AAPRCO has completed running its special train running between Denver, CO to Spokane, WA for the annual convention. I was able to join the train on September 14th when the train laid over in Missoula, MT. It was my first venture on a AAPRCO special and I thoroughly enjoyed my experience. I had accommodations on the LA Rail car Pacific Sands which was paired with the Tioga Pass, which is also part of the LA Rail group.
On Sunday evening, September 15th, I managed to capture a rather stunning photo of the sunset that silhouetted part of the 21 car train in the Montana Rail Link Missoula Yard.
On September 19th the train departed the Missoula yard bound for Spokane with a scheduled stop in Sandpoint, ID. One of the highlights of this segment is when the train crossed over Lake Pend Oreille (pronounced pond-er-ray) on the 4,769 foot trestle on the BNSF.
During this segment I was also able to take a few minutes and speak with the Pacific Sands owner, Doug Spinn, and he gave me a little insight about car ownership and operations. I was curious about LA Rail and he explained that it was four car owners with a total of five cars that have combined their resources to operate the cars more efficiently. The marketing multiplier has been very successful for them.
I asked Doug how long had been a car owner and he answered that he had bought the Pacific Sands in 2003 and was able to start running it in 2004. The car itself was Amtrak approved when made the purchased, but it needed improvements and some upgrades. He primarily worked on the car himself and said that he had to keep his focus on one small part at a time and not be overwhelmed by the overall project.
I next asked what his favorite part of being a car owner was. “It’s a love-hate relationship sometimes. When you’re riding the car you don’t want to be anywhere else and when you’re parked working on a project, you wonder what you’re doing sometimes. The best part is meeting the people and have them ride the car. When you know that you made their vacation or trip memorable, it’s a great feeling.”
Naturally, I then asked what he least favorite part was. He answered, “Mechanical failures can be very stressful. You try to get everything right for a trip but Murphy’s Law will still pop-up. You just have to work through it.”
I have to agree with Doug. The people have been a great part of this trip. I joined the train as a last minute arrangement and was brought into a car of total strangers. However, we are all there for the same thing and I found the other passengers and staff to be exceptionally friendly and welcoming. The City of Spokane ends its journey but the people will continue and come back for another one. The AAPRCO convention activities will fill up the rest of the week before the cars return to their home terminals or travel to their next destination.
While the train was in Spokane it was unfortunately not be open to the public for tours or rides. Membership with AAPRCO and and convention registration are required in order to ride on the special and attend the car parties during the convention.
I would also like to thank all the car owners for their hospitality during the car parties and the staff that supported this train. It was an amazing experience and I’m looking forward to the next one.