August 1963

In which I continue my visit to the United States.

Friday 2 August

I went down to the railroad depot to see two of the four passenger trains per day depart - one westbound and one eastbound the "Empire Builder".  These are fabulous trains.  There was a four unit diesel on the westbound and a five unit diesel on the Empire Builder.  This is normally a four unit fiesel but five on Fridays because of an unbalanced working. A westbound freight left just after the passenger train hauled by a six unit diesel.  I met the Assistant Superintendent of the Line, Mr.Brennan, who intrduced me to Mr. Joe Gaynor, the Assistant Master Mechanic of the Cascade Division.  If I am still in Wenatchee on August 17th.  Mr. Gaynor will fix up a trip on a diesel for me. (this would just about guarantee that I would still be in Wenatchee at that time!).

Jerry had another party this evening.  It really went with a swing. Both Tony and I were cut - rather surprising with this light American beer - it just sent us to sleep.  People were very friendly indeed.

Saturday 3 August

We found a supermarket which sells cheap moccasins.  Went to Three Lakes for a swim this evening.  It was very hot today (103F in down town Wenatchee).  Saw a beaver dam and a gold mine on the way back.

Sunday 4 August

Went up to Fred's today. His mother, Marge, is great fun. Still hot - 100F - went to Three Lakes again.

Tuesday 6 August

Went out to Ohme Gardens set on top of a mountain.

Wednesday 7 August

Ed Eisenhower took us to Leavenworth and then to Tumwater Canyon in Wenatchee State Forest where we saw a salmon run.

Thursday 8 August

Have sent some moccasins home and watched baseball.

Friday 9 August

Have spent the day at Lake Chelan with Ed and Bob Linder Jr.  Ed and a friend, Brad, were diving with an aqualung to try and retrieve an anchor.  We were given a chance at aqualung diving.  I had some difficulty in sinking below the surface even with all that equipment.  I was buoyant.  The water is a lovely blue-green colour and the surface shines above.  I saw a reat many small fish which didn't seem particularly frightened.  The attempt to get the anchor was unsuccessful. The idea was to attach it to an oil drum and then fill it with air from a cylinder.  The first try was unsuccessful because the anchor wasn't tied closely enough to the drum.  In the end we gave up because the air ran out.

We went up to the Rocky Reach dam this evening.  Jerry and his group were playing at the American equivalent of our Rotary Clubs.  The Visitor Centre has a fish viewing room.  The fish run has a glass side.  Some of the fish we saw were really huge, one salmon must have been at least four feet long.

Saturday 10 August

Pottered about - helped Jerry finish a record cabinet.

Sunday 11 August

It is now five weeks until we have to leave New York which means that we are near enough half way through.  I have also realized that in six weeks time I start work on British Railways.

Tuesday 13 August

Very hot today.  It was amazing to see snow in the Cascade Mountains in the distance.

Friday 16 August

Went downtown this afternoon to buy Jerry and Margaret a present.  We eventually bought them a book "Passes to the North" by Dow - a history of the Wenatchee Mountains.  We also managed to get a free series of maps of the area from the Forestry Department.  Joe Gaynor phoned up and I went down to the railroad depot to fix up a trip for tomorrow.  He has suggested a trip to Quincy on a freight train so that we can go during the day.

Jerry's party was a great success this evening with 16 gallons of beer bought with the $25 from Rocky Reach last week. I had a good time but didn't get really cut.  Saw a porcupine just before it ended.

Saturday 17 August
Take a Broom to Work - The Interchange May 2009

GNR train 88 East at Wenatchee
I went for a trip on a GNRR diesel freight train today with Joe Gaynor. The train was No. 88 east with Engineer Williams and Fireman Chess.  The train of 118 freight cars, 81 loaded and 37 empties, weighed 5300 tons, while the total weight of locomotives and train came to 6171 gross tons.  The train was hauled by seven diesel locomotives controlled from one cab. The make up of the hauling power was:

Weight (tons)

