Feather River Express
the California Zephyr Returns
October 30-31-November 1, 2009
CELEBRATING THE 100th YEAR ANNIVERSARY OF THE DRIVING OF THE LAST SPIKE OPENING UP THE WESTERN PACIFIC ON NOVEMBER 1, 1909 ON THE KEDDIE WYE BRIDGE. A ONCE IN A LIFETIME EVENT.
WE SOLD OUT IN RECORD TIME
We want to thank our passengers for their support of which
this event would never have been possible.
Photo Trip Report
Photos taken by: Chris Skow
Guenzler Marty banks
The opportunity to operate a private charter train over the Western Pacific Route between Oakland and Portola running via Niles Canyon, Altamont Pass and the Feather River Canyon presented itself in early August 2009. After a phone conversation between Burt Hermey of California Zephyr Railcar Charters and Chris Skow of Trains & Travel it was decided to take advantage of this rare opportunity. The request to run a mini three car California Zephyr was given to Amtrak on August 18. For some 30 tense days we all kept our fingers crossed. The approval came through in approximately a month which is in record time.
For a charter request like this, approval from Amtrak and Union Pacific would normally take months. We had decided to sell only 48 seats so that each and every passenger would have a Vista Dome seat at all times for this extraordinary event. Each Vista Dome has 24 seats in the dome section upstairs. This would force us to set the prices very high in order to cover our expenses. But, we figured this was a once in a lifetime opportunity.
The three California Zephyr cars would be: Silver Lariat Vista Dome Coach, Silver Rapids Pullman Sleeper and the Silver Solarium Vista Dome-Pullman Sleeper-Lounge-Rear end Observation. Now the race was on to sell 48 spaces in only a few weeks. Thousands of flyers were sent out to California hobby stores and railroad clubs and over 500 press releases were sent to newspapers and TV stations. Additional e mail newsletters were also sent out.
This three day excursion came off like clock work. Our hats are off to Amtrak and Union Pacific for making this all happen. Also a hardy "Thank You" goes out to our good clients who gave us the support and bought tickets. Without you this history making trip would never have operated.
THE RETURN OF THE CALIFORNIA ZEPHYR AT THE
WESTERN PACIFIC RAILROAD MUSEUM
IN PORTOLA OCTOBER 31, 2009
OCTOBER 30, 2009
OAKLAND TO PORTOLA
Our train pulls into the Oakland station at 7:30AM for loading and an on-time departure at 7:45AM
After departure from Oakland Chris Skow gives out the Tour program booklet to the passengers.
In the Newark, Fremont and Niles Junction area we pass through several junctions to gain access to former Western Pacific trackage
Our special train finally enters onto the Western Pacific Route and were off for Niles Canyon.
Running over Altamont Pass
At Tracy we take to the siding to meet a westbound ACE commuter train.
Passing the former Southern Pacific passenger station at Stockton. Oops…Then at El Pinal Junction the dispatcher had us lined for the Southern Pacific instead of the Western Pacific . We had to stop and back up and try it again , this time lined for the Western Pacific for Sacramento.
Approaching Sacramento we have a race with a Sacramento Light Rail tram. Then we pass the former Western Pacific Depot and Dispatchers offices which is now The Old Spaghetti Factory.
It is time for lunch which was served in the dome and lower section of the Silver Lariat. While having lunch we made a crew stop at Haggin Junction. A KCRA TV 3 film crew was here also to catch some footage for the 5:00PM news. A few minutes after we departed a frantic call came in by cell phone to the train from one of the TV producers in Sacramento at the studio. Seems departing crew locked the access gate into Haggin and the TV crew could not get out. After making several calls to local railroad officials the problem was passed off to the dispatch in Omaha. After a big and hardy laugh on the radio for everyone to hear the dispatch said he would try and get someone over there to let the TV crew out.
After passing Oroville we see the Feather River Division Dam and then cross over the river as we enter the new line around Lake Oroville.
As we start the climb around Table Mountain above Oroville we meet a BNSF Westbound freight at Kramm which was in the siding.
Wow, the next freight also takes the siding at Elsey for us.
