Greetings from the Fair Trade Café just north of Downtown Phoenix!
After the last blog post, my Rail Runner Train arrived at the amazing Belen station parallel to the main, high-speed BNSF transcontinental multi-modal rail line, although rail runner’s single stub track ends and there is fence so trespassers can’t wonder over to the area of the main line track. I got back on the 2:00 train northbound and took it to Bernalillo County, a station which I thought would have relatively easy access to buses to back down into but didn’t acticipate the convoluted entrances, purely designed for cars with no way to walk anywhere easily. I ended up walking over a mile on the shoulder of basically a four lane highway which was not a whole lot of fun I finally a found a bus stop to take me back into downtown but some locals started screaming at me for no apparent reason and I thought they could beat me up so I walked up to the next stop to wait in piece and quiet. Route 51 came and I took it back to Central for Rapid Red (Route 766), ABQ ride’s Bus Rapid Transit equivilent with more substiantial shelters for waiting, this bus I also ran for just making. I took it back to Alvarado and had plenty of time to walk a few blocks to a take out burrito place I noticed earlier, bringing that back to the train and being seated with a relatively older gentleman who had never taken a train (or for that matter a bus) in his life before. I wanted to just sit in the lounge, not that the gentleman was unfriendly but to not be chatting with him the entire way. I did not write down the car numbers of the entire consist, just two short a trip but it was two P42 Locomotives leading, a baggage car, transition sleeper, two more sleepers, diner, lounge, and three coaches
Train #3 the Southwest Chief, an evening ride to Flagstaff, Flying Through the Desert (at an average speed of 71mph)
The Southwest Chief left Albuquerque a few minutes late at 4:47 and we slowly followed the rail runner line until curving away in the Indian reservation as my seat mate told me and started going west at about 5:10 we joined another rail line that I assume is the BNSF high-speed main line to the coast passing multiple freights the scenery is the typical New Mexico desert shrubland with some rolling mouds with Mountains in the background to add contrast. Finally the conductor comes to collect my ticket and as soon as my seat check is there I move onto the sightseer lounge, my favorite place on the train. The scenery is the same wide desert southwest vistas with some little embankments the train goes through to get between them.
- 5:30 notice some I’ve seen bore
- 5:36 we switch onto another rail line and really start picking up speed.
- 5:40-go beneath I-40, it has two bridges over us
- 5:43- us and the highway go by some fascinating rock formations along with I-40 (P)
- The tall mesas along the line form more and more frequently with the some low and some urbrutly rising mounts with those small plants growing.
- 5:50 – We have to be on main Santa Fe line line passing a seemingly endless multi-model train of double stacks and then through a town that is lots of abandoned houfdses.
- 5:56 – Another double-stacks intermodal is stopped for us as were speeding along.
- 6:00 – Anohter double-stack passed, three within ten minutes. These fascinating mesas continue, although there all kind of a blur and blend together.
- 6:13 – another double stack
- 6:15 – Pass a sign for East Grants and another double stack that blocks the town of Grants partially om view. Its definitely the largest place since the Albuquerque suburbs. I only care because two of my friends spent a summer community organizing to help attempt to repair the damage of heavy uranium mining. I have never been through here before, nor driven I-40. This train also has quite a few FedEx intermodial single stacked entire trailer cars.
- 6:17 – another double stack intermodal train, we slowly leave the town of Grants and there more legitimate ranches in view with cows, the mesas still striking off in the distance. This gives way back to the same typical New Mexican landscape with small little mesas everywhere.
- 6:35 – off in the distance is another rail line that has a junction with yet another rail line. There all over the place here. I-40 for winds in and out of view but is never far away. It seems like most of the traffic
- 6:41 – W go through another sad looking town of falling apart houses this is a common occurance out here.
- 6:43 – We pass another freight, this one is raw commodities like hopper cars.
- 6:48 – As the sun solowly sets I notice another BNSF train of hopper cars on a parrell rail line.
- 6:51 – announcement for Galup, not a smoking stop, only those detraining down the stairs pleaes
- 6:56 – another double-stack (mostly intermodal) as the sun slowly sets
- 6:59 – Pass Fine Rock with a very crowded parking lot, I believe it is a casino
- 7:01-The lights have started being turned on as sunset begins as we go through Gallup.
- 7:02 – amuzing announcement directed towards the condutor I assume “anyone if your missing a Gallup I’ve got one” as we start entering what looks like a decent sized locality and start slowing down, were on a siding, away from the main tracks
- 7:06 – We arrive in Gallup the stop is the only minor unstaffed city I know of where the platform is behind a new looking locked gate (I assume for safety because of the high speeds through town on transcontinential freight trains). The platform looks in good shape and is long, there are a lot, maybe thirty people that look like there getting on, none enter the platform until escorted by someone (probably a care taker for the large looking station house) and onto the platform after our train comes to a complete stop. We start leaving Gallup at 7:09 and go through a level crossing and then a small freight yard and start entering the otherside of town. An intermodal screams by us while were in the station
- 7:18—another line T-branches away from us at this moeenet there is a small zone of bigger trees that is a reparian zone from a stream and small rounded mesa to either side
- 7:19 – another train of intermodals. Darkness keeps coming with the pink of the sunset. Sunrise this morning over Kewa seems so far away.
- 7:23 – the sun still keeps slowly setting and is organge everying else looks more duller in color.
7:24 – pass even more intermodal
- 7:30 MDT – there still houses rolling terrain and mesas although the sun has not set and there are full evening shadows. I-40 and the trucks of its tractor trailers come in and out of view routinely. This is interrupted by rivers and riparian zones along the seasonal washes that surround them.
