(Click small photos to see larger; all larger photos are less than 40K)
This report covers the rail portion of a trip that Betty and
I made in April 2002.
We left Miami on April 4 on the Cruise ship Carnival Spirit.
After visiting Columbia, passing through the Panama Canal,
visiting Costa Rica, and 3 ports in Mexico I awoke at 6:00
AM on the 21st of April to find the ship at the dock in San
Diego. This is where the rail portion of the trip began.
After a quick early breakfast I went out on the bow of the
ship to look around. Not knowing where the Cruise Ships
dock in San Diego I wondered how far it was from the dock to
the train station. When I got on deck the station, with its
large Santa Fe Sign, was about 2 blocks dead ahead.
We began to disembark from the Sprit at about 9:00am.
Because of security checks and customs checks we were not
scheduled to leave for about 45 minutes. Harry Sutton had
agreed to meet the ship and we would go to breakfast before
he took us to the railroad station. At a little after 9:00
I spotted his black SD&A cap walking back and forth on the
street. I tried to signal and call to him but could not get
When we finally left the ship we retrieved our baggage, went
to the street, and made contact with Harry. He loaded our
baggage and us in his car and we went to a restaurant, which
served an excellent breakfast. After we ate and talked
trains for a while he returned us to the Railway Station. We
were to catch the 12:55pm Pacific Surfliner. Harry left for
home and we went into the station. Thanks for the help
After checking in Betty and I sat down to await the
departure of our train. From the station waiting room I
could look and see the Spirit at the dock.
At about 12:30 our train was spotted at the station. First
disappointment, this equipment was not the by-level
equipment that I expected on the Pacific Surfliner. Instead
it was the old single level equipment.
At about 12:45 the train was called and we boarded the
Business Class coach. The departure was on time and we were
within 5 minutes of schedule all of the way to Los Angeles.
Arrival at Las Angeles was 5 minutes early at 3:30pm.
Luggage was the only problem on this part of the trip. We
had to have both winter and summer clothes so we ended up
with 5 suitcases. On the ship we had packed all of our
summer clothes in 2 suitcases and had the clothes for the
rest of the trip in the other three. In L.A. there was no
Redcap that met the train. Between the two of us we finely
got all of the bags to the baggage room. I was going to
check the 2 extra bags to Seattle and carry the other three.
Because the Coast Starlight is known to be as much as 4-5
hours late I asked the Baggage attendant if Seattle had all
night baggage service. The answer was that no one knew how
late the baggage claim was open or what time it opened in
the morning. Well it looks like we will take all 5 with us.
Once we get on the Starlight we can store the extra ones on
the lower level baggage area. I did get the baggage
attendant to store them over night for me so that we did not
have to take them to the hotel. Just as an after thought
the attendant said that the baggage room is sometimes not
open long before the Starlight departure, but that one of
the Redcaps could retrieve the bags for us. With this
settled we departed for the hotel by cab.
The next morning we arrived at the L.A. station about an hour
early for the 10:00am Departure of the Starlight. There was
no Redcap around when the cab dropped us at the curb. Betty
stayed with the bags while I went into the station to find
some help. While I was in the station a Redcap, with a golf
cart showed up and she had him take the bags and they came
and found me. He went to the Baggage room and retrieved the
2 bags that we had left overnight. He then took baggage and
us inside the gate to a waiting area and said that he would
be back later to take us to the train.
He was there at about 20 minutes before departure and took
another couple and us to the sleeper cars. We checked in
with the car attendant and conductor, stored most of our
baggage in the lower level, and went up to bedroom E in car
1430. The attendant followed us and checked to find out if
we knew how to operate all of the equipment. He collected
our tickets, took our reservation for lunch and invited us
to go to the Parlor car for coffee and rolls.
Our consists this morning is:
905 Caltrain Engine
1735 Baggage Car
39019 Transition Crew Dorm
32097 Sleeper New Hampshire
32098 Sleeper New Jersey
32091 Sleeper Minnesota (ours)
39974 Pacific Parlor
38056 Dining Car
33048 Superliner Lounge
5015 Salinas (Caltrain)
As we were enjoying our snack we departed on time at 10:00.
Most of the inbound commuter rush was over and we arrived
at Santa Barbara on time. We only had a couple of short
waits for inbound traffic and one short wait while a train
cleared a station. Before Santa Barbara we went to lunch
and finished shortly after the station stop.
It was a clear day and we had a good look at the oil
platforms in the Santa Barbara channel. North of that
running along the coast and Vandenberg Air Force Base, with
its missile sites kept us entertained. There were a couple
of stops, for freight trains, during this time and we
approached San Luis Obispo 45 minutes late.
As we approached San Luis Obispo we took a siding and were
told that we would wait for the Southbound Starlight, #11,
to clear before we went into the station. After about 20
minutes the southbound passed us and we pulled into the
We left San Luis Obispo at 5:50, 1:07 late and began the
climb up and over Cuesta Pass and around the Horseshoe
Curve. This is a very scenic part of the trip with several
sections of track, we had already passed over, in sight
This section of track was rough all the way to San Jose. We
met several freights and had a section with a slow order of
30 MPH near San Ardo. As a result we were 2 hours+ late at
At San Jose I heard the crew talking about cutting the lead
engine out. That would be the Caltrain engine.
