Bakersfield, CA, November 19 and 20
Departing Oakland, the Exhibit Train headed east and then south through the San Joaquin Valley, one of the nation’s most productive agricultural zones. The land has been intensively worked for more than a century and today produces a variety of crops, including grapes, almonds, pistachios, citrus fruits, asparagus and other vegetables, and cotton. Bakersfield sits at the southern end of the valley where the Tehachapi Mountains cut it off from greater Los Angeles.
In addition to station staff, members of the Golden Empire Historical and Modeling Society (GEHAMS) and students from Centennial High School came out to help us with the Exhibit Train and welcome the crowds. Some GEHAMS volunteers monitored the displays and handed out brochures, while others set up a wonderful model train display in the lobby, which is bathed in natural light from a skylight and high clerestory windows. Representatives from Operation Lifesaver, the National Association of Railroad Passengers (NARP), and Bakersfield Magazine set up tables nearby. An Amtrak K-9 unit also made the rounds and introduced people to the work of the Amtrak Police Department.
We’ve been impressed by many of the model railroad clubs that have provided displays at our Exhibit Train stops. These organizations bring together people of diverse ages and backgrounds who share a common interest in railroading. Generally, anyone is welcome to join, but you have to commit to putting in the time necessary to build and maintain the models. The amazingly detailed set-ups they produce require discipline to complete, and they are truly collective works that represent thousands of hours of labor. The topography and landscape must be constructed, tracks laid, buildings put together and painted, and the whole scene animated with people and little touches such as mailboxes and fire hydrants.
Sometimes, clubs strive to replicate a specific place in time, which requires a lot of research to get the measurements and details right; other clubs create fantasy layouts that draw on various inspirations. For those interested in making the Amtrak Exhibit Train part of their model displays, Amtrak is offering HO scale models of the P40 #822 and the F40 #406. They lead the Pacific Bend crew car, Display cars and the 40th Anniversary Store car.
The Exhibit Train has its own collection of HO scale model trains on display in illuminated tubes. They were put together with the intention of giving visitors an idea of the various cars used by Amtrak over the past 40 years. When Amtrak began service on May 1, 1971, the consists were a sight to behold: a mix of the best cars inherited from the predecessor passenger railroads, but painted in all different colors unique to those companies. It would take years for Amtrak to replace them with new cars or have them repainted in the company’s silver, red, white, and blue paint scheme. A model of this “Rainbow Fleet,” as it is affectionately known, is on display in the first car of the Exhibit Train.
Another model shows a typical East Coast long distance train with a Baggage car, Viewliner sleeper cars, and standard Amfleet coaches. Real Amtrak buffs can tell you that since the model bears the Phase IV paint scheme, it represents the 1990s. As visitors reach the far end of the Exhibit Train, they come across a model of the Acela Express, which was introduced with great fanfare in 2000. Designed to reach speeds of up to 150 mph, the sleek Acela cars feature an abstract pattern of colorful “splotches” that embody movement and contemporary styling. If you get together with a group of railroad fans, there’s sure to be disagreement on which paint scheme is the best!
It’s said that the railroad never stops….but the Exhibit Train crew is taking a break over the Thanksgiving weekend. We’ll see you in sunny San Diego on December 3-4. Drop by the historic Santa Fe depot in downtown and say “hello!”