News Archive 5: November - December 2007
(including California Zephyr holiday train trip)


December 29, 2007, 11:20 a.m.:
We made it to Winnemucca, Nevada. Here is Debbie celebrating our arrival.
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The Winnemucca train station was pretty spartan:
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We saw one of the city's drinking establishments. Maybe "on the wrong side of the tracks." The stop wasn't long enough for us to grab a drink there.
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After Winnemucca, wide open space, and it looks like a snow storm is moving in:
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December 29, 2007, 10:00 a.m.:
Our last scheduled day on the train. I say "scheduled day" because we're currently about six hours behind schedule, and will arrive in Emeryville early in the morning of December 30.

Right now, we're in Nevada, between Elko and Winnemucca. From the look of things, it snowed all night. We're passing through some hills, and there is not much here, although it looks nice. Just wooden power line poles and fences (although I don't see any cattle), and occasionally a small river. There is also another railroad track paralleling the one we're on, and a freight train just passed by a little while back.
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December 28, 2007, afternoon and evening:
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This afternoon, we climbed the Rocky Mountains. The winds on this side of the mountain can reach up to 100 miles per hour. In fact, in the early 1960s, a train was blown off the tracks. To prevent that from happening again, they welded railroad cars to an adjacent track, and filled the cars with rocks and dirt to serve as a wind block.








After that, mountains:
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We've had three meals a day on the train, which meant we've speant a significant amount of time in the dining car. This is it:
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Unfortunately, because the train was behind schedule, we missed out on the most beautiful part of the trip, through Glenwood Canyon. We had already seen it, though, on the trip to Chicago. Finally, a glimpse of Glenwood Springs at night:
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December 28, 2007, noon:
The train stopped in Denver for about 45 minutes to change engines, switch some of the crew, and take on more passengers. Unlike the trip to Chicago, the train did not pull in to the station on a track below street level.
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This is a picture from about an hour before Denver, when the Rocky Mountains first became clearly visible:
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December 28, 2007, 7:30-9:30 a.m.:
Eastern Colorado, after a night of light snow.
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December 28, 2007, 12:30 a.m.:
The train station at Omaha, Nebraska. Pretty desolate looking in the middle of the night. We had ten minutes to get out and stretch our legs. The smokers all got off the train, too.
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December 27, 2007, 6:35 p.m.:
Crossing the Mississippi River at night with a slow shutter speed. The blurred lights are Burlington, Iowa.
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December 27, 2007, 6:15 p.m.:
They made a special announcement over the intercom that neither smoking nor public intoxication is permitted on the train. A few minutes before this, "Conductor Dave" had been called to the lounge car. Sounds like there was a little excitement. We missed it (maybe a good thing).


December 27, 2007, 3:20 p.m.:
We are not off to a good start. About a mile before the first stop, in Naperville, Illinois, the train had to stop because a hose ruptured. The hose was repaired after about 30 minutes, and the train made it to Naperville. But now, we've been in Naperville for about another 45 minutes for "engine problems." On the bright side, it's very quiet, since the train is at a dead stop with no power. There is not even the sound of a fan, just chirping from a kid's video game in the cabin across the hall. Naperville is probably a nice place, but the train station parking lot is not all that picturesque.
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But wait! As I type, the train has begun to move forward. We're on our way again.

December 27, 2007, 2:30 p.m.:
We’re back on the California Zephyr bound for the West Coast. Someone asked about our cabin. This is how it looks unoccupied:
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Now, occupied:
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Goodbye Chicago.
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December 26, 2007:
The night before our return trip on Amtrak, we stayed at the Ambassador East Hotel in Chicago. If you’ve seen a movie called “North by Northwest,” some of the pictures below might look familiar. We did not see Cary Grant or Eva Marie Saint in the lobby, however, and were disappointed to learn that the hotel had no room 463.
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Christmas 2007:
Some pictures from Christmas at the Irwin Residence in Sterling, Illinois.
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Two days before Christmas, there was a wedding shower for Debbie’s daughter Sarina and her husband-to-be, Andrew.
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A detail of Debbie’s Dad, watching from the background.
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The day before Christmas, it warmed up to about 23 degrees, so I got to go outside and enjoy the warm weather.
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December 21, 2007, 10:45 p.m.:
Ok. We made it. Here's the proof.
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The train arrived at Union Station in Chicago at about 6:45 p.m. We ate pizza at a place called Gino's East, and now it's time for bed. Merry Christmas.

