Texas Eagle to Chicago
May 8-9, 2009
Our trip starts with my father and step-mother arriving at 8:00 AM at my house to take my wife, my son, and myself for the one hour drive to Temple, Texas. Temple is the closest station to our house and once there, we will be catching the Texas Eagle train headed to Chicago. I had done this trip three years earlier and found it to be much more relaxing than flying and something that everyone should experience once in their lifetime.
After a short twenty minute drive, we arrive in Hearne, Texas. Hearne is better known as the railroad crossroad of Texas, as back in the day, Burlington Northern, Missouri Pacific, Sothern Pacific, Santa Fe, and Union Pacific railways all interchanged with each other here. As I gazed at some of the train cars stationed on the tracks, I began to wonder about our upcoming family venture, as it was our first ever family train trip.
We finish a quick breakfast and continue down the highway eventually arriving at the Temple depot around 10:00 AM, a good hour and a half before our scheduled departure. We unloaded our luggage and took it to the waiting area. We then go into the Amtrak station office and get our printed tickets that had been previously ordered over the internet.
My dad and step-mother have never been on a train either and they seemed to be excited about the possibility of traveling by train to Pennsylvania later in the year, so we grabbed some Amtrak literature and train route guides then sat down out by the track awaiting the train.
11:10 AM and we hear the whistle blow. I tell my dad I bet it is our train and that its ten minutes early. Sure enough, around the bend we see the engine lights. The train consisted of three coach cars, the lounge/snack bar car, diner car, and two sleeper cars, all pulled by a single General Electric P42 engine.
I tell my son that he will be in coach and that mom and me are in a sleeper, so for him to just listen to the car attendant on where to go. I told him that once we are on the train, he can move about with no problem and we would meet up as soon as mom and I get settled in our roomette.
The train comes to a stop and the attendant opens the gate to the tracks. There were about thirty people lined up to board the train. I show my tickets to the attendant and he takes us to the first sleeper car and helps my wife aboard. He then takes our bags and puts them in the luggage area and directs us up the stairs to our roomette, which is number nineteen.
Meanwhile, my son was being directed to the last coach car of the train. Once everyone was aboard, the train starts to move forward and I can see the excitement in my wife’s face. About fifteen minutes later, my son shows up grinning ear-to-ear stating that the train is cool…I can tell from this point that it is going to be a fun and enjoyable trip.
A few hours later puts us in Fort Worth, Texas. Lunch is being served and my wife texts a message to my son telling him to meet us in the diner car for a bite to eat. As we are seated in a newly designed diner car, I reflect on how different it was from the diner car I traveled on three years ago. The newer diner car interior is very stylish now, with relaxing shades of blue. Our waitress is named Jane and she is very lively. We talk with her and found out she is from St. Louis, Missouri and will be serving us all the way to Chicago. My son orders the Black Angus hamburger. My wife and I order the Texas barbeque sandwich. No complaints on the food or the service and we look forward to eating dinner later that evening. While eating, we pass by the new Dallas Cowboys stadium in route to Dallas.
After lunch and back in our roomette, my wife and I gaze out the window and talk about the towns as we travel through them, wondering what the people that live there are doing. We play with all the knobs on the wall, seeing what they do. We adjust the seats, pull out the table and wonder how the seats fold down into a bed and how the top bed bunk folds down. After figuring out all this, we head to the lounge car to meet our son. We go down the stairs to the snack bar and get some soft drinks, then go back up the stairs and set in the lounge car. Now currently traveling through the east Texas pine country, we spot deer in a power line right-of-way. “Unbelievable” according to my wife, she never thought it would be this neat.
Dinner time arrives and we pull into Marshall, Texas. We talk with Jane again and find out the chef’s special for the evening was St. Louis style dry ribs and barbeque sauce…that makes things simple, ribs all the way around. The Marshall stop is slightly extended as we wait for a new train crew to change out with the current train crew, which will then take us on to Chicago.
After dinner we head to the lounge car and select a table where we can play Farkel. Farkel is a dice game similar to Yahtzee, but far more fun. We play a couple hours and then head back to our respective seats for the night. My wife and I get back to the roomette where we prepared for sleeping. I folded down the seats and got the lower bed situated for her, then I dropped down the top bed bunk and climbed up in…lights out for the night.
We wake up around 6:30 AM to the smell of fresh coffee brewing. We each took a shower and got dressed. My wife sent a text message to our son telling him to meet us for breakfast at 7:30 AM. “Good morning y’all; good to see you again this morning…” states Jane. During breakfast, the train pulls into St. Louis, Missouri and after a short stop at the station, we begin to cross the mighty Mississippi river. What a sight to see, especially from a train window.
After crossing, we start our last stretch of rails up to Chicago. Illinois has beautiful farm land, like pictures out of a movie. I find it interesting about the train stations as we travel further north; they seem to be more ‘real’…of course, I guess many people use the train as more of a public transit system than they do in the south.
1:22 PM we pull into Union Station in Chicago, a good thirty minutes before the scheduled arrival time. Our first family train adventure, what a thrill it was!