Spring Break In the Texas Metroplex
March 5-13, 2004
Spring break was coming up and I decided to visit Dallas-Fort Worth to see exactly what the DART-TRE train system was all about. At the same time AMTRAK had a special web only promotion. I booked the round trip from Syracuse to Dallas on the Lake Shore Limited and the Texas Eagle.
Leaving Syracuse U on the last direct bus from the Schine Student Center to the Transportation Center for a two-hour wait for train 49. After checking my bags and making a few final phone calls I waited for about and hour and 35 minutes when an announcement was made that the baggage cart was coming to the platform. This meant one thing; the Lake Shore limited was coming about 20 minutes early. As it arrived I observed the consist which was different because of the changes resulting from the winter weather troubles. The train was arranged like this:
* 3 fully refurbished and one partially refurbished of which three fully refurbished one were in phase 62 Genesis Baggage car Crew dorm Diner Lounge/smoking car 4 coaches * 2 boxcars 5 roadrailers
After being seated in the last coach (the partially refurbished one) I tried to get some sleep but was unable to. However I observed the Lake Shore Limited not living up to its reputation, as we were more like the jackrabbit limited. Our arrival times were as such (number is how early train was in minutes):
Rochester 15 Buffalo 20 Erie 20 Cleveland 25 Toledo 20 Waterloo 15 South Bend 15 Chicago 6
As we arrived I observed a Superliner train with a transition sleep next to the diner and a another sleeper on the rear (the arriving City of New Orleans). After a short trip on the Chicago L it was back to the station and a wait in the metropolitan lounge for train 21. When it was called and the sleeper passengers were led to it I saw that it was the same train I saw in the morning. Train 21 was arranged like this:
1 Genesis Baggage car Transition sleeper Diner Sightseer lounge Three coaches (first one was smoker coach) Refurbished/wreck repaired phase 6 sleeper (my sleeper) Deadheading hi-level coach
Upon boarding my sleeper (car 2120) I saw how beautifully it was refurbished. However the phase 6 red stripe along the bottom does seem a little odd for a Superliner. After departure the dining car steward came on to announce that dinner reservations will be taken upon leaving Joliet. When I was asked I took the 5:30 reservation. Just before dinner the train stopped and I went down to the cafe and saw it was dark. I knew we had a problem and the conductor announced that they had to restart the engine and about an hour later the engine came back to life.
The result dinner was delayed 45 minutes. Entering the diner I saw that it was a Superliner II diner with a rather attractive gray and maroon ambiance. I had the penne with Alfredo, which was very delicious with a side of mashed potatoes. After dinner I fell asleep and awoke somewhere near the Missouri Arkansas border. At 6:30 I went for breakfast and order the scrambled eggs, which were prepared exquisitely just as they had on the Lake Shore Limited. I then went to my favorite car on the train for some sightseeing before returning for lunch, which was basically the dinner menu plus burgers. I had the salmon with a very delicious seasoned sauce. Arriving in Dallas I took a taxi to the motel.
As there were no eateries near my motel I had a dominoes delivery before going to sleep. I then awoke and had breakfast at the motel where I then got on a DART bus to south Irving station. Boarding an inbound (to Dallas) TRE bi-level arriving in Dallas I immediately hit the DART light rail. I rode each line to its terminal where I discovered something interesting. Nearly all of the major light rail stations have rest rooms, which is the first time I saw this on any LRT line I have been on. The next two days I visited Fort Worth and its stockyards (though I was unable to ride the excision train from the stockyards to grapevine).
Before departing Dallas I had one final ride on DART to Plano where I had lunch. Arriving at Dallas Union Station I discovered that there may be a delay because of a disabled freight north of the station that had already delayed train 21 and may delay 22 after it departs. Train 22 was delayed but because it had to take a siding to allow 21 to pass. Eventually about an hour late the Northbound Texas Eagle arrived. The train had the following consist:
1 Genesis Baggage car Sleeper used as dorm Diner Sightseer lounge 3 coaches (my coach was the second one) Sleeper
After departing Dallas we went though a mess of freights either doing 10 miles per hour or not moving. This made us so late that we were still in Arkansas at daybreak. I had the oatmeal for breakfast as my stomach was acting up. Due to the delays we arrived at Saint Louis about 4 hours late where I again saw what is definitely a major embarrassment for the city (the AMTRAK trailers, aka. the station). However because of padding we were able to make up some time and departed about 2 hours and forty minutes late. By the time we arrived in Chicago the train was about two hours late. I then had a two-hour layover for the Lake Shore Limited. The train was called and as I had expected the train I arrived in from Texas was being serviced on the adjacent platform. The train was arranged in this fusion:
* 1 refurbished but all were in phase 6 paint2 Genesis Baggage Dorm Two Viewliners Diner Lounge/smoking 4 coaches *
Departing on time and after picking up the roadrailers I went to the diner where I had a catfish fillet that took forever to make. This is where it got interesting. A passenger who was intoxicated was being abusive to the staff and cursing so much he was told to stop several times. Eventually the conductor was called in and after telling the guy to stop eventually told him he was getting of at Waterloo into a police car. He said he was going to his wedding. Of course after I left the diner I went to the third coach were I was sitting and tried to sleep. At Waterloo I observed our passenger being placed into a police car.
About an hour after Toledo I fell asleep until buffalo. I went to the lounge car but they out of pizza so I had a bagel. Arriving at Syracuse about 10 minutes late I went to the eye doctor for a small test and then took a cab back to my apartment. It was a long and enjoyable trip.