Eric & Pat's 2021 Trip Report: San Diego-Toledo-San Diego

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Eric in East County

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East San Diego County
Here’s our report for this year’s trip. Enjoy.
Eric & Pat




Prologue

Because we had to cancel our train trips back to Ohio in 2019 and 2020, we could hardly wait for 2021 to arrive so that we could set our vacation dates and purchase our Amtrak tickets.

At the beginning of 2021, the Southwest Chief and the Capitol Limited were only offering a limited number of departures a week. Although we assumed that they’d both be back to daily departures by the summer, we went ahead and arranged our travel dates based on this reduced service schedule.

To be sure of getting bedrooms on the Southwest Chief for the dates we wanted, we purchased our tickets very early in January. Even this far in advance, the coveted Bedroom E’s (which offer the smoothest ride) had already been booked on both our east and west-bound trains, and we had to settle for two Bedroom D’s.

Our SWC tickets were purchased using a combination of cash and the e-voucher that we’d been issued when COVID-19 forced us to cancel our 2020 trip. Our Pacific Surfliner and Capitol Limited tickets were purchased using travel points. The PS round trip Business Class tickets cost us 7760 points, and the CL round trip Coach tickets cost us 6248 points.

It was only after our e-tickets had been received and printed out that we made our hotel and rental car reservations.

In April and May, we both received Pfizer-BioNTech COVID-19 inoculations making us, theoretically, 95% protected against contracting the virus while we were traveling.

The day before our departure, we received e-mails from Amtrak with links to the site where we were to go to submit our pre-trip check ins for the passages from San Diego to LA and from LA to Chicago. These took us less than a minute each to complete and we immediately received acknowledgements that we were checked in. (To be on the safe side, we printed out copies of these acknowledgements to keep with the printed copies of our e-tickets.)

This year’s trip would be the tenth time that we’ve traveled from San Diego to Ohio and back on Amtrak.

Part 1: San Diego, California to Toledo, Ohio
Stage 1: San Diego to Los Angeles (June 29)


Our rail adventure officially got underway with our arrival at the Santa Fe Depot in downtown San Diego. (We consider the Santa Fe Depot to be our “home station,” since all our rail trips begin and end there.)

When we arrived, the station was not particularly crowded. Most of the people we saw were wearing masks, but a few weren’t. The Depot’s security consisted of a single, unarmed contract security guard.

When we went to check our one large suitcase through to Toledo, we learned that the Santa Fe Depot is no longer handling baggage. Instead, we were told that we would have to take our large suitcase along with us on the Pacific Surfliner and then check it in Los Angeles.

In the past, PS passengers would queue up outside in two lines: one for Business Class and one for Coach. This year, only Business Class passengers were allowed to queue up outside. Coach passengers had to wait inside the Depot.

Since the earlier you get into line, the closer you are to the front, we got into line almost an hour before our train was due to depart. That early, the platform was deserted, and we ended up being the first ones in line.

As it got closer to the time when southbound Pacific Surfliner No. 564 was due to arrive, an Amtrak agent appeared to open the heavy metal gate which keeps waiting passengers from wandering out onto the trolley tracks which must be crossed in order to get to where the trains load and unload.

A little over three weeks before we were scheduled to depart, we’d received an e-mail from Amtrak advising us that the Santa Fe Depot would be testing “zone boarding” for our Pacific Surfliner train #777, and that we would be receiving a new e-ticket that had our assigned zone number. When the new e-ticket arrived, it indicated that we had been assigned to Zone 1. When we informed the Amtrak agent that we were in Zone 1, she told us that “zone boarding” didn’t apply to Business Class passengers.

Pacific Surfliner No. 564 arrived at 11:16 a.m. Once all of its passengers were unloaded, it became No. 777 (Triple 7) for the trip north.

Incidentally, “Triple 7” is also the designation of the runaway freight train that Denzel Washington and Chris Pine attempt to stop in the movie Unstoppable. (Perhaps the scriptwriter came up with this designation from having ridden on a #777 Pacific Surfliner.)

Boarding for Business Class started at about 11:49 a.m.

When we boarded, the conductor told us to stow our big suitcase on a downstairs luggage rack as “luggage on the floor will be removed from the train.” By 12:00 noon, we were settled in our seats, our smaller carry-on items were in the overhead rack, and our little Uniden SC230 scanner was powered up and tuned to the channel that Triple 7’s crew was using. We’d also gotten out the annotated route map that we’d assembled using pages copied from Steam Powered Video’s Comprehensive Railroad Atlas of North America and which shows the entire route that we’d be following from San Diego to Toledo.

We departed on time at 12:05 p. m. Shortly afterwards the scanner reported “Triple 7 high balled and running.”

Once we were underway, and after sanitizing our fold-down trays, we got out the brown bag lunches that we’d packed for on the train. Shortly afterwards, an attendant came by passing out Business Class complementary snack packs containing hummus, cheese spread, almonds, brownie crisps, crackers, a beef stick, and dried apples. These we saved in case we wouldn’t be able to grab a bite to eat in Chicago before having to board the Capitol Limited. (A wise choice as it turned out.)

We got our first good view the ocean 33 minutes after departing from downtown San Diego.

Although most of San Diego County was experiencing a heat wave (it was sunny and almost 90 degrees when we’d left home that morning), along the coast it was overcast with temperatures in the low ‘70’s. Even though it was a weekday, the beaches and campgrounds were fairly well crowded.

Without slowing down, we went through the upscale beach community of Del Mar, passed the Del Mar fairgrounds & racetrack, and passed a control point identified on our railroad atlas map as “Crosby.” This designation was undoubtedly a nod to actor/singer Bing Crosby who’d lived in nearby Rancho Santa Fe and who’d been closely involved in planning and building the Del Mar Racetrack back in 1937.

By the time we departed from the Solana Beach station, our Business Class coach was almost full. As far as we could tell, everyone was masked as per Amtrak requirements.

As we were going by the Self-Realization Fellowship Temple in Encinitas, the engineer radioed the dispatcher, “Clear Swami.” (The Self-Realization Fellowship was founded in 1920 by Paramahansa Yogananda to disseminate the universal teachings of Kriya Yoga.)

At 1:18 p.m. just north of Oceanside, a trackside Radio Alarm Detector (RAD) reported that we were traveling at 88 miles per hour, that our train had 28 axles, and that there were no defects.

About a mile south of the San Clemente Pier, we saw a beached sailboat laying on its side in the sand, surrounded by law enforcement personnel.

