From our Archives: Eric and Pat's 2005 San Diego-Toledo-San Diego trip

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Eric in East County

Service Attendant
AU Supporter
Jan 20, 2016
Just recently, we reread some of our trip reports from years ago. One that we found particularly memorable describes a trip we made to Ohio in May-June of 2005. That was the year when both our eastbound trains arrived at their destinations early. On our return trip, the fact that we’d bought our tickets in March almost had serious consequences for us connecting with our westbound CL #29 train. Also, our westbound SWC #3 train had a close encounter with a tornado west of Chicago and later, flooding west of Newton, Kansas. Since this trip report was never posted on AU, we thought we’d share it with you now. Because this trip was made almost 15 years ago, we’ve added some annotations in italics to clarify a few points.

Eric & Pat

Part 1: San Diego to Toledo, Ohio

Stage 1: San Diego to Los Angeles (May 21)

We arrived at San Diego’s historic, mission-style station at 1:40 p.m.

Although it was Saturday, the waiting room was noticeably empty. (The large weekend crowds first begin to appear after the start of the summer vacation season.) Since we had plenty of time before our train left, we sat down on one of the long, heavy-duty, wooden benches that date back to when the station first opened in 1914. Not far from us sat six young men whom, because of their haircuts and physically fit appearances, we judged to be U.S. Marines, even though they were dressed in civvies. We also saw an Amish family dressed in their traditional garb.

The waiting room itself was clean and well maintained. All the while we sat waiting for our train, we could see a contract cleaning person busy polishing metal work and making periodic searches for any minute traces of litter.

The only extra security measures we noted were an unarmed security guard who occasionally walked by, and a poster instructing passengers on how to report any suspicious activity they observed.

At 2:00 p.m., a southbound Surfliner arrived and discharged its passengers.

By 2:30 p.m., the station had begun to fill up with passengers for the 3:00 p.m. Surfliner. A gentle breeze was blowing in from the harbor and, despite the warm weather, the waiting room was cool and comfortable.

At 2:46 p.m., a taped message announced the first boarding call for the 3:00 p.m. northbound Surfliner. We made our way to the platform and were soon seated in unreserved coach #6408. While we were sitting there, a southbound Surfliner pulled in. (Among the passengers who got off, we saw one who was carrying what looked like a ‘cello case.)

Our train left at 3:00 p.m., exactly on schedule. Moving through downtown San Diego, we could see off to our left the 1850’s sailing ship STAR OF INDIA (now a floating museum) with its sails set.

When the conductor took our tickets, she told us that the Southwest Chief would be departing from Track 12 in Los Angeles. (We made a note of this for later use.)

At 3:24 p.m. our train began paralleling the ocean. Being a clear, sunny day, the view was right out of an AMTRAK advertising brochure.

Passing through the little resort communities of Del Mar, Solana Beach and Cardiff-by-the-Sea, we could see that the beaches and campgrounds were busy but not overcrowded.

We arrived on time at Solana Beach, our first scheduled stop.

At Oceanside, the young men whom we’d seen earlier in San Diego got off, undoubtedly headed for the nearby Camp Pendleton Marine base.

Continuing north, there were times when the right-of-way came so close to the shoreline that the waves seemed to breaking right next to the roadbed.

About 5 minutes south of San Juan Capistrano, the tracks curved inland and we had our last view of the ocean.

At 5:30 p.m., we crossed the Los Angles River and made a sharp turn to the right for the approach to Los Angeles Union Station. In the rail yard to our left, we saw cars from the American Orient Express.

We passed Mission Tower at 5:35 p.m. and came to a stop LAUS two minutes later, exactly on schedule.

Stage 2: Los Angeles to Chicago (May 21-May 23)

Since we had about an hour to wait before our next train, we made our way into main waiting room and found two comfortable seats. [Back then, we were unaware that LAUS had a Metropolitan Lounge for sleeping car passengers.] The waiting room was quite a bit warmer than San Diego’s had been, but fortunately was not crowded.

