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Trip Report

City of New Orleans

October 8-10, 2004


This trip report is late...but in the grand tradition of railroading better late than never applies here.

One of the best parts of teaching are the three day weekends that occur throughout the year. After experiencing a political train wreck at my school (it felt like I was in the cab when we went on the ground) I was not very happy to say the least. On at least two occasions the social worker counseled me to "Do something you like" or "Pray". Well...I took her advice. I booked a round trip from Chicago to New Orleans on 59 and 58. I would depart on Friday, October 8, and return on Sunday, October 10. For 360 bucks, I had a round trip in a sleeper. I was ready to railroad.

This was one of the best starts to a trip. After a rough day at work, I shot out the door at 2:51 and went home. After a quick shower and double checking my packing list, I drove to Ron of Japan, a Japanese restaurant in Chicago, to have dinner with my girl friend. Ron of Japan is our favorite restaurant. After a lobster tail dinner (nope, no diner tonight) and a great time with my girlfriend, it was off to Union Station.

I arrived at CUS about 7:20, parked my car in the garage, and headed for the Metropolitan lounge. As I entered the lounge, they were making the announcement for the sleeping car passengers.

I was in the transition sleeper, but do not remember the room number or car number. I was in the room that was located near the top of the stairs. If I remember correctly, there was more than one shower. The front half of the car was revenue, the rest was for the crew. The crew areas, including shower, were clearly marked. The passenger shower was on the upper level at the front end of the car. It seemed identical to showers on other Superliner sleepers except that it was on the upper level.

We pulled out of Union station on time. After entering the IC main (now CN) we ran on the left hand track as far as the junction where the South Shore branch leaves the main line. Then we crossed back over onto the right hand track after meeting a freight.

Here are some time keeping notes:

dp Homewood 854 ar 9 minutes early
ar Memphis 6am 27 min early
dp Memphis 650 am ot
ar Greenwood 925 25 minutes late
ar Yazoo city 1055 am 64 minutes late
ar Jackson 1200pm 40 minutes late
ar Hammond 213 pm 39 minutes late

The run into New Orleans was dramatic. A series of storms had been through the area in previous days, and flooding was evident around Pas Manchac and along the shores of Lake Ponchartrain. I had noted these storms in internet weather reports, but had not really worried that much. As noted above, were less than an hour late into New Orleans.

In New Orleans, I found out a Tropical storm was do to make landfall in the early morning hours. Do to the recent hurricanes in Florida, I spent a nervous 5 minutes at the check in desk at my hotel asking weather related questions. Nobody seemed worried, so I didn't worry either. After a shower and a nap, I went to dinner in the French quarter. I ate at a favorite restaurant discovered on an earlier trip, and then finished the evening of at Cafe Du Monde with a Beignet. It rained off and on, but the air was warm with a moist tropical feel to it. It was an enjoyable night to be out.

At the hotel, I again checked weather reports, and the storm was till coming in. I slept well. I woke early and called Amtrak just to see what was going on. No weather related announcements. Oh well, no excitement this trip. The weather channel reported Tornadoes to the west of New Orleans, but I got dressed and kept my appointment for an early Breakfast at Brennan's. As usual, the food was excellent. I walked out, and then rode the street car towards Elysian fields. It was still raining off and on, and it was strange watching the street car roll down the grassy area in the middle of the street with ribbons of WATER where the rails usually are. The soggy conditions did not appear to affect operations that much.

After the street car ride, I went to the aquarium. This was somewhat overrated, but it helped kill time during brief rain squall. I cabbed it back to the hotel, and then to the train station. After briefly hanging out in the magnolia room, their was a boarding announcement for 58. I went out to board early as a sleeping car passenger, but no dice. For some reason, they boarded all the coach passengers first. Then the sleepers. I had a room on the lower level. I settled in for an on time departure. Everything seemed routine, the sun was now out, and thoughts of the tropical storm had dissipated from my mind.