December 21, 2007, 1:30 p.m.:
A little excitement. This is the train station at Ottumwa, Iowa.
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At about 11:50 a.m., the train stopped at Ottumwa, where people were allowed to get off and stretch. Most did, and while people were standing by the tracks, sparks began shooting out from under the lounge car, followed by a plume of smoke. Unfortunately, I was not quick enough to get a picture of the sparks, but here is a shot with a little of the smoke, and the engineer looking at it with concern:
P1010006_3This resulted in about an hour delay. They detached the lounge car, then re-attached it to the back of the train. This meant that the private rail car, which was attached to the back of the train in Denver, lost its view out the rear of their car. Oh well.

Barring other unforeseen events, the next news posting will be from Chicago.

December 21, 2007, 10:30 a.m.:
Yesterday afternoon, the train crossed the Rocky Mountains. The terrain was incredibly beautiful as the train snaked along a canyon that followed the Colorado River. Here are a few pictures.
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Last night, the train arrived in Denver a little after 9:00 p.m. Like Reno, the train stopped below street level. This is a shot of the station from where the train was.
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Overnight, the train crossed the rest of Colorado, and by 7:30 a.m. today, was in Omaha. No pictures, though. We were eating breakfast. Evidently the dining car restocked its pantry, so we were able to order cheese omelets. Nebraska went by quickly, and turned into Iowa. Unfortunately, it was foggy in Iowa, so I only have a few pictures. Not too impressive, but they show what we saw out the window.
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December 20, 2007, 3:00 p.m.:
The train just stopped at Glenwood Springs, Colorado. Just a short stop. Lunch on the train today was a bit meager. There was no "Chef's Special," although the menu listed one, and they were out of cheese and bacon for the burgers ("But we have BBQ sauce."). Hopefully there will be something left for dinner. Below are pictures of the some of the sights we saw up to this point, beginning in Utah at the top, then Colorado, with Glenwood Springs at the bottom.

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December 20, 2007, 8:20 a.m.:
By dawn today, the train had passed through Salt Lake City and Provo, Utah. The Provo station was pretty small, and the train just made a quick stop to drop off two students.
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Utah wilderness. Very rugged, empty and beautiful.
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By the time the trained stopped in Helper, Utah, at around 7:45 a.m., it was snowing.
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December 19, 2007, 5:45 p.m.:
Greetings from Reno, Nevada. The pictures below are from between Emigrant Gap and Reno. First, "the former railroad town" of Soda Springs":
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A ski lift for Sugar Bowl, under some power lines. Right after that was a two-mile-long tunnel called "the Big Hole" (too dark inside for pictures).
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Donner Lake:
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On the east side of the Sierra Nevada Mountain Range, the town of Truckee, and its train station:
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With the Sierras to the west now, it got dark pretty early, by 5:00 p.m. Finally, Reno, Nevada, the "Biggest Little City in the World." This is Debra at the station, which is below street level. The train got there at about 5:15.
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December 19, 2007, 3:40 p.m.:
The train was stopped for about two hours near Emigrant Gap. The snow was so heavy on the tracks, they had to get a special engine to clear it to run ahead of the train. This is what it looked like outside when the train was stopped:
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After the train got above 5000 feet, this is what it looked like:
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Next update, Reno.


December 19, 2007, @ noon
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Debra and Bob are taking the California Zephyr from the San Francisco Bay Area to Chicago. Right now, they're between Auburn and Colfax, in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. They boarded the train in Emeryville Calfornia. The station (below) was a bit modern.
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Here is the train, with the people boarding:
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This is Suisun Bay, just past Martinez:
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Here are a couple of pictures of the train station in Davis, which has a more traditional look:
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That's it for now. Stay tuned for more updates from along the route.

December 15, 2007:
Debra's son, Robert Shiekh, visited the Bay Area. He is the producer for Inside Baylor Sports, and was in town because the Lady Bears basketball team had a game against Stanford. He took off a little time to see some sights.
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