As we got closer to Los Angeles, a few feeble rays of sunshine began to appear through the murk.

At 2:46 p.m., the scanner picked up the automated voice message from the RAD at milepost 144.45, which is about 10 minutes out from Los Angeles Union Station. Shortly afterwards, we crossed the Los Angeles River, made a sharp turn to the right, and began paralleling the concrete channel that keeps the river running on a straight course. (In addition to being a popular movie location, this channel often figures in the detective novels of Robert Crais and Michael Connelly, two of our favorite authors.)

After passing under the 1st Street Bridge, we looked off to our left to see if we could determine the approximate location where the Santa Fe’s Moorish-style La Grande Station had once stood. Prior to the opening of Los Angeles Union Station in 1939 it was the western terminal for such famous Santa Fe trains as the Chief and the Super Chief.

We arrived at Los Angeles Union Station at 2:56, only 5 minutes behind schedule.
 
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Eric in East County

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Stage 2: Los Angeles to Chicago (Day 1: June 29)

Leaving our masks on, we descended to the wide underground pedestrian tunnel and made our way into the station and to the Amtrak ticket counter, where we checked our large suitcase through to Toledo. Right around the corner from this counter is the elevator that goes up to the Metropolitan Lounge. After checking in with the attendant, we found two good seats together and settled in to wait for our train. There were only a few other people in the Lounge, and everyone was wearing a mask.

The Lounge offered complementary coffee and soft drinks as well muffins and croissants wrapped in cellophane. There had been large chocolate chip cookies wrapped in cellophane but, according to the attendant, someone had taken them all.

Unlike some Metropolitan Lounge attendants, this one had particularly good people skills. In addition to answering questions and keeping people informed as to what was going on, she even walked around and distributed complementary snacks.

On our previous trips, early boarding for the Southwest Chief didn’t begin until about 5:25 p.m. or so. This time Red Caps and their carts were at the Lounge’s backdoor at 5:10 p.m., ready to take passengers and their luggage to the platform. (We consider the $5 that we always tip our Red Cap driver for this service to be money well spent.)

Southwest Chief No. 4 backed in at 5:20 p.m. and by 5:35 p.m. we’d checked in with our Sleeping Car Attendant Elizabeth and were in our bedroom, unpacking a few of the “travel essentials” that we always take with us on our Amtrak trips. These include a small battery-operated digital clock with large red numerals which makes them easy to read in the dark, a small, military grade flashlight, a roll of gaffer’s tape, and some disinfecting wipes. (We used the gaffer’s tape to tape shut the door to the little closet, after we discovered that it wouldn’t latch properly.)

Making its debut as a “travel essential” during this year’s trip was a Garmin Nuvi 2797 GPS device that we’d picked up inexpensively on eBay. The idea of being able to use GPS technology to determine our train’s speed, location, and direction of travel is something that greatly appealed to us. After reading the comments from other train travelers who bring along their GPS devices, we chose the Nuvi 2797 because it has a large, easy-to-read screen. Like our scanner, it can operate on AC power, which is another plus. Within a minute or so after being turned on, it had locked onto a satellite signal and was ready to start tracking our progress.

The train was made up so that our bedroom window looked out from the left or “fireman’s side” of the train. A SCA on one of our previous trips told us that the orientation of the sleeping cars within the consist all depends on how the train is made up. We have no particular preference since the scenery along the SWC’s route is great from whichever side of the train it is seen from.

Just prior to departure, an announcement was made that ours’ was a “full train.”

We departed on time at 6:00 p.m.

Shortly afterwards, Elizabeth (who proved to be an exceptionally competent and reliable SCA) stopped by to brief us on procedures. The “coffee island” was back in service, but passengers had to use hand sanitizer before pouring coffee.

With the preliminaries out of the way, we took off our masks and only put them on when we left our bedroom.

When we’d made our reservations in January, COVID-19 restrictions were still forcing Amtrak to serve its sleeping car passengers TV Dinner-type meals that had been heated in a microwave. While the reviews of these “flex” meals ranged from “adequate” to “garbage,” it was generally agreed that they were a poor substitute for the items that had been available on the regular menu. Then, just six days before we were to leave, “Traditional Dining” was reinstated on the Southwest Chief for sleeping car passengers, beginning with the east-bound train that departed Los Angeles on June 23rd. This was Elizabeth’s first trip on the SWC since traditional dining had returned, and she was looking forward to it as much as we were.

Once again, we opted to have all our meals served to us in our bedroom. This was not so much over concerns about “social distancing,” but rather because we’ve come to enjoy the luxury of not having to rush through our meals in order to accommodate dining car patrons still waiting to be seated.

Here's what we ordered for our first underway evening meal:

Pat: Mixed Green Salad, Amtrak Signature Steak (medium rare), Cheesecake and Starbucks Coffee. (The Starbucks coffee, which we later found out was the Pike Place blend, was served in a Starbucks cup rather than in an Amtrak cup.)

Eric: Lobster Crab Cake Appetizer, Grilled Atlantic Salmon, Carrot Cake and Green Tea. (The Green Tea was brewed using a teabag packed along from home.)

Our orders were served on plastic Amtrak plates and the hot liquids in paper cups. The utensils were plastic. Our meals were well prepared and tasted delicious - a perfect way to begin our trip.

Because it had been a long day for us, we had Elizabeth make up our bed early. Since most of Arizona doesn’t observe Daylight Saving Time, we didn’t set our watches ahead an hour before turning out the lights.
 
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Eric in East County

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(Day 2: June 30)

For us, a long-distance train trip is an experience to be enjoyed to the fullest. Or as David Baldacci so aptly put it, “It’s not the beginning or the destination that counts. It’s the ride in between.” This includes enjoying the passing scenery, monitoring radio traffic to and from our train and between crew members, tracking our train’s progress on our GPS device and on our route map, and jotting down anything of interest for inclusion in our trip report.

We had with us our favorite SWC route guide - the one from 1998 that is two route guides in one: west to east and east to west. We’d also packed along an original copy of the 1930 edition of By the Way, the route guide that the Santa Fe Railroad once gave out to its passengers. This one is quite extensive and has information on almost every small town located along the Los Angeles-Chicago main line. It also contains many interesting bits of what is now “route trivia” from yesteryear, some of which we’ll be sharing in this trip report.

By 6:22 a.m., the GPS device was powered up and tracking our progress. I-40 was on our left and we were travelling at 51 mph.

