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19,000kms zig-zagging across the USA and Canada, April/May 2018

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First thing, for the non-metric: 19,000kms is about 12,000 miles.


PHL to WAS - Wednesday 25 April (ANZAC Day in Oz and NZ).


The most complex and involved travel usually starts in a more prosiac fashion. That task was performed by Pennsylvanias SEPTA, which I boarded at Croydons modest suburban station for Phillys grand and spacious 30th Street icon.


Id convinced my kind cousin, who had hosted me for a few days after arriving from Oz, that getting to my 30th Street 0935h NE Regional to Washington would be more easily and less stressfully done by train than car. Like many who were not users of rail, it hadnt figured in her calculations, but she and her spouse agreed to give it a go.


As we awaited the trundler to take us in, a couple of NERs went by, one north and one south. So too did an Acela, but a wee bit faster.


I think they saw the benefits of taking the train over battling the I95 morning city-bound traffic. I know I did, having had a couple of experiences of that road over the few days I was there.


Suburban trains are suburban trains around the world - unglamourous but sturdy and faithful workhorses. This one did everything it should, accommodated scads of passengers as it made its way to town, and had on-board ticket-sellers. The one we dealt with was bright, helpful, and cheery. Good on her, and a good start to the day.


We arrived in good time to allow us to look around at the stations main hall. I reckon it was the first time theyd seen it despite being long-time residents of the area, and remarked how special it looked. They were right, and the renovations will make it look even spiffier.


We parted in sufficient time for me to have a quick check-in at the Acela Lounge, and then get the lift down to the platform from there, rather than stand around in a queue by the escalators in the main hall.


The lounge attendant was good value as well, so a double good start to the train day.


My attempt at arranging connectivity for the trip proved to be unsuccessful, and the AT&T SIM card Id had recommended to me by a helpful CSO in Philly was not driving my mobile wifi, and so I couldnt use my tablet as a locator. Id already calculated Id be unable to use any of the devices Id organised: a GPS and a radio receiver. I was in a two and two seater rather than a roomette for the first Amtrak ride, and it was long odds Id be on a window, so I prepared myself to go old school and just look through the glass and amuse myself in other ways.


I saw I was right upon boarding, with all the window seats occupied. As I neared a rather less densely-settled part of the carriage, my way was blocked by a big bloke who told me the rear part of the car was all booked. I had a quick glance about and saw they were all Masters of the Universe types, with a couple in uniform, so I made an appropriate tactical retreat. No point in having my visa revoked just three days in, eh?


I sat on the aisle seat next to a woman was was in full business mode - making an importamt telephone call to arrange an appointment, then pulling out a laptop and working away at what looked like - I wasnt spying, honestly, its just I have very active peripherals - a policy document about engaging migrant workers on fair employment provisions.


Good on her, I thought: my mate Karl and his mate Friedrich would be well pleased.


Across the aisle was another woman, similarly engaged in business - making many calls, and keyboard-bashing, sometimes simultaneously. Above her head was a stuck-on sign advising that she was in an Amtrak Crew reserved seat. I never feel I shouldnt listen in to a loudly-conducted telephone conversation in a public space right next to me, so I got the view that she was doing middle-management budget stuff, and negotiating with colleagues about responsibility demarcations.


My goodness, Im glad Im out of that sort of caper.


But I also thought: where can I get such a sign? It could be a handy addition to the travel kit.


Meanwhile, the MOTU crew behind me, all crisply dressed and short hair-cutted, continued rebuffing hopeful new boards, at the same time as having conversations about whether Breeze was better than Brady, and whether the best of the Manning brothers was Cooper.


Amtrak woman must earlier have been advised that it was the Secreet Service which was the particular cadre the MOTU bunch was from as she turned to one of them to ask him questions on behalf of her son who was hoping for a summer internship. She said her son had been advised he was a possibility of getting a gig in the Los Angeles office, but hadnt had any official word, and hed much prefer New York anyway.


