Kevin Standlee (kevin_standlee) wrote,
Kevin Standlee
kevin_standlee

No More Stranded Trains

Because of the enormous amount of snow in the Sierra Nevada, and in particular an avalanche on the Union Pacific west of Truckee, Amtrak trains #5/6, the California Zephyr, have been cut short since Tuesday, with trains running Emeryville-Sacramento and Reno-Chicago only. The article I saw about this claimed that passengers would be transported by bus between Sacramento and Reno, but considering that Interstate 80 was closed much of the past few days (have a look at the photo in the linked story to see how much snow), I wonder how Amtrak was managing that.

The westbound Zephyr has been coming by Fernley as usual (mostly late, thanks to bad weather farther east), but the eastbounds have been puzzling me. For the past two days, they've coming by late at night, running 8 or 9 hours late. I'm not sure why that's happening, given that they're short-turning the trains at Reno. I assume they're parking and servicing them at Sparks Yard, although how they're dealing with resupplying the train, I have no idea. Now the on-board service crews, who generally work an out-and-back turn with one night in the turnaround city, have to be given a reasonable amount of rest, so maybe that's part of the problem. Today, however, the eastbound train was only 25 minutes late passing our house. Lisa spotted that they hadn't turned the train. (I don't think there's a full wye at Sparks anymore; the only wye on the subdivision is here at Fernley.) They had just run the two locomotives around the train, so it's running "backwards" (baggage car at the rear instead of the front) back to Chicago.

Reports like the one I linked say that service should resume tomorrow. this story mentions that, stymied by an ordinary snow plow train derailing at Soda Springs, Union Pacific is calling out the heavy artillery: the rotary snowplows. I hope some television station gets a helicopter up to cover it and that we'll get to see pictures. The rotaries are a real spectacle, but it's best to watch them from a very respectful distance, as they are extremely powerful, and getting hit by a blast of snow from one of them is something you'll regret for the rest of your life (which probably won't be that long).

Amtrak and UP, of course, don't want another passenger train stuck in the mountains in the snow, like the Coast Starlight recently, and the City of San Francisco historically. The California Zephyr carries docents from the California State Railroad Museum between Sacramento and Reno. They do presentations about the line (only audible in the lounge car). One of the stories they have is about the stranded City, but their instructions in the script are to not tell that story in the winter. I've rode downstairs with the docents a couple of times and chuckled over that part of the story, but actually having to live through it might not be so much fun.
Tags: #5, amtrak, snow, trains, union pacific
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