San Diego to Toledo and Back Again

Discussion in 'Travelogues / Trip Reports' started by Eric in East County, Jul 16, 2018.

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  1. Jul 16, 2018 #1

    Eric in East County

    Eric in East County

    Eric in East County

    Train Attendant AU Supporter

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    Location:
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    [SIZE=14pt] Eric & Pat Beheim’s AMTRAK Trip Report[/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]San Diego - Toledo - San Diego[/SIZE]​
    [SIZE=14pt]June-July 2018[/SIZE]​
    [SIZE=14pt]Prologue[/SIZE][SIZE=14pt]Once again we purchased our tickets in February to be sure of getting Southwest Chief bedroom accommodations for the dates we wanted. Once our bedroom reservations were confirmed, we booked our Pacific Surfliner and Capitol Limited passages. (Since the Capitol Limited trains out of Chicago are usually filled to capacity during the summer months, we purchased reserved coach tickets to be sure of having seats together.) Once all of our train reservations were confirmed and paid for, we booked our hotel and rental car reservations. This year’s trip would be the ninth time that we’ve traveled from California to Ohio and back using Amtrak. [/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]Following our trip last October, we had purchased select volumes from Steam Powered Video’s Comprehensive Railroad Atlas of North America. In preparing for this year’s trip, we copied those pages needed to create a map of the entire route we’d be following from San Diego to Toledo. (Compared to using a regular road map, tracking the progress of one’s train on a good railroad map is a lot easier, as we later found out.) [/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]Four weeks before our departure, we began a daily log of the #4 Southwest Chief trains’ arrival times into Chicago to see how well they were maintaining their schedules. We needed to be there in time to connect with the #30 eastbound Capitol Limited scheduled to depart at 6:40 p.m. (Missing that train would play havoc with our advance hotel and rental car reservations.) To be on the safe side, we could have stayed an extra day in Chicago and then caught the #30 that left on June 30th. However, we were eager to reach our final destination and, based on our previous experiences with the SWC, felt that the odds favored our arriving in Chicago in time to make that day’s #30. Right after we started our log, both the #3 and #4 trains’ arrivals were seriously impacted by the June 5th collision between a BNSF freight and a work train west of Flagstaff. For the rest of the month, however, most of the #4 trains did arrive in Chicago in time to connect with the #30 trains, although some of them cut it fairly close! (Several of the #30 trains’ departure times appear to have been delayed to accommodate those passengers who had arrived late on the #4 trains.) All we could do was to remain optimistic that our train would arrive in time to make the connection. (To learn how we made out, keep reading.)[/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]Part 1: San Diego, California to Toledo, Ohio [/SIZE]
    [SIZE=14pt]Stage 1: San Diego to Los Angeles (June 27)[/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]A shuttle from San Diego Airport Parking (the long-term parking lot we always use whenever we travel) dropped us off at the Santa Fe Depot in downtown San Diego well in advance of our Pacific Surfliner #777’s 12:05 p.m. departure time. [/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]After examining our e-ticket, the agent who checked our two large suitcases through to Toledo remarked that the Southwest Chief “might not be around too much longer.” Eric responded that we’d been hearing that rumor for 15 years or more, and that the SWC always managed to survive. Seeing that we would also be riding on the Capitol Limited, the agent asked if we had tried the new “box lunches” being offered on that run. [/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]It being a nice day, we opted to wait outside in the Unreserved Coach line. (We ended up being the first ones there.) A moderate breeze coming in from the ocean made us thankful for the light jackets we’d packed along in our carry-on bag. [/SIZE]

    While we were standing in line, we only saw two unarmed contract security guards patrolling the station.

    Eric had expected to be able to pick up a Pacific Surfliner timetable in the station to refer to while working on our trip report. However, unlike previous years, no timetables for any Amtrak trains were available there. (We assumed that most people now look this information up on-line using their smart phones, tablets or whatever.)

    An outside electronic display board gave the current time and date but had no information on the arrival status of southbound Pacific Surfliner #566, which would become #777 for the trip north. We did see our suitcases on a baggage cart that was driven out to the platform at 11:29 a.m., and took this as a good sign. Sure enough, #566 arrived about 7 minutes later. Among the passengers we saw detraining was a large group of Amish folk (or maybe they were Mennonites), including a little boy with a yellow balloon. We wondered if they had been on board the #3 Southwest Chief that had arrived in Los Angeles that morning.