Some response was offered by one of the MOTU, but in the manner of someone who wants to neither be held accountable for the advice, nor for the conversation to continue much longer.


To take my mind off in-carriage matters, I sought to direct myself to matters outside. For example, I got a good look at the real life sets from The Wire as we passed through Baltimore, and remembered what a fab show that was.


All too soon we were in Washington around 1130h and then It was time to see if I could have a bit of a look around the nations capital before catching Train 29 at 1605h.


(NER Train 185 on 25 April was pulled by loco #629)

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WAS to CHI Train 29 - Wednesday 25 April.


Ahh, the real deal - an overnighter! And with a diner, although who knows for how much longer. As AU had forewarned me of this perfidy, I was unsurprised when later that day, LSA Nathan approached our table at the end of our meal to tell us of the possibility of the diner being removed, and exhorting us to join the campaign to save it.


But that’s a bit later in the story.


I had a bit under four hours to have a look around Washington, so I decided I’d jump on the Big Red Bus. It was a good tour, and because I jumped off at one point to look at a museum I was interested in, then back on another, I had two guides. Both were good, but the first, a young woman, was great. Well done her. I gave her my kangaroo pin as I left in appreciation.


Not long into our trip, we were stopped for a motorcade. As the two lead limos were flying USA and French flags, it was a fair chance one of the cars’ inhabitants was M. Macron. Either that, or someone in the protocol office had made a bit of a blue and it was some other nation’s representaive. But my money was on it being Emmanuel.


We had a bit of a tour of Washington’s many important institutions and attractions, and I figured I could jump out at the Spy Musem as that sort of thing is a bit of an interest of mine. I was going to tell the MOTU crew on Train 185 of this, but I believe correctly assessed that anyone who approaches someone who he suspects of being a spook and says he himself wants to be a spook, automatically disqualifies himself as unsuitable to the spook industry by doing so.


I was a bit rushed and didn’t see all of what was on display. But I do still remember my cover: I am Sandra Miller, I am 62, I am in the clothing business, I live in Australia, but I work in Innsbruck Austria. Oddly enough, I was raised in Chatsworth Illinois, and I am here for work for a period of ten days.


I think I can pull off that cover without a single vulnerability under questioning, don’t you?


Anyway, the Spy Museum is great fun, but I had to dash. Even then, I had to bail from the bus close to the station and make like a pedestrian as it was clear the bus was not going to get there on time.


I made it with a few minutes to spare only. I’d stashed my bags in the Acela Lounge and made myself known to the front counter woman when doing so, including providing my departure details, so my re-entry was smooth.


With the kind assistance of AU participants, I was well briefed about boarding procedures and had my key documents out to show SCA Larry. “You’ve done this before,” said Larry. “Not quite,” said I.


Again, briefed beforehand on this very forum, I easily found my roomette, sorted myself out in the room, stashed my unneeded bag downstairs, and then got my geek stuff out. I still didn’t have internet connectivity, so I fired up the GPS and the radio receiver to see if I could keep track of where I was.


The ride out of Washington goes through some lovely rolling country - there’s scarcely a bit of flat track. The track surveyors and engineers had to put some hours in, I’d reckon. And we still benefit. It’s marvellous country to ride through.


I’d had the Washington Acela Lounge CSO ask me to select a dining time, and SCA Larry as well as LSA Nathan also checked. Triple-check! So at the appointed time, I made my way to the dining car and awaited seating assignment.


I’m travelling solo, which is always fun for those managing seating assignments based on pairs, but I was the third to sit down at a table already occupied by Joe and Joanne, of Minnesota, returning home after a trip to Florida and Cuba. And just as we were being acquainted, Nathan wanted to reassign, pulling me out and bringing in a pair in my place. But when he picked up the demurrings of Joe and Joanne who were not easily going to let go of their exotic catch, Nathan relented.


