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Mr. Toy's Train Travel Tales

The California Zephyr, August 2000

Page 8

Back into the Mountains

Rocky Mountain foothills

Heidi and I decided to get lunch from the smack bar instead of the diner. I just wanted a light meal and Heidi didn‘t want to wait for a seat in the diner. This time we took advantage of our status as sleeping car passengers.We took our food back to our room for a cozy little lunch as we climbed into the mountains.

Around 1:00 I was in the other compartment with Liz when A.J. came by for a little chat. We talked for several minutes about our train experiences. Liz told him about their weird experience on the southbound Starlight. We acknowledged that Amtrak still has some glitches to work out, but none of them detracted from our enjoyment of the trip. A.J. responded, "yea, but when the airlines have glitches, they tend to be permanent." Liz, who doesn’t care for flying, found that amusing. A.J. also talked about the people who serve on the older equipment back east. He said the employees on those trains were envious of those who got to work on the Superliners.

He went on about his work and at 1:13 we entered the Moffatt Tunnel. There was no announcement about keeping the doors closed until we had been in the tunnel for two minutes, and I looked down the hall and saw the door was open. It closed after a minute on its own. We began to notice a slight diesel smell so we closed the door to our compartment to keep it out. By 1:25 we were out of the tunnel and we stopped in Winter Park at 1:39, 2 hours and 15 minutes late.

At 2:30 I went to the lounge for photos, but I found I could get better photos from our compartment. The way the sun was shining into the lounge there were too many reflections on the glass in the lounge car.

To pass the time I tool my little key chain measuring tape and measured the storage space under the seats in our compartment. It was:

9½" tall
23½" wide
26" deep

In the future I’ll remember not to bring anything larger than that. Our one little bag fit under there easily, along with my camera case. Mom & Liz had small bags that might have fit but they were stuffed so full they were bulging too much to go under. So for the whole trip their bags were usually at their feet.

Colorado River

Colorado River

At 2:45 we could see that it was raining and we began to slow down as we approached Gore Canyon. I took a lot of photos here, for it was probably the most spectacular canyon on the trip. As we were winding through it we could see a road high on the hill above us. Towards the end of the canyon I could see an old station wagon that had crashed maybe 100’ below the road. It was obviously an old car, probably from the 1960s, and I got the impression it had been there a long time.

Two views of Gore Canyon.

Just west of Gore Canyon a tight curve offers a good look at the private railcars ahead of us.

We passed through several tunnels and I could see dates on them. Some were from 1951, some from 1944. That seemed odd that they were not all built at the same time.

I was beginning to realize there were a lot of rafters in the Colorado river. Evidently this is a very popular thing to do, and there even seemed to be an infrastructure for this activity. We passed several campgrounds which could only be accessed by raft. At one point a rafter on the other side of the river mooned the train.

Some rafters in the river watch as we approach a tunnel.

There was a lady on the train who we had noticed wearing a lot of Amtrak related pins. Liz asked if I has met her, and I said no. She said she met the lady in the lounge or diner. The lady was interested in an article I had given to Liz about Amtrak being mentioned favorably in both the Republican and Democratic party platforms.

A bit before 5:00pm we were passing through Glenwood Canyon. Interstate 70 was clinging to the cliffs on the opposite side. Heidi and I were admiring its artful engineering. Parts of it were supported on viaducts while other sections were held in place by attractive retaining walls. The eastbound lanes rarely met the westbound lanes. In many places traffic in one direction was at a different level from the other.

At 5:22 we were in Glenwood Springs. We got out for a few minutes to stretch our legs. There was a retaining wall outside our car, and a stairway up to the street. I took a quick hop to the top and got a brief look at the town. It was very pretty. This might be a place worth spending a couple of days sometime.

On the platform Liz introduced me to the lady with the Amtrak pins. She gave me her card. Her name was Doras Briggs, Amtrak Customer Advisory Committee. She was a volunteer and her job was to report customer feedback to headquarters. Doras asked about the article, Liz and I said we’d look for it. We thought it may have gotten lost. But Doras’s card included her e-mail address, so I could e-mail it to her later if necessary.

We got back on the train and Heidi and I watched quite a few rafters passing by on the river below. Many of them were looking up at the train so I waved. A group in one raft waved back just as we were starting to move out.

Our train ran through one canyon decorated in Christmas colors. Above us were red rocky cliffs, punctuated with green pine trees.

An example of the red rocky cliffs which gave Colorado its name.
Alas, this is where I ran out of film!

At 6:26 the snack bar attendant announced that the evening’s movie would be "After Grand Junction." I think she meant the movie would play after we left Grand Junction.


At 7:00pm we went to dinner. The four of us sat together near the rear of the diner on the right side of the train. I had the veggie lasagna again. I’m not much of a vegetarian eater, but it seemed just about right for my appetite. We stopped in Grand Junction at 7:17. This is a service stop, and because of all the private cars on the front, we had to stop twice. We pulled forward to service our end at 7:28.

Heidi and I settled into our room. About 9:00-ish we began seeing lightning flash with some regularity. We turned out the light, closed the door curtain and watched the show for quite awhile. It was a terrific way to end the day. Soon Heidi was ready for bed, and A.J. made it up for us. I tucked her in the upper bunk and went to the lounge to read.

While I was there we reached Helper at 10:59, 2 hours and 20 minutes late. Helper was a very pretty old west town. It had lots of brick buildings. It was a perfect place to shoot a western. I don’t recall seeing a single modern structure there.

Once I finished reading I went to the lower level of the lounge to see if anybody was there that might be interesting. I found Liz at a table closest to the snack bar writing cards and letters. We talked for awhile then I went to bed ahead of her.

I ended up in the bunk above Mom. Getting to sleep was no challenge this time. The room temperature was much more comfortable than on the eastbound trip, and I went out like a light.

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

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