Amtrak Southwest Chief Route Guide
This is the older Amtrak Southwest Chief Route Guide which has a lot more details about the sights along the route than the newer version that is currently given out onboard. Follow the trail of pioneers to scenic wonders and fun!
Chicago * Kansas City *Albuquerque
Flagstaff * Los Angeles
The Southwest Chief follows a route ages older than railroading. First the earliest Indians discovered its twists, turns, and passes, then Spanish conquistadors and fur trappers.
By the time it was officially called the Santa Fe Trail, caravans of pack mules and wagon teams, prairie schooners and stagecoaches were lumbering over it daily, carting people and goods between the Missouri River and the Rockies. California's GoldRush brought thousands more westward and the Santa Fe Trail extended all the way to the Coast.
The Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe Railway ultimately became the iron link between the Midwest and Los Angeles. And today, following the same track, Amtrak's Southwest Chief crosses eight states and 2,245 miles.
This guide is written from west to east, noting how many minutes past the previous Amtrak station you can expect to see a particular sight and whether you should look right or left. The first time reference tells you how far that point is from the next Amtrak station to the west, and the second time, how far it is to the next Amtrak stop to the east. If you're traveling westward, just begin at Chicago or your point of origin and read the entries in reverse order. Remember to look left when we've indicated to look right, and right when we've indicated to look left.
Note that all AMTRAK STATIONS are indicated in capital letters to set them apart from towns and regions through which the Southwest Chief travels but makes no stop. Use this guide along with an Amtrak timetable to determine station times. All times in this guide are approximate.
You're traveling on-board Amtrak's® Superliner® train -- the Southwest Chief. On this route, you'll be traveling between Los Angeles and Chicago, following one of the most historic and scenic routes in the nation -- the old Santa Fe Trail.
While on board, you'll be experiencing the utmost in train travel, along with some of the same wonders first glimpsed by the early settlers as they made their way west to seek their fortunes.
Amtrak and your crew are proud to host you on board. We'll do everything we can to ensure you enjoy your trip. If you have any questions please don't hesitate to ask your Attendant or On-Board Service Chief.
The Southwest Chief features on-board activities the whole family will enjoy. Listen for announcments of the specific time and location of activities, and most of all -- have fun!
Movies in the Sightseer Lounge Car, including features for children during summer months, will be shown.
On-board Indian Country Tour Guides from the Inter-Tribal Indian Ceremonial Association of Gallup, New Mexico -- the "Indian Capital of the World," your guide will ride with the train between Gallup and Albuquerque, New Mexico. This expert will point out scenic highlights and discuss regional history, culture and folklore. Come to the Lounge Car and hear all about the fascinating country you're traveling through.
Chiefs Round-Up. Join fellow passengers in the Lounge Car for drinks and complimentary snacks. Enjoy chips, salsa and guacamole along with a Southwest Chief specialty.
Stretch Your Legs. The Southwest Chief stops in Albuquerque so the train can be serviced, refueled and washed. This is your opportunity to inspect crafts and souvenirs sold at the station by Indian traders from nearby pueblos. Please do not leave the station platform area, and return to the train as soon as the departure announcement is made.
The Conductor is in charge of all crew members and is responsible for the collection of tickets and the safe operation of the train. The Chief of On-Board Services supervises the on-board service crew, and oversees the quality of service.
Roomy Coach Seats. Your Coach Attendant will see to your needs. Since your seat is assigned for the length of your journey, please do not change without first consulting a crew member.
Private Sleeping Compartments. Your Sleeping Car Attendant will prepare your room for daytime or nighttime use, provide wake-up calls, and bring the morning paper and beverages. Individual speakers bring you recorded music on Channels 2 or 3, and train announcments on Channels 1 and 2. Simply turn the channel selector near the reading light. First Class passengers recieve complimentary meals in the Dining Car.
Dining Car Service. The Dining Car features complete meals in a comfortable setting. Major credit cards are accepted. Enjoy a sit-down meal in a restaurant-style setting with your choice of entrees, desserts and beverages. Tablecloths, china, flowers and the American Countryside all make dining a unique experience. Consult your sample menu for selections and prices. Sorry, there is no smoking in the Dining Car. A crew member will contact you if dinner reservations are necessary.
