Trip through the Sierras on Zephyr Sunday?

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Jun 23, 2023
Hello Everyone:

I am contemplating flying to SLC later today, Saturday 2/3 and riding the Zephyr through this big storm on Saturday night/Sunday to Truckee. Then turning around in Truckee and taking the eastbound Zephyr back.

Lots of potential pratfalls here:

...chances either train gets canceled
...getting stranded in Truckee...
...will have luggage, but there look like a couple of places to hang out across the street...
...should east bound Zephyr be relatively on time at Truckee despite the heavy snow?

Will appreciate any tips members might have for me, especially scenery, unforeseen circumstances... alternative plans.

Late to the party, but the latest call for Truckee (8:30pm Saturday) is two feet of snow on Sunday with a high of 36 - plus Monday will be a nightmare along I-80. You might be able to get into Truckee but getting out may not happen for a day or two, and any lodging in that area will be scarce if they close I-80 down (which they will).
Well, for those of you keeping score at home, the 5 has arrived in Truckee at 1:16pm, (3 hr 39 min late).
Today's 6 is plodding toward Colfax, estimated to lose an hour of time on the way from Roseville.
Today's 6 arrived at Colfax 2 hrs 42 minutes late (just after 3pm) but is under a service disruption. 5(2) is on the way to Colfax as we speak.
Inspecting the Caltrans cameras at Truckee and it doesn't look like a fun drive on 80. Chains required from Kingvale. Doesn't look like the two feet of snow has transpired yet but I'm hearing reports that the front pushed 80mph gusts at Point Reyes today.

Update: Sacramento (Mather Airport) reporting 40mph SE winds gusting to 65mph in the past hour. That could be a crosswind for 5(2).
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6(4) has just pulled into Truckee about 5 hours late. So if our intrepid traveler made the journey they'll be on their way east assuming there isn't a pause there for snow removal.
Here's what things looked like on the way to Truckee on April 6th in between storms.


View attachment NVEExport.0002.mp4
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I am on Train 6. On Sunday afternoon the train hit a boulder near Auburn, CA. The lead engine was damaged, but remained on the tracks. Eventually the engines were switched, and we continues\d about 4 hours late. This meant that the while trip through the snowy Sierras was at night, We were also delayed as Union Pacific sent a snow plow to lead Train 6 through the Sierras.

At 8:45 am, we just left Salt Lake City. If we keep to the current projected schedule the last part of the trip through the Rockies will be in the dark,

The up side is that we will be in the Wasatch Mountains in the daylight - a rae sight & appropriate compensation.
I successfully navigated a spectacular day. #5 was two hours late into SLC Saturday night. A trespasser incident delayed it an extra 30 minutes. The SLC station was pretty sketchy at that hour, but no issues ensued.

I was in the accessible sleeper, which was super, with windows on both sides of the car. The SCA was super, as well. Set the clock for 615 to get up in time for breakfast. Sat with a nice young man from New York who was a big train fan and worked for a commuter railroad in NYC.

Started seeing some snow on the valley floor in Nevada. Snow really picked up at Reno, with a couple of inches on the ground. The crew announced things were bad across Donner, and they were closing the tracks for spreaders and flangers to do their job, that tracks would open at 1230. We waited about 30 mins and then departed.

Snow and wind became very impressive as we rolled toward Truckee. They stopped us one more time about 2 miles short of Truckee. I ate in the Dining Car then, so I didn't mind the delay. It was impressive when we got there, with heavy snow and wind.

The trek across Donner was at 30 mph, and the snowstorm raged. It was just a spectacular experience. As we approached Yuba Gap, the conductor announced that it was the site of the SP City of San Francisco stranded streamliner incident on January 13-17, 1952.

On the west side of the mountains, the snow quickly changed back over to rain at about 5000 feet, and it was beautiful by Colfax, with the sun breaking through. Lots of trees and power poles down, however, along the route. Had to stop just short of Colfax for about an hour while they worked on the engine problem with #6. I saw the earlier post that it was hit by a boulder. I assume they took one of our engines as they said that was the possible solution.

Limped into Sacramento about 4 hours late and was greeted with 65 mph winds that made it hard to stand up. Was a fabulous day...