The Rail Philatelist December 2002 Newsletter

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Email Notification



Volume 8 Number 2 ................ PRICE $1.50 (10 ISSUES FOR $12.00)............... December 2002

Dear Fellow Rail Philatelist:

HAPPY NEW YEAR! No, I haven't switched to a bi-monthly schedule; it just seems to work out that way. Guess I still don't have my act totally back on track, but the "big hook" has been called in to clear the track and get me back on schedule. I wish I could at least say I've been productive with the past couple months, but they just seem to have flown by with nothing of merit accomplished

(except spoiling Christine!). My procrastination has me overwhelmed once again. I've managed to add numerous items to the enclosed C-D lists but the huge stock of Danish parcel stamps still sits untouched waiting for me to catalog it as does the Tucson collection. As you'll see from the enclosed show schedule, I'll be on the road the entire month of January so responses to this mailing will be slow. Here's to better productivity in 2003!

NATIONAL TOPICAL STAMP SHOW: The National Topical Stamp Show will be held in Denver June 27-29, 2003. This should be a great opportunity for all of you to visit "Colorful Colorado" and chase some narrow-gauge trains. The ATA has even arranged for a special tour on the Georgetown Loop Railroad on Monday, June 30 for those who can stay the extra day. Since I will also be celebrating my 20th year as "The Rail Philatelist" effective May 5, 2003, I would like to hold a special cocktail reception for the Casey Jones Railroad Unit and all my loyal customers who may be attending the show, but I'm not sure about the timing. June 26, the day before the show will be set up day for me (and also Sue's and my 38th wedding anniversary) but the evening may be available if most of you are coming in early. I wouldn't want to conflict with any ATA scheduled activities such as the President's Reception Friday Evening, June 27 or the Award's Banquet on June 28 so the openings are limited. The full schedule of ATA activities won't be available for another couple months but I would like to get an idea of how many of you might be attending so I can plan a gala event for your Colorado visit. E-mail or snail mail me your thoughts and suggestions even if you are not able to attend.

SUPPLEMENT #3 TO ATA HANDBOOK 138 WORLD RAILWAYS PHILATELIC: Norman Wright has completed an 86-page Supplement #3 of ATA HB-138 World Railways Philatelic. It will be available from the American Topical Association on Jan. 6, 2003. Cost will be $11 for non-ATA members and $10 for ATA members (PLUS postage). In addition to the regular update pages, it includes an appendix listing much of the "questionable" material issued but not catalogued over the past few years. This will be the last paper supplement for the basic HB-138 book. However, the book -- incorporating Supplements 1 and 2 -- has been available in a CD-ROM edition since June 2002, and annual updated versions of the CD will be issued at mid-year (June or July). Norm is currently working on the 2003 version for release this coming summer (maybe at the ATA Convention in Denver?). Although Supplement #3 will be the final paper supplement to the basic handbook, an arrangement has been made with the Casey Jones Railroad Unit to make ongoing lists of newly-issued material available. Inquiries about this service (which will be automatic for Casey Jones Unit members) may be addressed to: CJRRU-ATA, POB 4584, Walnut Creek, CA 94596-4584. Regarding the CD, information added from June 2002 to December 2002 and thereafter will be included in the first CD ROM update in mid-2003. (Therefore, anyone buying Supplement #3, and later the 2003 CD ROM, will have a slight overlap of information. Those who already have the 2002 CD ROM will have a continuous upgrade in the 2003 CD ROM and will not need Supplement #3 -- unless they wish to possess a complete "run" of the printed handbook). The Casey Jones Unit lists will be tailored to begin where Supplement #3 stops, starting with the January/February issue of The Dispatcher. I'll be placing an order the end of January, so if you want me to get you a copy let me know.

RAILROAD EVENT COVER CORNER: Cacheted covers commemorating railroad events have always been a particular passion of mine, but it seems that few railway enthusiasts collect them. In an effort to rectify the situation, I am starting a new feature that will focus on a particular cachet series each month. Of the 2000+ cacheted railroad event covers in my personal collection, a group of hand-painted, first run RPO covers from the early 1940's has always intrigued me.