Spectacular Sightseer Lounge Car. Enjoy the magnificent scenery from our large picture windows, and don't forget the sandwiches, snacks and beverages available for purchase at the Cafe Bar. You can also purchase souvenir playing cards, post cards and blankets. Lounge Car hours are generally from 6 a.m. to 12 midnight. Smoking is permitted only in designated areas.
SCENIC SPOTS: Your train passes many beautiful and interesting sights. The "camera" symbol on your Route Guide Map marks the best spots, so have your camera ready!
OUTSIDE SHOTS: Medium-speed films (ASA 64 or higher) are recommended for shooting scenery through the train windows. If you shutter speed is adjustable and light conditions permit, set it at a higher speed (1/125 or 1/250 sec.) for the clearest results. Hold your lens close to the window to eliminate glare and reflections.
INSIDE SHOTS: Flash is recommended. To avoid glare and reflections, do not point flash directly at the windows.
LOS ANGELES The sprawling metropolis of Los Angeles began in 1781 as El Pueblo de Nuestra Senora de la Reina de Los Angeles. Today, the village's original site is marked by the historical park of Olivera Street, lined with brightly colored Mexican shops and old buildings. Across the street is the Los Angeles Union Passenger Terminal, called the "last of the great stations to be built in the U.S." A magnificent combination of Spanish and Art Deco styling, with stucco facade, tile roof and inlaid wood ceiling, the station is often used as a set for television shows and movies.
(Steve's Note: The holodeck bar scene of the Star Treck movie: "First Contact" was filmed in the restored section of the Los Angeles Union Station. As you enter the station through the main front doors from the street, you can see this area on your left. You are not allowed to enter this area, but you can stand by the door and view the beautifully restored ticket counter, waiting room, glass windows and chandelers. This created the perfect atmosphere that was needed to create the early 1920s scene for the Star Trek movie. "Oh God, Book Two" and numerous other moves have filmed scenes in this station, both because of the attractive motif of the station and because of it being locally convenient to Hollywood.)
(Steve's Note: I have replaced the section of Amtrak's old Southwest Chief Route Guide between Los Angeles and San Bernardino with a section from an Amtrak Route Guide of a train that covers the same route. The old Amtrak Southwest Chief Route Guide described the scenery through Pasadena where the Southwest Chief no longer operates.)
Los Angeles River Just east of the station, and to the left, the train follows the river which now "flows" through a concrete channel built as a flood control project. The usually-dry river is familiar as the site of countless Hollywood and TV chase scenes. Between here and Fullerton, the train passes through the industry and suburbs of southern Los Angeles County.
Redondo Junction (8 Min/25 Min) Amtrak's coach yards and a roundhouse for Amtrak engines appear on the right. This is home base for several of Amtrak's famous Superliner trains. Here, the train crosses the Los Angeles River.
Santa Fe Springs (30 Min/5 Min) Discovery of oil here at the turn-of-the-century rapidly transformed this former agricultural region into a center for oil production. Look for oil wells and derricks on both sides of the train.
FULLERTON is the Southwest Chief's stop for populous, suburban Orange County, as well as the transfer point for Amtrak's San Diego trains. Nearby are some of California's most famous tourist attractions, including Disneyland, Knott's Berry Farm and the Movieland Wax Museum. Note that there are two handsomely restored railroad depots on the left: the Amtrak station and, just west of it, the former Union Pacific depot which was moved to this site to serve as a restaurant.
Yorba Linda (5 Min/65 Min) was the birthplace of ex-president Richard M. Nixon.
Santa Ana Canyon Here the train winds through the canyon formed by the Santa Ana River, to the right. Prado Dam, at the head of the canyon, was built for flood control.
Corona (55 Min/15 Min) Grand Boulevard, which encircled Corona, was famous as the site of races by racing great Barney Oldfield. In a 1913 race, he achieved speeds of up to 75 mph!
Riverside (60 Min/10 Min) In 1873, a cutting from a Brazilian orange tree yielded the first tree of California's famous navel orange crop. Thus, Riverside became a cener of the citrus industry. Today, it is amidst the booming suburban expansion extending east from Los Angeles.
SAN BERNARDINO California's first inland European settlement, San Bernardino blends its heritages of Spanish missionaries and Mormon settlers with modern-day prosperity. The first McDonald's hamburger stand opened here over 50 years ago (hamburgers were 5 cents each). Before selling their business to Ray Kroc, the McDonald brothers pioneered many elements of today's fast food industry. San Bernardino is also a citrus center and host of the annual National Orange Show. Note the ivy-covered Moorish-style station on the right. Mt. San Gorgonio, the tallest mountain in Southern California at 11,502 feet, is visible to the right.
