Long distance trains don’t run into San Francisco, presumably because of its peninsula location. Therefore you have to go across the bay to Emeryville, near Oakland, to join the start of the California Zephyr. I like how the train routes are given names. It kinds of adds to the romance of the journey. The California Zephyr travels between Emeryville and Chicago, a trip which takes something like 52 hours. High speed rail this definitely isn’t! I’m going as far as Denver, which is scheduled to take about 33 hours. I say scheduled as Amtrak timetables are notoriously tentative with the concept of punctuality. I suppose if you’ve got a spare 33 hours to get between San Francisco and Denver, then an extra couple of hours delay probably isn’t going to make much difference. Amtrak seems to attract a niche clientele. This includes people who don’t like flying, train nerds, those with plenty of time on their hands and those of the Amish faith who don’t use planes or cars for cultural reasons. I personally love long distance train journeys. There’s something endearing about looking out of the window at the passing scenery, stopping at places you’d never otherwise see and simply taking your time getting to the destination. I overheard a retired couple who were on board sating that it was an ambition of theirs to do this train journey. The California Zephyr is often mentioned as one of the great train journeys. I’ve travelled the section between Chicago and Denver in the past and to be honest it was largely underwhelming. Most of it involved looking at flat farmland through Illinois and Iowa and then darkness. However the part I’m travelling on today and tomorrow is supposed to be what makes the journey so great.
The scenery was fantastic. We started off by going up the California coastline, then climbing up into the Sierra Nevada mountains and then across the Nevada desert. You stop at some of the most random places on Amtrak journeys and one such was Winnemucca, Nevada, where we arrived this evening. I’ve never heard of Winnemucca and with its population of 7,396 I’d imagine that most people in Nevada also haven’t! Looking at Wikipedia the main claim to fame of Winnemucca was that Butch Cassidy robbed its bank in 1900.
As the day went on I began to not feel great, without wishing to go into too much detail. I couldn’t even be bothered to go down to the viewing carriage to see the sunset, although this possibly wouldn’t be the best train to see this with the sun setting directly behind us. Instead I just got in to my sleeping bag early doors, as they say in the football commentary.
Taking photos from the train isn’t easy as either the sun is in the wrong place, you get a glare from the window or they’re blurred but here’s a couple that came out OK.