Saturday, December 17, 2016

Arizona Eastern Railway with some baseball and Amtrak thrown in

[I have corrected some of the information in this based on a more contemporaneous account written by my friend Don Winter.]

One of the problems of collecting "rare miles" on railroads is finding railroads that are willing to run passenger charters. One friendly operator was (and is) Iowa Pacific and in 2008 they owned the Arizona Eastern Railway and my friend Bart Jennings announced a charter to cover the lines in April 2009. Within days I had secured tickets to ride.

Enroute to Bowie
The Arizona Eastern Railway runs over two separate lines, mostly in Arizona. The first day of the trip, April 5 ran 133 miles one way from Miami to Globe and onto Bowie where the AZER connects with the Union Pacific (ex-Southern Pacific) line between Phoenix and El Paso. The April 6 trip ran 70 miles (each way) between Lordsburg, NM and Clifton, AZ. The excursion equipment shuttled over the Union Pacific between the lines overnight.

At Claypool (near Miami). Our excursion train is in the background
So it was that on April 4, 2009 I caught a Southwest 737 from Pittsburgh to Phoenix where I met up with friend Rick Moser who had rented a car for the very long drive (over 150 miles) to Safford, AZ where we met up with Rick's brother Phil and checked into a Super 8 for three nights. Rick had wanted to meetin in Tuscon (a much shorter drive) but we could not make the air schedules work.

Between Claypool and Globe
Bright and early on the 5th we drove from our motel to Bowie, AZ (a 45 minute drive) where we met up with the rest of our group. Because the 133 miles between Miami and Bowie weren't particularly fast, the trip was being run one way out of Claypool, AZ (near Miami) with a bus connection from Bowie which left at 7:30am. When we arrived at Claypool the train awaited..a two car train consisting of a full length dome car (Chulitna) and a coach-lounge (Calumet Club) both pulled by a single AZER GP.

We stopped in Globe so that lunch could be loaded aboard
My notes on these trips are incomplete but all trips run by Bart Jennings include ample well-scouted photo runbys and this was no exception. One such runby was at Globe (shortly after we left Claypool at 10:45am) where a Dominos lunch was provided. The train was scheduled to arrive in Bowie at 7pm (which missed badly--actual arrival was 8:31pm) and we drove back to our motel in Safford.

In Duncan the next day
Monday morning found us driving to Duncan, AZ (a 40 minute drive) in time to meet the excursion train (this time pulled by two B39-8s back-to back because of no place turn the train) which departed at 8:51am and headed southeast to Lordsburg, NM before turning around and heading northwest through Duncan and onto Clifton, AZ. Lunch was at the American Legion Hall in Clifton after which we turned around and ran back to Duncan arriving at 6:27pm. Then back to Safford for the night. (Phil left us at Duncan and drove to Lordsburg where he caught Amtrak's Sunset Limited to Los Angeles.)

In Clifton during the lunch stop
On Tuesday we slept in a bit and then drove back to Phoenix where we rode the light rail, did laundry, and checked into a Hampton Inn near the airport. Then I left Rick (who had dinner at a nearby Ruby Tuesday's) and caught the light rail to Chase Field to meet fellow mileage collectors Stanton Hunter and Steve Miller and watch the Arizona Diamondbacks lose to the Colorado Rockies in the second home game of the season. At the time of this game I was 58 years old. I mention this because when I got on the crowded light rail car for the trip back to the hotel a young lady got up and offered me her seat. (Worst light-rail ride ever!)

In Clifton
On Wednedaqy we caught a mid-morning Southwest 737 to Los Angeles, and a bus to Los Angeles Union Passenger Terminal. We arrived in time for a french dip sandwich at Felipe's and then caught the Sunset Limited leaving at 2:30pm for points east. Rick was riding to San Antonio and then on to Chicago while I was riding to New Orleans.

Sunset Limited in Palm Springs
We arrived in San Antonio on Thurday evening (probably late, but I don't remember). The Sunset Limited splits into two their with some of the cars heading to Chicago as the Texas Eagle and the rest continuing to New Orleans. Because of all of the switching and a chronically late train there is a lot of time in San Antonio. (The Eagle doesn't actually leave until the next morning.) In any event, the Sunset that I was riding pulled out after midnight and we arrived at New Orleans on Friday afternoon where poker friend (from Mississippi) Mark Hughes met me for dinner. We had a terrific seafood dinner at Ralph & Kacoo's and walking out I was surprised to see a picture on the wall featuring friend and Pittsburgh blues singer, Billy Price. Mark dropped me at a Hilton Garden Inn near the airport and the next morning (Saturday) I caught a United flight to Pittsburgh via Chicago and was home late afternoon.
Sunset Limited in Alpine, TX