Then a brisk announcement to the affect that there was flooding around Pass Manchac, and that the train would be held in New Orleans until 6 pm. Visions of a day light crossing of the Ohio at Cairo popped into my head. I new we would be more than 4 hours late by the time we reached that point. So with some extra time, I got out and walked the train and got the consists:

engine 194
engine 842
baggage 1211
transition sleeper 39029
dining car 38008
sightseer lounge 33010
coach 31538
coach 34052
coach 34084
sleeping car 32045 -
  I was in this car

Then I walked in and out the station, trying to hide my smile. To be honest, I was in no hurry to get home. I recalled a conversation from the week before with my girl friend.

"Well, 58 arrives at 9 a.m. on Monday (we both had the day off) and I'll pick you up about 10 and will go to Gurnee Mills to go shopping. 58 is ALWAYS on time I added." (In my mind I thought "that ought to do it")

Rosalyn, "You better knock on wood. Better yet make it your head. You know you want the train to be late so that you can get more for you money"

So for the first hour of our wait in New Orleans, I walked around with a smirk because I new it was my fault that we were at least going to be 4 hours late departing. After that, I caught a cab and bought an additional novel at Walgreen and then return to the station. Made several phone calls, including one to Rosalyn. She laughed.

Dinner was served and finished before departure.

We finally departed at 7 p.m. 5 hours late. For the first bit, the engineer really moved it as left the New Orleans areas. But progress was short lived. Here are my time keeping notes from this trip.

Dp New Orleans 700 pm 5 hours 15 minutes late

815 pm cross first causeway after slow running and after wait at last siding before bayous

830 received permission to pass red

835 to 905 We wait at north end of Vaneer siding waiting for freight and 59

I figure that signals must be out since I hear the dispatcher is giving sets of orders for trains to pass through Vaneer siding on my scanner

915 to 930 I take a shower. I think I hear a freight pass but still no 59.

945pm 59 passes us

1009 begin moving and then stop

1am wake up as 58 is moving slowly

110am speed across Pass Manchac

123am ar and dp Hammond 10 hrs 25 min late

130 stops north of station to meet freight then backs up to switch to other track with my car spotted in front of station for 2nd stop in Hammond

dp Hammond 145 10 hrs 58 late

410 am ar Jackson 10 hrs 34 late - wait for new crew

dp Jackson 505 am 11 hrs 20 late

dp Yazoo city 555 am 11hrs 09 late

dp Greenwood 702 am 11 hrs 28 late

ar Memphis 930 am 11 hrs 30 late

dp Memphis 955 am 11 hrs 15 late

In Memphis, I call Amtrak, Julie predicts 530 pm ar in Chicago

dp Newbern 1140 am 11 hrs 18 late

ar Carbondale 155 pm 10 hrs 35 late

dp Carbondale 215 pm 11 hrs late

Mile marker 260 at 3 pm At 79 mph were a little less than 4 hours out of Chicago. I start thinking about Monday Night Football.

Dp Centralia 311 pm 11 hrs late

dp Effingham 406 pm 10 hrs 46 late

dp Mattoon 430 pm 10 hrs 53 late - announcement made that 30 and 48 will be held

Arrive Chicago 8 p.m., 11 hours late.

Overall, the mood on the train was not overly grim. I do not recall any passengers being too angry. At lunch, as we cross the Ohio, a college age girl on her first train ride marvels at the scenery. She is treating the delay as a grand adventure. She had chosen the train over the bus after a deadly bus crash a few days earlier. A group of African American passengers jokingly call them selves the "Greanwood 7" after their night in the Greenwood, Mississippi train station.

The crew, and CN did an excellent job under adverse conditions. A new operating crew was provided shortly before departure from New Orleans to ensure that we would get to the next crew change point. The dining car crew provided a complimentary dinner to all passengers. The waitress cheerfully provided 2nds and 3rds to one starving coach passenger.

This was probably one of my favorite Amtrak trips because of added adventures of the return trip.

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