Nathan then found another solo: Valerie from Chicago, who was returning home from a conference in Washington.


So there we were, a complete four, all having a good time conversing over a meal a fair bit better than I’d feared after reading some of the AU offerrings. I had a salad, a steak, and had my first go of a pecan pie.


Nathan then approached us with his request to enjoin the campaign. All four on the table are of a progressive bent, so I reckon Nathan will have a few more active sympathisers.


Larry put down the bed at the agreed time, so I had a go at going horizontal. I sleep easily and in all sorts of circumstances, and I don’t mind a shaky bed, so I did fine. I awoke before dawn, and had a bit of a look to see where we were, to discover we were quite a bit behind schedule. It was no odds to me, but I discovered it was to my later breakfast companions.


I hadn’t quite got the GPS to identify exactly where we were, so I can’t say for sure where we were when I took some shots of what is an abandoned set of grand brick railway buildings, including a quite magnificent roundhouse. Someone’ll know, I thought.


I worked on my GPS a bit and got it to have a display I was comfortable with and changed it back to kms from the miles, or perches, or roods, or whatever it was that iI’d changed it to the day before in order to make it a bit easier to understand. And I got it to show north as a constant rather than spin me around the compass like crazy whenever it changes direction. I’m much happier with it now.


At breakfast, my table companion was another solo, a woman called Indra, from Indiannapolis who was getting out before Chicago for the drive home. She was in an NGO relating to environmental health and was returning from a meeting with the EPA in Washington where she’d made an oral presentation. She was going home to write to formal report and lodge it.


Then two other women joined: Celeste and Maria, both now resident in Baltimore, but originally of Rhode Island. They were nuns going to Chicago for one reason, only to discover they were now going there for a funeral of a colleague nun. The train’s delay meant they were sadly a chance to miss it, and they were disappointed in anticipation of that transpiring.


We all had a good old interchange of views, and again, thankfully, we were all at the progressive end of the spectrum.


In between all of this, I thought I’d have a go at grits. I’d heard of it. I’d heard some people even waxed lyrical about grits.


I have to tell the truth. Grits is porridge. I was born in Scotland and I know what porridge is. Grits is a different grain, rather than oats, but it’s porridge. Nothin’ wrong with porridge: five million Scots will happily attest to that, and there’s nothin’ wrong with grits either.


But it’s porridge.


By now we were more than an hour late, but we made up a bit of that time as we neared Chicago, but still not enough for Celeste and Maria. I hope they got to participate in some of their colleague’s funeral.


Off the train, and into Chicago for an overnight in a static bed.


(Train #29 was pulled by lead engine #7 and supported by #51.)

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If some kind forumite can point me in the direction of how to attach pix, I’d be grateful....

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Hi Sandra,


A nice start to your tour. I was first imagining that Masters of the Universe folk might be some comic book convention thing, quite fun to be sat next to Spiderman, or better still, Wonderwoman!


Grits are strange, I found them a bit like I imagine wallpaper paste might taste. Strange to think of porridge on the same plate as the eggs and bacon. Had rice porridge in Singapore, that was not a great meal either...


If the Chicago Union Station is destroyed by a thunderbolt in the next few days, you can bet the nuns did miss that funeral... :D


I post my pics to facebook, then just put a link to them on AU, they show up ok. I know it is possible to host them on AU, but maybe they need to be a small size?


Looking forward to the next instalment.



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CHI to LAX (Part 1) Train #421 Friday 27 April.


I did a bit of connectivity sorting-out at AA&T upon arriving in Chicago on the morning of 26 April - thank you Eddie at the Corporate office - and so now it looks like Im sorted.


Id left my bags at the Metro Lounge prior to doing this, then thought because Id packed all I needed for overnight in the wee backpack I was carrying, Id leave them in the Metro Lounge baggage area overnight, and pick them up in the morning. Little did I know.....