The scanner also brought the news that a freight had broke
down between here and Oakland so we were going by way of
Niles. This would cause a slight delay because of a
slightly longer routing. At this time I decided that I was
not going to stay up till the Oakland stop, as planned, and
went to sleep.
The next morning I woke up at about 6:15 as we made the stop
at Redding. We are now about 3 hours late. Betty and I were
at breakfast when we stopped at Dunsmuir, still about 3 hours
late. After we finished breakfast we returned to the
Pacific Parlor Car, where we would stay most of the day.
One of the advantages of being late, on this portion of the
trip, was in seeing Mt Shasta in the daylight. It was
covered in snow and was beautiful in the clear sunlight. We
saw it from the West Side and then the route took us around
on the north side for a different view.
At Klamath Falls we had made up some time and were 2:20
down. At this stop we were met by Sylvia & Ted Blishak, the
travel agents who set up this whole trip for us. We talked
while the crew changed and train service took place. I also
noted that the Caltrain car was gone from the rear of the
train. We must have left it at, or north of, San Jose.
As we passed to the east of the mountains which contain
Crater Lake National Park we appeared to be making up some of the time
we were behind. We are going to meet friends, Roy and Ann,
in Seattle. They are going to accompany us from Seattle to
Jasper BC. The plan is to meet them at the Hotel in
Seattle. We are scheduled for a 8:25pm arrival in Seattle
and hope that we can get to the hotel in time to get several
hours of sleep before we have to get up for the 7:45
departure for Vancouver.
As we approach Chemult we have made up some more time and it
looks like we might actually get back on schedule. Just
South of Chemult we are stopped for a red signal and we wait
for 10 minutes for it to clear so that we can get into the
station. After we leave the station we encounter a signal
which is dark and stop. The signal maintainer, who had
cleared the signal south of town, comes up to this signal
and resets it after about a 5-minute delay. So much for any
effort to make up time.
We stop at Eugene-Springfield at 2:57pm 2:13 late. Between
there and Portland we encounter several slow orders which
keep us between 2:30 and 3 hours late. The track is much
better today than yesterday and without the slow orders we
could easily make schedule. We also were delayed 15
minutes, just north of Albany, to meet southbound #11/23.
The trip down the Willamette Valley was very interesting to
me. This was a new part of the country for me. I had never
been in this part of Oregon before. With my farm background
I enjoyed seeing the farms. I also used the Cell Phone to
call Roy and Ann at the hotel in Seattle and tell them that we
would be in late and to not wait up for us. We would meet
them in the lobby in the morning. Between Salem and
Portland we got a good look at Mt Hood. The sun was behind
us and it really stood out.
We arrived at Portland for a short stop and departed at
6:25pm down by 2:25. After crossing the Columbia River and
clearing Vancouver OR and Longview we got a good look at Mt.
St. Helen. It appeared to be pink in the late afternoon
The rest of the stops before Seattle were made in the dark.
After Tacoma the schedule padding kicked in and we arrived,
at Seattle, at 10:00pm just 1:35 late.
Redcap service was available at Seattle. I asked if the
baggage room was open and was told that the Redcaps could
get in if we had checked baggage. We could have checked the
extra bags at L.A. The Redcap collected all 5 of our bags
from the train and took us to a taxi, which got us to our
hotel at about 11:00pm.
TALGO CASCADE SERVICE SEATTLE TO VANCOUVER
On 24th of April we leave the hotel at 7:15am. The Taxi was
prompt and we were at the King Street station in plenty of
time for our 7:45 departure on train 760 Talgo service to
Vancouver. We see #751 leave for Eugene at 7:30. After he
departs our train was called and we went out to board. This
was another personnel milestone that was planned into the
schedule. I wanted to ride the Talgo. We boarded Business
class and were offered the morning paper and coffee and
Departure was on time. The ride in the Talgo is extremely
smooth. One is sitting unusually close to the ground, which
takes some getting used to. About like changing from a SUV
to a Sport car. We road along Puget Sound and enjoyed the
scenery before arriving at Everett, WA. After the station
stop at Everett the route goes inland and we did not see
Puget Sound until the on-time stop at Bellingham. We used
this time to catch up on the news with Ann and Roy. There
were no stops between Bellingham and Vancouver. We crossed
the border with no stop. Entering Vancouver we passed
through a large part of the city before stopping at the
station. We were about 5 minutes early making the trip from
Seattle in 3 hours 50 minutes.
We cleared customs at the arrival gate and went into the
station. The station is large and clean. It is used for
other transportation as well as trains. In the center of
the station is a 4-sided board listing rail arrivals and
departures. One side is taken up with information on the
Rocky Mountaineer, which would be our next train. The other
side of the board was taken up with information on the
Canadian arrivals and departures. The rest of the board was
filled with other railroad and commuter information. One
end of the station was taken up with VIA and Rocky
Mountaineer ticket counters. The other end has car rental
offices and, ticket counters for bus and commuter services.