At 6:00 p.m., a taped message announced that there would be a delay in boarding the Southwest Chief. Not being in any great hurry, we continued to enjoy the waiting room’s historical ambience while watching the parade of guests filing into a posh, private wedding reception that was taking place in one of the outside patios.

At 6:15 p.m., the first boarding call for the Southwest Chief was made. Rather than wait for the Red Cap shuttle, we walked directly to Track 12, arriving in time to see the #4 back into the station. The consist was made up of a pair of P42 Genesis locos (AMTRAK #73 and #64) a GE “Pepsi can” P32-8 loco (AMTRAK #518), a baggage car, a transition sleeper for the onboard staff, the sleeping cars District of Columbia and Wyoming, a dining car, a Sightseer lounge car, three coaches, and three freight cars. [Transporting the three freight cars across country undoubtedly generated some much-needed extra revenue for AMTRAK.]

Our reservations were for bedroom D in the District of Columbia and, as we boarded, our sleeping car attendant R-J checked off our names on his list. (What a difference from the indignities that airlines passengers must go through before they can board!)

Once we were situated in our bedroom, we broke out our little Uniden desktop scanner and started monitoring radio traffic. Almost immediately, we began to hear L.A. Station Services discussing the loading of passengers and their luggage on board #4.

We left Los Angeles on time at 6:46 p.m.

An announcement was made that, when tickets were collected, a random ID check would be made, and that AMTRAK apologized for any inconvenience this might cause. (What airlines passenger nowadays ever gets off so lightly?!)

We responded to the first call for dinner at 7:15 p.m. and were already seated when #4 arrived at Fullerton.

The dining car tables were set with linen tablecloths and napkins. Protecting the tablecloth was a layer of white paper sheets that had been cut to the dimensions of the tabletop. (After each seating, the servers had only to remove the top sheet to have a clean tabletop ready for the next set of hungry patrons.)

The staff consisted of a dining car steward, (looking very debonair in his AMTRAK blazer and black beret) and two male servers. (As near as we could tell, these same three men handled all of the dining car chores related to seating passengers, taking orders, and serving meals for the entire trip to Chicago.)

Our dinner companions were a retired policeman returning home to Chicago, and a woman traveling to Las Vegas, N.M. to help a relative drive back across country.

I ordered the rack of lamb and Pat ordered steak, both of which were excellent.

After dinner, we returned to our bedroom and continued listening to the scanner. (Among other things, we heard another train report a defective signal.) Deciding to call it an early evening, we had R-J make up the bed and were soon settled in for the night. (Once turned off, the scanner did double duty as a bedside digital clock.)

(To Be Continued)

Eric in East County

Service Attendant
AU Supporter
Jan 20, 2016
When we awoke the next morning, #4 was just outside Flagstaff, running about 43 minutes behind schedule.

Shortly after departing Flagstaff, a copy of the ARIZONA DAILY SUN was slipped under our door. We could see I-40 just to the south of us on our right.

After departing Winslow, we made our way to the dining car and were seated just as #4 began traversing a rough stretch of track that caused the car to sway back and forth violently. Our server this morning was Gustavo. Our breakfast companions were a retired couple from San Diego who were going on to Washington, D.C., intending to drive back across county. This was their first trip on AMTRAK and they were enjoying it thoroughly.

I had the Southwest Quiche and Pat had Railroad French toast. While we were eating, a Wigwam Motel flashed by on our left. [This was not THE famous Wigwam Motel of Route 66 fame which is located in Holbrook, Az.]

Seated several tables away from us was a passenger who looked very much like Native American actor Wes Studi (particularly memorable as the villainous Magua in the 1992 film version of THE LAST OF THE MOHICANS.) We were hoping that we might be seated with him at lunch and have the opportunity to talk with him. However, he apparently got off in Gallup or Albuquerque, and we never did learn if we’d had a close encounter with an actual Hollywood celebrity.

