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Dan Chazin's Texas Eagle Travelogue
San Antonio-Chicago
www.trainweb.com/travelogues/chicago/1998e28.html

It's 4:45 a.m. on Thursday, May 28, 1998, and I've just arrived at the Amtrak station in San Antonio, Texas to board Train #22, the Texas Eagle, on my way to Chicago.

My trip began on Tuesday morning with a 7:15 a.m. flight on United Airlines from Newark to Chicago. We arrived in Chicago about half an hour late, and after spending 15 minutes to get over to another terminal, I arrived at the gate just as my flight to San Antonio began to board. The flight to Chicago was quite full, and the San Antonio flight was sold out. Since I had brought along three pieces of baggage, I had to check one of them, and then it took about 25 minutes after the flight arrived in San Antonio before my baggage arrived at the carousel. By then, it was about 12:45 p.m., and since my meeting at the Marriott Rivercenter Hotel was scheduled to begin at 1:30 p.m., I decided to take a cab to the hotel, located in downtown San Antonio, where I arrived at 1:00 p.m. Despite the minor lateness of both flights, United Airlines had succeeded in getting me to my meeting on time, but I had no sense that I had traveled anywhere. I was in Newark Airport, then I was in Chicago's O'Hare Airport, and then I was in San Antonio. But I wasn't anywhere in between. Hopefully, my train trip to Chicago will be a very different experience!

My hotel is conveniently located in the center of town, and after attending yesterday's meeting and then visiting the Alamo, I walked down to the Amtrak station, located only half a mile away. Historically, San Antonio has had a magnificent passenger station, built by the Southern Pacific Railroad in 1902. This rambling, pink stucco building features a beautiful blue stained glass window, reading "Sunset Route MDCCCCII." Indeed, the Rail Ventures book states that "a grand staircase beneath a vivid stained glass window and an arched baroque ceiling give the interior a feeling of opulence rarely found in American train stations." Unfortunately, though, this station is now closed and surrounded by a chain-link fence, and is being remodeled as an "entertainment center." Amtrak passengers are now relegated to an Amshack -- an unattractive, prefabricated building located to the south of the former glorious station. The old wooden benches from the SP station have been moved to the waiting room of the new station, but the station is otherwise without any character. And, apparently, even when the renovation of the new station is complete, no part of it will be used by Amtrak. The closing of this Sunset Station was the subject of some discussion on the Railroad List, and I must agree that the existing station is a disgrace.

Although the station is an easy walk from my hotel, I decided to take a cab, in light of the fact that it was still dark out and I had rather heavy luggage. The ride took only about five minutes. When I arrived at the station at 4:45 a.m., Train #2, the eastbound Sunset Limited, was on the platform. It departed five minutes later, or 15 minutes beyond its scheduled departure time of 4:35 a.m. The baggageman at the station explained that Train #1, the eastbound Sunset Limited, would be pulling into the station next, and that only once this train had departed would my Train #22 be ready for boarding. About 5:05 a.m., a train pulled into the station, but an announcement was made that some switching had to be done, and the train was therefore not yet ready for boarding. It turned out that this train consisted of the cars for Train #22, plus the two cars being transferred from Train #21 to Train #1. (I learned from a passenger who had been on #21 that that train did not arrive until about 4:00 a.m., nearly three hours late!)

Not until 5:45 a.m. did Train #1 arrive at the station. It first pulled forward, beyond the station, and then backed up onto the track immediately adjacent to the station. Passengers were permitted to board, but the two cars from Train #21 still had to be added. I learned from the conductor that, in addition, the order of the two cars had to be switched. This had to be done because the train came in from Chicago facing eastward. The sleeper was in the rear of the train coming into San Antonio, but it had to switch position with the coach so that the sleeper is on the rear of the train going to Los Angeles. (Moreover, as a result, the seats in the coach are now facing the wrong direction. The conductor mentioned that once everyone wakes up in the morning, the attendant will reverse all the seats.) And, it seems, the switching move was further complicated by the fact that the switch engine stationed in San Antonio had run out of fuel! As a result, all switching had to be done by the road power. Seeing all these complications, I mentioned to the conductor of Train #1 that I could now understand why Amtrak tried to eliminate the switching of cars in San Antonio from the Texas Eagle to the Sunset Limited. He responded: "It all would be fine if there were some coordination. But the problem is that there is no coordination!"

Obviously, all these maneuvers took quite some time, and Train #1 did not depart until 6:26 a.m. In the meantime, our Train #22 was pulled forward onto the next track, so that boarding could commence as soon as Train #1 departed. I took a walk around the old station, and then went back into the Amshack to retrieve my baggage and bring it over to the train.

