Music Across America

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Seaboard92

Conductor
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Dec 31, 2014
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About the title

I’m choosing to call this trip the Music Across America report because this trip really hits the musical history of America. From passing the hometown of Johnny Cash on the Texas Eagle, to standing on a corner in Winslow Arizona, and so many other great American songs.

Planing
Every winter I love to take a long distance train across the country and I’ve been trying to finish the network before it disappears. With the current climate and the threats to cancel the Southwest Chief and replace part of it with a bus I knew I had to ride the route. Another motivator for the Southwest Chief was a documentary I watched on Amazon Prime about the Super Chief.

So with that motivation I knew that 2020 would be the year I would ride the Southwest Chief, and my best friend Ryan told me I would absolutely love the Sunset Limited seeing I love the Cardinal. And I’ve always wanted to ride the Sunset for some reason. So for the latter part of 2019 I was trying to plan a routing where I could max the new routes for me. Then I got an email from American Airlines inviting new to interview for a flight attendant with them so I knew I had to go to Dallas.

American would have flown me but I wanted to take the train because I knew if I didn’t get the job at least I would have a good train trip. I also wanted to visit someone special to me in the Northwest as well. So I planned a routing that let me ride the Sunset Limited, Texas Eagle, and Southwest Chief for most of their routes.

My good friend Malcolm decided to come with me and we planned a day trip down to San Diego on the Surfliner, a side trip to Oklahoma City, and a day trip on the River Runner to a museum near Kirkwood. Most of this was on a travel agents AD75 rate seeing we get one sleeper round trip at 75 percent off per year. So our routing was LAX-DAL-STL-KCY-LAX.

Day Zero: Packing and not at the last minute for a change

In the morning I had to work at the clinic which was kinda bittersweet because I thought it might be my last shift before announcing I was getting a new job. I really love the people I work with because everyone is so caring, and we all look after each other. I even call my office manager Kelsey one of my best friends because she always is looking out for me, and someone I can call for advice.

I managed to be completely packed before the seven in the evening which was so different by my standards that it felt weird. I didn’t know what to do with the extra time so I made a tri tip roast for dinner which was incredible (happy to send recipes). After that I drove over to see family and say goodbye for a few weeks before going back to my place to rest before going to the airport.
 

Seaboard92

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3,423
Day 1: Washington, DC Missed Connections

The morning started early with me waking around three thirty in the morning to get a ride to the airport with my best friend Ryan. Initially my plan was to fly on American Airlines to Santa Ana a day later on Friday but it was $250 one way connecting in Dallas. But leaving a day earlier cost $175 in total with Alaska Airlines from Dulles, and an American flight to BWI including a hotel. So obviously why not go the cheaper way if it’s available.

So Ryan picked me up and we had a good conversation. He just got hired as a freight conductor for a local Shortline railroad and he was waiting for his start date so we talked about that some. But we also talked about England, traveling, and our respective problems in our lives. We also talked a lot about the person I was going to see in Portland too and how to handle that. Ryan and I always tend to have bitter disagreements about things but we always end up back together because I feel we need each other in our lives.

He gave some amazing advice that was incredibly helpful to me. And I know he has my best interest at heart. The day prior I looked up the schedules for the various RetroJets in the sky to see if we would be able to see either. Both Ryan and I started as just railfans but we’re really more transportation fans because we really get into aviation too. There were quite a few landing around the time my flight was so we hoped to see some.

After he dropped me off he went to the NC Transportation Museum and I went to the gate for one of the Retrojets. It wasn’t my flight but I had plenty of time to kill and I have never seen a single Retrojet so I wanted to photograph it. I had a Chick Fil A breakfast because I need to eat before I fly. After that I went to my gate and boarded my B737-800 flight for the short flight to Baltimore Friendship International Airport. For those of you who don’t know that’s what BWI was originally named and I like the sound of it.

The flight was uneventful till landing however. We were coming in on an incredibly windy day and we hit the runway incredibly hard. Most of the passengers went into the brace position from the landing except for me. I was listening to an orchestra version of Hey Jude that was almost angelic at the time so I wasn’t really paying attention. It did get my attention however on that impact.

I had planned to get the significantly more expensive Amtrak regional No. 183 to DC so I could see my good friend Rachael who used to work for Senator Warren before one of her meetings. And I had a seat on hold for $25 dollars to make that so I could catch up for a bit before her 11 AM meeting near Union Station. The checked baggage came remarkably fast by those standards and I proceeded to the bus stop for the Amtrak Station.

I stood their waiting while five of every shuttle went by except the one to the train station. The shuttle came at 9:55 AM and I had been standing out since 9:20 AM for something that’s advertised as every ten minutes. So I had to break my meeting with her because the next train was at 10:45 AM. I was a bit miffed because I had been really looking forward to catching up with her. However the NEC railfaning did not disappoint. But As much as I like trains I would rather have spent time with a close friend of mine instead.

While I waited for my train I saw two Acelas, a Regional, and the Carolinian. The ride into the city was smooth no complaints. The track actually felt much smoother than in the past. We arrived on the upper death on track 12 and I walked into the station. I met up with Malcolm and stored my bag in the Club Acela. Then the two of us walked over to Cannon House Office Building for my meeting with Rep Norman my congressman.