When we departed from Winslow at 6:38 a.m., No. 4 was running 1 hour and 23 minutes behind schedule.

At 6:59 a.m. we went passed the big Chollo Power Plant, which is important enough to be indicated on our railroad atlas map. Five minutes later, we went through Holbrook, Arizona, and passed the Wigwam Motel of Route 66 fame. According to our 1930 route guide, Holbrook was once the “point of departure, westbound and terminus eastbound for patrons . . . taking [the] 3-hour, 70-mile Petrified Forest Detour ($4.50) by Harveycar.”

Much to our amazement, our GPS device was displaying the names of even the narrow dirt roads that were running alongside the right-of-way: Jeremiah Lane, Fire Station Road, Sleeping Dog Road, etc.

At 8:00 a.m. we had to stop while a freight train went by. After getting a “clear,” we initially had to proceed at 25 mph, but eventually were up to 90 mph.

At 8:20 a.m., we went passed the Teepee Trading Post, another old and famous Route 66 attraction located near the Arizona-New Mexico border. Here we set our watches ahead an hour to Mountain Time.

Shortly afterwards, Elizabeth delivered our breakfast orders to us. We’d both ordered the Railroad French Toast, which we were glad to see back on the menu. Our only complaint was that the portions were too big.

After the breakfast things had been cleared away, we got down to the serious business of making every minute of our trip count.

At 9:25 a.m., the scanner reported that a flash flood warning had been issued for the Gallup area. Even so, we arrived and departed from Gallup without seeing any signs of flooding.

Since our bedroom window looked out from the left side of the train, we had an excellent view of the red sandstone cliffs east of Gallup.

At 12:09 p.m. at Marmon, off to the right we saw what looked like a massive junk yard for railroad container cars, some of which had vehicles inside of them. We later learned that this was the site of the catastrophic wreck that had occurred on June 14, and which had seriously disrupted train movements in this area. A large crew was working to clean up this mess.

About mid-morning, we began creeping along at 30 mph. Then, at 12:15 p.m. we got a “clear track,” and someone radioed, “Let’s get along at last.” Shortly afterwards, we were travelling at 80 mph. This didn’t last too long, however. By 12: 37 p.m. we had to slow down, causing someone to remark on the radio, “A bunch of trains stacked up on 1.”

At 12:54 p.m. a RAD reported “No High Water.”

We arrived in Albuquerque at 1:37 p.m., about 2 hours and 17 minutes behind schedule. Surprisingly, the day was cool and overcast, and it appeared to have rained recently.

According to vintage timetables in our collection, Santa Fe passenger trains such as the Chief and the Super Chief would only stop in Albuquerque for ten minutes rather than the 45 minutes we were allowed. (Ten minutes didn’t give passengers much time to shop for the blankets, jewelry, pottery and other “Southwest merchandise” that the Native American vendors had for sale.)

Among the passengers who boarded in Albuquerque were an Amish couple who had one of the bedrooms in our sleeper.

During this extended service stop, we walked the length of the train and noted the cars in the consist: Lead Engine 171, Helper Engine 83, sleeper 32070, Sleeper 32029 (ours), Diner 38039, Café/Lounge Car 33048, Coach 34029, Coach 31002 and Baggage Car 61068. This was a considerable shorter train than the one we’d ridden on in 2018 and which had had three sleepers and four coaches.

At 2:22 someone radioed, “No. 4, let’s High Ball Albuquerque” and we were on our way.

Ten minutes later, we had to make a brief stop so that a mattress that was on or near the tracks could be removed.

Just east of Albuquerque we went by large trackside signs dating back to pre-Amtrak days that pointed out the San Felipe and Santa Domingo Pueblos, where most of the houses have a traditional horno or beehive-shaped oven in their backyards.

Lunch was delivered to us shortly afterwards:

Pat: Caesar Salad with pan-roasted chicken breast.

Eric: Natural Angus Burger with a side of Terra chips and coleslaw. (The coleslaw tasted fresh-made, and the Terra chips included sweet potato chips.)

When we departed from Lamy, we were 2 hours and 32 minutes behind schedule.

According to our 1930 Santa Fe route guide, Lamy was where an extra “pusher engine” would be added for the climb up through Apache Canyon to Glorieta.

At 4:37 p.m. we went passed Ribera and then negotiated the double S-curve.

When the time came to meet our sister train No. 3, it was raining, which prompted someone to radio the conductor, “Got your raincoat?” (He responded, “A little rain never hurt anybody.”)

It was still raining when we came to a stop for the meeting. A stream of brown water was running in a ditch next to the roadbed.

At 4:54 p.m. the conductor radioed, “We locked and lined for passing movement.”

Shortly afterwards, we saw two men, whom we assumed were the conductor and the assistant conductor, walking towards the rear of the train. A minute or so later, one of them radioed, “We’re still making our way back to the train.” The engineer radioed back, “Do you want us to wait?” This brought the response, “That would be nice.”

At 5:02 the engineer radioed that No. 3’s headlights were in sight, and the meeting took place a minute later. Using their radios, the two conductors wished each other a good trip.

It wasn’t until 5:17 p.m. that we were finally allowed to proceed, and then at only 19 mph.

At 5:30 p.m. while going passed Bernal, we got a good look at the ruins of the old stagecoach relay station.

Five minutes later, a thick cloud of black smoke appeared along the left side of the train causing someone to comment on the radio, “Looks like 171 (the lead engine) is starting to flame out.” The engineer responded, “I was wondering when you were going to notice.”

At milepost 774.9, on the left was a pasture with about 12 head of buffalo, which galloped off when we went passed.

It was still raining when we arrived in Las Vegas at 5:55 p.m.

This was the first time that we’d seen the La Castaneda Hotel since it reopened in 2019 after a lengthy renovation. (Spending the night there is one of the items on our “bucket list.”)

When we departed Las Vegas, we were 3 hours and 47 minutes behind schedule.


As we were going by Wagon Mound, a RAD reported that the outside temperature was 65 degrees.

At about 6:35 p.m., we came to a stop at Levy. Although it was no longer raining, we could see dark storm clouds ahead of us. At 6:50 p.m. the engineer requested permission to proceed, and we were allowed to do so, but at 15 mph. Shortly afterwards someone radioed, “Heck of a storm up ahead.”

By 7:23 p.m. we were traveling at 12 mph because of “signal issues.” Five minutes later the scanner reported “West Colmor is clear” and we were soon moving out at 77 mph. Another radio message advised that there might be more “signal issues” between Somberg and Hebron, but we were able to continue on without having to slow down.