By the time our breakfast was almost finished, the car was swaying with enough force to tip over the little vase of fresh cut flowers that was on our table.

At 8:02 a.m., we crossed under I-40 and entered New Mexico. Accordingly, we set our watches ahead one hour.

Approaching Albuquerque, we used our laptop to check our e-mail via a wireless broadband card. (We had no trouble acquiring service, even inside the moving train.) While we were on-line, we used the opportunity to send brief “Greetings from Albuquerque” e-mails to family members.

Albuquerque being an extended service stop, we got off to stretch our legs and ended up buying a silver ring from one of the dealers who sell Native American jewelry trackside.

First call for lunch came while #4 was still being serviced. Mindful of the rough ride we’d had during breakfast, we immediately made our way to the dining car while the train was still standing motionless in the station!

Our lunch companions were a retired couple from Chicago who’d just finished an auto tour of New Mexico’s national parks and were returning home.

I ordered the “stone fired” pizza and Pat had the quiche.

Lunch concluded just as #4 was leaving the station. As we were making our way back to our sleeper, we encountered the conductor who verified that his radio was set to Channel 32 send/Channel 32 receive.

Not long afterwards, we heard an automatic sensor report that our train had a total of 60 axles.

Arriving at Lamy (which we learned was pronounced Lame-ee), there was quite a bit of railroad “chatter” to be heard on the scanner. However, we opted to move down to the lounge car for a better view of the scenery. (While we were making our way back to the lounge car, westbound SWC #3 flashed by at 2:13 p.m.)

We stayed in the lounge car until after #4 departed Las Vegas. Returning to our bedroom, we saw Wagon Mound go by at 4:33 p.m. A little further ahead, we saw a herd of antelope. (Someone once told us that a game preserve is located in this area, near the right-of-way.) Next, a line of abandoned telephone poles went by on our right. The wires had been removed and a fair number of large bird nests could be seen between the rows of glass insulators.

Dinner that night was by reservation. We’d opted for the first seating at 5:00 p.m. and, arriving right at 5, were amazement to find the diner almost empty. We ended up having a table all to ourselves and ate dinner while #4 was approaching Raton. The ascent up Raton pass was made under threatening storm clouds. When we emerged from Raton Tunnel and into Colorado, rain and hail were falling, accompanied by an occasional flash of lightning. #4 soon outran the storm, but we could see dark clouds off to the south.

Once again, we opted to call it an early evening, setting our watches ahead an hour before retiring.

We awoke the next morning just outside Kansas City. #4 was now running about 19 minutes ahead of schedule. There was much railroad voice traffic to be heard on the scanner, some of it having to do with a derailment involving another train.

During the extended service stop in K.C., a copy of USA TODAY was slipped under our door.

We departed on schedule at 7:45 a.m.

Our companions at breakfast were a woman and her young daughter who’d gotten on in Dodge City at midnight. They’d taken AMTRAK from Mendota, Illinois to attend a wedding in Kansas, and were now returning home. This had been their first-round trip via train, and they were enjoying it. (During breakfast, the little girl amused herself by doodling on the paper table covering.)

We crossed the Missouri River at 8:17 a.m. and the Des Moines River at 10:46 a.m. The Mississippi River came into view at 10:57 a.m. and, after a stop at Fort Madison, Iowa, #4 crossed over into Illinois at 11:17 a.m.

First call for lunch was 11:30 a.m. Unlike the previous evening, the dining car filled up quickly and by 11:45, there was a waiting list for seating. Our lunch companion was a man who appeared to be a Native American, returning home to Chicago from New Mexico.

At Galesburg, #4 took on board Chicago-bound coach passengers waiting for the Zephyr (which was running late.)

After lunch, we heard another automatic sensor report that our train still had 60 axles, so apparently no freight cars had been cut out in Kansas City.

All that afternoon, the ride seemed noticeably smoother than what we’d experienced since leaving L.A.

Approaching Chicago, we overheard another train report an emergency stemming from a problem with an air hose.

