Steve's Winter 1998 Amtrak Travel
January 3 - 10, 1998
This is the travelogue of the segment of my journey on the
Amtrak International from Chicago, Illinois to Toronto, Ontario.
This is a travelogue of my Amtrak travel on the Southwest Chief from
Fullerton, California, to Chicago Illinois, on the International from
Chicago to Toronto, Ontairo, on the Maple Leaf from Toronto to
New York City, on the Adirondack from New York City to Albany - Rensselaer,
on the Empire Services from Albany - Rensselaer back to New York City,
then round trip from New York City to St. Albans, Vermont, on the
International Route - Train #364
A lot of the photographs of this trip are rather dark. The weather was
heavily overcast during most of this travel and that reduced the
brightness and quality of these photos which were taken using a video
camera and a Snappy.
A VIA Rail Locomotive pulls the Amtrak Superliner cars in the top 2 photos.
Chicago Amtrak Yard and White Sox Baseball Statium.
One photo of Niles and two photos of Kalamazoo, Michigan.
Tuesday, January 6, 1998, 03:21PM, Durand, MI
Well, looks like I haven't been writing much on this trip so far!
I've got plenty of videotape though! I took almost 2 hours of video on
the Southwest Chief and already have almost an hour on this International
Route. Now I just have to find the time to go through the tapes and
select photos to add to this travelogue. If you see photos here, then
you know that I eventually did get around to it!
I was very pleased to discover that Superliner Coach Cars are used on
this route. I had just assumed the cars would be either Amfleet or
Horizon Cars since there are no Sleeping Cars, Dining Car, or Sightseer
Lounge Car on this train. It just didn't occur to me that Amtrak can
still use Superliner Coach Cars in a train even if there are none of
the other types of cars in the train.
The very last Coach Car in this train has the snack bar downstairs.
I don't think I've seen a Superliner configured like that before.
Actually, come to think of it, I have. It was on the Texas Eagle.
The snack bar was not in use since there was another one downstairs
in the Sightseer Lounge Car. Back in the days when they used to have
thru-cars from the Texas Eagle onto the Sunset Limited, those
thru-cars would sometimes sit by themselves for hours in the San Antonio
station if the westbound Sunset Limited was late. One time when that
happened, breakfast was obtained from a nearby McDonald's restaurant.
These pre-packaged meals were then handed out from the snack bar area
that was downstairs in the Superliner Coach Car. That was the only
time before this that I had seen a Superliner Coach Car configured
this way, but this is the only time I have actually seen it in use!
Now I understand why Custom Class is not offered on this route.
Since all Superliners Coaches have identical seating, it would be
difficult to sell an upgraded class of service. Custom Class in the
Amfleet Cars provides a lot more leg room, but one couldn't ask for
more leg room than what you get in a standard Superliner Coach Car!
I think there is more leg room in standard Superliner Coach Cars than
in First Class on any airline!
The people whose destinations were in Canada were boarded first in
Chicago. We were all boarded into one car in the middle of the train.
There was plenty of room, even after everyone was onboard. I've been
on this train for about 5 hours now, and most people that are traveling
alone still have a pair of seats to themself. Nobody has taken the
seat next to me yet and I don't have anything on the seat to discourage
anyone. There are enough seats so everyone can have a pair of seats to
themselves so far. Some people are laying down sprawled across both
seats, or have some of their luggage on the seat next to them.
During the entire trip, everyone heading for Canada has been seating
in this particular car. I think that is to make it easier when going
through customs. The Customs Agents will only have to walk through
one car if this is the only car with passengers when we get to the
Tuesday, January 6, 1998, 03:48PM, Flint, MI
Tuesday, January 6, 1998, 05:37PM, Sarnia, ON
I'm not sure what takes Customs so long, but we arrived here on time.
Actually, I think we arrived here quite a bit before 5:57 PM. The
Customs agent only spent about 20 seconds with me. They asked my
citizenship, if I had any firearms, how long I would be staying in
Canada, what was my purpose in Canada, and where I would be going
next. I think she thought my answers of only one day, rail travel,
and New York City the next day were a bit odd, but nothing in those
answers was untruthfull or out of line. She didn't bother to check
my birth certificate or the contents of my luggage.
Another passenger was not so lucky, but I think that was because
of his answers on the declaration card they had handed out to everyone.
I think he had a few bottles of alcohol with him. You are only allowed
to bring 1 or 2 with you duty free. He would have to pay $25 on each
addition bottle. Rather than pay all that, he selected two bottles and
surrendered the rest. What do they do with the confiscated alcohol?
Do they have a party? Well, at any rate, those are some of the things
that can slow down the border crossing process. It took quite a while
to handle that situation and fill out all the forms.
Tuesday, January 6, 1998, 08:00PM, London, ON
When I came out of the restroom, a gal Conductor asked me if I had
been smoking in there. I answered "No" and asked why she asked me that
questioin. She said it smelled very smoky downstairs. I thought that
was really weird. I'm not a smoker and never have been one. I even
tend to be sensitive to smoke. Though I don't complain unless it is
pretty heavy, I can usually smell tobacco from a mile away. I didn't
smell any tobacco in the restroom nor in downstairs. I'm not sure
what she was smelling.
