes through the streets, so it is necessary for gricers
to do them both ways. The third cable car line, called the California Cable Car, runs along California
at right angles to the other two which it crosses on the flat at California and Powell, permitting
interchange between all three routes. This line also appeared to have a public transport function with
the majority of passengers tendering a MUNI Season Ticket as payment as opposed to the other two
normally being full of tourists. As a consequence, it was not as busy. Cable cars on this third route are
double ended as there are no turning facilities at either California and Drumm (the eastern terminus)
or California and Van Ness (the western terminus). The cars terminate about 100 yards before the
departure point from California and Drumm, so gricers must travel back up the line for maximum
coverage. It is all great fun, with passengers permitted to hang onto the sides and lots of American
style humour from the Gripman and the Conductor/Brakeman.

The flat crossing point of all three routes at California and Powell, the California route being the less busy car on
the right. The slotted underground powering cables obviously cross each other here, with drivers on the Powell
routes having to release their cable and freewheel over the other track, a holdover from when the first built line
took precedence at intersections. This and the fascinating cable workings at junctions are explained at

The southern part of the BART system to Millbrae is best traversed on a weekday evening. This is
because Red Line trains run directly to Millbrae and Yellow Line trains to San Francisco International
Airport until 21:00, after which everything runs to Millbrae via a reversal at the airport, thereby doing
an extra curve. So, the system maps show that you need to travel out to Millbrae before 21:00 for the
direct route and return after 21:00 to come back via the airport. Close study of the BART timetable
however reveals just one train before 21:00 which goes to Millbrae via the airport, starting from
Antioch and leaving Powell at 19:00. This train allows both routes to be travelled in daylight and a
much earlier finish.

The Coast Starlight runs from Seattle to Los Angeles every day of the week, but at the time our
members were to take the train it was starting from Sacramento due to a partial tunnel collapse in
Oregon. Tickets had been pre-purchased from Emeryville to Los Angeles to ensure overlap with the
California Zephyr, but since our members had taken a Capitol Corridor train to Richmond via
Emeryville a few days earlier, a new and easier joining point presented itself since Emeryville is really

only accessible by bus. A BART service could be taken to Lake Merritt for $4, (our members travelling
via 12th Street/Oakland City Center to fit in the third side of the Oakland wye), then a 12-minute walk
to Oakland Jack London Square. This was considerably cheaper than a Thruway coach and avoided
any problems with rush hour traffic.

The Coast Starlight on the street running section arriving at Oakland Jack London Square station with an unexpected
haulage combination of Dash-8 No 503 and P42 No 50 diesels. This train is a regular for Dash 8 haulage and seems
to be the only one using this class of locomotive.

The train arrived on time and one member of staff checked the tickets, then passed our travellers on
to the Conductor of one of the coaches, who allocated seats in his nearly empty coach. These were
quickly abandoned for the duration of the trip in favour of two seats in the lounge car which offered
much better views. By getting in early they got seats at a table on the right-hand side of the train,
perfect for the scenic coastal section later in the journey. The train took the direct route to San Jose
as expected, so 17.5 miles of new track were quickly covered. South of San Jose the train runs through
Gilroy (noting the CalTrain platforms and sidings) before turning west and climbing through an
attractive valley then south through Salinas following the Salinas River until leaving it to climb through
marvellous scenery with hairpins and many bends and descending to San Luis Obispo.

The Coast Starlight with two different classes of Amtrak diesel paired up on the front, starts the long descent to San
Luis Obispo amidst some fine scenery.

This is the northernmost point of the LOSSAN corridor (the 351-mile-long San Diego – Los Angeles –
San Luis Obispo rail corridor) and two trains run here daily from San Diego via Los Angeles.