Arriving in Chicago, #4 went directly to Union Station rather than stopping first to drop off the freight cars. We came to a stop inside the Union Station train shed at 2:58 p.m., OVER 20 MINUTES AHEAD OF SCHEDULE! By our calculations, the passage from Los Angeles to Chicago had taken slightly more than 42 hours. Overall, it had been a smooth, uneventful trip, made particularly enjoyable by the friendly, courteous service we’d received from the onboard staff.

Stage 3: Chicago to Toledo (May 23)

Making our way into Chicago Union Station, we found that the south waiting room was not as crowded as we’d expected it to be on a Sunday afternoon. [At the time, we weren’t aware that, as arriving sleeping car passengers, we could have waited for the Capitol Limited in the Metropolitan Lounge.]

Once again, there was little outward evidence of tighter security. We heard a taped announcement, advising passengers to report any suspicious activity they observed, and also saw a single, armed security guard near one of the departure gates.

By 4:50 p.m. the waiting room began to fill with passengers for Train #305 (Statehouse), which departed on time.

Our train, the Capitol Limited began boarding at 5:20 p.m. and departed on time at 5:35 p.m. Once outside of Chicago, we were soon up to express train speed and, all the way to Toledo, there were few slowdowns and no stops for freight traffic.

Since we were now traveling via reserve coach, we opted to skip dinner in the dining car and made do with two Polish sausage sandwiches purchased in the lounge car.

During the trip, we overheard the conductor reminiscing with a passenger about the good old days when freight trains always had to yield the right-of-way to passenger traffic, even if it meant backing up 10 miles to a siding!

We arrived in Toledo EARLY at 10:45 p.m. and were soon on our way to our hotel.

The first half of our rail adventure had come off in fine style, with all three of the trains we’d ridden on running on or ahead of schedule!

Eric in East County

Service Attendant
AU Supporter
Jan 20, 2016
Part 2: Toledo, Ohio to San Diego, California

Stage 1: Toledo to Chicago (June 8)

We arrived at Toledo’s Central Union Terminal at 6:05 a.m. to catch train #29 (Capitol Limited) for Chicago. It was already 75 degrees outside, and the day promised to be a hot one.

There were only a dozen or so people in the waiting room. We checked with the agent on duty and learned that train #29 was due in at about 6:30 a.m. (This tallied with the information on the printed AMTRAK tickets we’d received in March, indicating that train #29 would depart Toledo at 6:43 a.m.) To help us verify timetable information for our trip report, we picked up a copy of the AMTRAK System Timetable that went into effect on April 25, 2005.

Having 20 or so minutes to kill, we looked over the terminal’s collection of historical photographs. Included were photos showing the last passenger train leaving the station in 1971, and the first AMTRAK train arriving in 1975.

Train CL #29 pulled in at 6:37 a.m. The conductor taking tickets seemed a little vexed, and we heard him mention to a passenger that he was the only conductor on board for that particular trip.

We departed at 6:48 a.m., only 5 minutes later than the time shown on our tickets.

We made our way out of Toledo rather slowly but, after 20 minutes or so, were soon up to express train speed.

We crossed over into Indiana at 8:05 a.m. and arrived at Waterloo (the first scheduled stop after Toledo) about 20 minutes later.

Having missed breakfast in order to get to the station on time, we availed ourselves of food from the lounge car. Pat settled for black coffee and I got a Polish sausage sandwich.

We arrived in Elkhart at 9:15 a.m. Off to the left could be seen a collection of retired rail cars and locomotives that are part of the New York Central Museum. (The collection includes quite a bit of rolling stock that is still awaiting restoration.)

At 10:39 a.m., the steel mills of Gary, Indiana came into view on our right. Ten minutes later, we had our first good view of Lake Michigan. No announcement was made about entering the Central Time Zone, but we went ahead and set our watches back an hour anyhow.

At 10:59 Central Time, the Chicago Skyway Toll Bridge and I-90 went by on our left.

