Milwaukee-Albuquerque and Return
August 9-17, 2002
Departure from Milwaukee, on August 9, 2002, was aboard #332, affording some time between trains to take photos, this time at Riverside, IL on the BNSF mainline. Early arrival at Union Station. Conductor Rich Misunis provided helpful information for patrons making connections with other Amtrak departures as well as information on CTA and Metra services.
I had reserved seat accommodations for #3, and got back to Union Station in sufficient time to retrieve stuff from the lockers and find a seat in the bull pen to await boarding. There was the typical crunch to be first in line among the remaining passengers, i.e. those not under 62 or whatever, families with kids under ten, physically challenged, etc. It would seem reasonable for them to do what the airlines have done for decades, that is seat assignments, to eliminate this.
Unlike last year's trip on #5, where seat assignments were made outside the coach door, it was merely get aboard and find a seat. My car was pretty well filled prior to departure. There were some seat swappings to enable small groups to sit near each other.
Departure from Union Station was close to on-time. Of course, they go down to 16th street to tack on the freight. This took longer than what's apparently allowed, and we left close to an hour late. There were twenty-seven material handling vehicles trailing the people equipment -- ten boxes and seventeen vans, a ghost of ATSF #7 or CBQ #29?
We were about 1.5 hours late into Kansas City.
Awoke later in the early AM and discovered we were going backwards, then ahead and backwards again. I got up, used the biffy, and opened the window to see what was going on? Found us in the middle of nowhere (De Soto I found out on the return trip) messing around with the vans. Departure was such that we were down around 2.5 hours.
Some time was made up between Newton, KS and Trinidad, CO. The La Junta stop was about ten minutes this time. The trip up Raton Pass was without a stop to 'rest the locomotives' and someone saw a bear in the trees. At Raton we left off a group of about 45 Boy Scouts and staff headed for Camp Philmont. The infamous hot box detector at Springer caught us and resulted in a half hour delay, which killed most of the time we made up.
We were 2.25 hrs late out of Lamy, but a pad in the schedule put #3 into Albuquerque a little after 6:00PM.
Over all a pretty good trip. The dining car staff and quality of food were excellent. The lounge car attendant did not comment on any of the points of interest along the way. If you ever experienced 'Patrick in the Lounge Car', he is the number one host. Our coach attendant was so/so. I wonder if the rule is now one attendant for two cars. When we arrived at Albuquerque, she was not there to open the door. She showed up when after waiting around awhile, I began the process myself. Of course I got chewed out for doing her job, then she walked away in front of a frustrated mom with two toddlers, neglecting to help her. Another passenger provided the necessary assistance.
The return to Milwaukee aboard #4 was on August 16th. Since my wife was returning with me, I purchased an economy bedroom. Arrival at Albuquerque was thirty minutes late. We stowed our stuff in the racks, got our room, and went to the Diner. Lunch had ended prior to arrival, however, the attendant made an exception for us and the mom and daughter across from us in room #9. We enjoyed lunch with the crew.
Departure was 1.5 hours later due to the need to change break shoes. We met #3 before Lamy. We make it by the Springer detector with no alarms going off. Going through the S-Curves after Glorietta indicated we had twenty six material handling vehicles, twelve boxes and fourteen vans.
Scouts board at Raton. It was getting dark as we assault the Pass. Again we saw a large bear along the tracks, that made three in three trips. A Scout Master said that in a week out in the woods, his group encountered no bears, and just a half hour into the return trip home, they saw one track side.
Jointed track and room #10 being over the wheels made for a rough ride. However, I did not recall any stops between Lamar and Newton, so it could not have been all that bad. We were over two hours late at Newton. Going through Topeka, noted a lot of stored power at the shops, including many F45's in ATSF paint, but all renumbered into BNSF. We made the stop at De Soto to remove two vans and check the train. The schedule notes almost two and a half hours to cover the 40 miles from Lawrence to Kansas City, accommodating our "mixed train" activities. They took less time to do their thing, but what ever time was earned was lost at an interlocking west of Kansas City Union Station.
Another half hour was lost at Fort Madison on account of barge traffic.
Time was made up on the last lap into Chicago, even with the dropping of the freight and back up move into Union Station. No connections were missed. We used the Metropolitan Lounge for stowing our gear and awaiting the departure of our connection, #341.
On board services on #4 were excellent in all departments. The only item of concern was that the PA system in the lounge was not working.
For prospective passengers going to Albuquerque and seeking to use a rental car, we recommend Budget Rent A Car. They allowed $6.50 towards the taxi fare to the airport for pick-up. Get a receipt from the taxi operator. There is a down town office for drop off convenient to the Amtrak Station. Location is the Hyatt Hotel, NW 3rd at Copper Ave (enter the garage on the north side of Copper).