NEWSLETTER NO. 101 Saturday December 7, 2019Download Or View News Letter In PDF Format
NEWSLETTER NO. 100 Thursday September 12, 2019Download Or View News Letter In PDF Format
IN 2020 OUR TOUR DIRECTOR IS
CELEBRATING 55 YEARS OF ARRANGING
AND GUIDING TOUR GROUPS
The owner and tour director of Trains and Travel International is Chris Skow. In 2020 he is celebrating 55 years in the tour and travel industry. Below is a brief account of his life long love and passion for trains and railroads.
HOW IT ALL GOT STARTED MANY YEARS AGO
He became involved in railroads when he was still in high school in Victorville, California. In 1964 at the age of 16 he started to spend his weekends in Cajon Pass taking pictures of Santa Fe and Union Pacific. Then he started to hang out at the Victorville Depot after classes and was allowed to help load and unload the mail on the City of Los Angeles and Chief passenger trains.
During high school he got involved with rebuilding Mojave Northern steam locomotive No. 2 after it was donated to the California Southern Railroad Museum and moved from Victorville to the Orange Empire Trolley Museum located at Perris, California. When No. 2 was moved in a freight train over Cajon Pass Chris was invited by the local Santa Fe trainmaster to ride both steam locomotive No. 2 and Mojave Northern No. 3 down the pass to San Bernardino watching for any problems during the movement. Chris and Bill Garner rode the locomotives as a team. Once No. 2 was back in operation he became it’s fireman and sometimes engineer. He also became more involved with the museum and soon took over the editor’s job for the clubs monthly newsletter, The California Southern Express.
Back up in Victorville during his last year in high school there was a special program with many of the local businesses to sponsor “Seniors Day” in which the seniors took control of the town. Chris was given the job of “Santa Fe Station Agent” at the Victorville Depot.
Also for several years during high school and college he started a program with all of the elementary schools in Victorville, Apple Valley, Hesperia, Adelanto, Oro Grande and George Air Force Base to come into the 4th and 5th grade classes during “Transportation Month” and give a talk and show his movies on railroads. Then he arranged for all of the classes to take a ride onboard Union Pacific’s westbound City of Los Angeles No. 103 Victorville to San Bernardino where they were given a guided tour of the Santa Fe Depot and diesel workshops. Chris would always be the guide for all of the trips down Cajon Pass with the elementary students and then come back with his groups on the school buses. So it was in 1965 where Chris caught the bug for guiding and leading groups on special trips.
Then in 1967 he requested to be placed on the crew for the private rail car Mt. Rubidoux which was owned by the California Southern Railroad Museum and is a former Soo Line open observation business car built in 1927. He worked on this car for a number of runs out of Los Angeles. This further enhanced his enjoyment of working with railfans and folks who enjoyed trains.
While in college at San Bernardino in 1968-69 he was hired by the Santa Fe Railway as a station operator full time with his home terminal at San Bernardino. When classes were in session the railway worked him on night positions over the entire Los Angeles division. During summer vacation he worked day and night positions. His duties included : Train Order Telegraph, Towerman, Ticket Agent, Clerk, and General Agent. Some of the positions that he worked includes: San Bernardino Telegraph, Riverside Tower, Fullerton Ticket Agent, Azusa General Agent, Pomona Ticket Agent, and Mission Tower to name a few.
