This page contains my collection of experiences, photos, events and thoughts while riding Amtrak's Inaugural Train of the Texas Eagle/California Service.
Above is a map of the route taken by the Inaugural Train
of the Amtrak Texas Eagle/California Service.
Click here for a larger copy of the map.
This journey was a reunion of many of the people that participated in the Tri-State Rail Meeting that took place last year. That meeting focused on the Amtrak Texas Eagle route that had just been narrowly saved from Amtrak's route reductions. This was the first time I had seen any of those people since that meeting. I also met many people in person who, until now, I had only communicated with through e-mail.
While in Chicago, I also got to visit with Jeff Kocar, President of the Amtrak Historical Society (AmtrakHistoricalSociety.org), and Vince McGraw, WebAuthor of the Amtrak Intercity and the Amtrak Technical Training web sites. I had not seen either of these people for many months. I also had a chance to introduce these two individuals to each other which may turn out productive for each of our endeavors. This journey also gave me the opportunity to visit the Intercity Crew Ready Room and meet a number of new Amtrak people both in Chicago and on the train.
This rail travel experience was totally different than any previous rail journey I have ever taken. For one, it was certainly the longest train that I have ever been on! This was also the first inaugural trip that I have ever taken. I have never been on a train with so much fanfare and so many VIPs, not to mention the frequent entertainment in both lounge cars by various musicians. I don't think I have ever boarded an Amtrak long-distance train on which there was anyone else riding that I knew. On this train, there were dozens and dozens of people who I had either met before, communicated by e-mail, or knew by reputation, writings, or position in the rail community!
I do have to apologize for what you, and I, thought would be almost live updates direct from the inaugural Texas Eagle/California Service train. Instead, there was only one update from the train. That was in Malvern, Arkansas, shortly after we had returned to the actual route of the Texas Eagle after taking a 5 hour detour around a derailed freight train. That update was only possible thanks to Sam Love who loaned me his cellular phone that was operational.
I tested all the equipment and the feasibility of doing live updates of photos and text on my rail journey out to Chicago on the Southwest Chief. For those of you that followed my updates, you know that photos and travelogue updates were being posted like clockwork right from the train. Thus, I knew the technology would work. Unfortunately, I did not realize that something triggered the software in the cellular network to flag my phone as possibly having been cloned. Thus, my cell phone service was disconnected probably before I even boarded the Texas Eagle! Since I had problems on previous journeys using my cell phone between Illinois and Texas due to a lack of working agreements between cellular providers, I just assumed that was the problem. I figured that service would resume in Texas just as it had on previous trips. It did not.
My Nextel cellular phone was working in Texas. I could not upload data using the Nextel cellular phone because Nextel does not yet support modem connections over their network. However, I could call up Air Touch on my Nextel phone to try to find out the problem with my Air Touch cellular service on my other cell phone that does support modem connections. Their answer was they believed that my phone had been cloned. I don't believe this to be the case and I will explain why later. After I gave them enough data to prove that I was the rightful owner of the phone, they issued me a new cellular phone number and walked me through setting my phone to this new number. Normally they said it would take 24 hours to activate the phone since I was roaming, but they would try to have the service activated by midnight.
I don't know exactly how the fraud detection software works, but I believe there are a number of criteria that are used to make a "guess" that a phone number has been cloned. Once a phone number is identified as having possibly been cloned, that phone number is shut down across the nation! An obvious criteria would be when two phones with the same phone number attempt to place a call at the same time, or segments of each call from the same cellular number overlap. That would mean that two cell phones had the same phone number. That strongly points to one being a clone. I think they must have other criteria. For example, a cellular phone could be flagged as having been cloned if two calls originate from the same cellular number, one from Los Angeles and one from New York, within one hour of each other. Since we have not yet invented a way to get from Los Angeles to New York that fast, it is likely that fraudulent cloning is involved in these phone calls.
