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Travel From AAPRCO
On The Virginia City Private Railcar

Virginia City Private Railcar
from Chicago, Illinois to Emeryville, California

Amtrak from Emeryville to Fullerton, California
October 29 - November 03, 2002 : Travelogue #5 of 5

Click to view each set of photo highlights below:
Thu, Oct 31 / Fri, Nov 01 / Sat, Nov 02

Tuesday, October 29, 2002

Saylor and I were up around 7:00 AM and left the car around 10:30 AM. We noticed that the yard switcher had moved and separated the private railcars during the night in preparation for the cars each going in their own direction heading back home. It was quite cold out so we walked briskly to the stairway at the base of the Roosevelt Avenue bridge. The stairway was a welcome sight as it was our link out of the Chicago railyard. Once we climbed the steps and were on top of the bridge, we hailed down a taxi and were at last sheltered from the cold wind. We had the driver take us to West Devon Avenue (little India) but were a little irritated with him as he took us a round about way as our taxi bill was three times what it should have been. Needless to say, he didn't get a tip, but he did get a little free lip service from us.

Many Indian restaurants are closed on Mondays because it is the least busy day of the week, but a few are open such as the Tiffin Indian Kitchen. Their atmosphere was pretty nice and their buffet was quite good. It was great food to eat on a very cold and windy day like this. It helped warm us up and prepared us for the next onslaught of Chicago's late fall weather when we finished our lunch.

We then had a taxi take us to downtown Chicago so we could walk around and look at the beautiful building structures. As long as we were forced to go inside because of the cold, we thought we might as well look at the wares that the stores had to offer. I'm sure that is a chore that our wives would have been willing to relieve us of if they had been with us. We eventually found a few items that were in our price range and purchased them for our wives.

I find Chicago a very fascinating city and they are never short of taxicabs. Because the city's high rises are so concentrated in one central area, there is an explosion of people everywhere, like an anthill full of ants. Los Angeles, on the other hand, is spread out considerably, so its population is not that concentrated in one central area. It certainly is one heck of a place to go shopping. The song "Chicago" that Frank Sinatra sang years ago is apro po for this place. I like it!

Come around 5:00 PM (rush hour) we took a cab back to the Roosevelt Avenue bridge and from there took the stairs down to the Amtrak railyard and headed for the Virginia City and the Silver Iris. We were glad to get into the warmth of the railcars and snuggle up into our comfy beds around 8:00 PM. Most of the other people on board were enjoying each others company in both cars further on into the night.

Wednesday, October 30, 2002

Up for another day into the windy city of Chicago. Again, we left our car around 10:00 AM. If we're too early and the stores and restaurants aren't open, then it can be a little cool walking around outside this time of year. Now for a "local" there might be no problem, but for two Southern California boys, I don't want to push my luck.

Prior to leaving we noticed that our two cars were inside the rail shop having their wheels turned, just like a brake rotor and drum would be turned on a car, except on a much larger scale. Pretty interesting stuff! It was also very fascinating to watch the men work on different aspects of rail maintenance, such as taking the truck from under a railcar and then correcting it and then putting it back under the railcar. It was nice to get an inside look at how these people maintain the equipment to keep them rolling so that people can enjoy their train rides for pleasure and necessity.

This morning we managed to thumb a ride in one of the vehicles that took us to the train station. We were basically given a tour of some of the tunnel complex under the streets and were driven almost to the entrance where the passengers were waiting to board their trains. We walked through the glass doors and entered a different world. People were milling about all over the place waiting for their trains. We were now mingling with the crowd, one of the many.

Going topside and out to the street we jumped into a cab and had him drive us to a store that we were at yesterday as Saylor wanted something there. After we finished there we started to walk around the area checking out the different stores. There are always so many nice things to see. Lots of color and excitement. This one store was selling coats of mink, sable, chinchilla, blue fox, etc. for a pretty good discount. A $16,000 fur coat for around $3,000 and other such prices. Pretty nice.

We later went to Joey Buona's Pizzeria Grill, a fine Italian restaurant on E. Superior Street, ˝ block from Michigan Avenue. We both had spaghetti with marinara sauce. A little pricey, I thought, but very good food, service and atmosphere and they didn't skim on the food and sauce. I'll go there again when I come back to this city.

Again, we went around looking at the stores and I picked up some more computer diskettes for my camera as I was running out of film for my camera. By the way, computer diskettes are film for my camera! We later went into a mall that had a small grocery store down in the basement and I bought a bunch of apples to eat on the train if I was a little hungry. After helping a blind man cross the street, we decided to head back to the railcar before the traffic got heavier than it was.

