The Final Amtrak Desert Wind
Monday, May 12, 1997
The final Amtrak Desert Wind arrived into Los Angeles on Monday, May 12, 1997
at around 4 PM Pacific Time. This is the travelogue of my ride on the very
last 72 miles of that journey from San Bernardino to Los Angeles.
I traveled with a friend, Ray Burns, on this trip and we took about 40
photographs using two cameras. Those photos will be posted to this web
page within 3 or 4 weeks.
I had purchased tickets to take the Desert Wind on Saturday, May 10, 1997
from San Bernardino to Los Angeles thinking that would be the final Desert
Wind. Others told me that there was a good turn-out of railfans in Fullerton
to see what they also thought to be the final Amtrak Desert Wind. But, we
were all mistaken! The final Desert Wind left Chicago on Saturday, May 10th,
and would not arrive into Los Angeles until Monday, May 12th!
I purchased a pair of tickets again for the really final Desert Wind that
was scheduled to arrive into Los Angeles on Monday, May 12, 1997. Ray Burns,
a friend and co-worker at TrainWeb, and I drove from Anaheim, California
to San Bernardino, California. This is a distance of about 50 miles. I
used the "Train Arrival Information" selection on the Amtrak Web page at
to find out that the Desert Wind was running 1 hour and 15 minutes late.
We left from Anaheim at about 12:40pm and arrived at the San Bernardino
station at 1:20pm. The Amtrak Agent in the station told us that the train
was still running about 1 hour late. Thus, we hopped back into the car
and went over to a nearby Chinese Fast Food place to grab a late lunch.
We were back to the station at about 2:10pm.
There were a surprising number of people in the station waiting to board
the train, maybe 10 or 12 in all. I really expected nobody to be boarding
other than ourselves. Only 2 of the people in the station seemed to be
railfans and I'm not sure if they boarded the train at all. Metrolink
trains run between this station and Los Angeles about hourly, so the
only likely reason for anyone to take this train from San Bernardino
would be just for the experience of the last Desert Wind, or to get to
Fullerton, a stop not serviced by Metrolink directly from this station.
While we were waiting, we decided to take a few photos of the front of
the station. We went outside for about 5 minutes to do this. That almost
cost us this trip! When we went back into the station, we saw the Desert
Wind already out on the platform! It rolled quietly into the station and
I don't believe that any announcement of its arrival had been made.
I noticed that many of the passengers that I thought would be boarding
the train were still sitting calmly on the bench chairs inside the waiting
room of the station. I ignored that and just bolted for the door for fear
that we would miss this final Desert Wind! Most of the doors of the train
had already been shut and the only door that I could still see open was in
the lead Coach Car, about 8 cars up from the station building! I just
started running for it with the hope the Conductor would notice me and
not start the train until I had boarded. I looked behind me just to make
sure that Ray was also running for the door. To my surprise, he was just
standing in one place taking a photo of me running for the train! On a
second thought, I realized that was O.K. As long as I got to the door
where the Conductor was, I could have her delay the train until Ray
caught up to me.
The Conductor had been walking in my direction while I was running in
her direction. Thus, we arrived at the door of the second Coach Car
at the same time. The Coach Cars were at the lead of this train and
the Sleeping Cars were at the tail end. The Conductor asked me if I
was boarding the train. I said yes and she opened the door to that
second Coach Car. She then started shouting down the tracks asking
someone if they were getting on this train. At first, I couldn't believe
that Ray was still that far back that she had to shout that loud.
However, I later found out that several people hadn't boarded yet and
it wasn't Ray that she was shouting to.
Ray and I went upstairs and walked back several coach cars until we
were much closer to the Sightseer Lounge Car. Several more people
then boarded the train. I think the people that were in the station
didn't realize that this was the train they were waiting for. Maybe
my bolting for the door in the station got them concerned. At any rate,
they did come out to the train. The Car Attendant let them in the door
to one of the cars near the station so they didn't have to wait for these
people to walk all the way to the coach cars at the front of the train
before the train could leave. They might even have been let into the
door of one of the Sleeping Cars.
