OTOL Eagle RailFest 2005
July 14-21, 2005
Chapter 0: Introduction
OTOL Eagle RailFest 2005, nee Dallas RailFest, arose out of the desire to get to Dallas and ride that city's ever-growing light rail system, as well as their commuter rail line to Fort Worth. A Dallas destination was decided upon at previous fests in Toronto, New York, and Philadelphia.
Since most of us would be getting there by rail, it was decided to also stop off in St. Louis and ride their light rail as well. Doing so would require an overnight stopover in Chicago, so that brought about a third city to include in our journey. Chicago will always offer us something new to ride in the foreseeable future.
With rides on light rail and commuter rail planned for three cities, the name Dallas RailFest seemed incorrect. Thus the name Eagle RailFest was applied, naming it after three cities tied together by Amtrak's TEXAS EAGLE.
Every fest poses its challenges. Last year's OTOL Toronto RailFest 2004 event was our first ever foray across the international border. We also were concerned about currency exchange issues. This year's biggest challenge was filling eight days with as much time on the rails as possible. Not including our brief stops in New York and Washington and our many Amtrak trips, Eagle RailFest was essentially three separate fests bound together as one. Thus hotel listings were provided for both Chicago and Dallas, and scanner frequency lists and restaurant listings were done for Chicago, St. Louis, and Dallas.
Chapter 1: Preparation
The usual preparations began many months before. The itinerary was essentially made up well in advance, subject to the minor tweaks that any itinerary goes through with schedule changes, and other conditions that are encountered just before we begin traveling to the event.
As always, a website was established early, showing all necessary information about the fest. Hotel, restaurant, and scanner information was researched. Some extra activities were also planned, such as the Gateway Arch in St. Louis, and the Reunion Tower in Dallas. Visits to both, like Toronto's CN Tower last year, were designed to give our participants an overhead view of the rail lines in and around the particular city.
It was decided early on that this fest would include no route guides. This would be only my third trip to Dallas and second to St. Louis. For much of these systems, the trackage was brand new to me.
Participants were encouraged to make their hotel reservations early, as well as obtain Visitors Passes in the mail for the transit systems in Chicago and St. Louis. This was to minimize the need for the purchase of multiple fares at vending machines immediately before our travels, in case we were running close in making a particular train.
With all of the planning behind me, it was time to take a relaxing vacation on the rails.
Chapter 2: Thursday, July 14, 2005
Thursday was the day most of us would meet in New York to begin our eight-day journey. Four of us rode together, while a fifth went earlier to Washington.
Chapter 2.1: Getting to New York
Piotr Dzwonek was one of our participants who did the whole fest wire to wire from New York. However, he opted to go down to Washington, DC earlier on Thursday to get a fourth city's transit system under his belt for this trip. He took an early morning NJ TRANSIT North Jersey Coast Line train from his home in South Amboy into New York City. From there, he took Amtrak Regional, Train #181(14) New York to Washington:
918 AEM-7 locomotive 44837 Amfleet I Business Class 43351 Amfleet I Metroliner full dinette 44028 Amfleet I coach 82087 Regional CoachClass 82077 Regional CoachClass 82011 Regional CoachClass * 82084 Regional CoachClass (quiet car)
* Piotr was here.
Alan Burden came from Woodside, Queens to Penn Station on the Long Island Ralroad, and went into the Club Acela. (We did not see him until Washington since he went in Business Class on our train while the rest of us were in Coach Class.) Jishnu Mukerji came into the city from Short Hills on an NJ TRANSIT Midtown Direct train.
I parked my car at work in Weehawken, NJ. Michael and I then took NJ TRANSIT's Hudson-Bergen Light Rail from Lincoln Harbor to Hoboken, followed by a PATH train from there to 33rd Street in Manhattan. Then we walked one block west to Penn Station.
Chapter 2.2: In New York City
Once assembled, we were officially a fest. Our number would grow much larger than the present four in the coming days as we went through Washington, Cleveland, Chicago, and St. Louis.
Chapter 2.3: Amtrak Regional, Train #95, New York, NY to Washington, DC
The first official leg of our trip would be on Amtrak Regional, Train #95(14) New York to Washington:
912 AEM-7 locomotive 920 AEM-7 locomotive 21704 Amfleet I Metroliner coach as Business Class * 43378 Amfleet I Metroliner full dinette 21165 Amfleet I coach ** 44215 Amfleet I coach 82507 Regional CoachClass 21245 Amfleet I coach 82058 Regional CoachClass 44227 Amfleet I coach ????? Amfleet I cafe (deadhead)
* Alan was here.
** Jishnu, Michael, and I were here.
Unable to obtain number of rear deadhead cafe car.
Our first trip did not start out without incident. Train 95 was reported to be late coming from Boston. Alan had found out in the Club Acela (and called me on my cell phone to let me know about it) that it was delayed outside of the Stamford, CT station due to a suspicious package on the platform. The train arrived in Penn Station at 11:00 AM (45 minutes late) and departed from Track 12 with us on board at 11:17 AM, 42 minutes behind schedule.
We would not make up this deficit. By the time we left Philadelphia, we were 51 minutes behind schedule. It became clearer to us why Amtrak recommends a two-hour connection in Washington, DC between Regionals and the CAPITOL LIMITED.
Right after leaving Philly, we passed an ACELA EXPRESS train. This was significant because this trainset was one of the first batch restored to service just three days prior after being mothballed since April.
More time was lost in Maryland, although the slight delay due to work on the Susquehanna River Bridge was supposedly figured into the schedule. Baltimore came at 2:07 PM, exactly one hour late. It was almost eight hours since this car went into service in Boston, its rest rooms not having been cleaned since then. There was a distinct smell of stale urine in the body of our coach.
We finally pulled into Washington's Union Station at 2:45 PM, 57 minutes late, at one of the Virginia-bound platforms. This still gave us well over an hour in advance of our CAPITOL LIMITED departure.
Chapter 2.4: In Washington, DC
On the platform, we saw Alan for the first time, as we walked past the Business Class coach situated near the front of the train. Together the four of us arrived through the station's Gate G and entered the station concourse.
Michael and I went downstairs to the food court. Although I had decided I would have dinner in the dining car with the others, Michael opted to eat dinner early before boarding. Alan went to the Club Acela to await our next train, while Jishnu went to sit by the departure gate to wait with the other coach passengers. Sometime during his stay there, Piotr joined him.
After Michael finished eating, we went upstairs to the ticketing area, where I checked the larger of our two suitcases to Chicago. Then we went to the gate area to join Jishnu and Piotr.
Chapter 2.5: Amtrak CAPITOL LIMITED, Train #29, Washington, DC to Chicago, IL
Our first overnight trip of this journey was aboard the CAPITOL LIMITED. Alan was the only one in a sleeper on this trip. Piotr, Jishnu, Michael, and I were in coach. We knew Lynn and Mike Hammond would join us overnight in Cleveland.
Boarding was pretty simple, except that identification had to be shown by each passenger along with his or her ticket at the gate. Security was a little higher than usual due to the then-recent bombings in the London subway.
It was a long walk to our coach, which was the third from the front of the train, and beyond the diner and lounge cars. We also had to pass three Express Trak cars that were at the rear of the train.
We were not able to get the entire consist during this walk. The coaches in front of us, as well as the baggage car and the two locomotives would have to wait until later. We knew we would pass them in Chicago, and there was a chance we would have time to take a walk during the Pittsburgh station stop. The consist of Amtrak's CAPITOL LIMITED, Train #29(14) Washington to Chicago was as follows:
72 P-42 locomotive 63 P-42 locomotive 1163 Baggage 31012 Superliner I coach/baggage 34048 Superliner I coach * 31017 Superliner I coach/baggage ** 33046 Superliner II Sightseer Lounge 38000 Superliner I diner 32075 Superliner II sleeper "Connecticut" 32007 Superliner I sleeper *** 39007 Superliner II transition dorm/sleeper 74032 Express Trak 74015 Express Trak 74018 Express Trak
* Lynn and Mike rode here, Cleveland to Chicago.
** Piotr, Jishnu, Michael, and I were here.
*** Alan was here.
After we boarded, we looked over to our right and could see that Train 30, our eastbound counterpart, had arrived several hours late over on one of the lower level tracks. Besides one Express Trak car, it also had a private car on the rear.
We had a good feeling as our train departed exactly at 3:55 PM. However, we had to stop before we were fully out of the station, when three passengers came running onto the platform. They had to be boarded through the sleeper and then they walked up to one of the coaches. Alan reports that it was his sleeper where the family, a mother and her two kids, were boarded. From what he overheard of their conversation, the mother was saying that it was the last time she would buy her son something from the food court at the last minute. Good call, Mom!
That slight delay was probably surmountable. However, still very early into our trip, we came to a stop a few minutes after passing the Silver Spring Metro station. We sat there about 15 minutes before proceeding. (I later found out that the reason for this stop was that a blue bag was reported missing in Union Station, and it had erroneously been put on our train, in Alan's sleeper car. The stop was to take that bag off the train.) By the time (4:54 PM) we got to our first station stop, Rockville, we were already 35 minutes in the hole.
Early in the trip, Alan came forward from his sleeper, and the rest of us walked one car back to the lounge car. It was more comfortable there to sit and talk than in our coach with its noisy kids and front-facing seats. However, we were dismayed to find out that the seats would not swivel; they were fixed facing the windows. We agreed we would take the 7:30 PM dinner seating, and we were handed slips of paper denoting our reservations.
Our two stops in West Virginia were both double spots. We spent five minutes in Harpers Ferry and seven minutes in Martinsburg. Upon departure from the latter, we were 40 minutes off the advertised.
The announcement for our 7:30 dinner seating came at 7:41. That was just before our station stop at Cumberland, MD, where we stayed for about 13 minutes for an engineer change. Michael stayed back at our seat and in the lounge car playing with some kids much younger than his 13 years.
Our dinner was good. I opted for a chicken dish since I was paying for my meal (I later would be able to order the more expensive dishes when traveling in sleeper.) The service was satisfactory, although perhaps a little slow. The temperature in this dining car was mostly very cold. When the air conditioner shut off, it got stuffy, and then it got cold again when it was turned on. It was 9:25 when we left the diner after having dessert.
Meanwhile, Michael had found out from the lounge attendant that there would not be any movies shown on this trip. The reason was that the VCR had been misplaced or stolen.
Back at our seats, Michael and I prepared to go to sleep. I however remained awake, wanting to hold out at least until Pittsburgh.
Connellsville, PA was another three-minute stop with a double spot. With our 10:25 PM departure, we were now 53 minutes late. I closed my eyes for a bit, and when I woke up, we were on the connecting track between CSX and Norfolk Southern in Pittsburgh. It was about 12 midnight.
Arrival into Pittsburgh was 12:02 AM. Piotr was also still awake, so we both decided to make a run for it outside to get the rest of our consist. Piotr and I also wanted to grab some timetables for Port Authority of Allegheny County's (PAT) light rail and inclines. Having been there before, I knew that they were downstairs in the station, underneath the escalator. We made a beeline through the station and downstairs, got what we needed, and then headed back for our train, which was still boarding passengers. Despite the hour, this train did plenty of business at Pittsburgh!
Our train departed at 12:17 AM, 32 minutes late, and luckily, Piotr and I had made it back in time. After this late night run, I had no trouble falling asleep. Day One of our journey was over, at least for most of us.
Chapter 3: Friday, July 15, 2005
Day Two would entail our eventual arrival into Chicago, and an afternoon of riding the rails in that area.
