Steve's Summer 1997 Rail Journey
Amtrak Capitol Limited
Monday through Tuesday, June 23 - 24, 1997
Steve's Summer 1997 Rail Journey - Fourth Segment: Travel on the
Amtrak Capitol Limited from Washington,D.C. to Chicago.
Click here if this is the first time youhave ever read one of my travelogues.
This train is a coast-to-coast through train from Washington,D.C. to
Los Angeles, California. Although it will change its name, number and
even service crew in Chicago, the cars of this train will be going
all the way from Washington, D.C. to Los Angeles, California. I am in
bedroom number 5 of my Sleeping Car and will have this room and be able
to leave my things in this room all the way from one coast to the other.
Other than the Sunset Limited that runs between Sanford, Florida and
Los Angeles, California, there are no other Amtrak routes where the car
goes all the way from one coast to the other. Starting with the
May 11, 1997 schedule changes, Amtrak combined the Southwest Chief and
the Capitol Limited to create this coast-to-coast through route, but
let each train keep its own name and numbers.
Monday, 4:10 P.M. (EDT), 06/23/97, Washington, DC
Channel 89 - 161.445 - 04:20 P.M. (EDT), Washington, DC
Channel 08 - 160.230 - 05:01 P.M. (EDT), CSX Detector: MP 72.1 Track 1
We left right on time! Looks like I lucked out again. This car and
another Sleeping Car are Superliner 2 equipment. I haven't been a
Superliner 1 at all this journey! First rail segment was a viewliner,
second was a Superliner 2, this segment is a Superliner 2, and since
the I'll be in the same room for the next segment, that will also be
a Superliner 2. The Car Attendant said it was just the luck of the draw.
Most of the Sleepers on the Capitol Limited route are Superliner 1
equipment. Before the Southwest Chief and Capitol Limited were
combined to use the same sets of equipment, I think the Capitol Limited
had a lot of Superliner 2 equipment. With the combination of equipment,
the Southwest Chief now has more Superliner 2 Sleepers, but by the same
token, the Capitol now has more Superliner 1 Sleepers.
It appears we have a gal for our first Engineer out of Chicago and
another gal as the primary Conductor. I know this is going to sound sexist,
but it takes a little getting used to the idea of women operating the train.
But then again, it certainly is no less difficult getting used to the idea
that many commercial airline pilots are also women. The opportunities for
women certainly have progressed since I was a child. I had never even seen
a woman bus driver when I was growing up!
This Car Attendant, Enoch Bowens, is going to get
my nomination for a Service Award! To start with, he had everything ready
when I boarded the train. Coffee was all made, the top of the refreshment
center was loaded with soft drinks and water, plus there were plenty of
the coffee ingredients available such as cream and sweetener. A vanity
set of soap, toothbrush, toothpase, razors, shampoo, etc. which was in a
nice blue and white striped cloth sack with the Amtrak Capitol logo was
in each room. A schedule, route guide, and guest directory had also been
placed into each room along with a safety card and an instructions to
smokers card. (Smoking isn't allowed except in a special Smoking Lounge
downstairs in one particular Coach Car).
Once everyone was on board, he made a lengthy, but very friendly detailed
announcement about all the features and amenities available to Sleeping
Car passengers on this train. His announcement was made with great
enthusiasm, just like you might expect from a Cruise Director at the
start of an ocean voyage!
The Car Attendant explained that although the Cafe downstairs in the
Sightseer Lounge Car would close at about midnight and reopen at about
6 A.M., the upstairs viewing lounge would remain open all night.
He also explained that dinner would be served from 5:00 P.M until 8:00 P.M.
this evening in the Dining Car and it would close around 8:30 P.M. Enoch
also said that the Dining Car would open for breakfast at 6:00 A.M.
Eastern Time and only be open until about 7:30 A.M. because of the early
time this train arrives into Chicago.
Enoch then went to each room and introduced himself to each person
individually with a big handshake. He noticed my "California Zephyr"
hat and we ended up in about a 5 minute conversation.
He said that I was the first person that he had ever met that was
booked in a Sleeping Car all the way through from Washington, DC to
Los Angeles! He's met people that have been in Coach from Washington to
Chicago and then a Sleeper from Chicago to Los Angeles and visa versa,
but never met anyone that had a Sleeping Car room booked all the way
He was real curious if I knew what car and room I would be in when
this train, the Capitol Limited Train #29, turned into the Southwest
Chief Train #3 once it reached Chicago. I did know. I'd be in exactly
the same room in the same car! They would just change the car number
from 2901 to 0431 and I would still be in Room #5. Enoch knew that it
was supposed to work this way, but had just never seen it actually
booked and issued that way. I think he has seen some people have to
change from one room to another in Chicago. Part of the reason for that
could be the way the agent did the reservations for the person. I had
my agent punch in that I wanted to go from Washington,DC to Los Angeles
and the computer automatically assigned me to the same room for both
trains. If the agent had punched in a request from Washington,DC to
Chicago and then punched in a separate request from Chicago to Los Angeles,
I think it is very likely the computer would book different rooms for
each segment. It seems logical the computer would need to know the
whole itinerary on the first request in order to make sure it could put you
into the same room for both segments.