We approach James as we enter tunnel 4 and then duck under Highway 70 on the West Branch Bridge running over Lake Oroville
Approaching tunnel 7 and 8 which combined totals 13,262 feet and brings the rail line into the Feather River Canyon crossing over the North Folk Bridge. As we look back down the canyon we can see this bridge and the east portal of tunnel 8
As we head up the Feather River Canyon another freight is in the siding at Poe for us. We then approach tunnel 9.
Approaching Pulga with the unique double bridges
As we approach Merlin the walls of the canyon close as highway 70 enters a series of tunnels. Then we cross over the Rock Creek Trestle and again cross to the other side of the canyon at Tobin.
At the east switch Camp Rogers we have beautiful afternoon sunlight as passengers enjoy a breath of fresh air by looking out of the open vestibules.
Passing one of the many PG&E power dams in Feather River County our train enters the famous "Honeymoon Tunnels" just west of Belden.
Oh my, another freight taking the siding for us at Belden as we start to see some fall colors
Crossing over the Keddie Wye Bridge and meeting another westbound freight train which is in the siding at Keddie.
Our passengers enjoy the late afternoon sunlight from the Vista Domes as our special approaches the 7344 foot tunnel 35, also known as the Spring Garden Tunnel. When we exit this tunnel at the east portal we will be in the Middle Fork of the Feather River which is a Wild River.
As the sun gets low in the western sky over the High Sierra a five course dinner was served as we passed Sloat. Onboard our California Zephyr, All food, drink and service was first class in the historic California Zephyr tradition. Upon arrival in Portola , which was right at sunset the Western Pacific Railroad Museum had a WP GP 7 and GP 20 in silver & Orange parked near the mainline, then on the West Pass Engine Track they had the WP ABA set of F units and waiting in front of the Portola depot was the WP 608 NW-2 painted in orange. All of the Western Pacific units were operating with whistles blowing welcoming the California Zephyr back to Portola. Wow, what a home coming it was! As the word spread around town that the California Zephyr had arrived local folks came down to the station to greet us and take photos. It was an emotional experience for both Western Pacific fans and former employees. Two museum directors that are also UP engineers used the WP 608 to couple into the rear of our train and switch us onto to museum trackage. First the CZ was turned on the balloon track and then parked next to the two UP 6900's class Centennials. As the train was parked at the museum passengers were just finishing up with dinner. What a wonderful way to end the first day.
OCTOBER 31, 2009
AT THE WESTERN PACIFIC RAILROAD MUSEUM
WOW-THIS BRINGS BACK FOND MEMORIES
On Saturday October 31 The Western Pacific Railroad Museum put on a fantastic show by uncoupling the Amtrak engine and adding three additional California Zephyr cars and the Western Pacific F units for a run around the balloon track for photos. The California Zephyr had truly returned to Portola pulled by a set of ABA CZ-WP F units. It does not get any better than this. Special thanks goes out to Western Pacific Museum President Rod McClue and Vice President Steve Habeck who made all of this happen.
NOVEMBER 1, 2009
WESTBOUND PORTOLA TO OAKLAND
Sunday morning the crew of the WP 608 pulled the California Zephyr out onto the mainline at the east West Pass Switch. Once the CZ was released it passed the WP 608 in front of the Portola Depot.
Just west of Portola the tracks run along the beautiful Middle Folk of the Feather River, running through tunnel 36 and high above Mohawk Valley
Five miles west of Portola our train crosses over the Clio Bridge Viaduct and the old right-of-way of the Sierra Valley Railroad. The two photos above are from the bottom of the canyon and from the open vestibule
A picture perfect fall day in the Feather River Canyon as the train approaches Sloat
At the west switch Sloat
The westbound CZ passes Quincy Junction
The westbound Return of the California Zephyr makes a stop on the Keddie Wye Bridge at the exact location of the driving of the last spike 100 years prior on November 1, 1909. Onboard passengers were given Champagne for a toast to the completion of the Western Pacific and the 60th anniversary of the original California Zephyr
Westbound down the Feather River Canyon
Last view of the Feather River Canyon taken from the Silver Solarium as we enter tunnel 8 located at the North Folk Bridge
The engineer is about the accept the clear signal at El Pinal Junction near Stockton and arrival at theOakland Depot. So ends a wonderful three day weekend.