My trip to the Gathering ...plus RARE Mileage that I didn't really see

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MARC Rider

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OK, the last Amtrak long-distance trip I took was on the Meteor to Savannah back in 2017. Here's my report of what I found in the Amtrak long-distance world a few weeks ago while riding to the Gathering in Dallas.

My itinerary:
Northeast Regional from Baltimore to Washington in coach
Capitol Limited from Washington to Chicago in a bedroom (!)
Texas Eagle from Chicago to Dallas in a roomette
Texas Eagle from Dallas to Chicago in a roomette
Cardinal from Chicago to Baltimore in a roomette

I had a chance to check out the new "Contemporary flex" food service on the Capitol and Cardinal. I reported on my observations in an earlier post in the Amtrak Rail Discussion Forum, but I'll add a few things here, too.

Monday, October 28

A bright and sunny day. My wife dropped me off at Penn Station at about 12:30 PM for a 1:17 departure on Northeast Regional #95 to make my connection in Washington. When I walked in the station, look at this! Everything's on time! Am I riding Amtrak?

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Of course, this was too good to be true, and by quarter of one, 95's arrival time was slipping. I had neglected to eat lunch, so I followed the recommendation on my thread about station food, and went over to Lanvale St. and tried out Milk and Honey Market. I was a little antsy waiting for them to make my sandwich to order, but they did it in a timely manner, and I was able to eat it in the station, anxiously awaiting my late train. It was pretty good, but I noticed that the taste buds on the left side of my tongue weren't sending any messages to the flavor center of my brain. This was weird, but I didn't think too much of it, although it was a warning of the adventure I was going to face the next day.

NER 95 finally came in about 20 minutes late, but I had planned enough of a time cushion that I wasn't worried about missing the Capitol.

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It was crowded! Almost like rush-hour-on-Friday-afternoon crowded. No room in the baggage racks at the end of the car, I had to hoist my rather heavy overpacked suitcase into the overhead luggage rack.


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After the usual run down to Washington, we arrived at the lower level, so not only did I have to haul my bag down from overhead, I had to work it down the vestibule stairs on to the low platform. Pretty much all of the car in which I was riding got off at Washington. There might have been one or two people riding through to Virginia points. (The train was going to Norfolk.)

I found my way to the Club Acela, and pretty much just chilled waiting for the Capitol. One of the attendants at the lounge remembered me from my commuting days and greeted me warmly. As I was sitting, I started noticing that maybe I was fighting off some kind of bug. I didn't think too much of it at the time, as it wasn't the usual cold/fly symptoms, but it probably was the start of what I dealt with the next day.

Finally, the call for the Capitol. Off I went, and made my way up the stairs to Room E. This segment was the only one I paid for, as the rest of the trip was done on points. When I went to book, the bedroom was only $70 more than a roomette, so I decided to get a bedroom, what the heck. It was pretty nice, but I'm not sure I would pay a really large premium for a one-night ride.

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The little armchair facing the main seat wasn't really all that comfortable, but the extra room was nice, and having the WC and shower in the room was kind of a nice feature, as I tend to get up a lot during the night to use the facilities. All of the outlets are by the door, and I slept with my head by the window, so my setup for my CPAP involved a bit of a tangle of wires and hoses. My phone had to charge by the sink and was not available to me while I slept.

The SCA came by before we departed and took my order for dinner. Reservation times were set up in 1/2 hour blocks, going from 5PM until after 9. I suppose this was to prevent lines from forming at the counter in the diner-lounge, and it seems to have worked pretty well.

We pulled out on time and arrived in Chicago only about 10 minutes late. It was still Daylight Savings Time, so it stayed light until a little after Martinsburg, so I was able to enjoy a bit of nice scenery in the Maryland Piedmont, and Harper's Ferry. But first, a snack!

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That cheese and bourbon lasted me the whole trip, by the way.

I went back into the coaches and checked out the railfan window and got a view of Brunswick and a MARC train.

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Soon after Brunswick, we started running right next to the C&O Canal Towpath. This is a favorite hike I take from Weaverton to Harper's Ferry. If the eastbound Capitol is running on time or not too late, I can see it come into the station.

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-- To be continued
 

MARC Rider

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Still on Monday, October 28:

The mighty Potomac River
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Harper's Ferry

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Railfans(?) taking pictures of the train

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We passed Martinsburg, and then it got dark.

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Soon after, I went to the diner-lounge at my appointed time, and got my flex meal. It was edible, and I didn't have to wait in line, so I can't complain too much. It was served on the silly little tray, and we had to bus our dishes, being careful not to throw the tray away. The system was completely different on the Cardinal.

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Finally, to end my day, the SCA set up my bed. Oh boy, a bedroom bed (at least the lower) is really roomy, although there's only a narrow way through into the corridor.

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Well, that was that, into bed, and off to sleep, which was pretty good, though I did wake up when we stopped in Pittsburgh, but that's OK, because I enjoyed the view of the city skyline as we left and crossed the river.

To be continued
 

AmtrakBlue

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I was watching that couple. Wondering what they were doing. Seemed more than rail fanning.
 

Bob Dylan

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Nice pics and TR as usual Joe. Looking forward to the rest of the story as Paul Harvey used to say.

