Wednesday, 12 August 2009

Denver to Salt Lake City on the California Zephyr.
















We reach the mile high city (5280ft asl) in the late evening and have only one day before we board the Amtrak train; just long enough to take a tour of the city and to visit the Capitol Building with its gold dome (Denver found gold in 1858). we climb the staircase with its 77 steps and its 176 brass banisters - one man is employed just to clean the brasswork full time. This is a seriously big city with 2.4 million people and we country hicks are just a little daunted.
But next day we are up bright and early to catch the Amtrak California Zephyr as it heads West from Chicago to Los Angeles. It is due into Grand Union Station, Denver at 9.30am. We arrive at 9am only to find that it is already two hours late. That gives us two hours to wander round pedestrianised down-town Denver with its lovely shops and walkways (shops were not open which pleased the farmer no end.) We sit a while in Writers' Square alongside Thomas Jefferson on his bench, then it's back to the station - and what should we see but a whole wedding party in 1890's costume. They have hired a special "bullet" carriage en route to Reno and the wedding. You can see the bride and groom in the photograph. They are all so happy that it starts our journey off on a jolly note.
When the train arrives it is long - very long - two storeys of shiny silver metal pulled by three huge engines. We take our very comfortable reserved seats and settle back to enjoy the ride.
We climb zig-zag out of Denver up into the Rockies at 5 mph and after travelling for an hour we can still see the city below us.
What a feat of railway engineering. The labour which must have been involved in its construction is awesome. In some places the line has been cut through solid rock and we slide through with what looks like only inches to spare. Electric wires are stretched along the rock faces to give early warning of rock falls.
We glide smoothly past enormous conifer forests, ranches straight out of High Chapparral, river valleys and areas of barren wasteland. We are deep in the Rocky Mountains and we see wonderful scenery but very few people.
Attendants bring us drinks, guide us to our Dining Car, and finally, when we arrive in Salt Lake City at three o'clock in the morning (four hours late by this time) that same attendant is there - with a smile - to help us down his steps onto the track. Yes, he assures us, we are in Salt Lake City - but of the station and any platform there is no sign. We climb down, collect our luggage and make for our hotel The Marriott, and a very welcome cup of tea.
##Apologies for the poor quality of the photographs - they are stuck in a journal and I have had to photograph them from there. They are - from the top: Statue of Jefferson in Denver Writers' Square, The bride and groom in 1890's costume, Grand Union Station, Denver, The waiting room, the Great Salt Lake.

18 comments:

Amy said...

Am loving your stories, why not write a book?

Derrick said...

' Morning Weaver,

For a moment there, I thought you'd taken the first two pics while the train was moving ! :0)

Another fascinating journey. I remember going at a snail's pace sometimes on the Blue Train. Then it would jolt to a stop and throw everything off the table top!

Re: my books post. If you haven't read Follett's Pillars of the Earth, you might like to start with that one, although it's not necessary.

Woman in a Window said...

For a second there I thought you were travelling again but this is reflective, isn't it. I imagine you getting out onto a platform in Salt Lake city and there is not a thing around but the colour of the sand there, the rock, and some of those odd shapes that they take. Sweet imagery.

steven said...

hi weaver, another fascinating travel entry!! i visited denver in the late seventies but have never been in the rockies. it's one of my dreams to cross them and see the pacific. then bike home! good dreams. have a lovely day in the valley weaver. steven

willow said...

Glad to hear you had a good experience with Amtrak. I'll have to admit, I've only used it from a small Indiana town to Chicago and back and the service was horrid. Five hours late, stinky hot cars. Ick. Sounds like the Zephyr is their primo line.

Pondside said...

Train travel is the best, I think. It's the rail that united this country and really made Confederation possible. We were in a hurry to dump the trains at the end of the last century, but there is a new interest in bringing trans-continental service back - I hope so!

Barry said...

If you have the time, or make the time, nothing beats travel by train! One of my life's great ambitions is to cross the Rockies by train.

Ah, one of these days....

But at least thanks to you I can do it vicariously!

Teresa said...

Haven't been to Denver, but spent some time in Salt Lake City and other parts of Utah. Hope you have time to do some exploring. It's a breathtakingly beautiful state - alpine scenery at the northern end and red sand/desert type landscape at the southern end.

Heather said...

Another wonderful journey Weaver. I often think that a train ride allows us to see parts of a country which would otherwise remain hidden to us. Some of our own railway lines run through the most beautiful countryside which seems a crime, but that same countryside might not be accessible to us otherwise.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Amy - too much like hard work, but thank you for the suggestion.
Derrick - they are awful photographs but as they are stuck in the album I can only try to reproduce them again. Shall try Follett's Pillar of the Earth - thanks for the suggestion.
W in a W - we did continue down through the canyon lands - wonderful holiday.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Steven - we were in Vancouver a few years ago and then flew home over the Rockies - marvellous views.
Willow - I couldn't fault the Zephyr - but then it is a few years ago - maybe things have got worse.
Pondside - one of the holidays I still would like to do is to cross Canada by train - i have done it by road but the rail goes in much more inaccessible places - so more chance of seeing the wildlife.

The Weaver of Grass said...

Barry - thanks for visiting - glad you enjoyed the visit - shall pop over to see you soon.
Teresa - yes we went south from SLC and saw some wonderful places.
Heather - you are right - you can see so much more from the train.

Leilani Lee said...

Have not had time in the past few days to read one of my favorite writers! Lovely description of your travels. We took a train across to Los Angeles once and your writing brought back such wonderful memories.

Titus said...

Really enjoyed this vicarious travelling, and I would love to see the green dress in a little more detail!

Studio Sylvia said...

Travelling through the Rockies would have been a sight to behold.

Hildred and Charles said...

Have really enjoyed your travel posts, Weaver. Across Russia brought to mind Dr. Zhivago with its marvelous scenery and music.

Midlife Jobhunter said...

I was just in Union Station in Denver a couple of weeks ago when we visited. Years ago, like 25, I worked in Writer's Square. Also lived in Salt Lake in the early 80's. The lake was flooded at that time. Interesting post. Have always wanted to take the Zephyr/

Reader Wil said...

What a great trip! Thanks for the tour!