Trip Report, day minus 1

I’m headed to a meeting of the C++ standards committee in Issaquah, Washington, a suburb of Seattle.  This will be my first train ride, and my first face-to-face WG21 meeting, since COVID; and I’m looking forward both of them.


I’m allowing an extra day westbound just in case the Builder gets stuck in a snowdrift…or something.  That also gives me a chance to do some touristy things in Seattle where I haven’t been in ages.  I’ll also spend the last night of the return trip at a hotel just three blocks south of Chicago’s Union Station because the Builder often runs late, and there’s the danger of missing the connection to the next train home.

Between Chicago and St. Louis, I’ll take a couple of corridor trains.  Prior to COVID, we had four “Lincoln Service” round trips per day, two of which would run through St. Louis, where they would change their names to “Missouri River Runner”, and continue to Kansas City.  COVID was an excuse for Amtrak to cut service; so we now have just three daily Lincoln Service round trips, and only one Missouri River Runner per day.

The Lincoln Service trains typically have four cars, three coaches and a café car with very comfortable 2-1 business-class seating.  I’ll have biz.-class seats between Chicago and St. Louis which will also get me one complimentary non-alcoholic beverage.

St. Louis is also served by an overnight train, the Texas Eagle, that runs daily between Chicago and San Antonio.  Three days per week, one coach and one sleeper from the Eagle get switched in San Antonio to or from another train called the Sunset Limited that runs between New Orleans and Los Angeles.  I might change my mind and get a roomette on the Eagle for the last leg home.  I’ll decide when I get back to Chicago.

Between Chicago and Seattle, I’ll be riding on the Empire Builder.  Trains 7 and 27 run as a single train to Spokane, Washington, where they split in two, train 7 going to Seattle, and train 27 going to Portland, Oregon.  Trains 8 and 28 recombine in Spokane.  Train 7 turns south around Everett, Washington, and then runs down along the ocean, eventually along Puget Sound, and then into a tunnel that leads to Seattle’s King Street Station.  Train 27 heads down to Pasco, Washington, and then along the northern bank of the Columbia River to Vancouver, Washington, where it crosses the river and heads back east a bit to Portland Union Station.

The Builder uses Superliners as expected.  The Seattle section usually has a baggage car, a crew sleeper, two revenue sleepers, a diner, and two accessible coaches.  The Portland section is typically just four cars long, a Sightseer Lounge, an accessible coach, a coach-bag, and a sleeper.

More detailed timetables for the trains I’ll be taking can be found here and here.

Tomorrow I’ll begin a series of posts about the trip which might read something like a live blog, but won’t be live.  I plan on a single post per day, probably around bedtime.

Great Moments in Broadcasting

KRAB 107.7 FM Seattle - The Doughnut shop

I remember KRAB (FM, Seattle)1 with its programming of Indian classical music, a pipa concert, two hours of Korean temple bells2, things like that, often with European classical music and country blues mixed in.

I remember the old Collins transmitter that sported serial number three, and that we finally had to get a new exciter for since nobody made phasitrons any more.

I remember the antenna up on the telephone pole that you had to go hit with a two-by-four on those rare occasions when the snow started sticking.

And I remember one night when everything, except time, stopped dead.3  What happened was that the accumulated muck and filth in the old converted doughnut shop (sans janitor) had caused the blower that cooled one of the power tubes to stop blowing; and the melted and mangled 7C24 became an objet d‘art that hung around the station for months.

So now you know what I consider my salad days.

1Yes, I was there, although the picture at the top of this post is from before my time.  I’m on the cover of the August ’71 Program Guide just left of the gate.  I’m sitting on a big metal box that housed the electric company’s transformer that supplied power to the transmitter.

Hey, PZ:  do you remember Jon Gallant, a biology professor at the University of Washington?  He’s also in the photo.

I heard rumors, not confirmed by me, that the fellow on the far right, Tiny Freeman, was the engineer in the opening title sequence of Petticoat Junction.  It seems that he was one of the few people who could still safely operate a 4-4-0 American at track speed.

2One of KRAB’s more infamous programs:  the kid playing the temple bells tape thought, “That was cool; I’ll turn it over and play the other side.”  Uh…it was a full-track tape, and so he played the whole thing backwards (and thought that was even cooler).  That was before my time, but it was a well-established part of the station’s tribal lore.

3“…everything, except time, stopped dead” shamelessly borrowed from an essay by the late Greg Palmer written during his time as station manager.  I’m pretty sure it was in a KRAB Program Guide, but I can’t remember which one and can’t find it.  In any event, that wonderful turn of phrase is not my work.

Hello world!

OK, here’s my first post on FreethoughtBlogs.

I’m a retired computer programmer who continues to serve on the ISO standards committee for the C++ programming language.  One of the reasons that I retired from my day job after June of ’22, aside from being 76 years old, is that, for the last several years, I’d been writing nothing but Java, which I found rather frustrating.

I’m also quite the geek when it comes to riding on passenger trains.  I’m not at all nostalgic about them; I just think that trains are a good way to travel today.

I’ll probably write mostly about C++ and riding on Amtrak; but I reserve the right to become obsessed when someone is wrong on the Internet.

For my commenting policy, I’ll start out using PZ’s Pharyngula as a model.  We’ll see how that goes.  If a comment points out some error I made in a post, I’ll acknowledge the error in a comment of my own and fix it like Mano does.

I’ll begin with a very short rant from my wires-and-pliers days, just to have something out there besides this “Howdy” post.  Around the first of February, I’ll describe a trip that I’ll be taking to Issaquah, Washington, to attend a meeting of the ISO C++ committee.

Please feel free to suggest other topics that I might know something about, including digital electronics from the SSI and MSI TTL era (I haven’t done it in a while), and listener-supported FM broadcasting.  I’ve also worked for a couple of commercial radio stations, and I once had a 1st Phone (which is no longer a thing), but I was always weak in the practical aspects of RF, being mostly an audio guy.