East of San Bernardino, the train ascends Cajon Pass. Meaning "Box Canyon" in Spanish, Cajon Pass is the boundary formed by the San Andreas Fault between the San Gabriel and San Bernardino Mountains. Here the train climbs 2,743 feet in 25 miles, twisting and turning to 3,811 feet above sea level.
Mojave Desert Once past the summit of the pass, the train enters high desert country. On the desert, with temperatures often the hottest in the country, a person can only last two days. The train follows the route of the Mojave "River," filled in spots with quicksand. Joshua trees line the tracks.
During the night, the train stops at BARSTOW and NEEDLES in California. It crosses into Arizona over the Colorado River at the headwaters of Lake Havasu.
Time change (12 Min./51 Min.) Arizona is in the Mountain Time Zone, but does not observe Daylight Savings Time. November through April, set your watch forward one hour if you are traveling eastward. If you are traveling westward, set your watch back one hour. May through October, Arizona is on the same time as California.
During the night, the train also stops at KINGMAN, Arizona. Coconino National Forest, encompassing one of the largest stands of Ponderosa Pine in the country. On a hill to your left is the Lowell Observatory where astronomer Clyde Tombaugh discovered the planet Pluto in 1930.
FLAGSTAFF The town's first settlers stripped a pine tree to make a flagstaff and from that the town got its name. About 7,000 feet above the sea level and surrounded by lush hillsides of pine trees, Flagstaff is the station for the Grand Canyon. Amtrak offers tours not only to the Canyon, but also to Monument Valley, Oak Creek Canyon, and the Painted Desert. Bus connections at the Amtrak station serve the Grand Canyon, the Grand Canyon Railroad and Phoenix.
San Francisco Peaks Rising north of Flagstaff to about 12,000 feet. Visible to the left of the train are Humphrey's Peaks at 12,670 feet and St. Agassiz at 12,340 feet.
Canyon Padre (29 Min./27 Min.) This is the first of many canyons that cut through this high, dry country.
Canyon Diablo (32 Min./24 Min.) We begin our journey through the Navajo reservations, a vast territory extending through Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado, and Utah. On your left are stone ruins and a trading post. And everywhere are scenes staight out of your favorite westerns, complete with horses, cattle, cowboys, and wide open spaces. You cross the canyon on a 544-ft. high stell bridge.
WINSLOW 20,000 years ago, a meteor struck 23 miles west of here, formed a crater 600 feet deep and 4,000 feet wide, and gave Winslow its nickname, "Meteor City". Today the city is a major trading post for Navajo and Hopi Indians. Its pink stucco and tile-roofed station is a good example of Spanish style architecture.
Little Colorado River (18 Min./79 Min.) We begin following the river here to Holbrook. The river itself continues into the Colorado River at the Grand Canyon. The huge electric power station on your left generates electricity for much of the Southwest as far as California, and uses 100 hopper cars of coal a day, each containing 100 tons of coal for a total of almost 4 million tons of coal a year.
Holbrook (26 Min./71 Min.) On your right, be sure to see magnificent striped sandstone outcroppings, just a hint of the beauty of the nearby Painted Desert and Petrified Forest. Largely plains interrupted by sudden mesas and buttes, this area permits mile-long vistas. Holbrook is a trading town for Navajo, Hopi and Apache Indians, and includes outlets for the Hash House Cattle Company. On your left is the restored Blevins House where Marshall Owens shot five outlaws.
(66 Min./33 Min.) Look for dazzling sandstone formations -- cliffs with broad stripes of red and yellow, shaped by the wind into spires or hollowed out into cave-like pockets. On your left is an adobe-style Indian trading post.
Time change (80 Min./19 Min.) Cross the state line between Arizona and New Mexico. If you are traveling eastbound set your watch ahead one hour. If you are traveling westbound, set you watch back one hour.
GALLUP This is the "Indian Capital of the World" a meeting place for Navajo, Hopi, Zuni, Apache and Acoma Indians, and an excellent place to acquire Indian-crafted silver jewelry, baskets, rugs, pottery, and blankets. Gallup is also the best stop along the route for side trips to New Mexico's Four Corners region, which includes the Southern Colorado Mountains, Mesa Verde National Park, the Petrified Forest, the Painted Desert, ancient cliff dwellings in Canyon de Chelly and Canyon del Muerto, and also Durango.
