Welcome. I am the author of Universal Time, a sci-fi urban comedy;
Beaufort 1849, an historical novel set in antebellum South Carolina;
and Pearl City Control Theory, a comedy of manners set in present-day San Francisco.

Saturday, September 6, 2014

Train Trip! Part 2

Oak trees of the foothills gradually give way to pines of the Sierras that give way themselves to the high desert of Nevada. The seniors behind me left and were replaced by a twenty-something couple. Kids ahead took a couple hour nap. They are getting off in Salt Lake City at 3 in the morning. I'm guessing I'll notice them go. The baby (maybe 4 four months old?) has blond hair that sticks straight up and a fabulous baby grin.

The train filled up quite a bit before Reno but is now emptier again. I have my two seats steadily to myself and have been able to get some writing done. At Reno the conductor announced a "fresh air" break. What this meant was it was time for everyone to rush outside and smoke a cigarette. So much for fresh air, but I imagine if you're hooked on cigarettes a long ride on a non-smoking train is rough.

We crawled up the mountain to Truckee at 25--30 mph tops. And now that we're in the flats of Nevada we're going maybe 55 or 60 mph. Part of the reason we went so slowly through the mountains is that there were lots of curves. Basically the rail infrastructure in the Sierras is not all that different from what was built by Chinese laborers with pick axes and a little dynamite a hundred and fifty years ago. The entire 1,907 miles of the Transcontinental Railroad was built in six years. (Six years! With no power equipment!) In the last sixty years as a country we've spent trillions building flat, straight highways with bridges and other structures galore to smooth things out. The same is not true for our railroads. They still have the curves. In 1950 it took 49 hours to get from San Francisco to Chicago on this line. Now it takes 50. We have made no progress at all.

Made a reservation to eat in the restaurant at 5:30. There are two sittings, one at 5:30 and one at 7:15. Am hoping food is edible.

Our train has stopped absolutely in the middle of the desert because we've somehow picked up debris between our wheels and they need to clean it out. Or examine it. Or something. At least they gave us an explanation. However, the train is dead still and all power is off, which means all air conditioning is off. Oy, oy. This is the kind of delay that makes trains late.

It is very quiet. There may be few things quieter than a dead train in the middle of the Nevada desert.

So it is not debris. Some kind of power cable blew out in the baggage car (perhaps due to debris?) and that's why the power is completely off in the rest of the train. They have to take the locomotives and baggage car off the train and do various adjustments (put the baggage car last?) and then we will have power. Dinner is delayed until the power is returned. We are in the middle of nowhere--not like there's a place to get spare parts. But they say they can fix it. It is 5:30 and still light which is fortunate. This place seriously looks like one of those old western movies where bandits make the train stop in the middle of nowhere so they can then sweep down on the train and rob it.

Waiting for cowboys
Now Union Pacific wants us off to some siding so that they can get through. (We've created a rail traffic jam!) We are coasting without electrical power due to the electrical cables being kaput. Getting warm in the car. A little tiny voice comes out of the PA system since there is no power to amplify it. I look out my window and expect to see cowboys and Indians any minute. Adventure, although perhaps not exactly the kind I wanted. We will see if the power comes back on before the batteries on my gadgets run out. I might actually have to crack a book. I suppose if things get really bad we can get off and walk.

The adventure continues!  See Part 3 here.

1 comment:

  1. Woooohoooo! Yup, this sounds like the Zephyr we know and... remember! I was thinking, round about 3 a.m. when I was not sleeping, that you must be in Denver, or already gone through... where are you now, I wonder?