During his college years Chris continued his elementary school programs, working on the Mojave Northern locomotive, crew member on the Mt. Rubidoux Business Car, editor of the California Southern Express newsletter and finally working for the Santa Fe full time at night. Since his major was in Photo-Journalism and Broadcasting he also took on yet three more jobs: Sports Editor for the Hesperia Reporter newspaper, Sports Photographer for the Victor Valley Daily Press, and the college campus newspaper as Sports Editor and Photographer. Additionally he arranged a number of cross country train trips for many of his friends and professors in college. On a number of occasions he was asked to be the escort. Needless to say during his college years he had very little extra time to get into any kind of trouble. This does explain why almost all of his railroad and train tours are packed full of highlights. Chris is known by his clients as running tours that are packed full of things to see and do. This is his calling card and most of his clients love it. His clients remark that going on one of Chris’s tours you get your money’s worth! It was early morning on September 2, 1969 and he was working the nighttime 3rd trick at Mission Tower in downtown Los Angeles which controls all of the passenger trains coming in and out of LA Union Station. At 5am Bob Larson, a Western Pacific engineer from Portola called Chris to ask if he would like to get on the interview list for brakeman. The only catch was that he had to be in Portola that same day no later than 3pm. The trainmaster was going to hire ten brakeman. Chris said yes, and so when he got off duty at 7am he drove back to his apartment in San Bernardino changed his clothes, packed a few items and headed for Portola some 450 miles. Upon arrival he reported right to the trainmasrter at around 3:30pm. By this time the 10 brakeman were already hired but the trainmaster was so impressed that Chris drove up from Los Angeles that he hired him to be a temporary clerk and crew caller at Portola until a brakeman's job became available. Chris accepted and the next day drove back to San Bernardino gave notice to the Santa Fe that he was just hired by the WP and on September 9, 1969 reported to work for the midnight shift at the Portola depot. The highlight of this job was servicing and watering the California Zephyr which arrived at 7:10am. When it departed one of his duties was to set up the washing racks and make sure the silver lady departed Portola nice and clean. The trainmaster kept his word and two months later gave Chris his brakeman's job.
In early 1970 the US Army draft caught up to him so with Western Pacific’s blessing he enlisted just before receiving his draft notice and in turn was given the job of Army PR Photographer which kept him out of Viet Nam. By the start of 1971 he found himself stationed at the Pentagon as a US Army Public Relations Photographer. This gave him close access to all of the railroads on the East Coast.
His Army job at Washington DC allowed for all of his weekends to be free and in fact most of the time he could arrange either Friday or Monday off and many times both of these days so that many of his weekends turned into four day mini vacations.
With all of this extra time to enjoy the East Coast he joined up with the High Iron Company out of New Jersey as a crew member on their big steam locomotives. During his time with this company he was able to work on the Nickel Plate 759, a 2-8-4 Berkshire and the Reading 2102 a 4-8-4 Northern. He worked a number of excursions with these two large steam locomotives over the Jersey Central, Erie Lackawanna, Reading, Baltimore & Ohio, Delaware & Hudson, Western Maryland and Norfolk & Western Railroads. Other positions that he has held with the High Iron Company was onboard VIP Photographer, VIP Passenger Relations and also worked on preparing some of the cars for the American Freedom Train. A number of his VIP photos were used to promote the American Freedom Train. If all of this was not enough one of the managers for the High Iron Company was an engineer for the Black River & Western in New Jersey. Chris was invited to go to work for this company by this manager as his fireman on No. 60 a 2-8-0 Consolidation and No. 148, a 4-6-2 Pacific.
After release from active duty in Washington DC in 1973 Chris returned to Portola and went right back to work for the Western Pacific. He also started to arrange train tours to South Africa and South America mostly for fellow Western Pacific employees. In the early 1980’s his first ever international tour was to South Africa to see the steam locomotives and ride their trains. This group only had Chris and two other Western Pacific employees. The following year he arranged a tour to Brazil and then back to Africa. Perhaps one of the most exciting tours he arranged in Africa was when his small group of railfans and himself rode the trains from Cape Town, South Africa all the way to Nairobi, Kenya traveling through South Africa, Botswana, Rhodesia, Zambia, Tanzania, and Kenya.
Now fast forward to the 1970’s. Wanting to keep involved in the history of the Western Pacific Chris contacted Mr. Flannery, president of the railroad with suggestions on repairing and repainting the last four F units and again repainting a unit into Bicentennial colors. He also was the hand picked VIP Conductor and based out of Portola to run most of the WP and UP special passenger trains. This was a very exciting change from working the same old freight train assignments. In fact this is how he got to know Mr. Flannery who in turn introduced him to some of the Union Pacific CEO’s , President’s and upper management. Chris was always keen on getting hand picked for any special assignments and one such adventure took place in 1978-79 when he was asked to be conductor on the movie train set for the NBC pilot program called “Super Train” The in field filming was done just east of Oroville. After that filming was complete the director invited Chris to come down to Hollywood and be present at some of the studio filming as an adviser.