We took a cab to Union Station and went to customer service and they guided us where to go to get a ride back to our railcar. It was cold, but not as bad as yesterday. Again, it was great to get into our shelter away from the elements. The Virginia City and the Silver Iris were now out of the shop but not too far from it. I did some more writing and checking of the virtual pictures that Saylor had previously, taken trying to catch up on my "homework." I stayed up pretty late as there was just so much to catch up on.

Thursday, October 31, 2002

Saylor and I got up around 8:00 AM today and a full day it was at that! I asked Saylor to go to the workshop area and see if he could go up to the dispatchers tower to take some virtual shots from there. Saylor did work it out and took some great shots that you will eventually get to see at 360360.com. I spent the whole day checking on his shots (virtual pictures) and continuing with my travelogue.

The train left the area around 2:15 PM and we were off westward bound to California. It doesn't matter what route you take, there is always so many pretty sights to see, especially from a train. If I keep up at this pace I should be caught up on the travelogue by tomorrow. It seems that this is my best time to literally catch up.

We ate dinner around 7:30 PM and both private cars were all decorated for halloween. We had excellent roast beef, baked potatoes and asparagus. Our chef also made pumpkin pie and I must say that everything that we had was primo number one! Everything was tender, fresh and very delicious. The staff were wearing lighted gizmos on their heads to lighten up the festivities so everyone had a great laugh out of the presentation. A wonderful dining experience for everyone!

The rest of the evening was back to the laptop to be that further ahead. Bob always makes our bed just so and puts our beds up and puts them down, every day, so that time is certainly saved for me. In fact, no matter what car set or train that you're on, the attendant will always make your bed and put it away and take it down when you're ready for it. I want to get to bed early enough to get enough sleep so that I can get up early enough so that I can take a picture or two of the Denver, Colorado, train station.

Friday, November 01, 2002

I usually wake up at three or four AM every morning and it takes me a while to get back to sleep, so I thought that I'd just go ahead and get up this morning, shower up and be plenty early for the Denver station. As soon as I was all prepared, I took a few pictures of all the beautiful heavy snow that was outside at McCook, Nebraska, including the platform that was full of snow. I then started to work with the laptop again and caught up that much more. The scenery was exceedingly beautiful to see from a moving train but I doubt it's so for those who have to work in it.

Breakfast was called and the orange juice, French toast, fruit and bacon with muffin was just fine. We were coming into Denver, but we'd be dropping off the freight cars behind us and then hooking up to another set to take further west. This gave ample time to finish breakfast and get our gear and get ready near the door to exit when the time was proper.

The train stopped at the junction and Bob swept the snow off of the stairs, we stepped down and we were off. Down the ramp to an underground tunnel and then up the other inside ramp towards the station. There were many people in the station that were waiting to get on the train so there was a lot of commotion in the area. I took a few shots with my camera and was out of there. I love these old structures that have so much fine architecture in them. Maybe next time around there will be a little more time to take a few more pictures.

Saylor has some relatives here so he decided to go and visit them. I guess this is as good a time as any to visit loved ones. I assume that he'll catch a later train or take a bus to San Diego. Let's hope that this last leg of his journey goes as well as his first. He did a good job on the trip as he's always a hard worker. I went back to the laptop and within a few hours I at last caught up with my work. I would have hated to do this work in the office.

I noticed that the further west we went, the less snow there was. An hour west of Denver the snow was in the process of slowly melting. This caused a high shine on the rooftops as if there were twinkle dust for snow. Very pretty! The coal and other freight trains out here are very long. It is just amazing how these engines can pull such long and heavy loads. The professionals in the rail industry, railfans, and even model railroaders know the capability and power of these behemoths and what it does for this nation – always have. It's too bad that many people do not have a clue as to what the true value of freight and passenger rail is to so many communities in this nation. In fact, to every country in the world, for that matter.

For lunch we had lentil soup and a good tomato, bacon and cheese sandwich. Desert was pineapple upside down cake. Unlike Amtrak (which would be difficult for them), private railcars bring their own chef and everything is "home" cooked to order. That always makes for enjoyable meals. The staff that brings the food is always full of humor and good will and are continually trying to make your trip even more enjoyable than it is.

We later went through Glenwood Pass and the rocky formations are always an awe inspiring scene to look at. With the Colorado River snaking its way along the canyon base and the clouds floating like mist near its top, it makes for one surrealistic panorama view. Because of the winding and turning around the bends, the train was going at a slow speed. This gives everyone a great opportunity to view the surroundings that dwarf the train. If you go east on this trip, you will always be guaranteed daylight to see the mountains. If you are going west and the train ends up a few hours late, you will end up going through the rockies when it's dark, and see nothing. Remember that!

I managed to squeeze a few calls out using my cell phone, but because of the mountain ranges, the calls don't last very long. Still, what a wonderful invention. A few of the die hard railfans did go outside and get a good whiff of that clean mountain air and an excellent view not limited to the window parameters. Of course, one must be well bundled up for such risky ventures.

