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The 12th Annual Trainmaster Reception & Dinner
Happy Birthday, City of Sacramento and California

October 7, 2000, 6:30 P.M.
Central Pacific Passenger Station
Across from the Eagle Theater on Front Street
Old Sacramento

California's 150th Birthday Celebration
Music of "The Amazing Harmonatras" and
an evening of historical journeys of California's past.

Originally built in 1867, the Central Pacific Passenger Station at Front and "J" Street in Old Sacramento State Historic Park stood for thirteen years before it was replaced by a newer, arcade style passenger station in 1880. Reconstructed in 1976, the Old Sacramento facility is a faithful representation of how the Central Pacific Passenger Station might have appeared in 1876. The Station accommodates a ticket office, separate waiting rooms for men and women, a telegraph office, and a platform that houses several pieces of CSRM vintage rolling stock, including the J.W.Bowker, painted as the Jupiter for the movie Wild, Wild West.

Below are photos that Ray and Shivam took at the California State Railroad Museum Annual Trainmaster Dinner:

Set #1 / Set #2 / Set #3 / Set #4

Amtrak San Joaquin Train #702
Steve Grande's Travelogue
(http://www.trainweb.com/travel/stevelog/2000j07a.html)

Well, here I am, finally writing another travelogue after such a long absense! The reason I have not posted any rail travelogues for such a long time is that I have not been doing any rail travel for a very long time.

Yes, I do take a Metrolink commuter train from Irvine to Fullerton and Amtrak Central Coast Pacific Surfliner Train #776 from Fullerton to Irvine almost every day. But that is just a brief ride of less than 30 minutes each way. About once per month I take the Amtrak Pacific Surfliner round-trip from Fullerton to San Diego, or sometimes I only go as far as Solana Beach to save a little time. I leave Fullerton a bit before 7 A.M. and I'm back before noon, so that is not enough of a trip that I want to write about it each time. Thus, this is the only moderately long rail trip that I have taken in a while.

There was a time when I had traveled every single mile where Amtrak provides rail service. But now, Amtrak is adding new routes faster than I can cover them! Up until my children go to 9th grade in school, they had been on the same year-round school schedule. My children would be in school for 8 weeks and then they would be off for 3 weeks. During each 3 weeks that they were off, I was able to take an extended rail trip for one week and then able to enjoy the other 2 weeks of my kids vacation with them. Now, they are both on a normal school schedule, but they go to two different schools and have just 1 week vacations that come on different weeks from each other! Since I need to drive them to and from school and help with the homework, there is very little opportunity to take an extended rail journey!

We have scheduled our usual trip to San Jose by the Amtrak Coast Starlight to visit with our family for Thanksgiving. Other than that, it looks like the only extended rail journeys that I might be taking are maybe one or two during the summer break. Although it will create a bit of stress on my family schedule, I hope to continue to be able to travel by rail to attend the annual Amtrak Historical Society conference which is always around the first week of May and not during a school break. The next one will be in Chicago, so that won't be too long a trip out of Fullerton on the Amtrak Southwest Chief.

On this particular trip, Ray Burns, Shivam Surve, and I were heading up to Sacramento to attend the annual Trainmasters Dinner at the California State Railroad Museum. It is being held on Saturday evening at 6:30 P.M. We decided to take the inland San Joaquin route for three big reasons. First, due to repair of a tunner north of Los Angeles, Amtrak is busing passengers to Santa Barbara to board the Coast Starlight. We didn't want to spend such a large part of the beautiful Coast Starlight trip on a bus. Second, Shivam has been on the Coast Starlight before and has never been on the inland San Joaquin route. Third, I needed to get back home as soon as I could since my daughter's birthday in on Sunday, October 8! As a matter of fact, I'm only going up with Ray and Shivam as an enjoyable train outing and as a chance for us all to sit down and talk about some TrainWeb issues that we are usually all to busy in the office to stop and talk about. I won't be going to the dinner as I have to head right back to Bakersfield on the morning train! Ray and Shivam won't be back until late in the day on October 8th and I need to be back to my home on October 7th, the day before my daughter's birthday. Thus, I'm now heading right back home, the morning right after the night night that I arrived into Sacramento around midnight!

