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Trip Report

Up the West Coast and Across Canada

April 2002
Section 1 of 3


(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.

Aboard the Spirit: The SD&A RR cap makes it through the Panama Canal 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 his attention.

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 Harry.


The Spirit (on the left) as seen from the San Diego railroad station 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
  120  Engine
  126  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
34046  Coach
34504  Coach
34106  Coach
34102  Coach
 5015  Salinas  (Caltrain)

Betty enjoys a Snack in the Coast Starlight Parlor Car 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 station.

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 below.

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 San Jose.

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.

Mt Shasta from the North Side 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 sunlight.

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.


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 rolls.

Roy, Ann and Betty enjoy the view from the Talgo Cascade along Puget Sound 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.


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.

Board in the Vancouver station showing information on Rocky Mountaineer departures Vancouver Station with VIA and Rocky on left, vendors and commuter on the right

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.

2 Engines
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 off.

Bridge across the Fraser River 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.

Fraser river in lower Fraser Valley 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 division.

Farm in Fraser Valley 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 area.

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 lunch.

Continued in next section

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