And now that you're retired, is it time to change your Avitar from MARC Rider to something not Commuter related?
 

flitcraft

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Like all good writers, you foreshadow ominous plot developments in your posts...The good news is that, since you're posting, we know that whatever happened, it wasn't fatal. Whew!!
 

OBS

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Great report so far. Glad someone is reporting about the gathering!
 

pennyk

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Great report so far Joe. Since I was on a couple of the trains on which you traveled, I am sitting on the edge of my seat (more or less) waiting to read what you have to say.
 

Maglev

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Thanks for the trip report! I'm a big fan of Bedrooms, and think the Capitol Limited has the best scenery of the Chicago-East Coast trains. I'm looking forward to more reading and photos!
 

dogbert617

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Thanks for the trip report! I'm a big fan of Bedrooms, and think the Capitol Limited has the best scenery of the Chicago-East Coast trains. I'm looking forward to more reading and photos!
Riding the Capitol east of Pittsburgh to DC, is still on my to do list someday. Though the Cardinal will be hard to beat, that's for sure.

And for sure, I've thought about taking the Capitol east to Cumberland, and riding on the Western Maryland Scenic Railroad(IIRC the name of it) to Frostburg, riding the Frostburg Flyer. Hope to do that, eventually in the future.
 

dogbert617

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OK, the last Amtrak long-distance trip I took was on the Meteor to Savannah back in 2017. Here's my report of what I found in the Amtrak long-distance world a few weeks ago while riding to the Gathering in Dallas.

My itinerary:
Northeast Regional from Baltimore to Washington in coach
Capitol Limited from Washington to Chicago in a bedroom (!)
Texas Eagle from Chicago to Dallas in a roomette
Texas Eagle from Dallas to Chicago in a roomette
Cardinal from Chicago to Baltimore in a roomette
Thanks MARC for starting this thread, and posting what your travel experience out to the 2019 Gathering and back was like. I've been slightly disappointed, that so far I haven't seen a lot of travel reports from those who've went to the Gathering this year. Hopefully that changes, over the next few months. Did you do a side OKC trip on the Heartland Flyer, before or after the Gathering ended?

Early next year, I was thinking I might try a Chicago-New Orleans-San Antonio-Chicago trip, with some not yet determined stopover points along the TX Eagle route. But hadn't yet determined where those Eagle stopovers going north from San Antonio will be yet(Austin? Dallas and/or Fort Worth? Little Rock?). I'm sure I'll figure out some more concrete and definite plans for this proposed trip I want to do, very soon.
 

MARC Rider

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Tuesday, October 29

I was awakened before dawn as we rolled into Toldeo, but turned over and went back to sleep for a while. Didn't get up until we were around Elkhart. Made use of the en-suite bathing facilities, nice not to have to go downstairs to get a shower.

As dawn was breaking, I went over to the Diner-Lounge to check out the new "improved" Flex-breakfast. I didn't have to wait for service, and I had a choice of everything on the menu. What I took was the breakfast sandwich, a fresh fruit cup, a kind bar, and coffee. The fruit cup was pretty good, the breakfast sandwich was OK, the Kind bar was the grain-based one, not the (better) nut and fruit one. The coffee, well, it was typical Am-coffee. I had a few cups, which, as it turns out, may have been a couple of cups too many.

As I went into the Sightseer Lounge to observe the northern Indiana countryside, the back side of the Indiana Dunes, and another futile attempt to observe a South Shore Line train in the wild on the adjacent tracks, I started feeling a bit under the weather. The breakfast sandwich, which was perfectly fine when I ate it, was starting to react in my digestive system, turning into a sour ball of lead. My head, ears, nose, etc. was starting to clog up, and, of course, I was still dealing with this odd sensation of my left-side taste buds being AWOL. All of this wasn't really intense, though, and I figured that maybe the breakfast sandwich and the dregs of the coffee that the SCA put out at 5 AM weren't agreeing with each other, and I should be feeling better later in the afternoon. That's sort of what happened, but not exactly the way I thought it would.

The weather had also turned overcast, and a quick check on weather.gov indicated (1) that the unusually warm fall I had been enjoying was about to end with temperatures in the low 40s, and (2) chance of rain in Chicagoland, both Tuesday and Wednesday.

Finally, we entered the Windy City, crossed the Dan Ryan, and started to make our way to the terminus. We arrived more or less on time, not only by Amtrak long-distance standards, but even by normal standards. We might have been 10 or 15 minutes behind the advertised. Upon arrival, I again saw Amtrak Blue, who I had seen at the Club Acela in DC, but didn't see on board, as she apparently picked a different dinner reservation time than I did. She was heading out that day for St. Louis, whereas I was going to knock about Chicago, spend the night, and and out on the Texas Eagle on Wednesday. Thus, we parted company at the Metropolitan Lounge, where I stashed my bags, and hung out for a while having another cup of coffee. (whoops)

Arrival in Chicago

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If you want some quiet in the Metropolitan Lounge, head up to the upper level, where there are some great pictures of Pennsylvania Railroad heritage. Too bad none of these locos are in operating conditions anywhere.

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I didn't really have any plan in mind for what to do at first. I vaguely though about going into the Art Institute, as looking at art inside a nice warm museum was not a bad way to spend the day, considering the weather. I started walking down Jackson and into the Loop. It was pretty raw, but I was dressed for it, so I didn't mind too much.