In my case, I don't think anyone has actually cloned my phone number. I think something in the pattern of traveling across the nation by train and making phone calls from an odd set of cities that maybe don't follow a neat set of interstate highways, the cellular computer system just came to the conclusion that there must be multiple phones in different locations with the same phone number and shut down my cellular service. I have another alternative speculation, but this is just a wild guess. When I am online through my cellular modem and lose my connection, I will often call right back into the system. It may be possible that the first call has not been cleared from the cellular fraud tracking system by the time the second call is placed, hence making it seem like two calls are in progress at the same time from the same phone number. I know that people who are disconnected from voice calls also often redial the call immediately, but modem connections might be handled differently.
The most logical explanation might be my calling pattern. I almost never use my Air Touch cellular phone. The only reason I have it is because my Nextel phone does not handle modem phone calls. I prefer Nextel over other cellular services because the rates are low, coverage is almost nationwide, and I never have to pay roaming fees. When I place calls from outside my local area, the minutes are included in my monthly 400 minute plan. I just pay the long distance charge of about 10 cents per minute. With Air Touch, calling from outside my home state costs almost $1 per minute! An hour long call on Nextel would cost me $6 plus take 60 minutes from my monthly 400 minute free allocation. A 60 minute call from out of state on my Air Touch Phone would cost me almost $60 !!!
Thus, when I take a rail trip, I'll suddenly make several expensive calls from all over the country in contrast to my usual calling pattern where I hardly use the phone at all. Maybe that is the reason the fraud detection software is identifying my Air Touch Cellular phone number as possibly having been cloned.
I don't know if this is the source of the problem, but I'm willing to bet that the shutdown has more to do with the anti-cloning software mistaking my calling pattern or use than having to do with someone actually having cloned my phone number. I have had similar problems to this in the past, but it has been so long, I didn't think these problems would still occur.
The information age is here with the possibility of a live feed of photos and text from a moving train, but I guess we can not rely on Air Touch Cellular to provide this capability. Air Touch Cellular is a "wire channel" carrier and belongs to that network or cellular companies. I don't know if the "non-wire" cellular carriers would be any more reliable, but I guess that is worth a try. The "non-wire" company in my area is "L.A.Cellular". What I would really like is for Nextel to complete their nationwide network and sell the new phones with modem capability that they are working on!
It is now 1:12 A.M. Central Time. Even if the train is a couple of hours late arriving into Los Angeles, it doesn't seem worth the expense of uploading via the cellular modem just to have the photos posted a few hours earlier. So, in worst case, all the photos and the travelogue below will have been posted to the web sometime on Monday, February 9, 1998, from my office, rather than from the train.
Here is the travelogue that I have typed as events unfolded on this rail journey:
On this web page you will find almost live coverage of the inaugural run of the Amtrak Texas Eagle/California Service Train! Photos and text are uploaded using my video camera, Snappy video capture, notebook computer and cellular modem. The frequency of posting updates will depend on the quality of cellular service along the route and finding time to upload during dwell time when communication is the most stable.
Note: You can bring up a full size photo of any image on this page by clicking on it. All photos were taken "live" while on this rail journey unless otherwise noted. "Stock photos" that have been posted from previous rail journeys are indicated in the text directly below those photos.
Texarkana artist Luphelia Middlebrook's award-wining painting, "A Life of Inspiration" has been boarded and is on display in the VIP Sightseer Lounge Car. It will remain on display in that lounge until the train returns to Chicago from Los Angeles. The painting is being handled and accompanied by Ms. Carol Collins-Miles of the Scott Joplin Support Group, Inc. Ms Collins-Miles is also coordinating a ragtime singing group of on-board entertainment, with group members boarding in St. Louis and Texarkana. On-board entertainment will continue all the way to Los Angeles plus several movies will be shown during the day in the Lounge Cars with a special midnight movie.
Although many dignitaries and Amtrak officials will travel the full route to arrive in San Antonio at 1:22 a.m., on Sunday, Feb. 8, and Los Angeles on Monday, Feb. 9, several officials will board and disembark at various points along the way.
