Saturday, April 18, 2009

No. 844 Steam Train To Roll Through Richmond

Big steam train to roll through Bay Area cities

Living just two blocks from the Richmond Bart & Amtrak Station, I often hear the trains rolling in, particularly at night.  Trains tracts actually make the boarders of my neighborhood, The Iron Triangle.  There a three train tracks that surround my neighborhood, and everything within them is called the Iron Triangle.  I am excited that No. 844, the last steam engine train, will be coming through here soon.

Steam Locomotive No. 844 is the last steam locomotive built for Union Pacific Railroad. It was delivered in 1944. A high-speed passenger engine, it pulled such widely known trains as the Overland Limited, Los Angeles Limited, Portland Rose and Challenger trains.

Hailed as Union Pacific's "Living Legend," the engine is widely known among railroad enthusiasts for its excursion runs, especially over Union Pacific's fabled crossing of Sherman Hill between Cheyenne and Laramie, Wyoming.

The engine has run hundreds of thousands of miles as Union Pacific's ambassador of goodwill. It has made appearances at Expo '74 in Spokane, the 1981 opening of the California State Railroad Museum in Sacramento, the 1984 World's Fair in New Orleans and the 50th Anniversary Celebration of Los Angeles Union Station in 1989.

Rail aficionados will tell you there's something special about a steam locomotive — big wheels, rods pushing back and forth, and belching smoke. Compared with a modern diesel locomotive, steamers are so old-fashioned and dirty "... and alive.

Big, modern Union Pacific stables two large steam engines as rolling goodwill ambassadors and public relations centerpieces. One of them, No. 844, will roll in and out of the Bay Area next week, scheduled to lay over in Oakland on April 21 for public viewing.

The big Cheyenne, Wyo.-based steamer and its train are on their Western Heritage Tour, which began Saturday in Cheyenne before heading west through Utah and Nevada before crossing Donner Pass into California.

An aerial of the Richmond, CA station.  Here, Amtrak riders can reside in a transit-oriented development or transfer to BART (heavy rail) for access into Oakland and San Francisco.

The big engine and its train are scheduled to depart Roseville about 8 a.m. Monday, rolling west on the "Capitol Corridor" route through Fairfield, Martinez, Crockett, Pinole, Richmond and Emeryville, scheduled to arrive in Oakland about 11 a.m.

Ten crew people are devoted to No. 844, when it travels and at its home base. It requires many more than those people to run this operation, though. That's one of the reasons steam engines were replaced by diesels, because the steam was so labor intensive. At every stop on this trip, they have to take on water, and maintain various parts of the engine. (Patsy’s Ponderings by Patsy Terrell Blog, 06.02.06)

Rail fans and others can follow No. 844's progress across the country and in the Bay Area using global positioning, on UP's Web site. And the train's GPS system will provide Twitter transmissions, as well — something as foreign to steam engineers of the 1940s as the computerized diesels that move U.S, freight trains today.

The No. 844 was UP's last new steam engine, built in 1944. It hauled mostly passenger trains until 1957, and spent the last few years of its regular service life pulling freight trains in Nebraska. Far more efficient diesels replaced virtually all U.S. steam engines by the late 1950s, and though several other large steam engines have been restored to service over the years to pull excursions, No. 844 is believed to be the only large steam locomotive in the U.S. that was never retired. It entered special UP service in 1962. (By Sam Richards, Contra Costa Times ,04/13/2009)

Reno, Nevada’s Train Station

No.844 will be passing through the city I was born in Reno, Nevada.  I have taken the ride on a passenger train from Reno to Oakland several times.  It is a beautiful ride through the Sierra Nevada Mountains. Reno is like Richmond, its railway station is right downtown.

Built in 1926 for Southern Pacific and Virginia & Truckee Railroads. Now used by Amtrak. Union Pacific tracks run in a 20-foot deep trench on the other side of the station. 

An Interesting History

Amtrak's Reno station is the fourth train station to stand on that site. The first one, built in 1869, burned down in the Reno fire of 1879. The second one opened a decade later–and it burned down as well.

The third one survived until the station was bought by the Southern Pacific (SP) Railroad in 1925, which replaced that station with the one built in the Mediterranean Revival style popular among SP's holdings. It features a long, stucco-clad building with five tall, rounded arches that form door and window openings. The design is nearly symmetrical and is mirrored on both sides of the station – facing the platform as well as the street. A red tile roof covers the center of the station and its Palladian windows. The station is known for its high, coffered ceiling and the back-to-back wooden benches that are still used by Amtrak passengers.

Along a 2.2-mile stretch in downtown Reno, a $282-million, nine-year project began in November 2005 to lower the Union Pacific mainline and eliminate 11 street crossings in the heart of the city. In January 2006, Amtrak moved back into the both the renovated historic station and a newly constructed section of the historic building. This new space includes a ticket office, a second waiting room in addition to the one in the historic building, offices and a long escalator that leads down to the lowered platform and tracks.

In 2007, the Reno Gazette-Journal newspaper reported a large fountain that once stood in downtown Reno to "quench the thirst of all of God's creatures" went on display in the lower lobby of the rail station. The Women's Christian Temperance Union had the 14-foot-tall fountain built and dedicated it on Oct. 17, 1908, thinking if men had a place to get water for themselves and their horses and dogs, it would keep them out of saloons. Throughout the country, temperance leagues built these grandiose water fountains that doubled as monuments.

The Golden State Model Railroad Museum


Richmond is so centered on trains that it has its own Model Railroad Museum in Point Richmond across the street from the entrance to Miller/Knox Regional Shoreline Park. See map in my Miller/Knox Regional Shoreline & Some Personal Memories Post.  As I child I was fascinated by model railroads.  In Monterey, California, I once ate in a restaurant that had model trains running all around the top of the room.  The food wasn’t bad, but the trains were better.

Located just east of Richmond's rich historical district in the Miller/Knox Regional Shoreline Park, the Golden State Model Railroad Museum boasts one of the largest model railroads in the country at just over 10,000 square feet. I have never be there when it was open.  They have short hours, so check out their web site, for more information.

The museum features historically correct layouts of Bay Area and Sierra Nevada stations and landmarks

The Tudor style building in the middle of this shot is the Key Route Inn a hotel on the key system that burnt down in the 30s. The Key system was the combination of bus, train and ferry that went from the east bay to the city. This was at the corner of Grand and Telegraph streets in Oakland.

At the Golden State Model Railroad Museum in Richmond. A huge warehouse of different scenes and California towns and rail yards are mocked up.  (Theorem’s photostream, Paul Cloutier, Flickr, July 13, 2008)

10,000 Sq. ft. of model railroad (Devin’s travelogue, Devin Hayes)

1 comment:

  1. I recently came accross your blog and have been reading along. I thought I would leave my first comment. I dont know what to say except that I have enjoyed reading. Nice blog. I will keep visiting this blog very often.




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