Amtrak Desert Wind
Route Guide - Train #35 & #36
Los Angeles * Salt Lake City
Denver * Chicago
You're traveling on board Amtrak's Superliner train --- the Desert Wind.
While on board, you'll be experiencing the utmost in train travel,
along with some of the country's most spectacular and well-known scenery:
the exciting golden sunsests of the West; the desolate beauty of the
desert in the Southwest.
This Route Guide is an older version of Amtrak's Route Guide for the
Desert Wind, but it is much more detailed than the version now distributed
on the train by Amtrak. You may want to print this out and take it with you
on your trip. Amtrak no longer provides a Route Guide that is this detailed.
As far as I know, the only place to get this older version of this Route
Guide is on the Internet World Wide Web at "http://trainweb.com". Most of
the scenery described here is still accurate, but the other information about
the Desert Wind and the onboard services could be out of date.
Amtrak and your crew are proud to host you on board. We'll do everything we
can to ensure you enjoy your trip. If you have any questions please don't
hesitate to ask your Attendant or On-Board Service Chief.
The Fun Starts Here!
The Desert Wind features on-board activities the whole family will
enjoy. Listen for announcements of the specific time and location of
activities, and most of all -- have fun!
Movies in the Sightseer Lounge Car are offered between Chicago
and San Francisco; other videos including features for children are also
shown during the summer months.
Hospitality Hour.Join fellow passengers in the Lounge Car for drinks
and complimentary snacks.
Games are conducted during the trip. Small prizes will be awarded.
Listen for announcements for time and location.
Stretch Your Legs. The Desert Wind stops in Denver so the
train can be serviced, refueled and washed. This is your opportunity to
inspect souvenirs sold at the station. Please do not leave the station
platform area, and return to the train as soon as the departure announcement
Meet the Crew That Makes the Magic Happen!
The Conductor is in charge of all crew members and is responsible
for the collection of tickets and the safe operation of the train. The
Chief of On-Board Service" supervises the on-board service crew, and
overseas the quality of service.
Enjoy On-Board Accommodations That Pamper and Please!
Roomy Coach Seats. Your Coach Attendant will see to your
needs. Since your seat is assigned for the length of your journey, please do
not change without first consulting a crew member.
Private Sleeping Compartments. Your Sleeping Car Attendant
will prepare your room for daytime or nighttime use, provide wake-up calls
and bring the morning paper and beverages. Individual speakers bring you
recorded music on Channels 2 or 3, and train announcements on Channels 1 and
2. Simply turn the channel selector near the reading light. First Class
passengers receive additional amenities including complimentary meals in
the Dining Car.
Economy, Family, Special and Deluxe bedrooms are available. Special bedrooms
have a private bathroom and Deluxe have private baths with shower. Sleeping
accommodations may be purchased on board from the Conductor if space permits.
Dining Car Service. The Dining Car features complete meals in a
comfortable setting. Major credit cards are accepted. Sorry, there is no
smoking in the Dining Car. A crew member will contact you if dinner
reservations are necessary.
Spectacular Sightseer Lounge Car. Between Chicago and San
Francisco, you can enjoy the magnificent scenery from the large picture
windows of the Sightseer Lounge Car; and don't forget the sandwiches,
snacks and beverages available for purchase at the Cafe Bar. You can also
purchase souvenir playing cards, post cards and blankets. Lounge Car hours
are generally from 6 a.m. to 12 midnight.
The Desert Wind is a smoke-free train.
Scenic Photo Tips
SCENIC SPOTS: Your train passes many beautiful and interesting
sights. The "camera" symbol on your Route Guide Map marks the best spots,
so have your camera ready!
OUTSIDE SHOTS: Medium-speed films (ASA 64 or higher) are recommended
for shooting scenery through the train windows. If your shutter speed is
adjustable and light conditions permit, set it at a higher speed (1/125 or
1/250 sec.) for the clearest results. Hold your lens close to the window to
eliminate glare and reflections.
INSIDE SHOTS: Flash is recommended. To avoid glare and reflections,
do not point the flash directly at the windows.
The Desert Wind
Explore the beauty, romance and
exciting history of the western frontier.
Amtrak's Superliner Service to Chicago offers a wide variety of ways to
explore the beauty, romance and exciting history of the western frontier.
This guide outlines highlights of the scenery and historic landmarks along
the route of the Desert Wind.