With the train not having run through from Seattle there was no restaurant car, so the little shop on
the lower deck of the lounge car was patronised. The delightful coastal section is reached at a town
called Surf, and followed all the way to Ventura, apart from a 12-mile excursion inland before Santa
Barbara where a pathing halt to allow trains to arrive from the Los Angeles direction allowed an
opportunity for smokers and photographers to go outside. Los Angeles was getting near and it
became obvious that arrival would (amazingly) be well in advance of the scheduled 21:00 hours. It
was in fact 20:25 (daylight!) when the train pulled into Los Angeles Union Station, which is a dead-
end terminus. One of our members had been in the area earlier in the year, and so they wasted no
time in getting to the nearby MetroPlaza hotel. This is the only hotel within easy walking distance,
and an ideal base for a few days of exploration.

The following day saw our two members split up, one to grice the Metrolink system, the other to do
the branch from Oceanside to Escondido.

Oceanside is the southern terminus of the Los Angeles Metrolink system, and the northern extremity
of the San Diego Coaster service. It is part of the LOSSAN corridor and is used by Amtrak trains
between Los Angeles and San Diego. One member had travelled the line on a visit in February 2018,
and only discovered the presence of a service between Oceanside and Escondido by accident, too late
to fit it into his schedule. The 07:58 Metrolink train from LA Union to Oceanside is the economic way
to get there with a discount available for seniors over 65. All Metrolink trains are locomotive hauled
with driving trailers. A bay platform at Oceanside is the starting point for services to Escondido which
are operated by two car Desiro DMUs at 30-minute intervals for most of the day – a remarkably
frequent service by American standards. Cheap as well – a day pass is only $5, but two singles with
senior discount are even cheaper. Slightly less than half the line is double track and the platform
edges are some distance from the trains, short metal extension to the platforms being provided where
the doors line up to allow access. The route is over what was previously freight line but wanders away
from that alignment at one point to serve Cal State San Marcos. The original route has been retained
however, and was well used, so must be freight only. The line ends at Escondido where connections
are available from the adjacent bus station.

A two car Sprinter train stands at Escondido. Note the continuous metal platform extensions. Other stations on the
line have only short sections by the doors.

The railway crosses the road to sidings with wagons. Back at Oceanside our member had the choice
of a four hour wait for a cheap Metrolink service back to Los Angeles, or a more expensive ride on the

AMTRAK Pacific Surfliner service departing at 13:00 for San Luis Obispo, which he had enough time
to purchase a ticket for.

Meanwhile our other member had also taken the 07:58 LA Union to Oceanside service, but left it at
Santa Ana. Single tickets were the order of the day, obtained from ticket machines on the platforms.
There is a weekend pass for $10, but services are much more limited and some sections of track are
only covered on Mondays to Fridays. On most lines services aren’t even good on weekdays, being
geared to commuters into and out of Los Angeles. For example, the next Metrolink train to Santa Ana
was at 14:11. Santa Ana has a large rather ornate station with a small courtyard. From here there is
a service at 09:35 on the Inland Empire-Orange County line to San Bernardino Downtown, but on this
occasion the move was to get off at Riverside Downtown at 10:29 for a 1½ hour wait, enlivened by a
walk to distant eating places and watching the numerous freights go through with up to five
locomotives on the front. The objective was to be the 12:00 train to Perris South. This relatively recent

service takes a new curve off the line to San Bernardino before heading south to Perris and the
continuation to Perris South which is just a park and ride station in the middle of nowhere. Passenger
numbers were in single figures out and back. Amazingly, according to the Conductor there are plans
to extend the branch service further south.
Arrival time back at Riverside Downtown is 14:35, which gives a comfortable connection onto the
15:07 train on the Riverside Line via a town called Industry back to Los Angeles – the last train of the
day in this direction!

Metrolink Diesel F59 858 arriving at Riverside Downtown station to form the 15:07 to Los Angeles via a town named
Industry on what is known as the Riverside Line, on Thursday 21 June, the last train of the day in this direction! The
departure route is to the right of the hill in the background, and unexpectedly was reached via the much slower
loop line above the rear coach and not the main line connection.

