On the outskirts of Sacramento, California, the special train hauled by SP 4449 crossed the American River and circled past Elvas Tower on April 28, 1991. Many years later the tower was dismantled and moved for eventual reconstruction (at least partially) at the California State Railroad Museum.
My first trip to California: 1991
by Steve Barry/photos by the author
Welcome to Photo Line! "I started shooting photos seriously in 1979, mostly near my home in New Jersey. It wasn't until 1991 that I visited California for the first time, discovering that the Golden State is, indeed, rail photography heaven in many respects. I needed to see it all on that first trip, and I covered the entire state from the Oregon border to San Diego. Since then, I have visited California no fewer than 20 times, but that first trip was oh so special." Join editor Steve Barry for a look back at his first trip to the Golden State!
Daylight assist at Black Butte
At Black Butte, Calif., the train would get a pair of diesels put on the point to assist with braking down the mountains. Southern Pacific provided squeaky clean GP40R's 7112 and 7113 to assist the train on April 28, 1991.
Union Pacific at Merlin
Heading east from Oroville in northern California, the route through the Feather River Canyon is the former Western Pacific and features around 70 miles of spectacular scenery, most with good road access. The shot above shows an eastbound train near Merlin, across from a rock formation known as Elephant Butt Butte.
Amtrak at Oceanside
In 1991 Los Angeles had no commuter train service -- Metrolink was still a couple of years away -- but there was one commuter-ish train running down the coast line from Los Angeles to Oceanside. The train had double-deck gallery cars from Caltrain's San Francisco commuter service, with an Amtrak F40 on the south end for power and an Amtrak cab car on the north end for the northbound trips. We see the train at the end of the run as it comes into Oceanside.
Surfliner at San Clemente
We find an Amtrak Surfliner heading south (the locomotive is actually pushing the train) as it heads through San Clemente. In 1991 the coastal town was only 17 years removed from its claim to fame as the location of the "Western White House," the residence of President Richard Nixon.
Amtrak at Terminal Tower, Los Angeles
Down in Los Angeles, the only passenger trains serving the city were Amtrak trains, coming into recently restored Los Angeles Union Passenger Terminal. On the way into the station, trains had to pass by Terminal Tower, which controlled movements through the complex. Here's a somewhat unique Amtrak train with a baggage car and Amfleet cars; double-deck Superliners are more common in the west.
Santa Fe at Mojave
Perhaps no railroad paint scheme was as classic as the Santa Fe's red and silver Warbonnet. Applied to its F-units, the paint scheme became synonymous with quality service on passenger trains like the Super Chief. Even though Santa Fe was long out of the passenger business, it revived the Warbonnet as a symbol of quality for its intermodal trains in the early 1990s. Here we see a quartet of locomotives in the Warbonnet leading a train past the windmills outside Mojave (back when windmill farms were a bit of a novelty).
Caltrain at Santa Clara
We are on the south end of the peninsula just north of San Jose to see Caltrain action at Santa Clara. Caltrain is the commuter line that heads south from San Francisco to San Jose, with limited service beyond to Gilroy. The circular ramp made a nice photo prop for F40 No. 902. Note the train number boards sticking out near the cab window indicating that this is train No. 32.
Stockton Alco Action
Stockton is the easternmost port in California that ocean-going ships can reach (it's well inland, but the San Joaquin River is navigable from San Francisco Bay) and as such is a busy rail center. Two short lines serve Stockton, the Central California Traction and the Stockton Terminal & Eastern. During the 1991 visit the ST&E was still powered by diesels from the American Locomotive Company, including S4 No. 564 built in 1951.