The final Amtrak Desert Wind arrived into Los Angeles on Monday, May 12, 1997 at around 4 PM Pacific Time. This is the travelogue of my ride on the very last 72 miles of that journey from San Bernardino to Los Angeles.
I traveled with a friend, Ray Burns, on this trip and we took about 40 photographs using two cameras. Those photos will be posted to this web page within 3 or 4 weeks.
I had purchased tickets to take the Desert Wind on Saturday, May 10, 1997 from San Bernardino to Los Angeles thinking that would be the final Desert Wind. Others told me that there was a good turn-out of railfans in Fullerton to see what they also thought to be the final Amtrak Desert Wind. But, we were all mistaken! The final Desert Wind left Chicago on Saturday, May 10th, and would not arrive into Los Angeles until Monday, May 12th!
I purchased a pair of tickets again for the really final Desert Wind that was scheduled to arrive into Los Angeles on Monday, May 12, 1997. Ray Burns, a friend and co-worker at TrainWeb, and I drove from Anaheim, California to San Bernardino, California. This is a distance of about 50 miles. I used the "Train Arrival Information" selection on the Amtrak Web page to find out that the Desert Wind was running 1 hour and 15 minutes late.
We left from Anaheim at about 12:40pm and arrived at the San Bernardino station at 1:20pm. The Amtrak Agent in the station told us that the train was still running about 1 hour late. Thus, we hopped back into the car and went over to a nearby Chinese Fast Food place to grab a late lunch. We were back to the station at about 2:10pm.
There were a surprising number of people in the station waiting to board the train, maybe 10 or 12 in all. I really expected nobody to be boarding other than ourselves. Only 2 of the people in the station seemed to be railfans and I'm not sure if they boarded the train at all. Metrolink trains run between this station and Los Angeles about hourly, so the only likely reason for anyone to take this train from San Bernardino would be just for the experience of the last Desert Wind, or to get to Fullerton, a stop not serviced by Metrolink directly from this station.
While we were waiting, we decided to take a few photos of the front of the station. We went outside for about 5 minutes to do this. That almost cost us this trip! When we went back into the station, we saw the Desert Wind already out on the platform! It rolled quietly into the station and I don't believe that any announcement of its arrival had been made.
I noticed that many of the passengers that I thought would be boarding the train were still sitting calmly on the bench chairs inside the waiting room of the station. I ignored that and just bolted for the door for fear that we would miss this final Desert Wind! Most of the doors of the train had already been shut and the only door that I could still see open was in the lead Coach Car, about 8 cars up from the station building! I just started running for it with the hope the Conductor would notice me and not start the train until I had boarded. I looked behind me just to make sure that Ray was also running for the door. To my surprise, he was just standing in one place taking a photo of me running for the train! On a second thought, I realized that was O.K. As long as I got to the door where the Conductor was, I could have her delay the train until Ray caught up to me.
The Conductor had been walking in my direction while I was running in her direction. Thus, we arrived at the door of the second Coach Car at the same time. The Coach Cars were at the lead of this train and the Sleeping Cars were at the tail end. The Conductor asked me if I was boarding the train. I said yes and she opened the door to that second Coach Car. She then started shouting down the tracks asking someone if they were getting on this train. At first, I couldn't believe that Ray was still that far back that she had to shout that loud. However, I later found out that several people hadn't boarded yet and it wasn't Ray that she was shouting to.
Ray and I went upstairs and walked back several coach cars until we were much closer to the Sightseer Lounge Car. Several more people then boarded the train. I think the people that were in the station didn't realize that this was the train they were waiting for. Maybe my bolting for the door in the station got them concerned. At any rate, they did come out to the train. The Car Attendant let them in the door to one of the cars near the station so they didn't have to wait for these people to walk all the way to the coach cars at the front of the train before the train could leave. They might even have been let into the door of one of the Sleeping Cars.
Once our tickets were punched and taken by the Conductor, Ray and I moved to the Sightseer Lounge Car and sat in a couple of single seats facing the north side of the train. There were several railfans down the other end of the car taking video and photos. This train was fairly uncrowded. That didn't surprise me since: (1) A lot of people thought this train was already no longer running, and (2) most of the people that ride the Desert Wind depart in Las Vegas.