I left my hotel room at about 10:05 AM and took a taxi to Chicago Union Station. Immediately apon arrival I placed my suitcase in a storage locker. Even though they let Sleeping Car passengers leave their luggage in the Metropolitan Lounge, I don't like to leave my luggage anywhere that I can't keep an eye on it and others have access to it.
I then went to Biff's, a restaurant in the main level of the station where Jeff Kocar, president of the Amtrak Historical Society would be meeting with Mike Rolcik and myself. I was hardly there for 10 minutes when Jeff showed up, also early. He told me that Mike got snowed in and wouldn't be able to make the inaugural Texas Eagle/California Service train.
I didn't have any plans, but Jeff Kocar needed to deliver some materials to Susan Rooney, Vice President of the Amtrak Historical Society and in charge of Associate Services. Susan is also an Amtrak Car Attendant and would be working in the Diner on this Inaugural Texas Eagle/California Service train! He asked if I wanted to take a walk down to the Crew Ready Room. I have been through the Amtrak Chicago Car Shops before, but I had never been to the crew ready room and thought this might be an interesting experience. The other people that had been planning on meeting us were Ray Dunbar of the Texas Eagle Marketing Group and Gene Poon of Rail Travel News. Ray wouldn't get into the airport until 11:30 A.M. and I did't know what time Gene Poon would arrive. Thus, I thought there might be plenty of time to take a walk down to the crew ready room.
I had forgotten just how far the Car Shops and Crew area is from Union Station! We went out to the platforms and then over to the road that leads out of the station, under the post office, and into the yard. Last time I went this way was in an electric cart, and it seemed like a long way even when riding it!
Once we got to the Crew Ready Room, I saw a number of the Amtrak staff people that would be on our train. Jeff introduced me to Susan Rooney and also to Shelia Ready. Shelia Ready is a key member of the Texas Eagle Product Line team and appears to be the #1 person in charge of this inaugural Texas Eagle/California Service Train. I had heard of Shelia Ready and she had heard of me, but this is the first time we have actually met each other. Shelia asked for my car and room number and then looked up who my Car Attendant would be. She said that she would pass on the word and make sure he knew to take good care of me! I gave her my business car and another to pass on to my Car Attendant.
We then went over to the Amtrak Car Shops and hunted down Vince McGraw in the Technical Training Center. Vince produces the web pages for Amtrak Intercity which is hosted at TrainWeb. I introduced Jeff Kocar and Vince McGraw to each other. With some of the historical materials that Jeff has about Amtrak and the pages that Vince is creating for each route in Amtrak Intercity, it looks like that meeting may result in some good source material for both Amtrak Intercity and TrainWeb!
We left as it was getting near the time for the arrival of the northbound Texas Eagle. We left the Car Shop building on a second floor exit that leads out to a flybridge over the yard. The photos below were taken from that flybridge.
In the first photo you can see many Amtrak consists that are being prepared prior to departure. I believe the train with the engines facing forward is a California Zephyr. The train immediately to the right of it without any engines is the Inaugural Texas Eagle/California Service Train! After that train there is another train in the yard. The skyline of Chicago is in the background. The second and third photos are additional shots of the Amtrak yard. You can see there are Amtrak locomotives directly under the flybridge in the second photo.
The photos below are of the Inaugural Texas Eagle/California Service train in the yard prior to being pulled down into the station. This is one long train! As we walked along it we first met my Car Attendant getting my car ready. Then we met Susan Rooney again getting things ready in the Dining Car.
Below are more photos from the Amtrak Chicago Yard area. The first is the Amtrak tower. The second photo was taken under the post office next to the station as we walked back to the station. Mail Cars that Amtrak carries are loaded and unloaded at this facility.