A fortuitous purchase of several such covers from a failed eBay auction recently resurrected my enthusiasm for them and inspired me to institute this feature. I noticed five lots described as "hand painted railroad covers", each with an opening bid set at $6.99 that attracted no buyers so I emailed the seller offering to buy all he had at $5.00 each. He replied with a counter offer that brought the price up to almost $6.00 each including postage and I became the proud owner of eleven more "Luckey" covers. (In a concurrent auction that I also didn't bid in, another "Luckey" cover from a different seller realized $10.00 including postage.) So what is a "Luckey" cover? Since a picture is worth a thousand words, this picture shows the front and back of a typical "Luckey" cover. Edgar V. Luckey evidently created these covers for his own collection and amusement. He spent considerable time hand painting the railroad logo cachet on each cover, then typing the title (such as "VIA The Texas Special 1945 75th Anniversary Year") and a general delivery address on the front of the envelope, then on the back, he typed instructions for postal clerks to backstamp the envelope and return to him at "2625 Hemlock St., Cincinnati 6, Ohio", along with a "Luckey" number and a hand written date received (usually). From what I can deduce, he evidently created one or more covers for each station stop along a specific train's route and addressed them all to himself "c/o General Delivery" at the specific station stop, with the instructions on the reverse of the envelope getting them forwarded to his home address. Friendly railway mail service and post office employees evidently complied with his unusual requests for the most part or I wouldn't have 33 examples of his covers in my collection to write about. There is probably no way to determine how many covers he created nor how many actually were returned to him. I do have examples of a couple that didn't turn out right either because the station stop he requested didn't have a post office so it got a different city's back stamp or it never received the RPO post mark in the first place. It is not clear to me how he got the covers to the train's originating city in the first place. Maybe he mailed them all to the local postmaster requesting that they be dispatched on the specific train on the proper date, maybe he had friends in various cities that assisted him, or maybe he was a traveling salesman and able to get to the originating cities himself. Anyone have any other suggestions? My earliest "Luckey" is dated April 11, 1940 with a blue Santa Fe logo for the "Initial Trip EL TOVAR #124". It is numbered ELSF-7. Of the two covers dated April 28, 1941 with a black New York Central logo for the "Initial Trip of the James Whitcomb Riley"., one is back stamped in Chicago with Luckey # "ELNYC-8" and one with Lafayette, IN, Luckey #"ELNYC-59". Assuming that means he created at least 59 covers just for this one run there should be a lot of "Luckey' covers still out there waiting to be found. The latest "Luckey" covers I have commemorate the July 30, 1947 "Initial Trip ERIE LIMITED", one with a black logo, the other in dark blue. There seems to be a gap from Dec. 1941 until Dec. 1945 where I haven't found any "Luckey" covers. I'm not sure whether this is because there weren't any inaugural passenger train runs during World War II or maybe because Luckey himself was otherwise occupied in the war effort. I have "Luckey" covers for most of the major railroads so he didn't confine himself to just one region or railroad. My collection also includes three "Luckey" covers where he used a preprinted patriotic cachet envelope rather than a hand painted railroad logo but all the typed info is otherwise similar. I would certainly appreciate hearing from any of you lucky enough to have any "Luckey" covers in your collection. Maybe we can fill in some of the information gaps. (I just received six more - four Rock Island and two Illinois Central from the eBay contact).

EBAY: Speaking of eBay, there is a large amount of train material available but as I've said before you need to be careful because much of it is overpriced. Unfortunately, I am not as systematic and regular in my approach as I should be. My forays on eBay are somewhat sporadic. I bid on the unusual and underpriced items but try not to bid against any of my retail customers. I just learned that I had unknowingly bid up one of my good Australian customers and have apologized. I think a collector should always be willing to pay more for an item than a dealer will, so if you see bidding on an item you want, feel free to overbid me. But if you don't want me bidding against you, let me know your eBay "handle" and I'll stay away from any items you are bidding on. Thus far I've only bumped into a handful of customers active on eBay. How many of you are out there that I don't recognize?

SHOW SCHEDULE: As you will see from the attached show schedule for 2003, I will be doing a couple Ed Rosen shows in California in January. Up until a couple years ago there was a 20-dealer waiting list for the January ORCOEXPO, but now Ed can't find enough dealers to even fill the show. Hence, my invitation - I was never even on the waiting list. Ed has cancelled most of the extensive list of shows he used to promote in California, Arizona and Nevada because they were no longer profitable. Evidently coming up a few dealers short of a full bourse turns a once profitable show (at least for the promoter) into a losing proposition. As Ed points out in a recent letter to dealers, "As you can tell, again we have had to cut back on our list of shows. We are currently sustaining our worst year since the 1982 recession. One of the main problems is a much smaller dealer pool, even though we are still getting very good turnouts at our shows. The Great American Stamp Expo in San Jose was very busy both days, and one of the best attended". I might add that SUNPEX 2002 in Sunnyvale, CA in November was also very well attended. I had an excellent show even though two of my best customers were unable to attend. Maybe fewer shows are better! The market may have been over saturated with too many shows in years past. But the above did cause an old Peter, Paul and Mary song to pop into my head: "Where have all the dealers gone, gone to eBay everyone. When will they ever learn? When will they ever learn."

