Our Fall Trek FTW-CHI-SLC-EMY-SLO-SBA-LAX-CHI-SPI-FTW

Discussion in 'Travelogues / Trip Reports' started by F900ElCapitan, Sep 8, 2019.

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  1. Sep 8, 2019 #1

    F900ElCapitan

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    F900ElCapitan

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    Yesterday 9/7 we started our trip in Fort Worth, 22 was on time and we’ve maintained pretty close to on time the whole trip. Our roomette is nice, we’ve gotten a few wiffs of bad odors but they’ve been short lived. The folks in the bedrooms have complained of lav smells being fairly consistent. Our sleeper attendant is Ernesto, so far he’s done his job, but nothing above or beyond. Last night at dinner he was having to go back and forth with the diner attendants and they didn’t seem to be happy. The diner attendants Stephan and Carl have been really nice and the food has been quite good, thank goodness the Texas Eagle won’t have the “new” dining anytime soon. The diner itself is still a Cross Country Cafe. The SSL attendant is one that “needs an attitude adjustment, he’s never friendly. Coach into St. Louis was about 75% full in the first coach, 40% in the second coach and the last coach was closed. In St. Louis they did add the fourth coach and all are now open. The track was nice out of Fort Worth and good from Dallas to Little Rock. North of Little Rock the track is very rough for some significant stretches north of Little Rock, it made sleeping difficult during that stretch but I did get some. North of St. Louis the tracks are great and we’re making good time. I also took a shower downstairs this morning, which turned out better than I expected. Overall, the trip is starting out great!!


    Consist,

    Engine 58

    Transition Sleeper 39026
    Sleeper 32007
    CCC 37005
    SSL 33021
    Coaches 31012, 34107, 34078, 35004(STL)
     
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  2. Sep 8, 2019 #2

    Bob Dylan

    Bob Dylan

    Bob Dylan

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    Overall the Texas Eagle is a much Under Appreciated LD Train as far as the Food and the OBS and T&E Crews go, with a Couple of exceptions!( mostly a few Attitude OBS in the Diner and Cafe and an Invisible SCA ).
     
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  3. Sep 8, 2019 #3

    OBS

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    OBS

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    Thanks for the update.
     
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  4. Sep 9, 2019 #4

    F900ElCapitan

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    F900ElCapitan

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    I agree Bob, the Texas Eagle is a very nice train. I will say one of Ernesto’s attributes, is the restrooms were clean when we boarded and stayed clean throughout the trip. That was a very nice surprise from what I’ve seen in the past in coach and some of what I’ve read here.
     
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  5. Sep 14, 2019 #5

    F900ElCapitan

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    F900ElCapitan

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    Leg 2 CHI-SLC California Zephyr 5


    Had a great stay in Chicago. Ate some deep dish pizza at Lou Malnatis, also ate at Jake Melnicks and others. The food highlight was Bombacignos JC, a deli just south of the Union Station, of which I would highly recommend if you just want a short walk and GREAT food. They by far served the best Italian Beef sandwich I’ve had yet (I was an Al’s guy). We met the owner and he’s the nicest guy, but from the sounds of it I doubt they’ll be in business much longer. As he’s getting older and business is getting more difficult.