When I returned to the Metropolitan Lounge in Chicago, Ray Dunbar had arrived. He was wearing one of the "Texas Eagle/California Service" buttons that you see displayed at the top of this page. Bill Eldridge had arranged to have these made and he gave Ray one to pass on to me. There would be plenty of these buttons for everyone, but not until Bill Eldridge boarded the train in Little Rock. In the meantime, everyone that saw the few people that did have buttons wanted to know where to get one!
The above pictures were taken in the VIP Sightseer Lounge Car. The Texas Eagle/California Service train is expected to carry a lot of Lone Star Beer from Texas to California and hense this banner of support. Unfortunately, someone spelled Amtrak with a "C"!
In the morning I had received a copy of the Sleeping Car manifests, but since I didn't have a printer with me, I had to copy it down to paper by hand. I just had a feeling that this information would come in useful once I boarded the train to find various people that I wanted to meet.
Once I was on the train, it certainly did prove useful! Not just for me, but for many people. Most people who came to this event were planning on meeting other people they knew, but did not know where to find them. Also, there were a lot of people that we thought might be on this inaugural run but weren't sure they would be onboard. The manifest was very useful for that and many of the inaugural celebrants kept borrowing the manifest from me to find who might be on board that they knew.
There were quite a few Amtrak employees, VIPs, and others well known in the rail travel community onboard this inaugural run of the Amtrak Texas Eagle/California Service train. I have listed some of those people below. If I wasn't sure of a close approximation to their title or position, then I have left it out. If you know of additional people that were on-board or can help me out with titles of any of the following, then please send me that information via e-mail to me at: steve @ trainweb.com.
Debbie Hare, Director of Amtrak Intercity Media Relations, was scheduled to be onboard but was not able to make this event due to illness.
Ray Dunbar brought a whole big overstuffed suitcase of "Texas Eagle/California Service" T-Shirts and sold them on the train. I bought one and told Ray that I'd buy a couple more if he still had any left after selling them to everyone else that wanted one on the train. Ray was getting requests right and left for these T-Shirts! Because the train was so long, he had to make many trips just about the entire length of the train to restock and bring T-Shirts to people as he ran out.
In every room and in the VIP Sightseer Lounge Car were 1998 Calendars from the Western Business Group. This group features the Great Trains of the West including: The Empire Builder, The California Zephyr, The Southwest Chief, and The Texas Eagle. Each calendar has a cover letter from Don Cushine, General Manager of the Western Business Group.
Bulletin!!! Just before I went to bed at about 2:30 A.M., I heard a request over the radio that Tom Mulligan call the Dispatcher over a cell phone. Tom Mulligan is the UP liaison. The word also came across that Sheila Ready would know where to find Tom Mulligan on the train. I didn't think too much of this. I thought maybe we weren't getting the priority that we should be getting from the UP and that some phone calls were needed to keep obtain the cooperation of the UP to keep us moving on schedule.
Unfortunately, it turned out to be much more serious than that. Gene Poon was kind enough to slip a note under my door at 4:10 AM. Evidently a freight had derailed at Bald Knob. To get around this derailment the plan was as follows:
Poplar Bluff to Dexter (using up front locos)
Dexter to Pine Bluff via SSW
Pine Bluff to Little Rock
At 5:18 A.M., Gene slipped an updated plan under my door:
UP to Bald Knob
UP to SSW
SSW to Pine Bluff
UP to LRK
Estimated delay: 3 to 4 hours!
They are talking about having to put the engines on the back end of the train and having to run the train backwards down as far as Little Rock, Arkansas. That is a dilemma that they are trying to figure out at the moment. We have a box car at the rear of the train. If they put the engines on the other end of the train, then they won't be able to provide electrical power (i.e., heat and lights) to the passenger cars. Plus, they also need the air hose connected between the engines and thus, they are going to have to either also move the box car around to the front end of the train or leave it behind and arrange for it to complete its journey later.
I woke up about 5:30 AM and typed the above information into the computer. Here is the first proposal to handle the problem to avoid putting the engines at the other end of the train:
Turn train at Wynne and then go down to Bald Knob or Fair Oaks. There is an east wye and west wye where they could turn the train around twice and get it going back in the right direction again leaving the engines on the front of the train.