We rented a car from Hertz and spent the afternoon
sightseeing in Vancouver. A very neat and clean city but
parking space was hard to find.
ROCKY MOUNTAINEER VANCOUVER BC TO JASPER
On April 25 we got an early start. Leaving the Hotel at
6:00am for the Vancouver station. . At the station we
returned the rental car and checked in. All of our luggage
was accepted and would be returned to us at the hotel at
Kamloops and at Jasper. We would ride the train for two
days and spend the night in a hotel in Kamloops. We are
given our hotel assignments, for tonight at this time.
At the station there was a large staff of about 50 people who
checked us in, took all of our baggage, except an overnight
case, and escorted us to our car. Ann has a leg problem and
required a wheelchair, which was promptly furnished. Even
though we were there about 30 minutes before train time we
were among the last passengers to check in. A lot of the
passengers had bought a package, which included
transportation from the hotel, in Vancouver. The buses must
have picked up very early.
The train is made up of a Jasper Section and a Calgary
section, running as one train to Kamloops, where the train
was split during the night.
I was never able to get car numbers, but here are the types
of cars when we left Vancouver.
1 baggage car (don't know what was in this car because our baggage had gone ahead by truck)
The Calgary Section
4 Red Leaf single level coaches
2 Red Leaf diners.
1 Gold Leaf Dome Coach
The Jasper Section
1 Gold Leaf Domed Coach (our car)
1 Red leaf diner
2 Red leaf single level Coaches
We walked to the Domes and found our assigned seats. We had
the 4 front seats on the left side of the Dome car. Across
the aisle from us was the wheelchair lift. Ann is able to
walk short distances so she did not require the lift. There
were 70 seats in each dome.
As soon as every one was aboard the 2 Onboard Attendants
divided us into 2 sections. The Dining car section, which
was on the first level only held 35 at a time so we ate in
two sections, we were in the second section. Breakfast and
lunch were served. Dinner was at the hotel in Kamloops.
Also on the first level was the kitchen and about the back
15 ft. of the car was an open observation platform.
We left about 10 minutes late. Because this is not a
regular scheduled train, time keeping was not the most
important thing. In fact we had plenty of time for a
leisurely pace and for meeting a lot of freight trains.
Arrival time was a window of an hour or more. As we left
the station all of the service personnel, who had helped
with the boarding, were standing beside the track to wave us
We crossed the Fraser River on the same bridge that we had
crossed on the Cascade. We followed BNSF rails for about
10mi before we turned left onto CPR rails. We would be on
CPR rails, for the rest of the 276mi to Kamloops. The CN
rails follow the same route, but on the other side of the
river. The CN/CPR have a joint use agreement. The
eastbound traffic is on the CPR and the westbound on the CN.
As we cleared the river the first half of the car was
called to breakfast. As they left those of us in the second
seating were served coffee, juice, and rolls, as survival
rations, until we had breakfast. During this time I had a
chance to read some of the route guide, that was furnished
to each passenger. This route guide was in the form of a
19-page newspaper, which in addition to the route
information was full of history of the route.
A couple of quick things which I read was that because the
CPR was the first road, built, they picked the easy side of
the river. The CN had to take the other side. Both
railroads cross the river many times but always one on one
side and the other on the other side. Unlike the US the
milepost in Canada start over at the start of each division,
with the high numbers on the west end and counting down as
we go east. Our route today will take us up the Fraser
River until the junction with the Thompson then up that to
Kamloops. Operations crew will change at the end of each
The Fraser Valley is quite wide and flat at his point and is
full of neat prosperous looking farms. Soon we are called
to our seating for breakfast. The stairs, to the lower
level are at the rear of the car and between the dining area
and the open observation lounge. Our selection this morning
is Eggs Benedict, Scrambled Eggs Wrapped in Salmon, Top
Sirloin with Scrambled Eggs, and Scrambled Eggs and Sausage.
It doesn't look like we will go hungry. After we finish I
stop by the observation area for a few minutes. I can see
that I should have brought some heavier clothes if I am
going to take full advantage of this area.
Our car attendant is making his first run this year,
although he is an old hand. This is the third trip for the
Rocky Mountaineer this year. He is very knowledgeable and
continually points out sights and gives us history of the
We soon began to climb the mountains and at Matsqui Junction
we cross the river and will now be on the North and West
Side as far as Cisco. From this area we can see Mt. Baker,
about 40 miles south of us. We soon cross the Harrison
River Bridge, an 11 span bridge totaling 962ft in length.
All of the time the CN on the other bank has a parade of
one freight after another heading west. Most of them are
unit trains of grain hoppers or container trains. With the
directional traffic we have very few stops. Our pace is
leisurely and we fit in well with the eastbound freight
traffic. At Hope we leave the farms of the Fraser Valley
behind and are surrounded by mountains.
At Cisco Crossings we swap sides, of the river, with the CN.
Each railroad has its own bridge. We stay on the East and
South Side until we swap again at the Alexandra Suspension
bridge. During this time the first seating has been at