Representative Dina Titus (D-Nevada) is planning to get transportation in the Southwest back on track. Amtrak dropped its Desert Wind service in 1997, but Rep. Titus believes that bringing the train back would aid the region’s growing residential and tourist populations. The Desert Wind originated in 1979 at the behest of another Nevada legislator, Senator Howard Cannon (D). He urged Amtrak to provide rail service that incorporated Las Vegas when the Las Vegas Limited was discontinued after fewer than 3 months of operation. Since 1997, there has been no rail link between Los Angeles and Las Vegas.
For 18 years, the Desert Wind spanned the Western United States, linking the cities of Los Angeles, Las Vegas, Salt Lake City, Denver, Omaha, and Chicago. Here is an excerpt from the rail line’s guide of its route from Salt Lake City to Las Vegas during its years of operation:
SALT LAKE CITY
Following Union Pacific rails until we reach Daggett, California.
2:10 (0:55) Pass through Delta, Utah, a farming community situated in Utah’s western desert country.
2:57 (0:05) In distance, off to left, clustered light pinpoints Milford geothermal power plant of Utah Power and Light Company. Electricity is produced from steam generators powered by tapping underground reservoir of 500-degree-Fahrenheit water. Although output is a modest 20,0-00 kilowatts, it is first sizable facility of its kind outside of California.
3:02 (0:00) Arrive Milford.
MILFORD, UT - Predominantly a railroad town for more than a hundred years, a new thrust has resulted from Milford’s geothermal developments. The nearby geothermal power plant has created new employment and lower energy costs.
0:00 (2:05) Depart Milford.
Gain one hour as train passes from Mountain to Pacific Time. Set your watch back (forward if eastbound) one hour.
1:53 (0:00) Arrive Caliente.
Old Union Pacific depot houses city offices, police department, an art display and Amtrak’s waiting room.
CALIENTE, NV- As reflected in its name, Caliente (Spanish, for hot) is blessed with an abundance of geothermal energy. Its hot springs and mud baths were a welcome respite for railroad workers who founded the town at the turn of the century. Today, studies are under way directed at encouraging resort development that could capitalize on this valuable resource.
0:00 (2:19) Departing Caliente, enter Meadow Valley Wash. Lovely Rainbow
Canyon is contained within but unfortunately Desert Wind’s schedule calls for traversing this scenic stretch mostly at night.
2:19 (0:00) Arrive Las Vegas Station is located downtown in Jackie Gaughan’s Plaza hotel. Just beyond lies dazzling- neon maelstrom of world-renowned Fremont Street.
LAS VEGAS, NV- From its humble beginning, first as a Mormon settlement and then a railroad town, the city has grown to become famous as a world gambling mecca and Showtown, U.S.A. Casinos and posh hotels line The Strip from one end of town to the other. Even the Amtrak station is located in one of the many high-rise hotels. Nevada’s legalized gambling, the city’s warm and dry desert climate, and its proximity to populous Southern California combine to account for Las Vegas’ uniqueness. Amtrak Station, Main St., is located in the Jackie Gaughan’s Plaza hotel. The station itself is quite Spartan, with limited seating and some snack and drink vending machines. But down the hall is another world: the hotel’s lobby, restaurant, and casino. Gambling, of course, is the chief attraction for millions of visitors each year. Casinos abound and most will be found along The Strip (Las Vegas Boulevard). Shows and Reviews at the larger hotels are true spectaculars. The Hoover Dam and the Lake Mead National Recreation Area are located 32 miles southeast on U.S. 93.
0:00 (2:54) Depart Las Vegas past lavish hotels and casinos of city’s illustrious Strip District on left. Train then proceeds southwest across parched landscape of Mojave Desert.
0:25 (2:29) Back on left, Las Vegas now spreads out across valley floor presenting a spectacular blanket of lights for eastbound evening passengers.
0:51(2:03) Whiskey Pete’s casino, at right, offering Californians their first chance at Nevada gambling, clearly defines California-Nevada border.
2:39( 0:15) At Yermo, travel through expansive Union Pacific yards.
2:41 (0:13) Calico Ghost Town, snuggled against hillside on right, surrounds the site of the richest silver strike in California history. Of interest is nearby Calico Dig. In 1968, a stone hearth was unearthed, suggesting evidence of prehistoric man over 50,000 years earlier.
2:42(0:12) Water-filled tower on left is focus of 1,818 huge mirrors that continually reflect the sun, creating steam for nation’s first solar electric facility.
2:43(0:11) A vast array of military equipment is stockpiled alongside warehouses of Marine Logistics Base Annex on right. Main facility is located in nearby Barstow.
0:00 (3:05) Depart Salt Lake City,
2:44 (0:10) Passing through Daggett, note two historic structures on right. Venerable 1880s Stone Hotel (built of stone) was a home-away-from-home for Death Valley Scotty, who continuously reserved room #7 (with private entrance) for his personal use.
2:48 (0:06) Marine Corps Logistics Base on left is largest of two such facilities in the country. It is presently Barstow's largest employer.
2:50 (0:04) On left, McDonald's restaurant and a host of shops are imaginatively housed within refurbished railroad cars.
2:54 (0:00) Arrive Barstow On the right, "Casa del Desierto" (House of the Desert) is appropriately inscribed across the facade of a grandiose structure next to the station. This old building was originally a Harvey House -- Just one of a chain of elegant eateries and hotels that once stretched along the Santa Fe. Fred Harvey's restaurants became legendary for good food in what was an otherwise wild and woolly West.