We just stopped to pick up the mayor. However, I'm not sure if we are at Poplar Bluff, Walnut Ridge, or Little Rock! If we have not yet hit the detour that we are suppose to take and we are still on schedule for now, then the schedule says that we would be in Walnut Ridge at 6:06 AM when we stopped. I'll post an update as soon as I find out just where we are.
The next plan that was relayed at 5:59 A.M. calls for a set of locomotives waiting for us at Bald Knob which will pull us to Fair Oaks around the wye. Then we would be in the right direction to go to Pine Bluffs with our locomotives in the lead. I guess whether or not this solution is implemented depends on the ability to get other locomotives down to Bald Knob in time that can pull our long train.
Turns out that we were right on schedule right up to Walnut Ridge. We had even arrived into Poplar Ridge 10 minutes early! They did decide to take the train to detour at Bald Knob and take the train to Wynne. There, they backed it into a wye and turned around and headed back down the same track to Fair Oaks. We are there right now and switching onto the SSW Cotton Belt to head south to Pine Bluff. There we will switch again to head over to Little Rock and get back onto our normal route. The detour from Bald Knob to Wynne and then back to Fair Oaks was estimated at about 1.5 hours. Going from Fair Oaks down to Pine Bluff is estimated at another 1.5 hours, and going from Pine Bluff back to our original route at Little Rock will take at least another hour. Thus, we are looking at a 4 to 5 hour delay before arriving into Little Rock, the first city of festivities!
One of my biggest frustrations on this trip has been trying to get a cellular connection. All I could get in St. Louis was "The number you have dialed is not correct. Please check the number and dial again." Every number I tried gave the same message. All I could conclude from that is that Air Touch Cellular does not have a reciprocal agreement with the cellular company in this area. Further south all I could get is: "Your cellular service has been temporarily disconnected." Then they gave me an 800 number to call for help. I called it and found out what I expected, that this cellular company has no reciprocal agreement with Air Touch. They said I could call Air Touch and get a temporary agreement set up, but as far as I know, I might be out of their territory by the time that all gets worked out!
In the first frame above you can see the front of the train as we round the curve at Bald Knob to start our detour to head east toward Fair Oaks and Wynne, Arkansas. In the second frame you can see a caboose sitting in Wynne.
If you click on the first frame above and look at the full size photo, you can see a railroad worker manually throwing the switch at Wynne to complete the operation of wye-ing the train. In the second frame above you can see our train coming out of the wye and heading west back to Fair Oaks again.
In the first frame above, we are about to turn left in Fair Oaks and travel around the opposite side of this body of water. In the second frame, you can see the front end of our train starting around that curve to head south onto the Cotton Belt towards Pine Bluff, Arkansas. In the third frame above you can see the back end of our train and get some idea of just how long this train is! Keep in mind, I am in a Sleeping Car that is already behind the 3 engines, a baggage car and a transition sleeper! The cars in this third frame are just the cars in the remainder of the train that are far enough back around the curve to come into view! In about the middle of that frame you can see a car with large windows. That is the VIP Lounge. Each time I went to that car from my Sleeping Car, I had to go through two more sleeping cars, three more coach cars, the regular lounge car, the Dining Car, a VIP Sleeping Car and then finally into this VIP Lounge Car!
While I was down in the VIP Sightseer Lounge this morning, I was given a CD of "Just A Few Rags" performed by Jan Hamilton Douglas along with a description brochure about the music and the performer.
I also picked up a copy of the Premiere Issue of the Empire Builder Magazine. They were in a big stack in the smoking Coach Car and in the back of every seat.
Banner Breaking Ceremony
Bill Eldridge boarded the train at this station along with the rest of the "Texas Eagle/California Service" buttons. The next time I headed down to the VIP Lounge Car, I was surprised to see just about everyone in the Coach Cars wearing one!