Today's northbound Texas Eagle consists of two Genesis engines, a baggage car, a transition sleeper, my sleeper #32084 Kansas, a diner, a Sightseer Lounge, a smoking coach, a regular Superliner coach with a lower-level handicapped section, and two cars which had come from Los Angeles -- a baggage/coach (with the baggage section on the lower level unused), and the Superliner II sleeper South Dakota. (It is interesting to note that the first two cars of our train had previously been involved in derailments. Our baggage car #1268 was on the Silver Star of May 2, 1995, which hit a tractor-trailer in Sycamore, S.C. The car ended up on its side and suffered an estimated $55,000 in damage. I subsequently noticed a dent on the rear of the left side of the car, which might have been caused by the derailment. Transition sleeper #39027 was on the ill-fated Capitol Limited which was hit by a MARC train that went through a red signal on February 16, 1996. It was damaged in the ensuing derailment. And, I later noticed that the left side of my sleeper Kansas showed scrapes and dents from some kind of an accident.) I boarded my sleeper and went up to my Room #8. I noticed that the room was completely devoid of all amenities -- no souvenir glasses, bottle of wine, piece of chocolate, stationery, etc. Indeed, there was not even a Route Guide in the room (or, for that matter, anywhere else on the train, either)!

After storing my luggage, I detrained and walked down the platform to record the car numbers. At about 6:45 a.m., I noticed that the other cars seemed to have been closed up, so I reboarded the train at the lounge car (against the protests of the attendant, who said he could lose his job if his superiors found out that I had done this!). I returned to my room, where I took out my scanner and started listening to the conversations between the train and the dispatcher. I heard that we would be taking the old Katy line today (apparently, there are two lines that this train can take north of San Antonio, and the dispatcher can decide which one it will be). But we did not depart the station until 7:08 a.m., over an hour late. Then we backed up a considerable distance, passing through a deteriorated neighborhood on the outskirts of the city.

When the conductor came by to collect my ticket, I mentioned to him that I presumed that we would be arriving late at Chicago. He replied that he thought that we would still arrive on time, since there is much make-up time built into the schedule. Well, I guess we will see who is right.

Our back-up move lasted for about 15 minutes, and not until 7:26 a.m. did we start pulling forward again, now proceeding on the old Katy line. I now walked to the back of the train. Since there were no express cars on the rear of the train, the rear sleeper provided an unobstructed view out the back. I noticed that the rear coach, which had come from Los Angeles, was quite full, but the next coach was more than half empty, and only a handful of passengers, all destined for Austin or other local points in Texas, were assigned to the first coach.

I returned to my room and then went to the diner for breakfast. I was seated opposite a couple from northern California, who had flown to Texas for a relative's wedding in Alpine. They took the overnight train from Alpine to San Antonio, where they spent several days, and now were headed back to California. They chose to take the more scenic and longer route via Chicago, then west on the California Zephyr. The couple was planning to take the train leaving tomorrow at 3:05 p.m., giving them only an hour and a half to make the connection. We'll see if our train arrives in time for that!

I noticed that the breakfast was being served on plastic plates, although regular silverware was used. My waiter was quite friendly, and the meal was served promptly. During breakfast, we made a brief stop at San Marcos. The old station building here has been converted to another use, and the trains stop at a picnic shelter with benches inside. Interestingly, there does not appear to be a standard Amtrak sign to designate the station. Rather, a wooden sign reading "Amtrak Stop" has been placed at the entrance to the driveway leading into the station.

Our next stop was Austin, the capitol of Texas. We crossed the Colorado River and arrived at the relatively modern, yellow- brick station at 9:24 a.m. I got off the train at the first coach and took some pictures. A number of passengers boarded here, and much baggage had to be loaded and unloaded. As a result, the station stop took eight minutes. When we departed at 9:32 p.m., we were 51 minutes late. But, despite a lot of slow running, we have already made up 17 minutes since our tardy departure from San Antonio. The conductor does seem to have been correct when he told me that the schedule has plenty of padding!

I returned to my room to update these memoirs. Then, at 9:52 a.m., we came to a stop, right next to a large cement plant. On the scanner, I hear the crew commenting that there is some switching being done ahead of us. We stayed put for five minutes, and then continued on our way.

At 10:24 a.m., we made a brief stop at Taylor, where several passengers boarded the train. Here, we switch from the old Missouri Pacific trackage to the old Katy Railroad. The brick station here is closed and bears a sign: "Private Property -- No Trespassing -- Union Pacific Railroad." Only a faded free- standing Amtrak sign gives any indication that trains stop here.

I then walked back again to the end of the train, where I started talking to a woman standing there. She had boarded the train in Tucson and was going to St. Louis, and also liked to look out the back of the train. I took some video pictures as we crossed a single-track truss bridge and then passed a long Union Pacific freight train on a siding. I remarked that, for once, the freight train was put on a siding so that we could proceed!

I returned to my room and started listening to the scanner. First, I heard a defect detector announce our speed at 48 miles per hour. (We certainly weren't setting any speed records here!) Then, I heard the Union Pacific dispatcher issue a track warrant to a freight train, which was "not in effect until the passage of Amtrak #14" (designating the number of our train's lead engine). I was somewhat puzzled by this, since I had recently read on the Railroad List that UP had stopped issuing "not in effect until" orders in light of last year's head-on collision, which was caused by a dispatcher error in issuing such an order.

