I drove a friend cross country from North Carolina to San Jose, CA. They were moving for a job. I left them after supervising the move and unpacking process and headed to the train station in San Jose. I was there early so I checked things out and watched the various trains coming and going. I took the Capital Corridor train #734 from San Jose to Martinez, then the #6316 Amtrak bus to Ukiah, everything went without a hitch. This was my first Amtrak bus trip; normally I would have rented a car. I spent two days visiting my brother before heading back to the east coast.
Spent a few hours on the Amtrak bus #6318 from Ukiah, CA to Martinez, CA. I needed to catch the San Joaquin #718 to Bakersfield. Things were fine on the ambus till we reached the Infineon raceway. Ahead of us on CA-38 was a fatal car wreck, we had to wait 1 hour for the emergency to clear. Arrived at the Martinez station 45 minutes after my train left. I was given new tickets and itinerary. I took a Capital Corridor train #551 from Martinez to Oakland. Had a small cheese pizza from the café car, all the places in Martinez close at 6pm. In Oakland I hopped on the #4768 Amtrak Bus for the long ride. This will push my limits of bus riding since its 8 hours more or less, anything over 3 hours I think of as punishment. The bus did stop at 2am for a meal stop at McDonalds, but the lobby was closed and you had to use the drive thru. I wasn’t hungry anyways.
Arrived in Santa Barbara right before 6am, had time to go for a walk. Left Santa Barbara on the Pacific Surfliner #768 at 6:46 am. I rode in business class because the train gets a little crowded toward Los Angles and I thought it best to get a little extra room for myself. The business car was a little worn out but they did have the necessary coffee and snack.
Once in LA, I checked my bag so I could ride the Red Line train to Hollywood. This all went very smooth, made it out and back in no time. I even paid the $1.25 for each way. I had time to swing over to Philipes for a French dip sandwich before going back to the station.
I had planned to be at the station much earlier and did plan on visit to Denny’s but with my itinerary change I now had less time for sight seeing. They were making a film for Warner Brothers and I helped out by getting into some shots of people walking in the station.
LA union station:
I went up early to board the train, was kicked off the platform and then returned later once the train backed in. I am taking the Texas Eagle to Chicago. Parked next to us is a special Amtrak train and car #10031 which is marked as a lounge car. To me it looks a little like a prison car, not sure where this train was coming from.
Left LA Union Station on time, 2:30PM from track 12, more or less. There is one sleeping car for Texas Eagle, 2230. I have room 11 on the lower level, it was a little cheaper to be down rather than up. Either way its fine, the car is last on the train and there is very little traffic up or down. It’s a quiet car. The car itself is old but is doing the job just fine. Lloyd is the car attendant and Jeanine is the dining car stewart. So far the Texas Eagle has the one sleeper and one coach, plus shared lounge and diner with the Sunset Limited.
We only had a couple slow orders and very little freight traffic to contend with it, the train is making good time. Seems like a smooth ride. Went to dinner early, service was good and the food was ok. In Yuma, AZ I got off for a minute, it was 106 degrees; I got right back on the train.
Up early to shower and then pay visit to sight seeing car to watch the sun come up. Once that was accomplished it was on to breakfast for French toast. I found out there was some excitement overnight on the train, one person arrested, I slept through the entire thing. Into El Paso, Texas, 1 hour 20 minutes early. Early arrival has given me time for a walk around station area and it turns out there is nothing really around the station to see. Lloyd made coffee for the car and also has orange juice available. After a long break in El Paso we set off again for San Antonio.
Some kids came into the sleeper to use the rest room or showers but Lloyd turned them away. He is trying to keep the hot water for his own customers. We arrived in Alpine, Texas about 45 minutes early, it was during my lunch but I still had time to eat and get off the train for a walk. Lloyd told me some people upstairs complained about it being warm in their room, he made some adjustments so now down in my room it’s nice and cool. Also, approaching Alpine the toilets would not flush because of the altitude. Which is odd since it is less than 5,000 feet. Lloyd did the reset to get things working again. He showed me how to reset them, but did not leave me the key.