Chapter 3.0: Amtrak CAPITOL LIMITED, Train #29, Washington, DC to Chicago, IL (continued)
While I slept, drama continued involving members of our group in the wee hours of the morning. Mike reports a boarding fiasco similar to what I have experienced on Silver Service trains. He said that when he and Lynn boarded their assigned coach, Piotr was there to greet them. The conductor on the platform had told Lynn and Mike to go upstairs and take a seat. When they found two seats together, they sat in them. Then the conductor came and told them that those seats and the pair of seats in front of them were reserved for a family of four. They were asked to move, but were not told if any more pairs of seats were available.
Piotr then played conductor. He found the Hammonds two empty seats, although they were not next to one another. Piotr spoke with both Lynn and Mike in their separate locations. When the train got to Toledo, two seats together became available. After the conductor approved the move, Piotr helped them take these seats. Later they found out that the train had been overbooked, and there were people sitting in the lounge car.
Chapter 3.1: Our trip continues
When I woke up we had passed Toledo, OH and had entered Indiana. At this point, we were in the part of Indiana that does not observe Daylight Savings Time, so we essentially were on Central Daylight Time.
We stopped in Waterloo at 6:46 and departed from there 6:49 AM, making us one hour 43 minutes late. That meant we had lost well over one hour overnight somewhere between Pittsburgh and Toledo. Our plans for riding transit in Chicago were already in jeopardy.
Not long after they had gotten situated in their new seats, I went and met Lynn and Mike, and we agreed to go to breakfast together along with the others. At breakfast, Lynn tried railroad French Toast, and that became her staple for the remainder of the week whenever we had breakfast on trains. Mike said that she still brags about it to this day!
About half an hour past Waterloo, we stopped and then began moving slowly. Our departure from Elkhart was at 7:46 AM, one hour 47 minutes late. We continued slowly, most likely following a freight train. When we left South Bend at 8:17 AM, we were one minute shy of two hours late. We should have been approaching Chicago's Union Station by now.
The itinerary of CTA riding was designed to allow us to be one hour late. Since we were almost twice as late, some last minute changes had to be made. It was decided that we would scrap the rides on the CTA Blue Line and instead do just the Orange Line, followed by lunch and then our regularly scheduled METRA rides.
We eventually got by our problem, but the damage was done. The CAPITOL LIMITED coasted into Chicago and arrived on Union Station's Track 28 at 10:22 AM, still a little under two hours down.
The group that consisted of five members when we got on in Washington had grown to seven with the addition of the Hammonds en route. It would grow even more in a few minutes.
Chapter 3.2: Meeting in Chicago
Waiting for our arrival was Bob Benton, who had come down from Deerfield to meet us briefly before attending to other business in the city. Also there was Mike Pompilli, one of Piotr's friends with whom he would be staying that evening instead of a hotel. Finally, Steve Weagant was there as well. He would remain with the group through our afternoon in St. Louis.
Our first stop in Union Station was the baggage carousel, for those of us who had checked our luggage from Washington, DC. In the same room, several of us found available lockers in which to store our luggage for the rest of the day.
From there, it was onward to the METRA ticket counters, where those who would be riding the rails all day could purchase their tickets. There was a moderate line here, but we felt it was worth waiting now rather than with an impending train departure.
Finally, the ten of us were able to leave Union Station to make the familiar walk east on Adams Street to the Quincy/Wells elevated station. It was here that we would have our first contact with the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA), as we rode the Orange Line to Midway Airport.
Bob did not pass through the faregates; he had to leave us there. However, we gained another of Piotr's friends, Mark Wolodarsky for a while, maintaining ten people.
Chapter 3.3: CTA Orange Line, Quincy/Wells to Midway Airport
After our train left Quincy/Wells at 11:24 AM, we first rode clockwise around the Loop. Mike P. and Mark got off our train at Roosevelt after they had ridden around the Loop with us. That left us with just eight participants.
Then we proceeded southwest towards Midway Airport. Because we had not done the Blue Line, we were ahead of our originally intended schedule for the Orange Line. We arrived at the Midway station at 11:56 AM, walked to the other end of the train, and reboarded it all within the train's two-minute layover.
Chapter 3.4: CTA Orange Line, Midway Airport to Roosevelt
During our return trip to the Loop, we decided to slightly alter our plans for lunch since we had a little more time. We would go only as far as Roosevelt on the Orange Line, and then switch to a Green Line train that would get us closer to Ogilvie Transportation Center. That station has a better food selection than Union Station, which was our original plan.
So when we got to Roosevelt, we all detrained and then waited on the same side of the island platform for the next train, the Green Line.
Chapter 3.5: CTA Green Line, Roosevelt to Clinton/Lake
Our Green Line train took us counterclockwise around half of the Loop, and then west one more stop to Clinton. From there, it was a three-block walk to Ogilvie Transportation Center's food court.
Chapter 3.6: Lunch at Ogilvie Transportation Center
Finally, we were able to rest up here after our "L" travels. We separated to patronize the restaurants of our choice, and then reconvened at a couple of round tables in the center of the food court. After most of us also used the facilities, we were ready for more Chicago railroading, this time on METRA.
We made our way from Ogilvie to Union Station by walking one block from one to the other, crossing the intersection of Madison & Canal in two directions. We then walked through the north end of the station, past the very loud METRA diesel engines. We also saw the consist of AMTRAK's EMPIRE BUILDER preparing for its 2:15 PM departure. Then we made our way to the south end of the station, where our 1:45 PM train to Orland Park was boarding.
Chapter 3.7: METRA SouthWest Service, Train #7, Union Station to Orland Park/179th Street
Our group of eight boarded the train, which represents METRA's one midday turn on its SouthWest Service. This uses trackage formerly under the Norfolk & Western and Norfolk Southern flags. Part of it is also one of the many lines that Amtrak's HOOSIER STATE and CARDINAL use to get into and out of Chicago.
Our trip south on Train #7 was uneventful. We arrived at the last station stop, 179th Street in Orland Park a couple of minutes later than the 2:48 PM advertised time. The train went beyond the station into a small yard area for the crew to do its turning responsibilities. It remained there until just before its scheduled 3:03 northbound departure, now as #14.
Chapter 3.8: METRA SouthWest Service, Train #14, Orland Park/179th Street to Union Station
Our northbound trip was as uneventful as the southbound. Exactly one hour after departing from 179th Street, we pulled into Union Station. Being shortly after 4 PM, the station was a bit livelier than before, as commuters were beginning to fill the station for their trips home. Our mission was to get to the north side of the station once more, to catch the 4:20 PM express to Big Timber Road.
Chapter 3.9: METRA Milwaukee District West, Train #2227, Union Station to Big Timber Road
Before we got aboard, Irwin Davis met us. He had jury duty earlier in the day and was thus unable to join us for our CTA round trip or the Orland Park turn. Nine of us would be making this journey to Big Timber Road and back.
This was the first outbound express train of the evening rush hour on this line. It would stop at Western Avenue, and then run nonstop to Franklin Park, making all local stops after that to Big Timber Road.
The train had good patronage, since it was rush hour. However, as a group we were all able to find seats. Some sat on the top level of the gallery car, and others chose to ride on the lower level.
As we continued down the line, passengers detrained at Franklin Park and beyond. A large number detrained at the two stations in downtown Elgin, leaving only a handful for the final two miles to Big Timber Road. The route was chosen for our group to ride on a weekday since on weekends it terminates in Elgin.
At Big Timber Road at 5:41 PM, our train stopped on the south side platform, away from the station building on the north side. The only egress from this platform is a pedestrian grade crossing behind the last car of the train.
We had about half an hour layover here. Some of us did cross over to look at the station. At about 6 PM, the conductor from our train began to protect the pedestrian crossing, not letting anyone pass. That was because Train #2231 was coming in from Chicago, using the north side track in the Big Timber station.
Once that train cleared the crossing and began discharging its passengers, we were allowed to cross. The conductor protecting the crossing confirmed that our 6:10 PM return trip would be on the consist on which we had arrived. She was very friendly, and in fact, she took a group photo of everyone with our train as the backdrop. Then we were told which car of the long train would be used for the return trip. Going against the flow of the rush hour, they do not need to use every car.
Chapter 3.10: METRA Milwaukee District West, Train #2248, Big Timber Road to Union Station
Now as #2248, we returned to Chicago. This was a local train, making all stops except for several flag stops (Mannheim, Mars, Cragin, and Hermosa) it is scheduled to skip. We pulled into Union Station right at 7:28 PM. Our day together on the rails was complete.
First we went into the baggage room, and retrieved our luggage from the lockers. Then we went our separate ways. We had decided on board the train that given the poor pickings at Union Station, we would fend for ourselves, possibly at our respective hotels.
Those of us in hotels had all chosen properties in the near North Side. Jishnu stayed at the Courtyard by Marriott just off Michigan Avenue's Magnificent Mile. Lynn and Mike were at a regular Marriott in the same general area. Alan went to an Embassy Suites near State & Grand, and Michael and I opted for the Cass Hotel two blocks from there, the place many of us stayed in 2003 for our last Chicago gathering.
Piotr went off to stay with his friend Mike. Lynn and Mike took a taxicab to their hotel. Steve, who lives in Chicago, decided to share the cab and accompany them to dinner. Alan walked south to the Blue Line, which he would take to Jackson and switch to the Red Line for the trip to Grand. Jishnu, Michael, and I, recalling how rough it is to make the underground Blue Line/Red Line transfer with luggage, decided to walk east right to the station at Jackson and board the Red Line there.
For the latter group of three, it was a long trip. Once at State Street, we found it difficult to find an open entrance that would lead us down to the subway platforms. We walked the wrong way on State before realizing we should have went the other way.
When we got down to the platform, there was Alan, fresh off the Blue Line and his subterranean transfer. All of us were very tired from our long days on the rails, followed by our very recent long walks, so we were happy that we did not have to wait long for our northbound Red Line train. It was a quick trip (after several stops at the continuous platform in the Loop) up to Grand.
At Grand, Alan went his way north to his hotel. Jishnu, Michael, and I walked east to Wabash. Jishnu continued east there, while Michael and I turned north to get to the Cass.
Chapter 3.11: Dinner on Your Own in Chicago
What everyone did for dinner in Chicago is not known. As arranged, I contacted Lynn and Mike in their hotel. They were just leaving to go to dinner at a nearby TGI Friday's. We decided to join them, although it was already pretty late. Steve was still with them as well.
Michael and I left our hotel and walked east to Michigan Avenue. I misjudged the direction of the cross street they had told me, and ended up walking south instead of north along the Mag Mile. We ended up near the bridge over the Chicago River that signifies entry in the Loop section of the city. We then had to retrace our steps about five blocks until we were in the right place. One thing about a major city, the streets were full of many people, so we were not alone out there.
The five of us had a nice dinner together. Then Steve took a cab the rest of the way home, and Lynn and Mike, as well as Michael and I, walked back to our respective hotels.
Chapter 3.12: End of Friday activities
That ended our first full day together. We all slept well in Chicago, knowing that we would be heading to Union Station rather early in order to catch our Amtrak train out of the city at 8:25 AM.
Chapter 4: Saturday, July 16, 2005
Saturday promised to be a rather long day. It would start with us reconvening from wherever we spent the night. We would take an Amtrak trip to St. Louis, ride that city's light rail, and visit the Gateway Arch. Then we would board another train in the evening to begin the final intercity leg of our journey to Texas.
Chapter 4.0: Meeting at Chicago Union Station
Lynn and Mike got between their hotel and Union Station via the same means they had gone in the other direction: a taxicab.
Piotr had a long four-seat ride from his friend's home to Union Station. He took a CTA bus to the Red Line Berwyn station, a train southbound to Roosevelt, and then he transferred there to an Orange Line that would bring him to Quincy/Wells on the Loop. He followed that up with a three-block bus ride to Union Station. (All of that was covered by the CTA Visitors Pass he had purchased the day before.)