As I started to cross Dearborn, I was starting to feel a little light-headed. The, a block later at State, I really noticed that my body was sending me all kinds of "not-normal" signals. The weirdest was that the left side of my face was feeling "numb." Well, not really numb, if I touched it, I felt the touch, but yet I had no control. Well, I'm not a doctor, but I do know that feeling of numbness or weakness on one side of your body is one of the classic signs of a stroke. Of course, once that thought flashed through by brain, I got a nice slug of adrenaline. That, combined with the gallons of coffee I had drunk that morning got the old heart racing and my mind on the quiet verge of a freak-out about my health.

Having a medical crisis while being alone 800 miles from home was not my idea of a fun vacation trip. About the only good thing you could say was that I was in the United States, so I would be covered by Medicare. Well, also that I was in Chicago, where they have a lot of high quality medical providers, and I wasn't having this in the middle of the night on an Amtrak train rolling through some remote part of the Ozarks or something.

At this point, after some deliberation, I thought that, yes, maybe I ought to see a doctor. But rather than look up where to go on the raw cold street, I noticed I was right by the entrance of the Palmer House. What better place to do an internet search than in the warm, plush, ornate lobby of this classic hotel? Which is what I did. Thankfully, I wasn't in New York, where the hotel lobbies have been converted to be as user-unfriendly as possible in order to keep riff-raff like me out. My internet search revealed an urgent care practice on Michigan Avenue, just a few blocks away, and that's where I headed, as quickly as possible.

The doctor's office was on the 16th floor, and when I walked in, I explained my symptoms, and the receptionist gave me some forms to fill out. Ah, I thought as I started filling them out, maybe it's not so serious if they're having me fill forms. But before I could finish filling stuff out (but they did make sure to get copies of my Medicare card and Blue Cross card), a nurse came out and had me go to an examining room, where she started doing my vitals. Not a good sign when you go to the doctor and don't have to wait.

The real zinger was that my blood pressure was north of 180/90, and I didn't have to wait around too long before a genuine M.D. came in and started questioning me about my symptoms and having me do a bunch of stuff like yanking on his fingers and pushing on his palms. I think we established that the weakness was really only in my face, and not the rest of my left side. At that point, he mentioned the possibility of Bell's Palsy, which I had never heard of, but, he said, "given your blood pressure, we still can't rule out the possibility of a stroke, so I think what we need to do is call 911 and get you to an emergency room." After reading about Bell's Palsy later, I think what he meant to say was that "the only way you can diagnose Bell's Palsy is to rule out a stroke."

Well, as you can imagine, I was a bit wound up by that point. Of course the advice was reasonable, so I didn't object, but was slowly (and still quietly) freaking out in the few minutes it took the paramedics to arrive. The doctor tried to reassure me, telling me that Northwestern Memorial Hospital was located nearby, and was one of the better hospitals in the country.

The paramedics were great. I have nothing by good to say about how I was treated by the Chicago Fire Department. They strapped me into a wheeled evacuation chair, took me down the elevator, and got me into the ambulance on the street. They also did the schtick with having me yank their fingers and bush their palms and all the other field tests to diagnose stroke. When I got to the hospital, I also got to perform for the ER nurse, a physician's assistant, and finally, the ER doc and his resident. Really, the only things that were weak were my left lips and the left side of my face.

Once in the ambulance and hooked up to the EKG, the paramedic asked me which hospital I wanted to use. That was odd, we don't do that in Baltimore, they have the city divvied up, and each fire station has its own hospital assigned. My choices were Rush, UIC or Northwestern Memorial. Northwestern Memorial was closest, so I told them to take me there. They then proceeded to drive around the city, sirens blaring. I had no idea where we were, but finally we arrived. The paramedics were really good company and reassuring. I think they had better bedside manner than a lot of doctors I've known.

We rolled into the ER, and a lot of stuff happened pretty quickly (and not getting my Medicare and Blue Cross card, either. That came a bit later.) They took some blood, they put in an IV I didn't need, and I got a chest X-ray and, finally a CAT scan. And, of course, the quick field tests for stroke that the doctor and paramedic gave me. This was all done within an hour. I was pretty impressed. Then I had to sit around for a while in a hospital bed with nothing happening. Finally, the ER physician and his resident came in and gave me the good news that it was "just" Bell's Palsy. They gave me the short spiel about what to expect and a prescription for a week's worth of steroids and antivirals and told me to see my doctor when I got home (which I did). I then asked them if I was still fit to travel, and described my trip plans. Sure, they said, no problems, enjoy your trip.

Well, that was that, except that I had to wait sitting in a hospital bed that they moved into the hall for about 2 hours before they got around to discharging me. Finally, about 3:30 in the afternoon, I was set free with discharge instruction ans prescriptions, and got to work my way through the crowded ER waiting room, out the door and on to the street.


-- To be continued
 

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MARC Rider

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Tuesday, 29 October (continued)

While I was in the ER waiting to be released, I started to worry about what would happen to my luggage at the Metropolitan Lounge if the hospital held me so late that the lounge closed. An internet search revealed the actual phone number of the Metropolitan Lounge, and when I called, I got one of the lounge attendants. What I found out was that if there was any unclaimed luggage hanging about when the lounge closed at 9 or 9:30, they would lock it up in Lost and Found, and I could retrieve it the next day.

