Sunset Limited - any interesting scenery, specific side to look out?

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Mark P

Train Attendant
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Jan 9, 2012
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51
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Seattle
Taking the Sunset Limited from LAX to NOL next week, and am wondering if there are any bits of interesting scenery along the way I should be on the lookout for. So far I'm just thinking El Paso and the proximity to the border wall and Mexico could be interesting. And am hoping for some "bayou" scenery when we get to Louisiana. This route doesn't seem to have the same "wow" factor as the other long distance Western Routes, but maybe I'm missing something. Also, does anyone have a preference for looking out the left side or right side (I'll be traveling eastbound)?
 
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You are correct about what to expect to see in El Paso. The train runs close enough to the border that you can easily see into Mexico.

As the train travels through the desert areas, I found it interesting to see the number and the frequency of the white Border Patrol trucks.

I thought the area around Houston as well as in the bayous of Louisiana to be interesting as well.
 

George Harris

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Apr 6, 2006
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finally! Back in Mississippi
The there is the Huey P. Long Bridge across the Mississippi River as you approach New Orleans. The original center part was opened in 1935. Before that railroads into New Orleans from the west crossed the river by ferry. Originally it consisted of two tracks inside the truss with a cantilevered roadway with very narrow lanes on each side. Recently, as in the last about 20 years, an additional truss run has been placed on each side so that there are three lane roadways on each side. The approach is long and high as the bridge is built to clear ocean going ships. Once outside the truss the roadways go down a much steeper grade than the railroad so much of the approach you are looking out the window at nothing next to the track. Not for the acrophobic. I believe that you will probably be crossing in the dark eastbound, but you should be able to see plenty of city lights as you are high above the terrain on both sides.
 

toddinde

Lead Service Attendant
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Apr 23, 2015
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Sierra Vista, AZ
Taking the Sunset Limited from LAX to NOL next week, and am wondering if there are any bits of interesting scenery along the way I should be on the lookout for. So far I'm just thinking El Paso and the proximity to the border wall and Mexico could be interesting. And am hoping for some "bayou" scenery when we get to Louisiana. This route doesn't seem to have the same "wow" factor as the other long distance Western Routes, but maybe I'm missing something. Also, does anyone have a preference for looking out the left side or right side (I'll be traveling eastbound)?
I live in the most beautiful part of the country which is served by the Sunset. I’ll never understand how people don’t find the mountains and high desert of the Southwest beautiful. I think it’s some of the most beautiful in the country. Right out of a western movie and largely unspoiled. Right out of Tucson will be beautiful, and you’ll have a whole day of lovely, western vistas. Both sides of the train are great. I would have a slight preference for the right side since most of the stations are on the right side until Alpine.
 
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I live in the most beautiful part of the country which is served by the Sunset. I’ll never understand how people don’t find the mountains and high desert of the Southwest beautiful. I think it’s some of the most beautiful in the country. Right out of a western movie and largely unspoiled. Right out of Tucson will be beautiful, and you’ll have a whole day of lovely, western vistas. Both sides of the train are great. I would have a slight preference for the right side since most of the stations are on the right side until Alpine.

I completely agree with this, providing desert scenery with distant mountains views is your thing, it is mine. The first full day along with the border views is one of the very best train riding days anywhere.

If you want to see a Louisiana swamp close up please ask, we've visited a few but one sticks out in our mind.
 

Barb Stout

Conductor
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Mar 13, 2019
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I completely agree with this, providing desert scenery with distant mountains views is your thing, it is mine. The first full day along with the border views is one of the very best train riding days anywhere.

If you want to see a Louisiana swamp close up please ask, we've visited a few but one sticks out in our mind.
I live in the high desert and I am getting a little tired of it, but not enough to move (yet) to another part of the country. At any rate, I too will be taking the Sunset Limited from NM to NOL next January and would be interested in what you have to say about your favorite swamp. I prize wetlands of any type, although I'm not a big fan of alligators.
 
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A favorite route of mine! I love the New Mexico and West Texas scenery.
Between Tucson and Benson you will pass through the Cienega Creek Natural Preserve. Its an interesting area different than the surrounding desert areas.
The two main tracks are widely separated and, depending on which track you are on, you will either cross over or under the Cienega Creek Bridge - the #1 main passes over the #2 main.
The two tracks were originally different railroads, one Southern Pacific and the other eventually aquired by SP. During my varous trips I have been on both tracks, both directions.
Photo: Looking out the "Railfan Window" on the 422 Sleeper.