    [SIZE=14pt]Boarding for Business Class started at 11:56 a.m. and Unreserved Coach passengers were allowed to start boarding two minutes later. Although we were first in line and didn’t dawdle as we made our way to where the unreserved coaches were parked, we were soon overtaken and passed by a few individuals in a hurry to find seats. [/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]As soon as we were settled in our seats, Eric broke out his little Uniden SC230 scanner, which is pre-programmed with the American Association of Railroad radio frequencies used by the Pacific Surfliner, the Southwest Chief and the Capitol Limited, as well as the frequencies used by Los Angeles Union Station and Chicago Union Station. Listening with earphones (as he always does) he soon heard Triple 7’s crew talking on AAR Channel 76, the one used between San Diego and San Onofre.[/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]We departed on time at 12:05 p.m. We would be following essentially the same route used by the Santa Fe’s San Diegan in pre-Amtrak days. (2018 marks the 80th anniversary of when the San Diegan first began revenue service between San Diego and Los Angeles.) [/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]About 7 minutes after leaving the downtown Santa Fe Depot, we made our first stop at the Old Town Transit Center located adjacent to the Old Town San Diego State Historical Park. Outside on the platform we saw several uniformed members of Amtrak’s K-9 force with their bomb-sniffing dogs. We expected them to make a sweep through our coach, but they never did. [/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]20 minutes after leaving downtown San Diego, the right-of-way veers off to the northeast over what was the California Southern Railroad’s original line between San Diego and Oceanside, built in 1882. At the western border of Marine Corps Air Station Miramar, the tracks curve back towards the northwest and the coast. We got our first good view of the ocean at 12:40 p.m.[/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]Without slackening speed, we went through Del Mar and then passed the fairgrounds and racetrack. The San Diego County Fair was in progress, and we had a good view of the midway rides and attractions.[/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]After departing from Solana Beach at 12:48 p.m., the engineer radioed, “Amtrak Triple 7 back on a clear track.”[/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]By now, almost all the seats in our coach were taken, and those passengers who got on at Oceanside had to make do as best they could. The air conditioning felt like it was turned up to the maximum, and we were glad that we still had our jackets on.[/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]Departing from Oceanside, someone radioed that we would be taking “the scenic route.” Shortly afterwards, radio traffic was exchanged between our train and southbound Amtrak #572, which passed us at 1:08 p.m.[/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]As Triple 7 was making its way through the sprawling Camp Pendleton Marine Base, we got out the lunch that we’d packed for on the train. We’d been considering having lunch at the upscale Traxx Restaurant located inside Los Angeles Union Station but, after checking the menu prices posted on-line, decided that packing our own lunch would be a lot easier on our vacation budget. [/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]At 1:21 p.m., as we were approaching San Onofre, a Radio Alarm Detector (RAD) reported that we were traveling at 90 miles an hour and that our train had 28 axles. Shortly afterwards, the engineer radioed that he was “going over to 30/30” (i.e. switching to AAR Channel 30 for both sending and receiving.) [/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]When we went by the San Clemente Pier, we observed that the lifeguard station was flying a Yellow signal flag, indicating that ocean conditions were rough, but not life threatening, and the I or “India” signal flag, indicating that no surfing was allowed. [/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]By the time we had departed from Santa Ana, enough people had gotten off so that couples that had had to find seats apart from each other earlier could now sit together. [/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]Approaching Anaheim and the Anaheim Regional Transportation Modal Center, we noted that the large homeless camp along the Santa Ana River that we’d seen last October was gone. [/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]By now, the outside temperature had warmed up our coach to a point where we were able to take off our jackets. [/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]At 2:48 p.m., Eric monitored the automatic voice message from the RAD at milepost 144.45, which put us about 10 minutes out from Los Angeles Union Station. Shortly afterwards, we crossed the Los Angeles River and made a sharp turn to the right. Off to our left, we could see Amtrak’s Redondo Junction coach yard where our Southwest Chief was being readied for its eastbound passage.[/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]To our right, was the concrete channel through which flows the Los Angeles River, now reduced to just a trickle. We didn’t see any giant ants lurking inside the storm drains like they did in that classic science fiction film Them! but did see a homeless encampment consisting of a couple of tents set up under a bridge arch. [/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]We came to a stop at Los Angeles Union Station at 2:56 p.m. only 5 minutes behind schedule. [/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]Stage 2: Los Angeles to Chicago (June 27-June 29)[/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]After descending to the wide underground pedestrian tunnel that connects the platforms with the station’s interior, we went straight to the Metropolitan Lounge elevator located next to the Amtrak ticket counter. After checking in with the attendant and staking out two good seats, we “squirreled away” a few of the large chocolate chip cookies available from the snack bar. (The Metro Lounge in Chicago offers nothing similar and we figured that these might come in handy if we didn’t have time to buy supper there before having to board the #30 train.) Pat then settled down to read the newspaper while Eric set up his laptop and started working on this trip report. Much to his delight, the LA Metro Lounge had a good supply of Pacific Surfliner timetables. [/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]About 5:15 p.m., the Lounge’s attendant informed everyone that #4 had been released from the coach yards and was making its way to the station. Immediately afterwards, red caps with carts appeared at the Metro Lounge’s backdoor for those of us who wanted a lift to the platform. We arrived in time to see our train back in. [/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]Our reservations were for Bedroom E in car #0431. By 5:52 p.m., we had checked in with our sleeping car attendant Paul and were settled in our bedroom. One of the first things we unpacked was the little battery-operated digital clock that we always bring with us when we travel. (Its large red LED numerals make it easy for us to keep track of the correct time at night, after we’ve shut the lights off in our bedroom.) Another “travel essential” that we always carry with us is a small, military-grade flashlight. [/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]At 6:09 p.m., someone radioed, “We’re all locked,” and we departed on time a minute later. [/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]According to the Amtrak timetable, the passage from Los Angeles to Chicago was scheduled to take 43 hours and 5 minutes. Back in 1905, a special Santa Fe passenger train chartered by “Death Valley Scotty” made the run from Los Angeles to Chicago using steam locomotives in what was then a record-breaking 44 hours and 43 minutes. Beginning in 1935, the diesel-powered Super Chief, which made a limited number of stops and had priority over all other trains, regularly made the run to Chicago in 39 ¾ hours. Considering the limitations of the commercial aviation industry back then, it is little wonder that those long-distance travelers who wanted both speed and comfort chose the train. [/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]Diner that night was by reservation. Prior to leaving home, we had downloaded and printed out a copy of the Southwest Chief menu, so rather than wait for a table, we had Paul bring our orders to us in our bedroom. Pat had the Amtrak Signature Steak while Eric had the Griddle Seared Norwegian Salmon. We had also ordered two garden salads, but were informed that, due to a “lettuce recall,” no salads were being served that night. [/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]Since it had been a long day for us, we had Paul make up our bed early. When Eric went to take a shower before retiring, he discovered that there was no hot water. [/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]Eric woke up at 5:45 a.m. while we were still in Flagstaff. #4 was running about one hour and eighteen minutes late due to freight traffic the previous evening. [/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]Unlike Eric, Pat is not a morning person. Her idea of starting out the day is having a leisurely breakfast in bed and then “mellowing” with a cup of coffee. Rather than run the risk of not making it down to the dining car before it closed, we had breakfast delivered to us in our bedroom. Pat had the Scrambled Eggs while Eric had the Cheese Quesadillas, Eggs and Tomatillo Sauce, which he’d first tried when we rode on the SWC last October. [/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]For this trip, our bedroom window looked out from the left side of the train. (On our two previous trips, the window had looked out from the right side.) We asked Paul about this and were told that it all depends on how the train is made up. Since this arrangement gave us a different view of the passing scenery, we didn’t mind it at all.