NOVEMBER TRAVEL: I didn't get rolling on my SUNPEX 2002 trip until 12 PM on Nov. 6 after mailing the newsletters on my way out of town. Heard the dispatcher giving a track warrant to a NB UP train from Palmer Lake to Littleton so I knew I had at least one train to look forward to. I caught up with the UP coal empty as we both approached Greenland. Met a SB BNSF coal train at Larkspur followed a few minutes later by a UP coal train with two locos on the point, two midway and two on the rear, then met another BNSF coal train as I pulled off for cheap gas in Castle Rock (if you can call $1.369 cheap!). There was a BNSF manifest waiting to go south at Coors Field and another working its way thru the BNSF yard. Just north of the Terry buffalo ranch at the Wyoming border I met a short UP Intermodal on its way to Denver, then a few minutes later saw the third loco of a four unit BNSF lash-up smoking like a steam loco as the manifest crested the hill south of Cheyenne. Passed a WB autorack leaving Cheyenne as I headed into a strong wind WB on I-80. A few minutes later I met a stopped EB stackpack and then an EB TOFC racing past the ballast quarry at Granite. There was a geep working a string of empty welded rail cars on the east end of the Laramie yard and another geep rolling light on the west end. About 27 miles west of Laramie, I finally met an EB manifest followed at 4-5 mile intervals by a stackpack, an autorack and two more manifests. The sun set just before 5 PM but I was able to see a WB manifest stopped on the down slope west of Hanna Jct. as an EB stackpack started the climb. As I got back onto I-80 there was a thin crescent moon low in the southern sky. Just east of Sinclair I met an EB manifest and then caught up with a WB manifest. There was an EB coal empty on the east side of Rawlins but it was too dark to see anything in the yard as I drove by. I passed over an EB autorack on the west side of Rawlins. Saw the lights of three EB and the "FRED's" and lights of three WB plus a short coal empty stopped on the Black Butte spur wye waiting to get onto the mainline EB. Met an EB stackpack as it left Rock Springs and an EB coal empty on the west side. A WB stackpack and I both rolled to a stop in Green River about 7:25 PM. The usual SD-40-2 was flat switching a string of assorted freight cars (no Trona cars!) as I walked the footbridge but there wasn't much else happening. I was disappointed to see that the "Family Restaurant & Sports Bar" that had replaced "The Embers" was closed (just Tues. - Thurs. I think) so no dinner while watching the refueling area where only one loco was present. Therefore, I implemented Plan B - dinner at Pizza Hut - the only other restaurant in town with a track view. Got there at 7:36 and watched an EB stackpack roll by at 7:44 as my Personal Pan Pizza was delivered in the smoking section (only seat available with a track view) - fortunately I was the only one in that section so there wasn't any smoke. A WB with all empty TOFC and stackpack cars rolled by at 7:51. While a WB manifest with a long string of loaded woodchip cars backed into a yard track to pick up the rest of its train, the stackpack that arrived in town when I did started moving at 7:57 as I paid my bill. An EB manifest was rolling by and a WB stackpack stopped at the station at 8:08 PM as I stopped by the footbridge and then headed for my motel to work on this.

As I've said many times before, "Timing is everything" when it comes to train watching as in many other endeavors. The old "Embers' was closed Thursday morning in spite of the big sign in the window "Breakfast now served starting at 6 AM" - glad I had a continental breakfast at the Super 8! When I got to the footbridge over-looking the engine service area several men and three trucks with cranes were gathered near a loco that I assumed had derailed. But evidently one of the traction motors had burned or shorted out. I had a ringside seat to videotape as they first unwelded part of the lead truck, hoisted the front of the loco, then pulled the truck forward toward me, lifted the rear part of the truck, removed an axle with traction motors, replaced it with an axle without traction motors, then put the truck back under the locomotive.