Once our tickets were punched and taken by the Conductor, Ray and I
moved to the Sightseer Lounge Car and sat in a couple of single seats
facing the north side of the train. There were several railfans down
the other end of the car taking video and photos. This train was
fairly uncrowded. That didn't surprise me since: (1) A lot of people
thought this train was already no longer running, and (2) most of the
people that ride the Desert Wind depart in Las Vegas.
Ray and I spent much of our time talking to another passenger who took
the Desert Wind from Chicago to Los Angeles just because it was the
very last Desert Wind. He would be returning later that evening on the
Southwest Chief. He was interested in spending the intervening hours
exploring Los Angeles, Olvera Street, and maybe even getting a look
at the Los Angeles Metrorail and the new California Cars. He told us
that a great number of people had gotten off the Desert Wind in Las
Vegas and that there was quite a bit of news coverage of this train
when it went through Las Vegas. This was the very last Amtrak train to
serve Las Vegas.
Ray went up to the Dining Car and the Sleeping Cars and took photographs
and the names of every Amtrak staff person that he could find. Those
names are posted below and the photographs will be posted shortly. We
also got names and photographs of every Amtrak staff person that went by
our seats in the Sightseer Lounge Car. Everyone was cooperative on this
sad but historic event.
Several announcements were made over the P.A. system thanking everyone
for having joined the Desert Wind for this very last journey. They also
gave a brief status of the Texas Eagle which appears to have been
spared at least for the next several months due to the quick action
taken by the Texas legislature. Unfortunately, no such support had
come forth to save the Desert Wind.
The person from Chicago told us that service had been superb even on this
very last run of the Desert Wind. They had been given special souvenir
menus from the very last dinner to be served on the Desert Wind the
I found out that this train would be immediately sent up to Oakland to be
used as a consist of the California Zephyr on its new daily schedule as
soon as it was needed. In that vein, the Chief of Onboard Services reminded
all the Car Attendants to not dump their dirty linens off the train in
Los Angeles. Instead, they were to drop off the dirty linens in
Jack London Square in Oakland, California.
From San Bernardino to West Corona, the Desert Wind follows the same
tracks used by the Metrolink Inland Empire-Orange County Line. The
entire route taken by the Desert Wind between Barstow and Los Angeles
is also the exact same route used by the Southwest Chief. Thus, that
segment of rails will continue to be used by an Amtrak route. It is the
segment of rails between Barstow and Salt Lake City that will not see
Amtrak trains again for the forseeable future.
I was at the NARP Region XII 1997 Annual Meeting last Saturday, May 10, 1997,
that was held at the Santa Ana Amtrak Station. Ron Scolaro, Director of
Government Affairs for Amtrak West was one of the speakers. He indicated
that Amtrak West is very interested in starting a corridor service between
Los Angeles and Las Vegas, Nevada. They are looking at a service that may
run as many as 3 trains each day and have already done a study that shows
it wouldn't take too much capital investment to decrease the travel time
from 7 hours 15 minutes down to 5 hours 30 minutes. Unlike the Desert Wind,
as a corridor service, this new train would have additional stops to serve
population centers along the way.
Earlier that same week a high-speed rail conference was held in Las Vegas.
Amtrak West brought down the Talgo Train from Washington and provided
demonstration runs for key people at the conference. Serious steps are
being taken to try to make this route a reality over the next 18 to 24
months. The first concrete step to be taken is that the state of Nevada
has been moved from the jurisdiction of Amtrak Intercity over to that of
Amtrak West. That gives Amtrak West the green light to study and propose
rail service between California and Nevada.
As far as service running between Las Vegas and points east of there,
no plans for restoration are presently in the works. I believe the next
Olympics will be held in Salt Lake City. It wouldn't surprise me to see
some temporary service put into place between Los Angeles and Salt Lake
City via Las Vegas during the Olympics. However, this might just be a
temporary extension of the Los Angeles to Las Vegas run if that comes
into service by that time.