Enoch was ready for this occurance even though he hadn't seen it before.
He said that the Amtrak police would be boarding the train in Chicago
so that it was OK to leave all my stuff in the room and the luggage racks.
I would have full use of the Metropolitan Lounge all day until the
Southwest Chief was ready for boarding shortly before 5:00 P.M. If you
take this same route, you have plenty of time to tour the town since the
train arrives at 8:50 A.M. and then doesn't leave until 5:10 P.M. I didn't
ask him if I would be able to remain on the train during that time or
would have to get off. My guess is that I will be allowed to remain on the
train, but once I get off, which I plan to do, I won't be able to get back
on until boarding.
Here is a piece of trivia that might be hard to find in the future. It was
listed in "Amtrak National Timetable - Fall/Winter 1996," but then vanished
from the next edition. The Capitol Limited and Southwest Chief were going
to be merged into a single route called the "National Chief" which would be
train numbers 15 and 16. Whether Amtrak will ever do this, I'm not sure.
Maybe they like the names "Southwest Chief" and "Capitol Limited" and don't
want to eliminate those names. Or, maybe they want to keep the option of
dividing them back into two trains and ending "through cars" in the future
without creating more name change and route number change confusion.
Channel 08 - 160.230 - 05:34 P.M. (EDT), CSX Detector: MP 98.5 Track 1
Monday, 4:32 P.M. (EDT), 06/23/97, Rockville, MD
This Amtrak stop connects with both the Washington METRO and the MARC trains.
All three sets of trains stop at this location. The Dispatcher told the
Engineer to be cautious as trespassers had been reported on the tracks.
I noticed two large arrays of cellular telephone transponders near this
station. Actually, I've noticed a lot of them along every train route
of this summer rail journey! I know that almost every cellular company is
building more cell towers at a tremendous pace. Erecting them near the
railroad tracks makes a lot of sense. Railroad tracks are usually found in
areas that are zoned for heavy industry, sort of the reason why so many
junk yards are located right next to the tracks. Most residential and
business areas try to avoid having cellular towers, but such aversion is
unlikely in industrial areas. Thus, when a cellular company can find an
industrial area near where a cell tower is needed, that is probably the
location they will select. More than likely, that will be near railroad
tracks. I guess that is good for those of us that carry cellular phones on
our rail journeys as it provides for good coverage along most of the
Also, the cellular transponders appear to hold much more equipment than the
originals. When cellular phones first came out, the towers looked like they
each had 3 transponders separated by 60 degrees from each other. There
still seem to be 3 sets on each tower separated by 60 degrees from each
other. However, instead of seeing just 1 transponder on each side, I
often see 6 transponders on each side! That would be a total of 18
transponders on each tower. I guess those are all needed because of the
tremendous growth of cellular phone subscribers.
Monday, 5:46 P.M. (EDT), 06/23/97, Martinsburg, WV
According to the radio, they are having problems in the kitchen with
the water. They can't get the water to work for the dishwasher or the
hand sink. The meter indicates they have a half tank of water remaining.
They thought of filling up the tank in Martinsburg to see if that would
fix the problem, but Martinsburg didn't have any "potable" water. For
those of you that are curious, I think "potable" water means water that
can be used in a "pot" like for cooking. In many places, "non-potable"
water is available which is not suitable for cooking or drinking, but
is fine to use for cleaning the exterior of the train. I don't know if
"non-potable" water can be used for anything else besides that.
They are radioing ahead to see if we can fill up the tank further down
the line and to find out if the maintenance personnel have any suggestions
of what they might try to get the water working.
Channel 08 - 160.230 - 06:07 P.M. (EDT), CSX Detector: MP 117.4 Track 2
Channel 08 - 160.230 - 06:36 P.M. (EDT), CSX Detector: MP 140.7 Track 1
Channel 08 - 160.230 - 06:52 P.M. (EDT), CSX Detector: MP 162.4 Track 1
The Engineer has just asked the Conductor if it would be possible to get
some coffee and a soda along with some sweetener for the coffee. The
Conductor said he'd just have Winnie put her finger in the coffee for the
sweetener and then asked the Engineer if he wanted Diet Soda or High Test.
