You're welcome. But wait, there's more!
Thu 2/22, on the EB:
Well, that was a nice walk around Chicago! I've heard mention of the Magnificent Mile on this forum, so I thought I would check it out. I worked my way east and north till I got to Michigan Ave, then straight north till I got to the shops. I decided that I always need a belt that goes with blue jeans, so that would be a good thing to “shop” for (and a bonus if I found a good one). I went into Burberry's, because I had heard it was a very nice shop. Checked out the belts – no price tag. I found out that if you have to ask, that means you can't afford it (flings hand in air, purses lips and blows, rolls eyes). After several more “nice” shops, I actually found one I liked, and could afford, at Ann Taylor.
Returned to the Metropolitan Lounge, checked my email, and found an AU message that “Willem” had seen the first installment of this report, and was sitting on the middle level also waiting to board the EB. I went up and met him and his wife. We were enjoying a good conversation when they announced boarding for the train on track #19, and I went to get my luggage. I did not remember ever having been on the odd-number concourse, and needed to ask directions twice to find it. Once settled in roomette #5 in the Portland sleeper #2730, I found that I could not get power from the outlet on the wall. The receptacle was very loose. My wonderful attendant, Janell, called the conductor and we all fussed over it till I got the plug to deliver the juice. If it had not worked, I'd have been switched to roomette #10, right over the trucks (but also right next to the Railfan Window).
I went forward to dinner at 5:30, passing through two Portland coaches, the SSL, and one Seattle coach to get to the diner. I ordered the salmon, which was great as usual, but the baked potato was inedible. To console myself, I got a chocolate raspberry tart for dessert. Not exactly suffering! Just as I returned to my roomette, we stopped in Tomah WI. I got to stare at the headlights of the cars on the road as we blocked it for several minutes. By the time the train spotted twice and then left, the lineup at the crossing gate was about a block long.
We had an interesting event this morning. I woke up at Grand Forks, ND, just about 5am, and it seemed like we were pretty close to on time (maybe 15 minutes late), so I rolled over to go back to sleep till dawn. Seemed like we stopped after that, and stayed stopped for quite a while. At 7am, when they started making announcements over the PA system, they said the Portland coach/baggage had a bad wheel, and we were going to proceed to a place where they could cut it out and leave it. I knew that meant power-out, so I dashed for the shower while others dashed for the diner. They said we'd be disconnected “for about five minutes.” Everyone on the car to be left was instructed to gather all their stuff and move forward a car.
I finished my shower in good time before the power went off, dressed, and prepared to take photos of the process. It took well over an hour to disconnect between the Portland sleeper and coach/bag, pull the train forward past the switch, back the train into a wye, disconnect the coach/bag, pull forward, back up to the Portland sleeper and reconnect it. The conductor put a big red flag on the switch till he was finished, and got down and threw it by hand for each maneuver. When he pulled the flag, I knew it was the last maneuver, but they had to back the train into the Portland sleeper at east five times to get the coupling properly seated. The engineer himself came back for the last couple of tries (not sure who was driving the train, an assistant engineer?).
As soon as the car was fully connected and unlocked, Janell (who had breakfast orders to fill) and I went forward to the diner, only to be told brusquely by LSA Jenny that she had to clean up and get the griddle hot again before she could re-open. My car-mates who had rushed to get there before the disconnect revealed they had been offered only the Continental breakfast, as the diner power had been shut down with all the cars while the decouple/recouple process went on. I was glad there was some oatmeal left for me.
After breakfast, I took my tea to finish in the Sightseer Lounge. A drama was going on there, as a weeping passenger was saying to the conductor that something important had gotten left on the car that was set out. While sympathetic, he was explaining that all he could do was call Customer Service. We passed through Rugby, about three and a quarter hours late. I had a chat on the phone with Hubby, who was following on dixielandsoftware.net. He had clicked on “details” to see what was projected for our train, and reported that they were quite accurate on the delay.
When I first boarded, and I saw the silk flowers and baskets of candy and snacks, I knew we had a good SCA. If she's not attending to beds or passengers, Janell is always cleaning something. The bathrooms are always immaculate. She has at least two passengers that need meal service, and she takes good care of them.