As it turned out, I didn't need to do that, but when I stepped out on the street outside the hospital, I had no idea where I was. OK, I knew I was in Chicago and somewhere north of the river, but I didn't know which way to walk down the street in order to get to Michigan Avenue and a bus to Union Station. Even looking at Google Maps on my phone didn't help. Sure I knew where I was, But I didn't know which way I was facing. I've never been so disoriented in my life. I finally asked a passerby, who told me which way to go. I found Michigan Ave., didn't have to wait too long for a 151 bus, and was soon back in Union Station.

I was getting pretty hungry by this point, as my little adventure caused me to miss lunch, but aside from eating a few cheese cubes put out in the Metropolitan Lounge, all I wanted to was grab my bags and head for my hotel, which was not nearby, but rather on the North Side on Diversy Parkway.

I needed to get to the L stop at Quincy, but first I needed to get out of Union Station. This was rendered slightly difficult by the fact that the PM rush hour had begun, the office workers were flowing out of the Loop into Union Station, and all the escalators out of the station were going down, when I need to go up, hauling a fully packed suitcase. I did find the super secret special up escalator they hide that allows you to get to the food court level, but that didn't help me get to the street. Fortunately, I found an elevator after looking around a bit, and then I was on the street, making my way east on Jackson, while nearly everybody else was heading west. It was a short walk to the Quincy Station, which now has an elevator, and my ride to the hotel.

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I managed to get to the hotel before it got dark, then I had to go to two different Walgreens to fill my prescriptions. My hunger was appeased at a nearby Japanese steak house I described in an earlier post, and a half-bottle of sake helped me recover from the events of the day. Soon, I was back in my room and fast asleep.



-- To be continued
 

Maglev

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I'm glad your medical adventure turned out okay!

While there are no PRR Class T1 4-4-4-4 locomotives surviving (shown in the Metropolitan Lounge photo), a new one is being built by the Pennsylvania Railroad T1 Steam Locomotive Trust, and is planned for completion around 2030 (according to Wikipedia).
 

MARC Rider

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I'm glad your medical adventure turned out okay!

While there are no PRR Class T1 4-4-4-4 locomotives surviving (shown in the Metropolitan Lounge photo), a new one is being built by the Pennsylvania Railroad T1 Steam Locomotive Trust, and is planned for completion around 2030 (according to Wikipedia).
From the Wikipedia article on the T1:

"A technician charged with determining the cause of frequent poppet valve failures on the T1s claimed to have observed them being operated at speeds of up to 140 mph (225 km/h) to make up time."

Gee, when they build the replica, they could use that to pull the new Acelas!

FYI, here's the website for the T1 Trust:

https://prrt1steamlocomotivetrust.org/index.php
 

daybeers

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Quite the adventure so far! I'm glad everything turned out okay after that little medical scare. Looking forward to the upcoming chapters!
 

Railroad Bill

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Dallas Amtrak Unlimited Gathering Trip Report

October 30-November 5, 2019

Wednesday Oct. 30. Drove to Cleveland CLE on a calm night, little traffic at 12:30 am. Arrived at CLE at 1:45am to a relatively empty station. Notice had been given that there was no baggage car on Train 29 tonight due to a bad ordered baggage car in WAS so patrons were informed that the Lake Shore #49 would take all checked bags to Chicago and be loaded when it came in around 3:30. Several passengers decided to carry on their larger bags and the amiable clerks offered to help them get the bags to the train on the cart. Three agents working the desk tonight (one in training). Several Amish customers, who had many large bags chose to take them on 29 and store in the lower baggage compartments.

Our train arrived within 3 minutes of schedule and I moved to my sleeper car #2901 Room 6. Our locomotives were #136 and #77. And the baggage car as mentioned was gone. Our conductor scanned my ticket and I quickly moved upstairs and decided to set up my CPAP machine for its first ride on a train. Was able to get it hooked up and ready by the time the train pulled out of CLE, and settled in for some sleep. Woke up at Toledo briefly and then went back to sleep.

Got up about 7am and went down to the dining car for the new Healthy Breakfast. Fellow AU members, PennyK and Jis were already having their bill of fare as I grabbed a banana, sausage egg biscuit and milk. There are many options available such as cereals, pastry, and fruits. Not the same as the old diner breakfast but not terrible. Our train has lost a little time around Elkhart and some rain was falling so not a good day to run around Chicago anyway. We arrive in CUS at 8:55 and go to the nice Metro Lounge, store larger bags, and meet MARC Rider who had stayed overnight in Chicago and would be riding to Dallas with us this afternoon.

PennyK went for pizza outside while JIS and I had a pizza in the food court (not of the same quality I am sure). I like to watch people and there are always some interesting characters walking in the station to keep busy.
Since it was near Halloween, many people dressed for the occasion in wild and crazy getups.

Back down to the Lounge to wait for our Texas Eagle #21. Our locomotive was #83. We were called to board at 1:20pm and our group headed for Car 2120 where we occupied various bedrooms and roomettes. We were delayed briefly by police who escorted a man from the platform who had not followed directions. I was in Room D and it was nice to have the extra room to spread out my luggage and your own bathroom and shower facilities.

