Kevin Standlee (kevin_standlee) wrote,
Kevin Standlee

Westercon Trip Day 1: Surprise Train in Alturas

Having been pretty well organized, including going through the written checklist we have for securing Fernley House for when we leave for a road trip like this, we got away at 2 PM, an hour earlier than I expected. We grabbed lunch at the In-N-Out drive-through in Sparks (where they seemed to have great difficulty understanding "I want a #3 combo, plain burger, plus an extra plain hamburger"), then turned north on US-395. Despite getting stuck behind slow-moving traffic a few times, our progress was good. Lisa drove while I read from recent issues of RAIL magazine.

We stopped only once after leaving Reno/Sparks, that being at the Honey Lake rest area, and we had to take the stop in turns, because due to the annoying heat-related issue with the Astro, if we turn off the engine when it's hot, we need to wait at least 30 minutes to let it cool down sufficiently to restart. My mechanic is at a loss to understand it. It's definitely heat-related, as we didn't have any such problems during our winter road trip to Texas.

Alturas was once connected by rail to Fernley, as the Fernley & Lassen Railroad and the Southern Pacific Modoc Line (former Nevada-California-Oregon) were part of a route that ran from Fernley along Pyramid Lake, then north to Alturas to the original NCO terminus of Lakeview, Oregon, with the through route being the Modoc line to Klamath Falls. Much of these tracks have been gone for a long time, with the Modoc south of Alturas being the last to go, and Alturas-Lakeview now is operated by the Lake Railway, owned by Lake County, Oregon. However, the railroad doesn't operate that often, and we've never seen it in action. As we were pulling into Alturas, I saw a train crossing Main Street. I told Lisa to pull off at the next cross street so we could get a better view.

Lake Railroading in Alturas

These two locomotives were pulling a decently long train down from Lakeview. (I looked at the map, and a train through Alturas makes a traffic mess; the rail line crosses the main highway twice as it snakes through town to the small yard. I presume the train will continue on up to the interchange with Union Pacific tomorrow, but I don't know the details.)

Lake Railway 2809 at Alturas

The lead unit was Lake Railway 2809, a former Alaska RR GP49.

ALTX 1270

The trailing locomotive is something of an oddity. This former US Army locomotive 1270, a Baldwin RS-4-TC, is now carrying ALTX reporting marks, which would make sense for, say, an "Alturas Railway" or something like that. However, ALTX is Southern Illinois Railcar, Inc., and I don't think this locomotive belongs to them. The logo on the side of the locomotive is that of the former Nevada-California-Oregon railroad, a narrow-gauge route that ran from Reno to Alturas to Lakeview as part of a scheme to go on to the Columbia River than never materialized. Eventually the NCO was absorbed, parts by Western Pacific (now the Union Pacific Reno Branch) and the rest by Southern Pacific (later Union Pacific: line south of Alturas now abandoned and torn out; Alturas-Lakeview and apparently Alturas-Perez under Lake Railroad operation). What the actual ownership of this unit is, I do not know.

After our bout of surprise rail enthusiasm, we went to the hotel and walked across the street to the Rite-Aid where we bought some microwave meals and milk. We thought of going out to dinner tonight, but decided we'd be happier if we just laid up in our comfortable (and cool) hotel room than going back out in the high-30°C heat.
Tags: astro, lisa, trains, travel, westercon

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