The Riverside line runs on the east bank of the Los Angeles River (a concrete channel with a trickle of
water) on the approach to LA Union, the only service to do so.
The following day saw one member sightseeing in Hollywood. He got there on the Metro Red line
after naturally going first to the terminus at Hollywood North then alighting at Hollywood Boulevard.
He failed to return a star (well, any more than he is already) but he did venture out of the underground

station at Hollywood North where he found an old station building nearby. This was the Lankershim
Depot built for the Southern Pacific Railroad in 1896. It later served as a stop on the Pacific Electric
system after its North Hollywood line opened in 1911. In 2014 the station was restored and is
currently occupied by a coffee shop. He then returned to the stops for Hollywood Boulevard, noting
all the pavement “stars” including ones for such luminaries as Godzilla and Donald Duck……
Our other member needed just two sections of track to complete the Metrolink system, one of which
would be taken the following day. The other was rather distant. The good old 07:58 to Oceanside was
taken as far as Santa Ana, for the Inland Empire-Orange County line taken by our other member on
day one to Riverside Downtown, but this time continuing to San Bernardino.

Santa Ana station is more correctly called the Santa Ana Regional Transportation Center. When the station opened
on 7 September 1985, it was the largest new rail station built in the United States since the completion of the New
Orleans Union Passenger Terminal in 1955. Built on the site of a former Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway
combination depot that had been constructed in 1939 and closed in 1982, the style adopted was Spanish Colonial
Revival and Mediterranean Revival to complement the region’s older buildings. Features include red barrel roof
tiles, arcades, colonnades, exterior walls finished to resemble stucco, and the extensive use of painted tiles for
decoration. If it looks vaguely familiar it may be because the last scene in the movie Rain Man was filmed there.

The South West Chief (which they were to take the next day) also uses this line, but unlike the
Metrolink services does not go directly into San Bernardino but takes the BNSF line through West
Yard which enters San Bernardino by a more westerly route. The direct route is only used by Metrolink
services and gives access to tracks 1 and 2 at San Bernardino. The service continues a further mile
along the branch to Mentone as far as recently opened San Bernardino Downtown.
San Bernardino is a busy station by Metrolink standards with services every 60-90 minutes to Los
Angeles Union as well as towards Riverside Downtown. The station building is huge and part now
houses the San Bernardino railroad museum, unfortunately only open on Saturdays but with a dummy
in railroad uniform in a kiosk on the platform to entertain waiting passengers. Our member returned
to Los Angeles Union by the direct San Bernardino line, passing many freights going by on the parallel
BNSF route.

Los Angeles Union station at night

The South West Chief leaves Los Angeles Union daily at 18:10 bound for Chicago Union, 2265 miles
and three days away. Whilst waiting our members discovered they could use the Metropolitan lounge
with its free refreshments, comfy chairs and free wifi. Resisting the temptation to be conveyed by golf

buggy to the train, they made the walk to track 11 in five minutes to find the train reversing in. Once
again, they had roomettes – this time for the 18-hour journey to Albuquerque.

Two Amtrak ‘Genesis’ diesel electrics are at the front of the South West Chief at Los Angeles Union station, which
is a delightfully open terminus used by both Metrolink and Amtrak. The locomotives will work through to Chicago,
being refuelled en route.

The South West Chief is the descendant of the Super Chief run by the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe
Railroad and which claimed to be “the Train of the Stars” as it was used by Movie stars travelling to
and from Hollywood.
The train starts off heading south from Los Angeles Union before swinging east after the Fullerton call
onto the line to Corona West (this being our members final Metrolink track) where it joins the Orange
County Inland Empire route to Riverside Downtown, thence to San Bernardino via the BNSF West
Yard, arriving on track 3. The Amtrak and Metrolink lines here are completely separate. Now the South
West Chief heads north towards the first of four sections of line with alternative route possibilities,
all of which would be taken in the dark with the last section being completed after two in the morning,
by which time the train was 45 minutes late and our members rather bleary eyed.
More time had been lost when they roused themselves for breakfast the following morning. The
landscape had moved to full desert by this time, though road route 66 was still following the train.