At this point you can thank Sam Love for use of his cellular phone! While mine was still not functional in this part of the country, his was working and he let me borrow it so that I could upload the first edition of this travelogue.
The entire group in the VIP Lounge Car sung railroad songs and other songs lead by Ed Ellis on the guitar as can be seen in the above frames. Entertainment was continuous for most of Saturday evening and Sunday morning. Bill Pollard of ArkRail, the Arkansas Rail Passenger Association (http://www.trainweb.us/arkrail/), is seen in the center of the first frame. Bill played a significant role in helping to organize support for the Texas Eagle and kept us all informed as this inaugural event developed.
Complimentary champagne, wine and beer were served along with party trays, hot cheese dip and other treats from time to time downstairs in the VIP Sightseer Lounge Car. The right frame above is a photo taken upstairs in the VIP Sightseer Lounge Car.
Banner Breaking Ceremony
The man on the right in the first frame above is Bill Eldridge of ArkRail, the Arkansas Rail Passenger Association (http://www.trainweb.us/arkrail/). Bill brought over 500 Texas Eagle/California Service buttons with him when he boarded the train in Little Rock and gave them out to almost every passenger on the train! He was also responsible for creating the "Don't Mess With The Texas Eagle" T-Shirt that was available at the Tri-State Rail Meeting last year. I think he had some available for sale on this train also.
Banner Breaking Ceremony
Banner Breaking Ceremony
Kilgore Community College "Rangerettes" will be at the station.
Banner Breaking Ceremony
Banner Breaking Ceremony
Click on the above image to see many more photos of the Texas Eagle and the Dallas Station. This photo was taken on my previous trip on the Amtrak Texas Eagle when the announcement was made that there will be a Texas Eagle for as long as there is an Amtrak. That was the conclusion of a successful effort by the Texas legislature and many individuals to reverse Amtrak's decision to eliminate the Texas Eagle.
Banner Breaking Ceremony
Brief News Conference at Podium: Forth Worth Mayor Kenneth Barr and
Amtrak Intercity President Lee W. Bullock will speak.
At the press conference, Lee Bullock announced that the Amtrak Texas Eagle will provide daily service by next year. An item that I don't think was mentioned at the news conference, but was confirmed by Lee Bullock is that the through-cars between the Texas Eagle and Sunset Limited will be resumed before April 1998. This was an item that Ted Kildeguard of Zephyr Travel had noticed when he tried booking a passenger on that train and then brought to my attention just before I started this rail journey.
The through-cars became a very controversial issue when they were discontinued by Amtrak. Texas Eagle passengers who boarded north of San Antonio and planned to continue west were allowed to sleep the night in their Coach or Sleeping Car accommodations when the train arrived at 1:32 A.M. However, they then had to get off the train and switch to the Sunset Limited which would be at 5:35 A.M. when the Sunset Limited arrived on time.
The difficulty was created because both the Sunset Limited and the Texas Eagle now carry express cars. It would be very difficult and time consuming to shuffle all the cars around to put the Texas Eagle passenger cars with the Sunset Limited passenger cars and the express cars with the express cars. There are a couple of reasons why the Texas Eagle passenger cars couldn't just be attached behind the Sunset Limited express cars. First, there aren't any electrical cables or air hoses in the express boxcars to provide power to the passenger cars and vacuum to the toilets. Second, even if they went through the expensive process of equipping the the boxcars with cables and power, the passengers in the cars behind the boxcars would be isolated from the Dining Car and Sightseer Lounge Car and it would be impossible for the Conductor and other staff to access both those cars and other parts of the train.
I don't know how this issue has been resolved to restore the through-cars. Maybe they are just going to bite the bullet and shuffle all the cars around in the yard so that all the passenger cars will be together when the combined Sunset Limited/Texas Eagle heads west from San Antonio and north to Chicago.
The above photos were taken on my previous rail journey on the Amtrak Texas Eagle.