Actually, what bothered me more was the smell of the teenage girls
behind me that were painting their nails! The first time they did it
was at the border. I thought Customs was fumigating the train, the smell
was so bad! But, during the rest of the trip, they did it three more
times and I figured out what it was from their discussion.
I then went to the cafe and ordered a pizza, a cookie and a Molson Export.
The whole thing came to only $5.25 in American dollars. Canadian dollars
would have come to quite a bit more. I gave the Attendant $6 and let him
keep the 75 cents change. Earlier that day I had purchased lunch in the
cafe. The change was 50 cents. I didn't think that was an adquate tip for
what I had puchased, so I took the 50 cents and gave him a $1 tip. The
Cafe Attendant had been pretty friendly to me every since!
As I started to walk out of the cafe, I ran into that gal Conductor again.
She commented again: "It was pretty smoky in that restroom, wasn't it?"
I just nodded and said: "Might have been, but it sure wasn't me since I've
never been a smoker." I don't know why, but the look on her face was one
of frustration. Her accusing eye made me a bit annoyed. Since the Coach
Cars don't have Car Attendants on this train, I made sure that I cleaned
up that restroom so that it was much cleaner than when I had entered.
I like to do my part to make sure everyone is impressed with rail travel.
Seems a fine thanks for trying to help out! Also, not the best introduction
to Canadian Conductors on VIArail. But, I have to say, other than that
one experience, all the other train personnel seemed very friendly.
Actually, even this Conductor with the accusing eye was friendly, but did
seem frustrated with my answers!"
Tuesday, January 6, 1998, 08:36PM, St. Marys, ON
I'm listening to the railroad radio and hear that they keep referring to
this train as "88". Amtrak lists the train as "364" until it gets to the
border and then lists it as "3640" on the ticket. Also, in Canada, they
refer to time in the 24 hour mode on the radio and use the word "knot"
instead of "zero". Thus, 8:36PM would be heard as "two knot three six."
Tuesday, January 6, 1998, 09:27PM, Kitchener, ON
That same gal Conductor just announced that the cafe is now closed.
I thought that was rather strange. There was no warning announcement
that it would be closing soon and we are still more than an hour from
our final stop. Almost always there is plenty of warning so that
passengers can make some final purchases before they close.
Lest you read me the wrong way, I don't have anything agains female
Conductors or even against female engineers. Riding passenger trains
for over 100,000 miles over the last 2 years, I've only had two
unpleasant run ins with Conductors and they were both women. Maybe
I just bring it out in them. The incident described above was one.
The other was when I took my whole family and inlaws from Fullerton
to San Juan Capistran just for a fun train ride. There were 6 of us
all together. The train was so full, that only single seats were open.
We would have had to spread throughout the train to get seats, which
really would have defeated the purpose of the entire trip. We found
a table in the Cafe Car where we could all sit and enjoy the ride and
conversation together. We had every intention of purchasing some food
and we did. But a female Conductor got quite upset with us. While we
were deciding what to purchase, she tried to kick us out of the cafe
and then threatened us that she would monitor us and remove us from
the cafe car as soon as we had run out of food items. Well, little did
she know that I can nurse a drink for well more than the hour's ride
down to San Juan Capistrano! That is where we stayed put for the rest
of the ride and we never saw here again on the trip. Needless to say,
it did take a bit of enjoyment out of the whole experience. I've been
on trains many many times with female Conductors where there have been
no such incidences. Thus, I guess there are just a few bad apples as
there are in every bunch and it may be just chance that I haven't run
into a male Conductor with such an attitude yet.
It is interesting to note there are four coach cars on this train and
no Car Attendants. The cars seem to be operating without any problems.
The Conductors do the job of meeting people at the doors and helping
with luggage when necessary. Does this mean that the only need for
Car Attendants in Coach Cars is during the night and the interior needs
more attention because of the extended travel and time passengers remain
in the car? I would have to assume that is where the need for Car
Attendants in the Coach Cars comes from.
Tuesday, January 6, 1998, 10:19PM, Georgetown, ON
GO Commuter Rail Car - 30 Years - 1967 to 1997
There they are! Right outside my window! "GO" commuter cars (Government
of Ontario). I wish it was daylight so that I could have videotaped them.
I see passenger cars in this color paint scheme almost every day out
my office window in Fullerton. Metrolink has purchased or leased a number
of cars from the "GO" system which have not been painted in the familiar
Metrolink blue and white colors. They are green with the "GO" logo on them
just like all these cars right outside my window!
These are only approximate, but close!
- 46-160.800-Chicago,IL to Battle Creek,MI
- 49-160.845-Battle Creek,MI
- 32-160.590-Battle Creek,MI to East Lansing,MI
- 08-160.230-East Lansing,MI
- 32-160.590-East Lansing,MI to Sarnia,ON
- 87-161.415-Sarnia,ON to Toronto,ON
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