Not wanting to let any grass grow under his feet in 1981 he joined the Promontory Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society in Salt Lake City and helped arranged and operate some of their excursions and tours including the Union Pacific steam fleet. With trains pulled by the UP 844 and the UP 3985. This all was in keeping with Chris’s desire to be involved with running train tours.
Next in his desire to seek out new adventures in 1981-82-83 he agreed to be the Conductor Pilot for the Sperry Rail Detector Car tests on the WP. Chris would fly to Salt Lake City a couple of days prior to each Sperry test and would pick-up the detector car from the Rio Grande and then would proceed to assist the Sperry crew in testing the Western Pacific all the way to Oakland including some of the branch lines , Tidewater Southern and the Highline before returning to Utah. The WP scheduled four Sperry Car tests per year and each test took about 30 days. This continued until the Union Pacific took over in 1983 and then canceled the Sperry contract.
The next adventure was getting involved in forming the Feather River Rail Society and the Western Pacific Railroad Museum. Being a founding father for this museum he ended up on the board of directors and started the museum gift shop and the display room and spent countless hours working on some of the rolling stock. He is now the last museum founding father that still lives in the Portola area.
In 1983 Chris helped organized some of the events for the First Annual Feather River Railroad Days Festival and then a few years later joined up with the planning committee for this event. The Railroad Days Festival is what gave him the idea to run a charter passenger train from Emeryville (Oakland) to Portola up the Feather River Canyon for this event. Several trains were run prior to Amtrak’s new CEO canceling most all charter trains.
As if his life was not busy enough every summer from 1974 until 1982 he would go back to New Jersey and put on his overalls and work on the steam locomotives of the Black River & Western as fireman. He would always drive back east and would line up a number of sound movie programs to railroad clubs and groups all the way across the country all the time promoting upcoming train tours that he had on the drawing board. Wanting to keep a very active lifestyle in 1984 he took over being editor for the Western Steam column of the CTC Board Magazine. He kept this column going for several years.
Moving forward into the 2010’s he joined the Central Coast Chapter of the NRHS in Santa Clara and got on the excursion committee to help the club plan and operate train tours and excursions. During his time on this committee he was involved in a number of trips including the ATSF 3759 steam excursion from Los Angeles to the Grand Canyon and return.
To date Chris has been involved in arranging hundreds of charter trains and private rail cars in 47 countries including the USA. According to Chris his passion for working with railfans and folks that love train travel will continue for several more years as long as his health holds out. He hopes to see you on one of our tours in 2020.
WE OFFER EXCITING TRAIN TOURS WORLDWIDE
Welcome to the exciting world of railroads and train travel. We have been offering train tours, train trips, train vacations, and luxury private rail car trips since 1984. Here at Trains and Travel International we love traveling by train and will jump at the opportunity to travel by train or take our vacations by rail. Our staff is made up of professional railroaders both active and retired and railfans that has a passion for railroads and the excitement of an upcoming train trip. Taking a relaxing train tour is very popular.
Our tour director is a retired conductor from the Western Pacific/Union Pacific. We feel it is very important to have active and retired railroaders running our trips by train. It takes a railroader to understand railroad management and how they think and do business.
In the past 30 years we have now offered train tours worldwide in 45 countries. This includes train tours in South America, Russia, Europe, Africa, China, Australia, New Zealand, Asia, Canada, Mexico, Central America and of course the USA. We have chartered hundreds and hundreds of private trains and rail cars in these countries.
One of our most popular tours is train trips out west using the private rail cars. Private railroad cars now allow travelers the option to step back in time and recapture that romantic era of train travel that Amtrak cannot provide. Once upon a time rail barons and wealthy socialites traveled the country on luxurious private railroad cars, dining on fine china and crystal and being pampered by the onboard staff. This form of luxury USA train travel is being offering to everyone at a very reasonable prices.
