St. Louis Labor Day weekend trip

Discussion in 'Travelogues / Trip Reports' started by John Bredin, Sep 3, 2019.

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  1. Sep 3, 2019 #1

    John Bredin

    John Bredin

    John Bredin

    OBS Chief

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    Having not taken a train trip in a while (other than by Metra around the Chicago area) and myself not having many vacation days to spare at work, my fiancee and I decided to travel to St. Louis over the long Labor Day weekend. She convinced me to use some of my accumulated Guest Rewards points for business class on the Lincoln Service. It was my first Midwest trip in business class.*

    We briefly used the Metropolitan Lounge between arriving downtown by Metra on Friday afternoon and catching 305. There was almost no snack food in the lounge :confused: so we went to the food court for an early dinner, leaving our bags in the lounge's luggage room. We had no trouble bringing our food back to the lounge to eat there.

    When boarding for 305 was first announced, we went down to the concourse to find an attendant telling us to wait for boarding. To be fair, the California Zephyr had just arrived, and I think they didn't want to "cross the streams" of exiting and boarding passengers. We only had to wait a few minutes before they let us board.

    Business class was nice, and I could get used to it. :) The cafe attendant also took care of business class. She told us the rules -- one free soda, unlimited coffee or tea -- and she opened for us a few minutes before announcing to all that the cafe was open. She did the same after each closing for a major station. Nice! The train sat a couple of times as we waited for northbound Amtrak trains to pass, and once outside Springfield for a freight train. The former didn't bother me, but the latter did. I don't think we ever went 110mph. We ended up late at St. Louis, but as I recall not more than a half-hour.

    I won't expound on our activities in St. Louis except to say we stayed at the Union Station hotel. The old headhouse is well-preserved and impressive, and the modern hotel behind it is very nice. Each floor of the modern guest-room wings is themed to an old railroad that served Union Station, and we were on the Pennsylvania Railroad floor. The Pennsy art wasn't just in the common areas, there was Pennsy art and a plaque describing the Pennsy in our room. :cool: The (hourly?) light show in the huge lobby is OK, not spectacular. The hotel has ample room for events in the huge lobby and the old "midway" or station concourse, and both were well-booked including at least one wedding during our stay.

    However, the amenities under the train shed are mostly gone due to extensive construction. The private railcars are still stored out back behind a fence, the Ferris wheel is there but has no gondolas, and only one restaurant (Landry's) is open outside the hotel. And the koi pond is still there, though mostly only hotel guests and Landry diners go past it now. They still do a show with music, lights, and jets of flame in the pond, and you can still feed the multitudes of hungry koi from 25-cent gumball machines of fish food.

    Coming back to Chicago on 304 on Labor Day, we took advantage of the first class lounge due to our business class tickets. It's unstaffed, but you get the door code at the ticket counter. The room was actually pretty decent, no snacks but plenty of cold bottled water, comfy seating, a television with remote so you control it :) and your own one-person clean washroom. I didn't hear 304 being announced, but an Amtrak employee came into the lounge and told us to go to the bottom of the escalator at 2:30 for the 3pm departure.

    Boarding went smoothly. The cafe/business attendant was a real hoot, and she told us the train was absolutely sold out due to the first day for many colleges being the next day. Business class wasn't full at St. Louis, but it was full by the time we got to Normal. We had dinner on the train this time; it was snack food (chicken tenders for my fiancee, a cheeseburger for me), not impressive but OK. I don't think we ever went 110mph, but we got into Chicago juuuust early enough that we caught our 8:35 Metra home and didn't have to wait two hours for the next one. It would've been even easier if the cafe/business car wasn't the farthest from the platform exit. o_O

    All in all, a fun trip.

    *We rode business on a round-trip on the Pennsylvanian, and I rode the Acela years ago in business class from Boston to New York.
     
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  2. Sep 3, 2019 #2

    OBS

    O

    OBS

    Conductor

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    Great report, thanks!
     
  3. Sep 4, 2019 #3

    Eric S

    E

    Eric S

    Conductor

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    Pretty sure CHI-STL is still 79mph max, that the short 110mph zone near Dwight was (temporarily) done away with in the last couple years. Recent articles suggest that the "hope" is to have some 90mph running in place this year or next, with no real timeline for getting 110mph running in place.
     
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  4. Sep 12, 2019 #4

    dogbert617

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    dogbert617

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    Ah, so that explains why going near Dwight didn't seem as fast, as train speeds near there used to feel like. This is at least when I've ridden train #301, the 1st train south to STL for the day which skips Dwight. All that work, including relocating the Dwight station to a new location south of the old Dwight station, for nothing(not faster train speeds sadly).....
     

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