Wednesday, October 3, 2018

California Zepher Day 3 - Denver to Chicago

After all the excitement of the Rockies the vast plains are something of an anticlimax.

Flat but still beautiful in the late afternoon sun.

Our train had started out with fairly clean windows but they were starting to get a bit grubby. It was our second night on the train and Marianne changed the direction of how she slept in the top bunk with her head towards the engine. If you are a big person don't even think of trying to get your body into that limited space of the top bunk in a roomette. And it's even harder trying to get down.

We did take a look at one of the empty bedroom type compartments which have significantly more room and the bunks are wider.

Next morning in Iowa there were some low hills.

Plenty of green vegetation. I did wonder where the cloud came from and I suspect it is just smoke.

Signs of an approaching autumn (fall).

The Des Moines River. I still think that one of the principle reasons why the USA is such a rich and powerful country is the availability of water over most of the country.

I take most of the photos but Marianne also picks up her camera every now and then. She has a careful and deliberate technique whereas I just point my camera in the general direction and snap. On a train you only have a second or so to capture the scene. Later I crop and compose on my laptop. It's probably just as well that you don't see the initial version of most of these photos.

The Ottumwa platform. And like you, I had never heard of the place.

Our car attendant Debbie guarding the door. When the train comes to a halt the car attendants stand by the door to help passengers off and onto the train. She was very friendly and helpful.

A rather boring looking station. No doubt some architect was proud of the design.

The carriages have two levels and a lady was cleaning her lower level window.

Our window on the top level. Quite grubby, but I can't leap that high. I would prefer to be on the top level for the better view.

Corn and yet more corn.

Raised bodies that don't damage the crops.

We approached the Mississippi River.

Burlington gave its name to the Burlington Northern Rail company which eventually merged with the Santa Fe to become BNSF, the largest freight company in the USA.

The Mississippi in the background.

Curious ventilation cover for an old platform roof. You see all sorts of 'stuff' from an upper window.

Crossing the river.

The eastern side had several miles of small lakes covered with pond scum.

Back to the corn.

The train stopped quite a few times in Illinois to take on and discharge passengers.

We had not seen many windmills during the journey which surprised me. We saw lots of windmills when we crossed the US by car a couple of years ago.

I've never seen a windmill design like this before.

Finally we arrived in Chicago and you can see a tall building above the containers.

Lunch is served early on the last day and then the train crew dismantles and cleans everything. All the sheets are taken away. Our attendant did a great job of keeping the carriage clean, including the bathrooms. She said she only gets a couple of hours sleep a night. Passengers get on and off at all hours.

Our train pulled in about 30 minutes late. For some reason or other, the sleeping car passengers always have to walk the furthest from their carriage to the main part of the station.

We enjoyed sitting in the lounge at Union Station and were eventually called to our Capitol Limited train to Pittsburgh where we had left our car. Our train was due to arrive there at 5:05 am and as usual when I have to get up early, my mind does not let me sleep so I had a very crappy night. The track was much rougher than further west so it was not the best of trips. We were extremely pleased to arrive in Pittsburgh and be met by our friend Larry. Our train was about 30 minutes late.

After a great breakfast with Larry and Mary and a short nap, we headed off home in our car. It had all been a wonderful trip.

Now I can have a break from blogging. Currently we are thinking of going back to Norway next year as well as Scotland. For my solo trip, Argentina is on the agenda.

California Zepher Day 2 - Grand Junction to Denver

So the best part of the journey was ahead of us that afternoon.

It's a very long blog so just keep scrolling down.

It's amazing what a constant supply of water can do for irrigation purposes and the Colorado certainly can supply water close to the source. Presumably most of it is run off from snow.

A strip of green in the desert.

Finally the river was on the northern side of the train. It's not all that impressive at this stage.

A peaceful stretch of the river.

Coloured rock strata.

Occasionally we would pass by a small town.

We saw very few freight trains. I thought there would be a lot more. By the way, the busiest railway line for freight trains is the Trans Siberian in Russia and they go by every few minutes.

We came to an area of rapids.

The river is also popular with rafters. We were told that there is a tradition of mooning the train as it goes past but we did not get to enjoy that experience.

We were told that these seams contain coal.

Glenwood Springs is primarily a tourist and vacation town and is supposedly a great place to live.

Another group of passengers ready to board for a day trip. The train does have an observation car but we never used it since it was reputed to be full all the time.

More rafters.

Camp sites.

I-70 on the other side of the river.

I suspect the water is chilly. By the way, it flows west or south west.


Eventually the train started to climb well above the river.

Some years ago a car fell off the road and tumbled down the cliff. Fortunately it did not fall all the way but came to a halt close to the top. You can just make it out close to the top of the photo. The passengers survived.

The train passes through three tunnels right next to each other. You can just make out the entrance to the third tunnel at the right of the photo. 

The pine trees you find at higher elevations.

A flat valley near Kremmling.

We past by a shooting range that extended for almost a mile.

A very pleasant landscape. What would Constable or Monet do with this?

Log cabin under construction.

I have no idea what this structure is. There is not much call for lighthouses out here.

Back to the river in a picturesque valley.

Interesting building.

Everybody needs a snow-cat like that orange monster when you live at 8500 feet altitude.

Fraser is the coldest incorporated town in the USA with an average temperature of 32.5 degrees.

We approached one of the longest train tunnels in the USA. The Moffat Tunnel is 6.2 miles long and cuts through the Continental Divide.

That is a weird house.

Coming up to the entrance to the tunnel. On the other side of the train is Winter Park which is a popular ski and recreation area for people in the Denver area. Amtrak now runs a winter train from Denver to Winter Park called the Winter Park Express.

I did not take a photo inside for obvious reasons,

Now on the eastern side of the Continental Divide. 

9170 feet was about as high as we got.

Flowing east instead of west.

Still very rugged. 

The Gross Dam. Although the dam is on the eastern side of the Divide, it is fed by water from the western side of the divide that flows through a tunnel parallel to the Moffat Tunnel.

An then in the distance is the vast flat plain of eastern Colorado.

Curious low ridge that I suppose is the real start to the Rockies.

There is still quite a significant descent before we get to the plain.

Denver in the distance.

The train line uses a large loop to wind its way down the mountain side.  

Suburban Denver.

Industrial Denver.

The South Platte River. Its source is in the mountains near Denver and its presence is probably the reason for Denver's existence.

The station at Denver is a terminus so the train does not enter the station directly. It turns onto a siding and then backs into the station.

It looks like a modern station. I could have walked back to the waiting room at the far end of the platform but did not feel too enthused. It seemed quite warm in the mid 80's.

Downtown Denver. Not that scenic.

Station sign.

As you know I have done a lot of train trips and this day's journey was one of the best I have ever traveled. I suspect that it might even be better right after snow has fallen. Highly recommended.

That evening we had dinner with two men, one of whom was Mennonite I think. As usual we struck up an enjoyable conversation with a lot of fun and laughter. It's fascinating to hear why people are travelling by train.

However, when we asked the Mennonite man why he was on the train he came out with a sad story. His wife had cancer and the rest of his family had taken her down to Mexico for treatment. There was a doctor there who was apparently very good and the cost was much less than what US doctors would charge. For the return trip the wife was in a sleeping bedroom (bigger than our room) and members of the family would take turns to be in the room with her. When not in the room, the members of the family would sit and sleep in the coach cars. We suspected that the treatment had not been successful.