Off to Get Drafted - part 4

ogden to roseville

In the previous story I rode a Denver and Rio Grande Western (D&RGW) freight train from Denver to Ogden, Utah, with a layover in Salt Lake City. From Denver to Salt Lake I rode in a locomotive, where a brakeman discovered me but didn't complain; the remainder of the trip was on a flatcar carrying highway semi-trailers. I got off the train when it stopped to wait for clearance into the yard. Time of arrival in Ogden: late Wednesday night.


The engineer of my train had just told me to look for California-bound trains at the junction up ahead. I walked along the tracks to the junction, which was bathed in the glow of yard floodlights. This trip exposed me to lots of floodlights.

At the junction I asked about westbound trains, but at first didn't get much information. Then at a small crew building I hit paydirt. Two guys there were very helpful, telling me the next westbound was due out at 0600 over on track so-and-so. They invited me inside to warm up and relax. I talked to a young employee for a little while, asking him where I could go to send a telegram and get some food. After asking his colleagues about an all-night grocery store (a rarity in those days!) he said that when he had some slack time he'd drive me downtown to take care of both tasks.

What was that? Did I hear him correctly? Was I dreaming? Here was a guy, working for a company that officially condemned what I was doing and on whose property I was trespassing, willing to take some time off from work to do a favor for a stranger. I couldn't believe it. He told me to get some sleep and that he would wake me when he was free. At his suggestion, I laid down on a crew bench in the locker room and dozed off.

Later he woke me and we got into his truck for the quick ride downtown. At the all-night grocery store, I stocked up on oatmeal cookies, lunch meat, and cheese. Then we found a phone booth, where I called Western Union to send a telegram home. I paid for it by putting coins in the phone. Mission of mercy accomplished! We got back to the yard at about 0400.

The Roseville train was still being built, so I hung around the shack for a while. When my train was almost built, I said good-bye and thanks to the people who had helped me and went "in search of" (without Leonard Nimoy) a car to ride. A boxcar about fifteen cars back from the front end looked good. No more of those cold piggyback rigs! I climbed in. The train started moving out of the yard around 0600. It was still dark, but dawn's glow was in the eastern sky.

My foremost concern was staying warm, so I laid out my sleeping pad and sleeping bag and crawled in. When the sun came up, I was too lazy or too comfortable to get up to look at it. However, I did have enough energy to photograph the morning scene from my cocoon. Then I went sleep. Five hours later I woke up somewhere in Nevada.


The desert environment of Nevada, like everything else experienced so far, was new to me. At times I found it unbearably ugly. What a sense of relief to pass through Sparks and reach Reno, the "Biggest Little Town in the West." I took a picture as I rode across Reno's main street, where people on the sidewalk happily waved to me. The street looked familiar from my previous visit four years earlier while on a driving tour of California with Don H., a college chum.

Up, up, up, into the Sierra Nevada the train proceeded. The landscape was pretty, something the Donner party probably wasn't thinking back in 1846. Food I had purchased in Ogden tasted good. A ski area popped into view. After going through several snow sheds I began the descent on the western slope of the mountains, where I got a nice sunset shot. The downhill run had a zillion curves. Eventually the grade leveled out in the Sacramento Valley and I reached Roseville, just northeast of Sacramento.


When I got into Roseville it was about 2300 on Thursday. My train came to rest in the arrival yard. To get a ride to Oregon I needed to walk to the departure yard, about a mile away. I was somewhat familiar with the yard layout, having passed through here twice before on trips to San Francisco. Off I went to the departure yard.