Red Cliffs of New Mexico For the next hour east of Gallup, the train follows these famous hills, noted for their changing colors in the bright desert sun. Legend has it that the rocks, once gray, got their red color from the blood of a wounded great stag as it fled through the hills. Some of the hills are as high as 7,248 feet. All are spectacular.
Red Rock State Park (6 Min./130 Min.) Each year, more than 50 tribes gather in the red sandstone and limestone cliffs on your left for the Inter-Tribal Indian Ceremonial, an all-Indian rodeo and dance competition.
Pyramid Rock (8 Min./128 Min.) Behind this aptly-named landmark and on your left is Church Rock, a spire-topped rock where Indians say a jilted Indian maiden jumped to her death. Also in the Red Rocks are pre-pueblo Anasazi settlements, once centers of a prehistoric Indian trading network.
Ft. Wingate Army Depot (13 Min./123 Min.) On your right, you can see rows of ammunition storage bunkers constructed to blend into the hillside.
Continental Divide (27 Min./109 Min.) At Campbell's Pass we cross the point along the route where water flows east to the Atlantic, west to the Pacific.
Bluewater (42 Min./94 Min.) Mount Taylor, rising 11,301 feet. is visible to your left. Named for President Zachary Taylor, the mountain is an extinct volcano that is responsible for the many lava beds throughout the region.
Grants (51 Min./85 Min.) Once carrot country, this area became known for its uranium. Just west of the city on your left is the Anaconda uranium smelter.
Anzac (59 Min./76 Min.) Note the exposed lava beds on your right. These "rocks" are a haven for rattlesnakes because the black lava stays warm throughout the day and night.
McCartys (63 Min./72 Min.) On your right is the first of many Indian pueblos visible along this route, this one a part of the Acoma Indian Reservation. On a bluff above the tracks on your right is a 200-year-old mission church. Throughout the pueblo are squat stone homes, many of which are hundreds of years old, with traditional beehive-shaped "homos" -- ovens used for baking bread -- out in front.
Acomita (67 Min./68 Min.) On your right, this pueblo is noted for its adobe-style church. Hundreds of Acoma Indians live in this agricultural area. Thirteen miles south is the "Sky City" of the Acomas, a pueblo built atop a 365-foot mesa and used continuously for 850 years.
Laguna Indian Reservation (73 Min./60 Min.) Pueblos visible in this area are Paraje, Laguna (the youngest and second largest of the pueblos), and Mesita pueblo on your right.
(81 Min./54 Min.) Note the gypsum cliffs on your left and tailings from uranium mines.
Kneeling Nuns (84 Min./50 Min.) This rock formation, on your left, and back, appears to be two nuns praying as they face left towards a rock "altar."
Isleta Indian Reservation (120 Min./13 Min.) On your right, the St. Augustine church, established in 1613, is still in use. Here adobe-style homes of generations ago mix with new houses in the same style, most with "hornos" in their yards.
Rio Grande River (122 Min./10 Min.) Eventually flowing into the Gulf of Mexico, the Rio Grande crosses the path of the Southwest Chief here. Note the tamarisk trees (also called salt cedars), and lavender-topped bushes that require little water. On your left is a feed lot filled with cattle.
Albuquerque This modern city, known for its successes in nuclear research and business, dates back to 1706 when it was founded and named for the Duke of Alququerque, the Spanish viceroy who once ruled the surrounding area known as "New Spain." Albuquerque celebrates its past in the restored Old Town, and celebrates its present with the renowned October Hot Air Balloon Festival, when the sky almost bursts with colorful balloons.
Albuquerque is a service stop for the Southwest Chief. Here, passengers have time to stretch their legs or buy silver and turquoise jewelry, crafts, and souvenirs sold on the station platform by Tiwa Indians from Isleta.
Sandia Mountains To the right of Albuquerque, these peaks were named "watermelon" mountains by the Spanish because they turn bright red at sunset and the trees on the side look like seeds. The world's longest aerial tramway, 2.7 miles, runs up to Sandia Crest.