This guide is written from west to east, noting how many
minutes past the previous Amtrak station you can expect to see
a particular sight, and whether you should look to your right or
left. The first time reference tells you how far that point is from
the next Amtrak station to the west, and the second time, how
far it is to the next Amtrak stop to the east. If you're traveling
westward, just begin at Chicago or Salt Lake City or your point of origin
and read the entries in reverse order. Remember to look left when
we've indicated to look right, and right when we've indicated
to look left.
Note that all AMTRAK STATIONS are in capital letters to set them
apart from towns and regions through which the Desert Wind
travels but makes no stop. Use this guide along with an Amtrak timetable
to determine station times. All times in this guide are approximate.
The Desert Wind
The desolation of the desert has its own particular beauty. No other
region in the world so clearly demonstrates the natural importance of
water. Here survival depends upon conservation. The Desert Wind travels
through fascinating desert scenery en route from Los Angeles to Salt
Lake City, where it connects with the California Zephyr. All along the
way there are a variety of interesting sights including national parks,
monuments and industry. Your trip through the desert is a chance to
observe sights few people ever see.
The sprawling metropolis of Los Angeles began in 1781 as El Pueblo de
Nuestra Senora de la Reina de Los Angeles. Today, the village's original
site is marked by the historical park of Olivera Street, lined with brightly
colored Mexican shops and old buildings. Across the street is the Los Angeles
Union Passenger Terminal, called the "last of the great stations to be built
in the U.S." A magnificent combination of Spanish and Art Deco styling, with
stucco facade, tile roof and inlaid wood ceiling, the station is often used
as a set for television shows and movies. Between Los Angeles and Daggett,
the train operates over the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway. As the
train leaves the station, you'll see the skyline of Los Angeles to your left,
with the tower of City Hall prominent in the foreground.
(Steve's Note: The holodeck bar scene of the Star Treck movie: "First Contact"
was filmed in the restored section of the Los Angeles Union Station. As you
enter the station through the main front doors from the street, you can see
this area on your left. You are not allowed to enter this area, but you can
stand by the door and view the beautifully restored ticket counter, waiting
room, glass windows and chandelers. This created the perfect atmosphere that
was needed to create the early 1920s scene for the Star Trek movie.
"Oh God, Book Two" and numerous other moves have filmed scenes in this
station, both because of the attractive motif of the station and because of
it being locally convenient to Hollywood.)
Los Angeles River Just east of the station, and to the left, the
train follows the river whichnow "flows" through a concrete channel built
as a flood control project. The usually-dry river is familiar as the site
of countless Hollywood and TV chase scenes. Between here and Fullerton, the
train passes through the industry and suburbs of southern Los Angeles
Redondo Junction (8 Min/25 Min) Amtrak's coach yards and a
roundhouse for Amtrak engines appear on the right. This is home base for
several of Amtrak's famous Superliner trains. Here, the train crosses the
Los Angeles River.
Santa Fe Springs (30 Min/5 Min) Discovery of oil here at the
turn-of-the-century rapidly transformed this former agricultural region into
a center for oil production. Look for oil wells and derricks on both sides
of the train.
FULLERTON is the Desert Wind's stop for populous, suburban Orange
County, as well as the transfer point for Amtrak's San Diego trains. Nearby
are some of California's most famous tourist attractions, including
Disneyland, Knott's Berry Farm and the Movieland Wax Museum. Note that there
are two handsomely restored railroad depots on the left: the Amtrak station
and, just west of it, the former Union Pacific depot which was moved to this
site to serve as a restaurant.
Yorba Linda (5 Min/65 Min) was the birthplace of ex-president
Richard M. Nixon.
Santa Ana Canyon Here the train winds through the canyon formed by
the Santa Ana River, to the right. Prado Dam, at the head of the canyon,
was built for flood control.
Corona (55 Min/15 Min) Grand Boulevard, which encircled Corona,
was famous as the site of races by racing great Barney Oldfield. In a 1913
race, he achieved speeds of up to 75 mph!
Riverside (60 Min/10 Min) In 1873, a cutting from a Brazilian orange
tree yielded the first tree of California's famous navel orange crop. Thus,
Riverside became a cener of the citrus industry. Today, it is amidst the
booming suburban expansion extending east from Los Angeles.
SAN BERNARDINO California's
first inland European settlement, San Bernardino blends its heritage of
Spanish missionaries and Mormon settlers with modern-day prosperity. The
first McDonald's hamburger stand opened here over 50 years ago (hamburgers
were 5 cents each). Before selling their business to Ray Kroc, the
McDonald brothers pioneered many elements of today's fast food industry.