[/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]At 7:17 a.m. we went passed the Chollo Power Plant, which is important enough to be indicated on our railroad map. Seven minutes later, we went by the Wigwam Motel of Route 66 fame, located in Holbrook, Arizona. [/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]At 9:20 a.m., we went passed the Teepee Trading Post, another famous Route 66 attraction located near the Arizona-New Mexico border. Shortly afterwards, Paul came on over our sleeper’s PA system to remind us to set our watches ahead an hour to Mountain Time. (Most of Arizona does not observe Daylight Saving Time, which is why we hadn’t reset our watches earlier.)[/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]We were running about an hour and twenty-five minutes late when we departed from Gallup.[/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]We crossed the Rio Grande River at 11:57 a.m. Shortly afterwards, Paul was back on the PA system to inform us that we would be arriving in Albuquerque in about 10 minutes. He also advised us that it was 103 degrees there and that we should use caution if we were going to be walking around outside. [/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]We arrived in Albuquerque at 12:10 p.m., only 28 minutes behind schedule. During this extended service stop, we walked the length of the train and noted the cars in the consist: Lead Engine 156, Helper Engine 195, Baggage Car 61032, Transition Sleeper 39019, Sleeper 32072 (ours), Sleeper 32056, Diner 38046, Café/Lounge Car 33034, Coach 31029, Coach 31043, Coach 34018 and Coach 34091. (Santa Fe Railroad advertisements of yesteryear would have referred to the coaches as “chair cars” since the seats recline.)[/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]Perhaps because of the heat, there were only two vendors set up on the platform selling “Southwest merchandise” (i.e. Native American jewelry, blankets, pottery, etc.) to the passengers. One vendor had some magazine back issues for sale and Pat bought two of these for 25 cents each.[/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]We departed at 1:05 p.m., 44 minutes behind schedule. (It had been just 24 hours since we’d left San Diego.)[/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]A few miles east of Albuquerque, a large, trackside sign directed our attention to the San Felipe Pueblo off to our left. A few miles further on, a second sign pointed out the Santa Domingo Pueblo. (These signs were originally put up by the Santa Fe Railroad and are still being maintained.) We observed that most of the houses located in the Santa Domingo Pueblo had large beehive ovens in their backyards, which, according to one of our route guides, are still being used. [/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]At 1:39 p.m., we had to stop and wait for a New Mexico Roadrunner train to go by. This put our departure from Lamy about an hour behind schedule. [/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]For us, one of the highlights of a trip onboard the Southwest Chief is the scenery between Lamy and Trinidad, beginning with the passage through Apache Canyon. (We’re big fans of old movies made during the 1930s and early 1940s. It is probably safe to say that most of the A-list actors and actresses from back then also passed through Apache Canyon while riding on the Chief or Super Chief.)[/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]We’re not heavy eaters and, after the large breakfast portions we had been served, opted to wait for the last lunch seating in the dining car. Our table companions were a man originally from London, England and his young daughter. They lived in Arizona and were heading for Chicago to visit relatives. [/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]Pat ordered the Romaine & Goat Cheese Salad, while Eric had the Baked Chilaquiles, which he’d first tried on our trip last October.[/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]At 2:43 p.m., while we were still seated in the diner, we passed the westbound #3 SWC, waiting for us on the siding at Glorieta. (Apparently the train that gets there first is the one that has to wait.)[/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]Back in our bedroom, Eric resumed listening to his scanner. After hearing nothing for over 30 minutes, he began to wonder if the crew was observing radio silence. Then, at 3:48 p.m., a high wind warning was received for the Raton Subdivision between mileposts 681 and 734. Since the outside conditions didn’t appear as severe as indicated, the conductor radioed the engineer to proceed normally.[/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]We arrived in Las Vegas, New Mexico at 3:57 p.m., 55 minutes behind schedule. Our sleeper came to a stop close to the famous Castaneda Hotel dating from 1898. For many years the hotel was closed and surrounded by a chain link fence while awaiting the restoration promised back in 2014 after it had been sold to Allan Affeldt who had restored the La Posada Hotel in Winslow. Last October when we went by it, the restoration was finally under way. This year, it appeared that the restoration is still a “work in progress.”[/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]We departed Las Vegas “on a clear” at 3:58 p.m. [/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]At 4:13 p.m., a RAD reported that we were at milepost 753.6, which put us outside of the area covered by the high wind warning. By now it had started to become overcast, with dark storm clouds off the northwest. [/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]At 4:29 p.m. there was more radio traffic regarding the high wind warning, with the dispatcher informing the engineer that, “You are authorized to proceed at maximum authorized speed.”[/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]At 4:43 p.m. as we were going by Wagon Mound, a RAD reported that the outside temperature was 84 degrees.[/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]Three minutes later, another high wind warning was received for the area between mileposts 703 and 722. Once again, conditions didn’t appear as severe as indicated, and there was no slackening of speed.[/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]At 4:51 p.m. some rain was encountered, but up ahead it appeared to be clear. [/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]We arrived at Raton as 5:39 p.m., 57 minutes behind schedule. It seemed strange not seeing a large contingent of Boy Scouts waiting to board the train in Raton. (Recent wild fires had closed the Philmont Scout Ranch, which wasn’t due to reopen until mid-July.) [/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]As we were making our way up to the Raton Tunnel, we saw a herd of about 30 or 40 elk, grazing on a hillside to our left. [/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]By 6:06 p.m. we had already passed through the tunnel and were in Colorado. (We’d recently read that the east and westbound Southwest Chiefs are now the only daily revenue trains using this tunnel.)[/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]We were only 30 minutes behind schedule when we departed from La Junta. Now that we were out of the mountains, there was every reason to believe that we’d make good time during the night while traveling through Kansas. [/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]Despite having no hot water, Eric went ahead and took a shower, figuring that there would be plenty of opportunities for hot showers once we arrived at the hotel in Findlay where we would be staying.[/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]Once again we decided to call it an early evening.[/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]During the night, the engineer made up some of the time we had lost earlier, and we were only 25 minutes behind schedule when we departed from Kansas City the next morning. [/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]We crossed over the Missouri River at 8:50 a.m.[/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]After the dry desert scenery of the day before, the sight of the lush, green Midwest foliage provided a pleasant change of pace. We noted that this year’s corn crop looked especially promising. Instead of being only “knee high by the 4th of July,” the corn stalks were almost chin high.