I again had the opportunity to step off the train at Temple, where we arrived at 11:30 a.m. Here, we join the Santa Fe line to Fort Worth. The station here is the old Santa Fe station, a huge brick-and-stucco structure with the classic Santa Fe cross embedded onto the facade. It seems to be way out of proportion to the needs of this relatively minor stop, where perhaps a dozen passengers boarded the train (the station is still served by a agent). Of particular interest were an old engine (Santa Fe #2301) and two passenger cars parked on a siding. One car was an old Pullman car, with boarded-up windows, named Clover Glade. The other was Amtrak sleeper #2986, named Pine Mesa. My records indicate that I had observed this ex-Santa Fe car on the Montrealer in May 1994, that it was removed from service by Amtrak in July 1995, and that it was offered for sale a few months later. Apparently, it was purchased by some private individual, and now sits on a siding here along with two other decrepit pieces of equipment. We spent four minutes in Temple, and left at 11:34 a.m., still 54 minutes late. By now, passengers were sitting in most seats in the second coach, although the first coach was still largely empty. The coach attendant assured me, though, that it would fill up once we got to Fort Worth and Dallas.

I returned to my room and did some work. We made a brief stop at McGregor at 12:02 p.m, but I could not see the station since it was on the opposite side of the tracks from my room. North of McGregor, the scenery became a little more interesting, with some low rolling hills and a few rock cuts.

About 12:35 p.m., the first call was made for lunch. I was getting rather hungry, so I immediately went to the dining car and was seated at a table with a family of three (husband, wife and young son). They lived in South Bend, Indiana and were returning from a visit with her family in Austin, Texas (where she grew up). All three of them were sharing Economy Bedroom #5 in my car. She explained that this is the first time they took the train, and that the ride down was, the most part, quite pleasant. They chose to take the train because she doesn't like to fly. For this meal, plastic silverware was used together with plastic plates.

After lunch, I again walked to the back of the train, and spent some time in an unoccupied coach seat. At one point, I clocked the train going a mile in 46 seconds, which translates to 79 miles an hour. But we generally were traveling much slower than this. Our next stop was in the small town of Cleburne at 1:27 p.m. The station here is virtually non-existent. It consists of a small gazebo without seats and an Amtrak sign. There is hardly even a platform. Although I did not see any passengers getting on or off, the stop for some reason lasted for three minutes, and when we left at 1:30 p.m., we were an hour and nine minutes late.

When I returned to my car, my friend from Room #5 asked if I had seen the flood downstairs in our car. I walked down there and found that water was dripping in a number of places from the ceiling. Brown paper bags and towels had been placed on the floor to partially contain the water, but it still was a mess. I'm glad that I have an upper-level room for this trip! (Subsequently, a cold-water pipe in one of the deluxe bedrooms was found to be leaking, and the water to that room was shut off, which solved the problem.)

Now we were approaching Fort Worth. We passed through the suburban areas of the city, and then, at 2:08 p.m., we came to a stop. After five minutes, we started moving again. The conductor made an announcement on the loudspeaker that we were delayed by a red signal, and that we would be in the station in about five minutes. And, sure enough, at 2:18 p.m. we arrived at the old Santa Fe station in Fort Worth. I got off the train and walked into this old, cavernous station, which was now entirely empty. It is a beautiful station, but the paint on the ceiling is peeling, and the building -- located next to parking lots on the outskirts of downtown -- otherwise shows signs of neglect. There used to be quite a number of platforms and tracks at this station, connected to the station building by a pedestrian underpass, but now only one track is used for passenger trains (although Amtrak express cars are stored on some others), and the underpass is closed off. I took some pictures, checked my messages, mailed some postcards, and then returned to the train to get my video camera. At about 2:38 p.m., an "all aboard" announcement was made, but there was a problem with the air conditioning in one car, and as a result, we did not actually leave the station until 2:54 p.m. We were still an hour and four minutes late, not having made up any significant time since our tardy departure from San Antonio.

We backed out of the station, soon passing the famous Tower 55 of Railroad List fame. I saw the construction of the new highway interchange overhead -- referred to by John Smith as "construction destruction." After about ten minutes, we stopped, and then proceeded forward, making a sharp right turn just beyond the tower. Now we were going east, towards Dallas. Twice, we stopped briefly for a red signals, but quickly got clearance from the dispatcher to proceed ahead. I also heard on the scanner a comment regarding a gas leak that might prevent us from pulling into the Dallas station, but the dispatcher soon assured us that everything was clear and we could proceed straight to Dallas.

At 4:11 p.m., we pulled into Dallas Union Station. Somewhat to my surprise (although I had heard about it on the Railroad List earlier in the week), to our left was the Union Pacific business train, with its cars resplendent in their yellow paint. I detrained and talked to the attendant in the rear car of the UP train, dressed in a spotless white uniform. He explained that this train would just be going to Fort Worth, but it would subsequently be going back to Omaha. He also mentioned that the rear open-end observation car was built in 1912, but that the other cars (including the dome car) were built in the 1950s. Seeing this train was quite a treat!