The depot here, on the right, is designed in the style of California's
Spanish Moorish design period. Mt. San Gorgonio, the tallest mountain in
Southern California at 11,502 feet, is visible to the right.
Cajon Pass (10 Min/15 Min) meaning "Box Canyon" in Spanish, is a
2,743 ft climb for the train, twisting and turning for 25 miles to reach an
altitude of 3,811 feet above sea level. This canyon was formed by the San
Andreas Fault between the San Gabriel and San Bernardino Mountains. The
San Andreas Fault can be seen as an uplifted line of rock on the hills.
Dirt bike and jeep trails can also be seen on both sides of the train.
Large metal flood control devices line areas of the river, keeping debris
from flowing down stream. Three railroads share Cajon Pass when entering
Los Angeles from the east, the Santa Fe, Southern Pacific and Union Pacific.
VICTORVILLE Portland Cement has a large plant southwest of Victorville
on the left. I-15 passes over the train on a rainbow bridge just west of
town. Dude ranches bring tourists to this area. Distant mining sites are
visible on both sides of the train. **
Mojave Desert This desert frequently has the hottest temperatures in
the country. The train crosses the Mojave riverbed where the water is
generally 20 feet below the surface. It is filled with spots of quicksand.
Oro Grande (5 Min/25 Min) Several large cement mining and processing
plants are on the right, part of the RC Company. As the train passes through
Oro Grande, Wrightwood Mountain is on the right.
BARSTOW is mainly a railroad town comprising the yards and shops of
the Santa Fe Railway. Next to the depot on the left is "Casa del Desierto,"
one of the few remaining "Harvey House" buildings. In the late 1800s,
Fred Harvey helped civilize the west with a chain of restaurants and hotels
along the railroad. The "Harvey Girl" waitresses were immortalized in the
Judy Garland movie of that name.
Daggett (10 Min/200 Min) Here the Santa Fe Railway meets the Union
Pacific, which the Desert Wind follows to Salt Lake City. The white storage
tanks on the left contain fuel that is pumped to Nellis Air Force Base.
Despite the harsh climate of the Mojave, the small town of Daggett,
Newbury Springs and Calico produce alfalfa and cattle. The large coal
gasification plant on the right was developed by Texaco and the federal
government to generate electricity.
(15 Min/185 Min) Solar One is a solar electric plant on the right,
halfway between Daggett and Yermo. It has 1,818 mirrors, each 37 square
feet and controlled by a computer. Sunlight is directed at the large
3,000 ft water tower, heating its contents to 1,100 degrees. The resulting
steam powers an electric generator servicing 6,000 homes. The project cost
$144 million. The round water tanks are heat sinks -- another form of solar
Yermo (20 Min/180 Min) The train passes near the ghost town of
Calico to the left. A considerable amount of gold and silver mining was
done here in the 1900s.
Afton Canyon (50 Min/150 Min) The colorful rock formation in rugged
Afton Canyon extends for seven miles alongside the underground Mojave River.
Baker (70 Min/110 Min) Across the dry Soda Lake to the left is
Baker, located at the lower end of America's most vivid desert region,
Death Valley. The altitude is 39 feet below sea level, the lowest point
between Omaha and Los Angeles. During the summer, temperatures reach 130
degrees. Athel trees are planted along the railroad to prevent sand from
gathering on the tracks. Growing the trees is very simple -- railroad
workers just break off a branch from an existing tree and stick it into
the ground and give it a little water. These small branches can be seen
sticking up in a neat row. The sparse desert vegetation is still enough
to feed the hearty cattle in this region. Ranchers say that if the cattle
ate proper farm grass they would probably die.
Kelso (105 Min/85 Min) On the western outskirts of the town of
Kelso there is a small cemetery on the right that is dedicated to the
descendents of Indians. The Kelso hotel and restaurant were first built
as rest stops for railroad passengers before dining cars came into fashion.
Kaiser Steele had an iron ore mine 13 miles to the east during World Was II
-- every day, sixty carloads of ore were shipped to a plant in Fontana.
Kelso and several of the small towns in this area were started with the
help of Wagon Master Fremont, a scout and explorer who leg wagon trains
from 1840-1850, using the trails in the hills to the far left.
