A Surprise the Next Morning

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I had booked a room aboard Amtrak train No. 5 to Denver on the second leg of an ambitious journey by Amtrak that would see me traveling nearly coast to coast by rail.

I left Chicago Union Station in late afternoon on Oct. 24, 1981, aboard what was then the San Francisco Zephyr. It was not my first trip aboard Amtrak’s new Superliner equipment, but would be my first time traveling in a Superliner sleeper.

Most of the initial trip out of Chicago occurred during darkness and I don’t remember seeing much, if anything in Iowa. My dominant memory of this trip is how comfortable and cozy I felt inside my room aboard the train.

Somewhere in Nebraska the next morning I was surprised to look out my window and see that the ground was covered with snow.

I grabbed my camera, went to a vestibule door, opened the window and made this image.

If you did that today Amtrak personnel would let you know that it is not allowed. Maybe they felt that way then, too, but I just opened the window long to get the image and go back to my room.

The original slide of this image has badly faded, but the wizardry of digital scanning combined with Photoshop enabled me to bring it back to life.

My recollection is that the original slide was overexposed, so this is as good as it could be.

There is something about this image that makes it one of favorites from this era. The red, white and silver of the two F40PH locomotives leading the train add a touch of color to an otherwise barren and white landscape.

I also like how the tracks snake through the snow, lending a sense of going somewhere.

It was the Burlington Northern back then and under BNSF ownership today these tracks probably are still busy.

By the time we reached Denver, the snow was gone and I would not see any more of it during my trip. It must have been a fairly localized storm.

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