Alan, Jishnu, Michael, and I all met on the corner of State and Grand, and the four of us then went down into the Red Line Grand station. After a very short wait, we took a train south to Jackson. We then walked six blocks west to Union Station.
When we got there, Jishnu and Alan went straight for the McDonald's, while Michael and I went to the Amtrak ticket windows to check our luggage to Dallas. We met Lynn and Mike there, who were doing the same thing. Mike was successful in getting a receipt marked "DAL" for Dallas. Michael then went with the Hammonds to McDonald's, so he could get started on breakfast while I checked my luggage.
However, I was not as lucky as Mike was. After telling the same agent that I was doing the exact same thing, and showing her my Chicago-St. Louis and St. Louis-Dallas tickets, I was somehow given a receipt that said "STL". Luckily, I noticed the error as I was walking away, and my bag was retrieved from the moving belt just before it left the ticket area. It was then retagged with the proper destination. Had I not noticed the mistake, my luggage would have been removed from the TEXAS EAGLE in St. Louis later that night while we were boarding the same train. I then met everyone else in McDonald's, and had my breakfast quickly since we had to soon get down to the waiting room for the 8:25 AM departure of the ANN RUTLEDGE.
When the boarding call came for Business Class passengers to board our train, Steve, Lynn, Mike, Alan, Michael, and I went ahead and got on the train, leaving Jishnu behind to wait for the boarding of Coach Class passengers. We still had not seen Piotr. After his long commute, he got to the station with little time to spare. He joined Jishnu on the line, and they boarded the train a few minutes after the rest of us did.
Chapter 4.1: Amtrak ANN RUTLEDGE, Train #303, Chicago, IL to St. Louis, MO
One concern that Alan and I had discussed before this trip was we would be getting some type of substitute equipment for Business Class on the ANN RUTLEDGE. With the Acela Express out of commission, Metroliner equipment had been summoned back to the East Coast from around the country. We were pleased upon boarding to find out that we had an Amfleet coach that was half cafe and half Business Class seating.
The entire consist of Amtrak's ANN RUTLEDGE, Train #303(16) Chicago to St. Louis:
58 P-42 locomotive 20253 Amfleet I cafe/Business Class * 54550 Horizon coach ** 54510 Horizon coach 54536 Horizon coach
* Mike, Lynn, Steve, Alan, Michael, and Kevin were here.
** Jishnu and Piotr were here.
Soon after we boarded, each of us in Business Class was given a voucher worth $4.50 off at the cafe. This was unexpected by most of us, but certainly welcome gesture. (Alan had ridden Midwest Business Class before, so he did expect it.) It effectively reduced the $14 surcharge we had paid to ride Business Class to just $9.50.
Our trip started out very well. We departed right on time at 8:25 AM, and made on-time stops at Joliet, Dwight, and Pontiac.
We ran into trouble, however in the Bloomington/Normal area. We noticed that the gates at many grade crossings were not working properly. They would raise and lower while the train was still passing. Our train came to a stop before the Bloomington/Normal station, and sat for several minutes. Our station stop took about twelve minutes. Our departure from this station at 10:53 AM was 14 minutes late.
Things were abnormal in Normal! It got worse yet for us before we got out of town. The same signal troubles that caused the crossing gates to act erratically also resulted in some dark territory near the Bloomington Yard. Another ten minutes was lost as we sat on a yard track to allow a freight train to pass us slowly, also negotiating the area with the malfunctioning gates. Our Assistant Conductor had to get off the train and flag a crossing, adding still more time to our trip.
We finally went back to track speed once out of the Bloomington area. We were about 25 minutes late at Lincoln. At 11:50 AM, we passed the northbound TEXAS EAGLE, Train #22(15), which was sitting on a siding to our right. Members of that train's crew were seen behind the train, standing in the gauge. The train was roughly an hour late, but they still had the mess in Bloomington/Normal ahead of them.
Arrival into the state capitol, Springfield, was 12:07 PM. After a six-minute stop, we proceeded south, now 28 minutes late. Carlinville came at 12:49 PM, followed by Alton at 1:23 PM. Leaving Alton we were now half an hour late. However, the timetable shows some obvious padding between there and St. Louis, so there was some hope that we could arrive at our destination at or before the advertised 2:08 PM.
Our train's problems, however, were not over. Soon after we passed Alton, the skyline of St. Louis (including the famous Gateway Arch) came into view to our right. The ANN RUTLEDGE eventually slowed and then stopped on an approach to the MacArthur Bridge, which would take us across the Mississippi River into the city. We spent about ten minutes at this red signal, presumably to wait for a long freight train to clear the tracks on the other side of the bridge.
This was my first approach to St. Louis on the MacArthur Bridge. On previous trips, the crossing was done over a bridge a little north of the city, and then the train ran down the west bank of the river and right under the Arch on the Terminal Railway. The reroute was designed to save the trains some 12 mph running, however sitting still at this point was not much better.
Finally we got the green signal and we crossed the bridge. We continued to run slowly and stop at various places on the Missouri side of the river before finally coming into the station. Our arrival time was 2:18 PM, officially ten minutes late.
Chapter 4.2: The luggage problem
Our first planned matter of business upon arrival was to store our luggage. Mike Hammond had called the St. Louis station and was told that we would indeed be able to keep our luggage (that which had not been checked) at the station while we were in town for seven hours.
However, a day of terrorism in London a week before our trip began changed all that, unbeknownst to us. Amtrak had quietly established a policy of not storing baggage. What would we do?
Taking our luggage with us on the Metrolink light rail was not so bad an option, however our concern was that we would not be able to get through the security checkpoint at the Gateway Arch later.
Jishnu came to the rescue. While we were deliberating what to do, he suggested we stop talking and start enjoying our visit to St. Louis. He nobly volunteered to sit at the station and watch all of our luggage, thus forfeiting his rides on the light rail and his paid admission to the Gateway Arch. He said he had already done all those things so he would not feel he was missing anything. We thanked Jishnu profusely for this, and we thank him again today. We left him, promising that somebody would relieve him at the station to give him a chance to get dinner.
Steve, who planned to do the Metrolink and Gateway Arch with us that day, and then remain in St. Louis at a hotel near the airport, decided to go ahead of us and get his luggage checked at his hotel. He would call later and arrange to join us somewhere on Metrolink.
As the six of us left the station, I made one of my rare fest bloopers, leading the group in the wrong direction. The St. Louis station had, in the past year, relocated from the "temporary" trailer to a more modern building slightly to the west. Having memories of walking between the older station and the Civic Center light rail station before, I led everyone to the east within Amtrak's property. We got to the area behind the old trailer station to find out that the access was now fenced off.
A little extra walking is not bad, except that we had a schedule to maintain, an appointment to be at the Arch later on, and it was extremely hot out there. We then walked back towards the new structure, having wasted five precious minutes. It was here while we were walking that we met up with Larry Thomas.
Larry had contacted me through my involvement on a local Yahoo! Group in advance of the fest. He is Secretary, Treasurer, and Newsletter Editor for the Terminal Railroad Association of St. Louis Historical and Technical Society. Larry had offered to meet up with us and show us the rail sites around the city during our brief time there.
Larry showed us the correct way to access the light rail station, and the seven of us walked over there. Some still had to get their tickets. We found that the nearest machine was down a path in the wrong direction beyond the train platform. I had pre-purchased day passes for Michael and myself over the Internet, so we were all set. While awaiting the others, I met Steve once more, who was still waiting for his airport-bound train. Once everyone was back at the light rail station, we did not have long to wait before a train came.
Chapter 4.3: John's trip thus far
John Corbett had flown from New York to Kansas City the day before, and had taken the eastbound ANN RUTLEDGE, Train #304(15), across the state 24 hours ago. He stayed over Friday night in St. Louis, and then did some sightseeing on Saturday. At about 2 PM he was around Laclede's Landing and the Gateway Arch. He went to the nearby Metrolink station with the intention of going to the Amtrak station to meet us. However, he endured a twenty-minute wait. Once on the train, it was packed with Cardinals fans going to a baseball game. Because of the delay, the train he ended up boarding was the same train our group would board later at Civic Center.
Chapter 4.4: Metro St. Louis Metrolink, Civic Center to Lambert-St. Louis International Airport Main Terminal
Metro St. Louis used to be known as Bi-State Transit. Despite the name change, they still operate the Metrolink light rail and a good number of bus routes on both the Missouri and Illinois sides of the Mississippi River.
Eight of us crowded aboard the train, which was headed for Lambert Airport-Main Terminal. We met John aboard the train, making our group nine for a while. We left Civic Center at 2:47 PM, just 15 minutes later than originally planned. That was pretty good considering that our train was ten minutes late, and we also had the luggage catastrophe and the walk to noplace before leaving Amtrak's station grounds.
I believe that most of us initially had to stand, until the crowd of passengers thinned out as we got closer to the airport. Although we were beyond Busch Stadium, Metro was still doing good business.
Along the way, Larry showed us the important rail-oriented sites along the way. The light rail actually runs along a former railroad right-of-way, and then veers off onto its own path later. He also gave us some goodie bags, full of magazines and other items of local interest.
When we got to the end of the line at the main terminal of the airport, Steve left us to go to his hotel. He would rejoin us later. The other eight of us moved to what would become the front of the train for its eastbound journey.
Chapter 4.5: Metro St. Louis Metrolink, Lambert-St. Louis International Airport Main Terminal to Shiloh-Scott
Just four minutes after we had arrived, the operator had switched ends, and we were ready to roll. This trip would be from one end of the line to the other, taking almost one and a quarter hours.
We retraced our previous trip through the west suburban area of St. Louis, and right through the city. Once past Civic Center, we were riding on tracks that we had not yet seen. There is not much scenery downtown, as Metrolink runs through a subway tunnel. It then emerges just before it begins to climb onto the Eads Bridge to cross the Mississippi.
The second stop on the Illinois side is East St. Louis. The last time I was in the area, this was the terminus of the line. Beyond East St. Louis, the line runs in a northeasterly direction.
The rest of our outbound trip was a blur. Most of the stations are generic in nature. We made one stop en route at a yard, so that our operator could be relieved.
One might question the need for the light rail line over much of the Illinois segment. It passes right through proverbial cornfields, and there does not appear to be much development near some of the stations. Even in East St. Louis, the surrounding neighborhood appears to be suffering from crime and poverty.
We continued running a few minutes late. As we approached the end of the line at Shiloh-Scott, we passed an inbound train. Had we been on time, we would have been on that train. Therefore, we had to wait on the platform about 14 minutes for the same train to depart. The result of this was that we would not get to the Gateway Arch at 5:20 as planned, or by 5:30 as recommended when I ordered the tickets by telephone.
Chapter 4.6: Metro St. Louis Metrolink, Shiloh-Scott to Arch/Laclede's Landing
Our inbound trip retraced our travels through Illinois. During this trip, I got a call from Steve Weagant, who had returned from the airport. He was now at the Arch awaiting our arrival. He had already passed through security, so he let me know the line was not too long.
This train kept to schedule, and we arrived at the Arch/Laclede's Landing station on time at 5:26 PM. Once we detrained, we had to make our way quickly to the Gateway Arch.
Chapter 4.7: Gateway Arch
We crossed a street and the walked through a parking garage, riding its elevator to the top level. After we then walked through a park, we finally came upon the base of this national monument at 5:35. We still had plenty of time to go through security. It took about ten minutes before we were inside the large underground concourse under the base of the arch. Steve met us as we entered.
Our reservation was for 6:00 PM on the north side of the arch, but they were still taking people who had reserved for 5:50. This gave some members of our group few minutes to go to the rest room.