Dallas Union Station has changed tremendously since I was last here in 1994. Then, only Amtrak trains (one train a day in each direction) operated to the station, and passengers just walked out from the station to the track to board the train. At that time, there were only two tracks used by Amtrak, and the rear of the station was used for parking. Now, there are five active tracks, with two used by Amtrak (the UP train was on one of these tracks), two used by DART, the local light-rail system, and one used by the commuter Trinity Rail Express. I saw several DART trains go by while our train was in the station. Although walkways at grade remain between all the tracks and the station, there are also stairways and elevators to a pedestrian underpass. Indeed, it was necessary to use the underpass while our train was in the station, since the train blocked the at-grade walkway leading to the station. I would have liked to spend some time exploring the newly-expanded station, but we spent only ten minutes at the station, and pulled out at 4:21 p.m.

But we didn't go very far. We moved forward a short distance, then backed up. The conductor explained that we were adding express cars to the rear of the train. We briefly moved forward, and then sat still again. It seemed that radio communications were on some frequency that I hadn't set my scanner for (and that was not included in Steve Grande's route description, where I had gotten my radio frequency information from), so I walked to the back of the train again. On the way, the conductor told me that we were waiting for some other train. From the back of the last sleeper, I could see a silver express car, which almost completely blocked the view from the rear. (It seems that these new express cars are somewhat higher than the old baggage cars and MHC's. When those cars were coupled at the end of a Superliner train, you could still see above them.)

I returned to my room and did some work on the trail descriptions for the New Jersey Walk Book. It was rather frustrating having no idea what was happening with the train, but I was using the time quite productively. Finally, at 5:07 p.m., we started moving forward again, and departed from the station. We had spent close to an hour in Dallas, and were now nearly two hours late. Quite a number of passengers had boarded in Fort Worth and Dallas, and by now, most of the seats in the first coach were occupied by at least one passenger.

While in the station, I noticed what appeared to be some passenger cars at the end of the train. Now that we were moving, I could see, as we rounded a curve, that there were three silver express cars at the rear of our original consist, and these were followed by three passenger cars. They consisted of a car painted in non-Amtrak colors, a full-length dome in Amtrak colors, and a car with an open-air observation platform. Of course, the three express cars were placed between these passenger cars and the rest of the train, and in any event, there would have been no way to access these single-level cars from the Superliner sleeper at the rear of the train.

The scenery east of Dallas is nothing really special, although we did pass through some interesting little towns. I remained in my room, continuing to work on the New Jersey Walk Book. I did notice, at 5:50 p.m., that we were passing the beautifully restored brick station in Terrell (of course, passenger trains no longer stop here).

The dining car attendant had previously gone through to take dinner reservations and, since I was rather hungry, chose the 6:00 p.m. dinner sitting. So I now went to the dining car, where I was seated next to an older woman who was traveling from Fort Worth to Michigan to visit her children. She would be taking this train to Chicago, where she would transfer to a train to Grand Rapids, where she would be picked up. She mentioned that she had never flown, and much preferred the train to the bus. Opposite me were two women going from Dallas to Chicago, but they didn't talk very much during the meal.

Tonight, the meals were being served on plastic plates, but there were linen tablecloths in addition to the metal silverware. As was the case with the other meals, only half of the dining car was being used, with the ten available tables providing space for 40 people to be seated. The attendant explained that there were not enough staff to utilize more than half of the car, and stated that there would probably be three sittings for dinner. If that ends up being the case, the use of half of the car is probably adequate, although some people might have a rather late dinner!

We arrived at Mineola at 6:38 p.m., having lost some additional time since leaving Dallas. This is a relatively new stop for Amtrak, due largely to the persistence of the mayor of the community, who was also a leading figure in the fight to save the Texas Eagle last year. Interestingly, the town is not even mentioned in the Rail Ventures book! There is a rather quaint main street facing the tracks, with the yellow-brick station serving as a combination railroad museum and Amtrak waiting room. We made two stops here, and pulled forward to leave at 6:44 p.m.

But, again, we didn't get very far. We moved ahead a short distance, and then started backing up, finally stopping west of the station. In the process, we had switched to another track. Soon an announcement was made over the loudspeaker that we had to wait for a freight train to come by, and then we would be moving again. Sure enough, after about a 15-minute delay, the freight train passed to our right, and we finally started moving again at 7:10 p.m. We had lost another half an hour, this time due to the host railroad's decision to give a freight train priority over us. Now, we were nearly two hours and 45 minutes late. As I had figured when we left San Antonio, it is now nearly inconceivably for us to arrive in Chicago on time. I just hope that we don't lose much more additional time on the way!

Our next unscheduled stop was at Big Sandy, about halfway between Mineola and Longview. There is a junction here and, at 7:40 p.m., after taking the left fork, we came to a halt. We remained here, not moving. I noticed that at the front of the train there was a Union Pacific office, and that several crew members appeared to be walking around outside, next to the train.

I walked towards the back of the train and took some video pictures. I was fascinated by this small town, with a tiny City Hall and adjacent community center. But I still couldn't understand why we were waiting here so long.