Ray and I spent much of our time talking to another passenger who took the Desert Wind from Chicago to Los Angeles just because it was the very last Desert Wind. He would be returning later that evening on the Southwest Chief. He was interested in spending the intervening hours exploring Los Angeles, Olvera Street, and maybe even getting a look at the Los Angeles Metrorail and the new California Cars. He told us that a great number of people had gotten off the Desert Wind in Las Vegas and that there was quite a bit of news coverage of this train when it went through Las Vegas. This was the very last Amtrak train to serve Las Vegas.
Ray went up to the Dining Car and the Sleeping Cars and took photographs and the names of every Amtrak staff person that he could find. Those names are posted below and the photographs will be posted shortly. We also got names and photographs of every Amtrak staff person that went by our seats in the Sightseer Lounge Car. Everyone was cooperative on this sad but historic event.
Several announcements were made over the P.A. system thanking everyone for having joined the Desert Wind for this very last journey. They also gave a brief status of the Texas Eagle which appears to have been spared at least for the next several months due to the quick action taken by the Texas legislature. Unfortunately, no such support had come forth to save the Desert Wind.
The person from Chicago told us that service had been superb even on this very last run of the Desert Wind. They had been given special souvenir menus from the very last dinner to be served on the Desert Wind the previous night.
I found out that this train would be immediately sent up to Oakland to be used as a consist of the California Zephyr on its new daily schedule as soon as it was needed. In that vein, the Chief of Onboard Services reminded all the Car Attendants to not dump their dirty linens off the train in Los Angeles. Instead, they were to drop off the dirty linens in Jack London Square in Oakland, California.
From San Bernardino to West Corona, the Desert Wind follows the same tracks used by the Metrolink Inland Empire-Orange County Line. The entire route taken by the Desert Wind between Barstow and Los Angeles is also the exact same route used by the Southwest Chief. Thus, that segment of rails will continue to be used by an Amtrak route. It is the segment of rails between Barstow and Salt Lake City that will not see Amtrak trains again for the forseeable future.
I was at the NARP Region XII 1997 Annual Meeting last Saturday, May 10, 1997, that was held at the Santa Ana Amtrak Station. Ron Scolaro, Director of Government Affairs for Amtrak West was one of the speakers. He indicated that Amtrak West is very interested in starting a corridor service between Los Angeles and Las Vegas, Nevada. They are looking at a service that may run as many as 3 trains each day and have already done a study that shows it wouldn't take too much capital investment to decrease the travel time from 7 hours 15 minutes down to 5 hours 30 minutes. Unlike the Desert Wind, as a corridor service, this new train would have additional stops to serve population centers along the way.
Earlier that same week a high-speed rail conference was held in Las Vegas. Amtrak West brought down the Talgo Train from Washington and provided demonstration runs for key people at the conference. Serious steps are being taken to try to make this route a reality over the next 18 to 24 months. The first concrete step to be taken is that the state of Nevada has been moved from the jurisdiction of Amtrak Intercity over to that of Amtrak West. That gives Amtrak West the green light to study and propose rail service between California and Nevada.
As far as service running between Las Vegas and points east of there, no plans for restoration are presently in the works. I believe the next Olympics will be held in Salt Lake City. It wouldn't surprise me to see some temporary service put into place between Los Angeles and Salt Lake City via Las Vegas during the Olympics. However, this might just be a temporary extension of the Los Angeles to Las Vegas run if that comes into service by that time.
Back to my trip on the last Desert Wind...
Fullerton, our only station enroute between San Bernardino and Los Angeles, came up faster than I had expected. I should have been the first one to the door so I could get off, snap a few photos, and hop back on. Instead, I was at the end of a long line of people getting off in Fullerton. As soon as I got to the door, the Car Attendant asked: "Are you getting off here?" As soon as I answered: "No", she got back on and closed the door behind her! So much for getting a few photos in the Fullerton Station.
I did see some familiar people on the station platform at Fullerton. Knocking on the Sightseer Lounge Car window was totally ineffective to get anyone's attention. As the train left the station, I noticed a lot of railfans beyond the west end of the platform with video cameras videotaping this final Desert Wind.