Despite our 6:00 reservation, the process of getting us up to the top actually went beyond that time. We got the progress treatment, first queuing up in the concourse itself, and then being led to a few interim points before coming upon the lower lobby of the tram ride that takes visitors to and from the top.
There were nine of us, and since each car holds five people tightly, our group was in two adjacent cars. Mike, Lynn, Alan, Steve, and Piotr were in one car, and John, Larry, Michael, and I were in the other. A short bald man traveling alone, who looked very much like Mr. Six from the Six Flags commercials, was our fifth person.
Being a rail fest, our mission was to look out at the various rail lines in the area from the high vantage point. However, the whole process of getting to the top had taken longer than anticipated, and ahead of us we still had dinner and a train to catch. That, plus the fact that there are no views to the north or south from the Arch observatory, caused us to spend less than five minutes at the top. We decided to get "new trackage" by riding the tram on the south side of the arch rather than the one on which we had come up.
Once at the bottom, John walked back from there to his hotel to get his luggage. He then proceeded to another Metrolink station and headed for Union Station to meet up with us.
The other eight of us headed back for the Arch/Laclede's Landing light rail station. It was now past 7:00, and we were very hungry for dinner. We also had to relieve poor Jishnu, who had been sitting at the train station with our luggage for almost five hours.
Chapter 4.8: Metro St. Louis Metrolink, Arch/Laclede's Landing to St. Louis Union Station
We just missed the 7:11 westbound train. We had to wait for the next one, which was at 7:26 PM. Lynn graciously volunteered to relieve Jishnu at the Amtrak station. The plan was for Mike and Lynn to get off at the Civic Center station and walk to Amtrak. Then Mike and Jishnu would walk over to St. Louis Union Station to join us for dinner.
That is exactly what happened. The Hammonds detrained at Civic Center, and Alan, Piotr, Michael, and I continued one more stop to St. Louis Union Station. What we did not know is that when John boarded the train after collecting his luggage at the hotel, he was on the same train, but in a different car. So we all arrived at Union Station together.
We said goodbye to Steve, who remained on this train to the airport and his hotel, and to Larry, who would be heading home.
Chapter 4.9: Dinner at St. Louis Union Station
St. Louis Union Station is a good example of putting old majestic train stations to good use. Unfortunately, it no longer functions as a train station as Washington Union Station does. Nevertheless, it enjoys mixed use as a shopping mall, hotel lobby, and food court. The latter attracted us there!
We found a large table by the window, and then took turns getting our food. It was not long before Jishnu and Mike arrived to join us. The nine of us ate quickly. Jishnu's dinner was of course paid for by other than Jishnu. Mike also purchased some food to go for Lynn, who was now by herself back at the Amtrak station.
Chapter 4.10: Back to Amtrak Station
After a quick rest room break, we all headed on foot to the Amtrak station. It was not a bad walk; it was maybe a little longer than the walk between the Civic Center light rail station and Amtrak. In short, the recent relocation of the Amtrak station put it closer to St. Louis Union Station than it was before, and a little farther from Civic Center than it used to be.
Once back at the station, the place was full of fellow departing passengers for that night's southbound train. Lynn was sitting with our luggage. She promptly ate the dinner that Mike had brought for her.
The train was reported to be running close to schedule. We were happy that it did not encounter the grade crossing problems that we had encountered earlier that day coming through Normal.
At around 8:50 PM, with the train still somewhere in Illinois, a conductor began coming around the room. He took tickets and checked everyone's picture ID's. He gave everyone a small receipt to be used to board the train. We were impressed at the efficiency of this conductor who was coming on duty. It would save him a lot of walking through the train later. Moreover, it allowed people, especially those with children, to perhaps get a head start on their sleep.
The train came into the station at about 9:00, five minutes late. The timetable allows for just ten minutes in the station; however this is virtually impossible with the large number of detraining and boarding passengers, and the need to remove one coach from the rear of the consist.
Piotr headed for his coach, and the other seven of us lined up outside the entrance to the rear sleeper. As the rest of us boarded the sleeper at the rear of the train, we met our attendant, Tony Westfield. Tony had a good sense of humor, and he used it while he was giving us directions to our accommodations.
Luckily having all booked around the same time, we got rooms in the same sleeping car. Mike and Lynn took a larger bedroom, so they were in Room E in the front half of our sleeper. The rest of us were in Roomettes. John was in Room 6, Jishnu in Room 5, Alan in Room 7, and Michael and I were in Room 9. Room 9 is, in fact, the last room on one side of the sleeping car. Since we would be the last car of the consist, Michael and I were literally bringing up the markers for this train!
Before departure, we watched the station crews remove the St. Louis coach, which had been on the rear of our sleeper. They did not begin this process for a while. We later found out it was because the eastbound ST. LOUIS MULE arrived around the same time our train was in the station.
Chapter 4.11: Amtrak TEXAS EAGLE, Train #21, St. Louis, MO to Dallas, TX
The consist of Amtrak's TEXAS EAGLE, Train #21(16) St. Louis to Dallas:
49 P-42 locomotive 1160 Baggage 39003 Superliner II Transition Dorm/Sleeper 38042 Superliner II Diner 33020 Superliner I Sightseer Lounge 31529 Superliner I Coach/Smoker *** 34047 Superliner I Coach 34026 Superliner I Coach ** 38082 Superliner II Sleeper "Indiana" * 31520 Superliner I Coach/Smoker (CHI-STL only)
* Mike, Lynn, John, Alan, Jishnu, Michael, and Kevin were here.
** Piotr was here STL-MHL.
*** Piotr was here MHL-DAL.
Our departure from St. Louis was at 9:27 PM, 22 minutes late. Tony soon came around to each room to reintroduce himself, and to offer to put the beds down. We took him up on that offer, and soon most of us turned in for the night.
For the most part, we got decent sleep. We had done a lot of walking and riding on Saturday, and our bodies needed the rest.
I had some trouble sleeping. The train was rocking back and forth, causing me to be almost constantly jostled. I am not sure if this was due to bad track, or the fact that we were at the rear end of the last car on the train.
Meanwhile, Piotr reports that in his coach, he had a non-English speaking seat mate after he boarded in St. Louis, so since he was not drawn into conversation, he was able to fall asleep rather quickly.
Chapter 5: Sunday, July 17, 2005
Sunday morning found us still headed for Texas aboard the TEXAS EAGLE when we awoke. Our trip continues in Chapter 5.1. On this day we would arrive in Dallas, and relax a bit in our rooms after checking into our hotels. We would later reconvene for dinner, some train riding, and our first visit to the observation deck of the Reunion Tower.
Chapter 5.0: Steve's trip home
Steve reported to me that his northbound TEXAS EAGLE, Train 322(17) was running over two hours late, due to the tardy arrival of the parent train, 22(16). The train left St. Louis at 10:42 AM, two hours 7 minutes late. By Springfield, it was two hours 25 minutes down. When it departed Bloomington-Normal at 2:02 PM, the train was two hours 15 minutes late. While Steve did not get an exact Chicago arrival time, it did arrive more than two hours behind schedule.
Although he did not note the numbers, his consist listing for Train 22(16) was:
P-42 locomotive Baggage Transition Dorm/Sleeper Diner Sightseer Lounge Coach Coach Los Angeles sleeper St. Louis coach *
* Steve was here.
Steve says that he enjoyed the ride. There was no freight on the back, so he spent a lot of time watching the track. One issue early in the trip was that the car had sat in the sun, and had not been hooked up to station power to be air-conditioned. Therefore, when he boarded the St. Louis car, it was still rather warm.
One passenger remarked that the car smelled like what would normally be found in the rest room. The smell was unpleasant, but once the AC kicked in, it was better. Steve enjoys Superliners more than single-level Horizons, so he was determined to enjoy the ride no matter what. The car was about half full, and the back half was blocked off by garbage boxes. However, he was allowed to go back and look out the window after first asking permission.
Steve enjoyed lunch in the diner. A grandmother and her son enjoyed the meal too, but the man sitting next to him complained about the lateness and everything else. He was annoyed especially about being told the train was on time when it was already running late. Eventually, Steve tuned him out.
Steve got back to Chicago around the same time the rest of us were already relaxing in our hotel rooms in Dallas. Read on....
Chapter 5.1: Amtrak TEXAS EAGLE, Train #21, St. Louis, MO to Dallas, TX (continued)
When I awoke Sunday morning aboard the train, we were stopped. The time was 7:06 AM. I could see that we were at the Texarkana station. Being at the rear of the train, we were in Arkansas, while the front of our train was in Texas. We were early too, as the scheduled time there is 7:18 AM. We departed on time, and those on the train who had not yet entered Texas now did so.
Piotr recalled one of the stops our train made at either Pine Bluff or Walnut Ridge, but other than that he slept fairly well. Having awakened just before Texarkana, he went out on the platform during the station stop to chat with the crew and other passengers. When he reboarded, he decided to relocate to another seat two coaches ahead of his, where he could sit without a seat mate.
We still had six hours of travel ahead of us according to the schedule, but we knew that although we were currently on time, anything could happen to change that.
We all had breakfast together in the dining car. Then we took turns relaxing in the Sightseer Lounge and in our rooms, which had been put back into "daytime" mode. At times, we visited one another. Mike and Lynn had a larger bedroom, which allowed some of us to sit in there and talk for a while.
We came to a stop at 9:18 AM, awaiting clearance into the Marshall station. Marshall is located on a junction, and there was a freight train using the other route. Although we sat for about five minutes, we still came into the station twelve minutes early. We departed Marshall on time at 9:35 AM.
We also got to our next station stop, Longview, ahead of time. We arrived there at 10:06 AM, and left on time at 10:20. However, things were not as good around Mineola. Other than the short delay at Marshall, we encountered our first serious freight interference on this trip. We stopped at about 10:58 AM, and sat for close to 45 minutes while Union Pacific (UP) worked things out.
During that period of immobility, we were called for lunch. We had the same waiter as breakfast, Phillip Nelson. It was during this meal that I had the best dessert I have ever had on a train. I was introduced to the Chocolate Bomb, which is a thick chocolate layer cake with several levels of frosting and different types of chocolate. It really was the highlight of that meal, and it became the dessert to look for throughout the rest of our time on the rails. I did question (quietly) to the others about the naming of this treat, with the London train bombings in fresh memory and the knowledge that airline passengers have been taken to prison for mere mention of that "B" word.
Once UP had cleared the tracks for us, we were on our way once more. Our station stop in Mineola was indeed 45 minutes late. I figured we would get into Dallas shortly after 2 PM, which would still give us time to do the activities that were originally planned. My original itinerary had allowed us to be up to an hour late.
We soon entered the Greater Dallas area as we came through Mesquite, TX. Soon Dallas' trademark skyscrapers were visible in the distance. Our official arrival time was 1:40 PM, so thanks to some padding we were just 20 minutes late.
We all detrained, and met Piotr on the platform. The eight of us then began to negotiate the multiple pedestrian grade crossings necessary to get between the Amtrak platform and Dallas Union Station itself. We had to cross one track used by Trinity Railway Express, and two used by Dallas Area Rapid Transit (DART) light rail vehicles.
Most of our group relaxed in the station for a bit, while Mike and I went outside to retrieve the checked luggage that we had sent from Chicago. Once we returned to the group, we then all talked about what we would do for the rest of the day.
Chapter 5.2: Sunday in Dallas on Your Own
Our original plans were to go to the Age of Steam Museum in Fair Park. This trip would have required a 20-minute bus ride in each direction, and we would have had very few places in the area to choose from for dinner. With most of us a little tired from our recent overnight train trip, and with the memories of the luggage situation fresh in our minds, we opted to go check in at our respective hotels. This would be rest time, a time to do things on our own until meeting once more for dinner.
