Trip Report: DAV>DEN on August 17/19 2021

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Willbridge

50+ Year Amtrak Rider
AU Supporter
Joined
Mar 30, 2019
Messages
1,130
Location
Denver
Of course, I should mention how I got to my family reunion from DEN first. It was by bus through Montana due to the combination of mudslides in Glenwood Canyon blocking the UP (ex-D&RGW) line and I-70/US6. That triggered off sell-outs and fare increases on the somewhat parallel Greyhound routes. The route through Montana was Denver>Buffalo>Billings>Spokane>Stanfield>Portland. The only part of my original bookings that came off perfectly was the Portland<>Seaside trip over US26 on Thruway buses sponsored by Oregon DOT. Oh, and the weather at the beach was wonderful.

On my circle trip, thanks to the discontinuance of Trains 25/26, the Pioneer, I came back via connections in Redding, Sacramento and Davis.

I checked with the Amtrak agent in Davis and their computer showed that Train 6 was expected to be operated on the 17th. For a few days it had been flagged on the reservation web page as canceled without an alternative. Given my experience with the revisions to westbound cancellations I would not have been surprised.

Tuesday, August 17 – At the Amtrak station the long-established pattern of uncoordination between the Capitol Corridor and long-distance trains showed. The digital train arrival and departure signs only show the Corridor trains. The California Zephyr and Coast Starlight are not displayed. The agent announced Train 6 on the p.a. system while a series of repeated ads showed on the public information display.

Passengers for the big cities were seated in the rear coach. “Shorts” and passengers who would be alighting in the night were seated in the coach ahead of us and then the sightseer lounge was ahead of that. Mark, an Englishman, kept a cheery atmosphere as passengers stocked up on sugars and fats from the packaged products.

I was seated next to another DEN-bound passenger, a Nepalese immigrant, long a U.S. resident, who works in the cyber security field. We discussed the geographic specializations that are evolving in high tech. Other coach passengers who I met included two Afghani brothers attending Ivy League colleges and three Russian immigrants. All of these people live on the East Coast and were excited to see some of the rest of the country. One of the Russians, 75 years old, served in the Soviet Army at the same time as I was in the U.S. Army and knew about the allied division of Berlin. His wife was younger and he explained that history to her as to why a U.S. Army railroader would speak some Russian. He had served as a truck driver in Gorky. He saluted as we returned to our seats. Two other older passengers had experienced recent family tragedies and now had been able to visit friends and family. [It was intensely interesting to be speaking with the Afghans given the “breaking news” but I am not going to summarize their views or identities.]

Ahead of us was a dining car, reportedly with real meals. Its steward tantalized us with public address announcements. Ahead of that were two sleepers and a dorm.

Follow this story from the timetable view: Train Details

Near Elko things began to unravel. One of the ginormous “precision scheduled railroading” freight trains was struggling somehow. Behind it a priority United Parcel Service train was stopped and we were stopped behind that. I learned from an informed source (a Railway Age columnist, if you want to know) that this is a chronic choke point on the Union Pacific and traffic was compounded by trains detouring the fire-destroyed north-south Oregon<>California lines. Three other shorter detour routes no longer are viable due to downsizing. I went to sleep with visions of the crews going dead on the Hours of Service law but woke up in Salt Lake City. Somehow the knot had been untied.

More to come.
 

Willbridge

50+ Year Amtrak Rider
AU Supporter
Joined
Mar 30, 2019
Messages
1,130
Location
Denver
Continuing the long day's journey into night --

Wednesday, August 18 – In effect we were running the pre-Amtrak schedule, departing the Utah capitol city in rain at 0643 for a daylight climb winding over Soldier Summit (7,440 ft elevation usually covered by Trains 5/6 in the dark) . East of Spanish Fork an ambulance and a police car went screaming past us. We passed the scene of what appeared to be a one-car accident on US6. The small sedan was totaled. Then we stopped.

The rain had loosened rocks on the cliff above us and a boulder was on our track. Luckily this is a rare two-track segment on the former Rio Grande main line through the Rockies and our crew gained permission to back downhill to a crossover and then tackled the hill on the other track. Being in the last car we could follow the crew’s efforts in radio conversations and get a good look at the boulder – it really was big enough to have damaged the engine or derailed it. We all had two more passes by the car crash. Black cattle calmly watched all of this between bites of grass.

At Grand Junction the Salt Lake City operating crew turned the train over to the Denver crew, including well-regarded “Conductor Brad.” We were a little over four hours late – late enough to imperil some, but not all, connections. Given the light traffic on the line it was possible that we might have even gained some time.

At Glenwood Springs we filled almost all of the coach seats. As usual, conductors had to “encourage” passengers who had spread out their belongings on the low ridership segments in and out of Salt Lake City to only occupy one seat. Reminders about the mask wearing rule also were more specific. Scattered rain and thundershowers were visible.