The final leg of the journey into Los Angeles was uneventful. It can take as little as 30 minutes to get from Fullerton to Los Angeles, but there are usually minor delays due to freight traffic or coordinating with Metrolink trains also going in and out of the Los Angeles station.
The Desert Wind had one minor delay of maybe 5 minutes as we approached the Los Angeles station. Coming into the station there appeared to be a couple of railfans on the platform. Unlike what I was told about the reception this Desert Wind got in Las Vegas, there were no reporters, TV stations, or any media at all to see the arrival of the final Amtrak Desert Wind into Los Angeles.
After we got off the train, I went to the rear of the train and Ray went up to the front of the train. Ray was going to try to get the name and photo of the Engineer, but he had already left by the time Ray was able to get to the front. There was a sign on the front of the train that read: "FINAL #35", but it was in pretty bad shape from having been on the front of the train for all those miles. There was also a big sign at the end of the train that read: "THE END", which was also in pretty bad shape.
I started from the back of the train and made note of the number and type of each car on the train. Ray did the same walking back from the front of the train and we met in the middle. Mike Kimura was also at the platform when the train arrived. Mike is a frequent visitor and contributor of information to the TrainWeb pages. Ray, Mike and I took a few photos of each other with the Desert Wind in the background which you will see posted to this page in the near future.
After one final glance at the Amtrak Desert Wind, we walked down into the tunnel under the tracks to head over to the station. The first thing I did was to check the time the next Metrolink would be leaving to take Ray and I back to San Bernardino. It would be leaving at 4:51 PM. I used my credit card at the ticket machine immediately. I've seen trains come and go while people were struggling with these machines to spit out the tickets. I wasn't about to wait until just before the train would leave to purchase my ticket and become the next victim of a ticket machine problem.
We then went to the bagel place and purchased some beverages. The bagel place was the only place that I could see to purchase something to eat in the station. There used to be two other places in the station including one that sold mexican food. They were both gone! One place that was in an enclosed area was gone. The other place had their own large stand in the main lobby of the station. The entire stand was gone and the area was roped off. All the tables that went with these places were also gone.
I am really curious why these places have been removed. I hope what they plan to do is to build a Metropolitan Lounge for the station. Los Angeles is one of the few major Amtrak Stations that doesn't have one. With the San Diegans, Southwest Chief, Coast Starlight and connecting buses from Bakersfield and the San Joaquins, I think a Metropolitan Lounge would be a useful addition to the Los Angeles Union Station. If they allowed San Diegan Custom Class passengers to also use it while waiting for their train, it would make the extra charge for Custom Class a bit more justified. For an extra $18 round-trip, all you get now on the San Diegan Custom Class is a newspaper, coffee, juice, and a tiny bit more leg room. The comfort of a Metropolitan Lounge would make the extra cost a bit more justified.
When I checked the clock on the wall in the station, it read 4:45 PM. That gave us only 6 minutes to get out to the Metrolink train! Mike said it was only 4:40 PM and that we had about 10 minutes. Fortunately, the clock on the wall was running 5 minutes fast. Ray and I headed for the train while Mike headed for his car. There were great crowds of people coming into the tunnel from Metrorail subway trains and Los Angeles shuttle buses.
We walked to track #9 and then followed the rest of the crowd that was heading out to the track. As we walked the length of the train, I noticed that just about every seat was filled! I figured that the further we walked down the platform, the more likely we were to find a less crowded car. We finally did board one of the last cars and managed to find an empty table on the train.
I'm not going to go too much into the details of this trip back to San Bernardino on Metrolink. This train does take a different route and does not go through Fullerton. It takes a more northerly route staying fairly close to interstate route 10 through Pomona and Claremont. For the first 20 minutes of the ride, many more people got on the train than the number that got off. After that, more started getting off than got on. By the time we got to San Bernardino, our particular car was empty but there were still quite a few people that got off from the other cars.
We arrived into San Bernardino at about 6:20 PM. Driving back to Anaheim took another 40 minutes and we arrived in Anaheim at 7:00 PM. So that was the end of the special trip to ride the very last Amtrak Desert Wind to Los Angeles!
As souveniers I have the punched stubs to the tickets. I also have the unused tickets for the prior Desert Wind dated May 10, 1997 that I mistakenly thought would be the last one. Also, just for my collection, I have an unused $5 ticket for the final leg of the Amtrak Pioneer on May 10, 1997 between Tacoma and Seattle, Washington.
