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Family takes train out west

Staff writer

Troy and Marla Wiebe of rural Durham took what some would consider a unique mode of transportation on their summer vacation. They traveled by train from Nebraska to California, then to Idaho, and back to Nebraska, visiting relatives along the way.

The Wiebes traveled with their four children: Cody, 14; Trevor, 11; Blake, 7; and Ashlyn, 3. They were gone from July 28 to Aug. 12. They took along their own food.

The Wiebes discovered that many people travel by train. Their train had 10 or 12 passenger cars, each one nearly full. Marla estimated there were 50 people to a car. Passengers varied in age from the elderly, to families, to young people.

The passenger cars had two levels, the upper one for passengers, and the lower one mainly for luggage.

The Wiebes kept their children entertained by walking with them in the aisles and visiting the lounge or observation car where they could sit around tables and eat. Some people used the lounge to work on computers or play cards.

Because of the long distance involved, the family spent a night or two on the train, sleeping in their seats.

Marla said the train ride was rather smooth but the constant stopping and starting at points along the way prevented her from getting a good night’s rest. She said she couldn’t stretch out her legs, another hindrance to sound sleep.

She didn’t like going through tunnels, which were numerous, 43 each way. At one point, they were in a tunnel for 13 minutes. “That was too long,” she said.

Marla said their oldest son, Cody, did not enjoy the train ride. But Blake is fascinated by trains, so he ate it all up.

Although much of the landscape out west was dry, the Wiebes enjoyed the lack of humidity and the cool nights. Marla grew up in California.

“I’ve lived here (in Kansas) for 17 years, and I still miss the climate,” Marla said.

The itinerary

To ride the northern route, the family drove to Hastings, Neb., to board the train. Their first destination was Sacramento, Calif. There were many stops in cities along the way, the biggest being in Denver, Colo.

After 36 hours, they arrived in Sacramento. They rented a car and drove two hours to Marla’s sister’s house in Livingston, Calif.

She got to visit her grandmother, whom she hadn’t seen for more than five years.

During their five days in California, the Wiebes went to San Francisco to ride the cable cars and visited the coast at Monterrey.

“There were an amazing amount of people in San Francisco,” Marla Wiebe said.

The next leg of their journey was from Sacramento to Elko, Nev. There, they rented a van and drove across the border to New Plymouth, Idaho, going through many little towns clustered along the way.

New Plymouth is close to the Oregon border. The Wiebes visited an Oregon Trail museum in Baker City.

While in Idaho, Troy Wiebe visited a fruit grower who supplies much of the fruit the Wiebes sell from their farm every summer and fall.

For the last leg of their trip, the family drove back to Elko and rode the train back to Hastings. They were awakened at Hastings at 3:15 a.m. Given just five minutes to disembark, they groggily gathered up their belongings.

After the train departed, they realized they had left a suitcase on board.

“That was a horrible feeling,” Marla Wiebe said.

They informed the stationmaster of their loss. He relayed the message down the line. Somehow, the Wiebes’ train and a westbound train connected, and the suitcase was brought back to them after a two-hour wait.

They were happy to get home later that day, but they had accumulated many experiences they will never forget, Marla said.

She said she would not want to travel that far again by train but wouldn’t mind taking shorter trips.

“One night isn’t bad, but two nights are too much,” she said.

She said someday when the children are on their own, she and Troy may take another train ride out west. She said it would be more relaxing and provide more opportunity to visit with other people.

Last modified Aug. 25, 2010

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