Tonight we had shank of lamb with vegetables with chocolate and raspberry mousse for dessert. It seems that almost everyone wanted more. My favorite for the trip was her roast beef, though. Ida and I had great conversation together at this meal. I still had my computer on so I eventually excused myself and went back to my room and packed everything up. In fact, I rearranged everything in my suitcase to prepare for debarking tomorrow evening. After all was done, I went to bed in the lower bed tonight as I had the whole room to myself. I got to see the many brilliant stars in the clear sky tonight.

Saturday, November 02, 2002

I got up about 6:00 AM this morning and showered up. I worked on my luggage some more and got my things in order. The chef, Cathy, told me that it was 2 degrees outside and when she went from one car to the other, her hand stuck to the door handle as her hand was damp. Now that's a wake up call!

Intertherm out of St. Louis has a glycol baseboard heater that is used in houses nationwide. Well, Doug Klein, the owner of the Silver Iris, had them put in when he had this car restored in 1986 and they work just great. Each room has its own thermostat control unit and they use very little electricity. Now that's someone using their head. The Virginia City has electrical heating which basically does the same thing and then they also have the living room fireplace that is run from propane. Looks pretty neat when it's on and pretty handy when it's cold out, like this morning.

A big breakfast prepped us for the day as we slowly were coming into a warmer climate. A radical change too, when I was looking at steam rise above the water creeks and ponds early this morning. Something that is really unique to see. The sun is out in full force now and its welcoming heat is penetrating everything.

We stopped at Sparks, Nevada, and Jan got off. Her daughter and grandson were waiting for her. Bob will go all the way to Emeryville, CA, and then bring the car back here to be berthed this coming Monday. This is where the Amtrak crew changes and also refuels. Five miles later we are in Reno, Nevada, where most of the Amtrak passengers disembark and get on. A lot of lights in the "Biggest Little City In America."

One handy note of knowledge that I'll pass on here is that it is customary on private railcars, as it is on AMTRAK, VIA, American Orient Express and other excursion train trips, to leave a gratuity for the servers, the steward and the chef. The range usually runs anywhere from $5 to $10 per running day, the days that you're on the train and being served. It's like a restaurant, it's not obligatory to do so, but it is customary.

For lunch, we had roast beef sandwiches with dip au jus and corn chowder or lentil soup. For dessert, we had pumpkin pie a la mode, chocolate and raspberry mouse, or pineapple upside down cake. "Roll em, cowboy, take your pick!" Heck, I had seconds.

We just left Truckee, Arizona, and the trees, mountainsides, rivers and clear sky certainly makes one envious of the locals. Looking down the mountainside, one can see Donners Lake. A most beautiful site for the senses! Anyone who enjoys scenery will love this place.

As the train winds around the mountains, it is not going very fast. This makes for safe passage and for people to have more time to enjoy the scenery. It doesn't matter where you look as everything looks beautiful. It is quiet in your room, there's soft piped music in the lounge/dinning area on the Silver Iris, and those that are in the living room on the Virginia City are certainly into some conversation or other.

The dinning room table was set out with food for everyone to come pick what they wanted to eat. I could not eat anything as I was still full from my large lunch of roast beef sandwiches and corn chowder. I went over all of my luggage and made sure that everything was in order and then went to the living room in the Virginia City.

We just went by Sacramento, California, so in about two more hours we should be in Emeryville. Everyone was getting a little excited now, looking forward to getting home. We've all been gone for quite a while so it was time to "take a break" and get back into lifes' regular routine. In my case, I don't have a problem as I love my job working at TrainWeb upstairs from the Amtrak Ticket Office in the Fullerton Santa Fe Depot.

Bill and Evelyn got off in Martinez, California, and bid their adieus to everyone. Being near a stopped train that has private railcars attached to the trainset is always fascinating. Haven't you ever wondered what it looks like inside and what it would be like to be on one going somewhere? How opulent is the craftsmanship and how great the service and food is onboard and do people really wave at you with a smile when you go by them? You bet your boots they do! It almost makes you feel like a movie star. Go to RAILcharter.com and you will get a pretty good idea what some of them look like. There are so many beautiful private railcars and hopefully more of them will become sponsors of Trainweb so they will be easier to find and will have virtual pictures available for your perusal.

All of the luggage was taken off the train and put on the platform at Emeryville, California. Our private railcars have been traveling on the tail end of the Amtrak California Zephyr from Chicago to Emeryville. Emeryville is the last stop for the California Zephyr, and thus is the final westward stop for our private railcars, too! Except for some of the crew that would be staying on the private cars as they travelled back to their home base, everyone got off and said their goodbyes. We had a great time together. Ted and Lerna took the redcap ride to the station while I walked with Paul to same. It was a long trainset. Ted and Lerna will be taking the Amtrak San Joaquin to Bakersfield tomorrow AM and then are bussed (Amtrak motor coach) to Los Angeles where they will take the Amtrak Surfliner (the San Diegan) to San Diego, while Paul will be flying to San Diego tomorrow morning. I, of course, will be taking the same route as Ted and Lerna except that I will be getting off at Fullerton, the first stop south of Los Angeles, California.