I received the following e-mail from Mike Kimura on the following day, Tuesday, May 13, 1997:
From: MNK @ mass.es.hac.com Date: 5/13/97 11:22:53AM To: Stephen Grande Subject: Final Amtrak Desert Wind #35 arrives at LAX @ 4:00PM PDT Steve It was great to see you yesterday evening and to share a sad moment in Amtrak's history... The demise of the Desert Wind. R.I.P. I've been posting the following message to several places. Mike ================================================================ A couple railfans and I watched, photographed and videotaped the final Amtrak Desert Wind #35 arrive at Los Angeles Union Station yesterday (5/12/97) at 4:00PM PDT (25 minutes down). This time there was no media coverage. The lead unit (AMTK #837) wore a paper banner flapping in the breeze that read: "FINAL #35" and the last car (a US Mail/Amtrak Express Baggage car) wore a paper banner that read: "THE END". The full consist was: 837 AMTK P40-8BWH "FINAL #35" 43 AMTK P42-9BWH (back to back) 1126 Baggage 39019 Transition Sleeper 34075 Coach 34057 Coach 34139 Coach 31519 Coach 33014 Sightseer Lounge/Cafe 38015 Dining Car 32011 Sleeper 32053 Sleeper 32013 Sleeper 1720 US Mail/Amtrak Express Baggage "THE END" Note: The entire train (minus 1720 US Mail) deadheaded to Oakland later yesterday evening. Mike Kimura mnk @ mass.es.hac.com
On May 1st 1971, a newly formed corporation titled the National Rail Passenger Corporation took over all passenger service in the United States.
The NRPC, is better known as AMTRAK; a trade name that stands for American travel by train. Some trains were not taken over by AMTRAK, but were just simply dropped. One of those was Union Pacific's famous City of Los Angeles.
This train was dropped with the takeover of Amtrak in May 1971, but to no one's expectations, there would be a direct descendant eight years later; this time known as the Desert Wind. But Amtrak in a way irresponsibly took over the legacy of the City. By that, I am referring to the Desert Wind's discontinuance on May 10, 1997. No matter how anyone excepts the discontinuation of the Wind we all will just have to understand that it's gone, like it or not.
On May 28, 1973, the Denver, Colorado to Salt Lake City, Utah, Denver Zephyr was discontinued, however on June 7th, 1977 the Salt Lake City to Seattle Pioneer was added, and two years later, the Desert Wind between Los Angeles and Ogden (it would later be rerouted to Salt Lake City on DRGW trackage). Another lessor known ancestor of the Desert Wind was the ill-fated Las Vegas Limited which was added to the table on May 21, 1976. It ran from Los Angeles, CA to Las Vegas, NV on Fridays and Sundays only.
Early equipment on the Desert Wind was usually a consist of 4 Amfleet Coaches, an AmDinette and a baggage car. By the end of 1980, Superliner equipment had been introduced and as soon as enough became available to equip the Desert Wind and Pioneer, they were both extended all the way to Chicago.
When so was done, the Wind combined with the California Zephyr at Salt Lake City, and the Pioneer joined the consist at Denver, CO. In early 1983, the Denver and Rio Grande "joined" or partnered with Amtrak to enable the route between Salt Lake and Denver to be entirely on DRGW trackage. It was not until April 24, 1983 that the San Franscisco Zephyr became officially renamed the California Zephyr. Unfortunately, a major flood damaged much of the DRGW line and the rerouting was delayed until July 16. Finally on that day in Denver, a christening took place at Denver Union Station. Mrs James Bauman christened a bottle of champagne over the locomotives pilot. Mrs Bauman also served as a commentator and guide on the scenic highlights of the reroute.
In the Desert Winds earlier stages, checked baggage service was only available at Los Angeles and Salt Lake City. In Salt Lake city, the California Zephyr usually arrived first. The Desert Wind was scheduled to arrive from fifteen minutes later. The consists were simply combined and departed within 45 minutes. Operations were not as complicated as they were in the 1993/1994 period shuffle at Salt Lake City.