Total 13,500
Total 871
Total length of train - 6,000 feet
Total length of locomotives - 350 feet
Total length of locomotives and train - 6,350 feet
Before starting out we had a look at the locomotives and walked right through them from one end to the other.  The GP20s and GP30s have the walkway outside the body of the diesel so the enginemen are protected by handrails.  The F9s extend to the limit of the loading gauge so one has to walk inside the body.  It took quite some time to get from one end to the other.  Several things were immediately apparent. Each locomotive is equipped with a WC and an iced water fountain and paper cups.  This is essential in this climate.  No stoves are provided, however.  These locomotives are not fitted with deadman's controls either.  After coupling on (automatic couplings) we were away at 11.07 PST (difference between PST and local time)  I felt the jolt as the locomotive took the strain but apart from that there was very little trouble from the train.  It felt just like an ordinary British passenger train with no pulling or pushing.  We started off slowly and very steadily along the eastern bank of the Columbia River.  The first couple of miles were taken at a steady 3-5 m.p.h.  The radio equipment was then tested.  The could hear the conductor in the caboose but he could not hear us because we were not going fast enough to make his dynamo work well enough.  Our messages were relayed by Wenatchee station until we had picked up sufficient speed.  It is also possible for the engineer to speak to other trains.  When the controller was opened the effect was startling in a very quick acceleration to 46 m.p.h. past the big storage depot  now used for refrigerated freight cars - for the fruit - all an orange colour (Pacific Fruit Express).  The accereration was so smooth and easy that one could hardly guess that there was a train on the back, let alone one of over 5,000 tons.

We crossed over the Columbia River on a bridge which had been reinforced to carry the extra weight and then along the western side of the river. We soon passed a ferralloy plant which produces armour plate, using wood chips, and then the Rock Island Dam with its fish ladder.  The engine rode well, there was little noise except when the fireman opened the door to go back to have a look at the engines.  Joe Gaynor said that he trained students to be temporary firemen in the summer vacation.  Soon after the dam we encountered a yellow permanent way caution which didn't give us much of a run at the 1 in 100 grade.  Speed fell steadily on this gradient until we reached a steady 25 m.p.h. which continued until we had reached the top.   All engineers must check their speedometers with the mileposts  The line has been realigned in several places.  At Horseshoe Curve the line cuts back on itself so we could see the cabooses of our own train going in the opposite direction. We reached the top of the grade near Quincy where the engineer slowed down for Joe and me to jump off.

Mrs. Gaynor had brought the car out to bring us back.  It was amazing to stand and watch the train go past.  About the middle I could stand and see nothing from horizon to horizon but train in either direction.  Joe and Marg took me back to Wenatchee to a meal at the Pancake House and then I went back to their home where we talked for most of the afternoon and early evening.  Joe told me a few stories about railroading in this area.

A few weeks ago, during a timber strike, a GNRR diesel went to one of the lumber camps to get out the cars which had been loaded by blackleg labour (the railroad is required to do this under Interstate Commerce Commission regulations).  The crew of the train were beatenup and the engine was marooned in the lumber yard siding.  Joe went in with another locomotive the next day and encountered a lumberman who was about to throw a rock through the windshield.  It was only after he fired his revolver that they could retrieve the marooned locomotive.

In 1950 there was a strike of engineers who attempted to halt all trains.  Joe was driving the electric locomotive (now it is all diesel locomotives) on the Empire Builder through Chumstick where the road parallels the railroad for some way.  They encountered a car which fired on them.  Joe went back to the rear driving compartment of the locomotive and opened up on the car with his .45 revolver.  One of his shots hit the gas tank which caused the car to blow up.  They found, from the wreckage, that the car was owned by a gang of thugs from Seattle.

The third story concerned the fixed speed electric locomotive which used to haul the trains through the Cascade Tunnels. One driver was going through and suddenly realized that he should be able to see the daylight getting bigger abd bigger.  It turned out that he had stalled the train but the driving wheels were still going round.  They uncoupled the train and hauled it back.  The locomotive had to be towed out as well because it had worn deep grooves in the rails.  Afterr that the driver took a broom to work with him which he occasionally pushed out of the window to the side of the tunnel to reassure himself that the train was, in fact, still moving.

Joe and Marg really made me welcome and I had a wonderful time.  They took me back to South Mission St. early in the evening.  Jerry's friend, Mel, and his wife came down from Canada to stay the night. (I wrote to Joe and Marg soon after I returned to England in September.  A little while later I had a letter from Marg telling me that Joe had passed away - I was heart broken)

Sunday 18 August

I went down to the depot to buy my ticket to Seattle this morning.  I met Bill Dove (a switchman) who took me around a switching locomotive.  I went down to the depot around 23.00 this evening in order that I should not miss the Empire Builder which leaves at 04.20 in the morning. I have finally said goodbye to Jerry and Margaret. Tony left Wenatchee yesterday.  He is hitching down to Galt, California where we are to meet up with the others next Thursday.