Even though I don’t intend to work on PV’s for the main part of my living, and now after visiting Portland I really want something more stable I still will fight for them. Even though I won’t be working on them I want other people to get the opportunity I’ve had. I want other young people to experience how amazing it is to work private varnish, and learn the lessons it’s taught me about work ethic and such. That and I hate to see the car owners hurting the way they are. I also mentioned how Amtrak has cut diners, and services for the general public as well.

After my meeting with my representative I had a meeting with Senator Graham but wasn’t able to walk my usual route to the senate side because due to the impeachment trial starting the walkways were closed. So I had to walk the scenic way which actually is nice to do from time to time. Especially on a nice day.

I went and had a thirty minute meeting with Graham’s staff who know me at this point on a first name basis because I’m always meeting with them. Then I went and had lunch with my friend Lace who is a deputy press secretary for a senator. And it was so great catching up with her. The food on the senate side has always been better as this occasion again proved. We caught up on her travels, my travels, our opinions on the current issues, and just life in general. I can’t wait to get back up to the hill.

I didn’t go on the hill at all in 2019 and I didn’t realize just how much I missed it. That was such a fun experience. Normally when I go I stay for a week and I meet with the entire South Carolina, and Oregon delegations. It’s truly an amazing experience and I encourage all Americans if you are passionate about something to meet your representatives. There is just something that feels right when you are walking around the halls of power.

After meeting with Lace I walked back to Union Station to grab my bag and the train to IAD at about two thirty. Malcolm and I didn’t have a long wait for a Red alone Train and we went to Metro Center to get our connection. We didn’t have a super long wait for a Silver Line train. However I was nervous because as stand by passengers on Alaska Airlines because of our fare class we are subject to getting bumped. Our page showed 16 seats being available and he was No. 16 and I was No. 17 on the list of standby passengers.

We reached the end of the silver line and transferred to the Silver Line Connector Bus and then checked our bag thru to LAX. Malcolm has PreCheck and Global Entry whereas I do not so he went to that line. My line was incredibly long that I entered around 3:30 for a flight departing at five. First we had several long amusement park style queues where about five hundred people were. And I thought they were taking a load of about a hundred at a time on the Budd mobile lounge to a security somewhere else.

That didn’t turn out to be the case instead it was on an escalator to another long and winding queue where I met a nice woman who was a vintage clothes and underwear model going to San Antonio. The vintage clothing part really intrigued me because I love costume parties the underwear not really. At this point it was 4:25 and my plane was about to start boarding. And I was really worried. I didn’t want to be that guy who asks to cut ahead because they are on the verge of missing their flight.

I cleared security at 4:40 PM and the doors for the flight close at 4:45 PM. I went to the wrong security for the train to B gates which is right next to where the plane was. But because I had no time and I didn’t see a sign for it I chose to run. It must have been a real sight to see me running in my blue power suit, with my shoes in my hands running in my socks.

I knew I could run faster in my socks than my dress shoes so I hauled. The escalator hurts on bare feet but it didn’t stop me. Malcolm attempted to stall the gate agent while I ran over a mile in the airport at full speed. Camera bag on my back, shoes on my hands and just running. I came up on the long escalator at gate B37 and had to get to B63. At this point Malcolm was on the phone with me trying to delay the gate agent so I was yelling/panting the gate I was passing. I ran by a Lufthansa Boeing 747-400 that I would rather have been on without taking a picture of the queen.

I soon reached my gate, collected the boarding pass, showed my ID and boarded our B737-800 right as the door shut. I took my middle seat in premium Economy while I was still panting. I did manage to photograph the 747 from the plane as we taxied out. We had a rough take off because of the heavy wind but I was just so glad to be on the flight. Once we moved up above 10,000 feet the WiFi started working so I could watch movies on my tablet.

I watched Steve Carrel and Tina Fey in Date Night. Even though I’ve seen it before it felt new because I hadn’t seen it in such a long time and I enjoyed it. Then I watched Jim Carey’s Ace Ventura Pet Detective. By far a very stupid stupid movie but I will give Jim credit his facial expressions are pretty good. Then I watched a Murphy Brown before we landed at LAX. We landed about two minutes earlier and then proceeded to sit on the tarmac for the next hour or so. The plane at our gate broke down and they couldn’t move it, and no other gates were available.

I’m glad I didn’t have a tight connection because I didn’t have to worry about it at all. I just patiently waited our turn to get a gate and get off. Eventually we were allowed off and we went to get our bags. Once we had our bags it was time to find our hotel shuttle which took about forty five minutes to show up. I really hate waiting for shuttles at airports when you really don’t know what you are looking for.

We checked into the travel lodge LAX and were in bed fairly quickly after arrival.
 

Seaboard92

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An Acela Express passing BWI.

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It may be back lit but I think this is a cool shot. It’s grimy.

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The Coke engine

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The Virginia Railway Express in the yard.

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Union Station in DC. One of Seven Union Stations I visited.

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The Legislative Graveyard Protest.
 