Finally, at 8:01 p.m., as I was walking through the diner on the way back to my room, we started moving again. I saw Michael, the On-Board Chief, there, and asked him what was going on. He replied that the line we were supposed to take via Longview and Marshall was washed out, and therefore we had to detour on another line. Because our regular crew was not qualified over this line, we had to wait for a Union Pacific pilot crew. And we would be skipping the scheduled stops of Longview and Marshall, with all passengers to those stops having been taken off the train in Mineola and bused to their destinations. Michael also mentioned that an announcement to this effect had been made, but because the loudspeaker in my sleeper was not working properly, the announcement was barely audible, and I had not heard it.

Well, at least that explains what is happening. And, now I will be covering some rare mileage! Moreover, from the map, it would appear that the route we will be taking is more direct than our normal route via Longview and Marshall. So we might possibly make up a little time. But, it is already after 8:00 p.m., and we are scheduled to arrive in Texarkana at 7:56 p.m. And we have over 100 miles to go before we get there!

In the meantime, I happened to discover on my scanner -- more by luck than anything else -- the correct channel. It turns out that the line we are on now, an ex-SP line, uses Channel 14 (160.320). For the first time in about four hours, I heard some communications on the scanner. It was certainly frustrating not to be able to listen to the scanner during the long delays that we had just experienced -- especially since the conductors hang out in the transition sleeper, which is supposed to be off-limits to regular passengers.

I might add that in the four hours that had elapsed from the time we arrived in Dallas to the time we left Big Sandy, we had covered only about 105 miles, thus averaging 26 miles an hour! Now I heard an announcement on the defect detector that we were going 46 miles an hour. We clearly are not setting any speed records tonight.

It was now getting dark, and the scenery consisted mainly of trees and fields. I turned the lights out in my room, and noticed that at 8:43 p.m., we passed through the town of Pittsburg, with a brick station still in good condition. There were frequent grade crossings along this line, with the horn of the engine constantly sounding a warning. Soon, it became completely dark.

About 9:30 p.m., I walked back to the lounge car, intending to sit there for a while at a lower-level table. But I found that there was some movie playing, and the lights throughout the car had been dimmed. I wanted to do some reading, but that was not possible in the lounge car given the absence of light. So, although there were plenty of empty seats in the car, I just purchased a bag of pretzels and returned to my room, where I ate the pretzels along with some beer I had brought with me. To me, these movies are nothing more than an annoyance which prevents me from enjoying the facilities of the lounge car.

I turned on the scanner again, and heard the crew reporting to the dispatcher that they had observed a broken rail at milepost 450.6. They indicated that our train (luckily!) had passed over it without any problems, but wanted to warn the dispatcher to have it fixed. Sometime later, at 10:05 p.m., I hear the defect detector at milepost 443.1 announce that we are going only 16 miles an hour! Apparently, we have had to restrict our speed because of the poor condition of this section of track.

At about 10:40 p.m., I heard on the scanner the engineer calling the dispatcher to obtain permission to enter the yard in Texarkana. We were granted the requested permission, but then we were informed that there was a freight train in front of the depot, thus blocking access to the station. I then heard the train crew calling the station on the radio and asking if the people waiting for the train could be transported by van down to a place where the train would be accessible. It looks like we will be encountering even further delays as a result!

We came to a stop at 10:52 p.m., and didn't start moving again for eight minutes. Then, we moved forward a short distance and again stopped. In the meantime, I went back to the lounge car. I found that the upper level was freezing and completely deserted, while there were some passengers at the tables on the lower level, with the snack bar still open for service. I returned to my room. Then, at 11:10 p.m., a van pulled up to the right of the train. However, it appears that the van could not get to the station unless our train moved. On the scanner, I heard various suggestions as to how we could possibly move the train to permit the crossing to be unblocked.

Finally, permission was obtained to move the train, and we pulled onto a track directly in front of the station. Indeed, the massive station was visible to the left through some open freight cars. But there was a freight train on the track between us and the station, and as a result, all passengers had to board at the rear of the train, some distance to the south, after having been transported there by van. This process, as might be expected, took some time, and we did not leave Texarkana until 11:49 p.m., having lost close to an hour due to the complicated arrangements for boarding passengers. All of this could have been avoided had the Union Pacific Railroad found some way to move the freight train that was parked directly in front of the station.

I had hoped to step off the train during our stop in Texarkana, but in light of the unusual method followed in boarding the train, I figured that I better just stay on the train. It was now close to midnight, and I decided that I should try to go to sleep. A little while earlier, the attendant had come by and told me that he assumed that I knew how to make the bed myself, and therefore there would be no need for him to perform this service for me. He was correct, of course, but I felt it was a little presumptuous of him to make such an assumption. Actually, I haven't traveled in a Superliner Economy Bedroom in some time, but I remembered the steps necessary to make the bed. (You have to push down both facing seats, then open the upper berth and take the bedding down from there.) I climbed into bed, and fell asleep rather quickly.