Back to my trip on the last Desert Wind...
Fullerton, our only station enroute between San Bernardino and Los Angeles,
came up faster than I had expected. I should have been the first one to
the door so I could get off, snap a few photos, and hop back on. Instead,
I was at the end of a long line of people getting off in Fullerton. As
soon as I got to the door, the Car Attendant asked: "Are you getting off
here?" As soon as I answered: "No", she got back on and closed the door
behind her! So much for getting a few photos in the Fullerton Station.
I did see some familiar people on the station platform at Fullerton.
Knocking on the Sightseer Lounge Car window was totally ineffective to
get anyone's attention. As the train left the station, I noticed a lot
of railfans beyond the west end of the platform with video cameras
videotaping this final Desert Wind.
The final leg of the journey into Los Angeles was uneventful. It can
take as little as 30 minutes to get from Fullerton to Los Angeles, but
there are usually minor delays due to freight traffic or coordinating
with Metrolink trains also going in and out of the Los Angeles station.
The Desert Wind had one minor delay of maybe 5 minutes as we approached
the Los Angeles station. Coming into the station there appeared to be
a couple of railfans on the platform. Unlike what I was told about the
reception this Desert Wind got in Las Vegas, there were no reporters,
TV stations, or any media at all to see the arrival of the final Amtrak
Desert Wind into Los Angeles.
After we got off the train, I went to the rear of the train and Ray went
up to the front of the train. Ray was going to try to get the name and
photo of the Engineer, but he had already left by the time Ray was able
to get to the front. There was a sign on the front of the train that read:
"FINAL #35", but it was in pretty bad shape from having been on the front
of the train for all those miles. There was also a big sign at the end of
the train that read: "THE END", which was also in pretty bad shape.
I started from the back of the train and made note of the number and type
of each car on the train. Ray did the same walking back from the front of
the train and we met in the middle. Mike Kimura was also at the platform
when the train arrived. Mike is a frequent visitor and contributor of
information to the TrainWeb pages. Ray, Mike and I took a few photos of
each other with the Desert Wind in the background which you will see posted
to this page in the near future.
After one final glance at the Amtrak Desert Wind, we walked down into the
tunnel under the tracks to head over to the station. The first thing I did
was to check the time the next Metrolink would be leaving to take Ray and
I back to San Bernardino. It would be leaving at 4:51 PM. I used my credit
card at the ticket machine immediately. I've seen trains come and go while
people were struggling with these machines to spit out the tickets. I
wasn't about to wait until just before the train would leave to purchase
my ticket and become the next victim of a ticket machine problem.
We then went to the bagel place and purchased some beverages. The bagel
place was the only place that I could see to purchase something to eat
in the station. There used to be two other places in the station including
one that sold mexican food. They were both gone! One place that was in an
enclosed area was gone. The other place had their own large stand in the
main lobby of the station. The entire stand was gone and the area was roped
off. All the tables that went with these places were also gone.
I am really curious why these places have been removed. I hope what they
plan to do is to build a Metropolitan Lounge for the station. Los Angeles
is one of the few major Amtrak Stations that doesn't have one. With the
San Diegans, Southwest Chief, Coast Starlight and connecting buses from
Bakersfield and the San Joaquins, I think a Metropolitan Lounge would
be a useful addition to the Los Angeles Union Station. If they allowed
San Diegan Custom Class passengers to also use it while waiting for their
train, it would make the extra charge for Custom Class a bit more justified.
For an extra $18 round-trip, all you get now on the San Diegan Custom Class
is a newspaper, coffee, juice, and a tiny bit more leg room. The comfort
of a Metropolitan Lounge would make the extra cost a bit more justified.
When I checked the clock on the wall in the station, it read 4:45 PM. That
gave us only 6 minutes to get out to the Metrolink train! Mike said it was
only 4:40 PM and that we had about 10 minutes. Fortunately, the clock on
the wall was running 5 minutes fast. Ray and I headed for the train while
Mike headed for his car. There were great crowds of people coming into the
tunnel from Metrorail subway trains and Los Angeles shuttle buses.
