• A Tale of "The Cities"

  • Tell us where you were and what you saw!
Tell us where you were and what you saw!

Moderator: David Benton

  by Gilbert B Norman
OK, I guess a few others as well.

I think it is time I "deliver" on my promise that I have made both to the webmaster and to
other Members that I would post some original material regarding my pre-Amtrak travels.
Here we will address those made on the Union Pacific.

What may be difficult for some "tuning in late' and know only the reports, let alone first
hand observations, of the consistently poor performance afforded Amtrak trains by the
UP, is to think that the Union Pacific once was "one of the best". Even into the "sixties",
they were advertising their product in national publications. Most memorable were those
with endorsements by celebrities to ride the "City" trains.

Of interest was one endorsement by one actor who, while never receiving any recognition
(oh, maybe a “lifetime achievement” award) from The Academy, moved "outta town' for
a while and took up residence in a building numbered "1600". Also of interest, while
residing there, he made the most concerted effort to completely shut down Amtrak that
had ever been attempted. This was not the usual "benign neglect" strategy; this was
"shutt'er down".

Further, Union Pacific Annual Reports during the "sixties' often had a full page of photos
and text regarding their passenger operations. In addition to informing the shareholders
that 'losses" were under control, there were also reports of the efforts made to market the
services, and how they contributed to a favorable public image of the company.

OK, with all this 'ramble preamble" out of the way, where and when did I ride?

My very first "Union Pacific' ride was actually on the MILW during April 1961.
Chicago-Marion, IA. Marion was some five miles North of Cedar Rapids where I was
destined for a college interview. However, Train #111, the City of Portland, routed via
Denver, was all UP - both locomotives and cars. During my college years, I once heard
the son of an NYC Passenger Dept manager say "their cars are cleaner on the outside than
ours are on the inside". Having grown up on the New Haven when they were desperately
trying to stave off bankruptcy, I could appreciate that comment. To board a 44 seat coach
absent of traditional RR colors such as "latrine green" was a new departure. I could not
help but note how each vestibule walkway had carpet "runners" between each car, and
how handrails were installed through the vestibule area. Not sure whether or not the
college was offering dinner, I had an excuse to try out the food service in the Dome
Diner. While all I ordered was the "econo standby" of “railroad days”, known as a ham
sandwich, I was seated upstairs in the Dome, and riding along the railroad that I was to go
to work for upon completion of military service and graduation. All told, quite an "intro"
to the UP, even if off-line.

I didn't go to school in Cedar Rapids , but I had a girlfriend that did. This gave me
opportunities to ride over the next few years. Now for my first overnight that would touch
UP rails. This was June 1963 and the trip was Marion-Denver. Departure was 700PM and
the Dome Diner was still open (added during summer was a cafe diner primarily for
coach passengers). This time, no 'meal on the quick'; this time the fabulous steak, and,
now being of age, UP’s own private stock Cabernet. It wasn’t quite Lugar’s, but it sure
was Ruth’s Chris. It was rather easy to know when Omaha was past - the ride got
smoother. The MILW's Iowa Division ROW was never that good and even a center car
roomette wasn't going to make it such. Arrival Denver was of course on time.

Next ride was EB "bumper to bumper" on the City of LA. This was Jan 2nd, 1964. That
year, Univ of Illinois went to the Rose Bowl (not too many times, like once, since then).
Here things were a bit more crowded, and at Ogden, the train was combined with the
"City of San Francisco”, and operated as two sections, one coach and the other Pullman.
All told, we passed through Wyoming some two hours late, but at Cheyenne "the race
was on". By North Platte half the deficit was killed. and by CUS, on time. Obviously to
"give 'er the road" and let the hogger "interpret' speeds as needed was part of the drill
when "the City was down".

When in military service and after returning from "The Nam", I was stationed at Hill AFB
(Ogden), UT. Although I was not going to make a career of the Service, I was planning to
optimize my remaining year of service with trips planned from there. Many would be by
rail. Unfortunately (and I MEAN unfortunately) Uncle Sam had different ideas, for I
found myself "riffed" out of service (Honorable Discharge, of course) with roundly one
month's notice during January 1969. I had planned to ask for a June "early out' to return
and finish off college, but not January!!! There went several trips I had planned for the
Spring, some of which would be rail. There was an LA-Ogden ride during that December,
a Salt Lake-Vegas during October (that actually before the axe fell).

Fortunately, I was able to work in a ride on the Butte Special, Ogden-Butte. If there was
such a thing as a "secondary" train on the UP, this was it. But it offered a "one of a kind'
Section, Roomette, Bedroom, Kitchen Buffet sleeper. That's right the Pullman Porter
fried up bacon and eggs - and did a good job of it at that.

My final UP ride was Jan 1969 (a week to go in Service) Ogden-Denver on the City. The
memories are still fresh riding across the Wyoming "moonscape", the "last supper"
aboard a Dome Diner, and an unbroken string of Armor Yellow cars with silvered trucks
rounding a curve and with four E-9's up front taking care of business.

So appropriate was the drumhead attached to #103, by then “The City of Everywhere”,
making its way westward on A-Day eve, A-Day, and A+1 - Adios!!!