[/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]At 9:09 a.m., Paul optimistically announced that we were “looking at an on-time arrival in Chicago.” [/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]At 9:59 a.m., as we went through Marceline, we got a quick glimpse of the town’s 1913 ATSF Depot, which was a SWC unstaffed stop until May 1997. The Depot has since been restored and is now the Walt Disney's Hometown Museum. [/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]Because of the anticipated “on time” arrival in Chicago, the dining car announced that it would be having abbreviated lunch hours. We both ordered hotdogs from the children’s menu, which we had delivered to us in our bedroom.[/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]During the stop in Fort Madison, we saw several men seated next to the station in folding chairs. One of them was wearing a Lionel ball cap and we assumed that they were railfans, there to watch the trains come and go. [/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]We departed Fort Madison 36 minutes behind schedule. Within seven minutes, we had crossed the Mississippi River and were in Illinois.[/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]At 12:13 p.m. we had to stop and wait for a freight train to go by. (One of the main lines further to the east was blocked by a crew working on a large bridge.) [/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]We were an hour behind schedule when we departed from Galesburg. [/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]In his books about the great passenger trains of yesteryear, Lucius Beebe describes at length the many deluxe services the railroads once provided to their sleeping car passengers. This included an on-board barber who could give a passenger a shave using a straight razor while traveling at 80 or 90 miles an hour. Although not in the same league as those old-time railroad barbers, Eric, who did not want to arrive in Chicago looking too grubby, undertook to shave shortly after we had departed from Galesburg. Using a modern safety razor, he was able to do so on the moving train without incident. [/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]At 2:17 p.m. the dispatcher radioed, “Looks like you’re going to be held up at Somonauk.” [/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]Shortly after we arrived at Mendota, an announcement was made that the Café/Lounge car would be closing soon. [/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]At 2:44 p.m., just west of Somonauk and only 56 miles from Chicago, we slowed down and came to stop. (Our sleeper was parked next to some large bushes, which Pat identified as wild elderberry.) We sat there for 32 minutes before being passed by a westbound Amtrak train. (The Texas Eagle?) [/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]Back underway again, Eric heard a RAD report that our train had 49 axles, an obvious error since a Southwest Chief with 49 axles would be a physical impossibility. [/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]We were an hour and fifty-five minutes behind schedule when we departed from Naperville. (By now we felt sure that we’d reach Chicago in time to catch the #30 Capitol Limited.) [/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]The engineer even gained back some time between Naperville and Chicago, and we arrived at 4:32 p.m., only an hour and seventeen minutes behind schedule. 50 years ago this week, Eric had passed through Chicago on his way to begin Navy boot camp at the Great Lakes Naval Training Center. [/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]Stage 3: Chicago to Toledo (June 30)[/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]After detraining and making our way through the rush hour maelstrom of people, all hurrying in different directions, we eventually reached the relative peace and tranquility of the Metropolitan Lounge. (Having arrived on a sleeper, we were entitled to wait there until the #30 Capitol Limited began early boarding.) There was even enough time for us to make a quick trip up to the Food Court to grab a bite to eat at McDonald’s. [/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]Early boarding for #30 began at about 6:00 p.m. Once again we opted to have a red cap drive us to where our reserved seat coach was parked at the platform. By 6:20 p.m., we were settled in our seats. [/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]As it got closer to #30’s departure, an announcement was made that this was “a holiday train” and that “we’ll be taking on more people than letting off, so every seat will be needed.” We departed on time at 6:40 p.m.[/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]Shortly after we emerged out into the daylight, we saw a passenger walk down the aisle wearing a tee shirt that read Wake Island University, which we assumed was some kind of in-joke, since Wake Island is restricted to military use. [/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]We were delayed leaving Chicago because the lift bridge over the Calumet River had been raised to let a ship pass up stream. Even after we had crossed the bridge, we continued on at what seemed like a snail’s pace. [/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]Upon entering Indiana, we set our watches ahead an hour.[/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]We were 31 minutes behind schedule when we departed from South Bend. About that time, we decided to share one of the large chocolate chip cookies that we had picked up in the Los Angeles Union Station’s Metropolitan Lounge. [/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]Departing Elkhart, we began traveling over the famous Northern Indiana Air Line to Toledo, which dates back to 1858. (We looked up the term “railroad air line” and learned that it refers to a railroad route that is relatively flat and straight.)[/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]We arrived in Waterloo about 49 minutes behind schedule. Looking off into the darkness to our right, we could see little pinpoints of flashing yellow light. Being originally from the Midwest, we knew at once that these were lightning bugs (aka fireflies.) Seeing lightning bugs again brought back childhood memories of catching them and then keeping them over night in our bedrooms inside glass jars (being careful to make sure that the jar lids had holes in them.) [/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]It was between Waterloo and Toledo that things started to go wrong for #30. We later learned from a conductor that a freight train to the east of us had suffered a ruptured air hose. This in turn threw everything into chaos, resulting in #30 having to make several long stops and then proceed at a slow rate of speed for most of the way into Toledo. We arrived an hour and fifty-seven minutes late. (Those passengers continuing on to Washington, D.C. arrived over 5 hours late the next day.)[/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]While Pat collected our luggage, Eric called for a cab. (When in Toledo, we always use Black & White Transportation to get to and from the train station. Their phone number is 419-536-8294.) We were soon on our way to our hotel in nearby Maumee where we spent the night before continuing on to Findlay (and the long “hotel showers” that Eric was eagerly looking forward to!) [/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]We later checked to see how we would have made out if we had spent the extra day in Chicago and then taken the #30 train that left on June 30th. That train arrived in Toledo five hours and thirty-nine minutes late! All things considered, we were glad that we had trusted to luck and past experience when we purchased our tickets in February. [/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]Part 2: Toledo, Ohio to San Diego, California[/SIZE]