Seaboard92

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Day 2: The San Diegan/Pacific Surfliner to get In and Out

We woke up really early so we could get the 6:05 AM Surfliner to San Diego in my quest to try what is known as the best fast food in America. We left the hotel around four thirty in a Lyft and it didn’t take too long to get to Union Station. We then walked thru the head house to the Metropolitan Lounge to store our bags for the day. We had trouble explaining to the person there we were on Train No. 422 the thru cars on the Sunset Limited but we’re also ticketed on Train No. 562 to San Diego.

Once our bags were stored we went down to the track and waited to board our Horizon train of which is more representative of the San Diegan trains than the Surfliners. After a short wait for them to open the train we took our seat in the last coach possible figuring it would be a bit quieter which it was. We departed on time and had a relaxing ride. The line from Fullerton to Oceanside would be new milage to me. And not only would it be new it would complete the west coast North South Amtrak route for me.

Malcolm and I got caught up on a bit of everything on the ride south and enjoyed the lovely view from the Santa Fe Surf Line. We arrived into San Diego about forty minutes late due to signal issues and I took several pictures of the trainset under the Palm Trees. We bought regional day passes for the Trolley and Sprinter than took a trolley to Petco Park. My first trip to the west coast was to San Diego so I kinda wanted to re see things I saw when I was 12.

We walked across the new bridge over the rail yard and then down fifth avenue towards the trolley station. I commented a lot on the blending of architecture that only makes sense in San Diego. You have a lot of older style buildings right next to modern 1990/2000s style high rises and it just fits. After a short walk we reached the trolley stop and got on the next Blue Line Train south for lunch. On the way we passed the Pacific Fleet which was actually quite cool.

I’ll be honest I wasn’t super impressed with In and Out. The burger is definitely good but I’m not sure it’s worth all of the hype it receives and the fries definitely aren’t. Either way I’m glad I tried it out because I’ve heard so much about them since watching Jay Leno during high school. So it at least wasn’t a waste of time. After leaving In-and-Out Burger we took the light rail to Old Town San Diego for a quick stroll around before our train.

Old Town was actually more lovely than I remembered it from my childhood and very quaint feeling. I’m glad I had the chance to go back and relive it. After a quick stroll we bought our Coaster tickets and waited for the northbound coaster coming in ten minutes. We had an easy short ride on the commuter train north to Oceanside, CA. Figuring it was a cross platform connection to a waiting Sprinter I moved towards the head end prior to arrival into Oceanside to get a picture of the F40PH pulling the train.

Turns out I didn’t have to do that at all as you have to walk the entire length of both the Coaster and Sprinter platforms to reach the Sprinter. We then caught the Sprinter out just to try it out. For those who aren’t knowledgeable about it the train is basically a Siemans Desiro (looming that up delayed me forty five minutes reading about German DMUs). The conductor came around after every two or so stops to lift tickets which is only of note because the return trip the conductor never came by.

The train filled up heading east and on the way west was fairly empty. Had to explain to someone why I take pictures of scenery which the guy still found weird. But what can I say we don’t have scenery like Southern California in central South Carolina. We arrived at the end point and flipped right back around back to Oceanside.

We arrived back in Oceanside and I photographed a Metrolink train while Malcolm went to the restroom and then we went for a walk on the beach with roughly an hour and a half before our Northbound Surfliner No. 785 left for Los Angeles. A nice short walk of the beach, I photographed the metrolink from one of the streets without a grade crossing. We had a nice uneventful evening on the beach before heading back to the station.

We had trouble finding seats on the Surfliner but eventually we found some at a table on the east side of the train. I left for five minutes when the sun was setting on the other side to find a window I could shoot the sunset from. It was a fairly uneventful trip we discussed Amtrak’s issues with the 25,000 dollar wheelchair and the NAACP issue that happened on the same day. Closer to Los Angeles we started looking for food options and I wanted Mac and cheese so I was looking it up and stumbled on a nice deli the Little Jewel of New Orleans.

Malcolm loved the music playing there was New Orleans Jazz and I just loved the quality of the food. It was fantastic large portions, cheap, and the fries were out of this world. And it’s walking distance from Union Station however the neighborhood in my opinion was a bit sketchy. After sitting there for a bit to research the Ballard Terminal Railroad for a friend we meandered back to the station.

We then went back to the lounge and waited for our train. I made a phone call to my friend Nigel in Flint, MI to discuss a project of his. Literally that took up most of my waiting time because I hung up right as they were calling our train. Instead of taking the golf cart which only takes a few at a time I chose to walk. As usual I always beat the cart out to the platform and the train wasn’t on the platform yet.

However it was a short late before the train backed onto the platform at 9:30 PM. I put my suitcase in the rack and then proceeded to walk up to the locomotive to take a photo of it before going back and reboarding the last car. As we were on the Thru Car with the Texas Eagle we had the last car. Both Malcolm and I waited for departure and proceeded to enjoy the first fifteen or so minutes after our 10:00 PM departure before both going to take showers and bed down.
 

Seaboard92

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Pacific Surfliner No. 562

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I’m going to miss the P42s when they are gone.

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The Pacific Coast

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I love riding the Surfliner

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I thought this was a cool abstract photo and I’m proud of it. What do you think.