I checked in to my Chicago digs for the night, then went for a bit of an explore. Id previously bought one of the Go (Insert name of city here) passes and already knew I wanted to take an Achitecture Cruise, so Iooked up where it boarded and had a walk there. Chicago had already resonated with me in its similarity to my home city of Melbourne. It too has a proud post 1880s architectural tradition. It is of similar population size, as multi-cultural, high-cultural, sporting, and as well-served for eating places. I think you could drop me into Chicago and Id feel right at home.


Except for remembering to look the right way before crossing the road. That bit still gets me.


So architecture tour completed, I took another route back to the hotel to let some folk back home know I was still alive and well.


Nice wash, nice sleep, then back into it for departure day, today, Friday 27 April.


But as that wasnt until 1345h, I figured I could get back to the Metro Lounge, find a hole-in-the-wall bank to get some more local cash, re-sort my baggage, then take a bus tour around town.


Nicely timed arrival back to the station after a short walk only to find I was bag-less. I usually only move to Oh no! Ive been robbed!, as a last resort, because I believe Murphys Law is the cause of more issues than malfeasance.


Then I saw the sign that theres no overnight storage, and checked in with the CSO at the desk. She told me its likely at Lost Luggage, so I went there, and with the good gaces of Chicago Station staff, and my Oz passport, had the bags in my possession without much delay.


I left the woman who brought them out to me from the storage my small gold kangaroo pin which she deemed sufficient recompense for her troubles. I didnt reckon there were many kangaroos in Chicago, so itd have some curiosity value to her.


Bags re-arranged, and re-stored in their previous Metro Lounge home, it was time to find some money, and a bus pick-up point.


The place I choose for the hole-in-the-wall actually had a series of internally-located machines which is always better. I tried one card but it was rejected as too foreign. I tried the other, and got to the stage where it asked me how much I wanted, and even allowed me to specify the denominations. Im on here, I thought, only to be asked for my PIN again, which after entry, was rejected.


And a second time.


I know enough not to try a third because I didnt want to risk it being swallowed, then having to try to deal with the bureaucracy in a foreign country to have it restored and returned to me given I was on the road. So I had a bit of a play with my on-line accounts and eventually worked out it was a lesser number PIN than the number of digits I use for my Oz domestic cards.


Try number three was successful, and armed with more dosh, I sought out the bus tour stop. It was right next door, and I boarded shortly after.


It was a good look at the CBD from another angle, and its timing fitted in neatly with station return-time to get ready to board #421 for the trip south, then west.


Im now pulling out of Joliet, six minutes behind schedule, and looking forward to the next phase of the trip.


(Train 21 is being pulled by loco #18 with #151 in the lead.)

Edited by mcropod

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Thanks for your entertaining and informative travelogue! Wonderful to be "armchair traveling" along with you.


To post pix, go to "more reply options." Below the box, you'll find a "browse" button. Use it to find and upload your photos, then use the "attach this file" button in the dialog box where you wish the photo to be placed. Works best if your photos fit a normal screen (I like to make mine 800-1000 pixels wide, depending on how tall they are).


I like to preview my posts to see that the photos work well in the layout, and that I have not make any horrible typos.

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Pic one of three of the abandoned railway building seen out of the north side of Train #29. Im sorry I cant state where I took it as I had no access to my maps.


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And on behalf of all Aussies, Id like to thank the good citizenry of Chicago for putting up a statue in honour of Australias highest mountain!


Edited by mcropod

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I like to preview my posts to see that the photos work well in the layout, and that I have not make any horrible typos.

Many thanks, I followed your instuctions and the proof of their effectiveness is above!


I also check for typos, sometimes less successfully than others. But the forum’s occasional blanket omission of correctly-applied possessive apostrophes is doing my pedant head in :-)

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Enjoyed your report! I’d say that grits isn’t porridge anymore than haggis is scrapple (some may disagree!)


Edited by JRR

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Thank you for a very interesting travelogue. The old brick buildings were from the Martinsburg, WV shops of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad.

