Approaching Truckee, on the service tracks was parked one of the ex-Southern Pacific rotary snowplows. I understand that UP finally had to break out the rotaries this year, but I didn't get to see any pictures or video, which is a shame.
West of Truckee, the railroad turns south to start the climb up "Stanford's Curve," a large horseshoe curve that allows it to gain the substantial amount of altitude it takes to get over the summit. In the upper right, you can make out a line of railroad cars. That's a freight train that was coming down the mountain as we were going up on the double-tracked railroad. (Except for single track at the summit tunnel and one other section farther west.) That's where our train would be a little while later, after we passed the freight.
Here we are actually going through the big horseshoe. With every turn of the wheels we start seeing more snow on the ground.
This is approximately the stretch where that freight train was in the earlier photo. You can just make out the lower track below.
After passing through a tunnel, there are these wonderful views of Donner Lake.
You have to be quick to get the photos, though, because the train then ducks into a concrete snowshed (visible from Interstate 80 across the lake).
One of the challenges of taking photos from the train is that the trees are blocking the long vistas in many cases.
The train then went into the "Big Hole," the long tunnel under the summit. I was in the observation lounge during the tunnel transit. One woman sitting near me was very nervous about the tunnel. This tunnel doesn't worry me. The Sierra granite here is some of the hardest rock in the world and is highly unlikely to collapse. The rock is so hard that there's no need to line the inside of the tunnel.
Exiting the tunnel we saw several ski areas. Soda Springs appeared to be open, but this one was not, which surprised me.
There was a lot more snow on the west slopes as we descended down the mountain.
Impressive snow cornices sparkled in the spring sunshine.
I wasn't the only one snapping photographs.
Finally we descended below the snow zone.
At Colfax (2500'), spring was well under way and edging into early summer.
Between Roseville and Sacramento, the track crosses the American River, and wow was there a lot of water in it. All of the rivers and bypasses were very full. I hope the snowmelt doesn't overwhelm them. This is one of those years where you wish you had a lot more storage capacity in the mountains so we could hold this water for the next drought. In any event, I hope some of it will recharge the groundwater supplies.
Beyond Sacramento (where I briefly stepped out for a bit of fresh and not yet too hot air), I chatted for a good long time with our car attendant, swapping stories of train travel and giving her some information about this part of California that she (based out of Chicago) didn't know. But all good things must come to an end, and in this case the trip ended uneventfully at Emeryville Station.
As I wrote earlier, after getting dinner at Emeryville, I caught a Capitol Corridor train to Fremont, collected my minivan, and drove home via Tracy and Sacramento.
I do very much enjoy this trip. I have yet to get tired of making it. If there was an easier way to work out the logistics (in particular, where would I park the Rolling Stone), I'd leave the RV in Fremont and commute back and forth by rail as needed.