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Train No. 562 at San Diego.

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Train No. 562 at San Diego.

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Santa Fe Station

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Petco Park where I saw my first ball game.

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The Coasters in the layover yard.
 

Seaboard92

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Downtown San Diego.

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The Gaslamp Quarter.

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World Famous In-and-Out Burger

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The presentation of food there.

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Old town San Diego

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Old town San Diego.

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The Coaster at Old Town

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A view from the Sprinter

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Oceanside at Oceanside

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The beach at Oceanside
 

Seaboard92

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Two surfliners meet at Oceanside

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Sunset from the train

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A father and his daughter look at new diesels.

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A MI Train now Leary’s Truck and Electric engine.

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The Coast Starlight in from Seattle.

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The Coast Starlight
 

Seaboard92

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Day 3: Sunrise to Sunset on the Sunset Limited

I wanted to be up to see the California Zephyr relic in Maricopa so I purposely tried to be awake by 6:20 AM. However we were running late so I mostly lounged in the top bunk till we were closer to that point. Eventually Malcolm and I both got dressed and went to have breakfast in the diner. Today’s consist had two coaches one for New Orleans, and one for Chicago we had to walk thru to reach the food service cars. Both coaches had more shorts than Kong’s in them further proving why long distance trains matter.

I believe Malcolm and I had breakfast without any company but I’m not quite sure because I don’t remember. I had the pancakes which were ok but nothing really to write home about. I did photograph the Silver Horizon in Maricopa however. After breakfast I moved to the lounge car and had a great conversation about why train travel matters with an ex Con.

And that is really what’s beautiful about train travel you meet people you wouldn’t ordinarily meet, and you get to see they too are human. He knew a lot about the area we were in and he gave great photograph opportunity advice. It was a quick run from Maricopa to Tucson so much so we made up 35 minutes but still arriving a bit off the advertised. Malcolm wanted to show me a 1920s hotel across the street because he knows I love the 20s after Babylon Berlin so we went across the street and looked.

We also photographed the steam engine on display at the station which had a cat lounging on it as well. While they were fueling I wasn’t allowed to photograph our locomotive so I went to a nearby parking garage and got some good photos of it. Which is good because they departed shortly after fueling ended. We left five minutes late and I rode in front of the back door for the little bit out of the city to watch it recede.

After that I went to the lounge and proceeded to talk to anyone wanting to talk. Rail enthusiasts abound in the lounge and it’s always good to talk to them. We got the 12:45 lunch reservation in the diner and had plenty of time to kill. I’ll be honest I prefer the Sunset Limited to the California Zephyr because it actually felt like we were making progress with our small stops, high speed, and cell service is nice too.

I had another call with Nigel in Flint to discuss his project. My phone calls on average last roughly an hour or more because I just love to talk. And even when I start to say goodbye I then get on a sidetrack and we talk another thirty minutes about more topics. Then I continued to talk to various people in the lounge. Our attendant down there kept making corny jokes, and kept everyone entertained.

Soon it was time for our lunch at 12:45 PM and we were seated with some fascinating people. One was an older woman traveling from Tucson to Albuquerque with the bus connection from El Paso. And she was fairly nice but not nearly as remarkable as our other table mate. He was originally from Chicago but lives in Tucson now and was a musician in the late 60s and 70s traveling to Alpine, TX for Big Bend National Park.

What made him unique and what made our conversation last all the way into El Paso was the fact he knew Steve Goodman (City of New Orleans), Arlo Guthrie, Muddy Waters, and so many other people. And he didn’t just know them he was personal friends with all of them and we just listened to his stories about them. I love old music so listening to those stories really made the time fly by. All too soon we were rumbling along the Rio Grande and the border just west of the El Paso Station.

I took advantage of our 30 minute stop to stretch my legs, and to explore the station. A fun fact being this Union Station and Union Station in DC share the same architect. I decided to use the railfan window for our departure from El Paso to see the trench and the various rail yards. Malcolm returned to the lounge car, and I waited for dinner reservations in our bedroom while talking to my mother on the phone for a bit.

After that I returned to the lounge and talked to some young railfans heading to New Orleans just because they wanted to ride the Sunset Limited. The song for today is West Texas in my Rearview Mirror because today’s sunset was amazing. I wish I had been smart like Malcolm and went to the rear window to time lapse it.

We had a 7 or so dinner reservation and our company was still interesting but not as interesting with a man who was traveling to Illinois and a young woman traveling to San Antonio as she had to pick up a U-Haul to move to DC from California. I had the steak which was nice. And we all shared our various travel stories and advice. We were slated to arrive in Alpine at 8:15 PM Central while we were still in the diner. And I was prepared to leave for a moment to get a locomotive picture and then return.

But as things often work out Union Pacific delayed us waiting for two freight trains which pushed us from arriving 20 minutes early to 30 minutes late. But that worked out fine for me because I prefer talking to people.

After dinner we had a brief stretch stop in Alpine. I got off from the New Orleans sleeper so I could photograph the locomotive before it moved forward and I reboarded my sleeper on the second stop. Our SCA stopped by to say his goodbyes and to explain how the San Antonio split works. Then we listened to music and talked late into the night. We fell asleep somewhere after the Pecos River High Bridge.
 