We came to a stop inside the Chicago Union Station train shed at 10:19 a.m. which, according to the information we’d received from AMTRAK in March, was right on schedule. It was only after we consulted the system timetable that we realized that train #29 HAD ACTUALLY BEEN RUNNING ABOUT AN HOUR AND A HALF LATE! It had been scheduled to depart Toledo at 4:52 a.m. and, HAD IT BEEN ON TIME, WE WOULD HAVE MISSED IT BY AN HOUR AND THIRTEEN MINUTES! We checked our tickets again to verify that they indicated a 6:43 a.m. departure. There it was in black and white! We can only assume that, when the new system timetable came out on April 25th, the arrival/departure times for train #29 changed. We were never informed about these changes by AMTRAK, nor did we think to call AMTRAK to verify the departure time indicated on our tickets.

On the bright side, if we’d arrived at the terminal in time for a 4:52 a.m. departure, we’d have had to get up in the wee hours of the morning and would still have had to wait an extra hour and thirteen minutes. (I guess this goes to prove that ignorance sometimes DOES pay!) However, from now on, we will ALWAYS verify departure times with AMTRAK the day before we’re scheduled to leave.

Stage 2: Chicago to Fullerton (June 8-10)

Entering the station, we went straight to the Metropolitan Lounge. After being issued “flash” passes, we checked our carry-on items and grabbed a bite to eat in the station’s Food Court.

The day being hot, we opted to return to the Metropolitan Lounge rather than walk around downtown Chicago until it was time for our train to leave. For most of the afternoon, the lounge was comfortably filled with passengers waiting to depart on Zephyr, Empire Builder, Texas Eagle, and Southwest Chief. The conductor from #3 came through just after 2:00 p.m. to collect tickets. (If Hollywood was casting someone for the role of a train conductor, they would certainly have picked him since he looked exactly the way most people expect a train conductor to look!)

First boarding call for the #3 sleeping car passengers came at 2:49 p.m. We had to walk almost the entire length of the train to get to our car, but it gave us a chance to note the makeup of the consist:

3 P42 Genesis locos (AMTRAK #99, #62, and #31), a baggage car, a transition sleeper for the onboard crew, sleeping cars #32038 and #32052, a diner, a Sightseer lounge car, 3 coaches, and another AMTRAK baggage car (probably for the coach passengers’ luggage.)

We had reservations for bedroom D in sleeper #32038. Our sleeping car attendant was Mary. (Once on board, we noted that the two sleepers appeared to be brand new and showed almost no signs of usage.)

#3 rolled out of the train shed on schedule at 3:15 p.m.

We’d turned on our scanner as soon as we were situation in our bedroom and, shortly after departing Chicago, we heard an automatic sensor report that our train had 52 axles.

By the time we arrived in Naperville, it was starting to get cloudy, with even darker storm clouds to the west.

We left the scanner on and, an hour after leaving Chicago, we heard the main line dispatcher contact our train with a weather warning: Mendota was experiencing 60 mile an hour wind gusts. We heard our engineer ask the dispatcher if #6 (the east-bound Zephyr) had had to stop.

At 4:20 p.m., #3 came to a stop in Somonauk, Illinois. There were dark storm clouds overhead, with strong wind and lightning. An announcement was made to explain why we’d stopped. (Despite the threatening weather, quite a few of the residents of Somonauk came by to see #3 parked in the middle of their town.)

At 4:46 p.m., a second weather warning was received telling of wind gusts of up to 60 miles an hour that were being recorded at Bristol and Earlville.

At 4:57 p.m., the east-bound Zephyr went by and, at 4:59 p.m. #3 got underway in a light rain.

Dinner that night was by reservation. When we arrived at the diner, there seemed to be an excessive number of servers on duty. (We later learned that there were several trainees onboard for this trip.)