Some time was picked up on the approach to Albuquerque where arrival was at 12:10, thirty minutes
late which was a considerable relief, as arrival several hours late would have blown their planned
move on the Rail Runner rail service out of the water.

The Alvarado Transportation Center is a multimodal transit hub in Downtown Albuquerque, New Mexico. The
complex was built as a hub for Albuquerque's regional transit system and as a replacement for Albuquerque's
previous bus depot and train station. The center serves ABQRide, Amtrak, Greyhound Lines, and the New Mexico
Rail Runner Express commuter rail line. The Mission Revival-style building was designed to be reminiscent of the
Alvarado Hotel, a railroad hotel which was formerly located on the site and a byword for opulent luxury.

As it was there was time to walk, in blistering mid-90s F heat, to their hotel and freshen up before
returning to the railroad station. The lady in the Amtrak office told them that tickets for Rail Runner
could be bought either on the internet or on the train.
Rail Runner is a local rail service from Belen in the south, through Albuquerque to Santa Fe in the
north, Amtrak trains using a section in the middle, either side of Albuquerque. This is the only section
of the entire South West Chief route that is not owned by BNSF as it was purchased by the New
Mexico Department of Transport to prioritise passenger services.
Rail Runner services are operated by two coach locomotive hauled trains plus passenger carrying
driving trailers. The symbol of the service is the Road Runner bird native to the area (the Looney Tunes

cartoon version of the bird being used for signs and marketing), and the doors open and close with
the cartoon Road Runner’s characteristic ‘meep meep’ sound which caused our members
considerable amusement. Sunday is the easiest day to do the entire system if arriving after mid-day.
The train to Santa Fe departed at 13:25 and as usual they followed the route using ME Maps and GPS,
so were rather surprised to find they were on a section of railway not marked on their SPV railway
atlas. This, it transpired, was because the atlas had last been revised in 2006, while the Rail Runner
opening, complete with new, more direct route to Santa Fe, dated from 2007.

Road Runner locomotive with two coach train at Santa Fe station. The Railyard is behind the photographer.

Santa Fe station has sidings with Rali Runner sets next to it along with historic diesel locomotive no 7
of the Santa Fe Southern Railroad. A poster at the station revealed that this loco had been used the
previous day for a trip down the old line to Lamy – otherwise freight only or maybe not even that as
no source of traffic could be seen, and the line ends beyond Santa Fe station.
The former station area and sidings is now known as Santa Fe railyard, and apart from the station is
devoted to commercial activities including cafes and restaurants, though the old wood sheathed
water tower still exists. Only fifteen minutes turnaround time is allowed, so they were soon on their
way back to Albuquerque, continuing past BNSF operated freight yards and the divergence of the
route westwards used by the South West Chief, to reach Belen. Arrival here was late, so only a few
minutes for the driver to walk to the other end, but Belen station looked a lonely place. And so back
to Albuquerque. The ticket purchased from the Conductor was a day pass, normally $11, but reduced
to $7 for seniors over 62. For a round trip of 308 miles, this represents pretty good value.

According to a poster at the station the yellow Santa Fe and Southern locomotive had worked a passenger train
on the freight line to Lamy the previous evening. The other two trains are the normal Frontrunner services to
Albuquerque. Viewed on Sunday 24 June.

The following day the journey to Chicago on the South West Chief continued – three hours late.
Apparently during the night the power on the entire train had failed and it stood for two hours until
it was restored. More time was lost in the service break at Albuquerque. Sadly, you get used to this
on Amtrak long distance trains. The train was held in a loop north of Albuquerque to allow the
westbound service to cross. The restaurant staff were heard to remark, rather incredulously, that it
was ON TIME! Says it all really. After the new junction for the Road Runner service to Santa Fe, track
used only by Amtrak was joined and it becomes necessary to consider the future of the South West
Chief service.