Will the real Amtrak San Antonio Station please stand up! If you guessed the photo on the right, you are correct. The building on the left is the old passenger depot, but currently is planned to be turned into a saloon. The building is just a few feet from the platform and is actually closer to the platform than the "temporary" Amtrak station housed in trailers. These photos were taken on a previous rail journey through San Antonio on the Texas Eagle.
I guess turning it into a saloon might be O.K., as long as they are going to be open from midnight to 6 A.M., during the time the Texas Eagle lays over in San Antonio before starting its westward segment. However, it certainly would be nice if at least part of the building could be utilized as the Amtrak Station.
Zeb Love was the Conductor on the Texas Eagle between Fort Worth and Texarkana for many years. With his special personality, it became famous as The Love Train and was a feature of a special video piece by world known traveler and writer, Charles Kuralt. Conductor Zeb Love and The Love Train are also mentioned in many railroad and rail travel books. Zeb retired from the route in December of 1988. His birthday was celebrated on the train and he served as an Honorary Conductor on this train on his old route from Fort Worth to Texarkana. Zeb made the announcement over the train-wide intercom that went something like this: "I'm Zeb Love and I'll be your Conductor from Fort Worth to Texarkana. You are now riding on The Love Train!" I met him in person in the Sightseer Lounge Car where he gave me a sticker to put on my T-Shirt that read in bold blue letters on a reflective silver background: "I Am Riding The LOVE TRAIN". The words "LOVE TRAIN" were on the second line with the Amtrak logo between the top and bottom lines.
Oops! Over the intercom I heard: "Conductor, are you going to double spot the train? There are some passengers in the VIP section that want to get off here." This train is so long that the rear cars are out in the dirt when the front cars are at the platform. For safety, it is customary to only let passengers get on and off the train on the platform, even if it requires the train to make more than one stop at the same platform. Evidently, the Conductor did not hear the intercom announcement as they "high-balled" out of the station!
For a few minutes, I was wondering if the passengers had been let out anyway, even though no reply was given by the Conductor over the intercom. But, I thought too little time had gone by between the intercom announcement and the train starting for anyone to have gotten off.
In about one or two minutes, another announcement comes over the intercom: "Conductor, stop the train." That is immediately followed by a radio announcement from the Conductor to the Engineer to stop the train. We stopped out in the middle of nowhere and I would thing a good distance from the station. We stayed here for 6 minutes until 11:28 AM and let the VIP passenger off, I guess in the middle of nowhere. It is a big deal to have a train backup especially for that long a distance. I can only guess that they called a cab to pick up that person at the nearest cross street to where they dropped them off. Not a good impression to give a VIP rider who might have been riding Amtrak for the first time. Hopefully it was someone with a sense of humor and not someone that might have voting or other significant political input relative to Amtrak.
This is a flag stop. I don't think there was anyone to pick up or drop of. If there isn't anyone to getting on or off, the train doesn't stop.
I spent most of the morning in the VIP Lounge Car. Although breakfast wasn't served on the train, they did have complimentary bagels, danish, coffee and juice in the VIP Lounge. Gene Poon, Gary Anderson and I spent the rest of the morning journey as far as Ontario talking in that Lounge. People were passing through the lounge car saying their final good-byes to each other for this trip. Actually, quite a few onboard would be returning that very night on the "inaugural" eastbound Texas Eagle/California Service.
Once past Ontario, we all headed for our rooms to do whatever last minute packing was needed. We passed Zeb Love in the corridor and each shook his hand, saying good-bye and wishing each other well.
Finally, I managed to connect to the network over the cellular modem! I uploaded this travelogue along with all the smaller size photos. Rather than use expensive cellular time, I decided to wait until I got back to my office to upload the larger photos.
