Monday, April 10, 2017

An 1:1 Scale Adventure

At the funeral of a mutual old friend last November, I started talking with another friend of 40+ years who is also a bit of a railfan and modeler. He told me he had bought a new passenger car.  For your O scale, I inquired? No he replied 1:1 scale.  He is the principal in a group that had purchased Santa Fe former business car Number 33 built by Pullman in 1923 from a former private car owner who had passed away. He has had the car about a year and renamed it the "Redwood Empire" as he lives in Marin County (north of San Francisco across the Golden Gate bridge for those not familiar with my area.)

In February he called that he was organizing a trip to Los Angeles on April 7 with the car attached to Amtrak train 11, the Coast Starlight and would I be interested in coming along.  In March I was invited to join him and another friend doing minor maintenance on the car interior which I have done. As I am retired I have no problem setting aside time when needed. The interior of the car is in the original 1923 paneled condition. Externally there have been modifications needed for self contained wastewater tanks and a new generator plus all the modern electrical train control lines and required safety features. It uses head end power from the Amtrak engine. The car was built with a generator as a business car so it could be attached to freight trains and parked overnight on any siding. The car was assigned to the ATSF LA District Superintendent and not used for general passenger service. It only sleeps 6 plus a small cabin for the chef and porter.

The car is stabled on the Oakland private car track inside the Oakland Amtrak/CalTrain maintenance yard. The consortium owning the car pays Amtrak a sizable monthly rent that includes switching and ordinary maintenance on the car to keep it in running condition for 80 mph travel on an Amtrak train. I bought a hard hat for the yard and will probably get a hi-viz vest to wear when in the Amtrak yard.

Anyway, on April 7, I parked my car at Oakland airport at 7 am in the morning and took a Lyft ride from the airport to Jack London Square Amtrak station in Oakland. The day was overcast turning to rain but who cares when you are taking such a ride. There were 15 fellow passengers plus the Chef and Porter.

Boarding #33 at Jack London Square Amtrak Station. The chef was acting as porter to help with bags which were stowed in the Superintendent's office as we were not sleeping on the car this trip.

Breakfast awaited us

The corridor with bedrooms and offices and bathroom with shower to the left.

The Superintendent's bedroom

Leaving Oakland 50 minutes late. Amtrak announced it was due to attaching private car but according to the chef they just sat in  the yard after in took only 5 minutes to attach the car.

Below the Coliseum in Oakland the tracks branch into two routes. The one gong to the right goes by the Niles Canyon and Warm Springs area. We went the other way through Alviso to San Jose station.

I didn't take any pictures again until we were in the Salinas valley south of Gonzalez

The route goes for 80+ miles up the Salinas valley mostly on the east side away from the prime agricultural fields.

Seems like the Salinas valley goes on forever 

and ever, looking to the west across the valley before King City

Leaving King City

The clouds darkening over the upper Salinas Valley

Crossing the Salinas river in the upper valley

Crossing the Salinas river in the upper valley

East Garrison of Camp Roberts of the California National Guard. I have a tale about this place for another time.

West Garrison

Paso Robles at the upper reaches of the Salinas 

Santa Margarita a very long passing siding.

Santa Margarita siding and where they used to attach a 2-10-2 helper for the southbound (East bound to SP) Daylight trains to get over the summit of 1295 foot high Cuesta grade and descend back to almost sea level by San Luis Obispo.
The turntable or was it a wye is long gone. Helpers coming up the other side were attached at San Luis Obispo.

Santa Margarita upper siding

End of double track Santa Margarita siding

End of double track Santa Margarita siding duplicate 

End of double track Santa Margarita siding triplicate

above Santa Margarita siding 

Going through Cuesta summit tunnel #6 on the observation platform

Exiting  Cuesta summit tunnel #6

Exiting another Cuesta Grade tunnel while descending at over 2% grade (2 feet for every 100 feet of elevation)

More descending Cuesta grade, note special bracing to hold track in place on sharp curves.

Pardon the foot but notice the line of the railroad in the back as we are descending Cuesta grade on one of the horse shoe curves.

Descending Cuesta grade, foot still there

Descending Cuesta grade still.

Descending Cuesta grade. It was getting wet on the observation platform at this point. 

Descending Cuesta grade. Foot by foot.  The bull was attracted by the cigar.

The final horse shoe curve descending Cuesta grade

At San Luis Obispo we got off the car. Dick Spotswood looks like the proud father of the car he owns.  Note Amtrak ID for car PPCX 800233.

We are a long way yet from Los Olivos but one can still go "Sideways" in this part of the country.

The above photo vertical. The observation platform is great even in the rain. You are required to stay seated so you don't go flying over the railing on a sudden lurch.

I have visited the SLO Railroad Museum. They have a wonderful HO rendition of the track from Santa Margarita down to Surf (station) with excellent model California Eucalyptus trees.  

I could of omitted this but shows the SLO Railroad museum in the hold freight house.

SLO Railroad Museum. I was trying to get a better picture of their Atchison Topeka and Santa Fe (ATSF) Observation car. It had a much larger lounge area and was used in general passenger service until the 1960's.

Below Lompoc, pouring rain. I missed Surf Station. A legendary place on the old Southern Pacific.

These beaches are difficult to get to just north of Vandenberg  Air Force base and western missile/satellite launch site.  It was too glurky to see anything top secret.

As above. These pictures taken from inside car and you can see the raindrops on the window. 

Arrival at Los Angeles Union Passenger Terminal (LAUPT). In the first week of December 1949, my father and I stepped off a train from Boston (via Chicago) here on one of these platforms to begin a new life in the United States of America. We had landed in Boston after a nasty November North Atlantic crossing (My father was sea sick, I wan't) and stayed in the Boston area for a week. 

Trains in LA, a metrolink train leaving just as we arrived. Those going on to San Diego stayed in hotels not on the train. I stayed at the Checkers, now a Hilton property.  Expensive but reasonably elegant matching the train ride. Downtown LA was alive Saturday morning with a mostly younger crowd. I had a croissant and coffee breakfast at a french style bakery.  Old office buildings have been turned into live-work lofts.

The next day, Saturday April 8,  we had a luncheon for the few of us continuing on to San Diego at TRAXX in LAUPT before boarding the Amtrak Surfliner train to San Diego about 3 PM. 

TRAXX is a really nice restaurant and the weather had turned to sunshine by Saturday

Leaving LAUPT on the Surfliner, you pass the LAUPT private car sidings with their own boarding platforms. 

No open platform observation or business cars I could see.

Finally we arrive in San Diego. Our Surfliner train in the background.

A final shot showing the station in San Diego now surrounded by high rises. San Diego light rail car also visible just in front of station.  There is extensive service north up the coast line.

I flew home Saturday night. That is why the car was parked at Oakland Airport so it would be ready to jump in and drive the 22 miles to Walnut Creek.

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