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Barstow as a base for train watching?

Rotorua, New Zealand
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Barstow as a base for train watching?

Hi there, we are planning a trip to the US from New Zealand in early October next year. As one of our group is an avid rail fan, we want to spend a full day visiting Cahon Pass and a second full day at Techachapi Loop. Rather than going in and out of LA and losing hours in traffic on the freeway, we thought we'd base ourselves in Barstow for three nights. We will then carry on to Las Vegas. I've read that the centre of Barstow isn't that flash, so have planned on staying at the Hampton inn near the outlet mall. There will be three girls who will need to fill two days, and I figure the outlet mall, Harvey house and calico should cover that. We will also have a seven year old with us, but from her perspective, as long as the hotel has a pool, she will be happy. Does this sound like a reasonable plan? Any suggestions for safe viewing spots for trains would also be gratefully received. Thanks in advance.

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Barstow
Barstow
California Desert, CA
Santa Ana, CA
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11. Re: Barstow as a base for train watching?

Barstow has the Route 66 museum and train museum right at the old train station. But you can also drive over to the "real" train yard. There is no gate and no guard. My favorite place there is the automated car wash they send the trains through.

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Barstow
Barstow
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Santa Ana, CA
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12. Re: Barstow as a base for train watching?

IMO watching the Tehachapi Loop is good for about an hour. Actually, only 10 minutes since that's how long it takes for the loop. It's a long way from everything else.

In the Cajon Pass you'll see some freeway off-ramps that go down to the old Route 66. That's where you want to be to train watch. You can park your car really close.

Santa Ana, CA
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13. Re: Barstow as a base for train watching?

The McDonalds in Barstow was previously mentioned but I want to add that it is much more than a McDonalds. It is a shopping center called Barstow Station and it is built out of train cars welded and bolted together. If all you do is have a cup of coffee or an ice cream cone you can sit and enjoy it in an old rail car.

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Barstow
Barstow
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Barstow Station
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Barstow, CA
Rotorua, New Zealand
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14. Re: Barstow as a base for train watching?

Thank you everyone for some great advice. I look forward to doing some reading on all the places suggested.

San Francisco
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for Death Valley Junction, Death Valley National Park
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15. Re: Barstow as a base for train watching?

Since your trip is not until next fall, be aware that the Beanery cafe in the Kelso visitor center (historic railroad depot) has closed. So you can still enjoy the visitor center, but will have to make other provisions for lunch, there or elsewhere.

If they have put out a request for proposals, maybe there will be another operator to reopen the Beanery by the time you come but don't count on it; the wheels of bureaucracy turn very, very slowly (when they turn at all). You can check the park website later in the year.

http://www.nps.gov/moja/index.htm

Fortaleza, CE
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16. Re: Barstow as a base for train watching?

Another vote for Fillmore and L.A. Union Station (you may recognize the latter from many movies made since the 1940s and maybe even before).

Are you riding on any trains are just looking at them? Fillmore is one option. I'd rather take a train, even a Metrolink commuter train (some go a fair distance and the trains are nice; www.metrolinktrains.com), or Amtrak (e.g., to San Diego or Santa Barbara) then spend a full day at Cajon Pass or Tehachapi.

The best train museum I've been to is the California State Railroad Museum in Sacramento. http://www.csrmf.org/ They have some train rides, too. You can get there in a few hours from L.A. by car, or by a combination of Amtrak bus (to Bakersfield) and train. Riding Amtrak along the coast is more scenic.

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17. Re: Barstow as a base for train watching?

Well, now that we have Sacramento and Fillmore in the mix along with Barstow, we may as well open up all of California to the discussion, We don't know how much time the OP has and how firm their itinerary is, so maybe a few more options will help in the planning.

If you are going to Sacramento, you could consider Railtown 1897, a state historic park in Jamestown that features steam trains. There are exhibits, buildings, equipment, and trains you can ride.This is in the Mother Lode west of Yosemite.

http://www.parks.ca.gov/?page_id=491

And as long as we're talking about Yosemite, there is the Sugar Pine narrow gauge railroad that takes you on historic logging trains through old timber country, That is in Fish Camp, near the south entrance to Yosemite, so it is between the LA area and Jamestown. Of course, if you’ll be in the area, you must go to Yosemite.

http://www.ymsprr.com/

If you decide on one or both of those and/or Yosemite National Park, you'll see a good portion of Hwy 49, the Mother Lode highway. Every town is a Gold Rush town and they all have historic areas with preserved buildings now used as stores, restaurants, hotels, residences, and more. It is a rural road, so it will be a leisurely ride. Three major rivers traverse the central Mother Lode—the Stanislaus, Tuolumne, and Merced, and reservoirs have been built in some places for water supply and hydroelectric power; and you will see some of the water features as you go along Hwy 49. This is the Sierra Nevada and parts of the route are hilly and twisty with steep drop-offs, but it is basically a safe as well as scenic drive.

And if you come to Northern California, no doubt you'll find your way to San Francisco, where there is a wealth of railroad and railway (local and interurban) history. But even before that, between Sacramento and San Francisco, is the Western Railway Museum, a small, less known place. It's out of the way, on State Hwy 12 between Hwy 113 and Rio Vista. Their main focus is urban electric rail transit. If you've heard that trains used to connect San Francisco and the East Bay in the early decades of the Bay Bridge, this is true, and you can learn about that and more at this museum. You can also ride trains and streetcars. Be sure to check the schedule because this museum has more limited hours than the larger or publicly owned ones.

http://www.wrm.org/

Ah, finally, we’re in San Francisco! We have the cable cars and Cable Car Museum, restored historic streetcars from all over the world that run on Market Street (this is called the F line), a railway museum at the end of the F line on the Embarcadero, and of course BART and Muni Metro which are modern light rail systems. There is no Amtrak service directly to San Francisco, but Caltrain, a commuter railroad operated by the state, runs between here and San Jose (and Gilroy during peak commute hours). The Caltrain depot is at 4th Street near King, but there’s no museum.

Here is the website for info on the F-line. BART and Muni (stands for Municipal Railway or Municipal Transportation Agency, which includes cable cars) have their own websites that are easy to find.

http://www.streetcar.org/

If all you wanted to do was go to Barstow or Tehachapi Loop, we’re sorry if we’ve given you more ideas that you can use (or put too much temptation in your way). That’s just the way TA works; we believe in putting out a big bowl of assorted candy and letting people choose!

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Fortaleza, CE
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18. Re: Barstow as a base for train watching?

There is Amtrak service to San Francisco, it just requires a connection to an Amtrak bus at Oakland (from northbound trains) or Emeryville (southbound or westbound trains). Shows on the Amtrak schedule. Amtrak transfer your bags. Brings up the fact that with Amtrak's Web site you do need to look carefully to see if you'll be on train the whole day, train and bus, or just bus.

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19. Re: Barstow as a base for train watching?

True, Sutter, I shold have been more clear about that. What I meant to say was that no Amtak trains physically go to San Francisco, but all Amtrak trips begin/end at Emeryville, Oakland, or Richmond, and require an Amtrak shuttle bus the rest of the way. Sorry. :).

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Florence, Italy
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20. Re: Barstow as a base for train watching?

On the Los Angeles - San Francisco (and further) train route there is a specific TA topic, with plenty of reviews:

tripadvisor.co.uk/Attraction_Review-g28926-d…

Brun066

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