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Coast to Coast - part 9

Roseville to Klamath Falls

 

PREVIOUS STORY:
Rode from Ogden to Roseville on Southern Pacific, using the same empty auto rack I had ridden from Pueblo to Salt Lake City. Saw the two differently-colored sections of Great Salt Lake and the God-forsaken land of northeastern Nevada. Slept through Reno and woke up just west of Donner Pass. Dismounted the train in the Roseville yard close to the engine terminal. Time of arrival in Roseville: about 1130 on Friday, June 25.

It was hot in Roseville. Knowing that my face was dirty and that a food run was necessary, I cleaned up a bit and stashed my gear in a bad-ordered car. Then I tried to get information on northbound trains, but true to the signs posted in the yard, switchmen weren't talking. The signs said something like "Railroad personnel are not authorized to divulge information regarding train movements." I thought it funny that the railroad would think it necessary to post such signs.

A quick jaunt out of the yard and across the street got me to the Post Office, where I wrote and mailed postcards to my girlfriend and parents. The air-conditioned building provided blessed relief from the heat. To overcome my embarrassment at wearing dirty clothes in public, I pretended to be a construction worker on lunch break. From the Post Office I walked a few blocks to Roseville Square, a big shopping center. At the Safeway store there I stocked up on food: fig newtons, dried prunes, milk, pear, and peaches. Outside the store I munched on some of the goodies and amused myself by watching the drive-in bank customers waiting to be served. The sun beat down mercilessly.

Then I returned to the yard, where I continued to meet with dumb looks and vague responses when I made inquiries about trains. I wandered down the west side of yard to stay out of sight. Here I discovered a TOFC train on the first track that looked like a possible northbound train. Thinking this was my ticket out of Roseville, I stashed the paper bag of food next to it and returned to the bad-ordered boxcar to get my gear. But then I got lucky with two employees - one in a yard shack and an engineer in a cab. They told me things that made it sound as if I would have better luck near the bad-ordered car, so I changed my strategy.

But first I needed to retrieve the bag of food. On the way to get it, I passed close to a swimming pool across the street from the yard. Luscious bodies adorned the grass - what a diversion! Then I realized that I had not seen the ice plant, a huge facility in the yard which I had encountered on my 1970 trip. I guess it had been razed, a victim of the advantages of mechanical refrigeration. After packing the newly-purchased food in my bags, I returned to the bad-ordered car, where I sat around waiting and watching. There was no northbound action. What gives? Was I misled by the two "helpful" employees?

Disgusted, I walked up the yard hill to see if I could squeeze reliable information out of someone there. A guy there "found" a Eugene train on track 25, on "the rockpile." He said it would leave within the hour, but maybe as soon as 30 minutes. Something [a train list, perhaps?] made me believe him, so I hustled back to the bad-ordered car for my gear. Then I filled my water bag and trekked up the "hill" to my train, passing the train's units and many flatcars. My eyes burned from the sweat that dripped from my forehead. By now it was 1820.

Once settled in an empty boxcar I had time to worry again. I wondered if I should have trusted the switchman. I looked around: nearby was a freight car repair facility. Visions of cold water in a water cooler danced in my head. I grabbed my water bottle and ran through the grass to the building. I don't remember seeing anyone there - no evening shift? What serendipity. Inside was just what I had hoped for: a water cooler. I downed some of the refreshing liquid on the spot and filled my bottle. Back at the boxcar, I pounded discarded brake shoes - easily found along the tracks - into the door runners to prevent an accidental door closure during the ride. The pounding made a lot of noise, but no one came to see what it was all about.

At about 2000 - nine hours after I had arrived here - the train started moving toward the north end of the yard. Success at last! It crawled until reaching the end of the yard, then built up speed. The sun sank low in the sky as I sped past golden brown fields and rolling hills. As the train passed a tiny car on the highway, I waved to the two girls in it. They returned my greeting. In spite of the frustrating experience in Roseville, the day was ending well.

Eventually the long shadows merged into one shadow as the sun dipped below the horizon. In Yuba City I crossed over the WP line: a northbound WP train waited for my train to clear the junction. In the distance to the west, Marysville Buttes were black shapes against the rosy sky. Farther up the valley I got into my sleeping bag and went to sleep.


Saturday, June 26:
Cold, crisp air and the light of morning greeted me when I woke up at 0630. The bells of grade crossings clanged away. Where was I? After getting out of the sack and putting on my boots I realized I was passing through the town of Mt. Shasta. Beyond the town, the train wound for miles around the base of the town's namesake. It was a beautiful setting; the lava flows and plug domes were especially interesting.

At Grass Lake - the high point between the cities of Mt. Shasta and Klamath Falls - the train stopped for a meet. I chatted briefly with a brakeman who had left the units, perhaps to stretch his legs. A southbound train passed, and I was under way again. Somewhere down the line the crew did some switching. During this interlude I collected a pile of ballast rocks for water shots. The rocks made nice splashes in the marsh ponds just outside of Klamath Falls.

The train stopped in the yard in Klamath Falls at 1100. Then it just sat there. Another northbound train pulled in: it was all TOFC and auto racks. That collection of cars meant that it was a hotshot. I figured that it would get to Eugene before my train did, so I decided to change trains.

Part 10