A small number of folks have purchased and refurbished private rail cars familiar to the first half of the 20th century. This was the golden age of passenger rail travel. These people have spent around a million dollars on each private rail car to bring back this golden age of travel. Passengers can sip on cocktails and nibble on hors d' oeuvres while sinking into deep leather sofas in lounges and vista domes and relax by the rhythm of the train wheels rolling down the track. All meals are prepared fresh onboard and made to order by the onboard gourmet chefs. These private luxury rail cars are coupled onto the rear of scheduled Amtrak passenger trains all over the country. We can run these private rail cars just about every where that Amtrak has trains. This makes up our luxury train tours in the USA. Our first class passengers are separated from the Amtrak passengers by locked doors. We provide our own onboard staff including our chef and make up our own gourmet menus for all meals. All drinks and food is included in the ticket price from the time you step onboard until you detrain. Everything is first class with every detail included. This is USA train tours at it's finest.
We invite you to come take a train tour with us and see just how relaxing and fun Train travel can be. Also be sure and check out our Merchandise page. We sell railroad DVD's, railroad videos, railroad photos, timetables and other railroad collectables.
Types Of Tours We Offer
These tours cater to the dedicated railfans and railroad photographers and are NOT suitable for the general tourist.
These tours will cater to the railfans and tourist with a great mix of rail photography, train riding, scenic locations and sightseeing.
These tours will cater mostly to the tourist but are very suitable for railfans with a large variety of photography and train riding. Special activities and events will be of interest to the railfans.
These tours will cater to the general tourist and their families.
These tours are suitable for everyone and include riding on private rail cars.
TOUR CONDITIONS FOR 2020 **PLEASE READ CAREFULLY**
Tour Price: All tour prices are subject to change without notice, at any time. All prices based on double room occupancy. Those people that use a credit card for payments a 3% convenance fee will be added to the tour price. We reserve the right to change tour prices if necessary without prior notice.
Prices do not include:Personal items, meals not listed in the itinerary, laundry, phone calls, excess baggage charges, rental cars, side tours, insurance, passport fees including visas, vaccinations, gratuities, medical costs, tips to train or motor coach staff, extra tour costs due to unanticipated changes in the itinerary for reasons beyond our control, including weather, travel conditions, or cancellations, government intervention, sickness, political disputes, and failure of transportation or other causes beyond our control.
TRAVEL AND HEALTH DOCUMENTS:A valid passport is required for our international tours. In some cases a visa is also needed. Consult your health professional for the recommended immunizations and documents. Trains and Travel , here on referred to as TT, assumes no other responsibility if a client is refused entry into a country. Cost and cancellation fees will be paid by the client in the event they do not have valid documents.
CHANGE OF ITINERARY:We reserve the right to substitute, alter or modify the tour if any unexpected and unforeseen conditions beyond our control preventing the completion of such. Conditions can include weather, train schedules, equipment, motive power, revision of train consist, train delays, labor strikes, political disputes, derailments, closure of a rail line, break down of railroad or motive power equipment, railroads not honoring contracts and bus equipment problems. We will always endeavor, in each case, to provide substitutes, if any changes take place. TT is not responsible for canceled trains, delays, hotel rooms, route changes or missed connections, for any reason whatsoever. We will not give refunds if such conditions or cancellations take place.
TRAVEL INSURANCE:Travel insurance is strongly suggested. Insurance will cover and give tour members many benefits and protection. Benefits include baggage loss, accident, life, trip cancellation, sickness, bankruptcy, strike, weather conditions, employer termination or layoff effecting you or a person sharing the room with you, terrorist incident in your departure city or city of destination, jury duty, you are subpoenaed, hijacked, or quarantined, your residence or traveling companion residence is rendered uninhabitable, emergency military duty, traffic accident, single supplement upgrade when your room- mate cancels their trip, trip interruption, trip delay, missed connections, itinerary change, emergency medical benefits, medical evacuation, pre-existing medical conditions if enrollment is within 21days of your invoice date, assault of you or your traveling companion before departure, burglary of you or your companion before departure 24 hour hotline emergency assistance, emergency cash transfer and more .