Monday 19 August

I caught the Great Northern RR crack train "The Empire Builder" westbound to Seattle this morning.   at 04.20.  Unfortunately it was raining in the Cascades (the first rain I had seen since the Badlands) and I didn't see the views I had hoped because of the mist.  What views there were were easily viewed through the vista dome coaches which are observation coaches with glazed rooves.  We went through the Cascade Tunnel which is the longest in the western hemisphere (7.79 miles).  We reached Everett on Puget Sound at 07.45.  From Everett to Seattle the route lay along Puget Sound which is reputed to be one of the busiest seaways in the world.  There were many log rafts being haued by tugs - lumbering is very important in this area.  The speeds were rather lower than I had expected.  Obviously these will be low when travelling through the steeply graded twisting route through the Cascades. From Everett onwards the route is virtually level, however.  From Everett we went through Edmonds to Seattle, arriving 08.45 (07.45PST). 

I had breakfast in Seattle and then had a quick look around the town, including the space needle and the Alweg monorail.  I didn't see the latter working because it doesn't start until 11.00. I went back to the GNRR depot where I decided to catch a train to Albany, Oregon, where I decided to stay the night.  The train was the Northern Pacific Railroad 12.15 to Portland where I changed to the Southern Pacific Railroad train to Albany.  The trains were very well coloured.
GNRR - orange and green
NPRR - green and silver
SPRR - silver, grey and red
The locomotives are usually painted to continue the scheme of the coaches.  Southern Pacific locomotives are painted several different colour combinations - silver, grey, red and blue and are dirtier and scruffier than most.  The Southern Pacific's "Shasta Daylight" is an exception to this.

I met Mr.and Mrs. Tibbs from Fresno, California in Seattle and had a very interesting conversation with them all the way down to Portland.  They gave me the address of a Presbyterian Minister, Mr. Hawthorne, in Albany.  At Albany, I first had an enormous meal and then tried to get a cell at the police station. I was told that I had to be a vagrant - then they would lock me in.  I then went to Mr. Hawthorne who put me up for the night.  I was introduced to a couple of students who had just come back from Europe and North Africa.  I was taken up to Jim's house and introduced to Mr. Thurber who is a keen railroad enthusiast.  We had an interesting discussion. I was also taken over to a friend who owns an oil burning steam locomotive.

Tuesday 20 August

I left Albany, Oregon, at 09.15 (P.S.T.) on the Southern Pacific "Shasta Daylight" which is an excellent train.  Quite an interesting journey, especially the climb up "The Hill" - 44 miles of 1.8% grade.  The line doubles back on itself several times.  There are excellent views of the very wooded country from the vista dome where I bought a can of beer (for 50 - 3/9!!) and had quite a chat with the black bar attendant/  The track goes into a tunnel which is the summit of th eline at 4,885 feet above sea level.  Coming down the southern side the forest soon thins out.  This may be due to lumbering operations but is more probably because of a rain shadow.  I saw a beave in a pond by the side of the line.   I was most impressed with the service offered on these trains.  There are many people who are in charge of a coach or a number of coaches.  They see that you are comfortable and remember such essential details as where you are getting out.

Southern Pacific "Shasta Daylight" at Klamath Falls, Oregon.
I reached reached Klamath Falls at about 1400. I saw the volcanic peak of the Crater Lake National Park but this is 70 miles from Klamath Falls so I could not visit it.  Saw-milling is as important here as fruit trees are in Wenatchee.  There is an old Southern Pacific RR 2-8-0 in a park.  It is in terrible condition.  One is allowed to clamber up on to the footplate.  The levers etc. have been secured and every breakable item has been broken.  The driving position is on the right hand side.  The regulator is in the middle of the backplate, of the pull out type and works with a ratchet.  Reversing is by means of a lever, again with a ratchet, but it is only about a foot high (air operated?).  The engine finished up as an oil burner but most probably was originally a hand-fired coal burner.  All glass has been removed.  Most depressing - it is better to have them fenced off like at Wenatchee.  This is engine No. 2579, built March 1909 by Burnham, Williams and Company (works No. 2769) at Philadelphia.  There is a plate fixed to the tender on the driver's side which says:

"Presented by the Southern Pacific Co. to the city of Klamath Falls September 1957".

It wasn't even painted for preservation.

I had a good look around the town and caught the train on southward at about 22.45.

Wednesday 21 August

I slept quite well and woke up to find myself in California!  I got out of the train at Davis and caught the Greyhound bus connection to Sacramento.  As soon as I got out of the train I could sense the change in atmosphere - it was just like being in Greece or Southern Italy again.  There was a faint tang in the air, presumably from the abundant palm trees.  It didn't smell unpleasant, however, as do some parts of Greece and Italy.  On the way into Sacramento, however, I saw another facet of Californian life - the roads - enough said.  Sacramento is one of the most pleasant towns I came across in the whole of my travels across the U.S.A.  It houses the legislative buildings for California.  There is a very large park which houses these buildings and also the Univesity.  This park is an interesting botanical garden.  It was amusing to see an English Elm alongside an Eucalyptus (Australia) and a Japanese tree!  Some waiters were on strike and paraded outside the restaurant with placards. In retaliation, the restaurant had put posters in its window.  Outside the Southern Pacific RR station are preserved two engines, both in excellent condition.