Cima Hill (120 Min/65 Min) The top of Cima Hill -- in the Providence
Mountains -- is 4,400 feet in elevation with a 2.2% grade. The sand dunes
to the left of the train are part of Devil's Playground, they drift as deep
as thirty feet. A mountain mine on the pass on the left extracts lime rock,
ores and rare earth. Joshua trees, 20 to 30 feet tall, and greasewood or
creosote brush cover the desert. Rattlesnakes, particularly the deadly
Mojave green, are most prevalent in this region. Yucca plants, with their
spinke-like green fronds, survive in the desert thanks to a complex root
system and porous bark. As the train drops in altitude, Yucca plants begin
to dominate the landscape. Notice also, the purple sage.
California/Nevada State Line (140 Min/45 Min) The state line is
crossed near Nipton, a small town serving miners and ranchers. On the left
are the Ivanpah Mountains, on the right, the New York Range. The old Ivanpah
mine has been reopened and crushers are working old tailings to extract gold
Jean (155 Min/25 Min) During storms, the dry lake between Jean and
Nipton fills with water that is never deeper than a foot, at most, but
this is still enough to flood nearby I-15. Wind boats use the surface as a
raceway, reaching speeds of 70 mph. The Genstar Company on the left crushes
limestone rock to produce lime which is used to make wallboard and cement.
LAS VEGAS is the "live entertainment capital of the world." Stars
from Hollywood and New York perform their own shows to packed houses on
the strip. The hotels and casinos of the strip are visible to the right
as the train enters Las Vegas from the west. At night the neon lights will
be visible from miles away. This is the home of legalized gambling. The
Union Plaza Hotel and Casino, built by the Union Pacific Railroad on the
site of the original train depot, now serves as the Amtrak station for the
Desert Wind. Outside of the city to the left are the Spring Mountain Range
and Charleston Peak, 11,918 feet above sea level. It is snow-capped until
June, providing skiing. Nearby Lake Mead offers year-round boating and
Muddy River The train crosses the Muddy River, a warm spring that
eventually joins into the Colorado, Silica sand from this region is used
in manufacturing glass.
Moapa (76 Min/70 Min) is in an area where there is not a single
town with more than 1,000 people. The Moapa region produces melons,
tomato plants and alfalfa. The Virgin River runs through this area on its
way from Zion and Cedar Break. Coal from Carbon County, Utah, is burned at
the Nevada Power Plant on the right. The aluminum buildings on the left house
hydroponic farms owned by the Paiute Indians. The Sheep Range of mountains
on the left is a mountain sheep preserve.
Rainbow Canyon The train passes through beautiful Rainbow Canyon
-- eight tunnels and a winding gorge along 26 miles of colorful rock
formations along the Meadow Valley Wash. Two streams feed into the wash,
Big Springs and Little Springs, which provided fresh water to the old
stream trains. The wash itself flows into Lake Mead.
Note: Set your watch ahead one hour to Mountain time, or if you're
traveling west, one hour back to Pacific time. During the night, the train
passes through the Escalante Desert, named after Father Escalante, a Jesuit
priest and explorer. The small towns in this valley, such as Milford and
Delta, are primarily agricultural and livestocke communities. Their
main crop is alfalfa seed, which is shipped around the world. A mineral
range at Read is where Indians used to find a rare snowflake obsidian and
use it for arrowheads.
Nevada/Utah State Line This border is crossed at night, between
CALIENTE and MILFORD
The Little Sand Dunes at Lynndyl provide recreation for campers.
Lynndyl also has the IMPP coal plant, which supplies electricity to
The Great Salt Lake Fifteen miles outside of Salt Lake City is the
Great Salt Lake, a remnant of a prehistoric sea. The salt content of its
water, four times saltier than the ocean, allows swimmers to float on the
surface with little or no effort. Extraction plants remove 100,000 tons of
salt a year from the water.
SALT LAKE CITY The wide streets of Salt Lake City lead downtown to
Mormon monuments including Temple Square, the Seagull Monument, the six
towers of the Mormon Temple visible from the station and the Beehive House.
The headquarters for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints is
located here as well as a world renowned genealogical research facility. The
prosperous Salt Lake Valley has one of the prettiest natural settings in
North America. Today it is home for a growing electronics industry. Salt
Lake City is the connecting station for the California Zephyr and the Desert
Wind from Los Angeles.
Riverton (40 Min/20 Min) The multicolored tailings that can be
seen on the mountains to the right of Riverton are the vast workings of the
Kennecott copper mines in the Bingham Canyon that was once one of the
largest open pit mines in the world. The Jordan RIver flows from Utah Lake,
which is on the right side of the train.
