Monthly Archives

December 2007

Rail Photos

Rail PHOTOS of the Year, another look

By Russ Jackson, RailPAC website Editor

The photos below represent the many of MY PHOTOS that appeared on this site during 2007. They are worth a second look! My thanks to the other contributing photographers this year, including Noel Braymer, Mike Palmer, Mike Barnbaum, and Bob Snow.


The Deming, New Mexico Amtrak “flag stop.” This photo, posted in a comprehensive article on the Sunset Limited stops of Benson, AZ, Lordsburg and Deming, NM., in May shows two benches and a sign on a one-way street crossing, which is used as a “platform.”

Amtrak President Alex Kummant spoke to the RailPAC/NARP meeting, the biggest rail advocacy meeting ever in California, on March 17 in Los Angeles.


When the bridge fire wiped out the Union Pacific line just east of Sacramento on March 15 the California Zephyr route was altered, with passengers from west of there bused to Roseville. Here it is seen pulling up to the Roseville station for boarding on March 24.

Amtrak California Thruway bus arrives at the Dunsmuir bus station at the foot of Mt. Shasta on July 27. It was a beautiful day up there, and this connecting bus arriving from Medford, Oregon, was carrying passengers but could use more.

The first two rebuilt Superliner coaches, arrived for use on the Capitols and San Joaquins in August. This one was on a Capitol at Davis. Five more, in California colors, are due to arrive in the Spring increasing capacity on the trains.

On September 15 Caltrans Director, Will Kempton, was the featured speaker at the RailPAC Fall Conference at the California State Rail Museum in Sacramento, joining an all-star panel.


On November 20 it was worth getting up early to be a “railfan” waiting for the eastbound California Zephyr sprint across Solano County carrying the Grandluxe cars on the back end. While waiting for it the southbound Coast Starlight came through as did an eastbound Capitol. Great train watching that day!


California Zephyr schedule to change in January

Restoring more of the time taken away while the Union Pacific did maintenance of way projects in Nevada.
Information from Amtrak, courtesy Ed von Nordeck.


POLAR EXPRESS at the Rail Museum

A Trip Report! By Robert F. Mac Donald

The California State Rail Museum ushered in the 2007 holiday season with cookies and hot chocolate. To the delight of kids, young and old, they were invited on board the Museum’s “Polar Express” at the old Central Pacific Depot in “Old Town” Sacramento, CA.

This “Polar Express” was a “Rail Buff’s” dream, made up five vintage cars, and pulled by a tank steam engine- the Granite Rock, No. 10. For the pajama clad pre-teenagers, the sound of the steam whistle echoing along the banks of the Sacramento River brought them to the reality of the sounds known to their forebears since the 1860’s.

Since we were second in line to get our boarding passes, we were able to ride the rear car, the newly refurbished car-“El Dorado”. The El Dorado
was built in 1924 for the Union Pacific Railroad and was acquired by the Southern Pacific Railroad in 1928. It is now in beautiful shape, with its polished woodwork and gleaming brass. Yes it has something new! Its new sound system would make any one in the twenty-first century jealous. The car attendants and the train crew were in full garb, just like the movie.

On the advertised, the train whistled off, and we, on the “El Dorado” were off on another rail adventure. After we passed through “Old Town” and the Tower Bridge, we were told that we were on the way to the NORTH POLE, and to meet Santa. With that, the story of the “Polar Express” came to life with words, music, and live actors. First, we were told the story of the young boy’s ride on Christmas Eve. Then came the dancers with their trays of hot chocolate and cookies, and then the car attendants served each of us our own paper cup of hot chocolate and a chocolate chip cookie.

The ride is to BATH, three miles down the pike! For the holiday season this Station is renamed the NORTH POLE. The train ride is on the S. P.’s former Oak Grove Branch, which is atop the east levee of the Sacramento River. When we arrived, sitting on flat cars on the spur at the NORTH POLE was Santa, his sleigh, and his rain deer.

At this point, the engine was cut off the train, and passed through the siding, to run-around the train. Once out on the Main Line again, we watched as Engine No. 10 backed up to the car “El Dorado”, and the crew coupled them for the train’s journey back to “Old Town”.