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Seaboard92

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The Sunset Limited at Los Angeles

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Silver Horizon

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The American Southwest.

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Southern Pacific steam

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The Sunset Limited at Tucson.

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The American Southwest

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The American Southwest

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A blast from the past

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The Rio Grande

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El Paso Union Station designed by the same man as Washington Union
 

Seaboard92

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The Sunset Limited at El Paso

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The El Paso Trench

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The Sunset Limited at Alpine
 

Seaboard92

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Day 4: The Highwaymen and the Heartland Flyer.

I awoke early because I wanted to photograph the locomotives for both the Sunset Limited and Texas Eagle in San Antonio, but as luck has it we arrived into SAS at 6:19 AM for our 7:00 AM departure so the stretch stop after the switching was completed was ten minutes. I did have time however to run and photograph both engines but barely. We backed out of the station and then took one of two routes that the Texas Eagle takes north out of San Antonio to New Braunfels.

Today’s route isn’t marked in ASM and passes the airport where a delta jet was landing as we passed by. Shortly after passing the airport we went to breakfast in the diner which was an Auto Train car based on its interior. We were sat with a woman traveling to Waco via McGreggor who was returning home, and an older man headed to Chicago. In New Braunfels we passed a private car Eagle River in MoPac paint which I photographed of course.

Then shortly afterwards we shifted to the route in ASM and continued our way north. We had great conversation about how Texas is really growing and the issues that come from that. Breakfast for us lasted till about Austin where I took advantage of a stretch stop to photograph the locomotive. I also got to know our cheerful attendant on the platform in Austin.

After departing Austin 21 minutes behind schedule I enjoyed the best of suburban Texas scenery. While many people don’t like suburban scenery to me it’s one of my favorite types. Maybe that’s because I grew up in the suburbs of a medium sized city so I have no trouble picturing the lives of those who live in these areas. And feel some sort of commonality between me and them. All too soon we went into Texas scenery of flat to rolling hills.

Malcolm and I enjoyed our time in the lounge as we tracked northward. I noticed on one of the rivers some fisherman in a boat were waving to us which was so cool. We had a short stretch stop in Temple where the platform was under construction preventing me from reaching the locomotives. We had lunch in the diner as we neared President W Bush’s ranch which is visible from the Eagle by the way. We had a table mate but by far the worst I’ve ever had on Amtrak.

Very quiet, and he gave off a vibe like he thought he was better than us, but that didn’t stop me from trying to be nice to him. I felt bad for him as a friend or family member died and he was heading that way. After lunch Malcolm went to nap and I went back to the lounge to enjoy the ride into Fort Worth. At Cleburne I returned to the room to start packing my things before detraining. After that I enjoyed the railfan window because it was close by as we arrived too late for the normal switching.

We had a fifteen minute delay at Tower 55 to wait on freight traffic before being allowed across and I took a great photo of the Heartland Flyer from the rear window. Then we detrained I photographed both the Phase I (156) and Phase II (130) heritage units together before walking to the station. We stored our bags at a nearby hotel and stumbled on a protest.

Being a former high school and college news reporter I gravitate towards things like that so of course I followed it to City Hall. I found myself photographing signs for the protest which turned out to be the Fort Worth Woman’s March and I also watched the police surround and protect the two lone pro-life counter protestors. While I don’t agree with their sentiments I am very refreshed to see the police enforcing their rights to protest and free speech. It’s refreshing to see signs of our democracy working like that from time to time.

We then walked around downtown Fort Worth for a bit which is really rather cool with its Art Deco skyscrapers. Eventually we chose to head back to the station to await our next train the Heartland Flyer No. 822 to Oklahoma City, OK. I walked the platform to the end to photograph it in decent light with the skyline and met a really nice family.

I really enjoyed talking to them for half an hour and gave them my contact info so that they could plan their European vacation with German Steam calendar seeing their child loves steam engines. All too soon it was time to board the two car Superliner bracketed by a P42DC, and a NPCU on each end. It really didn’t stay daylight long after departure and on the north end of Fort Worth we had probably the best sunset I’ve ever seen in my life.

After that I mostly listened to music on Apple Music and I had the Highwaymen on because country music just felt right for this run. Words can’t really describe how special the feeling of sitting in an aisle seat on a two car local train bound north. It was just special. Of course I stepped off for the fresh air stop in Ardmore, OK and I managed to photograph both ends of the train.

It was a fairly uneventful run but we ran twenty or so minutes late the whole way. We did arrive within six minutes of schedule though. We walked thru the darkened unstaffed station in Oklahoma City before walking the short distance to our hotel. We then both took turns showering and watched a bit of TV before bedding down for the night. Songs for today could be almost anything from Oklahoma the musical, Oklahoma City Times by Bobby Sherman or many others.
 

Seaboard92

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The Sunset Limited and Texas Eagle

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Southern Pacific steam at San Antone

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Eagle River

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Austin, TX

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The Texas Eagle at Austin.

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A river in Texas.