Geneva (51 Min/9 Min) The steel mills of Geneva Works are on the
left with the 11,750 feet high Mt. Timpanogos, the "sleeping princess,"
behind it. The tall mountain on the right at the south end of the valley
is Mt. Nebo.
PROVO Utah's third largest city has an abundance of agricultural
and mineral wealth. It is situated at the base of "Y" mountains, part of the
Wasatch Range. It is the home of the nation's largest private university,
Brigham Young University and the Osmond Entertainment Center where Donnie
and Marie Osmond taped their shows. Outside of Provo is the entrance to
Uinta and Manti-La Sal National Forest. The train enters the Wasatch
Mountains and follows the river up the Spanish Fork Canyon.
Thistle (26 Min/92 Min) This tiny village on the Spanish Fork River
was destroyed in a mudslide in April, 1983. Part of the original railroad
line was also buried. Roofs and parts of houses can be seen on the right
side of the train. The railroad's main route was blocked for three months
until a six-mile bypass could be built, including a new 3,000 ft. tunnel
through Billy's Mountain.
Soldier Summit (55 Min/50 Min) The train curves back three times as
it winds through a series of horseshoe curves and bends on the way to the
summit of the Wasatch Range, 7,440 feet high. To the right is the final
resting place of some of the Union soldiers in Johnson's Army, burried here
in 1860. This area has a number of abandoned mine shafts such as the one on
the right. Also on the right is Davidson Canyon, one of the prettiest in
Utah. Once over the top of the summit, the train enters Price River Canyon.
Castle Gate (108 Min/10 Min) A rock formation in front of the
train resembles a gigantic castle door that seems to open and close
as the train enters and leaves the mountains. High up on the hill to the
left is Balancing Rock with a makeshift flag. The mass of machinery on the
left is a processing facility for coal.
HELPER Additional "helper" locomotives are added to freight trains
to help them over the mountains, giving this railroad town the name Helper.
Local coal is plentiful enough to supply the U.S. for 300 years.
Price (7 Min/93 Min) It may be small, but Price is the largest town
until the train reaches Grand Junction. The Book Cliffs on the left extend
all the way to Colorado. Composed of sandstone and shale, they provide
evidence that this whole valley was once under water.
Green River (70 Min/27 Min) At 4,075 feet, this is the lowest
altitude en route from Salt Lake City to Denver. The town is known for
its cantelopes and watermelons. The mountains to the right are Mt. Marvine,
11,600 feet, and Thousand Lake Mountain, 11,306 feet. This is also prime
"jackalope" country. These hare-like, antlered creatures are legendary for
their size and proliferation.
THOMPSON This desolate region, called the nation's atomic warehouse
because it is rich in uranium, is also the gateway to Canyonlands and Moab,
the Arches National Park, Manti-La Sal National Forest, and Dead Horse Point.
The eroding mesas on the left are the Book Cliffs.
Ruby Canyon (40 Min/18 Min) At this point, the tracks begin to
follow the route of the Colorado River for 238 miles. Enter the beautiful
red rock formations of the Ruby Canyon, the eastern "gate" of the Utah
desert. The canyon was formed by the Colorado River carving its way through
the Uncompahgre Plateau. Water, wind and eons of time have hewn smooth
textures and fascinating shapes in the striking red stone. The swift river
and the elements continue to create new indentations in the canyon walls,
etching a record of nature's events.
Utah/Colorado State Line The state line between Utah and Colorado
is marked at Utaline by a sign painted by railroaders on the canyon wall
to the left.
GRAND JUNCTION The Gunnison and Colorado Rivers meet here.
Grand Junction is the gateway to Mesa Verde National Park, the Colorado
National Monument and Grand Mesa National Forest, enclosing the city on
each side with stately mountains. The fertile Fruita Loma Valley, where
Grand Junction is located, is a major producer of fruits, vegetables and
De Beque-Palisade (39 Min/80 Min) The huge mountain toward the east
is the Grand Mesa, the world's largest flat-top mountain. The De Beque
Palisade area produces over three million bushels of fruit each year,
including peaches, pears, apricots, apples and cherries.
Grand Valley (50 Min/68 Min) The Parachute Mountains, to the left,
are named for the billowing parachute shapes that they suggest.