The first is locomotive "C.P. Huntingdon" which was Southern Pacific of California No.1, originally Central Pacific RR No.3. It was built by Danforth, Cooke and Paterson, New Jersey in 1863.  It was shipped around Cape Horn on the sailing vessel Success".  It was brought to Sacramento on a river schooner, unloaded on the levee and assembled to go into service on the Central Pacific RR early in 1864.  This engine is a 4-2-0 and ispainted black, lined ut in red, goldand green with silver motion.

The second engine is No. 4294. This has a plaque on the front end which reads:

Last steam locomotive purchased by the Southern Pacific.  Retirement of steam power ended a transportation era that began in 1855 to play an important part in the building of the west.
Began service March 1944
Dedicated October 19, 1958

It is a massive 4-8-8-2 which has the cab at the smokebox end of the engine.  It would make a BR standard 2-10-0 look like a small shunting loco!

I caught the 13.25 Greyhound bus to Galt where I found that I had to walk several miles in temperatures in the upper 90s.  I managed to get a lift part of the way to the Salvatorian Seminary.  The two Daves and John had already arrived and Tony came a couple of hours after me.  We spent most of the time in the swimming pool.  Salvatorian hospitality is, as usual, fabulous.  There is so much food that we have had to leave some of it.

Thursday 22 August

We said goodbye to the fathers and brothers and left Galt for Yosemite National Park.  We went down route 99 to Merced and then up the valley.  There was first dry grassland, then the vegetation gradually became thicker until there were many pine trees.  Climbing most of the time, we reached El Portal where there was a Shay locomotive preserved as well as a caboose.  There was an inscription on the caboose which read:

Caboose 15, Yosemite Valley Railroad, built 1890's by the Colorado Midland Railroad.  This old ---(?) saw service on the YVRR between Merced and El Portal.  The railroad operated 1907-1945.  Visitors rode buses from here to Yosemite Valley.

We went into the park and up to Yosemite Village.  The views were wonderful.  There were sheer cliffs on both sides of the valley. We came back through the road tunnel and through the sequoia stand.  The trees are truly amazing.  We went through the tunnel tree.  Tony and I went out to get a photo and saw a deer on the way out.  We went on to Fresno and stayed at the house of Mr. and Mrs. Tibbs - in their barn.

Friday 23 August

We were woken up at 06.00 this morning and had breakfast which included freshy picked figs.  Mr. Tibbs showed us peach drying, agricultural machinery and a cotton gin.  We left Fresno at 09.10 and headed down highway 99 South. There was nothing eventful on the journey until the approach to Los Angeles when we crossed the arid Los Angeles National Forest.  On the way we managed to get on to the Golden State Freeway (4 lanes) but unfortunately found ourselves off of it!  We went through Passadena to Covina to some friends of John's.  We were made very welcome.  Had a very intereting (and very violent) discussion about communism.  We played miniature golf with Karen, Don, Paul and their father.  On the way back, Mr. Nielson asked if there was anything in southern California we would like to see.  Dave rather jokingly suggested Hollywood and we found ourselves setting out for Hollywood at 23.00!  We went along the Hollywood Freeway where, at one place, there are four levels of traffic, one on top of the other.  We went along Hollywood Boulevard and saw Sid Grauman's Chinese Theatre with the foot and hand prints in the cement.  We came back along the Sunset Boulevard and passed the Dinos Lodge on the Sunset Strip.  We stopped at the Olympian on the way back for coffee.  It is quite a place with flamingoes and a waterfall in the middle.  Hollywood is very impressive but is not much better than some of the high spots of London.  Got to bed around 03.00.

Saturday 24 August

We got up around 10.00 and went by car to the Corona del Mar beach on the Pacific.  The water felt a bit warm when we first went in but was even warmer when we had been in for a bit.  The sun was very hot - so were the women.  We left the beach early so we could visit Disneyland.  This was very good indeed although the whole emphasis was upon spending money.  I was particularly impressed with the horse drawn streetcars, the Alweg monorail.  The steam engines (of which there were two) were rather tarted up but at least they were in steam - possibly coal fired, but I didn't get a close look.  We had a meal with the family and were given peas specifically so they could watch us eating peas with a fork the British way!

We left Covina at about 23.00 and drove towards San Bernardino (the idea was to drive at night when it was cooler) but Dave was very tired and we decided to sleep for a few hours in a car park.