    We arrived at the station a bit early, about 9:00am for our 2pm departure with the intent on checking a couple of bags and dropping the rest in the Met Lounge then doing some more sightseeing, the Willis (Sears) Tower to be specific. Our Uber driver didn’t know to drop us off on the Canal Street side so I had to manhandle most of our luggage down the stairs at the Adams Street entrance as both escalators were going up. Yes I was too stubborn to just walk to Canal, don’t ask me why, but probably due to my unfamiliarity with Union Station. Anyway we made our way to the luggage check counter, there were only a few people in line so it went quick and headed to the Met Lounge. Upon arrival the host was barking orders like she’d just got out of the military. Are you checking bags? Uh, no, I already did it (I actually didn’t know I could check them directly from this desk). Then it was, carryon bag room is here, don’t put bags in the isle or sticking out in the isle...Yes Ma’am!!! Be back one before your departure time. Period, end of sentence, direct order. We went to do our sightseeing, ate at lunch and returned to a fairly full lounge, which continued to fill and was full (upstairs and downstairs) by departure time. We returned around noon and the breakfast food was still out, it wasn’t until 12:30 or so did the lunch veggies arrive, but once they did the food was restocked and looked good. Most of the lounge was traveling on our train of course. So eventually we all lined up and proceeded to our train, not before the attendants got some further orders in for people doing it wrong. We loaded into the 533 car, a Superliner 2, bedrooms B & C (so we could open the door and make it a suite) with my wife’s parents. I now know what everybody has been saying about these cars, it looked old and tired. The good part is we were nearly full (filling the last few rooms by Burlington), and mostly sold out for the leg, plus our rooms were re-occupied after our departure in SLC, so if Amtrak didn’t make money on this trip, then maybe it should be shut down, as this train was prime to make money. Dollicia was our SCA, and she was wonderful, even when having to apologize that the upstairs bathroom was INOP. About the only big issue this trip was uneven temperature control. If the bedrooms were comfortable, the roomettes would be freezing. But Dollicia kept here sense of humor and a good attitude throughout much complaining about the this issue. The lounge car attendant was again grumpy at best, I’m not having good luck in the lounge, too bad since it’s can actually be a food money maker for the train. Dinner service was good, our waiter Gerard seemed grumpy at first but we figured out his personality the next morning and then had some good laughs with him and gained some mutual respect. The food was just ok compared to the Texas Eagle, the rolls were served cold and 3 of 4 steaks came out not as ordered (all except for mine), deserts served warm on the TE were cold, just not as good. When the cooks opened up the lettuce in Chicago, they discovered it had gone bad and it was too late to replace. So we had to wait until Denver for new lettuce, thus no salads. A large AAA Travel tour group boarded in Denver, taking up the whole last coach. They seemed to be having a great time but between them, the sleeper pax, and other coach pax wanting lunch it overloaded the diner, and there went the new lettuce, so no salads for dinner the second night either. The ride through Nebraska at night seemed a bit rough, but I think I just woke up during the real rough parts and slept ok for most of the night. I did get up early, to meet Mike Jensen (a really nice YouTube videographer in Fort Morgan) and hopped off to say hi, feel free to watch his video from Sept. 12th, that’s the one I’m in. The real amazing part to the trip is we are 2 for 2 on arriving to our destination on time, I’m amazed. All in all, the trip was again really nice, you can’t beat the scenery and the CZ is a heck of a train with some great people.


    Consist
    Engines 152/170
    Baggage 61062
    Transition Sleeper 39044
    Sleepers 32090, 32076, 32030
    Diner 38032
    Lounge 33009
    Coaches 34001, 31010, 34052
     
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  6. Sep 14, 2019 #6

    OBS

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    OBS

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    Enjoying your continued report!
     
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  7. Oct 5, 2019 #7

    F900ElCapitan

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    F900ElCapitan

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    Leg 3 SLC-EMY California Zephyr 5