I'm always amazed by how resourceful and self-reliant railroaders are. Just five men and three vehicles to replace a wheel set in the field. Also saw several trains go by during the hour I filmed the wheel set transplant including a UP track inspection car that rolled by the Green River depot on track one as a WB manifest waited on track two and an EB autorack started rolling on track three. Unfortunately,one of the SD-40-2 yard goats partially obscured my picture. There was also activity in the intermodal yard. A quick gas stop before I left town was just enough to cost me a view of the Solvay trona train - it was about two miles north of I-80 headed for its interchange with the UP when I went by. Met or passed four trains in Echo and Weber canyons but nothing out of the ordinary and there wasn't much happening in Riverdale Yard either. Actually most of my focus at that point was what kind of weather I was running into. The skies looked ominous as I headed west from Salt Lake City and all the weather reports I had heard were winter storm warnings and reports of heavy rain causing power outages in Northern California and snow in the Sierras. Unfortunately, no one reports on the weather in Nevada except the local stations, which you can't pick up until you get there. I didn't see much train activity on the way to Reno but I was relieved to find clear skies and dry roads. The snow was due in after dark according to all the Nevada radio stations. The Reno Hilton was offering $29.00 rooms and a $10.00 slot machine coupon so I stayed there (cheaper than Motel 6!) but I was disappointed at dinner to find the Grand Canyon Buffet closed for renovations. They had a buffet set up in a conference room - the food might have been about the same but the ambiance was sorely lacking. I went to bed ahead of the "Wheel of Fortune" but gave it back plus my allowance before I left in the morning. There were still dire warnings for snow in the high country so I found a NAPA store and bought a set of tire chains just in case. My "All-Trac" van has been allowed thru in bad conditions before but that was always on the way home and I didn't want to be delayed getting over Donner Pass. Turned out I-80 was wet but not really a problem. And I met four EB trains on the way up - more than I've ever seen between Verde and Truckee. When I got to Roseville, I took pictures of the station, the engine service area where a couple of rotary snowplows were stored and the odd looking RPRX2001 battery powered loco.

Maintenance of Way crane SPMW4027 was working at the west yard throat as I made my rounds and Amtrak #6 came flying by at 12:30 PM - just as I stepped out of the car at my usual view area - I barely had time to trigger the camera so I didn't get good pictures. Three P42s, one baggage, eight Superliners and four express boxcars. I did get good pictures of several other trains that came by including Amtrak #5 - three P42s, one baggage, eight Superliners and six boxcars. The most unusual rail item of the afternoon was a brand new red Trackmobile on a flatbed truck probably being delivered to the "Onespot" car repair facility in the heart of the yard as a demonstrator but the driver wandered between the tracks for a half hour or more trying to find his way there.

After Amtrak #5 came by I headed west for dinner at Marie Callendar's and then on south. Met Amtrak Dash 8 #500 (see below) pulling an Amtrak California train across the smaller trestle at Benicia in the dark. Got to Sue and Jim Dempsey's (A & D Stamps) in Walnut Creek about 7:30 PM and spent most of the evening going thru a large dealers stock they had recently purchased out of LA. It pained me to have to leave at least one of each set, particularly since there was only one each of the more difficult train items. After a good nights sleep, we were up at 6 AM and had a "Stamp convoy" to Sunnyvale - Jim and Sue in their large white van, John Wulfe, a dealer from Sacramento who was also staying with the Dempsey's in his Previa and me in mine. We still had to wait about a half hour for them to unlock the Sunnyvale gym so we could set up. It turned out to be a very good show - I was busy from the outset and had several good area customers with me most of the two days. Bill Chappell, President of the Casey Jones RR Unit had come up from LA on Friday to do some research at the Western Philatelic Library in San Jose. At dinner Saturday evening, he told me about his recent train trip in China and then brought a couple thousand slides to the show on Sunday (actually I didn't get time for all of them but they looked a lot like the great pictures in the December 2002 TRAINS article "Greatest Railroad Show on Earth"! ) Back in Walnut Creek I continued to plow thru stamps until almost midnight. After a leisurely breakfast at a good local restaurant, we all headed for Sunnyvale again. Sue made a great beef stew for dinner Sunday evening, then I was back in the stamps again. By late afternoon Monday, I had made it thru the new dealers stock, so I started on the regular inventory and got into the "I's" before calling it quits at bed time. Between the purchases from A & D and others made at the show, I added over $3000 to my inventory. Plus one of my customers brought me a box of British train magazines to sell for him. After doing my banking before leaving Walnut Creek on Tuesday (Monday was Veterans Day), I stopped briefly at the Roseville yard. A couple workers were replacing ties on track two at my usual spot so that had Amtrak #6 blowing its horn and proceeding slower than usual as it came by on track one at about 1 PM. Made it a little easier to get pictures - three P42s, one baggage, eight Superliners and five boxcars. I thought I might see it further up the pass but it evidently goes much slower than the traffic on I-80 so I didn't see it or any other train activity most of the way to Ogden (of course it was dark most of the way too!). Met a couple trains as I climbed toward Evanston, WY before the snow started. It was a pleasant winter day as I stood on the Green River footbridge for this photo