Sandia Pueblo (25 Min./52 Min.) In addition to seeing a lovely church on your right, you can also get the best view form here of the 10,678-ft. high Sandia Crest, surrounded by Cibola National Forest.
San Felipe (36 Min./41 Min.) Located at the foot of the Black Mesa, this pueblo is in the San Felipe Indian Reservation and was established 500-600 years ago. Note the "Kiva" (religious council chamber) beside the Catholic church, on the left.
Santo Domingo Pueblo (42 Min./35 Min.) On the Rio Grande, this 1598 town on your left has excellent examples of traditional beehive-shaped "hornos", still in use.
Oritz Mountains Look in the distance to your right, and you can see these mountains, site of one of the country's first gold mines, opened in 1830. The whitish tailings from the mines are still visible. Scenes from the movie Superman featuring Amtrak® were shot along this stretch of rail line.
Los Cerrillos (58 Min./19 Min.) This area is so rich in concentrated minerals, that in one mine were found two kinds of coal, lead, silver, turquoise, and gold. Thomas Edison tried but failed to extract gold from the river sand you see here.
LAMY In the 19th-century, Archbishop Jean Baptiste Lamy received a grant for this town from the Spanish and served as a missionary for almost 40 years. The central character of Willa Cather's Death Comes for the Archbishop was based upon Lamy, and the ruins of his first school are on the right as you leave town. Note the Legal Tender Saloon to your left, containng $250,000 in art and antiques. Today, the town is known as the stop for Santa Fe. Shuttle service between the adobe-style station and Santa Fe makes connections easy.
Santa Fe Although the Sante Fe Railway was originally named for Santa Fe, its main line never went there. The terrain was too difficult to lay the necessary tracks. The capital of New Mexico, Santa Fe has been the capital of one region or another since its foundation in 1610 as La Villa Real de la Santa Fe de San Francisco de Assisi. It is the oldest city in the Southwest and was the end of the line for the old Santa Fe Trail. Today, Santa Fe is known as a cultural haven, home of the Santa Fe Opera and the Santa Fe Chamber Music Festival, and as a residence of prominent artists. In fact, Santa Fe is said to rank third worldwide in art sales, behind New York and Paris. The city is also the gateway to Taos and other northern New Mexico year-round recreation areas.
Apache Canyon (5 Min./101 Min.) The train weaves through a spectacular granite gorge here, so narrow the rock is at times just one foot from the train. This is considered the oldest strata of the Rockies.
Canoncito (13 Min./92 Min.) From Lamy to Glorieta, you ascend 1,000 feet in 10 miles through areas of bright red, dry, creek beds. Called the Glorieta Pass, this portion of our route cuts through dry, rock-strewn hills dotted with juniper, Ponderosa Pine, scrub oak, pink tamarisk, and turquoise blooming sage (chamisa). On your left is the first look at the Sangre de Cristo Mountains, meaning "blood of Christ" and commemorating the suffering of the early Spanish explorers who crossed them.
Glorieta (26 Min./79 Min.) On your left, you can see the Glorieta Baptist Assembly, a huge retreat center. During the Civil War, Glorieta was the site of an unusually westward battle between Colorado and Texas volunteers. Texas Confederates won, but ultimately had to retreat because Union cavalry, during the fight, had secretly crossed the treacherous Sangre de Cristo peaks at Canoncito to meet and burn a Confederate supply train. Without supplies, the Texans were helpless.
Santa Fe National Forest On your left, this immense forest is known for its trout fishing, hunting, and prehistoric Indian ruins. The train follows the Glorieta Mesa on the right.
Rowe (31 Min./66 Min.) The Pecos Indians used to live in the state's largest pueblo, located in the shallow bowl of the Glorieta Pass. Conquered and converted in the 17th-century by Spanish missionaries, the Pecos built a large adobe mission in 1617. Its ruins, the Pecos National Monument, are across the valley on your left. The property on which the monument is located was donated by movie star Greer Garson and her husband E.E.Fogelson. The bright pink pillars that mark the entrance to their Forked Lightning Ranch can be seen on the left in the valley.
Pecos River (57 Min./40 Min.) The old Spanish mission of San Miguel, built in 1775, is on your right.
S-curve (67 Min./30 Min.) We now start a huge double S-curve, during which you can see both ends of the train as it winds sharply to gain altitude while crossing the mountains.