    While starting late in the evening, our trip started on time. My wife and I decided to get a roomette again this leg. So that is what I booked at the 11 month out point. Sometime within 5 months roomettes dropped to low bucket so I took advantage of the price drop to book another roomette. I figured this would allow us to sample what many members of AmtrakUnlimited forum have recommended. We boarded car (which happened to be car 32003 the “Edward L. Ullman”) 533 and had rooms 7 and 8 with Ladonna as our SCA. Boarding around 11:30pm was as expected, Ladonna had our beds made, and we settled into our rooms. I did stay up until we were past the Salt Lake but went to sleep quickly after that. The nice thing about this leg is we slept really well, the tracks seemed to be much smoother than the previous overnights and neither my wife or I awakened much during the night. When we did awake it was to a very pretty sunrise flirting with the mountainous dessert between Winnemucca and Reno. My room was on the sun-rise side and I got some nice video as we progressed. We went to breakfast around 8 and I grabbed a shower prior to arrival in Reno. We did hop out for some “fresh air” in the trench, or at least as fresh air is in the trench with little airflow and plenty of diesel exhaust. During the layover I got to meet another gentleman who had stepped off earlier in his in Fort Morgan and also said hi to Mike Jensen, his YouTube name is AmtrakHarry and was a very pleasant person. Next we settled into our roomettes and were able to hop from side to side to try and see the best scenery as the SSL seats were all taken. This arrangement was nice as I had my scanner going and filming was easier without the reflections of the SSL. Climbing the Sierra Nevadas was as pretty as possible. We again got to see the results of the first snowfalls of the year with snow on the highest peaks. This was awesome for us two winter lovers. We stopped at one point for about 30 minutes due to train congestion ahead and a WB train having to pass another and back into the other main track to allow us to pass. The Sierra’s continued to impress and we saw many places, including Truckee and others, we’d like to return to and spend some time. As we were descending and #6 was approaching, we heard through the scanner that #6 departed EMY without a sufficient supply of chicken. So we were called on to stop and provide them some of our extra. That completed, we proceeded towards the Bay Area. Our final operating crew was a lot of fun. Signal calls were highly exaggerated, especially when ‘diverrrrrrrrging” to another track. After Sacramento we went to lunch and my wife and I split a hamburger. It didn’t disappoint even after all the great reviews. Next we were gliding past San Francisco Bay, but the sun was setting and light for pictures was horrible. Then about 40 minutes behind schedule we arrived Emeryville, deboarded, said goodbye to Ladonna, and I made my way to get a rental car. I can say the dual roomette option was a very nice one. If we are able on future trips I think our preference will be either this arrangement or a bedroom. All-in-all another great ride on Amtrak.

    Consist
    Engines 204/124
    Baggage 61055
    Transistion sleeper 39014
    Sleepers 32003 (Edward Ullman), 32045, 32118
    Diner 38019
    SSL 33014
    Coaches 34096, 31005, 34099
     
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  8. Oct 12, 2019 #8

    F900ElCapitan

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    F900ElCapitan

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    Leg 4


    OKJ-SLO Coast Starlight 11 10/21


    So after a bit of a mix up with Hertz on arrival into EMY (the Emeryville Hertz location in the Courtyard hotel closed not long before our trip) we ended up changing our stay the night before departure to the Marriott downtown Oakland. Thus it made departing form Jack London Square much easier. We did have a great stay up in Napa, staying at the Westin Versa Resort and we totally enjoyed everything. We had a couple of tastings reserved, one at Lynmar Estate and the other at Chateau Montelena. Both are outstanding and Chateau Montelena has quite a history, if you don’t know it watch the movie Bottle Shock. We decided to walk from the Marriott to the Jack London Station. It was early Saturday morning and at least at this time we felt very safe making this walk. The train was close to on time into Emeryville, but due to a bit of train congestion (including two Amtrak’s) around Oakland they ended up being a little late, but not bad. We boarded the 1132 car and roomette 5 as we decided the option of having food included would be better than business class for a minimal up charge. The scenery on this trip wasn’t the Rockies but it wasn’t bad. We sat in the sightseer car for quite a while and listened to the Park Service volunteers give commentary about the passing sights, including the San Andres Fault. Soon it was lunch time and I had the mussels, I’ll say I was impressed they were quite tasty and seemed fresh. Soon we were passing Paso Robles and then cresting Cuesta pass and negotiating the two horseshoe curves. The descent into San Luis Obispo is a trip I’m happy to have now done. Soon we arrived into SLO, claimed our large bag and were on our way. All in all another nice trip, if I had to complain, the tracks between Gilmore and Paso Robles were very rough and are in need of some serious attention.


    Consist
    Engines 39/147
    Baggage 61021
    Transition Sleeper 39003
    Sleepers 32043, 32032, 32051
    Diner 38030
    Business Class 34515
    SSL 33046
    Coaches 34006, 34049, 31009
     
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  9. Oct 12, 2019 #9

    Bob Dylan

    Bob Dylan

    Bob Dylan

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    Glad the ongoing Power Outages and Fires in California didnt mess up your great trip°.
     
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  10. Oct 13, 2019 #10

    F900ElCapitan

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    F900ElCapitan

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    Thanks for reading Bob. Yes, we were very fortunate weather wise for our whole trip.
     
  11. Oct 13, 2019 #11

    OBS

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    OBS

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    Great reports, thanks.
     
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