Kona Trip Report days 11-12

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Today begins my trip home on Amtrak’s California Zephyr to Chicago, then the Texas Eagle to St. Louis.

2023-11-12 06:00−8:

I woke up after a really good sleep and had plenty of time to repack from flying to riding on a train:  basically just moving all the stuff that might have frightened the TSA folks — my scanner, a couple of power strips, various cables — from my checked bag to my carryon.


After breakfast, I checked out of the hotel and walked the roughly two city blocks, mostly through a parking lot, to the pedestrian walkway over the tracks at the Amtrak station.  The elevators on both sides worked. 😎

When I got to the station, I found out that a BNSF train had several tank cars on the ground at Pinecliffe, CO blocking the Moffat Tunnel, and so my train would be bustituted* from Grand Junction to Denver.  That’s the really scenic part of the trip where I might have taken some pretty pictures.  The trip over the Sierra Nevada is scenic, too; but there are no stops where one can get off the train for a bit; and I couldn’t get any decent shots from the window of a moving train.


We departed Emeryville about a quarter of an hour late but had picked up about half of that time by Roseville where I went to lunch in the diner.

They’re now letting coach passengers in the diner.  For a while after returning to “traditional dining”** on several of the western long-distance trains, the diner was for passengers in the sleepers only.  Passengers with coach tickets had to subsist with stuff from the snack bar on the lower level of the lounge car.

Shortly after Roseville, we stopped for quite a while.  I have no clue why, and there was no announcement on the PA explaining what the delay was all about.  We were about three quarters of an hour late out of Colfax.

I had dinner in the diner shortly after Reno and had the steak.  I had ordered it medium but got it rare.

We picked up a bit of time and were only about twenty minutes late out of Winnemucca where I went to bed.

2023-11-13 04:45−7:

I woke up in time for arrival in Salt Lake City which we departed just after 05:00, an hour and a half late.

The diner opened for breakfast at 06:30.  I had the french toast and pork sausage which was quite good.

We arrived in Grand Junction about 1:45 late, but ran right through it.  The plan was to wye the train east of the station to turn it to be train 5, the westbound Zephyr, and let the passengers off after that.  While wyeing the train, we had to stop and wait a while for each switch to be lined properly, as if nobody could anticipate that lining the switches would be required.  Go figure.  (That was Union Pacific’s silliness, not Amtrak’s.)

The diner had an early lunch for sleeper passengers only.  The coach passengers got box lunches that they could eat on the bus to Denver.

There were three busses, at least two of which went straight to Denver.  I guess one of them was for passengers bound for Glenwood Springs, Granby, and Fraser.

The bus ride on Interstate 70 was tedious but only lasted for about four and a half hours.  I did get a nice view in Glenwood Canyon of the track on the other bank of the Colorado River where I would have preferred to be. 😎

On arrival in Denver, a redcap drove me and some others straight to our sleeper cars and handled all the baggage for us.

This train, which had turned from train 5 earlier in the day, had the same crew that I’d had on my westbound trip a week earlier.  My TA, O. C. Smith, was very friendly and helpful; but he was looking forward to calling it quits.  This would be his antepenultimate trip before retiring.

The diner was open and serving dinner when we got to the train.  I had the pasta with the “plant-based meat sauce”, which was actually quite good; but I wasn’t really hungry and couldn’t finish it.

We departed Denver right on time; and I went to bed shortly after the first stop at Fort Morgan about quarter to nine.

*“Bustituted” is a term that some of us regular Amtrak riders use to mean that a bus is being used as a substitute for a train.  In my roughly three decades of riding Amtrak trains, I’ve been bustituted only twice before:  once from Seattle to Spokane where train 7 had turned to train 8 because 7 had gotten caught in a blizzard; and once from Pittsburgh to D.C. on what should have been the Capitol Limited, I don’t remember why.

**What Amtrak is advertising as “traditional dining” is nothing of the sort.  I can remember when at least four service attendants (SAs) would be waiting the tables along with the dining car steward, and there’d be a cook or two and a dishwasher downstairs (on double-decker Superliner diners) preparing freshly cooked food served on real, if thin, china.  These days, it’s a lead service attendant (LSA) and one SA waiting tables, and one cook preparing what, at least, isn’t the prepackaged, microwaved stuff that you still get on all the eastern trains, the Texas Eagle, and AFAIK the City of New Orleans.

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