At 4:26 p.m. my cellphone alarm went off, signaling a National Weather Service flash flood warning. At 4:29 p.m. we departed Glenwood Springs and other phones began sounding alarms. The warning applied to “this area” and some took that literally. The second sentence warned “Avoid flooded areas.” As it said this, a westbound UP freight had just come out of the looming Colorado River canyon. We could see that the highway, I-70/US6, was closed. I had visions of another major delay.

But I also knew that the rail line – built first – had chosen the best side of the canyon and had been located above most flood levels. The highway was closed more often than the railway. Conductor Brad had heard the alarms going off and took to the p.a. system, explaining that the NWS warning applied to a general area but as the UP had workers in the canyon and was in contact with the NWS for details we had clearance to proceed. Slowly we advanced into the canyon, the rail side offering us dramatic views of the mudslide area on the highway side that had forced a lengthy road detour for days. The cautious pace gave passengers a good look. The assistant conductor relayed “thank you from the passengers” upon request to the MOW crews working in the canyon.

Out of the canyon we picked up speed. The river was no higher than normal during the spring run-off. From Fraser in darkness nothing unusual happened. And as usual, it was hard for riders unfamiliar with the line to know where the Moffat Tunnel ended and mountain darkness resumed.

Arriving in Denver there was one more hiccup. Two private cars were waiting to be picked up on Track 5 and some work by the mechanical department was incomplete. We waited in our seats while the coupling process was completed.

But wait! There’s more! On the curtailed pandemic schedule, light rail to my neighborhood had stopped running as we pulled in. As usual there were no taxis waiting in the Uber/Lyft world. I called Metro Taxi and their dispatcher could not picture where the Union Station cab stand was, wanting a street address that could be entered into her GPS system. (The cab zone, also used by some Uber/Lyft drivers, is located across Wynkoop Street from the station. It was evicted from being in front of the station in favor of the valet parking for the Crawford Hotel.) The taxi number that a text message assured me was at my curb pulled up in the handicapped zone in front of the station and picked up two young men who flagged it. Uber and Lyft drivers came and went, stopping in various parking spots, struggling to spot the right passenger who had requested them. Another cab from Metro pulled up in the front of Union Station and picked up passengers who flagged him.

A North Metro taxi pulled up in the designated taxi zone, operated for the same company as Metro, and the driver didn’t mind heading southeast. The cab ride was uneventful.

###
 

oregon pioneer

Engineer
Joined
Feb 15, 2011
Messages
2,436
Location
near Seneca, Oregon
Thank you for the delightful report! Very interesting to hear about the diversity of people in your coach. I have been late enough to see at least the top of Soldier Summit in daylight.

I live in a region of Oregon that is served by those little rural buses. Some of them can be booked through Amtrak (as connecting Ambuses), or through their own websites. To get around in Oregon, you can use the transit tool on google maps, or the Get-there Planner.
 

20th Century Rider

Conductor
Joined
Jan 26, 2020
Messages
1,781
Location
Oregon Coast
Continuing the long day's journey into night --

Wednesday, August 18 – In effect we were running the pre-Amtrak schedule, departing the Utah capitol city in rain at 0643 for a daylight climb winding over Soldier Summit (7,440 ft elevation usually covered by Trains 5/6 in the dark) . East of Spanish Fork an ambulance and a police car went screaming past us. We passed the scene of what appeared to be a one-car accident on US6. The small sedan was totaled. Then we stopped.

The rain had loosened rocks on the cliff above us and a boulder was on our track. Luckily this is a rare two-track segment on the former Rio Grande main line through the Rockies and our crew gained permission to back downhill to a crossover and then tackled the hill on the other track. Being in the last car we could follow the crew’s efforts in radio conversations and get a good look at the boulder – it really was big enough to have damaged the engine or derailed it. We all had two more passes by the car crash. Black cattle calmly watched all of this between bites of grass.

At Grand Junction the Salt Lake City operating crew turned the train over to the Denver crew, including well-regarded “Conductor Brad.” We were a little over four hours late – late enough to imperil some, but not all, connections. Given the light traffic on the line it was possible that we might have even gained some time.

At Glenwood Springs we filled almost all of the coach seats. As usual, conductors had to “encourage” passengers who had spread out their belongings on the low ridership segments in and out of Salt Lake City to only occupy one seat. Reminders about the mask wearing rule also were more specific. Scattered rain and thundershowers were visible.

At 4:26 p.m. my cellphone alarm went off, signaling a National Weather Service flash flood warning. At 4:29 p.m. we departed Glenwood Springs and other phones began sounding alarms. The warning applied to “this area” and some took that literally. The second sentence warned “Avoid flooded areas.” As it said this, a westbound UP freight had just come out of the looming Colorado River canyon. We could see that the highway, I-70/US6, was closed. I had visions of another major delay.

But I also knew that the rail line – built first – had chosen the best side of the canyon and had been located above most flood levels. The highway was closed more often than the railway. Conductor Brad had heard the alarms going off and took to the p.a. system, explaining that the NWS warning applied to a general area but as the UP had workers in the canyon and was in contact with the NWS for details we had clearance to proceed. Slowly we advanced into the canyon, the rail side offering us dramatic views of the mudslide area on the highway side that had forced a lengthy road detour for days. The cautious pace gave passengers a good look. The assistant conductor relayed “thank you from the passengers” upon request to the MOW crews working in the canyon.