- 7:40 – still in twilight I can tell the landscape is much more vegetated covered all around with lots of little trees.
- 7:45MDT/6:45 MST – I think we crossed the boarder, there are truck weigh stations on either side of the highway
- 6:46MST – Pass another double-stack inter modal train.
- 6:48 – my kindles updated itself we have crossed, (my phones dead but the charger is currently in the baggage car, I checked my small backpack of cloaths to not deal with it for the day at ten this morning. Charger was there one more thing to remember in the hostel this evening when all I want to due to pass out)
- 6:50 – another train alongside us
- 6:57 – I need something sweet to end my day and go down to the café counter to buy some mini-chips Ahoy cookies. An intermodial freight goes blasting by.
- 7:09 – another intermodial freight I do not think I have ever gone so fast on superliners as we reach some lights over a chemical I depot, I hear 8 o’clock dinner reservations and last call for dinner in the diner. The diner has to operate in one time zone, otherwise everything would be way to confusing it is actually seven.
- 7:14 – we pass another long freight train
- 7:23 – we are getting closer to lots of lights, I don’t know what but also slowing down considerably and cross the first grade crossing in quite a while. The lights end and we retake our high speed.
- 7:31, Pass lots of lights for what I believe is a power plant with sidings for its coal.
- 7:41 – eight minutes to Winslow, the conductor refers to this stop as not a break stop or smoke stop, only step off the train if you intend to spend the night in Winslow. The only visible lights are some cars along I-40.
- 7:48 – the lights gradually become more numerous, were coming to a town with streets and the like
- At 7:50 we pull into Winslow, Arizona with three people waiting for the train. It has a nice big Harvey house original station building that I have seen pictures off and would enjoy visiting in person. We depart at 7:51 and slowly leave that town skeeching for the first time on this short train trip of mine, passing what looks like a double stack and the lights of a yard.
- 8:06 – An announcement from the dining car saying that the first and last call for breakfast will be at 5AM PDT. This does sounds early but is less if your used to the other time zones. The reason is so breakfast can be finished by the time the train reaches San Bernardino.
- 8:33 – another multi-model although I have not been keeping track. Also the call for Flagstaff, which is a designated break stop.
- 8:39 – see stores like the marketplace I assume Flagstaff.
The train slowly pulls into Flagstaff, a station at street level in downtown where the train stopping blocks two grade crossings. We arrive 5 minutes early at 8:47. I take a few night photos and wait a little bit for the station attendant to drive her cart down with my baggage. Then its time to walk the block south to my hostel which I due checking into the Grand Canyon Hostel for only $19 for a bed for the night. It has an excellent vibe and I immediately wished I was staying longer and chat with a roommate for night from Northern Ireland, before going straight to sleep after being up for the past two nights.
Friday March 18, 2011 – Amtrak’s Thruway Connection to Pheonix – A Shuttle Van
I awoke early again at 6:15 to quickly dress and left the hostel as the sun was rising for a quick photoessay in the dawn of the now empty Flagstaff Amtrak Station, before my thruway connection to Pheonix. All I knew about it was that it was operated by open road tours, cost $37 (greyhound was still about $30) and actually had a schedule that worked for me compared to Greyhound. There was a station agent on duty so I sat in the nice waiting room appointed with Santa Fe Railroad posters, for my connection at 7:00am. He pulled in a bit early and it turned out the connection was a shuttle, a fifteen passenger van pulling a trailer, with my always favorite ‘Gratitudities appreciated sign.’ Two other passengers got on at the station with me, one lady who might have been connecting to the train, as well as a high schooler who was flying home to Atlanta from Phoenix. We then left the station and started wondering up to two different parking lots at NAU (Northern Arizona University) picking up three more passengers and giving two more that were no shows there five minute grace periods (a little different than my bus two nights before that left fifteen minutes early). We were finally speeding down I-17 at 7:30, sitting in a van in a silence that I found a little awkward, that was only broken when another passenger (and student) was calling a fiend who was picking him up in Phoenix and started the conversation by saying “I’m still in Phoenix I missed the shuttle I was too drunk.” This got a short conversation and real giggles from the high schooler, but no real conversation. There’s something about being in small vehicles like vans (not public transit vehicles) that makes me feel like I should chat. We made one quick stop at a very crowded rest area at the Sunset Point Rest Area before starting our discent into Maricopa County and the Valley of the Sun.
Of course because this was a shuttle and not greyhound it did not serve a stop in downtown Phoenix, where my youth hostel is. Only the Gateway Plaza Shopping Mall in the northern suburbs (where the one lady who I thought was transferring form the train was getting off) and not all that transit accessible, as well as the Airport. I took it to the airport arriving at terminal 2, the first shuttle terminal stop, shortly before 10:00. From there I wondered inside the terminal which felt small cramped and a bit outdated (at least because there were not separate floors for arrivals and departures, they were next to each other) to find the non-existant ground transportation desk for Light Rail brocures. I did find one staffed my an unhelpful lady who simply told me to board the silver bus that says light rail on it. I went back outside with no clear place to wait on the bus island except beneath Airpot Buses, and one came that took awhile stopping at the other two terminals before wending its away around all the sides of the light rail station to reach the bus loop pulling in at 10:21. I leisurely photographed the Sky Train construction before crossing the street and reaching the light rails platform. I took the train to Roosevelt/Central Ave, where I am now writing this post and grapping a bite to eat, arriving at 10:51.
This afternoon and tomorrow morning I am off to due a full photo essay of the Valley Metro Light Rail. I will probably update these posts with photos this evening. Right now I am wasting valuable daylight hours so keep looking back for photo additions.