Saturday, April 22, 2023

An Interesting Odyssey

Last week, my friend Dick Spotswood sent me an email asking if I wanted to join him and other members of the Sacramento Seminar political salon of which is now the past president on the private car Redwood Empire of which he is one of the owners for a move of the car from Oakland to Los Angeles where it is based. It had been hired for a trip to Denver from LA and the party who hired it was covering the costs or returning it to LA. In spite of my hand, I jumped at the chance. I had done this twice before and those trips are recorded in the 2017 messages on this blog. This however was not Amtrak and UP's finest hour or many hours.  

The Redwood Empire is now 100 years old, having been built for the Santa Fe railroad as the private business car for their Los Angeles area division superintendent (are vice president.) Unlike other Santa Fe business cars it was not gutted and modernized in the 1950's so is still wood paneled throughout. The operating part of the car has been modernized with retention toilets and all the electrical gear needed to be attached to Amtrak trains. It is rated for speeds up to 110 miles per hour however Amtrak has a 79 mph speed limit outside of the NE Washington to Boston corridor.

My trip Thursday (4/20/2023) to LA riding on Dick Spotswood's Redwood Empire private car started with a classic Amtrak timekeeping failure.  We arrived at LA Union Station shortly after 1 AM instead of the scheduled 9:10 PM. It was 2 AM by the time my head hit the pillow at the hotel

This was an hour and a half late Train #11 arriving at Oakland, Jack London Amtrak Station after the Redwood Empire car was attached at the Oakland Amtrak yard.

We were rushing to get our stuff to the car as it usually would be stopping by the garage in the previous picture.

We were 90 minutes late out of Oakland as the Amtrak switching crew seemed to have forgotten how to attach a private car.  It should take 15 minutes at most but they took over an hour.  We were scheduled to make up most of the delay but on the trackage going through Gilroy a truck driver hauling a load of 5 new truck cabs didn't realize his load was so heavy his flat bed was now too low and it grounded the flat bed trailer hung up on an ungated grade crossing. Fortunately the railroad was notified and we were stopped before our train could hit it. Unfortunately it took over 3 hours to get cranes in place to remove the truck cabs so the flat bed trailer could rise far enough to be removed from the grade crossing. Then UP had to certify the track had not been damaged. This made the southbound Coast Starlight so far out of sync with all the northbound trains it was scheduled to meet for the rest of the trip causing further delay. 

This was leaving Oakland. We can no longer ride on the observation platform while the train is moving as Amtrak has determined it would be liable for any injuries that could (unlikely) happen to private car passengers.  There is a substantial penalty against the private car owners for violations.  We had to shut the door right after this picture was taken. In 2017 it was great fun to ride outside. 

The only other picture I took was about 7 PM as we were sitting down to dinner. We were only about Paso Robles when the dinner chime was sounded for the first seating. We split into two seatings as the table could not seat all 12 of the passengers. 

After this it was nightfall and I took no more photos. 

Dick had arranged for a catering staff on the train. The main course was a very good lamb chop.  We also had a breakfast snack and lunch buffet along with an open bar that was needed as the delays lengthened the trip and darkness shrouded the best parts of the route such as the hidden coast by Vandenberg and south to Goleta State Park where we were joined again by highway 101. .  

Coming home, yesterday (Friday 4/21), I had a 1:55 PM flight scheduled from Burbank to Oakland. LA Metro was free in honor of Earth Day. I took the LA underground B line from Pershing Square (formerly the Red Line) to North Hollywood (now known as "NoHo"), caught a Burbank City Bus to the Burbank Airport (nobody calls it the Bob Hope airport anymore) area for $1.00 where the driver kindly dropped me at an airport parking lot as his bus could not actually enter the airport road to the terminals so I could take a free parking lot shuttle into Burbank Terminal A. It was 85 degrees F outside in NoHo. I wasn't taking any chances with this method of getting to Burbank Airport and wound up 2 hours ahead of my scheduled boarding time.

Anyway Southwest was over 30 minutes late.  At Oakland I took the Bart Connector to Coliseum station and then BART to Walnut Creek where I just missed the hourly Contra Costa County Connection bus to near my house. At this point I was so exhausted, I took a cab the 2 miles home. Surprise, the Antioch/Walnut Creek line had standing room only as it was about 4:30 PM but someone kindly vacated a senior seat for me. 

Anyway, it was a unique experience and one I will probably never enjoy again as my friend and his fellow owners are in a length process of selling the car.  

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