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Trip Report

OTOL Northern California RailFest 2007

July 13-24, 2007
Section 7 of 8


Photos by Alan Burden, Lynn Hammond,
Kevin Korell, Jishnu Mukerji, and Steve Weagant.

Click small photos to see larger

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Chapter 9.4: RT Blue Line, Watt/I-80 to Meadowview

As seen from the CZ, a mixture of RT and borrowed VTA light rail cars sit in RT’s facility in North Sacramento. When we left Watt/I-80 at 1:45 PM, we were just one minute off the advertised. This would be our longest trip of the day, as we were riding the Blue Line end to end. Our car was marked "Meadowview", our next destination.

The entire trip takes 48 minutes, which includes some very slow running through downtown Sacramento. Unfortunately, like many sister light rail lines around the country, there is no signal preemption. We therefore sat in city traffic waiting for traffic signals just like the cars, trucks, and buses next to us.

After the 16th Street station, the Blue and Gold Lines split. We followed the new South Line, which is currently 6.3 miles from this point to Meadowview. This segment opened in 2003, but it wasn't until two years later that the current route configuration was adopted. There are plans to build another phase of the South Line as far as Elk Grove, extending it five miles.

We arrived at Meadowview right on time at 2:32 PM. Turnarounds are very short on RT, so we only had three minutes dwell time here before heading back towards the city.

Chapter 9.5: RT Blue Line, Meadowview to 16th Street

At precisely 2:35 PM, we were headed inbound once more on the same equipment. Our destination this time was 16th Street, the first common station between the Blue Line and the Gold Line. We got to 16th Street at 2:51, right on time, and began what would be an 18-minute wait for our next conveyance.

We met Bob Koski on the 16th Street platform in Sacramento, and he remained with us the rest of the day. Throughout many of our fests we have had what we call "walk-ons". These are people who surprise us by becoming a part of our fest without any previous communication. We are always happy to have people join us en route, and in fact we've met many people that way who now continue to be regulars at our organized meets. That is how we met Bob Koski, who approached us at 16th Street while we were waiting for our next train. Bob once worked for RT, and in fact he was instrumental in planning the light rail system. Bob is also currently a Station Host, volunteering to help out passengers at Sacramento's Amtrak station.

Chapter 9.6: RT Gold Line, 16th Street to Historic Folsom

Bob became the 14th person in our group that day, and he was great to have along as he gave us the history of RT and especially the Gold Line on which we were travelling. The 14 of us left 16th Street on time at 3:09 PM, headed for Historic Folsom. Along the way we passed a few stations that had at one time been the end of the line before service was extended all the way to Folsom. The line runs parallel to the old U.S. 50 (which in turn has a parallel U.S. 50 freeway), so there are businesses, restaurants, and hotels near many of the stations.

As we arrived in Folsom at 3:53 PM, the group knew that I had scheduled a little downtime here. We had time to kill so that we would not be too early at our planned dinner stop.

Chapter 9.7: In Folsom, CA

Fake tracks in plaza show where railroad used to go.  Historic Folsom LRT station is just to the right. Turntable in Folsom. The right-of-way that the light rail follows into Folsom was once a passenger railroad. There are mock railroad tracks embedded in the station plaza showing where the railroad used to run. The tracks lead right into a restored turntable. The turntable, along with a few pieces of railroad equipment, is part of the Folsom Railroad Museum. The museum, unfortunately, is only open on weekends, so we could not visit its indoor exhibits. There was, however, a small visitor's center and accompanying rest rooms available.

In addition, there are also various businesses along the main drag through town. A few from our group did some window shopping.

We met back at the plaza adjacent to the light rail station at 4:25 PM, and boarded the car that was waiting.

Chapter 9.8: RT Gold Line, Historic Folsom to Hazel

We departed from Historic Folsom at 4:30 PM. Seven minutes later we arrived at the Hazel station in Rancho Cordova. (Tom had to go home, so he remained on the same light rail car to downtown Sacramento.) Across the street and a short walk to the north is the Nimbus Winery, a winery turned shopping mall. On the property of this mall are several restaurants, so it was here that I had planned on our taking our dinner break.

The choice was between an Old Spaghetti Factory and a Cattlemen's Steakhouse. The latter was chosen because we had decided we wanted a good steak dinner on our last evening in California.

Chapter 9.9: Dinner at Cattlemen's Steakhouse

The gang awaits dinner at Cattlemen’s. The 13 of us crossed the street and then walked across a parking lot to the restaurant. It turned out the Cattlemen's was set back from the old U.S. 50, and in fact it was closer to the freeway version of the road. By the time we got into the building, it was 5:00. Steve had called ahead to reserve space for our group, but they were not quite ready for us when we arrived. However, we were soon seated along a set of tables that had been set up in a linear fashion, allowing everyone ample room.

We had a very nice dinner there. Our waitress, Christi, handled our large group extremely well. This time, even Mike Hammond was served his meal.

Eric’s birthday celebration. We also treated Eric to his meal since it was his birthday. Now, Eric is going to make sure he's with us on the same date every year!

At dinner we also straightened out our funds. I made sure that Lynn and Mike were properly compensated for the car rental. I went around and collected from those involved in the luggage transfer.