Our SCA was Lonnie, a personable guy who said he would check his manifest to see if I could stay in my room at Dallas for a quick ride to Ft Worth. In making schedule changes I was unable back in March to secure my room for the additional ride and had purchased a coach ticket to cover the fare. Good News! Lonnie said he had no one in my room and I could stay there until Fort Worth.

It was cold outside and remnants of some snow were evident on the freight cars and ground we passed as we headed south toward Joliet, IL. Managed to get some better photos as the rain/snow had stopped. Freight delays were putting us behind schedule, but since we would get into Forth Worth plenty early for our later trip on the Heartland Flyer, I was not concerned at this point.

We spent a pleasant afternoon in the Sightseer Lounge enjoying conversations about many subjects. Passing through the Illinois countryside, Lincoln, Springfield, Alton, cities with great history, especially related to the Civil War period and Lincoln heritage. We went to dinner at 5:30 and I decided on the signature steak, baked potato, veggies, a salad, roll and milk. Topped off with my favorite cheesecake, it was a delight to have a traditional meal in the new diners.

We arrived in St Louis only fifteen minutes late, but word quickly surfaced that we would be encountering a major delay due to a rockslide on our tracks south of St Louis. A very cold and windy evening saw us observe some engine changes, crew change, refueling and a decision to cross the Mississippi River and take an alternative route to Arkansas. After waiting for a pilot to guide us on the new route, we eventually left St Louis two hours late. After greeting more members of our AU group, Betty and Misty, I decided to return to my room and get ready for bed. I enjoyed my first train ride in several months and look forward to a new day tomorrow.

Thursday October 31. I awoke around 6:30 as we were entering Little Rock, Arkansas, now 3 hours 45 minutes down. After a shower, I went down to the diner and met PennyK, Jis, Betty at their table for breakfast. A three cheese omelet, potatoes, croissant and milk were my choices, all very good. Other members, MARC Rider and Neroden were seated across from us as we enjoyed conversations for an hour before removing to the Lounge car for better viewing. We crossed into Texas around 9:30 still over 3 hours late. I enjoyed the small Texas towns that had old cabooses at their now dormant depots as the sun showed up and the temperatures warmed considerable from that which we had experienced in Chicago and St Louis. We had a couple of “smoke stops” to stretch our legs and take some photos of the depots and train.

We were served lunch at 12 as we passed into Minneola Texas and I had the Angus Burger with some chips and another round of Cheesecake, Yummy!. I sat with a nice lady from Arizona who was returning home after a family wedding. Back to my room as we prepared to enter Dallas at 2:45 still 3 hours late. Since I was cleared to stay in my room, I decided to find the new conductor and have him scan my coach ticket to get credit for my purchase. He and his assistant were in the dining car and he took care of me after I explained my situation. He was glad to see that I was on the train since his computer would have shown me as a no-show. We welcomed another member of our AU group, Dick (Shanghai) to our train as he will be joining PennyK and me on the trip to Oklahoma City later this afternoon.

The Texas Eagle now operates on the TRE tracks to Fort Worth so we headed up a long grade, past several freight yards as we entered the Fort Worth depot at 4pm. We now had a short time to wait for our Heartland Flyer to OKC Train 822 scheduled to leave at 5:30. A bit of a long walk to the depot from our car and we thus decided to wait until we boarded the train to grab a bite to eat.

Our Heartland Flyer 822 was called to board at 5:15pm and we hauled our luggage up to one of three cars and two engines that made up our consist. Our locomotives were #189 and #39 on each end of our train. The seats were comfortable and the train was nearly empty on its northbound run. I sat next to a female student from Texas Christian U who was going to Norman OK to visit with friends and family. PennyK and Dick were busy reviewing info on the phones and monitoring our AU website. There was a café unit in the lower floor of our car, first one of those I have seen. The café attendant was dressed up in Halloween garb and served some sandwiches, snacks and beverages to a small group of patrons.

With limited daylight left, we passed into north Texas in darkness as we had five stops before arriving in Oklahoma City around 9:15pm about 10 minutes early. We decided to walk to our hotels in Bricktown area of the city. A very cold evening and few people on the streets. The area has been refurbished in recent years and has a plethora of bars and restaurants and of course, The Bricktown Trolley, which we decided to ride the next morning. I stayed at the Hampton Inn, which was a very nice place, excellent staff and a nice view of the local ball diamond and other parts of Bricktown. I decided to watch some TV, call my wife to let her know I had not been kidnapped by train robbers, and then head to bed. Another long day of train riding and meeting interesting people and seeing new sites. Good night!

 

Railroad Bill

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Dallas Amtrak Unlimited Gathering Trip Report

October 30-November 5, 2019



Friday, November 1. Up early this morning as we must arrive at the OKC station in time to take the southbound Heartland Flyer 821 back to Fort Worth at 8am. Our conductor on last night’s train had noted that today’s train would be nearly sold out and seats would be at a premium. After a quick breakfast downstairs I finished packing and met PennyK in the lobby as we planned to ride the Bricktown Trolley around the area and back to the depot. It was a chilly morning and after a bit of a struggle trying to figure out the ticket machine, we boarded the morning trolley (as the only patrons for most of the trip) and followed a roundabout route back to the depot. These are very nice trolley cars that add to the atmosphere of the newly developed community. The trolley actually runs several miles north into the heart of the city, where museums and other cultural venues add to OKC’s growing reputation as a modern metropolis.

