Susan's daughter got us to the station with about an hour to spare, so there was time to watch a coal load come through at 8:10. This was a distributed power FSTX train with BNSF 9989 on the point and BNSF 9832? in back.
My friend Rich Fertig, himself recently married, was the engineer on the passenger train tonight. Rich leaned out the cab window as the train rolled in to toss us a little "present", a crew pack with a cute message written on it. Susan and I had worked hard and partied happily in the days up to and including the wedding and were very ready to relax and let someone else do the driving. We kicked back in a deluxe sleeper in our Superliner, the "Maryland" and watched Iowa disappear into the darkness.
Naturally, I had my scanner along to monitor our progress along the railroads. Just after passing through Thayer, Iowa, I heard Engineer Fertig ring up the dispatcher to report that the fireman's window of the lead unit had been broken by something thrown from an overpass in the town. Rich had already used his cell phone to call the sheriff, report the incident, and give descriptions of three juveniles on the bridge. The window was badly cracked but did not break all the way through, so we were able to continue without stopping to swap units. In Omaha there is a scheduled 20 minute stop, so I got off the car to get our consist, have a look at the lead unit's windshield and visit with Rich. Our Zephyr tonight:
AMTK 164 and 204Susan and I had an early breakfast in the diner and were back in the compartment as we arrived in Denver, backing past lines of BNSF motive power into the station just after 8:30 (all times given in this description of our trip will be central daylight). Our engineer was instructed that we would be picking up two "occupied" private cars this morning. As we backed toward them, the man at the rear of the train said that they are "on the platform" and asked for one quarter of a car after a safety stop. Susan and I were three cars forward from the freight but could really feel the jolt as the coupling was made. This bump was followed by an angry voice on the scanner saying, "I Said One Quarter Car!"
Sleepers 32007 (Crew car), 32026, 32029 and 32088 "Maryland"
Sightseer Lounge 33014
Coaches 31503, 34046 and 34020
We got off the train for some fresh air and a look at the station. Susan posed in front of a heavyweight observation car on the next track, the "GNW&B Gritty Palace". I was stopped by a car attendant when I tried to walk down the platform to see the cars that had been added to the rear, but I found a way to check them out by passing through the depot. They were BNSF company cars, "Atchison" and "William Strong". At Denver the locos, both facing forward, were exchanged so that the broken windshield was no longer leading.
Since our compartment window was on the "wrong" side of the train for the climb up the east face of the Rockies, I took Susan forward through the diner to Amtrak's Sightseer Lounge for the ride out of Denver. In the next seat was another guy with a scanner. I assumed he was a 'buff, but no, he'd seen someone with one on his trip east and liked the idea of getting first hand information on the train's progress so well that he'd gone out and bought one just for the return trip.
We were not delayed on our climb to Moffat Tunnel, but did end up waiting on a coal load (UP 7275 leading) at Tabernash around noon. Lunch in the diner was consistent with my previous Amtrak trips, bland food, slow "service" and churlish personnel. While we waited to enter the diner other passengers informed us that we should, "Do exactly as the dining car people tell you or you'll get in trouble." It was a full hour between our seating and the arrival of the food, this after our group of first class passengers was ordered by the help to walk through the diner and go to the back of the line in the lounge.
We could see both the head and rear of the train as we passed around the tight curves in the canyons. Although we ended up a couple of hours late in Glenwood, there was still plenty of daylight and time to get cleaned up (no, we didn't get nervy enough to try the shower in our compartment) and explore the town a bit.
The view from the third floor of the Hotel Denver showed the rails, river and highway, but it was fairly quiet. Hotel service was excellent - highly recommended. There's a railfan bonus in Glenwood, the lobby of the Denver includes one of the Rock Island pearl paintings. It's a short walk across the street to the depot for pictures of passing BNSF and UP freight trains.
On Tuesday Susan and I hiked to Hanging Lake and did some shopping around town. That evening I caught pictures of No. 5's arrival (5:15) and departure. There is a pedestrian walkway across the river and the Interstate that provides an excellent angle on westbound trains. Here's the CZ, with rafters on the Colorado River, as it pulls around the curve and into the station. Baggage may still be checked to Glenwood, one of a few locations where that's still supported on the system, and there was quite a bit of it tonight. The train highball'd at 5:30 and crossed back over to the mainline just west of the station. In No. 5 tonight:
AMTK 181 and 1In the evening I found an eastbound freight stopped in the siding and got some pictures of it. The power included UP 6257, a Rio Grande unit - 3105, UP 7021, 7066, SP 188 and UP 8183 (DIC). I went back up on the bridge for more pictures and met another railfan, Dan McFadden from New Jersey. We agreed that there was probably a meet or pass in the offing and waited until it was too dark for pictures. I did see our train met by a short freight after I got back to the hotel. While we were waiting, Dan and I watched a helicopter come north and dip into the Colorado for water. The chopper was making very quick trips back and forth, just out of sight to the south. As it turned out, there was a small (20 acre) fire going in the south end of Glenwood that evening. Dan and family were planning to return on No. 6 with us on Thursday, but the train was so late that they ended up taking a bus to avoid missing connections in Denver.