Mike and Lynn were technically already at their hotel, the Hyatt Regency, since it is connected to Union Station through a tunnel under the tracks. They checked in, and then did some touring of Dallas on foot. They went to the Sixth Floor Museum, which is a tourist must-see, especially if you recall the events of that tragic day. I had been told before my trip, however, that to be fair, one must also get the other perspective at the Conspiracy Museum.
John, Jishnu, Alan, Michael, and I boarded a DART light rail vehicle for a short, one-stop ride to West End. Our Hampton Inn was a two-block walk from that station.
Piotr was on the same train, but he remained on board to Mockingbird. There, he took a DART 21 bus to the Best Western-Cityplace Inn where he was reserved for his two-night stay.
After checking in, John went out and wasted no time off the rails. He went back to the West End station, where he was lucky enough to catch one of the event specials running to Victory Station, outside the American Airlines Center. This line is only used during such events, but it will someday be extended to become DART's Yellow Line. At the arena, he almost was stranded, as he had to wait a while for an available light rail vehicle back to West End.
After a few hours on our own, during which Michael and I watched a movie on television, it became time to rally the troops for dinner in the West End Historic District. I first called Piotr, to get him in motion since he had the longest trip. Then I called Lynn and Mike because they would have to take the same short ride on DART that we took earlier. Finally, I got a hold of John by cell phone and the others within the Hampton Inn. We all agreed to meet at the West End light rail station at 6 PM. From there we would walk into the entertainment area and look for a suitable place to eat.
Chapter 5.3: Dinner at Hoffbrau Steak House in the West End Historic District
We walked through the Historic District, with most of our minds set on steak. Since most of us had not had complimentary dinner on a train yet, we collectively had an appetite for steak. First we came upon Y.O. Ranch Steakhouse, but strangely, it was closed on a Sunday. Then we found another place that was open, and entered. The Hoffbrau Steak House is a small chain of five restaurants within the state of Texas.
Our party of eight was seated in front of the restaurant, almost near the door through which we had entered. Unfortunately, none of us remembers our server's name, but she handled us superbly. Our food was delicious and the prices were reasonable. We came away from Hoffbrau happy with our restaurant choice.
Now, we were still assembled as a group, and we felt that night was young. We decided to do some things on our list ahead of time, to make life easier on ourselves later during our stay in Dallas. We chose to take our first ride on the McKinney Avenue streetcar and the Inclinator and Cityplace, and make a night visit to the Reunion Tower.
Chapter 5.4: DART Red Line, West End to Cityplace
Taking the light rail to Cityplace would achieve two objectives. It would give us our first experience with the Inclinator, and put us at the far end of the streetcar line, the end that is very close to the light rail station. We left West End at 8:01 PM, and arrived at Cityplace at 8:12. So crossing downtown and traversing about half of the system's only tunnel took just eleven minutes.
When we got to Cityplace, DART's only totally underground station, we first rode a series of escalators to a mezzanine level. This put us directly underneath the North Central Freeway. From there, one can go up to one of two small headhouses on either service road of the freeway by taking a stairway, an escalator, or the Inclinator.
Chapter 5.5: DART Inclinator
This unique contraption was said to be the combination of an elevator, an escalator, and a funicular. It most resembled the former. We entered it through a sliding door not unlike any standard elevator. After we pressed a button that would signal the machine to begin moving towards its upper station, it then began to slowly climb on an incline to the top. Because we had to wait for it, Alan made it up to the top via the regular escalator long before we had even started out. A door on the opposite end opened and we had made our climb successfully. It definitely was a strange mode of transportation, but it is highly overrated. I guess we expected more.
When we got to the top, we all went outside and easily found the station for the McKinney Avenue Transit Authority (MATA), also known as the M-Line. We could see up the track that we had just missed one, and the next was scheduled to arrive in about 25 minutes.
Chapter 5.6: DART M-Line, Cityplace to St. Paul & Ross
Soon a streetcar arrived on the single track Cityplace spur line, and after the operator changed ends and poles, we boarded. He was friendly, and seemed impressed that he had a load of eight railfans representing New York, New Jersey, and Ohio.
Because it was late, and some other streetcars were finishing their nightly runs and going out of service, our operator got word that he was to pick some people up who were being dumped from another car. He was given permission to leave Cityplace a few minutes early, to minimize the wait for those people. Since nobody else was boarding at Cityplace, we were off. We left there at 8:37 PM. This trackage was new to everyone, including me. When Michael and I rode the historic line back in 1998, it had not yet been extended to Cityplace; at that time, it turned around near the car barn. In fact, there was no Cityplace station on the light rail either at that time -- it was added "in fill" later as the trains zipped through the tunnel without stopping.
We never did encounter that other group of people, so apparently they had decided not to ride any more. After passing through the upscale West Village area, I was now on familiar trackage going southbound on McKinney Avenue.
Soon we came to the other end of the line, which is just west of the intersection of St. Paul and Ross Streets. There is talk of further tapping the tourist trade by extending this line south from this corner to West End Historic District. However, our operator did not seem to be too optimistic that this would happen in the near future.
We alighted at 8:52 PM after a very interesting 15-minute ride at twilight. Piotr left us here, opting to take the streetcar back to Cityplace, putting him closer to his hotel.
The rest of us walked three blocks east on St. Paul back to Pacific Street, where we would then reboard the light rail. We knew that the tower closes at 10 PM, so we felt we had enough time to get there. However, John ran ahead of us here, thinking that the Reunion Tower might close earlier and not let us up after a certain time. He boarded a Red Line car running about ten minutes ahead of the Blue Line car the rest of us eventually caught.
Chapter 5.7: DART Blue Line, St. Paul to Union Station
It was 9:04 PM when Lynn, Mike, Jishnu, Alan, Michael, and I boarded a Blue Line car to head for Union Station and the Reunion Tower. We were off at 9:12 PM, and descended the stairway leading into the pedestrian tunnel that runs between Union Station and the Hyatt Hotel/Reunion Tower area.
Chapter 5.8: Reunion Tower at Night
When we got to the Reunion Tower, it was still open. They let us up free of charge, apparently because Lynn and Mike were guests at the adjacent Hyatt.
The reason for going up at night was to appreciate the Dallas skyline at night. Many buildings are lit up in colorful neon lights in interesting patterns. After spending about 15 minutes at the top, we took the elevator down once more.
Chapter 5.9: End of Sunday activities
Since the tower is part of the Hyatt complex, Lynn and Mike left us in the subterranean lobby to go upstairs to their room. Meanwhile, Alan, John, Jishnu, Michael, and I went back through the tunnel to the light rail platform, and we took the next light rail car going towards our hotel. We went one stop to West End. Then we walked over to our Hampton Inn, where we dispersed to our respective rooms.
Chapter 6: Monday, July 18, 2005
Monday was our full day in Dallas. We would ride the entire DART and Trinity Railway Express systems, and still have time for two nice meals together.
Chapter 6.0: Meeting at Dallas Union Station
Dallas Union Station was the official start point of today's activities. Actually, the group who stayed at the Hampton Inn rode together from West End to Union Station to get there. We met up with Piotr and with Lynn and Mike, who had arrived from their respective hotels. The eight of us were ready to embark on our tour of the DART system.
Chapter 6.1: DART Blue Line, Union Station to Ledbetter
The first segment we rode was the Blue Line from Union Station (9:25 PM departure) to its southern endpoint at Ledbetter. This line runs by a large VA Hospital. There were many passengers getting on and off here. Piotr assisted one person in a wheelchair who was getting off there.
We arrived at Ledbetter on time at 9:48 AM, and changed ends. We had a seven-minute layover to accomplish this.
Chapter 6.2: DART Blue Line, Ledbetter to 8th & Corinth
Now it was time to retrace our steps towards 8th & Corinth. That is the station near the junction point of the Blue and Red Lines. We arrived there at 10:10 AM, still matching the itinerary.
Chapter 6.3: DART Red Line, 8th & Corinth to Westmoreland
There was an eleven-minute wait here for our southbound Red Line train. Like clockwork, it appeared in view at 10:20, and we boarded it at 10:21, again right on time. We rode south to the Westmoreland terminus. There was a seventeen-minute dwell here before we took our longest light rail ride of the fest. Again during that time we changed ends so that we would be at the front.
Chapter 6.4: DART Red Line, Westmoreland to Parker Road
Now we would ride right from the southern to the northern end of the Red Line. We left Westmoreland at 10:49 AM. We retraced our previous trips back to downtown. After riding through downtown and then the tunnel under the Central Expressway, we emerged at Mockingbird. At Mockingbird, the Red and Blue Lines split. We continued north towards Richardson and Plano.
When I had last been in Dallas, the Red Line terminated at Park Lane, at a grade level station. That station was rebuilt into an aerial one when the line was extended further north. Beyond this point was new trackage for me (as would be the upcoming Blue Line segment to Garland).
After a 66-minute trip from Westmoreland, we arrived at Parker Road in Plano. Our layover there was eleven minutes. Again, we changed to the other end of the train so we could watch out the front.
Chapter 6.5: DART Red Line, Parker Road to Mockingbird
The next southbound run duplicated our most recent northbound travels. We rode back down to Mockingbird, the junction point between the two lines. That would be our lunch stop, since we had to get off the light rail anyway to make the transfer.
Chapter 6.6: Lunch at Spike Global Grill at Mockingbird Station
I had no idea where we would ultimately end up eating once we got off the train. We quickly found an outdoor shopping mall and walked into a combination ice cream shop/restaurant. The place we entered was called Spike Global Grill. We all found things we liked on the menu. Most had small pizza pies.
We were able to finish in the hour or so we had on our schedule. After we finished, we walked back to the light rail station to prepare for our next ride.
Chapter 6.7: DART Blue Line, Mockingbird to Downtown Garland
This ride represented the last segment of DART for our group. We would go eastbound from Mockingbird to Downtown Garland. That trip took 17 minutes. Soon we were at yet another endpoint, changing ends of the train with the operator.
Chapter 6.8: DART Blue Line, Downtown Garland to Union Station
After a 15-minute layover, we departed from Downtown Garland at 2:08 PM. It was a 35-minute trip to Union Station. That would complete the official DART light rail riding for this fest.
John got off this train at West End, intending to pick up his luggage at the Hampton Inn and then get to Union Station in time to join us on the TRE train that we would be taking to Fort Worth.
When we got there, we had about 17 minutes before our Trinity Railway Express departure. This gave us time to take a short restroom break. The others remained in the platform area watching the action and taking pictures.
Chapter 6.9: Trinity Railway Express, Train #2925, Union Station to Fort Worth T & P Station
Now came the commuter rail portion of our day. We would ride Trinity Railway Express (TRE) from one end of the line to the other on this trip. We were on the upper level of a standard bilevel train. The coaches look just like those used on Florida's Tri-Rail and Virginia's VRE. TRE also has Rail Diesel Cars; those are used mostly on the shorter trips between Dallas and Centreport, the station nearest to the airport.
John did not make this train. He ended up taking the following TRE train at 3:47. He was going only as far as Centreport, where he would rent a car near the airport and then drive to Arlington for a baseball game between the Texas Rangers and New York Yankees. His plans went well. He saw his game and then stayed overnight at the Hampton Inn in Grand Prairie.
On our way out of town, I called Spaghetti Warehouse to reserve a table for seven people for 6:45 that evening. So far, we had stuck to our itinerary perfectly, so we expected we would do the same for the rest of the day.