We ran to the station to catch our car. Dick had already secured a ride to the station and we found him seated and ready to go. A large family from Tulsa was taking up several seats nearby, but they were nice to let me have a window seat on the west side that allowed me to shoot some decent photos. The train was very full and picked up more passengers in Norman, OK as we headed south. It was nice to see the terrain in the daylight, as we passed over the Arkansas and Red rivers, through some interesting little towns with old steam locomotives in static displays. Our café car attendant noted that she had limited supplies available and with the line becoming very long, I decided to wait until we arrived in Fort Worth to acquire some nourishment. Little did I know that our train would be caught up in a major delay at the huge new intermodal yards operated by BNSF and several other shortline railroads. Known as the Alliance Intermodal facility, this multi track giant had a large number of train sets and construction on new tracks and signals was ongoing. We sat for over an hour waiting for clearance to move south and thus our OTP was greatly interrupted. I did manage to enjoy the many trains that passed up on a multitude of tracks that made up this yard.

We finally arrived in Fort Worth at 1:30 and decided to grab a sandwich at the SUBWAY in the depot. We had to wait another hour to board our TRE train back to Dallas and now it looked like we would have no time to join the Amtrak Unlimited afternoon events. At 2:30 we boarded our TRE train and had another hour to reach the Union Station in Dallas. The TRE trains are very modern, have plenty of seats and meet the needs of those who commute between the two major cities of north Texas.

We arrived back in Dallas at 3:30 and decided to walk to our hotel at the Hilton Garden Inn on Pacific Avenue. It was a pleasant day but with dragging my luggage along, the mile or so walk was a bit more than I anticipated. The HGI is a nice facility with a large lobby, restaurant on the premises, and apartments that make up half of the upper floors of the building. I secured a room on the 12th floor with a grand view of the city, the Thanks Giving Park across the street and the multitude of skyscrapers that make up the vista. After settling in, it was suggested that we seek a nice restaurant for dinner and one that was recommended was the Dallas Chop House on Main Street just a few blocks from our hotel. Shanghai, Penny K and I took a leisurely stroll up the streets, through a nice park and reached the eatery at around 5 pm. A maître de met us at the door and escorted our merry band to a table. I could tell this was no ordinary steak house as we were treated with care as we perused the menu. A large contingent of happy hour guests were on the porch bar area, but later removed to the inside where the business men and women prepared to order. Steaks ranged from $50+ and sides began at $10 so we obviously had reached nirvana of the gourmet meal circuit. I ordered a chop that was a large part of the gracious hog who had sacrificed his life for my pleasure this evening. Gourmet mashed potatoes and some scrumptious breads topped off an excellent meal and service. PennyK, who is a connoisseur of brewery delights, was able to secure a new example of Texas lagers, as I sipped on my lemonade. Unfortunately, our friend Shanghai was feeling out of sorts and chose not to participate in our evening meal.

After taking out a second mortgage to pay the bill, we returned to our hotel for a restful evening after a fantastic day of train riding. I enjoyed the lights of the city from my hotel room window before retiring for the evening. Saturday will be a busy day for our Amtrak Unlimited group and I look forward to meeting many new members and renewing friendships with others. Good evening Dallas!

 

Railroad Bill

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Dallas Amtrak Unlimited Gathering Trip Report

October 30-November 5, 2019



Saturday November 2. Since I am not a gold member of Hilton Rewards ( I have since reached that pinnacle of success), I was not entitled to a free breakfast at the hotel, so I scurried across the street to the local Seven 11 where I procured some fruit, pastries, a quart of milk and some bottled water for the day. After a quick shower I was ready to head out to the Akard DART station nearby for a ride to Union Station where our AU festivities were to commence. It was a bit chilly and windy this morning and after a half hour wait for the DART train, I hopped on for a quick ride to the station. An all-day pass for seniors is only $3, such a deal! When I arrived, I saw our contingent of AU members walking toward the platform, ready to ride the TRE(Trinity Rail Express) train to Fort Worth. After a few welcoming conversations, our group of 35 found some seats and off down the tracks we went. Some of our members have been frequent attendees at these annual conventions and a few are new to our event. All are interesting people from many varied backgrounds, all ages and experiences, which lends itself to an educational and pleasant environment. Our members represent all parts of the country from California, Washington, Texas, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Illinois, Missouri, Michigan, North Dakota, Ohio, Pennsylvania, New York, Virginia, Maryland, Georgia, and Florida just to name a few. We have one thing in common…we love to ride Amtrak!