    [SIZE=14pt]Stage 1: Toledo to Chicago (July 10) [/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]Catching the #29 westbound Capitol Limited in Toledo is probably the most stressful part of our trip. If the train is running on time, we need to be at the station by 5:00 a.m. To make things as easy on ourselves as possible, we depart from Findlay the day before and spend the night in Maumee, which is about an eighteen-minute cab drive away from the station. Prior to turning in our rental car and checking into our hotel, we stop by the Toledo train station and check our two large suitcases through to San Diego. That way, we only have to deal with our carryon items the next morning. In order to determine the arrival status of #29, we have our hotel’s front deck give us a 3:00 a.m. wakeup call so that we can log onto the Amtrak website. If the train is on time, we then call and request that a cab pick us up at the hotel at 4:30 a.m. At that time of the morning, there is very little traffic, so even if the cab is a few minutes late picking us up, there should still be plenty of time to reach the station. That’s the scenario when the train is running on time. If #29 is running late, we have to decide on when we need to leave our hotel in order to be there when it arrives, since there is always the chance that the engineer will make up some of the lost time and arrival earlier than anticipated. Missing #29 is not an option for us since we must be in Chicago to catch the #3 westbound Southwest Chief later that day. We never feel totally comfortable until we are safely aboard our reserved seat coach. [/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]For some reason, we both woke up at 1:00 a.m. Knowing that we’d never be able to get back to sleep without first learning the status of #29, we logged onto the Amtrak site and learned that the Capitol Limited was running about 35 minutes behind schedule. We then went back to bed, although neither of us ever went back to sleep. This was just as well, since we never received the wakeup call that we’d requested. We logged back onto the Amtrak site at 3:00 a.m. and learned that #29 was still only 35 minutes behind schedule. We went ahead and requested that a cab pick us up at 4:30 a.m.[/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]The cab dropped us off at the Toledo train station at about 4:45 a.m. A few passengers were already on hand, which was reassuring. Pat checked with the agent on duty and learned that #29 was now running about an hour behind schedule.[/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]Soon, more passengers began to arrive including a formidable-looking couple with two heavy-duty all-terrain bicycles and an assortment of large backpacks, duffle bags, etc., most of which they checked as baggage. [/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]At 6:07 a.m., we saw a loaded baggage cart start off down the platform to where the baggage car should be stopping. We took this as a good indication that #29 would be arriving soon. However, it wasn’t until 6:36 a.m. that an announcement was made saying that the Capitol Limited would be arriving in about 10 minutes. Since it was now light outside, we decided to walk out onto the platform and wait there to watch #29 pull in, which it did at 6:44 a.m. As we were boarding our reserved seat coach, we heard a passenger tell his companion, “This train always late.” We departed one hour and thirty-one minutes behind schedule.[/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]At 7:00 a.m., while listening on Channel 46, Eric heard the engineer tell the dispatcher “Amtrak 29 on 1.” [/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]A good percentage of the passengers in our reserved seat coach were Amish (or maybe Mennonite) families. Once we left Toledo, it seemed like they were continuously going to or coming from the Café/Lounge car, which was coupled next to ours. (We wondered if they had all gotten on in Cleveland, which is where many Ohio Amish catch the train.)[/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]At 7:18 p.m., we passed through Swanson, Ohio. Shortly afterwards, Eric, who had been awake since 1:00 a.m., dozed off and didn’t wake up until we had reached Waterloo. [/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]Just before we arrived in Elkhart, the engineer radioed someone that, “We do have a second person at the head end.”[/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]Arriving in Elkhart, we noted that the track next to station’s brick platform had been removed and that passengers now have to detrain about 25 feet or so away from the station. [/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]Because of a brief slowdown caused by a passing freight train, we were an hour and thirty-three minutes behind schedule when we departed from South Bend. Afterwards, however, we made good time and it appeared likely that there would be no more delays for the rest of the way to Chicago. [/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]While passing down the aisle to return to his seat, an Amish man stopped to speak with someone seated directly behind us using what sounded like a mixture of German and English. We later learned that this is a German dialect known as Pennsylvania German (aka Pennsylvania Dutch) and includes numerous English words. [/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]At 10:12 a.m., the dispatcher advised the engineer that, “The track is clear. Proceed at maximum authorized speed.” (We took this as further proof that we’d be making good time for the rest of the way to Chicago.)[/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]By 10:14 a.m., we were going passed U.S. Steel’s Gary, Indiana steel mill complex. At 10:21 a.m., we got our first good look at Lake Michigan. Shortly afterwards, the conductor advised the engineer that an electric wheelchair needed to be unloaded and that, when he came to stop in Chicago, he should “spot for wheelchair.” [/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]Although no announcement was made, we went ahead and set our watches back an hour to Central Time. [/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]At 9:40 a.m. Central Time, just as we were going passed the baseball stadium, the engineer radioed “Let’s go to 13” (i.e. AAR Channel 13, the one used by Chicago Union Station.) [/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]We had just come to a stop next to the platform when the conductor informed the engineer that he had stopped by a pole and that the train needed to be moved forward an additional two feet. (This probably had something to do with unloading the wheelchair.) Just then a frantic voice broke in, “You’re not clear! You’re not clear! Don’t move the train!” The train stayed where it was. The conductor and the engineer then agreed that our official arrival time had been 9:49 a.m., one hour and four minutes behind schedule.[/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]All things considered, we hadn’t done too badly during the passage from Toledo to Chicago. On December 2, 1967, the westbound Twentieth Century Limited, on its very last run into Chicago, arrived nine hours late due to a freight derailment near Conneaut, Ohio. [/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]Incidentally, neither the Twentieth Century Limited nor the Super Chief ever arrived or departed from Chicago Union Station. New York Central passenger trains used the LaSalle Street Station and Santa Fe passenger trains used the Dearborn Station. Today, only Chicago Union Station survives pretty much as it was during the “golden age” of the long-distance passenger trains.[/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]Stage 2: Chicago to Los Angeles (July 10-12) [/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]As soon as we detrained, we went directly to the Metropolitan Lounge to check in. [/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]After leaving our carryon bag in the Lounge’s self-service checkroom, we went up to the Food Court for a late breakfast at McDonald’s. We then retreated back down to the Lounge to wait until train time. Eric set up his laptop and used the Lounge’s free WiFi to send e-mails to family members to let them know that we had arrived in Chicago. He then worked on this trip report while Pat worked at doing Sodoku puzzles contained in a book that she had purchased while we were still in Findlay. [/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]The air conditioning in the Lounge felt like it was turned up to its maximum and we were glad we had kept our jackets with us.[/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]At 11:03 a.m. and again at 12:55 p.m. a uniformed member of Amtrak’s K-9 force and his bomb-sniffing dog made passesw through the Metropolitan Lounge. Shortly after that second pass, Eric left the Lounge for a visit the men’s room. Just outside the Lounge he saw several men going through two carry-on bags while the K-9 officer and his dog looked on. From time to time, decoys carrying real explosives under their clothes or in their luggage will pass through the station to test the dogs. Perhaps this was one of those tests. Or there might have been some other reason for this search, since the Amtrak dogs are trained to also give alerts for items other than explosives. We never did learn what had been going on. [/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]By 12:00 p.m., the Metropolitan Lounge was filled almost to capacity with passengers waiting to depart on Texas Eagle, California Zephyr, Empire Builder, and Southwest Chief. (Crowded with this many people, the Lounge didn’t feel quite so chilly.) Some of the Amish passengers who had been in our Capitol Limited coach were among those waiting for their trains to be announced. [/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]It’s a rather long walk from the Metropolitan Lounge, to where the Southwest Chief’s sleeping cars are parked. When the call for “assisted boarding” for train #3 finally came at 2:20 p.m., we once again took advantage of this service. [/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]While we were waiting outside the Metro Lounge for a red cap to load our items onto his cart, we saw a woman in an electric wheelchair or rather an electric cart that was fitted with an oxygen tank. (We wondered if this was the same electric wheelchair that had been off-loaded from the