I had set every alarm that I could get my hands on: my pager alarm, the hotel room clock-radio alarm, a small battery powered alarm that we brought with us, and I set up to have a wake-up call by the hotel! Since we didn't get into the hotel until midnight and I was pretty tired, I didn't want to take any chances in waking up to make the 6:20 A.M. departure of Train #702 out of Sacramento. I knew that would wake up Ray and Shivam, but they said they would not mind and it was pretty much unavoidable. It also served as practice of exactly what they would have to do the following morning to catch their train home. In any case, they didn't have to be anywhere until after 6 P.M., so they could go back to bed and catch up on any sleep they missed.

By 5:45 A.M., I was heading out the door of the hotel! I knew what the shortest route was from the Holiday Inn-Capital Plaza to the Amtrak Sacramento Train Station, but I wasn't sure if I should take that route alone. I knew it would be pretty deserted at that hour of the morning and I really was not sure as to how safe that area is in the middle of the night. I wouldn't hesitate to take the same route during the day and have done so many times. Being right by Old Sacramento and the California State Railroad Museum, it is one of the busiest and hotest attractions in Sacramento. At this hour, however, there wasn't a soul in sight! I decided to chance it anyway.

The weather was just a bit cool with a slight breeze. A jacket wasn't needed at all during any time during this trip except for maybe right now. Living in Southern California, I hadn't worn a jacket in months. So, I had just walked out of the hotel without my jacket and didn't think anything about it until the cool air hit me as I stepped outside. Although it was a bit cool, it was borderline as to whether a jacket was really necessary. I didn't want to go back to the hotel room and wake everyone up again, so I decided to continue without my jacket. Ray and Shivam could bring it back with them tomorrow.

After heading out the rear door of the hotel, I was now standing out in the Capital Plaza walkway. It was as deserted as I expected. I headed in the direction of Old Town Sacramento and took my usual shortcut through the parking lot under the freeway. The exit from the parking lot is in Old Town Sacramento just one block down from the railroad museum main entrance. Old Town Sacramento was just as deserted as the rest of my walk. It was enjoyable walking those empty streets under the street lamps and by the buildings designed to preserve the look of Sacramento during the Gold Rush days. I continued to head toward the tracks and passed through another empty parking lot that is under the freeway that seperates Old Town Sacramento from the railroad station. That path took me to the most western end of the station platform.

For the first several times that I visited Sacramento by train, I did not know of the existence of this "secret" back entrance. Like most other passengers, I headed directly for the train station building after getting off the train. I always stay at either the Vagabond Inn directly across the street from the station or the next hotel after that, the Holiday-Inn Capital Plaza. Since the parking lot at the station is fenced in, I'd have to walk away from the hotel all the way to the parking lot exit, cross at the street light about another block down, and then walk all the way back to the hotel. One time I noticed one of the Amtrak crew members heading straight for the fence. Curious, and knowing they are also put up at the Vagabond Inn, I followed him. He went straight through a hole that someone had cut in the chain-link fence and then j-walked across several lanes of the street. That became my standard way of getting to and from the hotel for my next few trips to Sacramento! I've known other people to take a taxi from the train station to the two hotels across the street just because they did not want to deal with the frustration of trying to figure out how to get out of the lot and across the street and also wanted to avoid damage to their luggage wheels that is very possible from long hauls across pavement strewn with rocks, dirt and cracks.

One day I noticed from the train that there was a sign way down at the west end of the platform that said something like "To Old Town Sacramento." I decided to explore that route. What I found was that it lead right to the California State Railroad Museum, which was just a block from the Vagabond Inn. Another block from that was the Holiday Inn. Thus, I found a much shorter and safer way to get from the train to the hotels! When you get off the train, you have to head away from the train station and go toward the deserted west end of the platform.

When I arrived at the west end of the station platform at about 6 A.M., the fuel truck was at that end of the platform and Train #702 was at the platform furthest from the station building. Just as I arrived, Train #702 turned on the headlights on the cab control car end of the train and started to pull westbound out of the station. I continued to walk to the segment of the platform closer to the station and sat at the bench seating by the platform. Within a few minutes, the train pulled back into the station at the platform closest to the station and they immediately announced the boarding of the train to Bakersfield. I stepped onboard and headed upstairs to my seat. The timing could not have been more perfect!