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Thank you for a very interesting travelogue. The old brick buildings were from the Martinsburg, WV shops of the Baltimore and Ohio Railroad.


Many thanks MMA, I knew someone on here would be the full bottle!


Now I can put a place to them. It’s a terrible shame to see such fabulous well constructed pieces of infrastructure worked on and in by many people for such a long time, and still in apparently PDG condition from the outside, left abandoned and forlorn.

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Enjoyed your report! I’d say that grits isn’t porridge anymore than haggis is scrapple (some may disagree!)

Them’s fighting words!


But I take your point :-)

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So I had a bit of a play with my on-line accounts and eventually worked out it was a lesser number PIN than the number of digits I use for my Oz domestic cards.


I don't understand. Do you mean that the card had a PIN with n digits, but the ATM only accepted m digits, where m is less than n? If so, did you enter the first or last m digits? Or something else? Thanks.

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CHI to LAX (Part Two) Train #421 Saturday 28 April


The ride south of Joliet took me past a section of the Old Route 66, which - for old codgers like me - was the inspiration for a seminal song. So when I realised it was the old Route 66 alongside the tracks for a few kilometres, I got my kicks.


A nearby fellow sleeper passenger was difficult to ignore. She sounded exactly like Tiffany Doggett from Orange is the New Black. She was engaging with everyone she could clap eyes on, but in a way which alerted me that I should keep mine down.


Later on she got a bit difficult with the SCA and the LSA when she’d misunderstood the evening meal protocol and assumed that her assigned dining time was when someone would deliver her meal to her room.


With a level of patience well beyond me, both those members of staff attended to her particular menu desires with remarkable style. she wanted the crab cake, but not the steak, and explained her complex dietry preferences. I reckon the full carriage was up to speed with things in very short order.


My dining experience was much less complex. At the assigned time I went to the diner and was seated alongside Louie and Gary from Ann Arbor in Michigan who were on their way initially to Dallas. Louie was going to attend a reunion of folks who had worked on F-111 aircraft. She had also been posted to a USA airbase in the UK, and so was familiar with my Brit-influenced Oz-idiom and vocabulary.


So she did some translation, most notably when I was asked for my drinks order and I asked for a Ginger Beer, to the confusion of the dining attendant, until she and I worked out that it translates as Ginger Ale in the USA. Then I remembered that that’s what that version of the drink is also called in some parts of the UK.


So that sorted, we had a chat. They were making their first train trip, at least Louie was, on a bit of travel which would take them eventually by road to San Antonio before flying back home.


We were in the last sitting, and the car was sparsely occupied, and we ended up just as a trio.


Louie had also been a long distance truck driver, mostly in the western half of the USA, so had seen a fair bit of the place.


We had a very pleasant exchange as we passed along the way into St Louis a bit behind schedule. We were disappointed we did not see the arch, but I assume it was out there somewhere.


Crossing the (Missouri?) river was a bit special, before Louie had to jump outside for a cigarette break. As someone who knew what it’s called in the UK, Louie was happily knew she could call it a **** break in front of me without causing offence.


It sure was news to Gary, though.


We agreed to try to find each other at breakfast, and settled on 0800h as the arrival time.


I was able to return to my roomette, and then thought - with the train stationary at St Louis - it’d be a good time to have a shower.


As forewarned by this forum, it wasn’t a surprise to find the shower room chokka with towel storage. SCA Toya came by and cleared things up enough. But I couldn’t get the shower to work, even when all the power was working and I could hear the engine operating.


I let Toya know and she then escorted me to the shower in another car, but as we were passing Room A she directed me there as the room had not yet been sold, and told me to use that one. It worked.


The central part of the push-button in the first shower was missing, so I thought that might have been what was wrong. But I guess I’ll find out tonight.


Sleep was slup, and I woke up just before dawn in Arkansas, to find we were still about two hours down. That’s no worry, I thought, it’ll give me a chance to see that state which otherwise would be well gone in the dark of night.