The Engineer asked for the regular. I guess they will pass it up there at
the next stop. There is more talk about trying to get some potable water
at the next stop.
Monday, 7:20 P.M. (EDT), 06/23/97, Cumberland, MD
We arrived into the station at 7:17 P.M., but we are handing in here
for a bit. The Conductor is calling Amtrak to see what they have to say
about the availability of "potable" water here. I guess there is a hose
here, but they don't know if it is potable. The train will have to move
up about 3 cars to get the fill spot lined up with the position of the
hose. They don't want to do that yet as that is going to cause the
railroad crossing gates to lower and temporarily block the road. Since
the train will be at the edge of the road and not actually blocking it,
the crossing gates will time-out and go back up. However, they didn't
even want that to happen until they are sure they can fill with water at
They got the O.K.! They can fill up with water at this stop. The train is
now moving up 3 cars to just before the railroad crossing. I just noticed
that we have no power! They mentioned about cutting off the other cars from
the Dining Car, but I thought they just meant water hoses and not power
lines. I'm going to have to exit this edit session just in case my
battery starts to go while I'm typing. This notebook battery is pretty
old and doesn't hold a charge very long anymore.
Channel 08 - 160.230 - 08:51 P.M. (EDT), CSX Detector: MP 187.0 Track 1
Monday, 9:27 P.M. (EDT), 06/23/97, before Connellsville,PA
I just got back from my 8:00 P.M. dinner reservation. I opted for a
late dinner for a couple of reasons. First, I had just finished a late
lunch at almost 3:00 P.M. Second, still not off California time, my
body still thinks it is 3 hours earlier than the clock. 5:00 P.M. PDT
would be about as early as I'd want to attempt dinner. I knew that I
risked them running out of things as they often do at the last seating.
However, I usually go for the vegetarian item and they seldom ever run
out of that.
I sat with two other people. Both had done quite a bit of traveling by
train before. They both seem to need to do a lot of travel around the
nation for their business and mostly use the train. One person had been
traveling by train for more than 20 years! He saw Amtrak start out with
the superior service that existed on some lines (though other lines
started out in a very miserable state), watched Amtrak service decline,
and then make a come back in attention and detail to its custmoers over
the last few years.
Since I wanted to observe what others would leave as tips and didn't
want to influence them by what I put down, I waited until they set
their tips down first. They each left one dollar. A minimal tip for
dinner, but it restored my faith in humanity after having observed
nobody leaving any tips at all on my entire journey on the Cardinal!
I also left one dollar. I would have left two, but the overall experience
was a bit below par. I've had much better vegetarian lasagna at previous
meals on this and other rail journeys. It was served with vegies different
than the ones I had selected and I wasn't interested at all in the ones
they had brought. Although our server was very friendly and I did like
him, I think he was just having an off night. He took a very long time
to come to take our dessert order. I actually didn't order anything for
dessert but the other two people at my table did. He took so long to
come back with the dessert that they both had left before it was
delivered. I think he forgot to bring it as he sat down and was chatting
with the other staff. That brings up an interesting point. Unless I'm
starving, I think I prefer a friendly server who's starting to lose
track of his customers at the end of a long day rather than a surly
one that is prompt and efficient. But, that doesn't mean that I shouldn't
leave a smaller tip for below par service.
Channel 08 - 160.230 - 09:35 P.M. (EDT), CSX Detector: MP 248.2 Track 2
One thing I like about the Coast Starlight and the California Zephyr that
seems to be missing in these other trains is the "smoke stops". I don't
smoke, but I like the way the train has quite a few stops scheduled for
5 to 15 minutes in length. If the train is running on time, there are
several stations where it will arrive early and have to wait from 5 to 15
minutes before it is allowed to leave according to the schedule. These
used to be "Smoke Stops", but I guess they are no longer needed on those
trains that now have the special smoking lounge in the Coach Car. The
Coast Starlight stops at Santa Barbara, San Luis Obispo, Oakland and
Sacramento to name just a few stops that are often at least 5 minutes long.
I like to get off, stroll around a bit, and then reboard the train. This
somehow adds to the whole rail travel experience. Often the stop would be
long enough to step into the station and see what is there. On the
California Zephyr, some of the towns where the train stops were so small
you could get a good feel for the town by just walking up and down the
station for a quick overview of the entire town!