Amtrak is sole user of a 219-mile segment in New Mexico and Colorado from Jansen, Colorado (two
miles west of Trinidad) to ‘Madrid’, junction with Rail Runner, 23 miles west of Lamy, New Mexico. So
as the only user, Amtrak is responsible for all capital and maintenance costs. Changing freight patterns
have caused downgrades (60 mph top speed) on a 670-mile section of the route between La Junta
and Hutchinson, and this also threatens the future of the entire route service. Improvements to some
segments have occurred, but much work remains. And just for good measure in FY2017 the South
West Chief had the second biggest operating deficit of any Amtrak train ($56M) losing $154 per
passenger journey, which is good for passengers who are effectively being subsidised, but bad for

Amtrak. Positive Train Control (PTC) is installed as far west as Dodge City, and from Las Animas Jn.,
Colorado to just short of La Junta. There is no PTC for 348 miles between Dodge City and Las Animas
Jn or La Junta, Lamy and Albuquerque and by the end of the year PTC will be a legal requirement for
any track used by passenger trains. Estimated costs for PTC are $55M plus another $50M in
maintenance over the next 5 years to catch up on a backlog. All this for two trains a day. Donald
Trump is against any subsidies to AMTRAK, and the new AMTRAK CEO has set his sights on reducing
operating deficits, with the long-distance routes in the front line. A PowerPoint presentation he used
recently, now on-line at, concludes that the current proposal is for bus
replacement between Albuquerque and either La Junta or Dodge City, and ‘Amtrak will share these
alternatives and other possible implementation schedules with Congress and other stakeholders this
summer’. The future is not bright.
With this background, our members were pleased to be travelling the South West Chief throughout,
especially the Amtrak only section.

The South West Chief on the Amtrak only section of the route between Lamy and Trinidad. Parts are winding and
very slow, passing through desert scrub with many mesas on either side of the single track.

This proved to have some fine scenery and sections of very slow running, with no population centres
of a size sufficient to generate much traffic until Trinidad. By the time the light began to fail the train
was passing through the Raton tunnel, which at approx. 7500 feet is the highest point on the Santa

Fe line and exited immediately before the state line for Colorado. There was a glorious red sunset as
the train slowly descended to Trinidad and the end of the Amtrak only section.
A wheel flat on their coach meant a poor night’s sleep, so both our members were in the lounge car
by the time the South West Chief entered Topeka, where the loco depot had over a hundred locos
present, many withdrawn in rows. Before Kansas City station the train stopped in the colossal
Argentine yard to refuel. This is one the busiest freight yards in the world, with BNSF, Norfolk and
Southern and CN locos present on long freights. Kansas City was left 2½ hours late. Several alternative
routes engaged our members’ attention before Fort Madison was reached. There was a delay here
while the Missouri bridge was opened for a barge, after which the train was allowed to pass. There
was a definite ‘last leg’ feeling now as the train reached Aurora and set off down the ‘racetrack’ to
Chicago Union, passing outbound commuter trains on the dense commuter service. The South West
Chief finally arrived at Chicago Union south concourse 3 hrs 10 minutes late. The end of an epic

Our novice member decided that there was no way he was going to spend time in Chicago and not see Lake
Michigan. On the way from their hotel to the lakeshore our two members crossed a bridge offering a good view of
Van Buren Street station. The lines used by the South Shore Line and Metra electric services are on the left, and
freight lines on the right. Only a short walk away is Millennium Station.

Rainy Chicago was a bit of an anti-climax, but with the flight back to London not departing until 20:10
the next day there was scope for more gricing in Chicago. Both members took Metra trains to visit
the service ending at Fox Lake, with one also covering the SSuX Antioch line by means of a short walk
between two stations both named Prairie Crossing but on the different routes.