I also got some comms from my partner Niki at home. My football team, Melbourne Victory, was playing in a semi-final against A-League runaway winners Sydney FC, in Sydney. The winner would play Newcastle Jets in the Grand Final for the Championship, and the winner would hold the trophy affectionately known as the toilet seat because of its design.


The first advice was that Victory was 2-1 up at the end of the ninety minutes, but five minutes of added time were to be played.


The second message was that Victory had scored an own goal in the 90+5th minute to send the game into extra time.


So I was now able to find a minute-by-minute online comms courtesy of The Guardian newspaper’s Oz edition, and that, combined with comms from Niki, took me through the last half-hour.


Three minutes from the end of ET, and just before the dreaded PKs would be needed to split the sides, the bloke who scored the og to make the score 2-2, scored in the right net this time to put Victory ahead 3-2.


In the nailbiting, hope history can’t repeat, remaining minutes of the game, we both held our breath.


Then the FT whistle sounded and Victory advances to the GF!


So I’ll need to do it again next week. The toilet seat could again be ours.


Fittingly, as the game was almost won, the train went through Hope. For the next several minutes I took the train’s horn to be a celebration of the win.


It was now 0800h and time to check out the diner. Louie and Gary were there, but the other two spaces were occupied, so I sat at an adjacent table and passed on the good news of the Victory win.


Shortly, Kathy joined my table, then Leo, then James.


I’d spotted Kathy in the roomette over the aisle, and she me, so we weren’t complete strangers. Kathy is returning home to a small town in Texas after a visit to Chicago. It was her first train trip. She had a bad first leg with a derailment and time on a bus instead, so wasn’t thinking good things about the mode of travel.


I hope the return journey, which seems to me to be going just fine, helps her recalibrate the value of riding the rails.


Leo came in next. He is a retired aircraft designer, and has been all over the USA as a consequence. He too is returning home to his Texas hometown, leaving the train at Forth Worth.


Leo and Kathy were very interactive conversationalists and the time passed quickly over bacon and eggs breakfast.


James was more circumspect, but we did elicit that he was on his way to LA after returning home to western Kentucky for a wedding. As he didn’t have a new bride with him, we assumed it wasn’t his. Unless of course, things had gone very badly and it was over before it began.


James was a salesman in LA, and his quietness (which never needs a reason, nor for which he owes anyone an explanation) may have been due to taking time away from the sort of interaction a salesperson must do daily, or because he was giving us a forty year start and was of a different demographic. Whatever it was, he was up and away very quickly.


We three remaining continued our chat for a while, then Louie and Gary’s dining companions departed and later so too did mine, so I slid across for another catchup with them before the diner staff cleared us out for the midday set-up.


We’re now approaching Dallas at least ninety minutes behind. Listening in to the radio traffic, I heard one track controller say something along the lines “I wished I had a good idea to tell you, but I don’t yet have an idea about how to manage this train.”


I’m confident someone eventually will, so I’ll just look out the window until it’s done.

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Route 66 (nearest camera). The first carriageway only is in use as a two-way road. The second carriageway is defunct. The new replacement is on the other side of the water.post-14273-0-79446100-1524941171_thumb.jpeg


Morning in Arkansaspost-14273-0-43578200-1524941268_thumb.jpeg


Railway junction south of Texarcana in north west Texas. I cant now locate it on the map, but it has Sandy as the first of a two word location name. post-14273-0-82144200-1524941357_thumb.jpeg


The A-League Championship Trophy, affectionately called The Toilet Seat by fans: https://goo.gl/images/AmSFWf

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Your East Texas town is Big Sandy!It isnt!😄

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"Crossing the (Missouri?) river was a bit special, before Louie had to jump outside for a cigarette break. As someone who knew what it’s called in the UK, Louie was happily knew she could call it a **** break in front of me without causing offence."