The ride from Dallas to Fort Worth was on the same TRE line I had ridden yesterday, but the highlight later in the day would be to ride the newly opened TexRail train from Fort Worth to Grapevine Texas, lunch there and then reboard for a trip to the DFW airport and then a transfer to the Orange Line DART train back to Dallas. At least that was the plan. When our train arrived in Fort Worth, two of my fellow riders and I decided to disembark there instead of continuing on up the track to the former T&P station where our transfer to TexRail was to take place. Thinking that we had lots of time to peruse the station area and take some photos, we miscalculated our position and in about fifteen minutes found that Alan (Just Thinking 51) and I had missed our ride to Grapevine…Uh Oh! As we observed our fellow members going up the track, we decided that all was not lost and that we could get the next train…except that would be an hour from now.. After more calculations we determined that our fellow travelers would be taking two hours to have lunch and explore Grapevine and that we could join them without any major damage being done. We opted to have our own lunch at the SUBWAY, where I had lunch yesterday and enjoy conversations before boarding the next train to Grapevine. Sometimes things work out for the best@!. After a grilled chicken and some fruit punch we made our way to the platform and boarded the TEXRAIL express to catch up with our AU friends. Only about a 45 minute ride and some interesting scenery along the way including some nicely painted (and repainted) locomotives from a local shortline: Fort Worth & Western RR, a nice collection of yellow and red GP-38s for our viewing pleasure.

We arrived at Grapevine around 12:30pm. to see a fantastic collection of railroad artifacts, buildings and an excursion train ready to leave the station. The Grapevine Vintage RR was a collection of old coaches and specialty cars painted in brilliant red and yellow that takes trips into Fort Worth on a regular basis. A nice old station building, MOW offices, water towers, interlocking towers and souvenir shops dot the yard area. This was a former Cotton Belt (St Louis & Southwestern RR) trackage and the historical group has done an excellent job of recreating railroading of the past. We spend another 45 minutes exploring the area as the remainder of our AU group filtered in to prepare for our next train ride. (*I don’t think they missed Alan & I…smiles)

At 1:35 our TEXRAIL train arrived at Grapevine to take us to the airport. A brief 10 minute excursion around the runways of this huge airport facility. We had a short walk down a concrete walkway to catch the Orange DART train back to the city. Our vagabond crew members joined a small group of other commuters as we hopped on the cars. Forty-five minutes later we were back downtown at the West End station, ready to resume our journey north and east of the city on the Blue Line DART to Rowlett, Texas.

We were running through some semi-rural areas of the suburbs on a nice sunny day when we arrived in Rowlett. The area where we disembarked had a large library, a sports bar, city hall and a park nearby,. A nice place for a walk until our train arrived to take us to our banquet. I always enjoy walking around a library and seeing how they organize their collections and the many programs they have. Having spent 13 years as a reference librarian in my hometown, it is always interesting to compare notes. I also found a bench on the sidewalk outside that had a bronze statue of Mark Twain sitting casually waiting for a new friend to join him. (Photo of our meeting on Facebook). PennyK was able to find another brew at the local pub to add to her extensive collection. At 4:15 our Blue Line train arrived to take us to Mockingbird Station, a mere 40 minute ride back to Dallas. There we found the Trinity Hall Irish Pub waiting for our arrival, prepared to serve a delicious bill of fare to our hungry AU membership. The pub was a great choice for our annual banquet, seating being extensive and roomy, allowing for good conversation as we were served from a wide variety of menu items. I chose a grilled chicken with large rice and vegetable serving, a dinner salad and large glasses of lemonade. A collection of Irish musicians playing a variety of instruments added to the jovial festivities of the evening. Service was superb and we had a great time sharing about our railroad and life experiences with people who we usually see only once a year. The convenience to the metro station was also an excellent aspect to the evening events. After an hour and half of camaraderie, we all headed to our respective DART train, some Blue, some Yellow, some Green that conveyed us to our respective hotels. An enjoyable day and evening of events. Thanks to JeB and the committee for their excellent planning. Shanghai and I took the Blue Line back to Akard Station and walked to my hotel. Again enjoyed the night skyline view from my window and called it a night.

 

Railroad Bill

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Dallas Amtrak Unlimited Gathering Trip Report

October 30-November 5, 2019



Sunday November 3. The new day began with some fruit and pastries for breakfast and a walk to Akard for our final day of train riding with our Amtrak Unlimited group. Today’s itinerary would begin with a trip to Union Station where we boarded the Dallas Streetcar out into the suburbs near Bishop Arts Station. This area has gentrified from its former barrio architecture and offers a new opportunity for residents to gain access to the central city without using a car. It was only a half hour roundtrip, but the new streetcar provided an additional riding opportunity for our train enthusiasts. After returning to the Union Station we moved to the platform to ride the Blue Line south to the University of North Texas-Dallas and a metro hospital area. An hour roundtrip brought us back to Union Station and an opportunity to say goodbye to many of our friends who would be leaving on various transports throughout the day. Some members will be traveling to Fort Worth this afternoon so that they may partake in riding the Heartland Flyer to Oklahoma City that I rode last Thursday and Friday. Learned that one of our members ,who now lives in California, grew up just a few miles down the road from my hometown in southeastern Ohio. A small world indeed!

As for our merry band, PennyK, Shanghai, MARC Rider and me, we will be leaving later in the afternoon (We Thought) on the Texas Eagle back to Chicago. In the interim, we decided to store our baggage at the Amtrak station and travel north a few stops to ride the M Line Trolley Line. Also known as the McKinley Avenue Trolley, this streetcar electric line travels many blocks in the arts district of Dallas and offers opportunities to attend cultural events, partake in interesting restaurants and shops, and walk through floral decorated parks and streets. We decided to ride to the City Place/Uptown DART station and ride the long escalator to the surface streets above. This is the only subway section of the DART line and provides an opportunity to ride this escalator considered to be one of the longest in the country. After arriving at the top, we found the turntable for the streetcars was nearby and we waited for the next car to ride around the area.