Points of interest along the way were the string of hotels in the Medical Center/Market Center area, the TRE yard just outside of Centreport station, and Centreport itself, where there are shuttle buses that meet each train and run to
When we came into Fort Worth, we stopped at the Fort Worth Intermodal Center, one of two downtown stations. We would check that out later. We went onward to the last stop, at the T&P Station. This classic rail station looks like it was closed for a long while, and it was. It has a vintage waiting room and concourse, still being fixed up after years of disuse. We had about 20 minutes to explore this station before we boarded the same equipment as it prepared to head back for Dallas. We would only be going one stop, though.
Chapter 6.10: Trinity Railway Express, Train #2934, Fort Worth T & P Station to Fort Worth Intermodal Center
During our three-minute trip, we happened to see the southbound TEXAS EAGLE, Train 21(17) that had just left the Fort Worth station headed for San Antonio. It was running about half and hour late. Its significance is that this would be the consist we would be riding northbound out of Dallas the next day. We noticed engine 7 at the point, and also noticed that this train lacked a transition sleeper.
Before coming into the Intermodal Center, we also passed the former Amtrak station. I had used the older Amtrak station last time I was in Fort Worth. Now Amtrak, TRE, and Fort Worth Transportation Authority buses all share the new Intermodal Center. I had decided that we should explore this new facility, hence our getting off here. We also would get to see the HEARTLAND FLYER, even if we did not have time to ride it.
Amtrak HEARTLAND FLYER, Train #822(18) as observed 7/18 in Ft. Worth:
90229 Non-powered cab/baggage 39940 Highliner 35001 Superliner I Coach/Cafe 39957 Highliner 99 P-42 locomotive
We got another bonus, the only other possible Amtrak train that could stop in Fort Worth. Yes, it was the delayed northbound TEXAS EAGLE, Train 22(18), running about 40 minutes late. This train's consist was the same as the one we had on our southbound run from St. Louis to Dallas.
The station area was quite busy, with several TRE arrivals and departures, and three Amtrak trains within the 43-minute period we were there. The HEARTLAND FLYER was scheduled to depart about ten minutes after our next TRE train, so we would miss seeing it leave. However, I think everyone was happy we decided to kill some time here at this station, despite the summer heat.
Chapter 6.11: Trinity Railway Express, Train #2936, Fort Worth Intermodal Center to Union Station
We took the next Dallas-bound TRE train at 5:15 PM. One hour 15 minutes later, and quite hungry, we detrained in Dallas. Our official train riding was over for the day. I think this was the first day ever on a fest that we stuck exactly to our planned itinerary, never deviating from it and never running late or early.
We made our way over to the light rail tracks for our ride to dinner.
Chapter 6.12: DART Red Line, Union Station to West End
This was a very short ride, one we were already used to doing. This time upon entering the West End Historic District, we knew where we were going. We headed for the Spaghetti Warehouse.
Chapter 6.13: Dinner at Spaghetti Warehouse, in the West End Historic District
I have always had a good experience at this chain's restaurants, and this time was no exception. Our party of seven was seated in the back of the restaurant. We were not in the chain's trademark trolley car, but we were pretty close to it. Our large group most likely would not have sat comfortably inside the car anyhow.
Our waitress, Rachel, was courteous and professional. She did an excellent job with our large group, despite also being assigned to another group as big as ours. We left the Spaghetti Warehouse in good spirits and with our bellies full.
Chapter 6.14: End of Monday's activities
After dinner, we went our separate ways. Alan and Jishnu walked back to the Hampton Inn. Piotr went to the light rail for his ride to Mockingbird. Lynn and Mike decided to walk around a bit and do some shopping, and then take the light rail one stop back to Union Station and their Hyatt. Michael and I went into the West End Marketplace for a bit, and then started to walk back towards the Hampton Inn. When we ducked into a CVS store, we met Lynn and Mike in there briefly.
For Michael and me, it was laundry night. Three of the five outfits we brought were washed so they could be used again later in the vacation.
Everyone had a wonderful day seeing Dallas and Fort Worth from the rails. We had one more day in Dallas, during which the long trek home would begin.
Chapter 7: Tuesday, July 19, 2005
Today we would feature the M-Line streetcar along McKinney Avenue, and revisit the Reunion Tower during daylight hours. Then we would board the Chicago-bound TEXAS EAGLE.
Chapter 7.0: Meeting at Dallas Union Station
John Corbett awoke in his hotel in Arlington, checked out, and drove his rental car to the Centreport TRE station. He took a train at 7:31 AM in the westbound direction. He got to the Fort Worth T & P station at 8:09 AM. He then rode the same equipment all the way back to Dallas, departing Fort Worth T&P at 8:21 and getting to Dallas Union Station at 9:30, in time to meet the rest of us there.
We all met first at Dallas Union Station, because we had business to conduct. Some of us needed to check our luggage to our ultimate destinations. This way we would not have to leave it at our hotel, nor would we have to carry it around with us all day.
Lynn and Mike planned to have their Hyatt Hotel hold their carry-on luggage in the lobby. The hotel was gracious enough to let others in our group leave our smaller bags along with theirs. It made things easier for us, as we did not have to carry our belongings around all day, or stop at the Hampton Inn again. (Alan and Jishnu opted to have the Hampton Inn hold their luggage, so they would have to stop by there later to retrieve it.)
The published baggage check hours began at 10 AM. They were a little late in opening up, so it took us a little while longer to do what we had to do. Lynn and Mike sent their larger luggage to Cleveland, while I sent our larger suitcase to New York. By the time we had completed this process, it was 10:30 AM. Our itinerary had called for us to get started on the light rail at 10:08, so we already were running late.
However, since we had already taken an unplanned ride on Sunday night, I devised an alternate plan that required us to only ride the M-Line streetcar in one direction instead of two. This would make up the time we lost at the Amtrak station, and it still gave us some time to visit the car barn. We would get off the light rail at St. Paul and walk to the southern end of the M-Line, as we did in the opposite direction Sunday night.
Chapter 7.1: DART Blue Line, Union Station to St. Paul
It was 10:38 AM when we took our first official ride of the day. Eight minutes later, we detrained at St. Paul and walked three blocks south on that street to the streetcar stop.
Chapter 7.2: DART M-Line, St. Paul & Ross to Car Barn
We left the corner of St. Paul & Ross at 11:05 AM on the M-Line streetcar. We asked the operator to let us off at the car barn.
Chapter 7.3: M-Line Car Barn
The people at the car barn had not known our group of railfans was coming. However, they were still cordial to us. One woman gave us a tour of the equipment sitting inside the barn. We all enjoyed our time there. After spending half an hour there, we had to depart quickly. One of the pullout trips was just leaving the barn for a lunchtime run, and we were permitted to board it right inside the barn and get some rare trackage as well.
Chapter 7.4: DART M-Line, Car Barn to Cityplace
That short trip was not without incident. We had an operator who appeared to be a trainee. A supervisor was also in front of our car instructing him. As we turned right onto the spur track leading to Cityplace, we could see another streetcar sitting at the Cityplace station. That car should have cleared the single-track spur before we had made our turn. Both our operator and the supervisor immediately noticed this. The supervisor tried to call the operator of the other streetcar on his radio twice, telling him to hold his position, but he got no response. Then the other streetcar began to move towards us, as the supervisor repeated his commands a third time.
Our operator brought our car to a stop as the supervisor continued to try contacting the other car still moving towards us. The other operator finally noticed us, and brought his vehicle to a stop about half a block from ours. The supervisor then got off our streetcar to go have a serious talk with the other operator. He was guilty of not looking up the track ahead of him before starting out from Cityplace, not announcing his delayed departure on the radio, and not having his radio on or at the proper volume so he could hear somebody calling him.
It was arranged that the other operator would quickly change his pole, and go back to Cityplace ahead of us. Then with two streetcars at Cityplace, ours would have to leave first since it was in the way of the other one. The supervisor said that some drivers do this as a hobby and sometimes forget some of the things they were taught.
Once both streetcars arrived at Cityplace, we got off and left the two operators and the supervisor to work out their issues. We went over to the light rail station entrance, and prepared to go down into the subterranean station. Despite the unplanned stops we made on our brief streetcar trip, we were a little ahead of our itinerary at this time.
Chapter 7.5: DART Inclinator
We took one more ride on the Inclinator, this time in the down direction. Having already ridden it, the novelty had worn off and we realized we were just on a slanted elevator!
Once we were on the platform, we had just missed a southbound train. We had to wait until 12:19 PM for the next one, which just happened to be the one that our itinerary called for us to catch.
Chapter 7.6: DART Red Line, Cityplace to Pearl
Our lunch location was just one stop away. After four minutes on this train, we had arrived at the Pearl station, and walked into the Plaza of the Americas.
Chapter 7.7: Lunch at Plaza of the Americas Food Court
Plaza of the Americas is a food court and lobby underneath a sky-lit atrium, connecting several hotels and office buildings. It appeared to be a popular downtown location for many office workers to have lunch. Although it suited us fine, we were unable to find seats together for all eight of us. We therefore had to sit at nearby tables within sight of each other.
Chapter 7.8: DART Blue Line, Pearl to Union Station
After our last meal in Dallas, it was time to wrap up our visit. We all took the next southbound light rail train. Alan and Jishnu got off at West End to get their luggage and spend a little time in the lobby. Lynn and Mike got off there as well to do a little shopping in the West End Historic District. That left Piotr, John, Michael, and me still on board to Union Station.
Chapter 7.9: Reunion Tower at Daytime
The four of us first went to Reunion Tower. For the second time in as many visits, our group was admitted free of charge. This time the reason was that the ticket machine was broken. Only Michael and I, however, were lucky enough to get the free pass twice. After ascending to the top, we got a nice view of the area during the day. We did not spend as much time up there as we had on Sunday.
Remember, we railfans were up there to observe trains, and it was a train we spotted that made Piotr, Michael and me take the next elevator down. We saw the southbound TEXAS EAGLE, running about an hour late, coming into town. We decided to meet it on the platform and get its consist.
John remained atop the tower to watch the train arrive. He then made it down in time to watch it depart. Up close, we saw the Amtrak TEXAS EAGLE, Train #21(18):
206 P-42 locomotive 1211 Baggage 39039 Superliner II Transition Dorm/Sleeper 38064 Superliner II Diner 33004 Superliner I Sightseer Lounge 31014 Superliner I Coach/Baggage 34028 Superliner I Coach 34079 Superliner I Coach 32005 Superliner I Sleeper
After the excitement of the train, we said goodbye to John. He took the 3 PM TRE departure, the one most of us were on the day before, but he had missed. Once he got to Centreport, he returned the rental car at the airport and then proceeded to SkyLink and eventually his airline departure gate.
Piotr, Michael, and I went into the Hyatt to meet Lynn and Mike and pick up our smaller suitcases. The five of us then walked together back through the tunnel under the tracks into Union Station. There, we met Jishnu and Alan, who by that time had come from the Hampton Inn with their belongings.
When the seven of us had reunited at Union Station, we found out that our train was running about 45 minutes late. There was some confusion in the station, as the Amtrak employees did a poor job of informing the passengers about the delays. Some people went out to the platform at the time the train was supposed to be there. Eventually, more followed, thinking the call had been made. We too went to the platform a little earlier than we should have. The time outdoors was significant, as it was very hot out there.
The train was further delayed between Fort Worth and Dallas. It finally arrived at 5:25 PM, one hour five minutes late.
Chapter 7.10: Amtrak TEXAS EAGLE, Train #22, Dallas, TX to Chicago, IL
It turned out that we had indeed seen this consist on the southbound train we observed in Fort Worth the day before. All of us in roomettes had been booked in a Transition sleeper. Since we had never ridden in one before, we had been excited about it. We were dejected when we found out that we would not be riding in one on this trip. A regular sleeper car was substituting for the Transition sleeper.