We walked to track #9 and then followed the rest of the crowd that was
heading out to the track. As we walked the length of the train, I noticed
that just about every seat was filled! I figured that the further we
walked down the platform, the more likely we were to find a less crowded
car. We finally did board one of the last cars and managed to find an
empty table on the train.
I'm not going to go too much into the details of this trip back to
San Bernardino on Metrolink. This train does take a different route and
does not go through Fullerton. It takes a more northerly route staying
fairly close to interstate route 10 through Pomona and Claremont. For
the first 20 minutes of the ride, many more people got on the train than
the number that got off. After that, more started getting off than
got on. By the time we got to San Bernardino, our particular car was
empty but there were still quite a few people that got off from the
We arrived into San Bernardino at about 6:20 PM. Driving back to Anaheim
took another 40 minutes and we arrived in Anaheim at 7:00 PM. So that
was the end of the special trip to ride the very last Amtrak Desert Wind
to Los Angeles!
As souveniers I have the punched stubs to the tickets. I also have the
unused tickets for the prior Desert Wind dated May 10, 1997 that I
mistakenly thought would be the last one. Also, just for my collection,
I have an unused $5 ticket for the final leg of the Amtrak Pioneer on
May 10, 1997 between Tacoma and Seattle, Washington.
I received the following e-mail from Mike Kimura on the following day,
Tuesday, May 13, 1997:
Date: 5/13/97 11:22:53AM
To: Stephen Grande
Subject: Final Amtrak Desert Wind #35 arrives at LAX @ 4:00PM PDT
It was great to see you yesterday evening and to share a sad
moment in Amtrak's history... The demise of the Desert Wind.
I've been posting the following message to several places.
A couple railfans and I watched, photographed and videotaped the
final Amtrak Desert Wind #35 arrive at Los Angeles Union Station
yesterday (5/12/97) at 4:00PM PDT (25 minutes down). This time
there was no media coverage. The lead unit (AMTK #837) wore a
paper banner flapping in the breeze that read:
and the last car (a US Mail/Amtrak Express Baggage car) wore a
paper banner that read:
The full consist was:
837 AMTK P40-8BWH "FINAL #35"
43 AMTK P42-9BWH (back to back)
39019 Transition Sleeper
33014 Sightseer Lounge/Cafe
38015 Dining Car
1720 US Mail/Amtrak Express Baggage "THE END"
Note: The entire train (minus 1720 US Mail) deadheaded to Oakland
later yesterday evening.
- Train Route: Desert Wind
- Train Number: 35
- Direction: Southwest
- My Route: San Bernardino, California - Los Angeles, California
- Accommodation: Coach
- 837.. Lead engine
- 43... #2 engine
- 1126. Baggage
- 39019 3500 Transition Sleeper
- 34075 3513 Coach Car
- 34057 3512 Coach Car
- 34139 3511 Coach Car
- 31519 3510 Coach Car
- 33014 Sightseer Lounge Car
- 38015 Dining Car
- 32011 Sleeping Car
- 32053 Sleeping Car
- 32013 Sleeping Car
- 1720. Amtrak Express Baggage / US Mail Car
- Linda Jenkins (photo #6)
- Chief of Onboard Services: Aubrey Mayne
- Chef: Boyd Wicher
- Food Specialist 2: Karen West (photo #25)
- Train Attendant: Reeves Tremaine (photo #24)
- Sleeping Car Attendant: David Juhl (photo #22)
- Sleeping Car Attendant: William Martin (photo #24)
- Service Attendant: Pat Bounds (photo #19)
- Service Attendant: Joseph Toassaint (photo #20)
- Service Attendant: George Craig (photo #20)
Last Run of Amtrak's Desert Wind
A long Legacy of UP's City of Los Angeles,
Ends With Amtrak's Desert Wind
By Tommy Batts
On May 1st 1971, a newly formed corporation titled the National Rail
Passenger Corporation took over all passenger service in the United
The NRPC, is better known as AMTRAK; a trade name that stands for American
travel by train. Some trains were not taken over by AMTRAK, but were just
simply dropped. One of those was Union Pacific's famous City of Los
This train was dropped with the takeover of Amtrak in May 1971, but to no
one's expectations, there would be a direct descendant eight years later;
this time known as the Desert Wind. But Amtrak in a way irresponsibly took
over the legacy of the City. By that, I am referring to the Desert Wind's
discontinuance on May 10, 1997. No matter how anyone excepts the
discontinuation of the Wind we all will just have to understand that it's
gone, like it or not.