of an EB TOFC pulling in for a crew change as a WB autorack gathers speed for its assault on Peru hill. But the snow made visibility difficult most of the way to Rawlins. At Walden Jct I did a double-take because there was a NB train with a couple woodchip loads and six boxcars sitting on the spur which I thought UP had abandoned. Maybe this was the last train on the line. Unfortunately, I couldn't make out the markings on the disreputable looking geep. I didn't encounter any other rail traffic on my US 30 detour but that was explained when I met a modern rail grinder just east of Rock River.

There wasn't any action in Cheyenne either as I ate my Hardee's "Monsterburger" trackside - just one BNSF ballast train led by two UP and two BNSF geeps that stopped in front of me waiting for another crewman before heading west to Granite. Not the most prolific trip I've made in terms of trains but certainly a lot of interesting encounters!

MY "FAREWELL TO AMTRAK TOUR" PART 3: The COAST STARLIGHT from Sacramento, CA to Seattle, WA. About 11:40 PM PDT the conductor had all the passengers (about 50) sit in the big lobby on the Southern Pacific wooden benches while he came around and collected tickets and gave us boarding passes. Unfortunately the CS didn't pull in until about 1 AM so I got to watch a couple more Union Pacific freights pull thru the station while we waited. When I got to room 2 of car 1431, I knew immediately that the CS was a classier train than the CZ (turns out it is probably the best train Amtrak has to offer). Not because my bed was already turned down, but because there was a small basket of soap, shampoo and sundries, a special brochure showing the route with details about scenery and history plus a blue and white THE COAST STARLIGHT folder containing two pieces of CS stationery, a timetable and schedule for meals and wine tasting! On the CZ there was no stationery or sundries and you had to get your towels and washcloths from a pile in a baggage storage bin!

I was in bed when we started rolling at 1:20 AM and watched for the few minutes until we passed under I-80, then rolled over and was quickly asleep. Woke up just before 5:30 AM as we went thru two short tunnels in rapid succession, then came out onto a long truss bridge over a lake that subsequent research determined to be Lake Shasta. Then we passed thru a series of five more tunnels, all within the space of about 10 miles, so I knew we were in rugged country but I wasn't awake enough to figure out exactly where. As I got dressed and ready for the day, I figured we must be slightly south of Dunsmuir, CA. Also heard a crew member talking on the scanner about some problems with a drunk in the Pacific Parlour during the night - they evidently put him off the train at one of the stops. Walked back to the Pacific Parlour lounge car where they already had juice, coffee and Danish set up and had one of each before the 6:30 AM call to breakfast. The CS menu was the same as the CZ's - maybe there is a standard Amtrak menu now (there is - it started in March 2001) -so I had the same breakfast as on the CZ (and it was prepared perfectly again!). I was seated with a couple from Mountain View, CA who grew up in Colorado Springs and hope to move back to their condo there sometime soon. He is a railfan and works as a docent for the California Railroad Museum and as a signalman for the Sacramento Southern, the museum's tourist train, so we had a lot to talk about. He had some great stories about the Colorado Midland from his boyhood days. We stopped in Dunsmuir during breakfast. There was a northbound manifest waiting there and a couple flangers near the turntable. I was so engrossed in eating and talking that I probably missed a couple other trains in sidings as we rolled along. After breakfast I took a tour of the train to record the car numbers, etc.