Our dinner companions were a woman from Berkley, California, and a man from Las Vegas, Nevada. Both were experienced train riders. The woman had just traveled across Canada by train, going from Vancouver to Toronto on a trip that had taken 4 days and 3 nights. She was now returning home.

We drew one of the trainees as our server that night, and he managed to get all of our orders thoroughly mixed up. Pat had ordered steak with carrots and a baked potato. She received steak with corn and mashed potatoes. Our dinner companions fared about the same. We even had to remind our server to bring the dinner rolls and then to bring the butter! The Chocolate Bombe somewhat made up for the inept service we’d received.

Returning to our bedroom, we picked up a NOAA weather radio broadcast from Galesburg, telling about wind damage around the state.

We were running about 35 minutes late when we departed Galesburg at 6:31 p.m. in a pouring rain.

Shortly after crossing the Mississippi River, we decided it call it an early night and had Mary make up the bed.

At about 3:00 a.m., we awoke to find everything quiet and #3 standing still. It was still dark outside, and thunder could be heard off in the distance. Turning on the scanner, we heard our engineer report that we were stopped at “NR Junction east of Newton.” We then heard him ask if he could proceed, but the dispatcher told him to wait until after the tracks had been inspected for flooding.

When we did finally get underway at 5:19 a.m., it was raining again.

By the time it began to get light, it was no longer raining, but we could see signs of recent heavy rains. The creeks and rivers were swollen, and the fields looked like swamps. Overhead were dark, dramatic storm clouds.

Tuning in to a NOAA broadcast from Topeka, we heard flood watch warnings being issued for various locations around the state.

Eric in East County

Service Attendant
AU Supporter
Jan 20, 2016
We were 4 hours behind schedule when we departed Newton at 7:18 a.m. For most of the morning, #3 traveled at a reduced speed, and an announcement was made that this was because the tracks ahead were still being inspected for flood damage.

Walking back to the dining car, we could see that water had leaked in at either end of sleeper #32052.

Our companions for breakfast were a couple who’d gotten on in Kansas City and who were heading home to Phoenix.

Our server this morning was an old pro with 32 years of dining car experience. Needless to say, we had excellent service, which we rewarded with a generous tip.

By the time we reached Hutchinson, the sky was clearing. And further west, it appeared that Dodge City hadn’t received rain for quite a while, since the sky was sunny and clear, and the riverbeds were bone dry.

Arriving in Holly, Colorado, we set our watches back an hour to Mountain Time. Historic Highway 50 was now running along side us on our left.

We were seated in the diner for lunch when #3 arrived and departed La Junta, still running about 4 hours late.

We had the same trainee-server we’d had the previous evening, and he managed to repeat most of the gaffes he’d made earlier. No generous tip for him!

Following lunch, we made our way back to the Sightseer lounge car to get a better view of the outstanding scenery between Trinidad and Raton.

At Raton, two chartered buses were waiting to collect a large party of teenaged Boy Scouts who got off from one of the coaches, bound for the nearby Philmont Scout Reservation. (We noted that the Scout contingent also included a few girls.)

By the time we returned to our bedroom, a copy of the PUEBLO CHIEFTAIN had already been slipped under our door.

#3 was still running about 4 hours late, and outside Las Vegas, N.M., we heard our engineer talking to the main line dispatcher regarding meeting eastbound #4. We eventually stopped at Onava siding, and waited there about 20 minutes until our “sister train” went by at 5:00 p.m.

We had dinner with a retired couple from Show Low, Arizona, returning home from visiting relatives back east. We had another trainee-server, but this one actually did a competent job and we left her a nice tip.

Following a service stop, we departed Albuquerque about 4 ½ hours behind schedule. (In all fairness to AMTRAK, the delays we experienced on this trip were all due to the weather. Had it not been for the long delay caused by the flooding in Kansas, we’d have made the entire trip on schedule.)

Once again, we opted to call it an early night, and were asleep soon after departing Albuquerque.

When we awoke at about 5:30 a.m., #3 was racing through the desert somewhere west of Needles and in the middle of nowhere.

