A Private Railcar Tour of the Southwestern USA


May 2 – 11, 2014

In May of 2014 the St Louis Chapter NRHS ran its first private car trip to the West St. LouisCoast.  Having previously gone no farther west than Albuquerque, New Mexico and Salt Lake City, Utah we decided to head for the Golden State of California and its biggest city - Los Angeles.  Wanting to take the Sunset Limited/Texas Eagle home, we added a one day stopover in San Antonio, Texas to break up the trip.

The journey was substantially enhanced when Sean Breen and Arlene Post offered their former Milwaukee Road business car Montana for a one-day round trip to San Diego.  The perfect icing on the cake!
Our 15 passengers and crew boarded ex-Frisco Pullman sleeper Cimarron River Friday evening, May 2nd.  After staying overnight in the St. Louis station we were off for Kansas City Saturday morning behind Amtrak's morning River Runner.  The passengers had about seven hours to explore Kansas City and many took the chance to partake in some KC BBQ.  That night we left behind the Southwest Chief for Los Angeles.  It was sunshine all the way as we traveled across Raton and Glorietta Passes and made our service stop at Albuquerque.  From there we headed off into the New Mexico sunset, with the sun rising the next morning just east of Barstow, California.  Clear skies met us as we descended Cajon Pass into the Los Angeles basin.  Arrival at Los Angeles Union Station was about 90 minutes late.

As the passengers spread out over LA, our car was moved to the Amtrak coach yard where it would stay until it was time to depart.  National Train Day had just been celebrated over the weekend, and almost all the private cars kept in Union Station were down in the yard. Amtrak was slowly moving them back to the garden track in the station.

Tuesday was our day for San Diego.  In the wee hours of the morning Montana we walked over to the private car Montana to board.  Amtrak moved the consists for both the first and second train to San Diego to the station at the same time so we had plenty of time to kill once we were in the station.  Our departure was at 7:30 under cloudy skies.  About halfway to San Diego the sun came out and we had a beautiful day there.  Our arrival at the former Santa Fe station was on time.  Two US Navy aircraft carriers could be seen in port - the Carl Vinson and the Ronald Reagan - and many passengers toured the retired carrier USS Midway, now a museum on the waterfront.  The heritage trolley was running, a former St. Louis Public Service street car.  We left San Diego at 6:15 pm and enjoyed a great view of the sun setting over the Pacific on the way back.  Many thanks to Sean and Arlene for a great trip!

Wednesday was another day of sightseeing while the car was readied for its 10:00 pm departure on the Sunset Limited.

Thursday's sunrise occurred while we were making our extended stop at Maricopa, Arizona, about 35 miles south of Phoenix.  Even though we were late departing there, the heavily padded schedule resulted in nearly one-hour stops at Tucson, El Paso and Alpine.  We arrived in rainy, humid San Antonio nearly on time Friday morning.

We had a day's lay-over in San Antonio, so again the passengers spread out over the city to see the sights and enjoy the famous River Walk. Saturday morning we departed for home under sunny skies.  Our on-time arrival in St. Louis Sunday morning marked the end of a wonderful 3,818 mile trip.

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