On May 28, 1973, the Denver, Colorado to Salt Lake City, Utah, Denver
Zephyr was discontinued, however on June 7th, 1977 the Salt Lake City to
Seattle Pioneer was added, and two years later, the Desert Wind between Los
Angeles and Ogden (it would later be rerouted to Salt Lake City on DRGW
trackage). Another lessor known ancestor of the Desert Wind was the
ill-fated Las Vegas Limited which was added to the table on May 21, 1976. It
ran from Los Angeles, CA to Las Vegas, NV on Fridays and Sundays only.
Early equipment on the Desert Wind was usually a consist of 4 Amfleet
Coaches, an AmDinette and a baggage car. By the end of 1980, Superliner
equipment had been introduced and as soon as enough became available to equip
the Desert Wind and Pioneer, they were both extended all the way to Chicago.
When so was done, the Wind combined with the California Zephyr at Salt Lake
City, and the Pioneer joined the consist at Denver, CO. In early 1983, the
Denver and Rio Grande "joined" or partnered with Amtrak to enable the route
between Salt Lake and Denver to be entirely on DRGW trackage. It was not
until April 24, 1983 that the San Franscisco Zephyr became officially renamed
the California Zephyr. Unfortunately, a major flood damaged much of the DRGW
line and the rerouting was delayed until July 16. Finally on that day in
Denver, a christening took place at Denver Union Station. Mrs James Bauman
christened a bottle of champagne over the locomotives pilot. Mrs Bauman also
served as a commentator and guide on the scenic highlights of the reroute.
In the Desert Winds earlier stages, checked baggage service was only
available at Los Angeles and Salt Lake City. In Salt Lake city, the
California Zephyr usually arrived first. The Desert Wind was scheduled to
arrive from fifteen minutes later. The consists were simply combined and
departed within 45 minutes. Operations were not as complicated as they were
in the 1993/1994 period shuffle at Salt Lake City.
Once at Denver, the Pioneer normally would have already been waiting,
and again, the Pioneer's coaches were added and departure was within 50
The Desert Wind ran with a simple 4-5 car consist up until the
Spring/Summer timetable change of 1993. The consist prior to 1993 usually
included 3 coaches, 1 sleeper and an ex ATSF Hi Level Diner that served as a
combined Diner/Lounge. After the timetable change, the train still operated
daily and departure times were pretty much the same, but the Diner was lost
and replaced with a Sightseer Lounge. There were no complete meals between
Los Angeles and Salt Lake City, however sleeping car passengers received hot
tray meals while coach passengers were offered regular tray meals or cold
sandwiches. The California Zephyr carried a Diner between Oakland and
Chicago and a Superliner Snack Coach between Salt Lake City and Oakland.
Headed east bound, the Desert Wind's Sightseer lounge car continued on to
Chicago with the California Zephyr consist along with the California Zephyr's
snack coach. However the Coach car's lower level snack service was only for
use between Salt Lake City and Oakland. This was because the Sightseer
lounge would go with the Desert Wind towards Los Angeles and no snack or
beverage service would be available to California Zephyr passengers between
Salt Lake City and Oakland.