The photo is taken from the Metra platform at Prairie Crossing looking towards Fox Lake and the freight is travelling
right to left over the flat crossing with the Metra Antioch Line. The curve seen connecting the two lines sees one
passenger train a day SSuX, the 19:02 from Antioch to Chicago Union

One member on return to Chicago then walked to Van Buren Street station (one stop out on the
Metra electric line out of Millennium station) and travelled on an EMU to South Chicago 93rd street,
which is at the end of the 4.7-mile South Chicago branch in a less than salubrious area.

93rd Street South Chicago station

At Millennium station, he walked to the end of the platforms and found himself in South Water Street
station! Steps and elevators lead upstairs into a shopping mall, which our member eventually found
his way out of. If he had walked the opposite direction up the platform he would have come to steps
and elevators to Millennium station, which is directly above the tracks.

The holiday ended with a Blue line train to O’Hare International airport and the 7-hour flight home –
all objectives accomplished.

[D40] USA - Passenger Services over Unusual Lines used by the Amtrak trains in [D39]
These are listed in PSUL The World beyond Europe which can be found at:
Map references relate to the SPV Railroad Atlases of North America

The CALIFORNIA ZEPHYR (Chicago Union – Omaha – Denver – Salt Lake City – Emeryville (San
Osceola – Woodburn and Shannon – Indianola Junction and Halpin – Frederic IA1
The two bi-directional tracks used by the west and eastbound California Zephyr (trains 5 and 6) are
separated over these three sections. Either track may be used at dispatcher's discretion.


Denver : wye at Prospect Junction CO2

California Zephyr (trains 5 and 6) use the Prospect Junction - 31st Street Yard link to turn prior to arrival

at Denver Union Station.

Tabernash CO7

The two bi-directional tracks used by the west and eastbound California Zephyr (trains 5 and 6) are

separated through Tabernash, between mileposts 65.1 and 67.1, the more southerly track 2 being

longer than track 1. Either track may be used at dispatcher's discretion.


[Denver, CO – ] Wasatch – Ogden 31st Street – Salt Lake City UT2

See CO6 under Colorado. Between Ogden Bridge Junction and Salt Lake City the trains run on UP

tracks, parallel to the UTA FrontRunner tracks.

[Castilla – ] Mapleton – Springville UT3

The two bi-directional tracks used by the west and eastbound California Zephyr (trains 5 and 6) are

separated between mileposts approx. 690 and 695.8, the more westerly track 2 being longer than

track 1. Either track may be used at dispatcher's discretion.

Salt Lake City Central - Smelter UT5

The two bi-directional tracks used by the west and eastbound California Zephyr (trains 5 and 6) are

separated only between Orange Street (milepost 782.0) and LM Bryan (milepost 777.2), the more

northerly (track 1) being former Western Pacific, the more southerly (track 2) being former Los

Angeles & Salt Lake (Union Pacific). Either track may be used at dispatcher's discretion


Winnemucca, Weso – Alazon NV1

The two bi-directional tracks used by the west and eastbound California Zephyr (trains 5 and 6) are

separated: the westbound normally uses the original Southern Pacific route (track 1, Elko and Shafter

Subdivisions, 182.7 miles), the eastbound the original Western Pacific route (track 2, Elko and Shafter

Subdivisions, 178.5 miles).


Rocklin - Newcastle - Auburn - Bowman - Colfax CA4

Over this 31.3-mile section, the two tracks follow different alignments, becoming adjacent between

Newcastle and tunnel 18, and between Bowman and Clipper Gap. Both tracks are reversibly signalled

between Colfax and Rocklin, and though normal operation has been westbound on track 1 and

eastbound on track 2, crossovers at Colfax, Bowman and Newcastle allow trains to be routed on either

track in either direction, at dispatcher's discretion. Track 1 is the original 1865 alignment (for the most

part) of the transcontinental railroad, and track 2 is the more recent 1909 alignment. The Auburn

passenger station (located at the site known as "Auburn - Nevada Street" in Southern Pacific days) is

located on track 2 and served only by originating and arriving Amtrak Capitol Corridor trains which

thus use track 2 in both directions between Newcastle and Auburn, and can use either track between

Newcastle and Rocklin. The California Zephyr (trains 5 and 6) can use either track between Rocklin
and Colfax, and may cross from one track to another at Colfax, Bowman or Newcastle.