The train departed exactly on time at 6:20 A.M. At first, the train traveled west out of the station with the cab control car in the lead. After a short time, the train stopped and started heading east with the locomotive in the lead. At this point, several people who wanted to be facing the direction of travel became confused. They eventually got up and tried to find other seats facing the way that they wanted.

The last time that I rode on the Amtrak San Joaquin from Sacramento to Bakersfield was on the inaugural revenue run of this train on February 20, 1999. I don't think I'll every forget that trip as that was the day that my dad died. Click here if you would like to reada travelogue and see photographs from the inaugural revenue run of this route.

There seem to be quite a few people on this train. All the seats around me are occupied except for the one single chair on the other side of the doorway. There are two people in front of me at the two pairs of seats with a large table. They have been trying to stretch out on the pairs of seats on each side of the table to get some sleep. A family of three with a very vocal four year old boy is in the 2 pair of facing seats across from the table seats. The boy talked non-stop very loudly during the entire trip which made it very difficult for the pair in front of me to sleep.

There seem to be two main concern by passengers, which I have seen repeated many times on these Amtrak California Car trains: (1) passengers want to know which way the train will be heading so they can face forward, and (2) passengers having a very difficult time trying to get comfortable to take a little nap. Although the seats on these cars can pull forward about three inches, they don't go back at all. Thus, you have to either learn how to sleep sitting up, or squeeze into two seats that are side by side when there is available space. Most passengers don't even know they can grab the bottom of their seat and hop forward three inches, so even that meager attempt at comfort is unavailable to all but a few knowledgable passengers. Since I am usually awake, sitting up and working on my computer, I personally like the modern airy design of the Amtrak California Cars. With seat backs designed to be below eye level and all walls made out of clear plexiglass, passengers have a great view simultaneously from several large windows throughout the car. For working or watching the scenery, I think this car is ideal. But if you want to just lay back, relax or nap, then you are out of luck in the Amtrak California Cars!

Daylight broke long before our on-time arrival into Stockton. It is now 7:43 A.M. and as I am writing this travelogue while on the train, my writing has finally caught up to the current time!

I went to the cafe car and purchased a bagel, a bottle of cranberry juice and a Bloody Mary. The Cafe Car Attendant was very cheery and friendly. There was a mom and her toddler in the cafe car. There was also another woman in there purchasing coffee. She appeared to be intoxicated. She kept insisting to everyone in the Cafe Car that she was not intoxicated, even though nobody accused her. She was having a great deal of difficulty remaining stable on her feet, much more than could be accounted for by the train. She was dressed properly and had her hair done up, but she did have a very dissheveled appearance.

After finishing my bagel and Bloody Mary, I fell asleep for almost 3 hours! Since I was already pretty tired from the shorter amount of sleep last night, I knew it wouldn't take much to get me to doze off for a few more hours. That Bloody Mary gave just that push to my already drowsey state!

We just passed through Corcoran, running just a bit behind schedule at 10:51 A.M. instead of 10:34 A.M. There were about 8 policemen talking to each other in the Amtrak parking lot, but I could see no police cars! They were dressed in mounty type uniforms. Then, I noticed a convertible parked blocking the exit to the Amtrak station parking lot. The convertible was decorated with banners, flags and printed sheets. There were women in the convertible that were just starting to position themselves to be seated on top of the rear dash with their feet hanging down into the back seats. It was obvious that they were getting ready to be in a parade and the police were probably also getting ready to march in the parade. Since tomorrow many businesses and schools are closed to celebrate Columbus Day, I would assume this is an early Columbus Day parade. As the train moved forward, I could see the entire street by the station was closed off by police lines and there were a large group of uniformed people marching in the street. It could have been something like a school band.

The train arrived into Bakersfield at 12 Noon, just a bit late. However, there was a problem with a switch just before heading into the new Amtrak Bakersfield station. It took about 15 minutes before we were able to proceed. Once the train was able to proceed, it pulled into Track #2. The final arrival into Bakersfield was at 12:18 P.M.


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