By the Spring/Summer timetable change of 1994, the first harsh Amcuts
majorly affected the Desert Wind. The Desert Wind lost it's full lounge
between Los Angeles and Salt Lake City again and was replaced by a half
diner, half lounge combination usually a ATSF hi level car, otherwise a
standard Superliner Diner. However, this change did not take effect until
June 7th. Full Dining Service was regained between Salt Lake City and
Chicago once the California Zephyr and Desert Wind cars combined at Salt Lake
City. The Pioneer was cut to tri-weekly, and departed Chicago westbound on
Sundays, Tuesdays and Fridays, and the East bound would arrive Chicago on
Wednesdays, Fridays and Mondays. The Pioneer would still combine with the
California Zephyr consist at Denver, however this would only happen on the
Pioneer's three days of a week of operation. Between Denver and Seattle on
the Pioneer, a Dining Car was used in the configuration of a half lounge/half
on the April 2nd. 1995 change, services stayed the same except days of
operation for the Desert Wind were reduced. The Desert Wind now departed Los
Angeles eastbound on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays and arrived Los Angeles
westbound on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays. In Salt Lake City on the
mornings of Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, the east bound Desert Wind and
California Zephyr consists combined, while the westbound Zephyr/Wind was
divided into the two sections on late Tuesday, Thursday or Saturday nights,
with the train prepared to depart about an hour later at 1245AM the next
morning. The issue of arriving in Salt Lake City late at night, and then
departing an hour later on the next morning was very confusing to some Amtrak
The most dramatic change occurred with the Fall Winter 1995/1996
timetable change. The Desert Wind went to a full consist running between Los
Angeles and Chicago just three days a week departing eastbound from Los
Angeles on Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays and departing westbound from
Chicago on Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays. The California Zephyr operated
on the days the Desert Wind did not, therefore maintaining daily service
between Salt Lake City and Chicago on either the Desert Wind or Zephyr,
depending what day of the week, but between Los Angeles, Las Vegas and Salt
Lake City just three days a week. The California Zephyr would depart Chicago
westbound on Sundays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Fridays and would depart
Oakland eastbound to Chicago on Mondays, Wednesdays, Fridays and Saturdays.
No shuffling of cars was done in Salt Lake City, however the eastbound
Pioneer, would combine with the eastbound Desert Wind #36 at Denver. The
westbound Pioneer was part of the California Zephyr consist on Sundays and
Tuesdays departing Chicago, while the Pioneer's Thursday departure from
Chicago was combined with the westbound Desert Wind consist. The Pioneer
still carried a mini consist between Denver and Seattle, while the Desert
Wind now carried a typical Superliner consist; usually a baggage car,
transition sleeper, 3-4 coaches, a Diner, Sightseer Lounge and two Sleepers.
The westbound California Zephyr often deadheads a Material Handling Car
that is dropped in Salt Lake City, loaded, and ready to depart the next day
with the next eastbound train (either the Zephyr or Desert Wind, Depending
With the Spring/Summer 1996 schedule change, only the arrival times
where changed, most of them only a difference within 20 minutes or less.
Everything for the most part stayed the same with the Fall/Winter
1996/1997 schedule. The Pioneer still traveled west on Sundays and Tuesdays
as part of the California Zephyr and on Thursdays as part of the Desert Wind.
Many AmFans and travelers were startled awake in mid to late 1996 when
NRPC announced service cuts including the discontinuation of the Desert Wind
and Pioneer to terminate on November 10, and no longer appear on the
1996/1997 timetable. Last minute Federal Funding was announced in early
October to keep the Pioneer, Desert Wind and Texas Eagle operating for 6 more
months. By the end of that period Amtrak would either of had to pay for
itself to continue operation or gain state support and funding to run the
threatened trains, similar to state funded 403(b) trains. Although a
financial rescue was announced, official word of the continuation of the
specific trains did not get out until very close to the November 10
Amtrak Travel Agents' Reservation System would not let them book
reservations on the uncertain trains until that official word came.