At 8:00 p.m., a RAD reported that it was 45 degrees outside.

When Elizabeth delivered our evening meal orders, we asked if there were other passengers onboard with connections to the Capitol Limited, and how would Amtrak handle a late arrival into Chicago? She mentioned that there were many passengers that had connections to other trains. As to how these would be handled if we arrived late into Chicago, nothing would be known for certain until the next day. We joked about the possibility of having to eat “Amstew” and she said that was only if we were running 8 hours late!

An announcement was made that Raton would be a 45-minute stop.

We arrived at Raton at 8:15 p.m. and took onboard about 60 Boy Scouts returning from the Philmont Scout Ranch.

Despite the earlier announcement, the Raton stop only lasted 11 minutes. When we left, No. 4 was running 3 hours and 44 minutes behind schedule.

We made the ascent to Raton Tunnel in the dark.

When we arrived at Trinidad, a large group of Amish passengers was waiting to board.

Once again, we decided to call it an early evening since tomorrow would be a long day for us. Before retiring, we reset our watches ahead an hour to Central Time.
 
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Eric in East County

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(Day 3: July 1)

We were up and dressed prior to No. 4’s 7:45 a.m. arrival at Topeka. We were now only running 3 hours behind schedule, so some of the lost time had been gained back during the night.

For breakfast, we requested one order of French Toast and one order of Scrambled Eggs and then split the portions between us, which worked out perfectly.

An announcement was made that, once we reached Kansas City, people with reservations on connecting trains should go to the ticket window to learn what alternate transportation would be provided for them. It was also announced that No. 4 would be selling out and would be at 100% capacity. Everyone in coach would have someone sitting next to them.

We arrived at Kansas City at 9:29 a.m.

According to our 1930 route guide, 274 passenger trains once arrived and departed from Kansas City Union Station daily, and more Pullman tickets were sold there annually than at any other station in the U. S.

When we departed Kansas City, No. 4 was running 3 hours and 38 minutes late.

We crossed over the Missouri River at 10:45 a.m. and saw our first corn field five minutes later.

Compared to the dry desert scenery of the day before, the lush green Midwest trees and foliage were a welcome change. Since we’re both originally from Ohio, seeing the corn fields, old barns, and old farmhouses really made us feel like we were returning home.

It appeared that this area had recently received heavy rainfall as some of the fields were flooded.

We went through Marceline at 11:47 a.m. Four minutes later, we went passed Bucklin which, according to our 1930 route guide, was the highest point on the Santa Fe mainline between Chicago and Kansas City.

All morning, we had been traveling at 80 mph or so. By the time we departed from Ft. Madison, No. 4 was only 2 hours and 35 minutes behind schedule, and we began to feel more optimistic about arriving in Chicago in enough time to connect with our No. 30 Capitol Limited train to Toledo.

In Cameron, we packed away our 1930 route guide since this is where the Southwest Chief leaves the old Santa Fe mainline and follows a different route for the remainder of the trip to Chicago.

Nobody apparently got on or off at Princeton since No. 4 only stopped rolling for a few seconds before continuing on.

Just west of Earlville we had to stop while a freight train went by. Shortly afterwards we were rolling along at 80 mph. We continued at this speed for most of the way to Naperville, but from there to Chicago, we had to go slower due to commuter train traffic.

We arrived in Chicago at 5:32 p.m., 2 hours and 42 minutes late. A Red Cap with a cart was waiting by the door of our sleeper and we hitched a ride with him to the Metropolitan Lounge. When we went passed the South Waiting Room, we could see that it was jammed with people.
 
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Eric in East County

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Stage 3: Chicago to Toledo (July 1)

Of the many perks available to sleeping car passengers, the one we appreciate most is being able to wait in the Chicago Metropolitan Lounge for our No. 30 Capitol Limited train to start boarding.

Since we only had about 30 minutes before early boarding for No. 30 would begin, we opted to remain in the Lounge rather than try to run up to the Food Court to get supper.

Also, we didn’t bother to check our e-mails. As a result, we didn’t open the e-mail with the link for completing the pre-trip check in for our passage to Toledo.

Early boarding for No. 30 began at about 6:10 p.m. The same Red Cap who had driven us to the Lounge drove us to where our coach was parked at the platform.

When the conductor gave us our seat assignments, she didn’t ask about the pre-trip check in. Since we were the first ones to board, we didn’t have a problem getting two seats together.

As soon as we were settled in our seats, we broke out the Business Class snack packs that we’d been given on the Pacific Surfliner and which now became our evening meal. (There was nothing among the complementary snacks available in the Chicago Metropolitan Lounge that had appealed to us.)

Our train left on time at 6:40 p.m. As far as we could see, all the passengers were masked.

Our coach was only moderately filled; not at all like on our previous trips around this time of the year, when there would be announcements to the effect that the train was sold out and that every available seat would be needed. We were glad that we had our masks on, since someone seated behind us was coughing.

Upon entering Indiana, we set our watches ahead an hour.

At 8:18 p.m. we had to stop while a freight train went by.

At 8:43 p.m. we passed through Porter, Indiana, where crack New York Central Chicago-to-Detroit passenger trains such as the Mercury would veer off from the NYC’s New York-Chicago mainline and head northeast.

When we departed from South Bend at 9:42 p.m., No. 30 was 33 minutes behind schedule.

Before we’d left Chicago, we’d set up our GPS device on a fold-down seat tray. Once it got too dark for us to see outside, the GPS device provided the names of the small towns that we were passing through so that we could track our progress on our route map.

We made good time between South Bend and Elkhart but were stopped by freight traffic west of Goshen.

We were only 30 minutes behind schedule when we departed from Waterloo. Even so, we knew that we still had, to paraphrase Robert Frost, “Miles to go before we sleep.”

On our previous trips, it was always between Waterloo and Toledo where things would happen that delayed No. 30’s arrival into Toledo. This year was no exception. Shortly after leaving Waterloo, we slowed to 30 mph and continued at this speed almost until we reached to Bryan, Ohio. We arrived in Toledo at 12:46 a.m., 1 hour and 7 minutes behind schedule.

Although we’d heard of Uber, we’d never used it and didn’t have the Uber app loaded onto our laptop or in our cell phone. Instead, we followed our usual procedure and called for a cab to pick us up in front of the station.