The COAST STARLIGHT (section travelled Sacramento – Emeryville – San Jose - Los Angeles)
North Elmhurst – North Newark, CP CO031 CA12
Coast Starlight (trains 11 and 14) use this 17.5-mile line instead of the route via Hayward and Fremont
used by Capitol Corridor trains.

The SOUTH WEST CHIEF (Los Angeles – Albuquerque – Kansas City – Chicago)
San Bernardino Depot – Rana CA2
There are two bi-directional routes between San Bernardino and the Riverside line at Rana (approx.
1.6 miles): Amtrak trains take the former Santa Fe's San Bernardino subdivision via West Yard while
Metrolink trains (from and to their own platforms at San Bernardino Depot) use the more direct line.
Cajon – Summit CA3
Over this 6.9-mile section, track 3 follows a shorter, separate alignment from tracks 1 and 2. Although
the eastbound Southwest Chief (train 4) usually uses the shorter track, the working of trains 3 and 4
is flexible and no particular track is certain.
East Ash Hill – Siberia CA7
The two bi-directional tracks are separated (9.5 miles via northerly Track 1; 7.7 miles via southerly
Track 2). Although the westbound Southwest Chief (train 3) usually uses the shorter track, the working
of trains 3 and 4 is at dispatcher's discretion.
West of Ibis CA8
The two bi-directional tracks are separated (0.8 miles longer via northerly Track 1 than southerly Track
2). The Southwest Chief (trains 3 and 4). Either track may be used at dispatcher's discretion.
Vail, CP S1000 – Mescal, CP S1023 AZ1
The two tracks used by the west and eastbound Sunset Limited (trains 1 and 2) are separated for 23.3
miles of the Lordsburg Subdivision: one uses the original Southern Pacific alignment, the other the
original El Paso & Southwestern alignment.
Griffith – Kingman AZ3
The two bi-directional tracks over this 10.4-mile section are separated. The working of Southwest
Chief (trains 3 and 4) is at dispatcher's discretion. (There are also more minor divergences further
east, at other locations in Arizona and New Mexico).

New Mexico
Gallup - Albuquerque AZ3
The two bi-directional tracks are separated over three sections of the route between Gallup and
Albuquerque. The working of Southwest Chief (trains 3 and 4) is at dispatcher's discretion.
[D41] USA – Proposals sought for Oklahoma passenger-rail line operator
Stillwater Central Railroad and its operator Watco Cos. LLC are seeking proposals from rail providers
interested in operating the Eastern Flyer or "Sooner Sub" passenger-rail service between Sapulpa and
Del City, Oklahoma. The railroad is looking to revive plans for the passenger-rail line, which died four
years ago when the possibility of Iowa Pacific Railroad operating the line fell through.
[D42] USA – New Amtrak corridor proposed
Richard Anderson’s presentation on the future of the South West Chief ends with the slide below,
which proposes a new corridor from Oklahoma City north through Wichita to Newton, Kansas.

[D43] USA - Local train service starts in Connecticut
A 100 km commuter route run by Connecticut Department of Transportation as CTrail started on 16
June between New Haven and Hartford in Connecticut with Springfield, Massachusetts. There are 17
train pairs on weekdays (14 at weekends) calling at seven stations of which Meriden, Berlin and
Wallingford have been built for the project. Two existing stations at Windsor and Windsor Locks are
to be relocated and rebuilt, subject to a final funding agreement, and three further stations are

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