On May 8, 1997, the last eastbound Desert Wind, Train Number 36 made
it's final departure from Los Angeles at 10:45 AM. This train was running
very full. The Crew announced to passengers that 120 people boarded in
Fullerton, CA, with an additional 240 scheduled to board in Las Vegas. The
Final Number 36 consist was very interesting. A pair of shiny new Dash
9-42DC (P42s), engine number 34 and 17, brought up the head, followed by
ex-Great Northern number 9301, the Mountain View,
formerly used by Amtrak on the Auto Train. The "Great Dome" was in LA during
the weekend of May 4, for "Railroad Family Day" in San Diego, CA and was
deadheading back to Beech Grove for storage. Amtrak has plans to use these
for future charter service. In addition to the baggage car and transition
Sleeper, the train was carrying three sleepers instead of the usual two, a
Diner, Sightseer Lounge and three coaches. The crew seemed to enjoy the
Great Dome more than their own dormitory car. A person whom I knew onboard
that is a manager for the Desert Wind invited me up to the Dome car for most
of our ride, after all I was only traveling between Los Angeles and Barstow.
There I personally met the conductors who also seemed quite intrigued of
the dome car. As we road through Cajon Pass in the 1955 "Great Dome" I
listened to stories of the crew, in what was almost like our own private car!
"What a great way to go through the Rockies" commented the conductor.
Unfortunately, I was getting off in Barstow, the crew was changing at Las
Vegas and Mr. Gleysteen was getting off in Salt Lake City so none of us would
have had the opportunity to see it.
As the #36 began to creep out of Fullerton, it seemed the words that
stuck to everyone's mind was "I'm sure going to miss this train". I
overhead one Car Attendant tell some one "this was the best run" as the
Desert Wind made it's final eastbound revenue departure from Fullerton.
Although the Desert Wind was quite a money looser, perhaps it was a great
train because of the unique scenery along it's route. Product Manager Lee
Gleysteen later commented in the Great Dome, "This train really needs to be
daily". Perhaps it does [or did ], because how can you expect many people
to ride a train that runs three days a week each direction when one can
drive a portion of the route much quicker!
Service was a little more unique than it usually was aboard the Desert
Wind. "Funeral Cards" were handed out to each passenger. Inside the special
collectors card was a brief history of the Desert Wind and a plea to continue
to ride Amtrak. Amtrak's best hope is to inform passengers of the financial
crisis and urge passengers and supporters to write their state
representatives. It's unfortunate that Amtrak go down this way. Sadly, the
decline of passenger routes such as the Desert Wind and Pioneer could
eventually lead to the decline of the routes they feed and connect to such as
the California Zephyr and Empire Builder. As far as the Las Vegas Market,
Amtrak has immediately started bus routes which now have their own
timetables. Among them bus routes is one that follows the Desert Wind
between Los Angeles and Las Vegas.
In late April, Amtrak West conducted a survey on the question of a
passenger market between LA and Las Vegas. If the survey proves so, a U.S
built Talgo Style train could cruise LA-Las Vegas 3 times a day in less than
five hours. The train sets would utilize matching EMD F59PHIs, 21 of which
are being built currently by GM/EMD for Amtrak West. In early May, Amtrak
ran one Talgo Pendular trainset between Los Angeles and Las Vegas for a week
or so in a private demonstration to seek state support for a LAX-LVS train
early, to mid next next year.
