April 8, 2009
Our tickets were purchased way back in September. Our desire was to arrive the Thursday prior to Easter and depart the Monday after Easter Break.
On Wednesday the 8th we went to the Sturtevant depot to board Hiawatha Service #334. Parking is now $3.00 in and free going out, so it is still a bargain compared to other on-line stops. Arrival in Chicago Union Station was on-time.
Boarding of #3 the Southwest Chief was similar to past experiences. We were given seat assignments outside the train prior to getting on, #51-52 in car 0413. Most of the passengers in car 0413 were shorts, with most getting off at or before Kansas City. Our supper time reservation was for 7:30pm. We made decent time without any en- route delays or incidents. There were fewer freights met along the way owing to the economy situation. The configuration of the train has the sleepers behind the dorm followed by the diner, lounge and chair cars.
Kansas City is a service stop and a number of the passengers went outside for a smoke break or to get some fresh air. I decided to join them, which was a good idea, for as I got to the door, I found my wife's two bags at the entrance waiting to be taken away. The styles are not unlike other travel bags, though she did have to obligatory tags attached. I put them back and then got my roll of blue masking tape and put her initials in 6 inch letters on each. I do not believe the switch was intended. She did not have anything of great value within the bags.
Out of Kansas City, #3 was consistently early, by 10 to 15 minutes at most stops and by 35 minutes at LaJunta. Track west of Newton is rough in places with a large portion being jointed rail. The passenger count in the 0413 car was light. Number 4 was met at Canyoncito, just east of Lamy, NM. We had an early arrival in Albuquerque. Dave Ingles recommended using Enterprise Rental, and this was an excellent suggestion. They met us at the station and in less than 20 minutes we were on the way to Alamogordo.
Our return date was on the 20th. We arrived in Albuquerque at around 10:30am, and found #4 already in the depot, again far ahead of schedule. Turn in of the rental went quickly and Enterprise took us to the station when the paperwork was completed. No sooner than we were out of the car, the agent had it loaded with five new customers and was on her way back to the office. Thanks Dave!
Heading to the train I noticed one of the attendants and asked whether we could be in the last car. No problem and he assigned us seats 51 and 52 in car 0413. More than half the car was reserved for a group boarding at Lamy and there was another group of maybe a dozen headed for LaJunta. We were delayed a bit with the boarding of the group at Lamy. The meet with #3 was at Canyoncito once again.
Number 4 was able to keep up with the schedule and as it got closer to Kansas City, arrived at the various stops 5 to ten minutes early. Continuing on past Kansas City #4 was no more than 15 minutes late, and with the padded schedule on the east end, departed Naperville 20 minutes early. I felt we had a chance to make the 3:15pm Hiawatha Service train to Milwaukee. We got our things downstairs near the door and were first out. Skirting the east side of the terminal along track 28 we avoided going through the terminal and ended up at the north concourse at the end of the line of passengers going out to board #337. Connection made.
Overall service was good. We had good service in the diner and lounge car. One recommendation is to add blue masking tape to your packing list. It comes in handy once in awhile for uses other than painting.