Transition Sleeper 39010
Sleepers 32059, 32019 and 32015
Sightseer Lounge 33040
Coaches 34008 and 34005
Two XpressTrak and two boxcars
On Wednesday we took our rental car south out of Glenwood for some sightseeing. We visited Carbondale and Marble, then went over McClure Pass and down into a coal mining and fruit growing area of the state. We found a coal train, with UP 6245 and SP 177, being loaded at the Ox Bow mine near Somerset around 12:30. After lunch in Paonia and a visit to an orchard we intercepted the same train at Hotchkiss at 2:34, SP unit leading, on its way to Grand Junction.
Thursday morning's call to "Julie" revealed our ride back home to be more than six hours late, so I let the rental folks know that we'd be keeping the car another day and we moved our stuff out of the hotel in to the auto. We did some souvenir shopping in Glenwood and visited with the Amtrak agent, "Sandi", who was very friendly and accommodating, particularly considering the day she was looking forward to.
A coal load had stopped in front of the depot and I visited with the engineer while the conductor went across the street to Ingrid's Bakery (highly recommended - our breakfast stop three mornings in Glenwood). When the conductor returned, he invited me into the cab and we had a nice visit. They'd taken this this train from Grand Junction and were to be picked up by a van in Bond. Their train had UP 6524 and SP 158 in the "A set", UP 7344 and SP 283 in the middle "B set" and UP 8100 and 8015 in the rear, "C set". They rolled around 9:20. Couldn't be certain, but this might have been the same load we saw at Somerset - it had the same miscellaneous "heritage" company hoppers.
We next headed back to Dotsero where the above coal load was stopped and then followed the river up to McCoy and went on north on Hwy. 131 to Yampa. I'd promised Susan lunch in a great diner (see "Lombardi's" - Colorado trip 2001), however, we found that the place had been converted into "Smash Hit Subs". Nicely refurbished, with shiny tile bathrooms, but the ambiance of the ranchers occupying Lombardi's was gone. On the way back south we visited Bond and State Bridge, then went back to I-70 to return to Glenwood. We didn't see any trains except for one empty that went by when we were having our sandwiches in Yampa.
Every couple of hours additional delay was added to No. 6's arrival in Glenwood. A couple who are part of a group creating a museum were at work in the east end of the depot, and we visited with them for a while. They had a loop of garden scale track running in one room and some stored equipment, a large Rio Grande speeder, live steam loco and a caboose stove in another. With our train falling down, we went out for a leisurely dinner at an Italian place and then returned to the depot.
An exceptionally talkative railfan, who was making videos, went with me up to the bridge for No. 5, in at 7:30, a mere four and a half hours late. The westbound was powered by Amtrak units 197 and 24. Consist:
AMTK 197 and 24As I walked the train getting the numbers I encountered the engineer from this morning's coal load. Their van missed connections with the train at Bond and they ended up deadheading back to Grand Junction on No. 5. Bad news - the CZ would be parked here for more than an hour - they finally were moving again at 8:50.
Transition Sleeper 39017
Sleepers 32028, 32034 and 32020
Sightseer Lounge 33009
Coaches 31538, 34087 and 34103
We boarded our car for the trip back and were out of Glenwood at 12:05 A.M., a little over 10 hours down. We had the same train and personnel we'd been with eastbound, but ended up in the rear car (32026) instead of being next to the diner in 32088 (the "Maryland"). Overall, the Maryland seemed to be in better shape. In 32026 the pocket door between the compartments wouldn't close completely. It seemed to be of a different design than the fixture with which it was supposed to mate and there was plenty of adhesive remaining where it had been taped shut in the past. The compartment was generally dirty and in poor repair - at times it seemed a bit like going for a ride in a public restroom. Sometimes the Superliner isn't "super".
We were in Denver at 6:40 A.M. I hopped out for a look around and to watch the passengers loading. I talked to a gentleman from the city who said that he was grateful that Amtrak had called him to let him know that the train was late and when it would arrive. We were moving again at 7:08, now thankfully under the direction of Fort Worth instead of Omaha. BNSF does a great job of moving the passenger trains. We had stopped somewhere in the night (Tabernash?) for a time, apparently to wait on a rested crew. This happened again in Lincoln, an hour wait because Amtrak can't keep rested engineers and conductors available when the schedule falls down. In the end, No. 6 was 12 hours late into Osceola, arriving at eight in the evening instead of eight in the morning.
Although the train is routinely hours late, Amtrak seems to make little advance provision for food or train service. At one point we heard an announcement that some coach passengers couldn't use the restroom because the holding tank was full. At lunch (we deliberately waited and got a reservation this time rather than be again humiliated by the nasty dining car staff) our orders were taken before we were informed that several of the entrees were no longer available. Supper in Lincoln, NE, was "Dinty Moore" (someone called it) over rice, served on styrofoam with plastic tableware. There was a choice of drinks unless what you wanted had already been taken from the tray. Mind you, Amtrak had known for over 24 hours that they would have to serve an additional meal on this train.
We were in Omaha at 5:00 and Susan and I got off the train for a walk. Someone had called out the "Honey Wagon" to empty the coach holding tank. While we waited, we got our car attendants to pose with us for a picture. "Charles" was on the Maryland westbound, and "Debbie" took good care of us coming home.
Susan and I had a great time, regardless of the schedule SNAFU on No. 6. It was good to be back at home in Iowa.
As of Thursday morning (7/31) the garden railroad is running!