My 6/4/02 Amtrak #14 Northbound COAST STARLIGHT consisted of Genesis P42 #117, GE Dash 8 P32BWH #500, baggage car # (didn't get it and can't make it out from any of my photos - #12??), Transition Sleeper #39035 (1410), Sleeper #32081 (1432) "Illinois", Sleeper #32082 (1431) "Indiana", Sleeper #32076 (1430) "Delaware", Pacific Parlour Lounge # (399??- didn't have an interior number), Diner #38050, Sightseer Lounge #33049, Coach # 34046, Coach #34510, Coach # 34111, and Coach # 34064. And NO freight cars - a pure passenger train! (In comparing the NB CS consist I saw in Klamath Falls, OR in April with the one I rode, Amtrak evidently does quite a bit of car shifting - Sleeper "Illinois" and Coach #34510 were in both trains but all the other cars were different. And my Genesis #117 had been on the point of the SB I heard the dispatcher talking to on the April driving trip). With no freight cars to block the view, I stood at the rear corridor window hoping to get a good picture of Mt. Shasta and was surprised as we hurtled past a small yard with several lumber cars. There were three "geeps" - red with black trim working but I couldn't make out any railroad name. (Later research indicates the yard was at Black Butte, CA and the locos were from the Central Oregon & Pacific RR. They have "CORP" in small white letters under the cab windows so it is no wonder I didn't make them out at 80 mph.) After more train talk with my new friend in the Pacific Parlour I returned to my room about 8:40 to update my diary and get my mail ready for the stop at Klamath Falls. About 9 AM the announcer said, "This is Doris, the last town in California. We'll have two solar eclipses and then we'll be in Oregon starting NOW" as we entered the first of two tunnels.

We stopped in Klamath Falls for several minutes for a crew change. (The conductor and engine crew change at designated stops but the car stewards and dining car crews stay on for the entire trip.) Again, I couldn't find a place to mail my letters so I'll hold them until Portland. There weren't any trains in the yard that I noticed when we left KF about 9:50 AM, an hour and 35 minutes late. Unfortunately, the people in room 1 had their curtains drawn so I could only see out the left side of the train. After passing a NB manifest with six locos on the point shortly after leaving KF, I decided to go back to the Pacific Parlour so I could see out both sides. But it was really warm there, so after skimming thru the morning paper I returned to my room and read the CS tour map until about 11 AM, then went back to the Pacific Parlour where it now was cool again. Evidently the air conditioning doesn't work efficiently when stopped and the sun loading was too much for it during the Klamath Falls stop. The Pacific Parlour cars were built originally for the Santa Fe's bi-level Chicago-Los Angeles EL CAPITAN and they are about a foot lower than Amtrak's Superliners so there is a ramp up/down in the vestibules. Fred came in so we sat and talked until noon when his wife joined us and we went to lunch. The fourth person at our table was a young lady from LA going to visit her brother in Eugene, OR. She was polite but not particularly talkative, but then again, she probably didn't get much of a chance. I was planning to have the soup and chicken salad but they had a chicken pot pie as a special so I took it, figuring I would have several more chances at the regular entrée's. The soup turned out to be chicken noodle - both it and the pot pie were very good (and I don't ever order chicken when eating out!). Mary Jane and Fred had met another docent from the CA RR Museum that I "had to meet" so after lunch they introduced me to Virginia. She does narration on the CZ over Donner Pass. I told her that no one did any narration on my trip, but they evidently only do it on weekends - EB on Saturday, stay in Reno, then WB on Sunday. I was going to have her give me the spiel but she said they have a carefully crafted script that they aren't allowed to deviate from. Maybe on my next trip! She also works in the Maintenance of Way department of the Sacramento Southern - a lady "Gandy Dancer" and had spent the previous weekend at Jamestown, CA doing track work on the Sierra RR, the "Movie" RR. The three of us talked about everything railroad as we headed north. Shortly after lunch they announced that everyone with connections on the EMPIRE BUILDER in Portland would get off in Eugene and be bussed to Portland to make their EB connection since we were still running 1 1/2 hours late. Too bad Amtrak has to take you off the train and onto a bus to make your train connections - maybe they need to revise their timetables. (As it turns out what they really need is better cooperation from the Union Pacific railroad. Amtrak trains on the other railroads seem to meet their schedules much better than on Uncle Pete! (See table from Sept 2002 TRAINS p.28 - the average UP delay per 1000 route miles is 4.05 hours while it is only 44 minutes on BNSF)) If I had known they did that, I could have scheduled the EMPIRE BUILDER from Portland instead of Seattle. That would have cut a day from the trip but I would have missed the wine tasting in the Pacific Parlour and a hot dinner. The Seattle section of the EB has the diner; the Portland section has just the Sightseer Lounge snack bar.

