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Trip Report

New Jersey-Dallas TX Roundtrip

March 3-10, 2008

Chatham Township, New Jersey

New Jersey to Dallas

I had a meeting to attend in Dallas, TX, so I decided rather than fly, I would take the train. On March 3, 2008, I boarded a NJ Transit commuter train in my town of Chatham, NJ destined for New York Penn Station. The train was on time both departing and arriving NYP. I took my large bag to the Amtrak baggage check and had it checked to Dallas. I proceeded to the Acela Lounge until my train was called. I enjoyed coffee and pastry as well as the computer terminal in the lounge.

At approximately 10:35am, Train 43, the Pennsylvanian was announced in the lounge. I walked to the platform and boarded the Business Class car. It was actually one-half of the Cafe Car. We had 2 & 1 leather seating with 15 seats. The car was clean, spacious and most comfortable. There were 8 of us who boarded in New York. We departed at 10:54am. We made stops in Newark & Trenton, NJ and Philadelphia, where the engine was switched from electric to diesel power. We departed Philadelphia on schedule. It was a beautiful sunny day. We made stops at Paoli, Lancaster, Elizabethtown and Harrisburg, PA, arriving 2 minutes early. I ate a small pepperoni pizza and drank a Pepsi between Lancaster and Harrisburg. It was quite tasty. The scenery was very enjoyable seeing industry and well kept farms. In the Lancaster area, I saw several farms where the fields were being tilled by horses, obviously Amish people.

We departed Harrisburg on schedule and crossed the Susquehanna River as we traveled West towards Pittsburgh. I noticed several freight trains (Norfolk & Southern) traveling eastbound with many piggyback, double decker and coal cars. I was excited when we arrived Altoona, PA and after a quick stop, we were heading towards Horseshoe Curve. I have visited the museum there, so it was fun to experience the curve in daylight. We passed an oncoming train, but I could see the train make the curve and climb the grade. We were the last car on the train which provided for a great view.

We arrived Pittsburgh 35 minutes ahead of schedule. I was connecting with the Capitol Limited here, but not until our scheduled departure time of 11:55pm. I had about four hours to wait, so I walked across the street to the Westin Hotel and had a leisurely dinner. Back at the station, I sat in the waiting area until the Capitol Limited arrived. It came in about 15 minutes early and we boarded 5 minutes early. I went directly to my roomette and retired for the evening.

I awoke quite early in the morning when we stopped in South Bend, Indiana. I went to breakfast at 6:30am and watched as we passed through Gary, Hammond and Whiting, IN and on into Chicago. I went directly to the Metropolitan Lounge and checked my carry-on bag. After a cup of coffee, I decided to walk about town for a while since the Texas Eagle was not scheduled to depart until 1:45pm. I took a two hour trolley ride around downtown Chicago which was very enjoyable. I had not been in Chicago for nearly ten years, so it was an interesting experience.

I returned to the Metro Lounge. At 1:15pm, there was a call for the Eagle sleeper passengers. We lined up and walked to the train and boarded. We departed on schedule and I ate my dinner as we passed through Springfield, IL. I retired early and awoke at 4:30am in Little Rock, AR. At 6:30am, I went to breakfast where I met another railfan who was traveling to Los Angeles via the Sunset Limited. During our conversation, we found out that we both post on OTOL and Amtrak Unlimited. We had an enjoyable discussion of our rail travels. Due to freight delays, we were running about 2 1/2 hours behind schedule.

My new friend and I met up again at lunch, where we joined two new railfans from Montana who were traveling to LA. We had a fun lunch and shared our rail experiences. The Texas Eagle arrived Dallas about three hours behind schedule where I disembarked. After collecting my bag, I boarded the Trinity Rail Express for DFW Airport. The TRE doesn't go to the airport, but stops at a station nearby and an airport bus takes you to the terminals. I then took a hotel van to my hotel and meetings.

Dallas to New Jersey

Three days later, I took the bus and TRE back to Dallas Union Station to catch the northbound Texas Eagle, Train 22 to Chicago. We were scheduled to depart DAL at 3:40pm, but the train was late in arriving and we departed at 4:50pm. I had a roomette on the nearly full train. The room was clean and our car attendant, Sandra, was very friendly and helpful. I went to dinner at 6:30pm. We had the same menu that was on my southbound train and I had a flat iron steak again. It was very good. We had to change our clocks to Daylight Saving Time that night. I slept well and woke up when we stopped in Little Rock. I went to breakfast at 6:30am and sat with a professor from Stephen F Austin University in Texas who was traveling to Washington DC.

I went to the Sightseer Lounge after breakfast and sat there for a couple of hours. It was my first time in this car and I found it enjoyable. Soon , we passed through DeSoto, Missouri where we got our first glimpse of the Mississippi River. The conductor announced that we would arrive St. Louis, MO at 11:30am, about 3 hours behind schedule. I didn't mind being late into Chicago as my connecting train did not depart until 10:00pm. The tracks were noticeably bumpy and the car swayed until the engineer slowed the speed of the train. As we approached St. Louis, the activity on the river increased. I could see signs posted showing the high water marks on various flood dates. It is a big river!!

We arrived St. Louis and I was surprised to see a small station building. It looked like a pre-fab type building alongside the tracks. I was told that the original Union Station had been converted to a shopping center. We were off to Chicago after only a few minutes in St. Louis. The remainder of the trip was uneventful and we arrived Chicago Union Station at 6:00pm, I went to the Metro Lounge, which was quite crowded. I did find a comfortable seat. At approximately 6:45pm, a call for the eastbound Capitol Limited was made and about 75% of the people left the lounge. At 8:15pm, the Lake Shore Limited sleeper passengers in the lounge were called and we walked to the train and boarded.

I was met Mike, our car attendant who told us to place our bag in our room and proceed to the Dining Car. We were served wine, cheese and fruit. It was a nice gesture and very good. I returned to my roomette and went to bed. I don't remember leaving Chicago. I awoke at 5:30am in Elyria, OH, then went back to sleep. I awoke again at 6:25am as we were nearing Cleveland. I went to breakfast at 7:00am where I joined a college student from Louisiana who was traveling to Rochester, NY. There was a great deal of snow outside and I was told that from Cleveland to Albany, NY had received 12 inches of new snow two days ago. We arrived Erie, PA at 9:00am and departed at 9:30am. Still a great deal of snow outside. I did see many vineyards from Erie to Syracuse, NY.

We arrived and departed Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse and finally Albany. We were about 2 1/2 hours behind schedule. The engine was changed from diesel to electric in Albany then we begin our final leg to New York Penn Station. We crossed the Hudson River near Albany and traveled the rest of the journey on the East side of the river. The scenery was beautiful. As we approached the metropolitan area, the skies had turned dark. The lights in the small towns and on the bridges were very pretty. We arrived NYP about 2 hours behind schedule.

I collected by suitcase and was able to get a NJ Transit commuter train back to Chatham.

It was a very enjoyable trip filled with many fine memories. I will be back on the Silver Star on Easter Sunday to travel to Fort Lauderdale, FL. I hope this trip will be as enjoyable as the trip to Dallas.

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