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The Heartland Flyer

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The first two phases

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Downtown Fort Worth

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The woman’s march.
 

Seaboard92

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The Fort Worth City Hall

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A small building in downtown.

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JFK in front of the last place he had a meal.

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The Heartland Flyer at FTW

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The sunset at a small pond.

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An amazing sunset in a wide open space.

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The Heartland Flyer at Ardmore
 

Seaboard92

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Day 5: Laundromat Chicken

We awoke early hoping to get a full circle on the Oklahoma City Streetcar which Malcolm works for before catching the Heartland Flyer south to Fort Worth. We did manage to get most of the loop in before having to get off and get on our train. We entered thru a side door and went straight Trainside. Malcolm picked out good seats on the river side while I took photos of the power and talked to the conductor.

I learned that this is called “God’s Train” because ODOT believes in doing everything possible to keep the train on time. And it oftentimes has someone calling to ask why a five minute delay occurred. It was an easy and scenic ride back into Texas. I enjoyed the New River Gorge of Oklahoma which is the Washita River Valley. It’s actually quite a scenic ride but definitely an outlying train in the system.

I do think a second frequency departing FTW in the morning and OKC in the evening would increase ridership and make it a more valuable service. Of course at the one stretch stop I got off and photographed both ends. As we were nearing Fort Worth I did my customary search for any city I’m visiting the first time best burger, fried chicken, and fries in Dallas and I found a place named Mikes that the pictures looked good and decided that was dinner.

We arrived in Fort Worth a half hour behind just before the Southbound Texas Eagle. Luckily I had enough time to get into position for the photo I wanted of the Eagle emerging from a man made building tunnel over the right of way. So I shot that, then checked my suitcase the one stop on the Eagle to Dallas so I wouldn’t have to lug it while I went looking for food. And that was a really smart move in my opinion because it saves wear and tear on the wheels and sped me up.

Then we marched around downtown Fort Worth looking for a place open on MLK day to eat. We had sandwiches at a small sub shop downtown before heading back to the station. Fort Worth’s Amtrak Station is a great place to railfan because there is a ton of action. I talked to my friend from home Josh who is now living in Dallas on the phone to see if we could meet up. Unfortunately we couldn’t make it work but we tried none the less.

We then took the Texas Eagle one stop to Dallas. It was a rather slow run with two stops to meet TRE westbound trains but I did see a RDC car and two F40s in their yard near Centerport. I rode in the lounge while Malcolm used the railfan window. I talked to two young women who were returning to Mineola after being on Dr. Phil due to a family issue. I always find the people I meet on trains to be interesting and I really didn’t understand her situation but I hope she doesn’t receive anything negative from her appearance on the show.

We arrived in Dallas and of course I took a photo of the power and the two Trinity Railway Express trains in the station. The TRE trains were parked way too close to the passenger crossing so I chose to walk to the next one down because at least the engineer can see me walking there whereas the other one in use he couldn’t. Then I claimed my bag and we walked a few blocks to our hotel. After checking in we took a walk over to the St Paul stop for the M Line Trolley which is a free trolley from downtown to uptown using vintage streetcars.

Our trolley Matilda had a lot of heart. The car was from Melbourne Australia and came to Dallas just ahead of the torch and has been here ever since. What made the trolley special though was our motor woman. She had so much heart she knows all her regular passengers by name, where their stops are, and she was just such a great person. I honestly spent most of my ride just chatting with her and learning the city from someone who interacts with hundreds a day piloting them around.

It was so refreshing to meet someone with so much spunk and charisma. We turned the trolley around on a turntable and were almost in a trolley accident with another trolley when another motorman wasn’t paying attention to our track warrant on single track. Other then that it was an uneventful but cheerful trip.

After that we elected to get off where we started and proceeded to the same dart stop for dinner. He went to a vegan place where he met an old friend by accident and I went to Mike’s Chicken. The street up to it was different in places it had a sidewalk and some places it just had a dirt trail before going back to sidewalk. I reached Maple Avenue and was looking for the place. My phone told me I had arrived but there wasn’t a chicken place just a laundromat.

Then I looked closer and there were people eating in this laundromat and I’m like well that’s strange. Turns out Mike’s Chicken is inside the laundromat and there were people of all walks of life eating in this small place. The line backed out the door shortly after I arrived. I wasn’t the only one fascinated by the laundromat it was in. And oh my god the food was out of this world after it arrived thirty five minutes later. The fries were so so take em or leave em but the chicken wow. Best chicken I’ve ever had in my life.

I felt bad for Malcolm who is a vegetarian because the whole way back to the hotel he had to hear about how amazing that chicken was. I would literally fly in for lunch it was that good. After that I went to the hotel gym for an hour and worked out to clear my head for my interview the next day. Then I went to bed.
 

Seaboard92

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The Oklahoma City Streetcar

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Oklahoma City

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The Heartland Flyer at OKC.

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Santa Fe steam at Paul’s Valley

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The Washita River

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The Heartland Flyer at Ardmore

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The Texas Eagle coming out of a man made tunnel of brick.

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The Texas Eagle and Heartland Flyer

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RDC at Trinity’s shops.