Under way again, there was a commotion at the other end of the car, and then a “Ho, ho, ho!”. Santa had come aboard with his sack of goodies for the lucky boys and girls. Santa handed each of them a silver bell, like the one in the story. Santa gave the little girl sitting next to me a silver bell, like the one in the story, too. Of course the little girl was named Jeanette,
AKA as Mom, Grandma or Auntie!!!

Once Santa departed the car, the engine crew treated railroaders, future railroaders, and passengers to a unique train operating experience, i.e.,
a steam blow off on the run! Oh, yes, out on the river, a pair of “jet skiers” raced the train to the river bend.

As we went by the Tower Bridge, the bells on the crossing gates announced that we were back “home” again, and would soon depart our train. It was good-bye and Merry Christmas to our fellow passengers. To lucky ones clutching their “Silver Bell”, it was “will we see you next year?” To the train crew and staff, we said “Thanks”.

The ride on the “Polar Express” was great!


California Amtrak Stats for November

From Capitol Corridor Managing Director Gene Skoropowski

We have just received the November 2007 stats from Amtrak, the second month of the FY08 federal fiscal year.

For the Capitol Corridor, the ridership and revenue numbers again show continue substantial growth. There was also substantial ridership growth on the San Joaquins, and continued modest growth in Pacific Surfliner ridership and revenue, and in the revenue growth on the San Joaquins.

Amtrak reports for:

Capitol Corridor (November 2007):

136,650 passengers +13.0% vs. 2006, and another record for the month
(and now also the second highest month ever)
$1,823,503 +14.2% vs. 2006

The on-time performance for November was 84.4%, a couple of percentage points improvement above October 2007, but not quite up to September’s 86%. November had fewer ‘unusual incidents’ and there were no ‘cascading
delays’ like were experienced in October. Union Pacific performance was above 90% for the month, showing a sustained performance level, incrementally increasing each month.

This year, we worked with Amtrak to advance the Preventative Maintenance cycle of the coaches in preparation for the big Thanksgiving ‘crunch’. That effort paid off, in that 80 of the 82 cars in the Northern California ‘equipment pool in Oakland’ were assigned to revenue trains on the San Joaquins and Capitol Corridor trains. There were only one or two reported instances of standees.

People are continuing to climb aboard our trains, all over California. As I said last month, I guess compared to disruptions on the highways, and now
the cost of driving, California’s trains are an increasingly attractive travel option.

The revenue-to-cost ratio for November is 56.6%, the highest recovery ratio ever, and with last month’s 51% we are well on our way to meeting or exceeding the state’s goal of 50%. Again, this is the best start we have ever had to a fiscal year.

Pacific Surfliners (November 2007):

226,503 passengers +3.7% vs. 2006
$4,262,448 +5.0% vs. 2006

San Joaquins (November 2007):
78,577 passengers +13.1% vs. 2006
$2,485,599 +5.3% vs. 2006

Eugene K. Skoropowski
Managing Director,
Capitol Corridor Joint Powers Authority

Rail Photos

Rail PHOTOS for the Christmas-Holiday season

From around California and one that’s a bit different!

With MANY GREETINGS of the season from the RailPAC Officers, Directors, and editorial staff.

The California State Rail Museum in Sacramento greets 2007 Christmastime visitors with decorated locomotive 1915 as they enter. (Russ Jackson photo)

The 1992 Chistmas tree at Los Angeles Union Station is one of our most popular photos. (Russ Jackson photo)

In 2004 this tree greeted passengers entering the Amtrak station in San Luis Obispo. The decorations are old baggage tags! (Russ Jackson photo)

Amtrak train #6, the California Zephyr, in the Sierra near Donner Lake in January, 2007. Photos from the window of a train in the snow always make a good way to extend greetings. So far going into winter 2007-08 there isn’t much snow up there. (Bob Snow photo)

What has this photo to do with either Christmas or rail? Well, it’s RailPAC President, Paul Dyson astride Tom the mule, Paul’s “alternate transportation,” extending his Holiday greetings. Paul says, “I think Tom could certainly make the time that some of the Surfliners make. Metrolink is faster, south of Los Angeles, with 6 more stops!” There’s your connection to Paul’s commentary that follows this post. (Lisa Dyson photo)