A replica old streetcar soon arrived and after turning itself around, we headed west and south along the route. We were looking for a decent place to eat and eventually found the Loon Bar & Grill which seemed to have a substantial clientele, plenty of TVs to watch NFL games and a balanced menu. I ordered a pizza and the others had some sandwiches. Since we learned our Texas Eagle was running several hours late, there was no great hurry to return to the station, so we found another streetcar to ride further along the line. We were even joined by three large dogs whose owners were out for an afternoon walk. Our motorman directed us to the stop where we could reconnect to a DART train. MARC Rider and I decided to take the train, while PennyK chose to add some steps to her exercise program and walk the distance back to Union Station.

We arrived back to the station around 4:30 and now find our Texas Eagle is not expected until 9pm. We are assured by the Amtrak staff that we will get dinner when the train arrives so we chose not to find a restaurant for dinner. PennyK and I chose to do some additional walking around a fountain park, an interesting Pioneer Plaza where large full size sculptures of Texas longhorns and cowboys are herded in a large gulch. A old cemetery with many early Texas settlers is also on the grounds. Quite impressive display. It was getting dusk so we walked back to the station and waited…and waited.. . There were about 20 or so people waiting to board the Texas Eagle which finally arrived around 10:30pm. Much to our chagrin, both the diner and the café car were closed and there was no food available for the starving passengers who boarded. Some passengers were quite irate at the conductor and the sleeping car attendant. It was not really their fault since they were not made aware of the fact we had not eaten. The blame lies with the station attendants who provide inaccurate information and caused the problem. The assistant conductor did find a bag of chips for me to munch on but there was really nothing left to do but go to my bedroom and get ready to sleep. It had been a long day. Hoping for better things tomorrow and a bigger hope that our train can make up some time or I will miss my Chicago connection to the Capitol Limited and a ride back to Cleveland. We shall see@ Good night.

Monday November 4. I awoke around 6:15 and we were just leaving Little Rock, still 6 and a half hours behind schedule. Took a shower and went down to breakfast. I was very hungry and glad to see the eggs and sausage were hot and ready to eat. We are all concerned that our chances of making the Cap Ltd #30 to Cleveland and Washington DC are fading. Since we are running so late, we are able to see the Mississippi River on our right side. The conductors have noted that when we reach St Louis, we will be informed as to new arrangements for our passage in Chicago. They also inform us that the café car is open to passengers to get sandwiches, drinks and snacks for no charge as compensation for our late train. A good gesture on Amtrak’s part. Luckily I have an option to take the later Lake Shore Ltd #48 that leaves at 9:30pm for Cleveland, but my friends do not have that option since they are eventually connecting in WAS for Florida. We arrive in St Louis around 1:30pm, still 6 hours down as we must fuel locomotives and change crews.

As our train headed by locomotive #58, leaves St Louis, the passengers are called to the dining car by the conductor to discuss our travel rearrangements. The conductor said he believed I could make a connection with the LSL and that he would arrange to get my new tickets so that I could go directly to the train in Chicago. My two friends were told they would be given hotel accommodations in Chicago and new tickets for the Capitol Ltd on Tuesday and that their Silver trains in WAS to Florida would also be changed. I am hoping our train can make up a little time so I can make Train #48.

Unfortunately, our train was forced to stop for several freight trains in our path and longer delays put us over 7 hours late. Our conductor did get my tickets changed and stopped at the station in Springfield, IL to pick up paper copies for me. A very kind gesture on his part and helped make a rough train experience turn out o.k.

We arrived in Chicago at 9:15 and by the time I left the train, I had to walk the entire length of the platform (my car was the last car on the train) and then across to Track 26 and down the platform, I had about 15 minutes to spare to catch LSL48. The SCA told me my roomette had been changed from #5 to #9 but at that point who cares? I was on my way home and in a room with a bed. I hooked up my CPAP machine and drifted off to sleep. I woke up around Toledo and we were on time, so just another couple hours to CLE.

Arrived in Cleveland around 5:30am and managed to get out of town before rush hour started. I was back home by 7am and glad to be back. I had a great time on my Amtrak adventure and enjoyed seeing new people in our AU group, riding a new Amtrak line (Heartland Flyer) and DART trains and streetcars in several different areas. Look forward to next year’s event.
 

Bob Dylan

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Great to see you again Bill! Quite an adventure, glad you enjoyed your trip to Texas and Oklahoma, Sorry the Eagle was so Late!

Hope Winter is kind to yall and that your Buckeyes Beat Big Blue @ the Big House this weekend!
 

pennyk

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Thanks Bill for allowing me to relive some of the trip without having to write my own trip report. You did a great job.
 

MARC Rider

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Thanks for your trip report, Bill. You've saved me the trouble of recounting the details of our two trips on the Texas Eagle. But I'll add a bit in my report, and I have some pictures, too. By the way, our night run on the east bank of the Mississippi south to the river crossing at Thebes, IL was the "rare mileage" referred to in my original post title. Of course, since we didn't leave St. Louis until well after 9 PM, we really didn't see much of it. (The other "rare mileage" that I didn't get to see was my ambulance ride in Chicago :) .)
 
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