Out of the canyon we picked up speed. The river was no higher than normal during the spring run-off. From Fraser in darkness nothing unusual happened. And as usual, it was hard for riders unfamiliar with the line to know where the Moffat Tunnel ended and mountain darkness resumed.

Arriving in Denver there was one more hiccup. Two private cars were waiting to be picked up on Track 5 and some work by the mechanical department was incomplete. We waited in our seats while the coupling process was completed.

But wait! There’s more! On the curtailed pandemic schedule, light rail to my neighborhood had stopped running as we pulled in. As usual there were no taxis waiting in the Uber/Lyft world. I called Metro Taxi and their dispatcher could not picture where the Union Station cab stand was, wanting a street address that could be entered into her GPS system. (The cab zone, also used by some Uber/Lyft drivers, is located across Wynkoop Street from the station. It was evicted from being in front of the station in favor of the valet parking for the Crawford Hotel.) The taxi number that a text message assured me was at my curb pulled up in the handicapped zone in front of the station and picked up two young men who flagged it. Uber and Lyft drivers came and went, stopping in various parking spots, struggling to spot the right passenger who had requested them. Another cab from Metro pulled up in the front of Union Station and picked up passengers who flagged him.

A North Metro taxi pulled up in the designated taxi zone, operated for the same company as Metro, and the driver didn’t mind heading southeast. The cab ride was uneventful.

###
Thank you for sharing your adventure. In many ways it seems that the old 'Wild West' is now more wild than ever!
 

danasgoodstuff

Service Attendant
Joined
Jun 23, 2021
Messages
143
Location
PDX
Thank you for sharing your adventure. In many ways it seems that the old 'Wild West' is now more wild than ever!
An interesting observation since if I'm not mistaken parts of the west are now more empty of people than they've been since well back into the 19th century.
 

Palmland

Conductor
Joined
May 25, 2006
Messages
1,011
Location
Central Florida
Always good to read a well written report from a knowledgeable rail traveler. Thanks. You were fortunate to see the climb over Soldier Summit in daylight as that would be new to me as our CZ trips have been at night there. Closest we came was an auto trip when we stopped at Helper,UT to check it out.

While I know we should be thankful that DUT is still home for the CZ, I find it hard to believe that the planners didn’t require front door public access for the last mile carriers like taxis, busses, and Uber/Lyft. If not for Amtrak certainly for the light rail traffic.
 
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Willbridge

50+ Year Amtrak Rider
AU Supporter
Joined
Mar 30, 2019
Messages
1,130
Location
Denver
You seem very much up to speed on train matters, what do you think the chances of the Pioneer making a come back are? Many of the towns along the route have grown (at least in Oregon and Boise itself), I'd say 50/50.
I've followed this subject since 1971 and it has always depended on a combination of politics and attitudes at Amtrak and in the on-route states. That makes it hard to predict, either positively or negatively. There have been some other discussions of this before so I won't write more due to the dangers of thread drift.
 

Willbridge

50+ Year Amtrak Rider
AU Supporter
Joined
Mar 30, 2019
Messages
1,130
Location
Denver
Always good to read a well written report from a knowledgeable rail traveler. Thanks. You were fortunate to see the climb over Soldier Summit in daylight as that would be new to me as our CZ trips have been at night there. Closest we came was an auto trip when we stopped at Helper,UT to check it out.

While I know we should be thankful that DUT is still home for the CZ, I find it hard to believe that the planners didn’t require front door public access for the last mile carriers like taxis, busses, and Uber/Lyft. If not for Amtrak certainly for the light rail traffic.
Don't blame the planners. I did the original parking line-up with the cabs and Uber/Lyft in the predictable spot that they still try to use. The A-Line coming in from the airport generates taxi demand day and night, in addition to the CZ, WPE, RM, Greyhound, etc. It was altered after we submitted it to cater to the valet parking.
 

Palmland

Conductor
Joined
May 25, 2006
Messages
1,011
Location
Central Florida
It was altered after we submitted it to cater to the valet parking.
Thanks for the correction. Too bad the permits for the hotel didn’t require them to adhere to your plan.

But, it would seem a designated area for all ‘last mile’ services with safe public access from the station (or any public transit hub) would be a requirement for any development. Hopefully the access in Denver has a designated walkway with a pedestrian controlled traffic light.
 

Willbridge

50+ Year Amtrak Rider
AU Supporter
Joined
Mar 30, 2019
Messages
1,130
Location
Denver
Thanks for the correction. Too bad the permits for the hotel didn’t require them to adhere to your plan.

But, it would seem a designated area for all ‘last mile’ services with safe public access from the station (or any public transit hub) would be a requirement for any development. Hopefully the access in Denver has a designated walkway with a pedestrian controlled traffic light.
It's a three-way stop surrounded by traffic calming measures. The actual assignments of parking spaces is done by the City. Sometimes they take the transit system's request seriously and in other cases other factors are at work.
 
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