At 6:16 a.m., we went by a sign along the track that read East Siberia (no kidding!)

Breakfast was at 6:30 a.m. and, because #3 was running late, there was apparently plenty of time for the dining car staff to offer most of the items on the menu, served on regular chinaware, and still have everything cleaned up and put away before arriving in Los Angeles.

We were still running about 4 hours late when we departed Barstow.

During the ascent up to Cajon Summit, we saw a number of rail fans with cameras on the bridges and overpasses. (Perhaps they figured this might be their last chance to photograph a Southwest Chief in action!) [Even back then, there were rumors that long-distance Amtrak trains would soon be phased out.]

Descending down from the summit, we soon encountered the thick cloud cover known to Southern Californians as “June Gloom.”

As we were approaching Fullerton, Mary went through our car passing out fresh-cut flowers to all the ladies. Although these had probably come from the tables of the now-closed dining car, it was a nice gesture none-the-less.

We detrained from #3 in Fullerton at 10:55 a.m. The weather was overcast and cool, and we were glad that we’d kept our jackets with us.

Stage 3: Fullerton to San Diego (June 10)

The next scheduled Surfliner arrived at Fullerton at 11:45 a.m., and we were soon on board and racing south. Since the Surfliners serve commuters as well as tourists, the seats are equipped with power outlets for laptops. Taking advantage of this, we set up the laptop to check our e-mail. (Reception for the wireless broadband card in this area was full strength, even inside the moving train.)

The ocean came into view at 12:35 a.m. However, because of the “June Gloom,” everything seemed rather drab and lifeless. We did see a number of surfers in the water.

Some hazy sunshine started to appear as we were approaching Solana Beach. Going through Del Mar, we saw that the San Diego County Fair had already opened. (Perhaps because of the overcast, cool weather, it didn’t seem to be too crowded.)

We arrived back in San Diego at 1:50 p.m. Since our checked luggage had continued onboard #3 to Los Angeles, it wouldn’t be arriving until about 3:20 p.m. This gave us time to retrieve our car, grab a bite to eat, and find a parking spot close to the station.

For the return trip from Toledo to San Diego, we’d taken full advantage of AMTRAK’s policy of allowing each passenger 3 pieces of checked luggage. We’d ended up checking a total of 2 large moving boxes, 3 medium-sized moving boxes, and a suitcase, mostly filled with items we were bringing back from Ohio to sell on eBay. (What airlines passenger ever gets to bring onboard so much checked luggage without having to pay extra?!) Everything arrived safely and we soon had it all loaded and were on our way home.

All in all, this had been another great rail vacation and we were already looking forward to the next opportunity for us to take the train across country. [As things turned out, our next long-distance train trip didn't occur until 2014.


AU Supporter
Aug 8, 2015
Enjoyed your trip. Also, love your Avatar. Nothing prettier than those two smokin F series locomotives

Eric in East County

Service Attendant
AU Supporter
Jan 20, 2016
It's a 21 Santa Fe FT O-gauge lithographed metal diesel made by the Louis Marx Co. circa the early 1950s. It was modeled after the EMD FT diesel commonly used by the Santa Fe and other railroads for long-distance freight service. (Marx chose to give its version passenger trucks instead of freight trucks.) The number 21 that appears on the diesel’s nose was the number of Santa Fe’s westbound El Capitan, the all-coach Chicago-Los Angeles passenger train that operated on the same fast schedule as the Super Chief. The El Capitan name also appears on the observation car drumhead in Marx’s set of 3/16-inch scale Santa Fe passenger cars.

The biggest metal diesel that Marx ever made, the 21 Santa Fe FT was most likely a sly attempt on the part of Marx to lure away those Lionel customers who couldn’t afford Lionel’s popular Santa Fe F-3 diesel. Not only was its size proportioned to match that of Lionel’s rolling stock, but it also came with an optional die-cast knuckle coupler that allowed it to be coupled to Lionel cars!