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Mr. Toy's Train Travel Tales

The California Zephyr, August 2000

Page 7

Tuesday, August 15
Goodbye Denver

I woke up a little after 7:00am and the first thing I did was call Amtrak to see if our train was on time. I was told it was running 1 hour and 40 minutes late, which meant we didn’t have to rush to make the 8:30 departure. I had a light breakfast and we got our things packed up. Though we did have some extra time we thought we should get to the station fairly soon anyway. If we had time to kill we could go back to the Tattered Cover.

Returning the rental car was a cinch. The Hertz office was right around the corner from the inn. It took about five minutes to check it back in, and a driver was immediately assigned to take us to the station, just a few minutes away. They'll definitely get our business next time.

The overshadowed chruch.

From the Hertz lot I saw an unusual sight. A beautiful old church with an ugly skyscraper perched right over its roof! Our driver said the church wasn’t willing to sell their building to the developer, but they agreed to sell the airspace above it. This image of Denver summed up my impressions of the city as a place where cold economic interests take precedence over cultural and historic assets. A healthy city needs to have a better balance between the two.

We arrived at Union Station about 8:45. A nice lady in an Amtrak uniform greeted us and helped us find our way to the baggage counter. The baggage handlers were very friendly and I told them so. We went back to the greeter and asked her, first, how much time we had to kill, (she said we had to be back by 9:45), and second, when the Tattered Cover opened (9:00), and third, if lockers were available for our bags while we went there. She said there were no lockers but we could put our bags in line and they would be watched by her and security. She assured us they were perfectly safe there.

Denver Union Stattion as seen from the Tattered Cover bookstore.

So we went over to the Tattered Cover. En route we stopped in a small US government bookstore, where my wife bought a book about women in Colorado history. Inside the Tattered Cover, I was surprised to find a display indicating the featured book was recommmended by May Waldrup, owner of the Thunderbird Bookshop in Carmel!

At 9:40 we went back to the station. In one corner was a snack counter that looked like it was frozen in 1955. In another corner was a gift shop. I bought a roll of film then decided to see if I could get up to the mezzanine balcony for a few photos.

Inside Union Station

I walked to the hallway and saw a stairway, but just then an elevator had opened and a man came out. I entered it and went up. I immediately had second thoughts as this was a very old elevator and I had visions of getting stuck in it as the train departed. But my fears were unfounded and I found myself on the mezzanine overlooking the station floor. As soon as I got there I heard our train being called. This was about the only announcement I understood. Those I heard on the main floor echoed so much that they were unintelligible. I snapped a few quick photos and went back down, this time by the stairs.

At 10:07 I could see our train outside the windows backing into the station, just as ours had done a few nights ago. Inside the station, they had two lines, one for coach and one for sleeper passengers. The coach people were getting checked in first. Meanwhile it was getting pretty hot. The sun was pouring through the large arched windows. The only cooling system I could see was a single large fan in the corner near the gift shop blowing in air from the outside. They might as well have been spitting into a forest fire.

Our train

The Ski Train

At about 10:30 we had our boarding passes and in a fewe minutes we were settled into our compartments. We had room 6 and Mom & Liz had room 7 which were not directly across from each other as I had expected. Outside on the far side of the car we could see the long yellow Rio Grande Ski Train.

We still had a few minutes so I stepped back out of the car to watch the boarding activity. I was delighted to see that this train had a dome car way up towards the front. I assumed that the dome car was a private one which we would not have access to, and I was correct.

Our car was a Superliner II, and it was obviously much newer than the Superliner I we had coming out. The best part was that the air conditioning worked quite well. The Superliner II doesn’t have a closet. Instead it has a hanger rod with a strap to hold items against the wall. I liked the look of the Superliner I closet better, but I later realized this setup has some distinct advantages. First, the open rod allows easier access to zippers on the side of the garment bag. Second, there’s no chance you’ll forget about your garments and leave them, unseen in the closet when you get off.

Coors Field as seen from our compartment.

At 10:50 there was a welcome announcement from the Chief of on-board services. Three minutes later our attendant walked by and handed us a copy of USA Today. He then made his welcome announcement. His name was A.J. Robbins. Curious, our previous attendant was P.J. This one was A.J. At A few minutes later we moved forward just a bit, giving us a good look at Coors Field. We did a bit of the back and forth thing for several minutes, finally pulling away for real at 11:20, almost three hours late.

It wasn’t long before we were out in the country. I was able to follow our progress out of town on a city map. Ahead I could see a long coal train ahead sitting on the tracks right where we had seen one the evening of our arrival. Then we began some serious climbing, first around a big loop and gradually up into the forests. I looked back and photographed the coal train.

The coal train we left behind.

On these curves I was able to get a good look at the train ahead and behind. There were six private cars, including not one, but two dome cars. From what I could see our train consist included (front to rear):

3-Genesis locomotives
1-red & grey single level car
2-green dome cars
1-green single level car
1-silver single level car (which said California Zephyr on the side)
1-red & grey single level car.
1-Amtrak express boxcar
1-baggage car
1-Superliner transition sleeper (crew dorm) car
3-Superliner sleepers (including ours)
1-Superliner diner
1-Superliner Sightseer lounge
3-Superliner coaches
3-Amtrak express boxcars.

This was a good long train!

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Eastbound: | 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | Denver: | 5 | 6 | Westbound: | 7 | 8 | 9 |

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