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Trip Report

Northern California Fest Short Turn

July 14-15, 2007

Photos by Piotr Dzwonek

Click small photos to see larger

After a little food, fun, and camaraderie at Oglivie Transportation Center it was time to split up and go our separate ways. I was leaving the group in Chicago, as circumstances prohibited me from going all the way to the west coast. I would be returning east later tonight on the Cardinal.

Robert and I went to the Clark/Lake "L" station against the strong wind impeding our progress. After we boarded the Green line for a 1 stop ride into the Loop, we crossed over to the opposite platform just seconds after a Brown line train, which I needed to take to my lunch visit at my friend's house, was leaving the station. Robert then left to observe the Blue line bus shuttle.

I waited approximately 15 minutes for the next Brown line train. The ride got very interesting later on. After very slow running from Belmont to Western I had to transfer to a shuttle train. Apparently a large gap in service created extremely crowded conditions on the platform. It was so crowded that people who had to get to the shuttle parked in front of the platform had to fight to get through. Actually I heard some shouting behind me when somebody apparently groped a woman. After few minutes we left toward Kimball on the outbound track. Inbound was out of service because 2 of the grade crossings were being replaced. Then a quick 5 block ride on the bus brought me to my friend's apartment. In all it took me 1 hr 40 min to get there.

After a nice lunch, I headed back to Union Station. The ride was much faster going into the Loop, and a quick transfer to a bus brought me to Union Station. I got into Metropolitan Lounge in "style". One of the redcaps was coming off his break in Great Hall, so I boarded his cart and rode to within 5 feet of the entrance to the Metropolitan Lounge.

So at 4:35 PM I was inside and decided to get myself a small cup of soda. Unfortunately on the way to my seat I spilled most of it when my crutch slipped on the wet floor from a spill about 5 minutes before mine. But that was topped about ten minutes later by a kid who was bringing 2 large sodas for his parents. He tripped over his own backpack and the sodas spilled all over the carpet and the table where the whole family was seated. I kind of felt sorry for the lounge attendant with all the spill cleanups.

At 5:20 the call for boarding came. After getting another redcap ride, I boarded my sleeper. Then we waited for connecting Empire Builder passengers. 20 people including at least 5 sleeper passengers were boarded by 6:05 and we left at 6:11 (scheduled dep 5:45).

Amtrak California car in Chicago yard. I barely had enough time to settle in, snap 2 pictures, and let my sleeping car attendant Will Johnson (a 10 year veteran of Cardinal service) know about my preferences for sleeper setup; before the "first and only call for dinner" was announced. So I trudged into our fully occupied diner-lounge. I was seated with a trio of NS yard conductors from Norfolk, VA who were coming home riding the train from Seattle to Charlottesville.

The engines from our Capitol Limited in the yard. My selection for the night was Country Beef Short Rib with carrots and mashed potatoes served on a sturdy plastic plate with Amtrak logo on the rim, as would be the rest of the meals. For dessert I had vanilla ice cream. Using stainless steel utensils made meals even more enjoyable. Service by our dining car server Joannie (she was also our server on OTOL Eagle Fest LSL ride home) was very fast. By the time we left Dyer, IN we were already almost done with the desserts.

After dinner I headed back to the sleeper to enjoy my trackside view. I was planning to go to sleep after Indianapolis so I awaited the anticipated cut-off of the 3 deadheading Horizon coaches. I was glad I did not go to sleep, because the switcher made a pretty hard couple, before pulling them off. After we left Indy, another problem soon was apparent to passengers in the sleeper. The rear truck kept bottoming-out at every piece of uneven track. Being slammed on every grade crossing and switch made going to sleep very hard. Finally I gave up and with help of Benadryl tablet (my allergy medicine) I finally fell asleep just short of Cincinnati.

Next thing I saw was a station building at White Sulphur Springs. In retrospect I should have asked for a wake-up call. I quickly went and took a shower, dressed and then headed for lunch. As luck would have it, another full compliment of sleeper passengers were occupying the diner and the only available seat was with the NS guys. During our lunch which was various mutations of Angus Burger, we discussed last night's ride and even those guys were having hard time falling asleep last night.

Soon after I decided to spend time in the lounge on the other side of the service counter. I grabbed the last available window seat, across from the conductor's table. When I saw the stack of collected tickets he had, I was amazed. It was almost 2 feet high. And I saw another large cup of soda spilled thanks to rough track. Unfortunately that spill also drowned significant portions of the conductor's paperwork, as it was his cup that spilled. I saw what was the fastest spill clean-up I ever encountered. At least 4 of the passengers ran to the lounge counter, grabbed paper towels, and helped clean it.

One of the tables was occupied by 2 men who turned it into office space. They were going into DC after spending a weekend in West Virginia with their families, and used the train on a weekly basis. Between Staunton and Charlottesville we met train 51 which supplied us with much now needed paper towels, trash bags and table liners.

I stayed in the lounge until we arrived at Charlottesville. Then I headed back to my room again. A short time later I was invited again to the diner for dinner. Just before Culpepper I was enjoying a solitary dinner. After Manassas I was done with my Salmon Fillet with rice pilaf and another ice cream, this time chocolate. I headed back to my sleeper.

When we arrived into DC I stepped off the train onto the platform to observe the hustle and bustle. We had train 80 sitting on the other track and that made for a pretty crowded platform. After observing that we were going to be pulled by an HHP-8, I headed back to the sleeper to enjoy the high speed ride on the corridor. I took opportunity to observe the NEC from the back of the train from Perryville to Philadelphia. Some of it was documented using my camera. See one of the videos at Youtube.

As it got dark right after we left Philly, I spent the rest of the ride in the lounge, after tipping Will for his excellent service. Moving into the lounge allowed me to take down the numbers of 2 of our 4 coaches when I got off at Newark, NJ 30 minutes ahead of schedule. Now I had to wait for my NJ Transit's North Jersey Coast Line train to Woodbridge (high level vs. low level at South Amboy). An on time trip and pick-up by my mother got me home with enough time to unpack and enjoy watching "CSI Miami".

And now the Cardinal's consist:

49 P42 Locomotive CHI-WAS / HHP-8 unknown number WAS- NYP Amfleet II Coach Amfleet II Coach 25044 Amfleet II Coach 25034 Amfleet II Coach 28014 Amfleet II Dinner-Lounge 62005 Viewliner Sleeper "Cape View"
3 Horizon coaches deadheaded CHI-IND

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