Once at Denver, the Pioneer normally would have already been waiting, and again, the Pioneer's coaches were added and departure was within 50 minutes.
The Desert Wind ran with a simple 4-5 car consist up until the Spring/Summer timetable change of 1993. The consist prior to 1993 usually included 3 coaches, 1 sleeper and an ex ATSF Hi Level Diner that served as a combined Diner/Lounge. After the timetable change, the train still operated daily and departure times were pretty much the same, but the Diner was lost and replaced with a Sightseer Lounge. There were no complete meals between Los Angeles and Salt Lake City, however sleeping car passengers received hot tray meals while coach passengers were offered regular tray meals or cold sandwiches. The California Zephyr carried a Diner between Oakland and Chicago and a Superliner Snack Coach between Salt Lake City and Oakland.
Headed east bound, the Desert Wind's Sightseer lounge car continued on to Chicago with the California Zephyr consist along with the California Zephyr's snack coach. However the Coach car's lower level snack service was only for use between Salt Lake City and Oakland. This was because the Sightseer lounge would go with the Desert Wind towards Los Angeles and no snack or beverage service would be available to California Zephyr passengers between Salt Lake City and Oakland.
By the Spring/Summer timetable change of 1994, the first harsh Amcuts majorly affected the Desert Wind. The Desert Wind lost it's full lounge between Los Angeles and Salt Lake City again and was replaced by a half diner, half lounge combination usually a ATSF hi level car, otherwise a standard Superliner Diner. However, this change did not take effect until June 7th. Full Dining Service was regained between Salt Lake City and Chicago once the California Zephyr and Desert Wind cars combined at Salt Lake City. The Pioneer was cut to tri-weekly, and departed Chicago westbound on Sundays, Tuesdays and Fridays, and the East bound would arrive Chicago on Wednesdays, Fridays and Mondays. The Pioneer would still combine with the California Zephyr consist at Denver, however this would only happen on the Pioneer's three days of a week of operation. Between Denver and Seattle on the Pioneer, a Dining Car was used in the configuration of a half lounge/half diner.
Effective on the April 2nd. 1995 change, services stayed the same except days of operation for the Desert Wind were reduced. The Desert Wind now departed Los Angeles eastbound on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays and arrived Los Angeles westbound on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays. In Salt Lake City on the mornings of Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, the east bound Desert Wind and California Zephyr consists combined, while the westbound Zephyr/Wind was divided into the two sections on late Tuesday, Thursday or Saturday nights, with the train prepared to depart about an hour later at 1245AM the next morning. The issue of arriving in Salt Lake City late at night, and then departing an hour later on the next morning was very confusing to some Amtrak passengers.
The most dramatic change occurred with the Fall Winter 1995/1996 timetable change. The Desert Wind went to a full consist running between Los Angeles and Chicago just three days a week departing eastbound from Los Angeles on Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays and departing westbound from Chicago on Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays. The California Zephyr operated on the days the Desert Wind did not, therefore maintaining daily service between Salt Lake City and Chicago on either the Desert Wind or Zephyr, depending what day of the week, but between Los Angeles, Las Vegas and Salt Lake City just three days a week. The California Zephyr would depart Chicago westbound on Sundays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays and would depart Oakland eastbound to Chicago on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays.
No shuffling of cars was done in Salt Lake City, however the eastbound Pioneer, would combine with the eastbound Desert Wind #36 at Denver. The westbound Pioneer was part of the California Zephyr consist on Sundays and Tuesdays departing Chicago, while the Pioneer's Thursday departure from Chicago was combined with the westbound Desert Wind consist. The Pioneer still carried a mini consist between Denver and Seattle, while the Desert Wind now carried a typical Superliner consist; usually a baggage car, transition sleeper, 3-4 coaches, a Diner, Sightseer Lounge and two Sleepers. The westbound California Zephyr often deadheads a Material Handling Car that is dropped in Salt Lake City, loaded, and ready to depart the next day with the next eastbound train (either the Zephyr or Desert Wind, Depending what day).
With the Spring/Summer 1996 schedule change, only the arrival times where changed, most of them only a difference within 20 minutes or less.
Everything for the most part stayed the same with the Fall/Winter 1996/1997 schedule. The Pioneer still traveled west on Sundays and Tuesdays as part of the California Zephyr and on Thursdays as part of the Desert Wind.