That reminded me of a UK friend who was rescued injured from a road accident in the states. He was asked by the medics how he felt, and attempting to put on a brave face, he replied that he would be fine after a bottle of beer and a f-a-g... Oops!



Edited by caravanman

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It's the Mighty Mississippi River that's crossed in St. Louis.


The Missouri is a Big River also, and you run along side it when riding the Missouri River Runner Trains between St Louis and Kansas City.It runs into the Mississippi and helps it become even bigger on its way to New Orleans!

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Your East Texas town is Big Sandy!It isnt!

Too true! Many thanks for identifying it for me - I was looking in the stretch on the other side of Longview, and I also had the Sandy part as the first rather than second word. No wonder it was an unproductive search!


It wasn’t big, but it was a bit sandy, I thought :-)

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"Crossing the (Missouri?) river was a bit special, before Louie had to jump outside for a cigarette break. As someone who knew what it’s called in the UK, Louie was happily knew she could call it a **** break in front of me without causing offence."


That reminded me of a UK friend who was rescued injured from a road accident in the states. He was asked by the medics how he felt, and attempting to put on a brave face, he replied that he would be fine after a bottle of beer and a f-a-g... Oops!



Two nations separated by a common language, an observation attributed to both George Bernard Shaw and Winston Churchill.


I did tell a story at last night’s dinner table about how much better flavoured second day soup is compared to first day, which involved a swaggie (Oz abbreviation of swagman - a bloke who wanders the country on foot) carrying his pack, called a bluey. In Oz idiom, it’s the perfectly innocuous and safe for children expression: the swaggie humping his bluey.


I saw Louie stifling a giggle, and then she explained.

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Loco #18 was taken off at Fort Worth.


I didnt have my ears in to suss out why, and SCA Toya seemed to be caught unawares, so it seemed like it wasnt a usual move.


Were now being pulled by replacement #131, and still led by #151.


From this pic of #151 at Chicago, it looks like its seen a bit of action.post-14273-0-77320200-1524955042_thumb.jpeg

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CHI to LAX Train #421 (Part Three) 28 and 29 April


Dallas yesterday was a very short stop, we being so far behind schedule. We were just minutes at the platform before off again.


After the news of earlier that morning, I had a little smile when we passed through the Dallas suburban railway station of Victory almost immediately after getting underway again.


Fort Worth was scheduled to be a longer stop, and it was confirmed was still going to be long enough to be a smoke stop. I thought I’d get some air and check out the temperature.


It was a nice warm sunny day and I had a conversation with Toya who told me she was a little too warm in her uniform, and as a Chicago native, not so used to such heat. In response to another passenger’s query about how much longer we’d be at the station, Toya replied likely minutes only.


I’d spotted we were without our two locos, so I mentioned that to Toya, who expressed surprise as she’d not noticed them being removed. She had been dealing with another passenger matter and it had completely escaped her attention.


If we were going to catch up time, it wasn’t going to be at the Fort Worth stop.


Eventually two locos appeared farther up our track. Loco #151 was still our lead, but it seemed loco #18 had been withdrawn and replaced by loco #131.


While all this was happening, Toya assured me the shower had been checked and was operational, so I should be fine this evening.


When we got underway again, we were still ninety-five minutes behind schedule.


I farewelled Kathy as she disembarked at Cleburne, from where she said she’d drive to her small town a short drive west of there.


Some parts of the world have very regionally-specific domestic farm animals. If you see them, you couldn’t really be somewhere else. Scotland’s Highland Cattle, locally known as ‘hairy coos’, are an example. So it was with happy surprise when I saw what I recognised as my first observed Texas Longhorn near Morgan. I spotted only a couple more farther on, but I was glad to have caught them in 3D.


At evening meal time I was seated the first of four, joined shortly afterwards by Bobby from Maryland, and mother and daughter Dianne and Abby from San Diego.


