ARM Trip Report

Private Car Trip from Tucson to Los Angeles - May 22-27, 2010

Last Saturday, we left Tucson aboard the PV Diablo Canyon for a maintenance trip to the wheel lathe in LA to have the wheels turned and then a test trip to San Diego. The trip was advertised, however I was the only passenger that booked fare.

I had my own bedroom and bathroom with shower. We enjoyed some great food prepared by Jane Barton and I indulged in a few beverages made by Bart Barton. We were accompanied from Tucson by the PV FEDERAL. They went on to KC as we went to San Diego.  The Diablo Canyon is owned by the Arizona Railway Museum and is on lease to Cruising by Rail. The car is operated by Bart and Jane Barton. There are three other cars operated by Cruising by Rail along with the Diablo. They are the Vista Canyon, the Promontory Point and the Jane Marie( owned by Bart and Jane).

The Diablo was a Santa Fe 52 seat coach that was built by the Budd Co. in 1937 and is the oldest Budd car operating in Amtrak service. The car never went to Amtrak but went to New Jersey Transit and was rebuilt as a commuter car before going to private ownership and being rebuilt as the car is today. That owner met a woman and she did not like railcars so that is how ARM got the car. I wonder if he now regrets that decision?

Sometimes the best laid plans can acquire a snag and this time the snag came from the UP. The plan, that was agreed upon by the highest authorities at both Amtrak and the UP months ago, was for NO 1, the Westbound Sunset, to enter the Wilmot siding, east of Tucson, and then enter the Port of Tucson's siding where the two cars would be added by the Port's locomotive. However, someone decided that Amtrak would hold the westbound main at Wilmot and the UP would handle the connection with a UP switch crew from Tucson. They would also handle the reverse action when we arrived back at the Port on Wednesday night. This and the fact that No 1 was over an hour late leaving El Paso, made for a late night departure from Tucson. Now I did not care because I was having fun no matter what.

After we departed, I had planned on staying awake to see Shawmut from the train, however I retired to my very comfortable bedroom and did not awake until we were stopped across from the Salton Sea. This was dawn and I could have gone back to bed, however, when the sun is up, you never want to miss any thing when aboard a PV. We would be having a very nice breakfast by the time we reached Palm Springs.

This set of photos show my accommodations, the cars staged at the Port of Tucson, the UP switch crew arriving 4 hours early, the stop at dawn, and the stop a Palm Springs.



Our arrival at LA Union Station was about an hour late and at the height of train rush hour. The Southwest Chief was waiting our arrival so it could back out and go to the coach yard for inspection before it's afternoon departure. Metro Link and numerous Surf Liners were coming and going and the Coast Starlight was backed in for it's 10:15 departure. We waited an hour or so before we were backed out and headed for the coach yard for our inspection. The plan was for us to be sent to the wheel lathe early because we were due out on the first Surf Liner the next morning and the Federal was to be turned on the turntable for the next days Chief to KC.

The turntable is the same turntable and is in the same location as when it was Santa Fe's Redondo Round House. This is where 3751 resides. The wheel lathe and wheel drop pit is also in the same location as back in Santa Fe days. The lathe looks as if it was that old.

Here again we hit a snag. After our inspection, both us and the Federal were spotted at North 1 and plugged into house power. This location is just north of the service and inspection pits and right next to the wash rack under interstate 10. We did not start making our way to the wheel lathe until 11 PM. There was a baggage ahead of us but they moved it out so we could get our work done. We were moved in and each wheel was thoroughly inspected before any cutting was done. The lathe is a fascinating thing to watch. We were then spotted on the drop pit for a very thorough truck inspection. Everything was good. We were then re-spotted back at north 1 and did not get put on our train until 5 AM. We were exhausted. This had been an all night adventure. I could have gone to bed but would anyone want to miss out on this stuff?

This set of photos show our arrival and movement to the S & I pit, North 1, the lathe and drop pits, Inspection of the Diablo's wheels, and cutting of the baggage car wheel. In the one photo, you can see the wheel cutter that looks like a pineapple on its side and cutting being done to the wheel. All of this was very fascinating.




Monday Morning May 24th

We did manage to get out of LA on the first Surf Liner of the day and had a good trip to SD, Bart slept most of the way down as he was used up. Jane prepared a great breakfast and I just enjoyed the ride. It was beautiful along the coast and there were signs that they had had a very high surf the previous day due to high winds. In some places the waves must have been right next to the right of way.

We arrived in SD on time and were set over to what is use as a PV track. We would remain here until Tuesday evening when we would depart on the last north bound Surf Liner.

The rest of Monday would be used to take in the USS Midway Museum and the other Port attractions. We enjoyed a lite lunch and brew on the fantail of the Midway (I recommend you plan on a whole day aboard) and some French pastries and special coffee at a waterfront cafe just north of the Midway. The pastries were not as good a New Orleans.

Jane prepared a great evening meal aboard the Diablo and then we settled in for a movie. It was a Charlie Chan mystery although we all missed some parts of the movie as we were very tired and sleepy. By 9 PM were in bed. I slept very well the whole night and did not hear both south and north bound BNSF freights that passed just feet away.

