July 12th, 2014


The Pause Before the Train

I got up early enough this morning in Yuba City that Lisa stayed at the hotel (check-out time 11 AM) while I ran off to do errands.

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We got to Emeryville just before 2 PM and moved into the Hilton Garden Inn for one night. This was the all-ashore-that's-going-ashore moment, as anything we aren't taking to Detroit with us needed to stay in the van.

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The eastbound California Zephyr, Amtrak train #6, is scheduled for a 9:10 AM departure tomorrow morning, but I don't think it will be leaving on time. When I checked at Emeryville than the Zephyr still does not serve breakfast on the morning of departure — it used to do so years ago, but stopped some time ago — the agent warned me that today's westbound train #5 was running so late that it probably will delay the outbound departure tomorrow morning. That's because today's inbound trainset is turned and forms tomorrow's outbound consist. When I checked after dinner, I found that today's westbound #5 is running more than twelve hours late and is currently predicted to arrive in Emeryville shortly after 4 AM tomorrow morning. It is very unlikely that they will get that consist cleaned, supplied, turned, and ready to depart by 9 AM tomorrow. Unfortunately, we probably won't know just how late it will start until we get up tomorrow morning.

On the bright side, it now seems likely that we will have time to get a fairly leisurely breakfast before rolling over to Emeryville Station tomorrow. Of course, a late start means a late arrival in Chicago on Tuesday, but that's why we have booked a one-night layover there both directions to/from Detroit.

Amtrak is at the mercy of the host railroads, and with an improving economy flooding the tracks with more goods, the slightest disruption can knock the People Train (as one of the Union Pacific dispatchers on the Nevada Subdivision calls it) out of its slot and make it continue to lose time on its entire trip. We like trains, but except in a few corridors like the Capitol Corridor between San Jose/Oakland and Sacramento/Auburn, riding the train requires significant patience.