The taxicab situation in Toledo has changed drastically since our last trip in 2018. According to the Toledo Amtrak agent we talked to, most of the local cab companies are now out of business or won’t do late night pick-ups in downtown Toledo or at the train station. We’d called Black & White Cabs which is still in business, and which had provided us with good service in the past. This time, however, we had to wait until almost 2:00 a.m. before a cab finally arrived to take us to our hotel in nearby Maumee. (Needless to say, we quickly got “up to speed” on using Uber and downloaded the app into our laptop so that, if necessary, we could request an Uber driver to take us to the Toledo train station on July 12th when we started our return trip.

Despite the late arrival into Toledo and the even later cab pickup, we hadn’t done too badly during the first half of our trip. Even with the delays in New Mexico, we’d reached Chicago in enough time to connect with the Capitol Limited and were able to stay on our original travel schedule. We felt confident that our return trip would go as well or even better.
 
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Eric in East County

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East San Diego County
Part 2: Toledo, Ohio to San Diego, California
Stage 1: Toledo to Chicago (July 12)


The most stressful part of our Ohio Amtrak trips is making sure that we’re at Toledo Union Station in time to catch the No. 29 Capitol Limited to Chicago, which departs at 5:22 a.m.

To make things easy on ourselves, we always spend the night in Maumee, which is only about 8 ½ miles away from the Toledo train station. We also arrange with our hotel’s front desk to give us a 3:00 a.m. wake up call. (Even so, just the thought of missing our train because we overslept or because our ride didn’t show up is enough to keep us awake for most of the night.)

Although we’d considered using Uber to get to the Toledo station, the day before our departure we called Black & White Cabs and requested that a cab pick us up at our hotel at 4:20 a.m. B&W confirmed our request with a text message which went a long way towards setting our minds at ease.

The cab was at our hotel at the time promised, and we were at Toledo Union Station by about 4:45 a.m. When we checked our large suitcase through to Los Angeles, we learned from the agent on duty that No. 29 was running about 30 minutes behind schedule.

There were only a few people in the waiting room when we arrived. Some were masked and some weren’t.

While we were sitting there, a man arrived with a heavy-duty touring bike fitted out front and back with an assortment of panniers of different sizes. Later, we noticed that the bike had acquired a baggage tag for Chicago.

Although we’d check our e-mails before leaving the hotel that morning, we never received the links for doing pre-trip check ins for the Capitol Limited and the Southwest Chief. At 5:35 a.m., a conductor who would be joining No. 29 in Toledo went around the waiting room and checked people in using a handheld device. When he checked us in, he did not ask us about our COVID-19 status. No. 29 arrived shortly afterwards.

No. 29 was considerable shorter than in previous years and we didn’t have to walk as far down the platform to get to our coach. And we had no problem being assigned seats next to each other.

As soon as we were settled in our seats, we got out our scanner, GPS device, route map, and a 1956 copy of The Magic Window Story, the route guide that the New York Central Railroad once gave out to its passengers. Although not as extensive as our 1930 Santa Fe route guide, it, too, has some interesting information. For example, from Toledo to Butler, Indiana, the right-of-way is a straight line 67 ½ miles long.

When we departed at 6:00 a.m., 38 minutes behind schedule, it was just starting to get light outside.

Once outside Toledo, we were traveling at speeds of between 68 and 76 miles per hour.

We went passed Bryan, Ohio at 6:55 a.m., and Butler, Indiana at 7:10 a.m. At this point, our coach’s interior lights were turned on and an announcement was made that we would soon be arriving at Waterloo.

Upon our departure from Waterloo, it was announced that we’d be arriving in Elkhart in 50 minutes. Shortly afterwards, however, No. 29 had to stop for about 30 minutes to let a couple of freight trains go by. Once permission was received to proceed, it was at 27 mph.

We went by Kendallville at 8:03 a.m. According to our Magic Window route guide, Kendallville was the summit of the NYC’s New York-Chicago mainline . . . 995 feet above sea level and 400 feet above the level of the Great Lakes.

We arrived at Elkhart at 8:50 a.m., 1 hour and 21 minutes behind schedule. According to our Magic Window route guide, Elkhart was once a service stop for all NYC passenger trains. Today, the station is not even manned by an agent.

The passage between Elkhart and South Bend went smoothly and quickly. After slowly making our way out of South Bend, we were soon traveling at 70 mph.

At 10:27 a.m., we went passed U.S. Steel’s Gary, Indiana steel mill complex.

Our GPS device informed us when we had entered Illinois, and we set our watches back an hour to Central Time.

When No. 29 went passed the big Chicago White Sox baseball stadium, the onboard crew switched their radios over to the channel used by Chicago Union Station, so we did, too.

Our official arrival time in Chicago was 10:19 a.m., 1 hour and 34 minutes behind schedule.

 

Eric in East County

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Stage 2: Chicago to Los Angeles (Day 1: July 12)

As soon as we detrained, we walked from our coach to the Metropolitan Lounge with our carryon items. Among the people we saw on the platform were a large group of Amish folk, who’d been in the coach behind ours.

When we arrived at the Lounge, we were delighted to find that the complementary snacks included hot coffee, hot tea, and cellophane-wrapped blueberry muffins and chocolate chip muffins. After treating ourselves to a breakfast of muffins, we used the Lounge’s WiFi to send e-mails to family members to let them know that we’d made it to Chicago.

On our previous trips, the Chicago Lounge had always felt a little chilly to us, so this time we came prepared with some layering pieces. We also had with us a little digital thermometer which registered the Lounge’s temperature as 69.3 degrees Fahrenheit.

By noontime, the muffins were all gone from the snack table and were not replenished.

As had been the case on our previous trips, 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 - a good indication that sleeping car accommodations are still very much in demand! With this many people on hand, the Lounge even warmed up to 70.2 degrees Fahrenheit.

At 12:54, an Amtrak K9 dog and its handler made a sweep through the Lounge and then departed.

Those of you who have walked from the Chicago Metropolitan Lounge to where the Southwest Chief’s sleeping cars are parked are aware of the distance involved and the dexterity that is required to negotiate the crowded platform with carry-on luggage. As it got closer to 2:00 p.m. and early boarding for the Southwest Chief, we went out to the benches where the Red Caps usually show up with their carts for those who want/need a ride to their trains. When we arrived, there were only two Red Caps available, and they were still assisting passengers for the train that was to leave just prior to the SWC. Since a cart can only accommodate four passengers plus the driver, there wasn’t enough time or enough carts to give everyone a lift to the platform, and some people ended up having to walk or miss their train. (We felt particularly sorry for an elderly and rather frail-looking couple that ended up having to walk to their train with their carry-on items.)