The Pacific Parlour Car, a lounge set aside just for sleeping car passengers was at the core of Western Business Group general manager Brian Rosenwald's vision to enhance the Amtrak travel experience on the COAST STARLIGHT in 1995-"the heart and soul of the upgrade," in his words. "To me," he said, "the uniqueness of the rail experience is about social contact and beautiful scenery, enjoyed in comfortable surroundings." These 1950s Budd-built lounges fit his vision perfectly. Not only that, they'd been retired by Amtrak into storage and thus were deployed on the CS at modest cost. (They have subsequently been refurnished.) The cars host a number of the train's special features: champagne reception, wine tasting, a modest library, and entertainment (typically a musician, comedian, or magician). Most important, they'd be a place for sleeper passengers simply to be-to drink, snack, chat, and gaze out the window. I didn't see any entertainment but at 3 PM the Pacific Parlour steward set out cheese and crackers as we sampled three wines - I forget the names. All three were good, but nothing I would order again - I'm still a white zinfandel fan. After the wine tasting there was an Amtrak trivia contest with bottles of wine as the prizes:

1. When was Amtrak started? I won that one - May 1, 1971. (I remember that from all those Midwest Railway Historical Society "RAILPAX" covers for the first runs of the various Amtrak trains.)

2. How far does the COAST STARLIGHT go from LA to Seattle? I knew the answer was in the brochure but had forgotten the number (1202).

3. How many passengers were now on the train after all the departures at Eugene? I didn't have a clue (283).

4. How many cars in the train? That one I knew. (12 plus two locos)

5. How many wheels on each car? That one I also knew. (8)

Turns out you were only allowed to win once so I had to keep my mouth shut on the last couple questions. The lady who had shared her timetable with me so I could figure out the yard at milepost 346 was Black Butte had also called out the correct answer to question one just after I did. I gave the bottle of wine to her since she was celebrating the birth of a granddaughter in a Portland hospital just a half hour earlier. She was on her way there to help out.

As we rolled thru Salem, OR we passed the CORP yard where I saw several more of the red and black GP-38/40s but still couldn't identify them at the time, nor could anyone else in the lounge car. Didn't even get a good picture because they were mostly hidden behind several UP locos and freight cars A few minutes later we passed the Willamette & Pacific yard in Albany. It contained a beautiful Great Northern Caboose and several passenger cars as well as a bright orange wreck crane. Shortly thereafter we passed a bright green with yellow lettering Willamette Valley GP-9 #3859 in Woodburn. There were a couple large yards on the way into Portland and a couple Amtrak "Cascade" Talgo trains at the station when we arrived at 5 PM (Actually Amtrak runs them and owns two while the other two are owned by the Washington State Dept. of Transportation. They are capable of 125 mph but limited to 79 mph by current track conditions).

They both seemed to have a F59PH on the northbound end and CCB (unpowered cab control) units resembling F40PHs on the south end. I scurried to find a mailbox and actually found one outside the main entrance but missed saying goodbye to Mary Jane and Fred. They were going to their grandson's high school graduation near the Canadian border north of Sand Point, ID, but were driving, a railfan eschewing the EMPIRE BUILDER because it gets into Sand Point in the middle of the night. We left Portland about 5:30 PM, crossed the Columbia River and stopped briefly in Vancouver, WA near the BNSF yard. Then we highballed north doing about 80 mph, just slightly faster than the NB cars on I-5 beside us. Those returning from the early dinner seating reported that the prime rib special was good so that is what I had when I went to dinner at 7 PM. (And it was excellent!) The couple seated at my table was from San Francisco on their way to Whidbey Island to visit their son in the Navy (Been there, done that too!). I noticed three SB BNSF manifests during dinner. Since I had no hotel reservation for that night in Seattle, I asked several other passengers getting off in Seattle where they were staying but I didn't get any good suggestions. One couple was spending the night in a lighthouse in Bellingham, WA, then going on to Alaska for a Holland America cruise/McKinley Explorer Denali tour. The Tacoma stop was directly across from a large BNSF yard. There were two "Sounders" parked there waiting for their morning runs to Seattle on the BNSF mainline. (These twice daily trains are carrying over 600 passengers per trip but the schedule is limited until they can triple track the busy BNSF freight line according to TRAINS magazine May 2002 p.30.) The photos show a Sounder F59PH loco and

the back half of one of the Bombardier bi-level cars thru dirty Amtrak windows. As we left Tacoma, we also passed a large UP yard filled with double stack cars as a pleasant voice announced our arrival in Seattle about 9 PM.