 
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The big scenic event of this trip is traversed in darkness on the eastbound train--the Pecos River High Bridge. The canyon is visible from both sides.

The border will be on the right side, but there's other views on the left. There's plenty of variety to the terrain in Texas, and swampy views in Louisiana.
I'm always on the "lookout" for this on my westbound trips.
 
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Also, expect the unexpected on the Sunset Limited. My scanner came in handy for this and I marked the spot on my GPS.
From last August 19 and my Facebook post:
"Beef. Its what's for dinner."
About 45 miles east of Alpine, TX At MP 557.8 near Haymond, TX we hit a cow. Thumpity thump it went under the train and it is now probably hamburger!
Just prior to the strike the engineer was laying on the horn pretty heavy. I saw about half a dozen cows on the wrong side of the fence.
The strike caused the air to dump and we came to an abrupt stop from about 50-60 MPH.
After inspection, reconnecting two brake hoses and air (brake) tests we are on the move again.
The cow? Left behind for the scavengers.


 
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At any rate, I too will be taking the Sunset Limited from NM to NOL next January and would be interested in what you have to say about your favorite swamp. I prize wetlands of any type, although I'm not a big fan of alligators.

It's Lake Martin LA near to Breaux Bridge which itself is an interesting small Louisiana town in it's own right and worth some time.

We took a guided tour which is unusual for us, used a small outfit run by local people (father, daughter and son) on what they termed is an Eco Tour, and it was. This is the company we used : Providing the best swamp, gators, and wildlife tour nature has to offer

We travelled in early October and found this an ideal time for visiting Louisiana and in particular visiting a swamp, on advice took the sunset tour, not for the sunset but the light level, heat and wildlife that was active.
Only saw a few Alligators due to a storm that had passed through the area some days before, can't remember the connection but that was given as the reason. Did pass by one medium sized Alligator basking on a floating tree trunk, one of our favourite photos of wildlife.

Lake Martin is not vast but very beautiful, equal to the wildlife we visited for the flora and were not disappointed. The tour was a maximum of 10 +/- people. The boat not small but not large either and it fitted very well into the channels of the swamp, gliding for most of the time with little noise. The tour was led by the son, the family are native to the area and it shows with every question being answered in depth if required.

There are other swamps we haven't visited yet but we intend to so there may be better, it will be fun finding out.

If you have any other questions feel free to ask, I'd be happy to oblige.


I live in the high desert and I am getting a little tired of it, but not enough to move (yet) to another part of the country.

I'm curious as to why you wrote this, is it ok to ask why?
 

Barb Stout

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I'm curious as to why you wrote this, is it ok to ask why?
I'm getting tired of the low green to brown ratio of the desert. I'm tired of drought. I do like extreme aridity in terms of the way my body feels around it, but I don't like the fire threat that extremity brings. We have had 1% relative humidity quite a bit this spring. That's as low as it goes.
 

Amtrak709

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Columbus, GA
While it has been some time since I have travelled on the SL, I am always reminded on one of the best continuous rail trips I have had in my life. Back in the mid 1970's, there was a through sleeper from LAX to NYP via NOL--no change of trains or cars necessary. Handled by Amtrak SL; overnight layover in NOL using sleeper as hotel; then attached to the Southern Crescent on to New York. You get a taste of the variations of scenery for almost the whole of the United States for those four days. It was a great trip. Anybody else recall that sleeper??
 
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Just west of Valentine, TX on the south side of the train you will see "Prada Marfa".
Be alert or you will miss it! (I use a handheld GPS and have these locations marked with a "proximity alert")



Town of Marfa, near the location where epic film Giant was made.
 
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TinCan782


Do you know where this is at the end of the first full day out of LA? It was way past Sierra Blanca and taken in late February. The window was quite dirty but the desert air was so clear...


View attachment 28510
Perhaps near Valentine, TX?
I looked up sunset times for El Paso in late February and they are around 6PM. Scheduled time for Alpine for #2 is 845PM so, you were still well west of there (dark that time of the year).
 
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