We are climbing imperceptibly across the snowy rolling prairie of North Dakota. When I blow my nose (I'm getting over a cold), one of my ears hurts, and when I open my water bottle, it lets out a little pouf of expanded air. I went to the SSL for awhile to crochet potholders, chat, and watch the snowy prairie scenery. Somebody says they saw a cougar, there have been a couple of coyotes, and a lot of deer. It's late afternoon, sun's sinking low, shadows are blue and the light on the snow is golden. We left Havre, still about two and a half hours late. The “padding” at Shelby helped – but not for long. By the time we left Cut Bank, we were three hours and forty-five minutes late, and I felt we were lucky – as the 10 hour 45 minute late #8 passed us east bound! They had left Essex only 29 minutes late. Conductor is telling folks for Whitefish and Libby that he'll wake them in plenty of time – but no promises what that time will be. What is ahead of us??
I had been conscious as the east bound train passed us that the diner had been empty – really empty, as in all the tables were cleared off (not set up for breakfast). SCA Janelle thought they had suffered equipment issues with the diner, as well as weather issues in the canyon. We continued to sit at Cut Bank for awhile, then began to move forward so I went to bed. Some time later I woke up to find us stopped again, and saw out my window that we had only progressed to Browning. I looked out the other side to find a freight parked next to us, also waiting (I surmised) for the congestion in the canyon to get cleared out. We stayed there for quite a while, and when we finally moved into the canyon, the trip progressed normally. We were about nine and a half hours late at Essex.
By the time we got to Whitefish, it was just beginning to get light. Our crew had “gone dead” (run out of time) at Whitefish. In order to keep the train moving towards the new crew, we continued westward with a BNSF pilot. Close to Libby (our next stop), we pulled onto a siding and stopped. A minute later, the eastbound EB passed our car, having dropped off our crew. As soon as they took over control of the train, we proceeded into Libby. Consist is currently: two BNSF units, two Amtrak units, baggage, transdorm, Seattle sleeper, diner, Seattle coach, SSL, Portland coach, Portland sleeper.
Now we're between Libby and Sandpoint, stopped again. They just announced it's mechanical issues and they are walking the train to find and fix them. Another announcement, from the conductor: “we are a little low on compressed air, and we are talking with the mechanical team to troubleshoot and fix the issues.” The woman in the next compartment was upset this morning that she is going to miss her grandchildren's “sleep-over” party in Portland tonight, but she's a seasoned train traveler and I think she's resigning herself to it now. I'm just hoping against hope they have a spare consist in Portland, and don't put us on a bus from Spokane.
The Kootenai River/Bonner's Ferry area is beautiful! I've only seen it from a car (a long time ago), never in daylight from the train. We saw an eagle on a sandbar, then a little while later a heron. Lots of geese, and lots of deer. As we came in to Sandpoint, we could see the ski runs at Schweitzer Basin. There's a screaming toddler in our sleeper that just wants OFF, and his mother has totally lost patience with him. We were offered three selections from the café car for lunch, with chips and beverage (Will said “pop” but was happy to give me hot tea instead).
I have never, in either direction, seen the track between Sandpoint and Spokane in daylight. It's all pretty farms, snow and blue sky. There are folks out on the lake ice-fishing. The woman in the roomette across that hall was going to meet her son in Portland, and take the Cascades to Seattle with him this afternoon. Instead, she has been re-accommodated (informally, I think) in a revenue room in the transdorm, direct to Seattle. She'll cancel the Cascades leg so she can get a voucher for its value.
We finally leave Spokane, 12 hours and 45 minutes late, still on a train. Whew. They dithered around for an hour about how to configure the engines for the two sections. A couple of “vacationing” railroad people riding our train (one a VERY senior Amtrak conductor from the LA area, named Greg) offered opinions that helped speed up the process a little. I took lots of photos. In the end, they cut out the bad #12 engine, and the Seattle section left with the Amtrak HEPA unit and two BNSF engines. After the Seattle section left, they backed Amtrak engine #177 in for the Portland section, and got it hooked up quickly. Conductor just announced that we are due in Wishram at 8:45, and they will put on Kentucky Fried chicken for everyone at Pasco.
So happy to see Gladys’ smiling face when I alighted at Wishram, a little over 13 hours late. It was too late to start the four hour drive home, so I was grateful for her guest room hospitality. I know this trip report has turned into a saga. No new lessons learned, just a refresher on the basic one: plan to enjoy the journey's adventures, and allow for it to take an extra day. It was a pleasure to meet some special people on the trip: Willem & wife, Janell, Tammy, Amanda, Greg, and more. Pleasant journeys to all!
Photo link to follow, as soon as I can get them posted.