Once the train arrived in Barstow 30 minutes late, we detrained and
quickly packed up to chase the Desert Wind as far as possible. The train
creeped out of Barstow before we could, but did not get very far as the HOT
Richmond to Chicago 991 raced past the Barstow Depot, overtaking the Desert
Wind. Once we got across the first street bridge and back onto I-15, the
consist raced across the I-15 overpass just about the time we crossed the
overpass. The Desert Wind was now way ahead of us in the distance at Dagget
heading off onto the UP Los Angeles Sub. Track speed at Dagget is limited to
40MPH and 20MPH going through the UP's small yard at Yermo. The drive from
the Station to Yermo on I-15 is about 8 minutes. Once we got to Yermo, I
looked off to the Southwest towards Dagget and got a glimpse of the Desert
Wind leaving Dagget and approaching the Yermo Limits. The Mineola exit was
our choice, and was about 2 minutes ahead. This choice would enable us to
get further ahead of the Desert Wind by taking advantage of it's reduced
speed limit in Yermo. Mineola will take you to Yermo road, which parallels
the tracks for some twenty Miles. Once at Mineola,we idled on the Yermo
Road, shoulder prepared to take off. Thunderstorms were brewing, so it was
also a good idea to stay in the car, but the grade crossing bell helps you
know when something is coming. After about five minutes, the Desert Wind
was heard approaching. Track speed between Mineola and MP 176.9 at Field is 4
0 MPH. Pacing the Wind along Yermo Road is quite an experience and can last
for up to 10 Minutes. However once into Manix, the Desert Wind started to
speed up as track speed in this area is now 79MPH. We were able to stay with
the Wind for about 2 more minutes as the coaches slowly gained distance on
us, until it took off into Amtrak history.
Things were not over yet. There was still spirit left as there was
still two more westbound runs left. Although train 36 was now no more,
Saturday the 10th brought one more #35. Running about two hours late, #35
was scheduled to arrive in Fullerton at 2:20PM, but Amtrak Computers
pointed somewhere between 4:30PM and 5:30PM. Not bad, considering this
train at one time had a reputation of running two and a half, three,
sometimes four hours late.
Saturday's Desert Wind arrival was four hours late. It finally arrived
in Fullerton California at 6:19PM with P42DC #66 on the point and #83
trailing elephant style. The Desert Wind was deadheading a baggage car to
LA since only one was in use on the train. The consist included a Transition
Sleeper, two Pullman Standard Sleepers, Bombardier Sleeper "North Dakota ",
Pullman Standard Diner, Pullman Standard Sightseer Lounge, Pullman Standard
Smoking Coach and three Pullman Standard Coaches. Taking up the rear was an
ex-Wisconsin Central Private Dome/Observation Car, #800275, the Sierra Hotel
. The stop was a quick one and the Desert Wind was out within three
Minutes. Sunday was an off day for the Desert Wind but Monday would be the
last run ever; at least for the time being.
The final Desert Wind arrived Fullerton, California at approximately
3:35PM with AMD103 #837, which had a paper banner reading "Final 35" and
P42DC #43. With the exception of the almost ancient Phase III baggage car,
every thing else looked great, especially the back to back Genesis
locomotives. Followed by the baggage car was a Bombardier transition
sleeper, tree Pullman Standard Coaches, a rebuilt Pullman Standard Smoking
Coach, P-S Sightseer Lounge Car, Superliner Diner, and three P-S Superliner
Sleepers. On the rear was a deadheading Phase IV baggage car, the types that
were rebuilt from old heritage coaches. The Express/Mail Bagage Car also
featured a banner reading "The End" but was ripped off partly and the rest of
the banner hanging down when it passed Fullerton CA. As the last car of the
Desert Wind passed the Highland Avenue Grade Crossing just west of the depot
for the final time, a heartfull railfan and photographer gave the train a
military style salute, obviously wishing the train a good farewell. And
while it seemed like almost nothing had happened, the long legacy of the
Route from the Union Pacific's City of Los Angeles to yesterday's Desert Wind
tip- toed off into Amtrak's next chapter of history.
This article would have not been possible without the assistance from the
following sources and they're authors/publishers. Those research sources
All Aboard Amtrak: 1971-1991, Mike Schafer;
NRPC, Amtrak, http://www.amtrak.com;
Webmaster: Steve Grande, http://trainweb.com;
Leland Gleysteen, Product Manager California Zephyr/Desert Wind;
NOTE: Much of the timetable history came from hours of browsing and
comapring old Amtrak timetables from that appropriately year/season.
Please select one of the following:
Slide Show of the Final Desert Wind
Photos of the Final Desert Wind
Amtrak Desert Wind Review Page