I think I slept through our stops in Arkadelphia and Malvern, but woke up about 2:45 a.m., during our stop in Little Rock. I quickly recognized the huge station building to the right of the train. When we departed from Little Rock at 2:49 a.m., we were precisely four hours late. I woke up again at about 4:30 a.m., when we seemed to be stopped in the middle of nowhere. From the transmissions on the scanner, I gathered that the conductor was inspecting the train (perhaps a defect detector had given a false positive reading). When we began to move a few minutes later, I heard the conductor state that 13 minutes of delay should be allocated to this inspection.

Having slept over four hours pretty solidly, I was now wide awake. I stayed in bed for over an hour, as it gradually got lighter. Periodically, I would look out of the window, but unfortunately the lower bunk in a Superliner Economy Bedroom is a little too low to permit you to look out the window without raising your head somewhat. We made a brief stop at Walnut Ridge, Arkansas at 5:05 a.m. Finally, I got out of bed around 5:45 a.m., got dressed, and walked back to the last coaches. I noticed that almost every pair of seats in all three coaches was occupied by at least one passenger. A few minutes later, we stopped for ten minutes to wait for the southbound Texas Eagle to pass us. I saw the Eagle go by at 6:06 a.m., and then we stopped at Poplar Bluff, Missouri at 6:15 a.m. Although two passengers boarded my car here, we stopped for only a minute, and I didn't have a chance to step off the train. Now we were four hours and 22 minutes late. The conductor indicated to me that we should not lose any more time on our way to St. Louis (the next stop), but that we shouldn't expect to make up any time, either.

Now we were passing through the Ozarks of southern Missouri. The terrain becomes hilly, with a number of rock cuts and many curves. This is actually the most scenic part of the ride, but it is normally covered in both directions during the hours of darkness. So, in a sense, we have the good fortune to cover this stretch in daylight, due to our late running. (Actually, this is the second time I've covered this piece of track during daylight hours. In 1991, when I first traveled on the Texas Eagle from Dallas to Chicago, the train ran about eight hours late!)

I went downstairs and took a shower, with the water being quite warm. Then I got dressed and went to the diner for breakfast. I was seated opposite a couple from Stevens Point, Wisconsin who were returning from a trip to Dallas. They were quite upset at our late running, as she was active in her church and had agreed to serve as an usher for a wedding to be held tomorrow. Their plan was to take the 3:15 p.m. Amtrak train from Chicago to Milwaukee, where they would catch a Greyhound bus to Stevens Point. But it now appeared very unlikely that they would make the 3:15 p.m. train to Milwaukee, and although there are later trains, there apparently is no later bus to Stevens Point. So they didn't know what they would do when they got to Chicago. The wife also mentioned to me that they were occupying Deluxe Bedroom A in my car, and stated that she does not like this room because a small piece has been cut off to provide increased space for the corridor.

Seated next to me was a man from was returning to Pontiac, Michigan after visiting his son in Texas. He and his wife had boarded the train in Dallas, and were assigned to the Los Angeles sleeper at the end of the train, where they occupied a Deluxe Bedroom. (He mentioned that his wife liked to sleep late, and that is why he showed up for breakfast without her.) He was also concerned about the lateness of our train, since their connecting train was scheduled to leave at 5:15 p.m., and it appeared rather unlikely that they would make it. Both couples had done extensive traveling by Amtrak, with the woman from Stevens Point relating to me how she once took about ten children and grandchildren on an Amtrak trip to California, including a ride on the Coast Starlight.

After breakfast, I took some video pictures from the lounge car, and then returned to my room, where I took out my computer and continued updating these memoirs. Soon, we began running directly alongside the Mississippi River, signifying that we were quite near St. Louis. Then we began to enter the trackage of the Terminal Railroad Association of St. Louis. This stretch of track is always a bottleneck, and we crawled along at a very slow rate of speed.

Once we arrived in St. Louis, I wanted to check out the freight and private cars that had been added at the rear of the train. So I decided to get off at the last coach, where I would be quite close to these cars. While waiting in the vestibule of this coach as we approached the station, the conductor told me that the private cars on the rear had been used by Amtrak for a special inspection train running through Oklahoma to Fort Worth, and were now being deadheaded back to Chicago.

We finally arrived in St. Louis at 10:08 a.m., almost exactly four hours late. For the first time since we arrived in Dallas nearly 16 hours previously, I got off the train and immediately walked back to inspect the private cars. The first car, lettered for the Pullman Company, was named Miami Beach, and was assigned the Amtrak number 10020. The next car was the full- length dome Mountain View, painted in Amtrak colors and assigned the number 10030. The last car was named Georgia. I took some video and still pictures of these cars. In the meantime, I had been informed by an Amtrak worker that another car had to be added at the back of the passenger section of the train. To enable this to happen, a Genesis engine was assigned to pull the express and private cars off the train. It turned out that the car being added was a Superliner coach, for use of local passengers boarding in St. Louis. Interestingly, it was added at the rear of the last sleeper, so that the coach passengers would in this car would have to go through that sleeper to get to the lounge and dining cars. It seems to me that it would have been just as easy to add the additional coach in front of the last sleeper, thereby obviating this problem. Indeed, in San Antonio, time was wasted moving cars around just to avoid the very same problem!