Ted and Lerna had their hotel shuttle pick them up whereas Paul and I ended up taking the elevator that took us up to the catwalk that crossed the tracks and then took the elevator down that was on the other side of the tracks. We said our goodbyes at that point as we were staying at different hotels.

I checked into the Woodfin Suites hotel around 8:00 PM and ended up with the same room that I had when I was going east, room #301. It is a full suite with a California king size bed, a full kitchen, living room and dinning room. All very nice, but I was heading for the bed. There are many rooms facing the station that is across the tracks, so if you like trains, the view is excellent with their large picture windows and even a small patio. If you like to stay at hotels that are near passenger train stations, or in hotel rooms with a view of the tracks, be sure to visit RAILhotels.com! I called the desk for a wake up call but found that is something you do with the automated phone. I then set the alarm clock, just in case I didn't work the phone system correctly, washed up and went to bed.

Sunday, November 03, 2002

I woke up at 5:30 AM using my built in time clock and washed up. Everything was pretty well in place ready to go, so it was for smooth sailing. I checked out downstairs and they had their shuttle take me to the Amtrak train station. I was early, but I just don't want to take any chances. I called my sister, Lorraine, and let her know what was happening, while I waited for the Amtrak San Joaquin. Sure enough, it came on time and I jumped on board, put my luggage in the rack downstairs, went topside, and sat at the nearest table near the top of the stairs as it has 110 volt outlets that I can use for my laptop computer.

Charles Harris, the Conductor on this run, stopped by to chat for a few moments with me. It is very reassuring to hear so many people say so many positive things about David Gunn, the new President of Amtrak. This man certainly has the support and respect of his front line troops, so that carries a lot of weight! The general population that enjoys rail travel should call their senators and congressmen to let them know that you do support Amtrak and their new president and that you would expect that they do the same thing. With the right people and the right attitude and good teamwork, a great working system can be in place. Do your share to help! Hopefully, Amtrak will soon have even better relationships with private railcars. There's always room for progress.

On this route, Amtrak really moves out. Being Sunday, I think that the tracks are even less congested than on weekdays. I noticed a few hundred ducks in the bay waters and I always like seeing bridge construction. Maybe it was the Erector sets that I played with when I was a kid that fosters that interest. By 9:30 AM we were in Stockton. About five minutes later, train 712 was pulling out heading south to its next destination. The café lounge car is the next car in front of mine, so all I have to do is go through the doors which are a few yards from me and get a bite to eat if I'm hungry. I did bring a few apples, so that should help me out some.

I noticed that the weather is so pleasant here in California. The east was pretty cool, but I liked it. Chicago was really cool, and Nebraska was downright cold! Oh well, it is just the time of year that I'm going through these states. Everything is relative.

One nice thing about coming into Bakersfield is the lovely new train station that they now have. Before it wasn't much to behold, but now it's a spiffy modern brick structure. The motor coaches are all lined up side by side just a few paces from the train so the transition from one carrier to the other runs very smoothly. The ride to Los Angeles goes very smooth but we missed our connecting train in Los Angeles by a few minutes. Of course, by the time everyone gets off the bus and gets to the train, a good fifteen minutes has passed. That is why the train does not wait. It takes another hour before the next train is ready to leave. I get off at the very first station, which is Fullerton, so it's an easy ride for me.

I'm glad to be back home, but with cherished memories that last a lifetime. It is always such a pleasurable experience to be so well attended to in every aspect. The food is always excellent with the next meal outdoing the last one served. The majestic scenery from one part of the country to the other is a buffet to the senses. The conversation is always upbeat but there are plenty of corners to slink into if you want peace and quiet, other than the privacy of your room. A memoriable experience for all, delightful and affordable. I wholeheartedly reccomend you loosen up and go for it! You'll be happy you did! Until next time, I bid you happy trails.

Click here to start at Part 1 of this travelogue.

Click to view each set of photo highlights below:
Thu, Oct 31 / Fri, Nov 01 / Sat, Nov 02

Click to view each set of detailed photos below:
Wednesday, Oct 30, 2002
Set #01
Thursday, Oct 31, 2002
Set #01 / Set #02 / Set #03
Friday, Nov 01, 2002
Set #01 / Set #02 / Set #03 / Set #04 / Set #05
Saturday, Nov 2, 2002
Set #01 / Set #02 / Set #03 / Set #04 / Set #05 / Set #06

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And View More Photos Of Rail Travel!

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