Starvation Peak (70 Min./25 Min.) In the early 19th-century, the distinctive flat-topped, rock-capped mesa on the right became the last stand of 30 Spanish settlers who, according to legend, fought off attacking Navajos with rocks, but starved to death when the Indians surrounded the peak.
Bernal (84 Min./22 Min.) On the left are ruins of the first stagecoach relay station on the old Las Vegas - Santa Fe stage line. Note Martinez Canyon on the right, between Bernal and Las Vegas.
LAS VEGAS 10,000 years before Coronado discovered this area in 1541 and the Spanish named it the "meadows," Indians occupied its lands. In 1833, white settlers formed a town on the west bank of the river. But, when the railroad arrived, a rowdier New Town developed on the east bank, attracting unsavory folks like Billy the Kid, until West Bank vigilantes cleaned it up and cleared it out. That large building adjacent to the station was La Castenada, one of many Harvey House restaurants and hotels built along the Santa Fe route. The Harvey House waitresses were immortalizd in the Judy Garland movie, The Harvey Girls. This Harvey House has another claim to fame. In 1899, Teddy Roosevelt joined his Rough Riders here for a reunion. Las Vegas honors the event with a Routh Riders museum.
Watrous (19 Min./24 Min.) On your right are the ruins of a Fort Union oupost. Ft. Union, built in 1851 to guard the Santa Fe Trail and Cimarron Cut-off, was a supply fort -- one of the biggest in the Southwest. The Cut-off was an alternative route to La Junta, avoiding Raton Pass. It was easier to cross but more vulnerable to Indian raids.
Shoemaker Canyon (26 Min./80 Min.) The train follows and crosses the Mora River through this area that was once a major trade route between plains and Texas Indians.
Wagon Mound (48 Min./58 Min.) On your right, the butte that looks like a praire schooner led by horses served as a major landmark along the Santa Fe Trail.
Springer (68 Min./36 Min.) Cross the Cimarron River and start following the Canadian River. Chances are, just west of Springer, you'll see antelope on your right. On the left in the distance is 12,441-ft. Baldy Peak.
Maxwell (83 Min./21 Min.) Lucien B. Maxwell, hunter and trapper, married into the largest land grant ever awarded in the Western Hemisphere, stretching 1.75 million acres from Shoemaker to Starkville. He named the seat of his famous empire Cimarron, Spanish for "wild." His freind Kit Carson came to live nearby. Today, the area is the Maxwell Land Grant Wildlife Refuge.
Clifton House Ruins (100 Min./10 Min.) On your right, you can see the remains of this layover point on the old Santa Fe Trail.
RATON A railroad and coal mining center, Raton is at the base of the Raton Pass which crosses the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. Raton is also the gateway to Philmont Boy Scout Ranch, a 137,441 acre national center of the Boy Scouts of America.
Raton Pass Here the train ascends 175 feet per mile to the highest point along the route-7,588 feet on the west end of a half-mile tunnel.
(21 Min./44 Min.) As you emerge from the tunnel, you'll cross the state line between New Mexico and Colorado, marked on your left.
Wootton Ranch (28 Min./37 Min.) On your left, this ranch belonged to "Uncle Dick" Wootton who developed a toll road along the Santa Fe Trail across the Raton Pass, a source of income that dried up in the mid 1800s when the railroad came. Also visible here is the original Santa Fe Trail on your left and Interstate 25 on your right.
Morley (51 Min./21 Min.) On the hill to your left are the ruins of an old Spanish mission and the old Morley coal mine.
Purgatoire River (60 Min./5 Min.) This tributary of the Arkansas River is named for Purgatory, its French pronunciation later twisted by local folks into the nickname "Picket Wire" and even "Picket Fence."
TRINIDAD The town's name, meaning "trinity," is displayed atop 400-ft. high Simpson's Rest on the left, named for an old pioneer buried there. Known for its coal, Trinidad is also remembered for a battle fought here between Spanish settlers and U.S. settlers on Christmas Day, 1867. Just behind the city is Fisher's Peak on the right, a rocky promontory rising almost 10,000 feet. Back and to the left east of Trinidad are the twin Spanish Peaks (called "Breasts of Mother Earth" by the Indians), and lovely views of the snow-capped Sangre de Cristo Mountains.
Sunflower Valley (29 Min./55 Min.) Alfalfa, corn, sugar beets, and wheat grow here. Further east, the train crosses the Comanche National Grassland.
