Steam to Las Vegas!

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    In May, 1994 the U.P. cruise train, powered by Challenger 3985 and the E-units made a trip through Las Vegas.  The train was a recreation of their famous City of Los Angeles streamliner. The train carried passengers from Salt Lake City to Ontario, Ca. where it laid over several days in conjunction with the annual UPRR Historical Society convention being held there.  

    Thursday evening, May 12, I rode #36, Amtrak's Desert Wind from Las Vegas to Salt Lake City.   Arriving in the middle of the night, myself and another railfan grabbed a cab over to the Union Pacific depot, where the train was spotted for the morning departure.  About 4am there was a big thunderstorm and we were trying to keep dry and warm (not too successfully!) outside the closed depot.  Finally, we were able to board the train at 7:45am, tired and sleepy but still ready for a big day!

Friday, May 13
Around mp750 on the Utah division, south of Salt Lake City.  Taken from dome car City of Portland near the rear of the train.

Photo run-by at mp679, Utah division

At Milford, the 3985 and tool cars were uncoupled, to remain there overnight while the E-units took us into Las Vegas.  We arrived at 8:25pm.  It was pretty dark but there were still people out all along the right of way, waiting to see the train go by!

At right, the 3985 passes the old water tank at Dry Lake, Saturday, May 14, on its way to Las Vegas.  We all chased it into town.  As it slowed down some twenty plus cars chasing on the Interstate also slowed down until we almost stopped traffic on southbound I-15!

    Sunday, May 15 we departed Las Vegas at 9:20am for a ride over Cajon Pass to our destination of Ontario, Ca.

Steam through Las Vegas!
Mirage and Treasure Island hotels on the left.

Photo run-by at mp209, near Crucero, west of Kelso.

On these special train excursions there is always a bunch of "chasers."  Usually it's a long line of cars and a few buses following the train.  People on hilltops in the middle of nowhere, waiting with cameras poised, for the train to roll by.  I hadn't seen this before - chased by an airplane!  He would get a little ahead of us, do some S-turns and come back alongside again.  I'd like to see the photos he got that day!

We stopped at Victorville to board some school children for a ride to San Bernardino.  Hundreds of people were there.  Children touched the side of the big yellow train as if it was somehow magic!  Meanwhile, a Los Angeles TV station helicopter was buzzing overhead taking video. It was a happening!

    Monday, May 15 I took a Metrolink commuter train to Los Angles station and rode home on #36, the Desert Wind.  While in Ontario for the week, the U.P. cruise train made two roundtrip excursions to Barstow, providing opportunity for southern California rail fans to ride behind the big Challenger locomotive.  Sunday, May 22 I was back aboard the Desert Wind enroute to L.A. for the return journey. After another Metrolink ride to Ontario, on Tuesday, May 24 we departed for Las Vegas and points east. Arrival at LAS was 7:35pm.

Entering Tunnel 1 on the North Track.
Note: Both Tunnels 1 & 2 were daylighted in November 2007.

Passing a wb U.P. autorack train on Cajon.


Entering scenic Afton Canyon

The "Parade" up Cima Hill.
Chasers follow as we leave after a service stop at Kelso.


Above - Webmaster Eastbound up Cima Hill May 22.

Left - Webmaster Westbound at Kelso service stop May 15.

On May 26 the train departed Las Vegas for it's home base in Council Bluffs.  Alas, this time I had to remain behind. 

Eastbound through the curves at Apex.
Except for the ditch lights, this picture could have been taken in 1964 instead of 1994 and would have looked exactly the same!

As the train disappears around the curve at Apex,
it's "The End" of another great rail adventure!

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