We arrived in Los Angeles with little fanfare. My train would be leaving at 10:15 AM, so I had to hurry. I didn't know what track it would be on, so I went down into the main terminal building. From the board, I could see that all arrivals and departures of Amtrak San Diegans had been cancelled, but my train showed "on-time" to depart at 10:15 AM. I just followed a red cap cart that was bringing people to the only Amtrak train that was about to leave soon. Once I knew the platform of my train, I then walked to the end of the terminal and took some video of the Texas Eagle/California Service lead locomotive, Engine #21! If you don't see stills from that video posted here yet, it will be posted soon.
My return trip to the Fullerton Santa Fe Depot was uneventful and I arrived shortly before 11 AM. Before heading home, I went up into the TrainWeb office in the depot and uploaded all the large photographs. So, you should now be able to click on any image on this page and bring up a full-size photograph!
Last night I had a chance to stop by the Ontario, California station to see the eastbound Amtrak Inaugural Texas Eagle/California Service. It arrived right on time. There were a couple of railfans there to watch it. It still had the exact same consist and configuration as in the morning. Locomotive #21 was still in the lead followed by #22 and #23. All the Sleeping Cars and the 2 Sightseer Lounge Cars were on the train just as they had been in the morning. The only difference between this train and the one that left Chicago last Friday was that the 4 last VIP Coach Cars were gone, thus there were only 3 Coaches instead of 7, and there were no express or mail cars on this train.
I was wondering if they were going to switch the locomotives around to put locomotive #22 in the lead of this train on route #22. But, I guess they didn't think it was worth the trouble of switching everything around. It was really great having locomotive #21 in the lead of the the inaugural Texas Eagle/California Service train on route #21. Once we left San Antonio and headed west, we were officially listed as train #1, on the Sunset Limited schedule. However, many dispatchers, conductors, engineers and others on the radio identify the train by the lead locomotive number rather than the route number. Thus, our train on route #21 continue to be identified as train #21 rather than train #1 over the radio for most of our travel! This train, however, by the same convention will also be identified often as being train #21 on its return journey even though the eastbound route is route #22 (or route #2 for the Amtrak Sunset Limited).
A few people boarded this train in Ontario into the 2130 Missouri Sleeping Car, the very one that I was in on the westbound journey. They did a double-spot on the train to let a couple of people off of one of the VIP Sleeping Cars. This was probably somebody that lived out in this area that had traveled on the morning Texas Eagle to Los Angeles, spent the day with the VIPs, and was returning to his home. That is just my guess.
I got the final word about my cellular phone problems. It was as I had suspected, my calling pattern that triggered the fraud detection software to shut down my service temporarily. Evidently it was the first set of uploads from Albuquerque that set it off. After a discussion with Air Touch, they have placed a notation on my account that should prevent this problem in the future. This is a common problem for some people that do travel around and they have similar notations on their accounts to avoid the problem. Unfortunately, there can be no guarantee that this will solve the problem, but usually the person that investigates the calls will read the notation and not shut down the service.
Before my next rail journey, I will be contacting my cellular provider with my route map. They will make sure that reciprocal agreements are in place throughout my route wherever they can. I will at least be aware in advance of the few areas where they might have difficulty providing cellular service and can plan my uploads around those locations.
The VIP Sleeping Cars are the Superliner II Cars "Arkansas" and "Texas" temporarily borrowed from the Amtrak Coast Starlight for this event. The last four coaches will be turned at San Antonio and added to the return Texas Eagle #22 to accommodate the return VIP crowd. ALL of the Sleeping Cars on this train are Superliner II models. Amtrak decided to use Sleeping Cars that have the names of the states that the train passes through. Since only Superliner II Sleeping Cars have names, they had to use only Superliner II Sleeping Cars!
Although initially listed as an "open" train, it isn't implemented exactly that way. A sign has been posted between the Dining Car and the Arkansas Sleeping Car that indicates that only "Invited Guests" are allowed beyond that point. Since there are a number of "Invited Guests" booked in the regular revenue sleepers, those of us who booked travel on this train specifically to be on this inaugural run are assuming that we are considered "Invited Guests". So far we have not had any problems with access to the special VIP section of the train.