LA JUNTA The name means "junction," and that's what this town is, the junction of the Santa Fe Trail and the Cimarron Cut-Off. But it's also the junction of past and present. Today, known for its cattle, vegetable and fruit production -- especially Rocky FOrd cantalopue -- La Junta is also the site of ritual dances performed by the Koyshare Indian Dancers. On a clear day, you can see Pike's Peak from here, 100 miles to the north on the left. And just east of the city is the most famous trading post of old Colorado, Bent's Old Fort, where scout Kit Carson once worked. It has now been restored. The train follows the Arkansas River to Kansas.
Las Animas (17 Min./27 Min.) This town takes its name from the Rio de las Animas Perdidas (river of lost souls), named for a wagon train of settlers that camped one night by the river now known as the Purgatoire. According to legend, they disappeared by morning, victims of an Indian attack. Further east, on the left, is John Martin Reservoir. The dam, built by the Army Corps of Engineers, is 2.64 miles long.
LAMAR This is the "Goose Hunting Capital of the Nation." At the west end of the station on your right, note the Madonna of the Trails statue, one of many erected by the Daughters of the American Revolution to commemorate the "National Old Trainl."
Coolidge (25 Min./50 Min.) Cross the state line between Colorado and Kansas, and you change time zones. If you are traveling eastward, set your watch forward one hour; if you are traveling westward, set your watch back one hour.
GARDEN CITY This town, named by a passing hobo for the beautiful garden of its founder's wife (Mrs. William D. Fulton), also claims the world's largest free public swimming pool and the largest buffalo herd. Garden City is a center for agribusiness, oil and gas fields, and beef processing.
DODGE CITY This most famous of western cities was first a trading post, then a Civil War fort (Fort Dodge), then a railroad boom town. The railroad turned the city into a major shopping point for all buffalo by-products, and later for longhorn steer herded up on dusty cattle drives from Texas. Here, lawmen and good guys including Bat Masterson, Wyatt Earp, Col. George Custer, Doc Holliday, and vaudevillian Eddie Foy lived -- and notorious bad guys died, many sent to Boot Hill, on your right. Hangman's Tree still stands, and Front Street, on the left, has been restored to look as it did in 1875 when the town was known as "the wickedest little city in America." At the station itself are two sundials marking the nearby time zone crossing.
During the night, the train stops in HUTCHINSON, NEWTON, EMPORIA, TOPEKA, and LAWRENCE.
(54 Min./6 Min.) Cross the state line from Kansas City, Kansas into Kansas City, Missouri.
KANSAS CITY Originally called Westport Landing, this was the starting point for the old Santa Fe Trail, the town where westerners like Bat Masterson and Wild Bill Hickock would buy last-minute provisions before heading west. In 1933, Union Station saw some wild action of its own. Attempting to help underworld figure Frank Nash while he was being moved from Little Rock to Leavenworth Prison, attackers killed an FBI man, two city detectives, a police chief, and Nash himself in what became known as "The Union Station Massacre". Today, together with its sister city in Kansas, the city is a marketing and transportation center. It is the gateway to the Southwest, with more than 300 parks and perhaps more fountains than any city outside Europe. Kansas City has several well-known shopping complexes, including Crown Center, just east of the station on the right.
Sugar Creek (15 Min./85 Min.) This was once the headquarters of Jesse James, killed in nearby St. Joseph.
Missouri River (35 Min./60 Min.) Cross a 135-ft. high steel bridge. On the left, note remains of Fort Osage, built in 1808 during the Osage Indian War.
Bosworth (79 Min./21 Min.) Cross the Grand River, flanked by pecan trees.
Mendon (89 Min./11 Min.) On the left is the Swan Lake National Game Reserve. 11,000 acres filled with ducks and geese that migrate to Canada. This area is so rich in water fowl, duck blinds lease from $200 - $2,000 a year. Missouri hunters harvest more than 50,000 geese and 200,000 ducks a year.
Marcelene Walt Disney spent part ofhis childhood here. The initials he carved into a school desk are still legible, as are the hand-cut charcoal drawings on the northwest wall of the home he lived in until age six. A born doodler, Disney showed great talent even as a child. His star "doodle," Mickey Mouse, who turned 60 in 1989, was in fact created while Disney traveled the route of the Southwest Chief on the Santa Fe Railway. Wal Disney Park is on your left, sporting steam engine #2435 of the old Santa Fe. Just east of town, note the Jonathan apple orchards on the right.