Originally, I had figured on the group leaving the Hazel station at 6:37 PM. However, because of the long walk and the time we took to eat and relax, that time came and went. Luckily, Bob reminded me that the last inbound light rail trip of the day leaves at 7:07 PM. The outer portion of this line is not as heavily travelled as the rest, so trains turn at the Sunrise station in Rancho Cordova after this time. It is a long trek between the Hazel and Sunrise stations, so we wanted to be sure we caught that 7:07 PM train.

Those who knew they might walk a little bit slower after our filling meal left the restaurant first and those with a quicker gait left later. We all got back to the Hazel light rail station with some time to spare.

Chapter 9.10: RT Gold Line, Hazel to Sacramento Valley

It was time for our fest's final official rapid transit ride. We had almost completed the RT system, except for the newest segment to the Amtrak station.

We left Hazel at 7:07 PM. Lynn, Mike, and Steve rode only for one stop, getting off at Sunrise to access their Marriott hotel. That left ten of us. Bob was next to leave us, getting off at one of the stations in East Sacramento. That brought us to nine people who continued to the end of the line at Sacramento Valley, the location of the Amtrak station. We arrived there at 7:55 PM.

Chapter 9.11: End of Friday's travels

Eric, John, and Skip walked back to their Travelodge. HaRRy took a cab to the Embassy Suites.

The other five of us (Grace, Alan, Jishnu, Michael, and I) chose to walk to the same hotel. The walk took us through Old Sacramento, the city's tourist area. The area was crowded, especially as we passed a stage on which a hula dancing demonstration was taking place.

Back at our hotel, the day was far from over. Alan and Grace had left their luggage in our room, because they were expecting the hotel to change their room. On their first night at this hotel they had been given a room adjacent to the I-5 freeway, subjecting them to vehicle noise all night.

However, when we got to our room, my key would not work. When I had checked in, they failed to program my key to work two nights. I had to leave Michael, Grace, and Alan outside my room while I went to the front desk to straighten out the situation.

Then we all had a horrible night as the hotel's fire alarm went off shortly before 4:00 AM. Everybody in the hotel was awakened. Initially, nobody from the hotel staff told the guests it was a false alarm. We later found out that somebody walked in off the street and pulled the alarm. It took a while for somebody to silence the alarm, after which everyone tried to get back to sleep. No doubt the "desk" at the front door was once again unmanned, allowing unauthorized people to enter the building at will. As you can surmise, this hotel does not come recommended should anyone be considering staying there in the future.

Chapter 10: Saturday, July 21, 2007

Saturday was bittersweet for us. Reluctantly we had to leave California, but we looked forward to more long distance train travel ahead of us.

Chapter 10.1: Meeting at Sacramento Amtrak Station

Jishnu, Alan, Grace, Michael, and I partook of the Embassy Suites' complimentary shuttle service to the train station. HaRRy had a friend from Reno joining him for the journey from Sacramento to Reno. They took a taxi to the station. Everyone else made their way to the station from other hotels, either on foot or by light rail. Lynn, Mike, and Steve got the portion of the Gold Line that they'd missed the night before.

We also had a party there to see us off. Tom came out to the station from his home. Eric, who would be flying home to Hawaii later that day, came out to the station in the morning and documented our departure on film. (He also remained there to see the southbound COAST STARLIGHT do its station work.) Bob was also there, but in his official role as volunteer station host.

The station was having some problems with their electric power. The ticket agents were having a hard time doing their jobs without functioning ticket machines. The station signs that normally give train status were also not working.

Gilbert giving Lynn & Mike a hard time at the Sacramento baggage check-in, while Kevin awaits his turn. Lynn and Mike went to check their luggage to Cleveland, and I followed them a few minutes later. When I got there, Mike was having an argument with the baggage handler. The issue was that their baggage was only three pounds over the 50-pound limit, and they were told to remove some items from it to make it legal.

My intent was to check our second piece of luggage to Washington, DC, and after picking it up there I would take it with us up to Philadelphia. After taking my luggage and putting a "WAS" tag on it, he asked to see my ticket jacket. I had all of our tickets in there. When he saw the Washington-Philadelphia ones, he quickly ripped the "WAS" tag off and slid my luggage back to me. He said he can't check anything to Philadelphia, and he couldn't check it to Washington either since that was not my final destination. I told him that I was more than willing to take that risk, and that I would even take a later Regional train if I missed my connection. He didn't want to hear that. When I tried to argue these points, he accused me of harassing him and threatened to call Security. Rather than risking missing our train over his feelings of insecurity, I walked away and thus we had to carry it with us for the remainder of our trip.

We later found out that this guy's name was "Gilbert G." Had Gilbert chosen to use his customer service skills we would not have had our altercation. At the very least, calmly explaining why he was refusing my luggage rather than his abrupt response would have been the correct thing to do. My only mistake was leaving the Washington-Philadelphia ticket in the ticket envelopes; otherwise there would never have been an issue. Amtrak would be best to rid themselves of bad apples like Gilbert, and find people who won't take out their personal job frustrations on the customers.

The eastbound ZEPHYR was running about ten minutes late coming up from Emeryville. Still, there is some dwell time figured into the schedule in Sacramento, so the train was in the station shortly after 9 AM. We said goodbye to Tom and Eric. As we approached our train Bob told us where to go on the platform for the sleepers. We really didn't get a chance to properly say goodbye to Bob as he was busy helping other passengers. HaRRy and friend, meanwhile, headed for the forward-most of the three coaches.

Continued in next section

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