Monday, 10:17 P.M. (EDT), 06/23/97, Connellsville,PA
Channel 08 - 160.230 - 11:12 P.M. (EDT), CP 175 Track 1
Monday, 12:21 A.M. (EDT), 06/25/97, Pittsburgh,PA
Channel 46 - 160.800 - 12:27 A.M. (EDT), Detector
Channel 46 - 160.800 - 12:37 A.M. (EDT), Detector: Conrail
Channel 64 - 161.070 - 01:21 A.M. (EDT), West of Pittsburgh, PA
Channel 46 - 160.800 - Further West of Pittsburgh, PA
Tuesday, 05:41 A.M. (EST), 06/25/97, Waterloo,IN
I got up at 5:30 A.M. Eastern Daylight Savings Time (EDT), got dressed, and
went to breakfast at 6:00 A.M. Before I had finished breakfast, we
stopped in Waterloo, Indiana. They don't observe Daylight Savings Time
from here on west in order that they can be on the same time as Chicago,
the nearest major metropolitan area. Thus, they remain on Eastern Standard
Time (EST) which has the same time as Chicago in the Central Time Zone.
So, I went to breakfast at 6:00 A.M. (EDT) and finished before 6:00 A.M.
I sat with two other men who also traveled a lot by train. One was going
to connect to the Empire Builder and continue on through to Portland,
Oregon. The other was getting off at Elkhart, Indiana, the next stop after
Waterloo. Everyone had finished breakfast before I was even served mine.
The server lost my order. Thinking she had the right order, she first
brought me 2 eggs sunnyside up. That was the order for the man next to me.
She tried to switch his plate with mine, but that plate had grits instead
of potatoes. She came back in a while and showed me a few order slips
asking me which was mine. It was none of them. Shortly, she came back and
said my order was still down in the kitchen. A little later, she came back
again and apologized for my order having gotten lost and took my order
all over again! Thus, I wasn't served breakfast until everyone at my
table had already finished. I was just thankful that Waterloo wasn't my
stop or I would have had to leave the train without ever being served
breakfast! As far as the tips went, I did leave a $1 tip anyway and so did
the man next to me. The one across from me didn't leave anything.
Channel 46 - 160.800 - 06:10 A.M. (EST)
Channel 46 - 160.800 - 06:23 A.M. (EST), Elkhart, Indiana
Tuesday, 06:28 A.M. (EST), 06/25/97, Elkhart,IN
This is the station where there are a number of old train cars including
some with people painted in the windows. I took a few more photographs
of those old passenger train cars. I also got photographs of a steam
engine and older diesel engine parked across from the station.
Those old trains just reminded me that I am now on the same tracks
as I was on when I took the Lake Shore Limited at the start of this
rail journey. The only difference is that I am now heading west instead
Channel 46 - 160.800 - 06:36 A.M. (EST), Detector: Conrail, MP 31 Track 1
Tuesday, 06:46 A.M. (EST), 06/25/97, South Bend,IN
Looks like some padding in the schedule. Last night we were over 30 minutes
behind at some points but we've been making it up a little at a time. We
just left South Bend, Indiana only 3 minutes late!
Channel 46 - 160.800 - 07:03 A.M. (EST), Detector: Conrail, Rolling Prarie
Tuesday, 07:54 A.M. (CDT), 06/25/97, Hammond-Whiting,IN
Tuesday, 08:24 A.M. (CDT), 06/25/97, Chicago,IL
Click here for the next segment of this
Summer 1997 journey.
- Train Route: Capitol Limited
- Train Number: 29
- Direction: Northwest
- My Route: Washington,D.C. to Chicago.
- Accommodation: Superliner II Standard Bedroom
- 33025 Sightseer Lounge Car
- 38016 Dining Car
- 32118 Superliner 2 Wyoming
- 32080 Superliner 2 Idaho
- Sleeping Car Attendant: Enoch Bowens
- First Conductor (out of Washington,DC): J.N. Taconi
- First Engineer (out of Washington,DC): Miss Ellen
- Chief of Onboard Services: Gale Loving
- Dining Car Attendant: Louie Rodrigues
Souvenirs unique to Capitol Limited available:
- Baseball Caps - 2 different color schemes
- Plastic Coffee Mug (purchased on Cardinal)
Photos taken but not yet posted to the web:
- 01:01-01 Rockville, MD
- 01:02-08 Harpers Ferry, WV
- 01:09-09 Martinsburg, WV
- 01:10-10 CSX locomotive 8352 in Cumberland, MD
- 01:11-11 Pittsburgh, PA Station at night
- 01:12-16 Elkhart, IN old trains with painted-on passengers
- 02:02-02 Tractors
- 02:03-05 Harpers Ferry, WV
- 02:04-08 Train Around Curve
- 02:09-10 River
- 02:11-12 Cumberland, MD
- 02:13-13 Elkhart, IN old trains with painted-on passengers
- 02:14-14 Big white factory
- 02:15-15 Bridge
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