Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Train 5: Grand Junction, CO

A little after five o'clock, and not much more than one hour late, we arrive in Grand Junction, Colorado. The scenery has finally begun to settle down such that I can look away from the window without feeling that I missing something incredible. The land has flattened out, and now we're spending more time looking into people's back yards as we race through the small villages and towns that do not have station stops. While I'm not a big fan of trains, cars will always disrtract me. A rail trip through the USA is, therefore, a good distraction, because not only do we see a lot of cars shooting past, but we also see a lot rusting ones falling apart at the bottom of yards or pushed to one side of properties next to rail lines. My new Dutch companion on this trip asks a question which she maybe has already answered: "Why do Americans keep all their old cars? In the Netherlands we simply don't have the space..."

Grand Junction is lucky to have an attractive old railway station, but it's not in great shape and it's been fenced off. Amtrak seem to prefer pre-fabricated buildings or concrete boxes as railway stations...

At Grand Junction a couple of enterprising locals have opened a kiosk on the station forecourt, and with the blessing of Amtrak it seems they have turned the Grand Junction stop of the California Zephyr into more than just a cigarette break. Little bags crammed full of grapes or vegetables are sold for passengers tired of the normal on-board food selection. Cold dreaks, souvenirs, over the counter drugs, postcards and other odds and ends are also sold in the little shop. I buy a bag of fresh, juicy grapes and exercise with a walk to the front of our train. Again, it consists of two enormous blue and silver locomotives, a crew sleeper car, two sleepers, a restaurant, a sightseer lounge/cafe car, three coaches and two Amtrak box cars.

As I walk back towards my coach, I pass the two engineers who are driving our train. Childhood dreams of becoming a train driver are relived, and I regret not hanging around near the engine long enough to take their photo in the door of the cab (which seems to be about two metres off the ground). I've been taking black and white photos with my 35mm camera on this trip, trying to take portraits of just a few of the people I'm meeting. It's not easy taking photos of people, because everyone reacts in some way when they see a camera pointed at them, and my lovely old Olympus OM10 (while being a gorgeous manual camera to use) can seem a little intimidating when it's pointed directly at you.

The engine fires it's horn twice, the conductors call 'all aboard' (yes, they really say that over here) and we get back on. After leaving Grand Junction we say farewell to Colorado with one final scenic treat - the Ruby Canyon.


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