New Castle (90 Min/29 Min) In 1896, an explosion at the nearby
Vulcan mine killed 54 miners. The blast threw mine timbers 400 feet into
the river. A second explosion in 1931 leveled the works, killing every
man, a total of 37 fatalities. The mine is still on fire. Baxter Mountain,
11,188 feet, is to the left.
GLENWOOD SPRINGS Roaring Fork River meets the Colorado on the right.
The infamous gunslinger Doc Holliday is burried here. Glenwood Springs was
also a favorite of Teddy Roosevelt, who stayed at the Colorado Hotel and
enjoyed the revitalizing waters of the Yampa Hot Springs, now one of the
largest outdoor pools in the world. Other recreation in the area includes
fishing, backpacking and skiing, with Aspen and Redstone resorts just a
short drive away. White water rafters salute the train while riding the
rapids on the Colorado.
Glenwood Canyon (1 Min/150 Min) Just outside of Glenwood Springs,
the train enters Glenwood Canyon and the White River National Forest. The
spectacular high cliffs are dotted with aspen and evergreen trees. The
colorful jutting rocks form a myriad of unusual shapes.
Dotsero (45 Min/140 Min) A survey of the Colorado River began in
Dotsero in 1885. The survey team marked their maps with a ".0" ("dot zero")
at the junction of the Colorado and the Eagle Rivers and it has been called
Dotsero ever since. This is also the approximate midpoint of the Zephyr's
2,427 mile journey.
The Red Canyon(60 Min/115 Min) The Red Canyon has vivid and
unusual rock formations, which helped inspire the Spanish to name this
country and the river "Colorado" -- red.
Gore Canyon (85 Min/40 Min) The towering sires of the Gore Canyon
have rock walls reaching 1,500 feet above the river. The lofty peaks to
the right belong to the Gore Range and reach elevations of over 13,000 feet.
The train follows Gore Canyon for 22 miles, and much of the rugged canyon
can be reached only by train.
Kremmling (140 Min/35 Min) The town of Kremmling is to the left of
the train. Vail, Colorado, is 70 miles away on the other side of beautiful
Mt. Powell, 13,534 feet, to the right.
Byers Canyon (162 Min/16 Min) An occasional buffalo can be seen
among the cattle in this area. Byers Canyon is filled with unusual "pagoda"
rock formations high above the tracks. The red and gold rocks have been
shaped by water and wind into an infinite array of delightful patterns.
GRANBY This station is the gateway to Rocky Mountain National Park.
The vast meadowlands in this area make up a region called Middle Park.
Evidence of aboriginal people has been found at nearby Windy Gap Dam dated
at 3000 B.C.-1200 A.D., predating modern Indians. Silver Creek ski area and
Winter Park are across the valley to the right.
Fraser Canyon (5 Min/18 Min) The train follows the Fraser River
through the remote canyon.
Tabernash (15 Min/10 Min) was named for a local Indian chief. It was
also a station where "helper" engines were added for the long, steep climb
over Rollins Pass prior to the boring of the Moffat Tunnel.
WINTER PARK (Fraser) This is the station for the nearby Winter Park
Ski Resort. The clear and cold Fraser River cuts a swath through Arapahoe
National Forest and Fraser Canyon. This was the favorite fishing spot for
President Eisenhower, particularly the mountains on the right. The town of
Fraser proudly calls itself the "Icebox of America" because of its winter
temperatures of -50 degrees Faranheight. The Devil's Thumb is a rock
formation on top of the ridge to the left.
Winter Park Ski Resort (10 Min/105 Min) Located at the western
portal of the Moffat Tunnel, this ski area was built as part of Denver's
mountain park system. The slopes, to the right, come right up alongside
Moffat Tunnel (10 Min/95 Min) The train crosses the Continental
Divide, at an altitude of 9,239 feet, under Rollins Pass, beside James Peak,
13,260 feet above sea level. On the east side, the old train tracks that
crossed Rollins Pass can be seen above. This route was called the "Giant's
Ladder," which reaches the dizzying height of 11,000 ft. The journey around
James Peak used to take more than 5 hours until the Moffat Tunnel was built,
cutting the travel time to just over 10 minutes. The tunnel, 6.2 miles long,
took 5 years to construct, opening in 1928.
South Boulder Canyon (45 Min/50 Min) This area is the location of the
Roosevelt National Forest and the Gross Reservoir, with its 340 ft high dam
which supplies Denver with fourteen billion gallons of water. Watch for deer
and elk in this region. The train passes through 29 tunnels in this area, the
shortest only 78 feet and the longest , the Moffat Tunnel, 6.2 miles long.