    Capitol Limited that morning.) Included in her carryon luggage was an extra oxygen tank. The red cap loaded these onto his cart as well.[/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]At 2:30 p.m., we finally set off for where the Southwest Chief’s sleeping cars were spotted. [/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]First, we made a stop at sleeper #0330 so that the red cap could unload the wheelchair lady’s luggage and extra oxygen tank. The wheelchair lady had driven herself to #0330 in her cart, and arrived at about the same time we did. The red cap and the SCA then set up a special metal ramp, and the wheelchair lady drove her cart right up into #0330’s lower level. [/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]Our reservations were for Bedroom E in Sleeping Car #0331. Our sleeping car attendant was Cynthia, who had been our SCA on the #3 SWC that we had taken during our 2016 summer trip. Once again, the view from our bedroom window was from the left side of the train. [/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]By 2:35 p.m. we were settled in our bedroom and Eric was listening to the pre-departure radio traffic. Pat, who had woken up that morning with a head cold that hadn’t been helped any by the Metropolitan Lounge’s frigid temperature, was only too happy to (as Gilbert & Sullivan might have put it) “seek the seclusion that a bedroom grants.”[/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]At 2:55 p.m. someone radioed, “Train 3 clear. OK to depart on time.” We departed at 3:00 p.m. “straight up.” [/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]Once outside the station, Eric began picking up radio traffic related to Amtrak’s yard operations. He finally heard our engineer talking on Channel 66, which is the one used by the SWC between Chicago and Aurora. [/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]Shortly after leaving Chicago, Cynthia stopped by to inform us that the dining car was not fully functional, and that it would be offering a different menu “to be announced.”[/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]We arrived at Naperville on time. (So far, so good!) Seated in folding chairs on the Naperville platform were three older railfans who waved at us. [/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]We arrived and departed from Mendota and Princeton more or less on time.[/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]Cynthia, who knew that Pat wasn’t feeling well, stopped by to take our dinner orders so that they could be brought to us in our bedroom. The “special menu” dinner that night was an open-faced steak sandwich with mashed potatoes & gravy, green beans and a small garden salad. (Later, when it was served to us, we found it to be quite good.) [/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]At 5:41 p.m., a passing freight radioed our engineer, “Amtrak, you’re making quite a bit of smoke.”[/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]We were held up in Galesburg by a long freight train and departed 23 minutes late. When the dispatcher radioed our engineer his train orders, he rattled them off so fast that it didn’t seem possible that anyone could comprehend them. Surprisingly, our engineer repeated them back correctly and was rewarded with, “That is a good repeat.” [/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]At 6:58 p.m., we started across the Mississippi River. By the time we reached Fort Madison, we had already logged in 454 rail miles since leaving Toledo that morning.[/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]At 7:33 p.m., we crossed the Des Moines River and entered Missouri. By the time we reached La Plata, we were ready to have Cynthia make up our bed. [/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]When Eric went to take a shower before retiring he found that, once again, there was no hot water. (The next morning, he discovered that we were in the same sleeping car and the same bedroom that we had had on the eastbound leg of our trip!)[/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]We were both asleep long before our train arrived in Kansas City.[/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]During the night, we could feel the vibration of what was a high-speed passage as our train did battle with its twin adversaries: time and distance.[/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]At 6:28 a.m. Eric woke up and realized that our train was standing still. Peeking out through the curtains, he saw that we were in Garden City, Kansas. We were only 8 minutes behind schedule when we departed. [/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]Shortly afterwards Cynthia stopped by to say that the dining car was once again serving its regular menu. (Whatever the problem had been the previous day, it had apparently been fixed during the Kansas City service stop.) Eric ordered the Cheese Quesadillas, while Pat had the Continental Breakfast with extra fruit and lots of hot tea.[/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]At 7:27 a.m., we went by Holly, Colorado, and we set our watches back an hour to Mountain Time.[/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]For westbound passages onboard the SWC, we refer to a vintage route guide originally issued by the Santa Fe Railroad back in 1964. Unlike the modern-day route guides, it has information on just about every little town located along the main line.[/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]At 7:06 a.m. Mountain Time, and despite the early morning hour, we saw two crop duster airplanes at work over the fields to our left. [/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]We arrived in La Junta 19 minutes ahead of schedule. A number of passengers used this extended service & crew change stop to walk about on the platform. These included some of the Amish passengers we’d traveled with the day before on the Capitol Limited. [/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]We departed on time at 8:30 a.m.[/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]Once we were underway, the new conductor came on over the train’s PA system to welcome new arrivals on board. He also issued a strict warning, which he said would not be repeated, about not smoking on the train. If anyone was caught smoking, law enforcement would be summoned to remove them from the train.[/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]At 9:26 a.m. the RAD at milepost 618.5 announced that our train had 48 axles and that it was 78 degrees outside. (This particular RAD was indicated on our railroad map, allowing us to pinpoint our exact position.)[/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]We were only a minute behind schedule when we arrived at Trinidad at 9:49 a.m. [/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]We had perfect weather for the ascent up Raton Pass and were out of the tunnel and into New Mexico by 10:30 a.m. [/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]We departed from Raton on time. 26 minutes later, the dispatcher radioed a 60 mph high wind warning for the area extending from mileposts 712 to 783. The dispatcher also said that if conditions didn’t appear as severe as indicated, the engineer could proceed at maximum authorized speed. This apparently was the case, since there was never any slowdown.[/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]At 11:50 a.m., we went by Wagon Mound. According to our vintage Santa Fe route guide, the town is “named after hill east of track which bears fancied resemblance to old prairie schooner. It was a favorite rendezvous for warlike plain and mountain Indians; scene of many Indian fights and holdups.”[/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]At 12:18 p.m. we went passed the ruins of old Fort Barkley, just east of Watrous. The sky was now partially overcast.[/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]The sky was quite overcast as we approached Las Vegas. About 10 minutes before our arrival, Cynthia came on over our sleeper’s PA system to announce the upcoming station stop. She also mentioned that the Castaneda Hotel restoration project was expected to be done by next year.[/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]We departed Las Vegas on time. (Our expectations for an on-time arrival in Los Angeles the next morning were now starting to grow stronger.) [/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]By 12:55 p.m., we were clear of the wind warning area. 17 minutes later, we began negotiating the famous S-curve west of Starvation Peak.[/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]At 1:55 p.m. we went passed the Glorieta Post Office and began the descent down to Lamy. Just east of Canyoncito, we saw a railfan with a camera, perched on a ledge that gave him an ideal vantage point for photographing approaching westbound trains. [/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]We were delayed at Lamy due to having to wait for the #4 SWC, which was running 2 hours behind schedule. Once we were clear of that, we continued on at high speed. There were now dark storm clouds and lightning flashes off to the southeast. Ahead of us, however, it appeared clear.[/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]A sign for Waldo flashed by at 3:43 p.m. and we were able pinpoint our location on our railroad map. 14 minutes later, we could see dust clouds off to our left.