Many AmFans and travelers were startled awake in mid to late 1996 when NRPC announced service cuts including the discontinuation of the Desert Wind and Pioneer to terminate on November 10, and no longer appear on the 1996/1997 timetable. Last minute Federal Funding was announced in early October to keep the Pioneer, Desert Wind and Texas Eagle operating for 6 more months. By the end of that period Amtrak would either of had to pay for itself to continue operation or gain state support and funding to run the threatened trains, similar to state funded 403(b) trains. Although a financial rescue was announced, official word of the continuation of the specific trains did not get out until very close to the November 10 deadline.
Amtrak Travel Agents' Reservation System would not let them book reservations on the uncertain trains until that official word came.
On May 8, 1997, the last eastbound Desert Wind, Train Number 36 made it's final departure from Los Angeles at 10:45 AM. This train was running very full. The Crew announced to passengers that 120 people boarded in Fullerton, CA, with an additional 240 scheduled to board in Las Vegas. The Final Number 36 consist was very interesting. A pair of shiny new Dash 9-42DC (P42s), engine number 34 and 17, brought up the head, followed by ex-Great Northern number 9301, the Mountain View, formerly used by Amtrak on the Auto Train. The "Great Dome" was in LA during the weekend of May 4, for "Railroad Family Day" in San Diego, CA and was deadheading back to Beech Grove for storage. Amtrak has plans to use these for future charter service. In addition to the baggage car and transition Sleeper, the train was carrying three sleepers instead of the usual two, a Diner, Sightseer Lounge and three coaches. The crew seemed to enjoy the Great Dome more than their own dormitory car. A person whom I knew onboard that is a manager for the Desert Wind invited me up to the Dome car for most of our ride, after all I was only traveling between Los Angeles and Barstow.
There I personally met the conductors who also seemed quite intrigued of the dome car. As we road through Cajon Pass in the 1955 "Great Dome" I listened to stories of the crew, in what was almost like our own private car!
"What a great way to go through the Rockies" commented the conductor. Unfortunately, I was getting off in Barstow, the crew was changing at Las Vegas and Mr. Gleysteen was getting off in Salt Lake City so none of us would have had the opportunity to see it.
As the #36 began to creep out of Fullerton, it seemed the words that stuck to everyone's mind was "I'm sure going to miss this train". I overhead one Car Attendant tell some one "this was the best run" as the Desert Wind made it's final eastbound revenue departure from Fullerton.
Although the Desert Wind was quite a money looser, perhaps it was a great train because of the unique scenery along it's route. Product Manager Lee Gleysteen later commented in the Great Dome, "This train really needs to be daily". Perhaps it does [or did ], because how can you expect many people to ride a train that runs three days a week each direction when one can drive a portion of the route much quicker!
Service was a little more unique than it usually was aboard the Desert Wind. "Funeral Cards" were handed out to each passenger. Inside the special collectors card was a brief history of the Desert Wind and a plea to continue to ride Amtrak. Amtrak's best hope is to inform passengers of the financial crisis and urge passengers and supporters to write their state representatives. It's unfortunate that Amtrak go down this way. Sadly, the decline of passenger routes such as the Desert Wind and Pioneer could eventually lead to the decline of the routes they feed and connect to such as the California Zephyr and Empire Builder. As far as the Las Vegas Market, Amtrak has immediately started bus routes which now have their own timetables. Among them bus routes is one that follows the Desert Wind between Los Angeles and Las Vegas.
In late April, Amtrak West conducted a survey on the question of a passenger market between LA and Las Vegas. If the survey proves so, a U.S built Talgo Style train could cruise LA-Las Vegas 3 times a day in less than five hours. The train sets would utilize matching EMD F59PHIs, 21 of which are being built currently by GM/EMD for Amtrak West. In early May, Amtrak ran one Talgo Pendular trainset between Los Angeles and Las Vegas for a week or so in a private demonstration to seek state support for a LAX-LVS train early, to mid next next year.
