Friday, June 27, 2014

California to Chicago and Michigan by Rail - Califronia Zephyr West

We were up early as we had to be in Battle Creek by 8:55 to catch the Blue Water train to Chicago.  Judy picked us up at 7:00 and we arrived in Battle Creek with plenty of time to spare, particularly since the train was running almost a half an hour late.  Judy’s friend Barb who lives in Battle Creek and who we had met on one of Judy’s trips to California also dropped by the station so we got to talk to her for a while also.  The train finally arrived and it was time for our final sad farewells, we had a great time in Chicago and Michigan with Judy.

We arrived in Chicago nearly on time.  We then went to the Metropolitan Lounge, which is available for sleeping car passengers. to check our carry-on bags and then went out to get some lunch.  When we returned to the lounge it was packed with people as there were four trains leaving in quick succession.  They were also having delays. which also added to the crowded conditions.  It was finally time to load the Zephyr and we were finally on board.  The train was packed so it took quite a while to load, but we were finally on our way about forty minutes late.  Val and I sat and watched the countryside roll by and enjoyed just doing nothing.  After a late dinner we were soon ready for bed and called it a day.

The farmlands of Illinois and Iowa as we roll by one the train.

Going west we will gain an hour every night so it was nice to have an extra hour to sleep.  We had breakfast in the dining car and settled back to enjoy the morning.  One thing was very evident as we watched out the window – there were a tremendous amount of freight trains, particularly coal and oil tankers, being hauled.  This really impacts the schedule as there is a lot of freight train traffic and only a few tracks. Also the wear and tear on the tracks from the heavy freight is causing the tracks to be taken out of service for repair. 

We experienced this first hand in Denver where after arriving two hours late we were told there would be a four hour delay because the tracks were being repaired up ahead.  We got off the train and walked around a bit and had lunch in Denver and then returned to the train.  It turned out to be only a little over two hour delay, but leaving Denver was very slow because of all the train traffic that was held up by the repair.  

The new train station in Denver with the old building in the background.

We start our climb into the Rockies.
This is the repair work being done that held us up for two hours.

It’s starting to look like we’ll be pretty late getting into Davis tomorrow, but that won’t cause us any problems. It's obvious that if you’re in a hurry, the train’s probably not the best way for you to travel.  Here are some pictures from our journey through the Rockies, bear in mind these were shot through a dirty window on a moving train.

Enjoying the ride.

After another good night's sleep (we slept better than our eastbound trip) we were ready for our final day on the train. Also, we discovered we had lost more time during the night.  Oh well, just more time to enjoy the train ride.

(I have just noticed that the last part of this entry has disappeared, so I will reenter what I remember).

One of the benefits of being late was we were seeing parts of eastern Nevada that we had never seen from the train before as it is usually dark when we pass thorugh.

The Ruby Mountains near Elko, NV.
We lost more time as we had to stop in Sparks (which is just east of Reno) to pick up a coach car that had to be taken to California for repair.  By this time we were running seven hours late with little hope of making up any time.  After the Reno stop we started our climb over the Sierras late afternoon.  As always, the trip was very scenic especially with the sun setting as we neared the summit.

We followed the Truckee River as we climbed the Eastern Slope of the Sierras.

Our journey was almost over as we approach our final stop in Davis.

We finally made it to Davis just before ten, almost seven hours late, but this was not really a problem as we had hotel reservations just across the street.  We claimed our luggage loaded it in the car and made the short hop to the hotel and were in our rooms less than twenty minutes after our arrival.  It felt very good to sleep in a real bed after two nights on the train so we both slept quite well.

There is not much left to tell; we slept in a little, had breakfast at the hotel and started our drive home.  We were home by late afternoon and although we had a wonderful trip, it felt good to be home, at least for the short time before our next trip.

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