Mike and Lynn were booked in a larger bedroom, so they were at the opposite end of the train on this trip. Nevertheless, we would keep in touch by cell phone and would still arrange to have our meals together.
Amtrak TEXAS EAGLE, Train #22(19) Dallas to Chicago:
7 P-42 locomotive 1253 Baggage 32011 Superliner I sleeper * 38004 Superliner I diner 33023 Superliner I Sightseer Lounge 35005 Superliner I coach/cafe 34075 Superliner I coach 34010 Superliner I coach 32057 Superliner I sleeper ** 34002 Superliner I coach (STL-CHI only)
* Alan, Jishnu, Piotr, Michael, and Kevin were here.
(Car substituted for Transition Dorm/Sleeper.)
** Lynn & Mike were here.
Alan did some research and found out that the substitute sleeper we were in, 32011, had been involved in a derailment on this same train around Marshall a few years ago. It had probably recently come back from being repaired at Beech Grove. We noted too that this car had its original orange colored seats, as well as a window in the upper level bathroom.
The car that Lynn and Mike were in, 32057, was a newly remanufactured Superliner I sleeper. It had just been released from Beech Grove two months before our trip.
We departed from Dallas at 5:40 PM, which was an hour and ten minutes late. After just ten minutes of travel, still in the city's suburbs, we slowed down to walking speed. A Union Pacific crew was alongside the tracks watching us pass. We suspected there might have been a broken rail or something at this site. We crept along for close to eight minutes before resuming track speed.
After our two-minute stop at Mineola, when we departed at 7:17 we were one hour 12 minutes behind schedule. So far, this was shaping up to be a very bad trip with respect to keeping even close to schedule.
We all met for dinner, with our group of seven requiring two tables across the aisle from one another. The dining crew did their jobs and we were satisfied. While we were eating, we arrived in Longview, TX. I saw out the right side window a bus and a van, which represented the thruway connections from Galveston/Houston and Bossier City/Shreveport respectively. We had arrived exactly one hour late at 8:05 PM. Our stop here took about nine minutes.
After dinner, Michael found out that the movies being shown in the lounge car were "Racing Stripes" and "Hitch". He decided he did not want to watch them, and instead returned to our sleeping compartment.
Marshall came at 8:48 PM, and we departed that station 8:54 PM, just 53 minutes late. We were making up time, so there was some hope we might arrive in Chicago close to schedule.
At this point, most of us had retired to our rooms for the night. Michael and I got ready for bed and went to sleep. I am sure the others did the same at this point.
Overnight, I slept a lot better than I had on the southbound TEXAS EAGLE trip. Although we were passing through the same basic area, for some reason the ride was a little bit smoother. I missed the entire state of Arkansas, and almost all of Missouri.
Chapter 8: Wednesday, July 20, 2005
This would be another busy day, as we would awaken on the northbound TEXAS EAGLE, arrive in Chicago, do a little CTA riding, have dinner, and then depart on that evening's LAKE SHORE LIMITED.
Chapter 8.0: Amtrak TEXAS EAGLE, Train #22, Dallas, TX to Chicago, IL (continued)
I awoke as our train was slowing down approaching the St. Louis station. We arrived at 7:50 AM, which meant that we were 19 minutes early. However, the crews in charge of putting the extra coach onto the train for the local St. Louis-Chicago passengers were slow in their work. We have seen this lackadaisical attitude before in other cities like Albany (when the LAKE SHORE LIMITED used to split or join sections). We ate our entire breakfast together while sitting at this major stop. We did not depart from St. Louis until 8:49 AM, making us fourteen minutes late. We would never recover from that deficit.
After breakfast, Michael and I decided to take our showers. We each found the shower room to be very dirty, with used soap both in the shower and all over the floor of the adjacent changing room. We felt that more attention should be given the shower room by the sleeper attendant. During my shower, we made our station stop in Alton, IL. I was in no condition to record our arrival and departure times!
An early lunch was served around 11 AM since the crew wanted to cleaned up before the scheduled 2:19 PM arrival in Chicago. We all enjoyed our lunch. I had my last Chocolate Bomb for dessert.
At Springfield, we arrived at 10:57 and spent three minutes at the stop. Upon departure, we were 26 minutes down. Not too bad, but it would get worse.
At 11:29 AM, we passed Train 303(19), the Kansas City-bound ANN RUTLEDGE. That was just before we made our stop at Lincoln about half an hour late.
We got to Bloomington/Normal at 12:10 PM. Although there were no signal or grade crossing problems like we had encountered on our southbound trip, for some reason we still sat in the station for 14 minutes. When we left at 12:24, we were now 37 minutes late.
Pontiac came next. When we pulled away from that station at 12:53 PM, we were 35 minutes off the advertised. At this point, we still envisioned an arrival time in Chicago close to schedule, with the expected padding.
Unfortunately, that would not happen. Around Dwight (where the other trains on this corridor stop, but not the EAGLE), we made several stops and starts, proceeding quite slowly. Then in Elwood, we continued running slow and stopped for a while again. It was 2:22 PM when we finally were moving once more. At that time, we should have already been in Chicago.
We had one intermediate stop to make, at Joliet. We were 1-1/4 hours late when we got there at 2:30 PM. After our two-minute stop, we highballed for Chicago.
The fun was not over yet. On the curve at 21st Street coming into Union Station, we stopped briefly on a siding, to allow the southbound TEXAS EAGLE to pass. Train 21(20) had just left Union Station a few minutes later than its scheduled 3:20 PM departure.
After traveling almost one thousand miles from Dallas, we had arrived once more in the Windy City. Our official arrival time at Union Station was 3:37 PM. We came to a stop on Track 26, and everyone detrained.
Chapter 8.1: Meeting in Chicago
This time we had no welcoming party in Chicago. Our first order of business was to check-in at the Metropolitan Lounge. Those who wished to were also able to check their carry-on luggage there. Although they would be departing Chicago as coach passengers, Lynn and Mike were entitled use the lounge since they arrived as sleeper passengers on the TEXAS EAGLE.
Once that was completed, we all left the station on Canal Street and walked over to the Blue Line station at Clinton under the Eisenhower Expressway. It was decided that due to our late arrival, we would still ride out to O'Hare Airport on the Blue Line, but then we would not do the on-airport people mover. That, like the other end of the Blue Line, would have to be saved for yet another Chicago visit by our group.
Chapter 8.2: CTA Blue Line, Clinton/Eisenhower to O'Hare Airport
We left the Clinton station at 4:05 PM, 18 minutes past the intended time. We all agreed that our time in Chicago would be best spent taking just the round trip to the airport and then an allotted dinnertime for those who wanted it.
Our 46-minute ride out to the airport was uneventful. Being the early part of the evening rush, the train was pretty packed at most of the inner stations. The crowds thinned out by the time we were riding in the freeway median approaching the airport.
Meanwhile, Piotr had contacted his friend Mike, the same one he had stayed with during our earlier Chicago visit, and who had joined us briefly around the Loop on the Orange Line. He would meet us on the inbound segment of our round trip.
When we arrived at O'Hare, there was a train across the platform already boarding. We all hustled across and boarded the first car of that train.
Chapter 8.3: CTA Blue Line, O'Hare Airport to Clark/Lake
We therefore only spent six minutes at the airport, instead of the planned 67 minutes. When we left the airport headed inbound, we were actually half an hour ahead of the original itinerary.
Piotr contacted Mike Pompilli again and told him what the lead car number was on our train so he could find us. He boarded at Cumberland, and rode with us all the way to Clark/Lake.
Our original itinerary called for us to get off the train at Jefferson Park, and take a 6:00 PM METRA train on the UP-Northwest Line inbound from there to Ogilvie Transportation Center. However, since we were now running early, changing at Jefferson Park would have resulted in a much longer wait. Furthermore, I had heard (and Mike P. confirmed this) that the Jefferson Park station was under heavy construction, and the normal shortest path between the subway and commuter rail stations was blocked. We instead opted to remain on the Blue Line all the way to Clark/Lake, and transfer there for the Green Line.
We also noticed that the sky was turning very cloudy, and with a good chance of rain, a change of trains here with a potential walk through the streets and a long wait might not be a good idea. That further validated our decision to remain on the subway to the Loop.
When we got to Clark/Lake, we all detrained and went up a series of escalators until we were on the correct platform on the Outer Loop for the intended Green Line train. When we got to the top, a Green Line train was at the station, but not all of us could make it to the train before the doors closed. We decided to wait for the next train.
The next train to come by on this track was a Brown Line train. In fact, the next two trains after that one were also Brown Line trains. We expected that the trains for the various routes would at least alternate, but that did not happen. After waiting through 12 minutes and three Brown Line trains, the right train did come.
Chapter 8.4: CTA Green Line, Clark/Lake to Clinton/Lake
When the correct train finally arrived, we boarded it for what would be a one-stop, two-minute trip. Mike P. and Piotr walked to the opposite end of the platform, hoping to find another exit, but they did not and they ended up taking the same stairs down to the street as we had. They walked over to CTA headquarters, but found it closed. They then parted ways, with Mike going back to the Blue Line and Piotr heading to Ogilvie Transportation Center to meet us.
After detraining at Clinton/Lake, the rest of us (Jishnu, Alan, Lynn, Mike H., Michael, and I) made the now familiar walk from there to the rear entrance to the ground floor of Ogilvie Transportation Center. Between the 2003 Chicago gathering and this one, it seems like we have always ended up taking the walk from the Green Line to Ogilvie in the same direction. (This was a walk I had planned to avoid by switching to the commuter train at Jefferson Park.)
Alan chose not to have dinner at this time since he planned to have his dinner aboard the LAKE SHORE LIMITED. He continued onward to Union Station to begin his time in the Metropolitan Lounge.
Chapter 8.5: Dinner at Ogilvie Transportation Center
Let me say that I expected the worst from the upcoming LAKE SHORE LIMITED trip. On past eastbound trips on that train as well as the CAPITOL LIMITED when it departed later, dinner would not be served right away, even to sleeper passengers. Then the dinner process itself would take a long time, and with the crossover into Eastern Time, we would not be finished until after 11 PM. Since we were sleeper passengers on this particular LAKE SHORE LIMITED trip, I was entitled to a meal. However, not knowing when that meal might come, I opted to have a light meal (three slices of pizza is a snack for me). Michael chose to have his meal here at Ogilvie as well, deciding he would rather go to sleep at his usual time than sitting through a long, late meal.
Lynn and Mike had a full dinner at the food court since they would be riding in coach and would be arriving in the wee hours in Cleveland. Piotr (who had rejoined the group) and Jishnu ate lightly.
When we were through, we went to join Alan at Union Station. However, those ominous clouds we had seen from the subway finally were producing a pouring rain. Not knowing of any overhead or underground means to get diagonally across the street, we waited a few minutes until it let up slightly, and then ran for it. We had to cross the intersection twice (once eastbound and once southbound) to get to the shelter of Union Station.
Downstairs we walked along the northern platforms towards the station itself. We went directly to the Metropolitan Lounge, and showed the passes we had been given earlier for admittance.
All of us got to use the lounge. Although Lynn and Mike were coach passengers on the outbound train, they had arrived earlier as sleeper passengers. Alan was in there already, connected to the rest of the world on his laptop. We all found a quiet area in the lounge to await the calling of our final train.
At around 7:25 PM, were led out to our train, which was sitting on Track 26. Across the platform from the LAKE SHORE LIMITED was the same consist on which we had arrived 4-1/2 hours earlier, still sitting on Track 28. That train would become the southbound CITY OF NEW ORLEANS, train 59(20). The only difference was that they had added engine #53 onto the point, retaining #7 as the second locomotive.