The track grade is a steady 2% between here and Denver. A wooden flume on the
far canyon wall, on the left, once sent logs to the Eldorado sawmill.
Plainview (95 Min/45 Min) From this area at night, 1,500 feet above
Denver, there is a spectacular view of the city. Day or night, it is possible
to see the Rocky Flats nuclear arms manufacturing plant, to the left, and the
city of Boulder to the north. Beyond Denver to the east stretch the Great
Coal Creek Canyon (100 Min/40 Min) is to the right as the train passes
over a small bridge. People still pan for gold in Century City, not too far
from this canyon. The tracks can be seen far below as the train winds between
the front range of the Rockies and Denver.
Rocky (105 Min/32 Min) Railroad cars filled with sand protect freight
from winds that occasionally reach 100 miles per hour at a point called
"Big 10" Curve. As the train approaches Arvada, a Denver suburb straight
ahead, note the tall peak to the right. This is Mt. Evans, at 14,264 feet.
DENVER Denver's skyline is notched with an impressive array of
modern buildings, many built by the energy industry. Historic Larimer Square
is only a few blocks away from the station. The 24K gold domed state capitol
contains the entire world's supply of Colorado Onyx, and the 13th step
leading to the capitol is one mile high above sea level. Denver is nestled
up against the foothills of the Rockies on the barren High Plains. This is
a refueling and servicing stop for the train.
Commerce City (20 Min/65 Min) On the northeastern edge of Denver,
the train passes through Commerce City. This industrial suburb of Denver
has the nation's largest sheep market. It also has a number of sugar beet
factories and cattle yards which line the tracks.
During the night the train stops at FT. MORGAN.
Colorado/Nebraska State Line (45 Min/70 Min)
Note: at the Colorado/Nebraska State Line (45 Min./70 Min.)
change your watch between Mountain and Central, one hour later if going
east, one hour earlier if going west.
During the night, the train stops at McCOOK, HOLDREGE and
LINCOLN The 400 ft., 14-story ten million dollar state capitol
building, the "Tower of the Plains," dominates the city, on the right.
The golden dome has a statue at the top which is not of a University of
Nebraska football coach, as many have suggested, but the symbolic "Sower."
The state fair grounds are to the left. The University of Nebraska campus
and stadium are visible from the train, on the right, just east of the
Platte River Along the historic Platte River, the Mormons traveled
the north bank for several hundred miles in their quest for the holy land.
The Pony Express and Oregon Trail followed its south bank.
OMAHA was a Missouri River crossing for west-bound pioneers.
Omaha has always been a large transportation center, supporting as many
as nine railroads. The Union Stockyards were established here in 1884.
President Gerald Ford, Henry Fonda, Fred Astaire, Marlon Brando
and Malcolm X were born here. Boys Town, a refuge for homeless and
underprivileged boys is west of town.
Offutt Air Force Base (10 Min/90 Min) The Strategic Air Command
has its headquarters here at Offutt Air Force Base, to the right of the
train, as does the 55th Strategic Reconnaisance WIng, which conducts global
reconnaisance missions. Offutt is the home to the National Airborne
Command Post, used by the President in times of crisis (look for military
versions of the Boeing 747 on the field). This is also the site of the SAC
Museum. The train follows the Missouri, on the left.
Missouri River (25 Min/87 Min) The magnificent Missouri River was
called "mini-souri" by the Indians. Its headwaters are in Montana where
Gallatin, Jefferson and Madison Rivers come together. In the 1800s,
steamboats plied the Missouri all the way from Omaha to St. Louis, where
it flows into the Mississippi. Crossing the Missouri, the train also
crosses between Nebraska and Iowa.
Stanton (64 Min/50 Min) This homestead of Sweedish settlers was also
the home of the famous TV coffee lady, Mrs. Olson. So, the town's water
tower, on the left, is in the shape of a coffee pot.
CRESTON The train crosses the summit of the ridge between the
Des Moines and Missouri River Valleys, the highest point east of the
Missouri on the train's route. The town's depot is now a national landmark.
The tall cement silos of the Farmers Cooperative on the left offer a ride
to the top for a bird's eye-view of Creston.
OSCEOLA A carved wooden bust of the Seminole chief, Osceola,
can be seen to the right of the train just past I-35, west of the station.
Settlers in the 1800s found the first Delicioius apple tree here, thirty
miles to the north.