Sunday 25 August

We woke up at 06.00 but a flat tyre delayed our start until 07.00.  We had a look at a Ghost Town at Calico just east of Barstow.  Very difficult to tell how genuine it was.  We then came into real desert country.  Very dry and with only cactus, sometimes cactus forest.  We reached Las Vegas in Nevada around 13.00.  We had a look at a casino.  I was rather surprised that most of the gamblers were betting on small stakes although there was some high betting. (I lost #1 at a slot machine) After a look around the town, which includes many chapels for marriage ceremonies ($15 a time) we went on to see the Hooer Dam which was built across the Colorado River.  It is a tremendous structure which doesn't look as large as it really is.  We had a conducted tour of the dam and camped at Lake Mead for the night.  The lake must have been one of the warmest stretches of water I have ever swam in. The weather has been sweltering all day so the swim was very welcome.

Monday 26 August

I had a good sleep although the ground was hard and stony.  We left about 07.00 and motored to Kingman, Arizona, where we stopped for breakfast.  There is an AT&SFRR 4-8-4 preserved on a green in very good condition with steps up to the cab. It was an oil burning locomotive, the driver being on the right hand side, the regulator being of the pull out pattern with a ratchet.  The tender was carried on two six-wheel bogies.  I saw an AT&SFRR passenger train hauled by a 10 unit diesel (two five-unit locomotives)

Kingman Arizona
We reached Grand Canyon National park around 14.00 having been checked by the local sheriff of a small township in the Navahoe Indian Reservation.   The canyon is almost indescribable.  It is 9 miles wide and a mile deep.  It has a strange atmosphere about it that makes one want to whisper all the time. It seems to absorb all sound. We camped at the Canyon Village campsite on the South Rim.  I went for a short trip to get a look along the South Rim but went to bed early.

Tuesday 27 August

We left the camp early and had a couple of views of the canyon while making our way out of the eastern entrance.  We tried to get something to eat at Cameron but it only had a couple of houses and very high prices.  We passed through the Painted Desert which was rather disappointing, even though we did see some Indians.  There were plains right through to Springerville.  We were surprised at how green Arizona was.  We then passed through some mountains into New Mexico.  The car lost some power at 8,500 feet at a place called Alpine which was very much like Switzerland.  The land then became flatter and drier.  We camped at City of Rocks between Silver City and Deming.

Wednesday 28 August

We left City of Rocks early and had breakfast in Deming.  Next stop, El Paso, Texas.  Having verified that we could get back into the USA, we crossed the Rio Grande into Mexico.  The change is quite surprising.  The American side is quite bad but the Mexican side is really sleezy. The streets are full of souvenir shops with many people soliciting, especially for prostitutes.  They must know the word for "woman" in every language under the sun.  "Meester, meester, you want my mother - she's a virgin."  We tried to cash a travellers cheque in a bank and they were only prepared to give $1.40 whereas the normal rate was $1.80.  We drove through to Carlsbad through the Guadalupe Mountains passing El Capitan and Guadalupe Peak (highest peak in Texas).  Nobody could afford to go into the Carlsbad Caverns so we made off through Pecos and camped half way between Pecos and Fort Stocton in a wayside resting place.

Thursday 29 August

We left early (about 06.00) and had breakfast in Sheffield (population under 1,000).  We travelled quite quickly through Ozona, Sonora Junction and Austin (which we by-passed) to camp at Bastrop State Park.  This has a very good swimming pool where the water has to be cooled because of the climate.

Friday 30 August

We found we were treated pretty well this morning.  Many people were interested to talk to us and we were invited to several families for breakfast and we had to do the rounds of the campground.  We left Bastrop around 11.00 and motored through to Houston to arrive about 15.30.  John phoned up one of his acquaintances who is putting us up for two days.  We were shown some quite good pictures of Yellowstone.  The weather is very unpleasant indeed, it is very hot and very damp.  Air coditioning is essential.

Saturday 31 August

The five of us and Evelyn went to Galveston today.  On the way down we stopped at the San Jacinto monument which commemorates the battle which made Texas independent from Mexico.  The monument is the tallest in the world.  The battleship "Texas" is moored quite close. This is a World War I battleship which is now a museum.  At Galveston we saw the work of hurricane "Clara" which hit this part three years ago. A tornado hit Texas City yesterday and took off a few roofs.  We had a picnic near the beach at Galveston and came back through a heavy thunderstorm.  We went to a party this evening which was not very exciting.  Came back at 11.00 and got to bed around 01.00. The Houston climate takes a lot of getting used to.  It is like living in a hot house all the time.

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