When it came time for passengers for SWC No. 3 to board, we were first in line for a cart, which we shared with two other passengers. As we drove out onto the platform, we saw two private cars coupled onto the end of our train.

By 2:39 p.m., we’d checked in with our SCA Michael and were settled in our bedroom. Shortly afterward, a uniformed Amtrak policeman walked by our bedroom door. He didn’t have a dog with him, and we wondered what was up.

This time our bedroom window looked out from the right or “engineer’s side” of the train, which had been the No. 4 SWC that had arrived in Chicago over 6 hours late the previous day. The short turnaround time to get it ready for this trip probably explains why our bedroom wasn’t quite as scrupulously clean as it should have been.

At 2:50 p.m., the scanner reported “Clear on the rear,” and we departed at 2:52 p.m.

When the conductor stopped by to scan our ticket, he noticed that we had a scanner and, on his own initiative, provided us with all the channel numbers he’d be using between Chicago and Kansas City.

After our departure from Naperville, someone radioed the conductor, “Don’t forget the crossing.” At 4:20 p.m., just east of Mendota, we had to stop so the conductor could “flag the crossing” at East 4th Road due to a defective signal. At 4:23 p.m. he radioed, “Full ahead,” and we were moving again.

At 4:34 p.m. the RAD at milepost 85.5 radioed “No Defects.” (We assumed that this milepost is 85.5 miles from Chicago.)

When we departed from Princeton, we were 17 minutes behind schedule.

By 6:49 p.m., we’d crossed the Mississippi River and were in Fort Madison. By our calculations, we’d logged in 454 rail miles since leaving Toledo that morning.

For dinner, we ordered essentially the same menu items that we’d ordered while heading east on No. 4. We also requested a single glass of Chateau Ste. Michelle-Rose, which we shared between us.

We crossed the Des Moines River and entered Missouri at 7:11 p.m.

Since neither of us had slept particularly well the night before, we summoned Michael to make up our bed shortly after the departure from La Plata and were sound asleep well before our train arrived in Kansas City.
 
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Eric in East County

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285
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East San Diego County
(Day 2: July 13)

We were up and had the GPS device turned on just before No. 3 departed from Dodge City at 5:26 a.m., 7 minutes behind schedule.

At 5:57 a.m. we went through Cimarron, Kansas. Old Highway 50 was on our left.

Just west of Cimarron is Ingalls, Kansas. According to our 1930 route guide, south of the station is a cemetery where “many Santa Fe Trail freighters are buried, they having been killed by Indians.” The guide also tells of a half million dollars’ worth of gold that was cached in this vicinity by freighters to prevent its theft by hostile Indians. (Zane Grey includes this incident in his 1918 novel The U.P. Trail.)

When we departed from Garden City at 6:13 a.m., No. 3 was now only 3 minutes behind schedule.

At 6:19 p.m., we went passed Holcomb at 79 mph. Holcomb is where, almost 62 years ago, the events described in Truman Capote’s book In Cold Blood took place. As part of his research, Capote spent time in both Garden City and Holcomb and included quite a bit of background material about them in his book. He describes, for example, how bags of mail would be tossed from fast-moving express trains as they passed through Holcomb.

At 6:27 a.m., the RAD at milepost 418.1 reported that our train only had 36 axles, a sure indication that the two private cars had been cut out during the night, probably at Kansas City.

By 6:33 a.m. it was already light outside and our GPS device changed from a “nighttime” to a “daytime” display.

At 7:05 a.m. No. 3 went by Coolidge at 78 mph. Two minutes later we were in Colorado, and we set our watches back an hour.

At 6:21 a.m. Mountain Time, we went passed Granada, Colorado. According to our 1930 route guide, Fred Harvey’s XY Ranch was located four miles east of here.

No. 3 arrived at La Junta at 7:24 a.m., 25 minutes early. This being an extended service stop, we used the opportunity to get off and stretch our legs. The consist for this trip consisted of Lead Engine 171, Helper Engine 83, sleeper 32019, Sleeper 32109 (ours), Diner 380489, Café/Lounge Car 33014, Coach 34029, Coach 31002 and Baggage Car 61068. (The two engines, the two coaches and the baggage car had been part of the No. 4 train that we’d ridden from LA to Chicago two weeks previously.)

While we were walking the platform, we saw a large contingent of Boy Scouts, whom we assumed were bound for Raton and the Philmont Scout Ranch.

"La Hoon-tah” by the way, figures prominently in one of our favorite train movies: 1952’s The Narrow Margin starring Charles McGraw and Marie Windsor. (The scene showing the train’s arrival at La Junta was actually filmed at the Santa Barbara station, while scenes that are supposedly taking place in front of the La Junta station were filmed in front of the San Bernardino station.)

When we departed from La Junta at 8:04 p.m., someone radioed, “We’re 7-24 and on time.”

Passing through Sunflower Valley, we did see sunflowers, and evergreen shrubs that Pat identified as Chamiza.

When we departed from Trinidad at 9:24 a.m., No. 3 was running on time.

According to our 1930 route guide, for the ascent up to the summit of Raton Pass, “a pusher engine of the latest Santa Fe type, built with 5 driving wheels on each side” was used in addition to a standard engine in front to assist the road engine. (Watching that combination in action must have been a thrilling experience.)

We had perfect weather for the ascent up Raton Pass and were out of the tunnel and into New Mexico by 10:02 a.m.

Buses from the Philmont Scout Ranch were waiting at the Raton station when we arrived, dropping off Scouts departing for the west, and picking up Scouts arriving from the east.

According to our 1930 route guide, Raton boasted “a hotel of 170 rooms – largest in state – with art gallery.” (This might have been the El Portal Hotel which was then known as the Hotel Seaberg.)

We departed on time at 10:30 a.m.

At 10:45 a.m., a RAD reported the outside temperature as 49 degrees. Twelve minutes later, another RAD west of Springer reported that it was 74 degrees.

No. 3 was traveling at 80 mph when we went by Wagon Mound at 11:24 a.m.

At 11:46 a.m. we went by the unincorporated community of Valmora where, according to our 1930 route guide, 40 of the largest employers in Chicago and St. Louis once operated a non-profit sanatorium for their employees “who may have contracted tuberculosis.”

Just east of Watrous, we caught a quick glimpse of the ruins of old Fort Union.

We arrived at Las Vegas at 12:10 p.m. still on schedule. It was here that things started to go wrong for No. 3.

