ARM Trip Report

2004 AAPRCO Missoula Trip

Another year and another adventure on the rails. This year we ventured to the Pacific Northwest and the big sky country of Montana.  This years group consisted of museum members Craig and Mariann Shields, Al and Diane Ramsey, Fred and Dale Springer, Alf Bond, Sid Sherry, George and Syd Holt, Mike and Donna Gibbons, Karen Wallin, Steve Ablonczy  and Bart and Jane Barton. Some of them had to travel a bit just to join us. The Gibbons are from the Chicago area, the Springers from Texas and  Alf and Sid are from Australia. The trip from Tucson was predictably late so we traveled the route in daylight with the highlights being 116 degrees in Yuma and the Salton Sea. Although we were late into Los Angeles we made the connection to the Starlight on Monday for the trip up the coast. This train departed on time and ran close to on time the whole route. Clear weather gave us excellent views of the Pacific Ocean and Mount Shasta. As we traveled farther north the temperatures dropped and the humidity went up. At some points as we were winding through the mountains in Oregon we were above the clouds. Arrival in Seattle was early and allowed everyone to do a little train watching before bed. A layover day in Seattle had everyone out seeing the sights. Some folks did the underground city tour; others took the island ferry or the space needle and Pike Street Market. The next morning was also open, as the Empire Builder does not leave until 4:15 P.M. As expected we departed in the rain. Next stop was Spokane for another day of sightseeing. Trips to the Inland Empire Museum, Davenport Hotel, and the Steam Plant were all on the agenda. That night 5 additional private cars arrived to make up our special train. Departure from Spokane was 4:00 A.M. with arrival in Whitefish Montana at 11:30 A.M. A light rain greeted us but did not dampen any of the tour plans. Folks headed off for Glacier National Park, some in rental cars and others on the park Jammer bus. The next couple days we were on the former rails of the Great Northern, now Montana Rail Link, with stops in Great Falls, Laurel and Livingston. At Laurel we changed to former Northern Pacific tracks. While stopped in Livingston we had the chance to take the tour to Yellowstone National Park. This is a very nice tour. Lots of wildlife, weird geological events and of course Old Faithful. The geyser is indeed spectacular. I can recommend the buffet lunch at the Old Faithful Inn. Departure from Livingston had us joined with the eastern train making the consist now 25 private cars and 3 Amtrak P-42 locomotives. This was quite spectacular as we wound along the Missouri River to Missoula. The Jane Mare and Vista Canyon were towards the rear of the train so we had some really nice views of the cars ahead.

 We spent 3 days in Missoula doing convention type activities. The standard seminar and meeting program had a special treat. On Friday we took a special train, the Montana Rockies Daylight tour train, on the former N.P. Bitterroot line to Hamilton. At this point we boarded buses to the Daly mansion. Marcus Daly established Hamilton in the late 1880ís when he came to the valley in search of timber for his mines in Butte. He built the 16,000 square foot mansion for his family summer home. The mansion is now being restored through grants and volunteers. Wonderful place to visit.

 Departure from Missoula had us as part of the big train as far as Sandpoint Idaho. At Sandpoint the eastern train split to head for Whitefish and then back to Chicago. Our little 6-car train headed west to Spokane. We spent Sunday afternoon figuring out where we would have dinner. This was solved when Fred Springer found Frankís Diner. This is a real diner, 1920ís vintage railcar converted to a diner with much of the original interior intact. The bedrooms are gone and replaced by a counter and booths but the railroad flavor remains. Departure from Spokane was on the rear of the Portland section of the Empire Builder. This allowed us to travel the Columbia River gorge in the daylight. This is another of those beautiful parts of the country best viewed by rail. The tracks run along the River, mile after mile with spectacular scenery. Arrival in Portland was on time giving us a 4-hour layover before departure of the southbound Coast Starlight. The southbound trip was on time until the earthquake. We spent 7 hours stopped north of Salinas, California due to a major, 6.0, quake. We had the railroad radio frequency tuned in to keep aware of what was happening and making cell phone calls to check on the news reports. We stayed put until the Union Pacific had inspected all the track including walking every bridge and tunnel. This put us into Los Angeles late but once again we made the connection to the Sunset Limited for the trip home to Tucson.

 Next year is Halifax, Nova Scotia.

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