[/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]We made good time the rest of the way into Albuquerque and arrived only 37 minutes behind schedule. [/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]Although still suffering from her head cold, Pat felt well enough to detrain and walk through the Albuquerque station. There, we saw a large party of Amish who appeared to be waiting for a chartered bus. Eric used this opportunity to walk the length of the train and note the car numbers. With the exception of the baggage car, the transition sleeper, the diner, and one coach, this was the same train we’d been on during the eastbound leg of our trip. [/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]Back in our bedroom, the air conditioning felt like it was turned up to the maximum. (Despite our setting the temperature control as far to the right as it would go, our bedroom had been chilly for most of the trip.) We had some tape in our carryon bag and, improvising a vent cover, taped it in place over the air conditioning vent in the ceiling. The room soon became more comfortable. [/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]We departed Albuquerque 29 minutes behind schedule. Shortly afterwards, the engineer radioed the dispatcher our official arrival and departure times:[/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]Engineer: “16:32 arrive. 17:14 depart.”[/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]Dispatcher: “That was quick.”[/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]Engineer: “Yes, ma’am.”[/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]Departing from Albuquerque, we could see large dust clouds off to our left. [/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]West of Albuquerque, we were slowed down by some track work. Then, at 5:50 p.m. the conductor received a “green flag” and we were soon traveling at high speed. [/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]We both ordered the Griddle Seared Norwegian Salmon for dinner that night. [/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]At 7:35 p.m., we went passed Fort Wingate, arriving at Gallup 9 minutes later. We departed Gallup 45 minutes behind schedule.[/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]Although hot water was coming out of our sink faucet, the shower still had no hot water. (The problem was probably in the shower’s adjustable faucet.) Eric went ahead and took a cold shower anyhow before retiring for the night. [/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]Since the dining car would begin serving breakfast at 5:00 a.m., we were up and dressed by 4:30 a.m. It was still dark outside and we had no idea where we were or if we were running on time.[/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]At 5:19 a.m., we arrived in Victorville, 56 minutes behind schedule. Cynthia later told us that there had been a delay at Barstow due to a medical emergency resulting in a passenger having to be removed from the train. (We wondered if that might have been the wheelchair lady.) [/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]We were still eating breakfast when #3 descended Cajon Pass. [/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]All along we had been hoping to arrive in Los Angeles in time to connect with Pacific Surfliner #566, which was scheduled to depart for San Diego at 8:42 a.m. Things still looked favorable for making this connection when we departed from Fullerton at 7:48 a.m.[/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]Shortly after leaving the station, we had to stop for what appeared to be “police activity.” When we got back underway, it seemed like we were just “poking along.” [/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]At 8:19 a.m., Eric monitored the RAD at milepost 144.45, which we know is about 10 minutes outside of Los Angeles Union Station. We gathered up our carryon items and made our way downstairs so that we would be close to the exit door when it opened. Cynthia was already there, and we talked with her about the Southwest Chief’s future. (She was quite concerned that it would be whittled down to an LA to Albuquerque run.) [/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]We arrived in Los Angeles at 8:29 a.m. on track 12. Directly across from us on track 11 was #566, getting ready to board passengers. All we had to do was to walk across the platform![/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]By 6:34 a.m. we were in our seats. #566 departed on time at 8:42 a.m., only 13 minutes after #3 had arrived. We figured that there probably hadn’t been enough time to transfer our checked luggage from #3 to #566. Even so, we were delighted at the prospect of soon being back in San Diego. [/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]Stage 3: Los Angeles to San Diego (July 12)[/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]Once outside Los Angeles Union Station, #566 was soon up to express train speed. (Shortly afterwards, a RAD reported that our speed was 90 miles an hour.) [/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]Quite a few people got on at Fullerton, then even more people at Anaheim, including an Amish family. [/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]We made good time until just after leaving San Juan Capistrano, when we had to stop and wait for a north bound Pacific Surfliner to go by. [/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]We also made a scheduled stop at the San Clemente pier. (Not all Pacific Surfliner trains do so.) When we went by the pier’s lifeguard station, it was flying same Yellow and I flags it had been flying on June 27th when we went by. Further south, a lifeguard station was flying a Green flag indicating calm ocean conditions and low hazard, but that caution still needed to be exercised.[/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]At 10:53 a.m. someone radioed the engineer that a school group was crossing the tracks to get to the beach. The engineer responded that he could see them. (The school group apparently cleared the tracks in plenty of time, since we didn’t slow down.)[/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]As we were going by the Self-Realization Fellowship’s Temple in Encinitas, the engineer radioed the dispatcher what sounded like “Clear Swami.” (#777’s engineer had radioed this same message at about this same point during our northbound trip on June 27th.) The Self-Realization Fellowship was founded in 1920 by Paramahansa Yogananda to disseminate the universal teachings of Kriya Yoga. [/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]When we went by the Del Mar racetrack, we could see that preparations were underway for the Thoroughbred racing season, which was due to begin later in the month. [/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]We arrived in San Diego at 11:16 a.m., only 3 minutes late. As we had assumed, there hadn’t been enough time to transfer our checked luggage. (We were informed that it would be arriving on the Pacific Surfliner due in at 12:54 p.m.) Even so, we went ahead and called for a shuttle pick up. (We discovered that not having to deal with our two large suitcases made the shuttle pickup a lot easier.) Once we had our car, we used our retired military status to drive onto the nearby Marine Corps Recruit Depot to have lunch. Afterwards, we drove back to the Santa Fe Depot, retrieved our two large suitcases, and were soon on our way home, just ahead of the rush hour traffic.[/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]All in all, this had been another good train trip and we were already looking forward to repeating it again in 2019.[/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]Post Script[/SIZE]
    [SIZE=14pt]While we were still in Ohio, Amtrak e-mailed us both surveys asking detailed questions about various aspects of our travel experiences on board the Southwest Chief during the Los Angeles to Chicago passage. For the most part, our answers expressed our satisfaction with how well everything had gone. We had arrived in Chicago in time to connect with the #30 train, which had been our main concern. Our SCA had provided prompt, efficient, and courteous service, and the meals we’d ordered had all been properly prepared and tasty. Other than the fact that there was no hot water for showers, the trip had gone about as well as we could have hoped for. When asked why we chose to travel by train, we both answered that it was because of our dislike of the many inconveniences and indignities associated with air travel. When asked what we liked most about traveling by train, we listed the available of bedrooms, the Metropolitan Lounges & early boarding, hot meals, and the unique experience of traveling across country by train. When asked how Amtrak could provide its customers with a better travel experience, we both answered that it needed to make a better effort to insure on-time arrivals, even though we were aware that most of the delays are caused by the host railroads. How much good our completing these surveys will do remains to be seen, but at least Amtrak is making an effort to gather information on why people choose to ride the train and what onboard services they desire. [/SIZE]