An announcement was made that there was a problem with one of the cars and that there would be a delay of unknown length while someone came to look at it.

From our scanner, we learned that, coming into the station, the conductor had heard a noise under the Café/Lounge car, and it was believed that a stabilizer bar had either broken loose or broken off. A call went out for a socket wrench kit as the train only had a wrench. At 12:36 p.m., a white BNSF maintenance truck arrived, and we saw a worker carrying a tool kit in the direction of the Café/Lounge car. After he departed 27 minutes later, an announcement was made that there would be an additional delay because the Café/Lounge car had to be uncoupled from the train and left behind on a siding. But first, all the food had to be transferred from the Café/Lounge car to the Dining car.

At 1:51 p.m. the power went out in our bedroom and the switching operation finally got underway. Listening on the scanner, we got to hear the instructions radioed to the engineer regarding backing up, pulling forward, backing up some more, etc.

At 2:31 p.m. someone radioed, “We’re just about done” and shortly afterwards the power came back on. We departed Las Vegas at 2:35 p.m., 2 hours and 23 minutes behind schedule. The dispatcher radioed the engineer, “We’re going to play this by ear.” She also added that, “They want us to favor you guys.”

Shortly afterwards, a RAD reported that No. 3 now only had 32 axles rather than the 36 it had had earlier.

West of the double S-Curve, the dispatcher radioed instructions for the meeting with eastbound SWC No. 4. She also passed along a weather warning about high winds at Glorieta.

At 3:38 p.m., the scanner picked up a message from No. 4 to the dispatcher which began, “Emergency. Emergency. Emergency. We are sitting at milepost 811. We have overrun the limit.” Seven minutes later, we came to a stop and an announcement was made that we were at the location where we would meet No. 4. Shortly afterwards it was announced that there would be a delay while No. 4 was being recrewed, and that water would be distributed to the coach passengers.

At 4:20 p.m., it was announced that the relocated Café was taking orders in the Dining Car, and that coach passengers would have to eat at their seats.

No. 4 finally appeared at 4:45 p.m. (When it arrived in Chicago the next day, it was over 7 hours late.) We didn’t begin moving again until 5:01 p.m.

When we departed from Lamy, we were a little over 4 hours behind schedule.

During the extended service stop in Albuquerque, an obliging conductor helped us to retrieve our large suitcase from the baggage car. (We figured that it would be better to already have it with us when we arrived in Los Angeles . . . another wise move as it turned out.)

No. 3 departed from Albuquerque 3 hours and 45 minutes behind schedule.

Before turning in for the night, we set our watches back an hour.
 
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Eric in East County

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285
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East San Diego County
(Day 3: July 14)

When we turned on the GPS device at 4:48 a.m., it was still dark outside and, since it was too early for announcements, we had no idea where we were.

At 5:06 a.m. we went by Peach Springs, so we knew that we were in Arizona and still some distance away from Kingman.

We were moving along at what seemed like a snail’s pace when, at 5:23 a.m. the RAD at milepost 473.9 announced, “Train too slow” and the engineer accelerated to 45 mph.

When we arrived at Kingman at 6:04 a.m. No. 3 was almost 7 hours behind schedule due to “freight interference” during the night. We weren’t particularly concerned about running this late, however, since it provided us with an opportunity to see scenery that we’d ordinarily miss because it would already be dark when our Southwest Chief trains went passed it.

At 7:05 a.m. we crossed the Colorado River and entered California.

After our departure from Needles at 7:25 a.m., we were moving out at 87 mph. But then, east of Newberry, we had to stop for more “freight traffic” and didn’t move again for over 40 minutes.

When Michael had delivered our breakfast orders, we’d asked if a lunch would be served due to No. 3 running so far behind schedule. He said he didn’t think so, but then, just before we reached Barstow, it was announced that lunch for sleeping car passengers would be served at 12:00 p.m. However, only burgers and grilled cheese sandwiches would be available.

At Barstow, Coast Starlight passengers were transferred to a waiting bus.

Our stay in Barstow lasted 18 minutes, allowing passengers to get off and admire Barstow’s restored 1911 Harvey House & Santa Fe Railroad Depot, which we’d never seen during daylight hours.

Approaching Victorville, we also got to see the Roy Rogers Ranch off to the right of the train.

The passage over the Cajon Pass was made without incident, and we arrived at San Bernardino at 1:17 p.m., 7 hours and 40 minutes behind schedule.

Shortly after our departure from Riverside, it was announced that our next stop would be Fullerton in about 40 minutes. That was when we decided to exercise our “Fullerton Option.”

Prior to leaving home, we’d downloaded and printed out the arrival and departure times of all the southbound Pacific Surfliner trains from LA to San Diego. From this schedule, we knew that PSL train No. 580, which departs from Los Angeles at 2:58 p.m., would be arriving in Fullerton at 3:29 p.m. and, if we got off at Fullerton, we’d have plenty of time to catch it. After informing Michael of our intentions, we asked a conductor if we could use our Pacific Surfliner Business Class ticket, which was for Train No. 768, which had departed from Los Angeles at 9:55 a.m. that morning. He said that we could use it, and that if the Business Class coach wasn’t sold out, we might even be able to ride in Business Class rather than in coach.

Among the passengers waiting to detrain by the downstairs door just prior to our arrival in Fullerton was the uniformed Amtrak policeman whom we’d seen in Chicago and who had been onboard for the entire trip, the Amtrak equivalent of a Sky Marshal. He told us that he would now be flying back to Chicago and home.

No. 3 arrived in Fullerton at 2:35 p.m., 7 hours and 41 minutes behind schedule.
 
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Eric in East County

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285
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East San Diego County
Stage 3: Fullerton to San Diego (July 14)

As we were making our way to the elevated walkway that crosses over the tracks to the platform used by the southbound trains, we saw the Boy Scout contingent that had boarded in Raton (and which included quite a few girls) unloading their baggage by passing it from hand to hand, “bucket brigade” style.

No. 580 arrived at 3:29 p.m. and we had no trouble getting two seats in the Business Class coach. (It was our good fortune to be traveling to San Diego two days before the start of the Del Mar Thoroughbred Horse Racing Season. Once that season begins, Pacific Surfliner trains are especially crowded, and Business Class accommodations are usually sold out.)

Shortly after No. 580 left Fullerton, an attendant came by, passing out complementary snack packs and water.