Once my foreignness had been established, Bobby said she’d been to Australia. By her description, that was a bit on an understatement - she’d travelled extensively through all the states and territories except for Western Australia. She’d been to Tassie, the Barossa wine region near Adelaide, up the centre to Alice Springs and Uluru (the preferred name for what once was known as Ayers Rock).


She’d been across to the Daintree Forest in far north Queensland, seen Sydney, Melbourne, and travelled on Victoria’s Great Ocean Road.


Bobby was familiar with much of our native wildlife, which reminded me that I still had some Oz coins in my wallet, each of which has a native animal on the reverse side, so I brought them out to the table for a pass-around.


The smallest denomination coin, the five cent piece, has an echidna on the reverse. That’s the animal which introduces me on this forum. Echidnas are regular visitors to my home, and the one in my pic climbed its way to my front door, up the steps in pursuit of ants, then had difficulty getting down.


All attempts to handle it resulted in the echidna going into defensive posture, rolling itself into a tight ball in the corner, and leaving only lifted spikes as its surface.


The only way we managed to return it to its bush gully opposite the house was to lay a blanket on the landing, await it unrolling itself and confident enough to walk across the blanket, before raising the blanket off the ground by each corner. The now entrapped echidna, supported from below, was quickly taken to the gully, and allowed to walk off the blanket at its own pace, calmly back to its bush home.


It is a regular visitor, but never before to the front door.


Dianne and ten year old daughter were keen to see the coins and hear of the animals, and I promised to show them a little video on my ipad of the echidna on an earlier successful ant-eating exploit.


Dianne is a vet in San Diego, returning home after a reunion of her Penn State classmates. She’d been in the ROTC and had subsequently served in units across the USA during her four year’s service.


Dianne was a seasoned rail traveller and took an annual LD trip.


I’d mentioned the fine folk at AU had provided advice about the upcoming San Antonio stop and the ability to experience the Riverwalk, and Dianne said she too would like to do it, so we agreed we’d do so as a trio.


After passing by the huge airport right next to the train track, and crawling into San Antonio at not much more than walking pace for several kilometres, we finally reached the station still behind schedule, but not so much as to make a visit unfeasible.


We’d been advised by new SCA Armando that we’d need to be back by midnight, or be shut out of the train until formal re-boarding at about 0200h. We later discovered this wasn’t quote right, but operated on that basis and kept our visit short.


There was clearly a sizeable fiesta going on, but winding down. There were cop cars and officers all over the road in as we walked, halting cars and giving pedestrians preference. This was marvellous - we were being directed to jaywalk by smiling, welcoming, officers of the law!


We easily reached the Riverwalk, by now likely much less crowded than only an hour before by the looks of things, and had a good meander around. I was the appointed photographer for mother and daughter pix, and they subsequently picked up some souveniers from one of the outlets.


That same outlet also sold boomerangs, much to my surprise. I suppose the patent Australia’s Indigenous population had taken out 40,000 years ago had expired and it was now in the public domain.


We made it back, with the kind assistance of the police-initiated compulsory jaywalk, by midnight, to find our sleeper nowhere in view. Another Amtrak officer told us the earlier advice was not correct, but that we could board the lounge car an await the return of our sleeper.


So we did, and after an hour, I went to see if it was on, walking through three coach cars each containing passengers in various forms of horizonticalty, to find our sleeper now attached.


I made the three-car return journey through the jumble of legs and passed on the good news, whereupon we three went in procession through the snores of the comatose and the bleary stares of the half-awake back to our rooms.


Toya was right - the shower was fully operational, so I did the deed then went horizontal myself. I don’t remember the train moving off.


I awoke at 0815h, looked out the window, and saw the scenery had dramatically changed. We were unquestionably in desert country. I was now on the south side of the train because the locos were pulling us in the opposite direction to our arrival. The bad aspect was I’d have the sun in my face much of the way, so not so good for photography.


The good aspect was I’d have Mexico in view.

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