BARSTOW, CA - Originally founded as a way station along the old Santa Fe Trail, Barstow has emerged as an important distribution lifeline, strategically located at the crossroads of two major interstates and railroads. Large military installations and a healthy tourist trade further bolster the city's burgeoning economy. Barstow also enjoys a share in technology. Located here is NASA's Goldstone Tracking Station, a vital communications link for orbiting satellites and deep space probes.
0:00 (00:33) Depart Barstow through the awesome sprawl of Santa Fe's classification yards. Over the next several miles, onset of hillier terrain previews approach into San Bernardino mountains.
0:21 (0:12) Just beyond the peaks of Kramer Range on the right lies Edwards Air Force Base, primary landing site of NASA's space shuttle.
0:29 (0:04) At Oro Grande, well-preserved steam locomotive is enshrined in town park on left.
0:33 (0:00) Arrive Victorville.
VICTORVILLE, CA - Cement production is an important Victorville industry with several such plants located here. The area has also been the setting for numerous Western movies.
0:00 (1:09) Depart Victorville.
0:02 (1:07) Sudden rock outcroppings form scenic little canyons as the train crosses Mojave River. THen begin ascent of Cajon Pass which will lift us out of the Mojave Desert. Noble Joshua tree cactus is a prominent feature of northern climb, while spectacular rock formations line the descent into San Bernardino.
0:20 (0:46) Nearing Cajon summit, the San Gabriel Mountains are a prominent feature to the right, with the San Bernardino Mountains off to the left.
0:22 (0:44) Bid farewell to the open spaces of the West and start the dramatic descent of Cajon Pass into the Los Angeles Basin.
0:29 (0:36) White flatiron-like Mormon Rocks are the most prominent geographic feature on the right. The infamous San Andreas fault is nearby.
0:41 (0:24) Two Santa Fe routes now become one again. The highway on the left is Interstate 15, linking Los Angeles and Las Vegas.
0:52 (0:13) Passage beneath I-15 marks the finish of the Cajon Pass adventure.
1:03 (0:02) Approaching San Bernardino, lush woodlands, colorful shrubbery, and majestic palms represent a radical departure of the environment of the last 750 miles.
1:05 (0:00) Arrive San Bernardino. Railroad equipment is maintained within large Santa Fe shops, while nicely landscaped grounds encircle vine-covered station.
SAN BERNARDINO, CA - Lying in the heart of fertile citrus country, San Bernardino was settled in the mid-19th century by a group of Mormons who modeled the town after their former home of Salt Lake City.
0:00 (1:03) Depart San Bernardino and traverse Riverside/Fullerton branch of Santa Fe.
0:17 (0:46) Through Riverside, home to March Air Force Base.
0:42 (0:21) Cross the northern end of the Santa Ana Mountains, and descend into congestion of southeastern Los Angeles. One last glimpse of the San Gabriels is afforded to the right where 10,064-foot Mt. San Antonio stands above all.
0:56 (0:07) At Orange Growers Association on left, seedling orange trees await transplantation.
1:03 (0:00) Arrive Fullerton. The Santa Fe depot is a delight. Its pink stucco facade, topped with a dark red tile roof, is further enhanced by unusually large arch-shaped windows and fine grill work.
FULLERTON, CA - Although the city has had its roots in the citrus industry, Los Angeles' growth to the south has now made Fullerton virtually indistinguishable from its much larger northern neighbor.
0:00 (0:34) Depart Fullerton
0:09 (0:23) Pass through the refinery operations and active oil wells of Santa Fe Springs. One of the are's larger tank farms will soon be seen on the right.
0:13 (0:21) Cross San Gabriel River
0:15 (0:19) Cross Rio Hondo Channel
0:22 (0:15) Acres of truck trailers used on piggyback freight trains are assembled on right at the north end of the yards.
0:25 (0:09) Train crosses the Los Angeles River, then curls sharply right. Diesel shops, roundhouse, and its companion turntable are on left where twenty or so Amtrak diesels can generally be counted.
0:27 (0:07) Amtrak coach yard is on immediate left where a gaggle of Superliner cars are stored.
0:29 (0:05) The Los Angeles River, encased in concrete on the right, has followed our route for several minutes. Take note of the old stone bridges that cross over tracks along this section. Their sculpted pilasters are reminiscent of ancient Rome and memorialize an long-gone era of Los Angeles. An excellent view of Los Angeles' cityscape is on the left where the distinctive white-towered City Hall takes center stage.
0:33 (0:01) Curl left off the main line of Santa Fe at Mission Tower.
0:34 (0:00) Arriving Los Angeles Union Station, Dodger Stadium rests atop the hill off to the right, then the Los Angeles County Jail looms on the left just before coming to a stop at Los Angeles Union Passenger Terminal.
LOS ANGELES, CA
Travelers may soon have the option of riding the Desert Wind’s tracks again. Several proposals for a rail link between Los Angeles and Las Vegas, including those by Senator Harry Reid (D-Nevada), have already fallen through, unable to secure the necessary federal funding. Whether Rep. Titus’ plan to resurrect the Desert Wind succeeds, it is clear that legislators in Nevada will continue to advocate for rail service between Los Angeles and Las Vegas.