Once the train arrived in Barstow 30 minutes late, we detrained and quickly packed up to chase the Desert Wind as far as possible. The train creeped out of Barstow before we could, but did not get very far as the HOT Richmond to Chicago 991 raced past the Barstow Depot, overtaking the Desert Wind. Once we got across the first street bridge and back onto I-15, the consist raced across the I-15 overpass just about the time we crossed the overpass. The Desert Wind was now way ahead of us in the distance at Dagget heading off onto the UP Los Angeles Sub. Track speed at Dagget is limited to 40MPH and 20MPH going through the UP's small yard at Yermo. The drive from the Station to Yermo on I-15 is about 8 minutes. Once we got to Yermo, I looked off to the Southwest towards Dagget and got a glimpse of the Desert Wind leaving Dagget and approaching the Yermo Limits. The Mineola exit was our choice, and was about 2 minutes ahead. This choice would enable us to get further ahead of the Desert Wind by taking advantage of it's reduced speed limit in Yermo. Mineola will take you to Yermo road, which parallels the tracks for some twenty Miles. Once at Mineola,we idled on the Yermo Road, shoulder prepared to take off. Thunderstorms were brewing, so it was also a good idea to stay in the car, but the grade crossing bell helps you know when something is coming. After about five minutes, the Desert Wind was heard approaching. Track speed between Mineola and MP 176.9 at Field is 4 0 MPH. Pacing the Wind along Yermo Road is quite an experience and can last for up to 10 Minutes. However once into Manix, the Desert Wind started to speed up as track speed in this area is now 79MPH. We were able to stay with the Wind for about 2 more minutes as the coaches slowly gained distance on us, until it took off into Amtrak history.
Things were not over yet. There was still spirit left as there was still two more westbound runs left. Although train 36 was now no more, Saturday the 10th brought one more #35. Running about two hours late, #35 was scheduled to arrive in Fullerton at 2:20PM, but Amtrak Computers pointed somewhere between 4:30PM and 5:30PM. Not bad, considering this train at one time had a reputation of running two and a half, three, sometimes four hours late.
Saturday's Desert Wind arrival was four hours late. It finally arrived in Fullerton California at 6:19PM with P42DC #66 on the point and #83 trailing elephant style. The Desert Wind was deadheading a baggage car to LA since only one was in use on the train. The consist included a Transition Sleeper, two Pullman Standard Sleepers, Bombardier Sleeper "North Dakota ", Pullman Standard Diner, Pullman Standard Sightseer Lounge, Pullman Standard Smoking Coach and three Pullman Standard Coaches. Taking up the rear was an ex-Wisconsin Central Private Dome/Observation Car, #800275, the Sierra Hotel . The stop was a quick one and the Desert Wind was out within three Minutes. Sunday was an off day for the Desert Wind but Monday would be the last run ever; at least for the time being.
The final Desert Wind arrived Fullerton, California at approximately 3:35PM with AMD103 #837, which had a paper banner reading "Final 35" and P42DC #43. With the exception of the almost ancient Phase III baggage car, every thing else looked great, especially the back to back Genesis locomotives. Followed by the baggage car was a Bombardier transition sleeper, tree Pullman Standard Coaches, a rebuilt Pullman Standard Smoking Coach, P-S Sightseer Lounge Car, Superliner Diner, and three P-S Superliner Sleepers. On the rear was a deadheading Phase IV baggage car, the types that were rebuilt from old heritage coaches. The Express/Mail Bagage Car also featured a banner reading "The End" but was ripped off partly and the rest of the banner hanging down when it passed Fullerton CA. As the last car of the Desert Wind passed the Highland Avenue Grade Crossing just west of the depot for the final time, a heartfull railfan and photographer gave the train a military style salute, obviously wishing the train a good farewell. And while it seemed like almost nothing had happened, the long legacy of the Route from the Union Pacific's City of Los Angeles to yesterday's Desert Wind tip- toed off into Amtrak's next chapter of history.
This article would have not been possible without the assistance from the following sources and they're authors/publishers. Those research sources include: All Aboard Amtrak: 1971-1991, Mike Schafer; NRPC, Amtrak, http://www.amtrak.com; Webmaster: Steve Grande, http://trainweb.com; Leland Gleysteen, Product Manager California Zephyr/Desert Wind; NOTE: Much of the timetable history came from hours of browsing and comapring old Amtrak timetables from that appropriately year/season.