    [SIZE=14pt]As we write this, the future of Amtrak’s long distance passenger trains (including the Southwest Chief) remains in question. Since we intensely dislike flying and are no longer up to driving across country, we are dependant upon Amtrak in order to make our annual trips back to Ohio. Since our congressional representative is on the Transportation Committee, we always make it point to write him after one of our Amtrak trips to let him know how important the availability of long-distance passenger train service is to us. It will probably be some months before we know for certain if we’ll be able to travel back to Ohio by train in 2019. However, we remain optimistic that we’ll be submitting another trip report around this time next year. Stay tuned![/SIZE]
     
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  2. Jul 16, 2018 #2

    railiner

    railiner

    railiner

    Conductor

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    Very nice and thorough trip report...thanks for posting it!

    That westbound Amtrak train you waited for west of Somonauk, had to have been No. 5, the California Zephyr. The Texas Eagle does not use that route.

    When you were concerned about making the earlier San Diego connection on the way home, you could have improved your chances by getting off at Fullerton...but glad it did work out for you... [​IMG]
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 16, 2018
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  3. Jul 16, 2018 #3

    cpotisch

    cpotisch

    cpotisch

    Conductor

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    Thank you for posting!
     
  4. Jul 17, 2018 #4

    MikefromCrete

    M

    MikefromCrete

    Conductor

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    Always a good, detailed report. It always seems strange, however, that the author refers to himself in the third person.
     
  5. Jul 17, 2018 #5

    Tennessee Traveler

    Tennessee Traveler

    Tennessee Traveler

    Conductor

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    Excellent report. I traveled Chicago to Albuquerque last October for the Balloon Fiesta and this year I'll be taking #3 Chicago to Los Angeles and returning on #4 Los Angeles to Chicago. Just one bit of information you might find useful. The knob for temperature in your room only works with the "heat" and has nothing to do with the air conditioning. The only thing you can do is 1) ask the sleeping car attendant to make it warmer, 2) move a vent knob in the AC grill in the ceiling to close the vent(this does not always work thus the 4) recommendation) or as a last ditch effort 4) use tape to cover the vent and also keep the door to the hall closed since there is a AC vent blowing cold air outside every bedroom and roomette into the room.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 17, 2018
  6. Jul 17, 2018 #6

    cpotisch

    cpotisch

    cpotisch

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    Just so you know, that doesn't make a difference when it comes to getting seats together. It just means that you're guaranteed a seat on that train, but not a specific seat.
     
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  7. Jul 17, 2018 #7

    Eric in East County

    Eric in East County

    Eric in East County

    Train Attendant AU Supporter

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    Many thanks to everyone for the advice and suggestions on how we might improve our travel experience.

    On occasion, we have gotten off at Fullerton and caught the southbound Pacific Surfliner there instead of in Los Angeles. Because of the summer crowds and because #566 originates in LA, we decided to catch it there since our chances of finding two seats together would be better. (By the time #566 left Fullerton on July 12th, our coach was pretty much filled to capacity.)

    We weren’t aware that buying two reserved seat coach tickets doesn’t guarantee that we’ll get two seats together. On all of our previous trips, this has never been problem, even on the Capitol Limited trains that we caught in Toledo. We’ve also never had a problem with a #3 SWL arriving in Chicago too late to connect with that day’s #29 train to Washington. (Perhaps we’ve just been lucky all these years.)

    Re: controlling the temperature in our bedroom. We weren’t aware that the little control knob only works for the heat. (In the bedroom we were in last October, the control knob didn’t do too much good in our being able to maintain a comfortable level of heat.) Our SCA had suggested putting a towel over our bedroom’s AC vent, however, our improvised vent cover worked just about as well. Just happening to have a roll of tape in our carryon bag made that possible. Tape is now another one of the “essentials” we’ll be sure to pack in our carry-on bag from now on, along with our digital clock and flashlight. We’re also planning on packing along more layering pieces to wear on the train if need be.

    Eric & Pat
     
  8. Jul 17, 2018 #8

    cpotisch

    cpotisch

    cpotisch

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    To clarify, a few trains offer "unreserved coach seats," which are valid for valid for travel on any train of a given route. So for example if you have an unreserved seat on a Keystone from PHL to HAR, that ticket is valid for travel from PHL to HAR on any Keystone train that day.

    However, the vast majority of trains do not offer unreserved coach, and instead offer reserved coach, which just means that you are ticketed on that particular train and are guaranteed a seat. Where you actually sit and whether or not you have seats together is completely unrelated. They will try to seat groups together, but there's no guarantee.

    Hopefully I didn't explain this in a needlessly complicated way!
     
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  9. Jul 18, 2018 #9

    Tennessee Traveler

    Tennessee Traveler

    Tennessee Traveler

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    Glad to offer some suggestions. Regarding the heat, I traveled on the Zephyr in October a couple years ago and when I got cold the second night, the sleeping car attendant told me the next morning that Amtrak had not turned the heat on in our car so there was no heat. He did say if I had said something the night before he would have provided a second blanket. Outside temperature was such that lack of heat was not a problem during the day time or even the first night out of Chicago. By the way, Amtrak did give me a small(I think $50) e-voucher when I complained to them. I'm traveling the SWC late October to and from Los Angeles from Chicago. Hopefully, cars will be comfortable.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 18, 2018
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  10. Jul 12, 2019 at 8:21 AM #10

    dogbert617

    d

    dogbert617

    Lead Service Attendant

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    Do you know where online, you found that 60s Santa Fe Railroad route guide? It's too bad how nowadays, you no longer find the route guides for each route, that used to be available on Amtrak's website till something like 5-10 years ago. :( At least I did manage to find the old Amtrak Empire Builder route guide(including talking about towns and places EB doesn't stop and passes through), when I did a little searching online. And printed that out, just before I started my recent Empire Builder trip to Glacier National Park.

    Great writeup, and I really enjoyed reading through that!
     
    Last edited: Jul 13, 2019 at 4:57 AM
  11. Jul 12, 2019 at 2:30 PM #11

    Eric in East County

    Eric in East County

    Eric in East County

    Train Attendant AU Supporter

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    We found that route guide on eBay. We also have an earlier one from 1930 which has information on all of the Santa Fe RR's passenger routes.
     
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  12. Jul 13, 2019 at 4:58 AM #12

    dogbert617

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    dogbert617

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    Ah, I see about the 1960s guide. How did you purchase the guide that was from the 1930s? Was that also from ebay, or some other store?
     
  13. Jul 13, 2019 at 3:50 PM #13

    Eric in East County

    Eric in East County

    Eric in East County

    Train Attendant AU Supporter

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    We found that on eBay, too. Its title is BY THE WAY. Look under Santa Fe Railroad: Paper items. Scans of some of these vintage route guides are also posed on-line.
     
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  14. Jul 15, 2019 at 5:51 AM #14

    dogbert617

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    dogbert617

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    Thanks. I had a weird thought deep in my mind that both guides were from ebay, but wasn't 100% sure.
     

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