I then went into the station, called my cousin Debbie to inform her of my expected late arrival, and then checked my messages. By now, it was 10:35 a.m., and the final boarding call had already been made. So I quickly returned to the train. At 10:41 a.m., the blue flags were removed, and we pulled up to enable the rear cars to be watered. And then, at 10:48 a.m., this operation was completed, and we pulled forward to depart.

But, again, we only moved a few feet. We stopped, and on the scanner I heard the engineer calling the dispatcher for permission to proceed. A few minutes later, he replied that we could start moving once some other trains had cleared the bridge ahead. To our right, I could see two long freight trains proceeding westbound. Apparently, we were being held for these trains to clear the track that we would have to use. Again, we had been delayed by freight trains that were given priority over us. Not until 11:02 a.m. did we get permission to resume our journey to Chicago. We are still just over four hours late. If we don't make up any more time, we'll be arriving in Chicago about 5:30 p.m.

In the meantime, the new conductor informed me that once we start moving, it should take us about five and one-half hours to reach Chicago. That would mean that we should get there about 4:30 p.m., and that we would be making up an hour of lost time. I hope he is right. Debbie informed me that my cousin Aaron is planning to take the 5:30 p.m. Metra commuter train to Edgebrook, and it would be nice if I could join him on that train, since he will have his car at the station.

We proceeded directly east and crossed the MacArthur Bridge, then swung around to the north. Although the route along the western shore of the Mississippi which leads to the Merchants Bridge was recently reopened (with the trestle in front of the Gateway Arch having been completely rebuilt), the conductor explained that there was some track work on this route, so we were routed the other way by the dispatcher. He also mentioned that we are restricted to 30 miles an hour on the next stretch of track, owned by the Gateway Western Railroad, but that our speed will increase once we pass Lenox Tower and proceed along Union Pacific trackage. And, indeed, once we passed that tower, our speed increased significantly.

But then, at about 11:50 a.m., we stopped again, this time to wait for a freight train to get out of our way. After wasting another ten minutes, we began to move again, and at 12:09 p.m., we arrived at Alton, Illinois. I went back to the last car and stepped off the train briefly to take some pictures. We left two minutes later, and were now four hours and 23 minutes late.

One would have assumed that, due to the late arrival of the train in Chicago, a complimentary lunch would be served to all passengers. Or, at the very least, one would expect that the dining car would remain open to serve lunch. But neither was the case. No lunch service at all was provided for passengers -- even for first-class passengers in the sleepers! Instead, at 12:15 p.m., an announcement was made that the dining car is still open for breakfast! And another announcement was made that the lounge car still has two kinds of sandwiches left. I was quite surprised by this. Indeed, I think that Amtrak should serve lunch on this train even when it arrives on time in Chicago at 1:35 p.m.! But not to provide lunch when the train does not arrive until after 5:00 p.m. is inexcusable.

On the way north from St. Louis, I looked at the Great Lakes West volume of the Steam Powered Videos that I had brought with me, and noticed that an abandoned line of the Illinois Terminal Railroad was running parallel to us on the left. The right of way was distinctly visible, with even telegraph poles and rails remaining in some places. It was nice being able to utilize this book, which I acquired only recently.

We made a brief stop at Carlinville at 12:44 p.m. This stop had never been made by the Texas Eagle until last year. Apparently, when Amtrak decided to discontinue the Eagle south of St. Louis, they figured that the remaining train north of St. Louis might as well make all the local stops. And then, when the decision was made to continue the entire train to San Antonio, the local stops remained in the timetable. The number of passengers boarding here is minuscule, and it would seem that Amtrak should consider eliminating this and the other two local stops recently added (Pontiac and Dwight) so as to speed up the operation of this train. At 1:09 p.m., we passed the southbound Ann Rutledge, on its way to St. Louis. We had to slow down for the meet, but never came to a stop.

When we arrived in Springfield at 1:27 p.m., I stepped off the train briefly. Here, a number of passengers who were connecting to the California Zephyr detrained, since our late arrival in Chicago would have resulted in them missing their connection. Instead, Amtrak provided a van to shuttle them to Galesburg, where they could catch their train. (Actually, looking back at my memoirs from my 1994 trip, it seems that this van is provided all of the time, even when the train is on time. It seems that Amtrak feels that even if the train is on time leaving Springfield, it might be delayed on the way to Chicago, and much distance is cut out by this van shuttle.)

On the way back to my room, I stopped in the lounge car, where I started talking with a boy and his grandmother who were traveling from Walnut Ridge, Arkansas to Chicago, and then to Michigan. They were trying to connect to the 5:15 p.m. train in Chicago, and I told them that the train would probably be held for them (and for others). The boy mentioned to me that they ended up waiting last night at the Amtrak station in Walnut Ridge for about four hours, and got no sleep. They did try to check with Amtrak in the afternoon as to the timeliness of the train, but were informed at that time that we were only an hour late (which, at the time, was true). The boy mentioned to me that he would just as soon have flown, but the grandmother refuses to fly.

We arrived at Lincoln at 1:58 p.m., and at Bloomington- Normal at 2:34 p.m. The stop at Lincoln was very brief, but the train made two stops at Bloomington-Normal. When we departed there, we were four hours and 11 minutes late.