On Tuesday morning, after another great breakfast prepared by Jane, we rode San Diego's red cars. We went east from the depot on the orange line, transferred to the green line in La Mesa (I think) and then transferred to the blue line at Old Town. This took about two hours and we had a great ride.

After a great BBQ lunch aboard the car, we took the two hour harbor cruise. It very cool aboard the boat as we first went south in the harbor and then north out to the submarine base. There were two subs in port and three aircraft carriers plus the Midway. The Carl Vinson, the Nimitz, and the Ronald Reagan. The cruise boat takes you very close to the carriers and makes for great photos. The harbor was a very busy place with the most Navy ships in port that I have ever seen plus a lot of new ship construction.

Back aboard the Diablo we enjoyed a another great meal and prepared to head back to LA.  We arrived back in LA Union around midnight and then were moved to the inspection pit for our afternoon departure on the Sunset. We were over the pit numerous times as they used us to do some car switching. This meant were not put back in North 1 until around three AM and not put back on power until 4. Another all nighter. I would not have missed a second of it.

This set of photos shows the car in Diego, the USS Midway from the cruise boat, and the LA arrival and inspection pit.




Early Wednesday morning, when we were bouncing around the inspection pit, we were also supposed to be turned on the turntable so the lounge end of the Diablo would end up at the rear of the Sunset, however the turntable tracks were full so we did not get moved down to the turntable for the spin until 8 AM. This turntable is the original Santa Fe Redondo Roundhouse turntable that, back in the day, turned all of Santa Fe's locomotives including the big steamers. This is also the location where 3751 resides today.

Now I was not present for this operation because I was on a mission to recover a Santa Fe pleasure dome couch that we were in need of for the 504 at ARM.

Back in March, when Bart and I were attending the San Bernardino mini meet, we visited Steve Mahan's beautiful HO scale layout in Rancho Cucamonga. Steve owns Inland Empire Bus Lines and has this incredible Santa Fe/Southern Pacific layout above the general offices. He holds regular operating sessions which host a large group of operators including Eric Smith, Amtrak Rules Examiner at LA, and another gentleman named Gary (sorry I did not write down Gary's last name) who just happened to have run across a beautiful pleasure dome couch that now resides in the layout room. Gary did not want to give up the couch even for a replacement couch out of a UP business car. Well who could blame him.

As is turns out, Eric happened to have another pleasure dome couch in his office in LA Union Station that he wanted to donate to ARM for the 504. Charlie Shultz, Steve, Eric and Gary made arrangements to get the couch to the Diablo before we left for Arizona. Bryan Reece, Amtrak Manager of Training-West, who's office is next to the inspection tracks, picked me up in his 1947 Chevy truck and took me down to Eric's office next to the baggage area of LA Union to retrieve the couch.

We did not get to load the couch until we were connected to the Sunset and once again placed on the inspection pit.

Charlie, Steve, Gary, and Eric would ride with us to Pomona. Eric, just like he did last July when he rode with us aboard the Tioga Pass, was dressed for the occasion in "era' clothing. He looked great!

We departed LA on time and arrived Pomona just a few minutes late. We enjoyed the ride and visit with the guys and then settled in for the rest of the trip across the desert.

This set of photos shows the event at the turntable that was photographed by Bart, the table setting for the evening meal with Santa Fe Bleeding Blue china and Santa Fe flatware, our group of friends, and Bart and Jane with Bart sitting on our new pleasure dome couch.



After our goodbyes, we had smooth sailing until San Timoteo Canyon which is just east of the massive Colton yard and begins the steep climb to the summit at Banning. You get to see a lot more of Colton yard from the main line than you do from Interstate 10.

About half way up the canyon, we stopped for a westbound because the hill was down to one track due to MOW work. I missed the money shot of the westbound because of a phone call. Don't you just hate that?

Our next stop was at west Palm Springs for the very late (12 hours) number 1, the westbound Sunset. We had a very good pork roast dinner here at Palm Springs. This would be our last stop until east of the Salton Sea somewhere near Niland. We had light until just west of Yuma. The sand dunes were beautiful in the early evening light.

Shortly after Yuma we hit the sack. I awoke somewhere west of Gila Bend and meant to stay awake until we passed Shawmutt. There was a full moon and visibility was outstanding. However it did not happen. The next thing I knew, we were in Tucson. I always sleep well on a moving train.

Tucson is a long stop because they fuel the locomotives there. We were there long enough and with the HEP down long enough to disconnect the power to the Diablo. This would have made the stop at Wilmot very short. Of course others were in charge and the cluster that had taken place at the onset of the trip, was to be replayed again tonight. The two big UP road units that had put us on the westbound train was there to greet us at Wilmot. So, we had two, big, six axle units, to move one passenger car to the next track and about one hundred yards of movement.
The Port locomotive grabbed us and in a few minutes we were put away and one more great PV trip was over.

We spent the rest night aboard the car and awoke to a nice coffee and sticky bun breakfast. We were back in Phoenix around noon.  It took me a few days to recover but what a great trip.

This final set of photos show the stop in San Timoteo Canyon, the stop at west Palm Springs, and # 1 passing and going away.

I hope you have enjoyed the story and the photos. Please fell free to ask any questions.  Wish you could have joined us. Maybe you will for the next trip. We still have rooms available for the AAPRCO trip in Sept. Contact Bart at Cruising by Rail.


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