OTTUMWA This town rises on terraces above the Des Moines River.
It was the home of General Joseph M. Street, Indian agent, who built a
trading post in 1838. It was also the hometown of the fictional character
"Radar O'Reilly" from the television show MASH.
MT. PLEASANT The oldest college west of the Mississippi was
established in 1842 as Iowa Wesleyan College, to the left of the train.
The first American coed, Lucy Kilpatrick, graduated from there in 1859.
The city had the first plank toll roads leading to Burlington in 1851.
And the first Iowan courthouse was built here in 1839.
Danville (15 Min/15 Min) was the site of a Pony Express and stage
BURLINGTON Flint in the nearby Shoquoquon Hills provided tools and
weapons for the Indians, and they considered this area "neutral ground."
Zebulon Pike established a fort here in 1805, and Abe Lincoln fought here
as a captain in the Black Hawk Wars. Before the first railroad bridge was
built in 1868, passengers and freight crossed the Mississippi in ferry
boats. In winter they had to brave the ice on foot. In 1887, George
Westinghouse developed the air brake on West Burlington Hill.
Mississippi River (2 Min/45 Min) The train crosses the Mississippi
River, the greatest of the U.S. waterways. The river travels 2,350 miles
on its way to the Gulf of Mexico. The river is the state line between Iowa,
the "Land Beyond" and Illinois. Notice the marshy bottom lands beneath the
bridge at Bonnet and the valley of Cedar Creek.
Monmouth (30 Min/20 Min) This town is where the western hero
Marshal Wyatt Earp was born. Monmouth College was founded in 1856. Monmouth's
industry includes a marketing center for corn and feeder cattle.
GALESBURG Popcorn was invented in Galesburg by Olmstead Ferris.
This was also the home of Carl Sandburg, writer and historian. Abe Lincoln
and Stephen Douglas debated at Knox College in the building with the
copper spire to the left of the train. This was also a key station in the
Underground Railroad of the Civil War. Notice, on the left, Burlington's
famous 4-6-4 "Hudson" passenger locomotive used in the 1930s. Galesburg
is the home of the Annual Galesburg Railroad Days.
Galva (20 Min/95 Min) "Bishop's Hill" was a Swedish utopian
society of religious dissidents that settled in Galva until the Civil War.
It is now a historic landmark.
Kewanee (25 Min/90 Min) The small industrial city of Kewanee was
settled alongside the Spoon River in 1836 by New Englanders.
PRINCETON (50 Min/65 Min) One of the founders of the Republican
Party, John Bryant, made his home in Princeton. It was settled by New
Englanders in 1833. It is the "Pig Capital of the World." The small red
and brown A-frame houses in the fields are what the pigs call home.
Aurora (105 Min/10 Min) This was a transfer station for statecoaches
in the 1830s. It was also the birthplace of the Chicago, Burlington and
Quincy Railroad in 1849. Transportation has always played a large role in
Aurora. A large bulldozer factory can be seen to the left.
NAPERVILLE This is the station for Chicago's western suburbs. RTA
commuter trains provide connections to Aurora, LaGrange, Brookfield and
other points. This attractive suburb is a high-tech industrial center and
is known for its Riverwalk, a restored historic village, and an example of
Frank Lloyd Write's architecture.
CHICAGO is the crossroad of American manufacturing and distribution,
and an important hub of the nation's railroads. The Sears Tower dominates
the massive skyline along with the "Gold Coast" highrises along Lake
Michigan. As the train backs into Chicago's Union Station, it parallels
the Chicago River on the left, its flow reversed in an engineering triumph
in 1880 -- and another engineering triumph -- Amtrak's modern yards and
maintenance facility, which is the home of the California Zephyr. The
train ends its 2,422 mile run in historic Union Station. Built in 1926,
the station serves over 40 Amtrak trains and 160 commuter trains each
Correction submitted by John Thompson to the above Route Guide:
** Your Web page on Amtrak's Desert Wind includes this:
VICTORVILLE Portland Cement has a large plant southwest of Victorville on
the left. I-15 passes over the train on a rainbow
bridge just west of town. Dude ranches bring tourists to this area. Distant
mining sites are visible on both sides of the train.
No, the cement plant is north of Victorville, and it's on your right as you
go eastbound (in the sequence of this trip). You pass under I-15 before you
get to the cement plant, so that sentence should come first. The I-15
bridge is northwest of town (railroad east), not west of town.