Arrived to San Antonio 45 minutes late due to freight congestion. I walked around town, river walk, Alamo, some shops and Tower of the Americas. The downtown was very busy since it was Saturday night. I returned to the train, they pulled our 2 cars forward, disconnected from the Sunset limited and then plugged us into some outside electric power. The car was only without power for 31 minutes. Went to bed around 1:20.
sleeper in Texas:
Got up early to tour the Disney Christmas Train that was parked next to us.
The Texas Eagle left more or less on time, 7am. We had a cold box breakfast, muffin, fruit cup, raisin bran and a yogurt. We now have the cross country café instead of the dinner which kept on for New Orleans, except of course there is no dinning crew yet since they get on in Austin. At least now it’s a much shorter walk since we are right next to the CCC now. Michelle is the new sleeping car attendant; Lloyd left us at 5am. Now the eagle has one engine, one crew sleeper, one sleeper from LA, one CCC, one sightseer lounge and one coach from LA and two new coaches.
Stopped in Austin, walked around the very small station, took on more crew and plenty of coach passengers. The air conditioning only works for one hour and then shuts off. Michelle then has to reset it, bummer. The tracks north from San Antonio are not as smooth as those coming across the Texas prairie.
In Fort Worth we had a service stop for 30 minutes. The northbound (my train) and southbound Texas Eagles were both in the station. The south was scheduled to depart 20 minutes after we left the station. The heartland flyer was also parked waiting for a 5 pm departure. I had time to visit the station, it looked nice, even the greyhound part. Maintenance came on the train to change the AC filter, hope that fixes it up, it is hot in Texas. After the doors were shut several people came running up the platform carrying Subway sandwiches, they had to reopen the doors for them and then we were off. The train had to back out of the station, and then took a right turn going north.
Dallas had a nice station, plenty of light rail connections if you need it. Train was early here too. We stopped in Longview, Texas, where 23 people boarded our sleeper. Now we had 8 children and 2 infants in this sleeper. The family room had 2 parents and 4 kids cramped in there and they were yelling and screaming all the way to Chicago.
I had breakfast before St Louis, maybe 6:30. They called for lunch at 9:58. I didn’t bother going, that’s a little early for me.
Train arrived Chicago right before 2pm. I checked my bag and went for a 2 hour tour. The wi-fi wasn’t working in the lounge, I tried to use the computer to check on a hotel for my next leg but it must be connected with a 300 baud modem. I thought I used it before without issue, maybe they downgraded the service. Several trains were late getting into the station, but it seemed everyone made connections to the Capital Limited but with only a little time to spare.
I boarded the City of New Orleans around 7pm and finished my meal before we pulled out of the station. Everyone at my table had a steak, cooked to order. I took a poll in the dinner; everyone was going to Memphis but me. The Lake Shore Limited pulled into the station as we were pulling out, on to New Orleans.
The AC outlet in my room wasn’t working, had to get them to reset a circuit breaker. The door for one of the bedrooms broke and they have that room blocked off. Other than that the car seems fine.
I got up early to shower and get ready to step off the train at Memphis. Last time they had a temporary platform out in middle of the country, this time I got to visit the station. I had a bumpy ride to New Orleans, even with a few stops for freight trains we arrived 11 minutes early thanks to padding at the end of the schedule. Anthony the car attendant did not seem to be on the ball so I switched his Jackson to a Hamilton. Dinning car on the New Orleans was my best experience during this trip. In New Orleans I had plenty of time to see the city again, I rode the ferry, the street car, visited a couple places and then it started to pour, so I called it quits and back to the hotel to away departure on the Crescent.
Went to the New Orleans station early just to try the lounge out, it was larger than I thought but still pretty small. The coffee was good. The assistant conductor from the Crescent came to the lounge to escort everyone to the train via Gate A. The security forces checked ID at the gate to slow things down a little. The Sunset Limited was parked waiting for a departure a little later today. The Crescent left on time and we were called for breakfast after 10 minutes. The Viewliner is very nice and everything works, these appear to be in much better shape than the Superliners I had earlier. The dinning car is very nice and has good service. Rob is the car attendant and does a good job checking on things and keeping people informed.
We arrived and left Atlanta a few minutes late. Some people got to the station late or forgot to come downstairs so there was a little delay.
Arrived in Charlotte to complete my trip, train got in 14 minutes early, so that is a nice way to end things. The train then left at a high speed heading toward New York.
Edited by MrEd, 22 August 2009 - 11:30 AM.