Chapter 8.6: Amtrak LAKE SHORE LIMITED, Train #48, Chicago, IL to New York, NY
Once aboard the LAKE SHORE, we were directed to our rooms. Lynn and Mike went to their coach, one that would be used for passengers detraining overnight between Chicago and Buffalo. Alan's sleeping compartment was one car in front of the rest of us. We met our attendant, Jay, who told us that we could get in on the first call for dinner, which was already taking place. He informed us that the public address system in our car was not working, so we had better grab dinner now in case we did not hear the second call.
I had expected to wait until we were at least in Indiana before seeing anything resembling food, and here we were being seated before the train even left the station! In fact, not all of the coach passengers had boarded the train. This immediate start to dinner was most likely made possible by the slightly later departure (7:55 PM vs. 7:00 or 7:15 before) and also the fact that there is no longer a stop to pick up mail or express cars in the yard (which necessitated temporarily shutting off the head end power to the train).
I was pleasantly surprised, to say the least. Alan, Piotr, Jishnu, and I went right to the dining car, and we were promptly seated. Our waitress, Joanne, was very cordial and efficient. Before the train had left Chicago, our orders were taken and we were served our drinks and appetizers.
Amtrak LAKE SHORE LIMITED, Train #48(20), Chicago to Albany:
139 P-42 locomotive 160 P-42 locomotive 1245 Baggage 2514 Heritage crew dorm 62044 Viewliner sleeper "Sylvan View" 62039 Viewliner sleeper "Stream View" * 62003 Viewliner sleeper "Bay View" ** 8531 Heritage diner (Temoinsa rebuild) 28001 Amfleet II lounge "Atlanta Club" 25044 Amfleet II coach 25045 Amfleet II coach 25122 Amfleet II coach *** 25094 Amfleet II coach 25018 Amfleet II coach 74034 Express Trak 74090 Express Trak
* Alan was here.
** Jishnu, Piotr, Michael, and Kevin were here.
*** Mike & Lynn were here Chicago to Cleveland.
Our train encountered a slight departure delay. Slated to leave at 7:55 PM, we did not. Those with scanners found out that one passenger had left a pair of glasses in the waiting room, and they were searching for them. The CITY OF NEW ORLEANS that was sitting on the adjacent track departed at exactly 8:00 while we were still sitting there. It backed out of the station in the southbound direction as is customary, so it could access the St. Charles Air Line, and eventually make its way to the Canadian National mainline.
Our LAKE SHORE LIMITED finally departed Chicago at 8:04 PM, already nine minutes late. Such a delay was not insurmountable, so we were not at all worried yet about a late New York arrival the next afternoon.
This dinner was as good as the others we had encountered in our travels. One minor disappointment was that the menu they were using had prime rib instead of steak. It was good nevertheless. After dinner, Jishnu and Alan returned to their sleeping compartments. Piotr and I went to talk to Mike and Lynn one last time in their coach.
Mike reported that there were again had seating issues. He and Lynn were lucky this time because they had pre-boarded from the Metropolitan Lounge. Some coach passengers had to be seated in the lounge once more.
Murphy's Law prevailed, and we did encounter some freight interference somewhere in Indiana. By the time we got to South Bend, our first scheduled stop, we were already 42 minutes off the advertised. Things were a little better at Elkhart where our 10:25 PM departure put us 38 minutes down.
When I returned to our room, Michael had already arranged to have Jay put us in night mode with the beds made up. He was sitting on the upper bed reading a book as I arrived. He got ready for bed, and once he was in bed for the night, I did the same thing. I did remain awake for a while, until sleep overcame me after we had left Elkhart.
Before retiring, we turned our watches back to Eastern Daylight Time. Everything from here on is in the Eastern Time zone.
Chapter 9: Thursday, July 21, 2005
The final day of OTOL Eagle RailFest 2005 called for the group to arrive at their last station stops and make their respective ways home. Lynn and Mike alighted overnight in Cleveland and were home and taking a nap before the sun came up. They would later go out to an amusement park during the day while we were still traveling home.
Chapter 9.0: Amtrak LAKE SHORE LIMITED, Train #48, Chicago, IL to New York, NY (continued)
I awoke around 7:00 AM. I must have slept very well, because I missed the eastern half of Indiana, and all of Ohio and Pennsylvania. We were already in New York State, approaching Buffalo. We arrived in Buffalo's Depew station at 7:10 AM, just five minutes late! We had made up a good deal of time overnight. Things were looking good right now. We departed that station at 7:17 AM, so we were officially seven minutes down.
Now we had five diehards left: Alan, Piotr, Jishnu, Michael, and myself. We went to breakfast, and again had an enjoyable meal courtesy of Joanne. While dining, our train made its stop in Rochester, leaving there just nine minutes late.
We ran into more freight-related delays between Rochester and Syracuse. Our 9:26 AM Syracuse departure put us half an hour behind schedule. This time we would not overcome that deficit.
We departed our three-minute stop in Utica at exactly 11:00 AM, now 38 minutes in the hole. Shortly after we left Utica, we were called to the dining car for a brief lunch period. We felt that the intent was to get lunch served to the sleeper passengers, and then the paying customers who wanted it, before arrival in Albany. For lunch, there were limited choices, but we all found something we wanted. One more time we were served by Joanne, who handled her tables very well and got us served and out of the diner in the allotted time.
During our time in the dining car, we arrived in Schenectady at 12:16 PM. We sat in that station a long time. Thirteen minutes later we departed, now 50 minutes down. The reason, we were told, was a faulty railroad crossing. This was deja vu from our travels through Illinois earlier in our long journey. When we got to the bad crossing, the conductor had to leave the train to flag the crossing before we could proceed.
There was also a work crew in the area, so the crossing was not the only reason we had slow orders. Five minutes after passing the crossing with the malfunctioning equipment, we finally went back up to speed. We pulled into Albany's station in Rensselaer at 12:59 PM. That was 29 minutes late, so there is plenty of padding built in between Schenectady and Albany.
All of us (except for Michael) got off the train to stretch our legs and watch the activity. The Boston section of the LAKE SHORE no longer has through equipment; a shuttle train runs solely between Albany and Boston. We watched passengers switch to the stub train, while their baggage was also moved. At the same time, the New York-bound train was serviced. The two Express Trak cars from Chicago were removed from the rear, and our two P-42 locomotives were swapped for a single P-32DM engine.
Amtrak Train #448(21), Albany to Boston:
62 P-42 locomotive 1753 Baggage 48154 Amfleet I club/dinette 25084 Amfleet II coach 25077 Amfleet II coach
Amtrak LAKE SHORE LIMITED, Train #48(20) Albany to New York City:
713 P-32 DM locomotive 1245 Baggage 2514 Heritage crew dorm 62044 Viewliner sleeper "Sylvan View" 62039 Viewliner sleeper "Stream View" * 62003 Viewliner sleeper "Bay View" ** 8531 Heritage diner (Temoinsa rebuild) 28001 Amfleet II lounge "Atlanta Club" 25044 Amfleet II coach 25045 Amfleet II coach 25122 Amfleet II coach 25094 Amfleet II coach 25018 Amfleet II coach
* Alan was here.
** Jishnu, Piotr, Michael, and Kevin were here.
I gave Mike Hammond a call from Albany to see that they made it home OK after they left our train. They had already taken a nap and were on their way out again to an amusement park.
The Boston train departed first at 1:34 PM, which was 34 minutes late. The train bound for New York left five minutes after that, 39 minutes off schedule. For a while it looked like we would be coming into New York within an hour of the scheduled arrival time. Not so!
We passed Empire Service train 251(21) headed for Albany at 2:26, followed by train 283(21) bound for Niagara Falls at 2:56. Then we came to an unexpected stop at 3:03 PM. It turns out that the crew of 283 warned our crew that they had observed smoke coming from our engine's brakes. The brakes had locked after a previous application. Our crew had apparently received no indication of the problem, so we are thankful for the observations of the other train's crew.
Our engineer reported the situation to host Metro North. We stopped intentionally on a section of track near some tunnels, because the tracks split apart there. This would allow continued movement of trains while our crew was on the ground.
The engineer was unable to repair the problem, so he had to cut out the brakes for the engine's rear truck. After Metro North made sure that he would still be able to stop our train without the brakes on one truck of the engine, we were able to continue towards New York City.
Once rolling again, we passed the northbound ETHAN ALLEN EXPRESS, Train 291(21), at 3:38 PM. Then at 3:43, we rolled into our final intermediate stop, Croton-Harmon. This stop took four minutes since a double spot was necessary. When Train 48 left Croton-Harmon, we were one hour 9 minutes late.
On the way into New York City, we would pass two more trains. At 4:06, we came upon Train 257(21), an Albany-bound Empire Service train. Then six minutes later, we passed our counterpart, the westbound LAKE SHORE LIMITED, Train 49(21) in the early portion of its trip to Chicago.
We next came to a stop on Track 6 at New York Penn Station. The time was 4:28 PM, which officially made us one hour three minutes late.
Upon arrival, Piotr left our train first and rushed to make a NJ TRANSIT North Jersey Coast Line train home to South Amboy. Alan detrained from his car and we did not run into him again. Michael and I went to the public rest room first. With the diner and lounge cars having been closed coming into New York, and with the only available toilet in our car within our sleeping compartment, we decided to wait until we got into New York. We did meet Jishnu in the Men's Room too, so that is where OTOL EagleFest 2005 officially ended (although we agreed not to shake hands). Jishnu then went to catch a NJ TRANSIT Midtown Direct train home to Short Hills.
Michael and I went to the baggage claim area, and waited with other inbound passengers for our luggage to be brought into the room. When it was there, they opened a metal gate and allowed everyone to claim their luggage. I was happy to see that they were verifying that each person's claim ticket matched the one on the piece of luggage they were taking.
Chapter 9.1: End of Thursday activities
Michael and I made our way back to Herald Square, where we boarded a PATH train for Hoboken. At Hoboken, we took the next HBLRT train from there to Lincoln Harbor. Finally, we walked to my car, which was safe after eight days. We headed home from there, thankful that by now it was at the tail end of the evening rush hour. We were home by about 7 PM.
Chapter 10: Conclusion
Every year I come away from our summer gathering stating that it was the best fest ever. Certainly, this was no exception, as we all came away from the event with good feelings. Our group took on a distinct camaraderie, not only for those present from wire to wire, but also the people who joined us along the way or left us early. Having Lynn Hammond along definitely contributed to this, as she helped to make sure that the group did things together. We had ongoing subplots throughout the fest, such as my "laundry list" (how many clothes to pack and which outfit to wear each day), or Lynn's Scrapbooking hobby. We thank Lynn for coming, and hope she can join us on our future journeys.
I also want to thank Piotr Dzwonek, who two months before the fest began to plot the performance of the trains we would be using during the eight-day fest. He would periodically send participants an e-mail containing a color-coded spreadsheet showing all our trains and whether they were on time or late on a given day.
Thanks also to Mike Hammond and Alan Burden, who were constantly watching the hotel rates in Chicago and Dallas for their own stays. This helped me keep my online listing up-to-date, so that everyone could benefit.
We thank Amtrak, METRA, CTA, Metro St. Louis, TRE, MATA, and DART for giving us plenty to experience and later write about. Our time with all was both fun and educational.
Five weeks after OTOL Eagle RailFest 2005, a smaller group got together in the Washington, DC area for OTOL Washington RailFest 2005. Obviously much of the planning and aftermath for that one overlapped Eagle RailFest. Holding the fests so close together was a tough feat, but we overcame it.
We look forward to 2006, with already several events planned on the East Coast of the USA, and in Canada as well.