Yesterday, I (along with every other passenger in the sleepers) was given a coupon good for one free soft drink in the lounge car. I hadn't used it yet (although I often took advantage of the free juice available in our car). So I went down to the lower level of the lounge car, where I redeemed the coupon for a free Pepsi. I brought along material for our new Catskill map set, and for the first time on the trip, I spent some time sitting at a table in the lounge car. We made brief stops at Pontiac at 3:06 p.m., and at Dwight at 3:26 p.m. The conductor confirmed that we should be arriving in Chicago about an hour and a half after we leave Dwight, so that would put us into Chicago at 4:56 p.m. Maybe this is a little optimistic, but there does seem to be a chance that I will make my 5:30 p.m. Metra train.

At about 3:45 p.m., I walked to the back of the train for the last time. By now, quite a few passengers had boarded the train at stops north of St. Louis, and I counted 42 passengers occupying the 60 upper-level seats in the rear coach, besides three on the lower level. Then I returned to my room. We now were approaching Joliet, our last stop before Chicago. At 4:00 p.m., we came to a stop, some distance south of the station. The engineer asked for permission to proceed into the station, but was told by the dispatcher that he would have to wait for a Metra train to clear the diamond. I heard him tell the train crew: "I think we should have been out of there by now, but you know, Metra runs this outfit." We waited there for about six minutes, and then pulled into the station, where we made one very brief stop, and departed at 4:09 p.m. Our train was routed onto the track furthest away from the station, so the detraining passengers had to cross the other tracks on a wooden walkway to reach the station.

Soon, we would be arriving at Union Station in Chicago, so I started putting all my belongings away and brought my suitcase downstairs to prepare for our arrival. At about 4:35 p.m., I heard on the scanner an instruction to our train to "pull everything into Track 26." In other words, we would be coming in without a back-up move, and without having to stop in order to remove the express cars and private cars from the rear of the train. I was glad to hear that we will not be further delayed by such moves. Then an announcement is made over the loudspeaker regarding passengers who have connections to make in Chicago. We are told that Amtrak will have a van to transport to stations up to Minneapolis those passengers who have missed the Empire Builder, but that passengers for stations west of Minneapolis will be put up in a hotel at Amtrak's expense and will be taking tomorrow's train instead. As for passengers heading to Michigan on Train #354, we are informed that this train (scheduled to depart at 5:15 p.m.) is departing from Track 18, and will be held pending the arrival of our train. So everyone headed to Michigan will make their connection! I wonder, though, how my friends from Stevens Point will fare. (As to those passengers making connections with trains to New York and Washington, those trains do not leave until after 7:00 p.m., so there will not be a problem making those connections.)

Next, I hear a message on the scanner from the dispatcher that a certain 87-year-old man was supposed to get off the train at Joliet but did not, and his family, who was waiting for him at the Joliet station, is very concerned about his welfare. A search was made of the train and, sure enough, the elderly gentleman who was traveling from Springfield to Joliet, was found safe and sound in one of the coaches. The train crew said that they would bring him to station services in Chicago where, presumably, he could be put on the next train back to Joliet. One wonders how something like this could have happened. The coach attendants are responsible for making sure that all passengers get off the train at their designated stops, and one would think that special efforts would be made to ensure that an elderly passenger detrains at his destination. Very few passengers got off at Joliet, but this should only make it easier for the car attendant to ensure that the few passengers who are supposed to get off here in fact do so. In any event, the family must have been relieved to hear that he was just fine and still aboard the train.

At 4:58 p.m., a few miles south of the station, we came to a stop, and waited about ten minutes. But once we started moving again, we proceeded straight ahead into the station without further delay, and we came to a stop on Track 26 at 5:13 p.m. I promptly detrained and proceeded into the station (it was certainly convenient that I was in the first passenger car on the train!). I went to the Metra ticket window where I purchased a ticket for Glenbrook, and then boarded the rear car of the 5:30 p.m. Fox Lake train on Track 15. The whole procedure took less than ten minutes, and by 5:21 p.m. I was aboard the train. A few minutes later, my cousin Aaron boarded the same car (I had remembered that he always rides in the last car), and we arrived at the Glenbrook station about 25 minutes later. By 6:10 p.m., we were at my cousin's home.

My trip from San Antonio to Chicago was very enjoyable. It was enhanced by the opportunity to see the Union Pacific train in Dallas, the addition of the private cars at the end of the train, and the "rare mileage" due to the detour from Big Sandy to Texarkana. The delays -- which were due to the fault of both Amtrak and the freight railroads, primarily Union Pacific -- did not bother me significantly, but quite a number of passengers on the train were seriously inconvenienced as a result. The action of the UP dispatcher in putting us on the wrong track in Texarkana was particularly incredible! And I found it really hard to believe that Amtrak would not serve any lunch to passengers on the train when we didn't arrive in Chicago until after 5:00 p.m. But I certainly had a very nice trip, and I'm looking forward to my trip next week back to the east coast on the Cardinal.


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