On Monday the 11th of August, my friend Chuck and I made the short trek down to the Roseville yard. Arriving at approximately 11:00 am, I pulled out the scanner to hear what the "245 Herder" had to say. This is the guy who calls the shots when trains are leaving and entering the east side of the yard. Not much was being said as far as trains leaving or entering the yard was concerned.
So, Chuck and myself parked the car under a nicely shaded walnut tree that was right next to the northbound track. We were basically situated about a quarter of a mile north of the "Rainbow Bridge."
For the next hour or so, we listened intently to the scanner. A few southbounds slid into the yard during this time, but not a single northbound. Finally around noon, the "Herder" began giving directions to a crew to "...head out the outbound lead to go north." In pure ecstasy, Chuck and I scrambled to assemble ourselves for the hop.
Sure enough, a northbound was headed our way. Within five minutes of hearing the action on the scanner, a nice junker rounded the wye, and proceeded north. About fifteen cars from the head end, an open RailBox caught my eye. Chuck and I began to head down in that direction and meet the boxcar half way. After a successful hop, we began to survey our new ride.
This car had defiantly seen some action. The insides were really rusted and the floor had several holes leading to the wheels. We took note of this and set up camp away from this potential problem. The ride up went well, and the train made very few siding stops. The only time we went in the hole, and stayed there for more that twenty minutes, was up in Redding, when the lead unit had some dynamic braking problems. So the crew swapped units and we were on our way.
Seven hours later after hopping on in Roseville, we were finally in Dunsmuir. The train stayed back in the yard so getting off was pretty uneventful. We preceded to march into town. Once in town we stopped at a burger stand on the main drive. I forgot the name of this place, but the food was sure good! After a hearty meal, we cruised into town and just hung out with the locals for the most of the evening. I swear every kid in town had me buy them smokes!
Around eleven thirty that night we walked down to the tracks and headed towards the jungle that Fred had told me about. Success was to be found, for no other tramps were occupying the area. We stretched out our bags under a full moon and chatted about life in general. You see, Chuck was headed off to Marine boot camp in a week, and this was one of the last big adventures for him. We ended up polishing of the remaining portion of Kessler we had and fell asleep effortlessly.
In the morning the sun rose, and we were up and ready to head back down to Roseville. A southbound pig train was scheduled to arrive in about five minutes, so we packed up and started southbound down the tracks. The time was 9:45 am on Tuesday morning.
Well, the pig train came rolling into the yard and stopped at the depot to make the crew change. Chuck decided that it would not be a good idea to ride the pig down the Valley, because of the high visibility factor, so I reluctantly went along with him and skipped this train. Bad move on my part.
This train could have had us in Roseville within about four and a half hours, due to the high priority freight. Instead, we waited for a junker that was ten minutes behind the pig train.
This train came rolling into the yard. We were in the north end of the yard still when this train came. It really didn't look like it was going to stop. Then on the scanner I heard the depot tell the crew to make the change in the south end of the yard. Not knowing how long the change would take we began to run to see if we could catch this one. Sure enough the train was still in the south end of yard waiting for us.
We found a grainer and climbed aboard. This train was already becoming a mistake! We hopped on at 11:45 am. The train finally moved south at 12:45 pm. Boy, were we hot!! Our water was already running out. The trip was going smoothly until we hit the outskirts of Redding. Then at the Valley siding we got put in the hole, and then we found out why. We were riding a junker/work train. This means that this train had work to do all down the Valley!! Oh Shit!!! I then knew we would be on this train for EVER!
We sat in the Valley siding for about three hours. Finally we moved again, but only to stop in Redding for another three hours. In Redding we hopped off when the crew set out our grainer, and preceded to do some more work. We went over to a general store that was parallel to the Redding yard, and stocked up on water and food.
Three hours later we were on the train again moving southbound. Since our grainer was set out in Redding, we had to find a new ride. This new ride was a container car at the very rear of the train. This car was wide open above, but the walls were so tall that being seen was not a problem. The ends on this car had a solid floor, but in the middle the floor was nothing, just open to the rails, so we were very careful to situate ourselves so that we wouldn't roll out onto the rails!
Once our train was going again, we thought that Redding was the last work spot for the train. WRONG! Only fifteen miles south of Redding we stopped and picked up twenty-one cars from a siding. This took another hour. By now the sun was setting and Tuesday was coming to an end.
The train kept a surprisingly fast pace all the way to Chico. Once in Chico, the dispatcher realized that our train had a helper unit assigned to Dunsmuir still on the head end. SOOOO, back into the hole we went, to wait for a north bound coming to meet us to take the unit off our hands. Two hours and numerous mosquito bites later, our train was on its way!
Nothing but smooth sailing all the way from Chico to Roseville. We arrived in Roseville at 2:00 am on Wednesday the 13th of August. Happy to be home was an understatement!
All in all a good time was had by both me and Chuck. It seems as if a long stressful trip like this will be etched in our minds forever! And, I believe that this trip will have been a good benefit to Chuck and myself - when we feel that a situation is hopeless, we'll just remember being stranded on that junker!