RESPONSIBILITY AND LIMITATION OF LIABILITY:Accepting your payment represents an agreement that you understand all the conditions, to be a member of our tours. TT gives notice that they are acting agents for the owners, contractors and suppliers, providing the transportation and all related travel services and assume no responsibility for equipment problems, mechanical failures, injury, sickness, damage, loss, additional expenses accidental delay or irregularities which may be caused through willful and or negligent acts or omissions on the part of the companies providing or engage in transportation, accommodations or services related to the accomplishment of the tour. Nor do we assume responsibility for natural disasters, social or political upheaval, acts of terrorism or acts of nature. TT reserves the right to substitute hotels, tour leaders, equipment, motive power, trains, onboard accommodations, routes and to alter the itinerary when deemed necessary without notice. The right is also reserved to cancel any trip or train prior to departure for any reason . TT is not responsible for expenses incurred by tour members in preparing for the tour, including non-refundable airline tickets, visa fees, planning, phone calls, or any other expenses. TT reserves the right to decline to accept, or ask to leave a tour, any person whose actions impede the daily operations of a tour, welfare or or enjoyment of other tour members. TT cannot give any refunds for any unused services. The terms contained herein shall serve as a waiver of liability to TT . Assumption of risk on behalf of the client, their heirs, executor, administrators, successors, and assigns for any and all known persons injuries. In many cases it is not possible to advise the passengers on reasons for train delays if beyond our control.
RESERVATIONS: A deposit is due in our office within 14 days after you make your bookings. Full payment is due 90 days before departure except for the Grand Canyon Limited in which full payment is due on a different schedule. You will receive an invoice, reservation form and current tour bulletins with your confirmation and travel insurance forms. No notice for final payment will be sent to you. It is your responsible to make the final payment on-time.
CANCELLATIONS:TT does not accept cancellations on the phone. Cancellations must be received by postal mail, email or fax before any refunds will be considered. Allow enough time if sending your written notice by US mail postal system. When a written cancellation is received in the Trains and Travel office this will be the effective date of the cancellation. Please take note that it can take up to 60 days to to process some refunds. Cancellation refund rules: 120 days prior to the start of any tour you will receive a refund less a $200 per person administration fee. 119 to 61 days before the departure of any tour there will be a 80% cancellation penalty based on the full cost of the tour. Cancellations received 60 or less days before the start of any tour will not receive any refund. GW Travel Ltd has their own cancellation rules and these will apply. If booking on GW Travel Ltd ask for cancellation rules.
PRE-DEPARTURE TOUR BULLETINS:Tour bulletins will be sent to clients that have booked on tours operated by TT . Bulletins include travel info related to the tour. Final documents will be sent out about two to three weeks before a tour begins. We offer tours operated by other companies and they may or may not send out tour bulletins and updates and most send out final documents only one to two weeks prior to the start of their tours.
PAYMENTS: Payments can be made with personal check drawn on a U.S. Dollar account, money order for U.S. Dollars, bank wire transfer, or credit card. We accept Visa, Master Card, Discover or American Express. Final payment for all tours is due 90 days prior to departure and we will charge your credit card on file unless you have given us other instructions. If final payment has not been received 7 days after the due date, a late fee of $50 per week will apply.
SINGLE SUPPLEMENT:All prices are based on double room occupancy. We will try and match you with a roommate if one is available. If not, you may be charged the single room supplement listed for the tour you are booked on. Single rooms may not be available in some remote locations and on some trains.
TOUR REFUNDS:If for any reason tour members amend or delete any arrangements during travel, and leave the tour on their own, we cannot give any refunds on unused portions of the tour. If buses and trains are cancelled by the carrier or there is a labor strike or they go out of business, we cannot be held responsible and we cannot give refunds. Travel insurance will protect you for any of these reasons. If TT needs to cancel any tour everyone will receive a full refund. Please take note that in some cases refunds can take up to 60 days to process.
PARTIAL TOURS:We will allow passengers to join or leave a tour at certain points. Give us a call and we will try and work up a custom option for you.
MILEAGE COLLECTORS:Mileage collectors please take note that TT does not cater just to mileage collectors. We cater to all folks that enjoy trains and Rail journeys. We give strong warning that itinerary and route changes do happen and this is totally beyond our control when it does. If the only reason that you would want to book a tour is to collect the rare mileage, you need to understand that possible route changes do happen.
Questions? Send Email To: Chris@traintrips.biz
Trains & Travel
Portola CA 96122
1-800-359-4870 USA or (530) 836-1944