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The Texas Eagle at Dallas
 

Seaboard92

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Downtown Dallas

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A modern ish Dart

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M Line on the Turntable

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M Line after dark.
 

Seaboard92

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Dec 31, 2014
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Day 6: American Interview

I woke up around eight AM for the one PM interview out at the American Airlines Training and Conference Center. Malcolm went to the hotel breakfast while I spent that time getting ready because I don’t like to eat prior to an interview. My interview said check in was at 12:30 PM so naturally I started heading that way at ten AM on DART. The dart ride was fairly uneventful as we raced our way west. The right of way is fairly curvy as it detours to hit housing developments and business developments.

We arrived at the airport around 11:30 AM and I just happened to have good luck and made a shuttle out to the location at 11:45 AM and rode with flight attendants going for recurring training. I then checked in and made an ID card for the day with the security guard escort before joining the interview group. I will say their campus is far nicer than United’s but I prefer Canadian Pacific’s.

I’m not really sure what I’m allowed to say about the interview so I’m going to be intentionally bland and undetailed. They took us to a room a long way away from the foyer and thru the cafeteria which kinda stinks for those of us who were hungry. Then we listened to introductions of the team before we went in for a group activity. Someone came in late to the group activity which I found kinda tacky to be honest because in this job being on time matters because a flight can’t leave without you.

We then had our one on two next however I was near the end of the line which I am ok with because I always think judges hold scores down towards the beginning in case better come. I didn’t feel confident in the interview because they mentioned something about applying again in six months which in my mind meant yeah I’m not getting this.

And to be honest I’m really starting to think this isn’t the line of work I should go into. Like I’ve come close to getting the job, heck even had two offers before but maybe this isn’t what I’m supposed to do. After the interview I took the wrong shuttle and ended at the wrong terminal and had to wait on the public side terminal shuttle. And I missed the first texrail to meet back up with Malcolm.

When I finally managed to get to the right terminal I couldn’t find the TexRail because the signs were confusing as come be. Ended up wandering a parking structure in the cold. Till eventually I found the path that led from the Dart station to the TexRail station. Then I took the train two stops to Grapevine to meet back up with Malcolm for dinner. We had our dinner on the platform and I photographed the Grapevine Vintage Railway equipment there before we boarded a train for Fort Worth.

When we arrived at Texas & Pacific the place was a ghost town. We literally walked all around the darkened head house for thirty minutes while waiting for a Trinity Railway Express eastbound. It was a short ride back to Dallas and a long cold wet wait for the hotel shuttle who didn’t know where the train station was. After we eventually made it back to the hotel we went to bed.
 

Seaboard92

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An American B737 model landing.

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A delta airbus landing. If I wanted to fly I would apply here.

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Grapevine Vintage Railroad

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A Southern Pacific Triple unit car

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Grapevine Vintage Railroad.

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Trinity Railway Express
 

Seaboard92

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Day 7: Heartbreak

We woke up to enjoy our last day in Dallas before boarding the Texas Eagle to St. Louis this evening. We checked out of our hotel, and stored our bags there before walking over to the Museum on the 6th Floor about the Kennedy assassination.

It is such an incredible museum that I think every American should go to and it brought feelings up of a 60s song What the World Needs Now is Love merged with Abraham, Martin, and John. It’s such a powerful museum to think one of our presidents was literally shot and killed from a place I was strolling reading exhibits. Then again had that not happened there wouldn’t be a museum to be browsing.

After we exited the museum after two or so hours we decided we would visit the M line car barn. We were going to ride the M line out there but a distracted driver took out a catenary pole so the whole system was shut down. So we had to resort to Dart and then walking to the car barn. We toured a PCC, a historic Dallas car, and a Belgian streetcar. Then we both went separate places for food. I went to the Record Cafe and had the chicken special. It was nowhere near as good as Mike’s but the small place had charm.

After eating I waited for the hotel shuttle again a super long time to show up so I could get my bags and return to the train station. Then we went into the station and waited in the drab surroundings waiting for the Texas Eagle to arrive. I went out about fifteen minutes prior to arrival so I could photograph it arriving and I managed to get a photo of a leased F40PH shoving a Trinity Railway Express which I thought was special.

Then our train arrived 32 minutes late and departed 21 minutes late. This time our sleeper was forward of the diner and I made our reservations on my way to the lounge car. Then I went and enjoyed talking with my mother on the phone from the lounge as we went into the piney woods of Texas. I saw a golden chick and tried to figure out how I was going to get yeast rolls delivered to the train. I didn’t manage it but I’m still craving yeast rolls.

I took advantage of the fresh air stop at Longview to get another locomotive picture in the rain. After our fresh air stop was time to get dinner in the diner and the diner was pretty much empty so we had a table to ourselves. I had the steak again like I always do and it was ok. Malcolm and I worked on one of his articles for trains magazine on PVs.

Afterwards I went back into the lounge and I called my best friend?? Julia to see what her plans were for the weekend seeing I would be in town and visiting her. And that conversation was utterly heartbreaking because she confessed to me she now has a disease that can not be cured and I was completely heartbroken but trying to stay calm at least for her sake. I tried to cheer her up by singing Cotton Fields seeing we were about a mile from Texarkana in them cotton fields back home.

