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Rich's 1998 Amtrak Trip



Chicago, Illinois to Washington, DC

July 30-31, 1998

As things turned out, I had plenty of time to make my connection to the Capitol Ltd, since the Capitol was to leave Chicago late after all. Apparently the Capitol uses the same equipment as either the Empire Builder or the Southwest Chief, and that train had arrived late into Chicago on this day. I placed my suitcases in the very crowded Chicago Metropolitan Lounge again, and walked around watching the normal late-evening confusion in Chicago Union Station that is always present. We finally boarded the Capitol, and the train left Chicago at 8:45 PM, 1 hr 25 minutes late. I had almost a 5-hour layover in Washington, DC, for my next connection, so really had no need to formulate a "contingency plan" for this connection. According to, the Capitol had been running within 2 hours of schedule for the last few weeks, so I had nothing to worry about. We had no sooner pulled out of the station, however, when we had to stop to add some MHC's to the back of the train (MHC's are "material handling cars" -- AMTRAK's recently-inaugurated "freight service"). This move took 10 or 15 minutes, and by 9:15 PM, we were again underway. I was in Room 7 of the sleeper (didn't record name of Superliner sleeper this segment) on this trip, and the attendant was a very pleasant woman named "Laverne."

We pulled out of the Hammond/Whiting, IN, station 1 hr 20 minutes late, and I had gone to the diner for dinner. In spite of the late scheduled departure of the Capitol from Chicago, dinner is still served on the train upon departure. I sat with a woman from Vienna, Virginia, a manufacturing representative from Kansas City, and a young redheaded woman who owns an automobile repair business. We left the Elkhart station 1 hr 20 minutes late, so at least we were not losing any more time on this train so far. I retired to my room after the Elkhart station, and went to bed for the night.

(Railroad Log #20b- Cleveland to Washington)

After several days in the beautiful and scenic western portion of the country, the ride on the Capitol Ltd is rather anti-climactic, so I did not make as many observations in my video account of this portion. I took no video the first evening on board the Capitol, but the next morning, I was again up early and found a seat in the nearly empty Sightseer Lounge, and again oriented myself in my map books. For those readers who are reading about my trip for the first time with this submittal (see also Parts 1 through 5, posted on this TrainWeb site), I have assembled a series of detailed map books covering all the AMTRAK routes, from 7.5-minute scale (1:24,000) topographic maps published by the U.S. Geological Survey. The maps have been organized into 50 or so "railroad logs," each one covering an entire short AMTRAK route, or one portion of a longer route. The headings above each section of my Train Web submittals identify the log which covers the portion of the route I am writing about. I am toying with the idea of making these logs available on line some dau, either through TrainWeb, a yet-to-be-produced personal Web site, or by other means.

I awoke in eastern Ohio, and the first towns I was able to find in my map book were Columbiana and East Palestine. I estimated we were about 2 hours late, but would know for sure when we departed Pittsburgh. Even though we were running late, there were no significant freight delays on this segment, and the crew was much friendlier and more service-oriented than the crew on the California Zephyr had been. There were several fellow passengers on this train who had been on the Zephyr with me, and I continued hearing "horror stories" about the Zephyr and its crew all day! I do not believe in personally attacking or slandering any AMTRAK crew member from any train, so I will not include any specific comments I heard about any specific crew member in this submittal. I was able to take some good video of scenery along the Beaver and Ohio Rivers this morning as we headed for Pittsburgh.

As we arrived in Pittsburgh, I was sitting in the Sightseer Lounge, and it seemed to be rather chilly in the lounge this morning. The air conditioning apparently had been set a little too cold, so it was uncomfortable for a while, and I was considering changing out of my shorts and T-shirt into bluejeans and a sweatshirt, but the temperature soon became more tolerable as it got later in the morning, and as the lounge began to fill with other passengers. After being in the hot Pacific Parlour Car on the Coast Starlight (see Part 4 of this report), I suppose I shouldn't complain if this car were a bit chilly for an hour or so. Next to the Capitol in the Pittsburgh station was the Pennsylvanian, which would soon be departing Pittsburgh for New York. According to the timetable, I also expected to see the Three Rivers pull into Pittsburgh from Chicago while we were in the station, but never saw it -- apparently it was running late today. Soon after we departed Pittsburgh 1 hr 49 minutes late, the dining car steward announced that breakfast was now being served, even though the diner had actually already been open for an hour or so and people were eating. As stated before in this report, I do not normally eat breakfast on my trips, even if I am traveling 1st class, which, of course, includes three meals a day. I will always have lunch and dinner in the diner, however.

We departed Connellsville, PA, 1 hr 52 minutes late, and, as the train traveled along the Youghiogheny River, several whitewater rafters were enjoying the river. I concentrated most of my efforts for the next couple hours videotaping the scenery along the Youghiogheny and Casselman Rivers. Today there seemed to be a large population of Canadian Geese in the Casselman River. I soon had lunch in the diner, and sat with a redheaded woman and her daughter, who had been in the room across from me on the Zephyr, and a woman who was formerly a hostess in Reno and was moving back to Miami Beach. She too was on the Zephyr with me. During lunch, I continued to hear "horror stories" about the crew of the Zephyr.

We departed Cumberland just under 2 hours late, and my videotaping efforts for the rest of the afternoon focused on the scenery along the North Branch Potomac River, and later the main branch of the Potomac. The Capitol kept up speed, however, and we had virtually no freight delays the rest of the day. The only additional time which was lost was likely due to longer-than-usual "load times" at the stations, and there was one small area east of Cumberland where some track work on the CSX line was underway.

We departed Harpers Ferry, WV, 2 hrs 10 minutes late, and Rockville, MD, 2 hours 12 minutes late. I had returned to my room before the Rockville station, in preparation for arrival in Washington, DC. From the sleeper I was able to watch the Metro commuter trains on the adjacent track, on their way into or out of Washington Union Station. I was also looking for a vantage point from which to take a video of the skyline of downtown Washington a few miles away from Union Station, so asked Laverne the car attendant. She didn't think there were any good video vantage points, and that turned out to be accurate.

Soon it was time to end yet another segment of the 1998 trip, as the Capitol Ltd pulled into Washington DC Union Station at 4:10 PM, 1 hr 50 minutes late. The last time I had ridden the Capitol, which was in 1997 with my friend Sue, the Capitol swung to the east past the throat into Union Station, then backed in. On this trip, however, the train pulled forward into the station. I had plenty of time to make the next connection, to the Crescent. Overall, my 1998 trip on the Capitol was pleasant and relaxing, and I enjoyed the crew and the equipment. There were no problems with freight delays, other slow orders, the crew, or the equipment, and parts of the scenery on this route are worthy of seeing.

I had now completed the second "transcontinental" portion of the 1998 trip (the first was Washington to Portland; the second being Martinez to Washington). With two more segments of the 1998 trip to go, I found the Washington Metropolitan Lounge again, stored my suitcases, then walked around the beautiful Washington Union Station again, visited some of the shops within the station, and even bought a railroad video at "The Great Train Store," one of the many stores in Union Station. I then walked outside and sat on a bench in the small park across from Union Station, and watched the busy commuters walk past.

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