Kevin Standlee (kevin_standlee) wrote,
Kevin Standlee

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UP150 Saturday

The train trip from Fremont (after dropping my van at the mechanic's shop and leaving the keys in the custody of the Shop Cat who pounced on them when I dropped them through the mail slot) was routine. I hiked the 2 km from the Sacramento train station to the hotel, where the desk clerk curtly informed me that it was too early for anyone to check in and to come back in two hours. I left my bags with the hotel and went to look for lunch. I found the Capitol Garage, billed as the "Best Brunch in Sacramento," and that doesn't surprise me, as I quite enjoyed my meal.

Walking back to the hotel, I saw Lisa, who had apparently arrived about 20 minutes after I left for brunch, walking to try and find a phone to call me. I flagged her down and we went back to the hotel. She was worried that, because the same rude clerk dealt with her as had told me "nobody checks in early," that she'd get in trouble for parking her pickup at the hotel, since he didn't even offer to look up my reservation. At the hotel, a different person had come on duty. My room key was waiting for me (and it might have been there when I originally tried checking in, except the first clerk didn't even check) and I got my platinum goodies, although no room upgrade because there weren't any available. The new front desk clerk issued Lisa a parking permit and she also apologized for the rude treatment.

After we got our stuff into the room and did some basic unpacking, we headed back to Old Town Sacramento, where the UP150 event was well under way. We picked up our free tickets to look through the Union Pacific exhibits train and the UP train simulator; alas, because of the high demand on the simulator (which is built into a tractor trailer and represents a full-scale mockup of the cab of a locomotive with real controls, plus the computer displays to simulate operating a real locomotive), they wouldn't let adults operate the thing, only kids, and they simply waved us through. After the exhibits car is the UP souvenir sales car, and I bought a new denim shirt with the UP steam logos on it.

Old Sacramento was buzzing with crowds attending the event, and there was a lot more there than just the UP business train and steam locomotive UP 844. Lisa did not take pictures of the steamer because by the time we got there, the light was completely wrong for it. However, she did take pictures of the odd-looking car in the train she saw going by Fernley, which looked sort of like a dome car but was not: it turned out to be one of the generator cars used to provide electricity for the fleet. There was also dome lounge car UP 9004 "Harriman", but it wasn't open to the public. We were able to tour the California State Railroad Museum's ex-UP business car 103, which was open the public. We've seen that car many times on display at the CSRM, but never when it was open to look inside. It has a lounge, three bedrooms, and a galley. Very nice!

The Main Stage Tent had events going on throughout the day, as well as being a refuge from the hot sun. We sat and listened to The Band of the California Battalion, a recreation of a Civil War-era military brass band, which played (mostly) period music from the Civil War. Lisa and I enjoyed this a lot. They didn't need the over-amplification that seems to be the hallmark of a lot of music these days. The band then provided some of the sound for the "Pageant of the History of the UP," a stage show that starts with a young girl about to head off to Promontory Summit for the Golden Spike Ceremony meeting Abraham Lincoln, and then leads to the two of them acting as sort of narrators for a semi-historical account of the history of the first transcontinental railroad and its effect on America, leading up to the present day.

I get the impression that this production was based on material they'd previously used for past railfairs, with an emphasis on the Central Pacific end of the system. (CP became part of Southern Pacific, which, after several permutations, became part of the Union Pacific. The original Union Pacific built westward from Omaha while the Central Pacific built eastward from Sacramento, meeting at Promontory Summit. They were (mostly) separate railroads until the late 1990s.) Also, there was the matter of working with what historical recreators they had available. People portrayed the Central Pacific's "Big Four," E. H. Harriman (who attempted to merge the CP/SP and UP in the early 1900s), Theodore Roosevelt (who opposed the merger), followed by Mack Sennett and his Bathing Beauties, Fatty Arbuckle, Charlie Chaplin, W. C. Fields, and Mae West (representing how California, tied to the rest of the country by rail, became the home of the movie industry), The Andrews Sisters performing "The Boogie-Woogie Bugle Boy of Company B" and Rosie the Riveter and a WW II soldier and his girlfriend (representing the railroads' part in the war effort), and finally a modern Union Pacific worker explaining how railroads are still relevant in the 21st century.

The pageant was rather fun, and after it was over, Lisa and went up to talk to some of the performers. The "Big Four" remained in character. I chaffed them slightly over leaving out from the pageant any mention of Theodore Judah, the monomaniacal engineer responsible for finding the practical route over the Sierra. I said, "the world might have been a lot different if Ted Judah hadn't died trying to raise the funds to buy y'all out."

One of them said, "Yes, but he would have wanted to build the line to a five-foot-three gauge like the line he built out to Folsom." I was impressed that they had enough grasp of their characters and history to be able to engage in the give-and-take.

We also took the opportunity to thank the band and tell them how much we enjoyed their performance. They seemed to appreciate the feedback. Lisa and I think too many people take these kinds of performances for granted.

By this time we were pretty worn out and started walking back toward the hotel. We stopped at Johnny Rocket's in the K Street mall for an early dinner. Lisa realized about halfway through eating her burger that it was badly underdone. To their credit, they redid the burger well done the way she liked it. That was good of them. I overate, including having a bowl of chilli with my burger, but figured the 2 km back to the hotel (capping off a day of just short of 20,000 steps) would make up for it.

Rather footsore, we made our way back to the hotel. We're not especially impressed with this particular Holiday Inn Express. Besides the rude morning clerk, one of the two elevators was out of order, and the air conditioning in the room appears to have only two possible settings: off and arctic full blast. We'll be commenting on this one to Holiday Inn later.

Tomorrow we'll head back to Old Town for a few hours before Lisa drives us home to Fernley. We found out from one of the UP crew in the exhibit train that they'll be heading back over Donner (and thus right by our house) sometime next week, probably October 5 or 6. We'll have to keep a closer watch on the movements of UP 844 so we can set up for their run-by of our house.
Tags: lisa, sacramento, trains

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