LA PLATA This is the station for Kirksville, ten miles north, with its many colleges, including Northeast Missouri State University. La Plata Lake is on the right. This area is popular for deer, turkey, and pheasant hunting.
Des Moines River (50 Min./15 Min.) This is the state line between Missouri and Iowa. The train now approaches the great Mississippi River.
Nauvoo (60 Min./10 Min.) Across the river to the right, this city was an important Mormon settlement, until the Mormons -- following a vision of their leader -- suddenly crossed the ice and left in 1846. Their leader, Joseph Smith, was killed at the hands of a mob at the jail in nearby Carthage. Today, the town is being restored as a Mormon Memorial. Here are Concord grape vines planted by the French 100 years ago, still bearing fruit.
FT. MADISON The Southwest Chief travels only 20 miles in Iowa, and this is its only stop. The city was named for Fort Madison, built in 1808-9 to protect settlers from Indian raids and named for President Madison. The fort was attacked many times during the War of 1812, and finally burned by its own soldiers in 1813 to divert warring Indians. The settlers made their escape through a tunnel and then fled on a boat down the river. The One Chimney Monument on the left commemorates the fort. The city is also site of the annual Tri-State Rodeo. The Schaefer Eton plant is on the left, east of the station.
Mississippi River (5 Min./50 Min.) Cross the state line between Iowa and Illinois over the wide Mississippi River on a 3,347-ft. long steel bridge. It has the world's largest double-track, double-decker swing span. The bridge pivots to allow river traffic to pass.
GALESBURG Birthplace of poet Carl Sandburg, this town was planned and settled by a fundamentalist group from Oneida, N.Y., and hosted a Lincoln-Douglas debate in 1858. Olmsted Ferris developed popcorn to such an art here, he was invited to give a corn-popping demonstration to England's Queen Victoria. The train passes by some of the best farmlands in the country, held in families for generations because it is so fertile. You'll see many thousands of acres of alfalfa, soybeans, corn, and wheat fields. Here, the soil yields 200 bushels of corn per acre. Rolled bales of hay doting the rolling hillsides in haying season each weigh about a ton. You'll also see large modern corn dryers, and occassional steeple-top barns built before bailing came into practice. The open tops provided ventilation to prevent fires.
This was also a key station in the Underground Railroad of the Civil War. Notice, on the left, Burlington's famous 4-6-4 "Hudson" passenger locomotive used in the 1930s. Galesburg is the home of the Annual Galesburg Railroad Days.
Galva (20 Min/95 Min) "Bishop's Hill" was a Swedish utopian society of religious dissidents that settled in Galva until the Civil War. It is now a historic landmark.
Kewanee (25 Min/90 Min) The small industrial city of Kewanee was settled alongside the Spoon River in 1836 by New Englanders.
PRINCETON (50 Min/65 Min) One of the founders of the Republican Party, John Bryant, made his home in Princeton. It was settled by New Englanders in 1833. It is the "Pig Capital of the World." The small red and brown A-frame houses in the fields are what the pigs call home.
Aurora (105 Min/10 Min) This was a transfer station for statecoaches in the 1830s. It was also the birthplace of the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy Railroad in 1849. Transportation has always played a large role in Aurora. A large bulldozer factory can be seen to the left.
NAPERVILLE This is the station for Chicago's western suburbs. RTA commuter trains provide connections to Aurora, LaGrange, Brookfield and other points. This attractive suburb is a high-tech industrial center and is known for its Riverwalk, a restored historic village, and an example of Frank Lloyd Write's architecture.
CHICAGO As you enter, you'll first see railyards, power plants, and refineries, all indications of a manufacturing giant. Then as you approach the station, the skyline of the city itself emerges on the right. Note the profile of the world's largest building, the Sears Tower, 110 stories high and just two blocks east of Union Station. The station, marble-pillared with impressively high ceilings, is conveniently close to office centers in the Loop, wholesale markets at the Merchandise Mart, the Mercantile Exchange for commodities, and exciting shopping on Michigan Avenue.
For more information on Amtrak trips call 1-800-USA-RAIL
Service subject to change without notice.
020647 August 1994 (Updates made by Steve Grande, 06/25/97)