Our fellow passengers were not “business types,” but the ones you would normally see riding in the unreserved coaches. Some were masked while other were not, and the conductor took no notice of those who were unmasked. And, because the luggage rack was already filled to capacity, he took no notice of luggage that was on the floor.

Unlike our long-distance trains, No. 580 didn’t have to restrict its speed to accommodate freight traffic. Since we hadn’t set up the GPS device, we couldn’t confirm how fast we were going, but it was FAST. Before we knew it, we were in San Juan Capistrano. Shortly afterwards, we were paralleling the ocean.

We ended up arriving in San Diego at 5:47 p.m., a few minutes ahead of schedule. That speedy trip down from Fullerton more than made up for all the delays we had experienced on our long-distance trains and was a perfect way for us to end our vacation.

Post Script

All in all, this year’s rail adventure had been another good one, and we’re already looking forward to our next trip when things should be more back to normal. Based on what we learned from this year’s trip, we’ll be reorganizing our packing lists so that we won’t have any checked luggage. Also, we plan to become thoroughly familiar with using Uber so that we can be sure having transportation to our hotel once we arrive in Toledo.

Assuming that the Southwest Chief will be offering bedroom accommodations in 2022 (and we have every reason to believe that it will be) we’ll be submitting another trip report around this time next year. Stay tuned!

Eric & Pat
 

Cal

Foamer
Joined
Jan 23, 2021
Messages
2,651
Location
Socal
Wonderful trip report, thanks for sharing. I intend to do one in my upcoming trip from NYP to FUL sit the Cardinal and Chief. I’ll be happy if it’s 1/3 as good as yours!
Personally I hope my Chief is as late as yours was into LA, I would love to enjoy breakfast and an extra lunch along with seeing the scenery into LA.

and I believe it’s #777 in Unstoppable because the event it’s based off of was led by engine 8888
 

Eric in East County

Lead Service Attendant
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Joined
Jan 20, 2016
Messages
285
Location
East San Diego County
Wonderful trip report, thanks for sharing. I intend to do one in my upcoming trip from NYP to FUL sit the Cardinal and Chief. I’ll be happy if it’s 1/3 as good as yours!
Personally I hope my Chief is as late as yours was into LA, I would love to enjoy breakfast and an extra lunch along with seeing the scenery into LA.

and I believe it’s #777 in Unstoppable because the event it’s based off of was led by engine 8888
Unstoppable was based on a true event that happened in Ohio. I believe the freight train got loose in Toledo and headed south. It was eventually stopped near Dunkirk, Ohio and with considerably less drama than in the movie. We have family members who live in North Baltimore, Ohio which is right next to the tracks that the runaway train traveled over. And Pat used to own property in Dunkirk.
 

Bob Dylan

50+ Year Amtrak Rider
Joined
May 31, 2009
Messages
23,439
Location
Austin Texas
Stage 3: Fullerton to San Diego (July 14)

As we were making our way to the elevated walkway that crosses over the tracks to the platform used by the southbound trains, we saw the Boy Scout contingent that had boarded in Raton (and which included quite a few girls) unloading their baggage by passing it from hand to hand, “bucket brigade” style.

No. 580 arrived at 3:29 p.m. and we had no trouble getting two seats in the Business Class coach. (It was our good fortune to be traveling to San Diego two days before the start of the Del Mar Thoroughbred Horse Racing Season. Once that season begins, Pacific Surfliner trains are especially crowded, and Business Class accommodations are usually sold out.)

Shortly after No. 580 left Fullerton, an attendant came by, passing out complementary snack packs and water.

Our fellow passengers were not “business types,” but the ones you would normally see riding in the unreserved coaches. Some were masked while other were not, and the conductor took no notice of those who were unmasked. And, because the luggage rack was already filled to capacity, he took no notice of luggage that was on the floor.

Unlike our long-distance trains, No. 580 didn’t have to restrict its speed to accommodate freight traffic. Since we hadn’t set up the GPS device, we couldn’t confirm how fast we were going, but it was FAST. Before we knew it, we were in San Juan Capistrano. Shortly afterwards, we were paralleling the ocean.

We ended up arriving in San Diego at 5:47 p.m., a few minutes ahead of schedule. That speedy trip down from Fullerton more than made up for all the delays we had experienced on our long-distance trains and was a perfect way for us to end our vacation.

Post Script

All in all, this year’s rail adventure had been another good one, and we’re already looking forward to our next trip when things should be more back to normal. Based on what we learned from this year’s trip, we’ll be reorganizing our packing lists so that we won’t have any checked luggage. Also, we plan to become thoroughly familiar with using Uber so that we can be sure having transportation to our hotel once we arrive in Toledo.

Assuming that the Southwest Chief will be offering bedroom accommodations in 2022 (and we have every reason to believe that it will be) we’ll be submitting another trip report around this time next year. Stay tuned!

Eric & Pat
Most enjoyable, thanks for sharing!😎

We hope to have our 2022 AU Annual Gathering in San Diego( we had to Cancel it in 2020 due to the Pandemic).

Hopefully yall will be able to attend, we always welcome New Members to our Gatherings,especially folks who live in the area and have up to date info!
 
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Eric in East County

Lead Service Attendant
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Joined
Jan 20, 2016
Messages
285
Location
East San Diego County
As has been our custom in the past whenever we return from one of our long-distance train trips, we’ve just written to Washington to let our congressional representative know how important AMTRAK long-distance trains with sleeping car accommodations are to us.

(Of course, as W.C. Fields used to say, “What do you want to write to Washington for? He’s dead.”)

E & P
 

Eric in East County

Lead Service Attendant
AU Supporter
Joined
Jan 20, 2016
Messages
285
Location
East San Diego County
Both of the SCAs that we had for this year’s trip impressed us as being exceptionally competent and reliable. To show our appreciation for the good service we’d received, we gave them both generous tips which also took into account that they had delivered all our meals to us.

We also took the extra time to contact Amtrak and leave positive feedback for both of them, saying how impressed we had been with their performances. We understand that these messages of praise will eventually end up in their personnel files, making this feedback even more valuable to them in the long run than the tips we gave them.

E & P
 

Dakota 400

Engineer
Joined
Mar 5, 2014
Messages
3,073
As has been our custom in the past whenever we return from one of our long-distance train trips, we’ve just written to Washington to let our congressional representative know how important AMTRAK long-distance trains with sleeping car accommodations are to us.
Good for you! I am curious, though. What response, if any, do you receive from your Congressional Representative? Do you contact all three of them: your two Senators and your House of Representatives member?
 
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