The King Street station is in an industrial area near SAFECO Field and the old Kingdome but, unfortunately, I couldn't see any hotels nearby. The small hotel information board in the depot waiting room didn't seem to offer anything nearby either so I walked outside again to have another look. There was a Ramada Inn van parked near the entrance so I asked the driver if he could call to see if they had a room and take me there. He didn't speak English very well and just kept telling me that there were two Ramada Inns. I hadn't made any progress with the driver and was about to give up when some of the Amtrak crew showed up. Turns out this was the crew van and both the waiter who had served me breakfast and my car attendant were taking this van The waiter explained my request to the driver in Spanish who then called in and got me a room. (Sure glad I had been generous with my tips earlier!). So I rode with five Amtrak crewmembers about 20 miles north to the Ramada. Most of their conversation was about the problems one of them was having with her computer, but at the beginning they mentioned that it was a "beautiful trip" which means they had no real problems along the way I guess. They got their room keys at the Ramada and vanished! As I checked in the counter clerk commented on how fast they always disappear so I explained they only had about four hours sleep each night on the train and had to be ready for a 6:30 AM van back to the station for their SB trip. I had the luxury of catching a later shuttle since the EMPIRE BUILDER wasn't scheduled to leave until 4:45 PM. In my room, I plugged in my camera battery so it could charge overnight and checked my email - clearing out a lot of spam, with no really important messages. Crawled into the huge king-size bed (looked like a football field compared to my Amtrak berths) about 10:30 PM and woke up at 6 AM well rested. (The shower in the Ramada was also a lot bigger than the "cozy" shower stalls on Amtrak, but to be perfectly honest, the showers in some of the Motel 6 rooms I've stayed in are about as cramped as those on Amtrak!) After a continental breakfast in the hotel, I prepared letters to family members using all the extra COAST STARLIGHT stationery I had been able to collect from passengers who didn't plan to use theirs. When I called home to check in and confirm a couple addresses, Sue suggested I should have put some stuffers in the envelopes I was mailing since the ones mailed in Denver arrived with their corners bent. I went down to the hotel lobby and picked up a bunch of advertising cards from a rack there. They would do fine except I was using #9 envelopes so I had to trim about a quarter inch off two sides to fit them into the envelope. Checked my email again and actually had a couple real messages. Connected the camera to the laptop to transfer some pictures and was disappointed to find there were no still pictures to transfer. I know I took at least eight so I'll have to reread the instructions to see what I did wrong. I was able to transfer a short section of video so at least that part is working. Since I hadn't seen a mailbox on my way thru the King Street station last night, I left my mail with the desk clerk and caught the 10 AM shuttle for a short city tour and the start of my EMPIRE BUILDER adventure.

RAIL FACTS AND FEATS: The highest railway in North America is the Manitou & Pikes Peak Railway in Colorado. This 8.9 mile long standard gauge line uses the Abt cog system on its average gradient of 1 in 6 (16.6%).The lower terminus is at 7,538 ft and the summit is at 14,110 ft. It was opened on June 1, 1891 with steam power, but Swiss diesel-electric cars were introduced in 1963. (Antigua #1393 & 1396, Dominica #1292). Come ride it in June!

RAIL THOUGHT OF THE MONTH: Reverend W. Awdry (1911-1997), author of the Thomas the Tank Engine stories commenting on the similarity between railways and the Church "Both had their heyday in the mid-nineteenth century; both own a great deal of Gothic-style architecture which is expensive to maintain; both are regularly assailed by critics; and both are firmly convinced that they are the best means of getting man to his ultimate destination."

STAMP OF THE MONTH: The "Greetings from Ohio" stamps, both #3595 (34¢) and #3730 (37¢), have at least two train elements. David Shepherd, a Cleveland, OH area customer attached the following note to one of his orders a few months ago but I didn't have room for it until now, "On the Ohio stamp there is the Terminal Tower which was the main passenger station from 1930-1971. It is now a station stop for the rapid transit lines, heavy rail and light rail. Also the Detroit Superior High Line Bridge is shown on the stamp. It had streetcar service (four tracks) on its lower level from 1918-1954. There was also trolley bus service on its top deck until the early sixties. There is still a closed up streetcar station underneath the west end of the bridge. It is opened about twice a year for tours. They have a mock streetcar front down there." Thanks David!

May all your signals be green,


Al's signatureAL PETERSON

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