Ogden’s Union Station

One of the places I wanted to visit on my Trails, Roads & Rails Roadtrip was Ogden’s Union Station. Ogden, Utah is at an important point where the Central Pacific (later to become the Southern Pacific) and the Union Pacific met. There are many other “Union” stations in the United States and it is an indicator that more that one railroad used the building as a passenger station. In Salt Lake City, for example, Union Pacific and the Rio Grande have separate stations (both are no longer used as station but the building still stand). Unfortunately, Ogden’s Union Station is no longer in service as a passenger station.

But the good news is that the building still stands and contains a cowboy, gun, art, and railroad museum. What they have outside is what really attracted me to Ogden: the locomotives and rails cars on static display! Because they were static and not going anywhere, anytime soon, made them great subjects for my sketch books.

When I arrived in Ogden on July 4, the museum was closed but this didn’t stop me from doing my first sketch of Union Pacific’s passenger locomotive, a 4-8-4 FEF-2 # 833 (a sister to the more well known #844) and UP DD40X “Centennial” #6916 (featured sketch). I set up my sketching chair in the shade provided by Union Station and sketched these two locomotives. #6916 is one of the “Centennial” class and is the largest and most powerful diesel/electric locomotive ever produced. UP always does everything a bit bigger to tackle the steep grades on it’s network, like the Wasatch Range from Ogden to Green River, Wyoming.

I have posted some of the other sketches from my time at Union Station. I returned on another day when the museums were open.

Above is a field sketch of the front of a Southern Pacific SD-45 #7457. Southern Pacific will always have a special place in my heart because this was the most likely livery to be seen where I grew up in the Bay Area. This paint scheme is known as the “Bloody Nose” livery because of it’s red front. #7457 worked from Ogden into California, pulling freight over the fabled Donner Pass.

Keeping with Union Pacific’s mantra “bigger is better” I sketched the Super Gas Turbine locomotive #26. This locomotive is basically a jet engine on rails and is also known as the “Big Blow” for the loud noise it generated in operation. This was the class that was designed to replace the world’s largest steam locomotive, UP’s Big Boy. Union Pacific owned 55 of these locomotives, the only railroad in the country to own and operate these powerful beasts. Thirty locomotives (Numbers 1-30) where ordered from 1958 to 1961. These were the most powerful locomotives ever produced, generating 8,500 horsepower! That much horsepower also means an excessive amount of fuel to operate and they were last used in 1970. Number 26 is one of only two of these powerful locomotives to survive.

This field sketch is of the running gear of a class of successful passenger locomotives. Union Pacific FEF-2 #833 is the sister to the Living Legend, 844. 844 was the last steam locomotive purchased by Union Pacific and it is also notable as having never been retired from UP’s roster. Number 833 was put on display in a park in Salt Lake City and it was purchased by the Ogden Railroad Museum and it is the largest locomotive ever transported by truck.


Post 400: A Zephyr Deferred

Zephyr: (n) a gentle wind from the west.

Last spring break I booked a roomette on the California Zephyr, a 2,438 mile journey from Emeryville, Ca to Chicago, Il. This route passes through such cities as Sacramento, Truckee, Reno, Salt Lake City, Denver, Omaha, and Chicago. It is one of the most scenic routes on the AMTRAK network.

Last spring I was going to travel the entire route but then Covid 19 happened and I had to cancel the trip. I knew that this rail dream was deferred and at first chance I would rebook this trip because I have always wanted to travel by rail through the Sierra Nevada and the Rocky Mountains.

The opportunity came in spring break of 2021. Instead of traveling the whole route, I booked a round trip with a roomette from Colfax, Ca (near my mom’s house) to Denver, Co. This stretch includes the most scenic parts of the route and Denver provides it’s own destinations.

On this trip, I plan to do many quick sketches of train views along the route. At California Arts Supply in San Mateo, I got a custom Ronquad which is a 4 by 6 piece of card stock that would be a template for framing each sketch. I used my Ronquad on the featured sketch.

But why Denver and not Chicago? Both cities provide great sketching opportunities but Denver has an edge over Chicago: life birds! I had a few ABA lifers on my list: scaled quail, dusky grouse, American three-toed woodpecker, brown-capped and black rosy-finch, sharp-tail grouse, and the much sought after white-tailed ptarmigan. And while Chicago offers lots of architecture sketching opportunities, Denver has that too but also beautiful landscapes.

The Zephyr stops at the historic Union Station in downtown Denver and I booked a “Pullman” room in the hotel at the station, the Crawford Hotel. I admit this is a bit a splurge but I love the idea of stepping off the train in the evening, after a two day trip, and walking a short distance to my room in Union Station. It seems a throwback to a different era. An era when more people travelled by rail, when the airline industry was in it’s infancy.

As I do before any trip, I do a few sketches to build knowledge and excitement. The featured sketch is from the AMTRAK website for the California Zephyr. This location looks to be somewhere in the Rocky Mountains. I also like to do a map of my future journey. In this case, Train 6, from Colfax to Denver with all the stops in between.

California Zephyr map showing all the stops from Colfax, Ca to Denver, Co.



Before returning to the classroom I took a final summer road trip that took me up north to the state of Oregon, with a slight dabble into Washington.

Ashland, Portland, and the Oregon Coast were all destinations on the  1,824 miles I logged on this journey . In two sketchbooks I completed 22 sketches in the week I spent in the Beaver State (in truth two sketches were done in Northern California).

The three sketches included in this post are all field sketches from Stumptown, or Portlandia, or P-town, aka The City of Roses: Portland, Oregon.


Line sketch of Portland’s iconic Union Station Tower, on the west bank of the Willamette River.


The lumberjack (circa 1959) that is the sentinel of North Portland (NOPO).