Tuesday, April 3, 2018

First Trip to California

I recall four trips from Colorado to California during the 1940s.  Details are sketchy, but vignettes were impressed deeply in my memory.  I would have been about seven years of age during the first of these trips, thirteen at the time of the last.

The first journey was from Canon City to Los Angeles via the Santa Fe.  This would have been, I think, in 1941.  We, the family I mean, boarded the train at Pueblo and traveled through Raton Pass into New Mexico, and this provided one of the most vivid memories of the trip.  The train was drawn by a steam engine.  The Super Chief War Bonnet powered by diesel electric also ran this route but we were not Hollywood celebrities or movers and shakers.

At Trinidad helper engines were added to the train to assist it in making the grade and a very steep grade it is at 3.5%, which my seven-year old self did not know.  I looked it up.  The locomotives were chuffing up the grade, smoke pouring copiously into the atmosphere.  We discovered that on certain curves one could look out the window of our car and see the engine in the rear pushing us along.  I can see it yet.  Mallet, Dad said.  Mallay, I  heard, which is the pronunciation of the word.

Santa Fe Station, Raton, New Mexico

 Other bits of memory from this trip include the red peppers hanging on the sides of the houses around Bernalillo and across New Mexico; the more-or-less interminable transit of the desert lands between Albuquerque and Los Angeles; the arrival at Union Station in L.A. where we were met by the Uncle and the reunion with Mother's family began!

7 comments:

Sharkbytes said...

Wonderful memory! I never rode as passenger on a steam train (except on excursion trains), but sometimes my grandmother came to visit by train, and some of those were steam.

vanilla said...

Sharkey, as an old guy of course I wax nostalgic for the steam days. Yet the locomotive power is better now. However it is a shame that passenger rail transport has fallen into its current state. Well, independent people have to be independent, I guess, even to their election moment of departure and control of the wheel.

Secondary Roads said...

I remember one train trip in the 40s. I was too young to remember anything but a bad case of motion sickness. (It has bothered me all my life.)

Steam locomotives were a common sight in my youth. We lived a couple of blocks from the tracks.

Lin said...

I'll bet that was a scenic trip. I can't imagine a steam locomotive as the choice of travel...although it would be a welcome slower pace.

Vee said...

Vanilla, I remember being on the train and the very long ride. I also remember going to the pier with Dad, needing to be quiet because the neighbors did not like kids, and the tops of headlights on cars painted black (because everyone feared that the city would be a lighted target on which the Japanese could drop their bombs). Other than that, my four-year-old brain did not retain much.

vanilla said...

Chuck, sorry you have that issue; must take the fun out of travel in general.

Lin, actually the trains were quite fast but like traveling with small children in an auto stops and delays slowed the overall run.

This from December 1937: The last dash from Shopton, Iowa to Chicago, however, had the train making up 47 minutes, arriving at Dearborn Station on December 12, 1937 53 hours and 40 minutes after departing Los Angeles.

The numbers of the run are quite impressive. Locomotive 3461 attained top speeds of 92 mph (148 kmh) on the Albuquerque Division and 90 mph (145 kmh) on the Colorado and Western Divisions. Total actual running time of the train was 43 hours, 17 minutes and 15 seconds, while the trip took 53 hours and 40 minutes (allowing adding / subtracting of cars, servicing of the train, stops at stations, and fueling / watering the locomotive).

Vee, your memory from your small self transmitted over the span of years we have lived since is quite good. The visit in Ventura included our first sight of an ocean! I remember the weirdness of having strangers living on the other side of the wall in the same house. Your recollection of the blackout conditions are correct, but I think from the next trip in '43. I also remember the dirigibles hanging overhead with the cables dropped down to form a barrier to any low-flying planes. We had some great times and some wonderful memories!

Vee said...

Yes, I do have good memories of California and those "strangers" out there who claimed to be relatives. For all of the connection I had to them, they might just as well have lived on another planet.