Back from my random visit to Chicago, I did a one night stay to test the conditions of Spirit Airlines and had no fixed plans. Per the advice of this board I booked a roundtrip to Joliet as a points run. I happened to arrive in Chicago hungry and tired so scrapped siteseeing plans temporarily. I got a Italian Beef at CUS and noticed I was right at departure time for a northbound Hiawatha. Lunch bag in hand, I queued for a ticket agent and had my transaction completed just as the boarding announcement was made, was told to sign on board and run for the train. The plus of this was that I did not have to deal with the line/mob atthe gate.
Had a greasy lunch onboard and an ontime arrival into Glenview. Got some ice cream track side and was the only person to board the southbound. The air conditioned comfy seat was exactly what I needed after a late night and a morning rusg to the airport. I arrived back in CUS with plenty of time to catch 305, finding the boarding gate was somewhat difficult as I had never been in the southbound part of the station and there were seemingly boarding lines everywhere. One of the most chipper conductors I have encountered welcomed me aboard and soon a very empty 305 was off. Joliet is just at the edge of Chicagoland so most of the rail journey was industrial and the number of intersecting track crossings clearly showed me how Chicago can grind rail transportation to a halt.
Joliet was scheduled to be just over an hour, I wandered away from the station and through a deserted downtown to the river and eventually found my way into Harrah's, not the smartest choice of the day, and back to the station. Joliet Union Station is a very interesting and grandeous building that is not being utilized well. There seems to be no staff for Amtrak or Metra, just an unhelpful security guard. Restrooms were locked and pay phones removed and it was hot inside so I waited 10 and then 20 minutes on the platform. I appearently looked like I knew what I was doing and became the station host of the night, got peppered with questions from a few folks that I think I intelligently answered with the help of the schedule.
Several BNSF freights rolled through as well as the last Metra of the night until my hour plus delayed 304 rolled in. The other waiting passengers becaome increasingly frustrated and uncomfortable. My fourth Amtrak boarding of the day was not a joyful one, I was tired and not pleased about spending 90 uninformed minutes on the Joliet platform.
Lessons learned are do not attempt to to max out the AGR rules purely for the points, don't expect stations to have basic amenities, and even corridor trains can be late. The rest of the Chicago visit was pleasant and Spirit is not so bad if you adjust expectations.
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