It was kinda awkward saying goodbye to her when I was photographing the power at the head end. Then I hugged Malcolm for what felt like forever before letting go. After awhile he went to bed and I stayed in the lounge car and talked really to any of my friends who were available to talk to so namely my mother and my preacher friend Richard. I saw President Clinton’s birth place in Hope as we paused to pick up and drop off no one. I talked to Richard all the way into Little Rock and I took a picture of the power there before going to bed. Somewhere in the night we passed Johnny Cash’s home town.
 

Seaboard92

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McDonalds vintage arches.

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The snipers nest.

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The view from the 6th floor

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Trinity Railway Express from where Kennedy was slain.

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Deeley Plaza

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Dart in a tunnel

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M Line Betty

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Dallas Union Station

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Trinity Railway Express with an F40

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The Texas Eagle
 

Seaboard92

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Dec 31, 2014
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Day 8: Across a Land of Snow

Both Malcolm and I awoke as we were slowly cruising up the west shore of old man river on our way into St. Louis. We wanted to get breakfast so we managed to get an early breakfast prior to arrival in St Louis. We grabbed our things and detrained twenty minutes late. We attempted to store our bags at the hotel across the street but they wouldn’t so we dragged our suitcases to Union Station to the private car park.

Of course a PV person wants to visit the largest PV yard in the country at this point so I checked it out. We took an Uber there and back which was alright. I saw one of our cars from Sam Shortline in St. Louis, and several other cars I recognized. Eventually we went back to the station and got on board Train No. 311 the Morning Missouri River Runner for our one stop ride to Kirkwood. I photographed all of the axle count cars seeing they are heritage cars hence my interest.

That and at Sam Shortline we want one of the remaining diners. Our ride was very brief and soon after we were in Kirkwood. While we waited for an Uber to the National Transportation Museum I managed to photograph an Union Pacific local in the snow at the station.

We enjoyed taking in the museum for a few hours in the mixture of snow and rain. It’s a really cool museum and they have a lot of one of a kind pieces, and fairly good geographic coverage for a museum in Missouri. I have to say my favorite is the NYC Mohawk though. After our tour of the museum we went to a Walgreens so I could develop a picture for a gift I would be giving later on during the trip before walking down US No. 66 back into Kirkwood.

We had lunch at a busy lunch spot Billy G’s which had station view and had great food. It was a lovely experience. Afterwards we went over to the train station and spent an hour talking to the station host who reminded me of Nelson who owns the Dearing PV a lot. I did manage to photograph one UP train passing the station before our Train No. 314 arrived.

We then rode in a Horizon coach back into St Louis where Malcolm waited in the sleeper lounge and I took Metrolink to the Gateway Arch. For whatever reason I was referring to it as the Space Needle however. It was a beautiful foggy and snowy day so depending on the angle it was obscured but I’m glad I took the time to visit it. I also love the vibe the streets give in downtown St Louis. Somewhat like New York in ways, and in others like Cleveland.

After a short tour of the city I returned to the station and we boarded the exact same train we had gotten off of. It arrived late inbound so they didn’t have time to wye it. So they wyed it with us on board under the Gateway Arch which caused us to lose ten minutes. It was a very snowy ride across the state however darkness fell soon after Washington, Missouri. I did take advantage of the fresh air stop in Jefferson City to photograph the train in the snow.

We were worried we were going to miss our connection westward because a UP train couldn’t make the hill out of Jefferson City so we lost about an hours worth of time getting around him and our eastbound counterpart. But once we got around they did their best to help us make up time as we sped westward. We arrived into a snowy Kansas City at 10:25 PM 45 minutes late. Instead of visiting the beautiful head house we walked down the platform to sleeper 0330 where the LSA was waiting to board us.

The Southwest Chief departed on time at 10:42 PM and both Malcolm and I visited the showers before bedding down for the first of two nights on board. The first shower I tried had a clogged drain so I had to try a different one after that.
 

Seaboard92

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Dec 31, 2014
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Metro

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Silver Chalet

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Saratoga & North Creek

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A Sam car that needs to be headed home soon.

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Southern Hospitality my favorite vista dome in the country.

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Orlando & Northwestern

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I would love to buy this car. I have ideas for it.

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St Louis Union Station.

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A Northern Pacific diner. I want to put a monad on it.

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The Missouri River Runner
 

Seaboard92

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Dec 31, 2014
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Missouri River Runner

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The Molly Pitcher Ex Pennsylvania car

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A Union Pacific local at Kirkwood

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A train of many colors.

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A Chicago and Illinois Midland and amazing original zephyr.

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A Milwaukee Road bi-polar

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Erie Lackawanna SD45

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Missouri Pacific Alco

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My favorite paint scheme.

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Now that’s a steam engine.
 

Seaboard92

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The Aero Train

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Union Pacific at Kirkwood

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The Missouri River Runner at Kirkwood

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Downtown St Louis.

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Downtown St Louis

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The Gateway Arch

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The Gateway Arch

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The Missouri River Runner at Jefferson City

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The Missouri River Runner at Kansas City
 
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