Issaquah trip report, day zero

day minus one

2023-02-02 06:37-6:00

Well, that was a revolting development; and it was totally my fault.  I got up too late because I had forgotten how long it takes
to pack, the result being that I was effectively a newbie who missed the time when they shut down boarding for train 302 by a couple of minutes.

I switched the first leg of my trip to train 22, the Texas Eagle, which, for some reason, is starting out in St. Louis today, so it’ll depart on time.  The bad news is that I’ll have only about an hour and a quarter to make my connection in Chicago. If the train loses time on the way, which can happen just south of Joliet and between Joliet and Chicago, I could miss the Empire Builder as well.  I can still hope for the best, though.

I popped for a roomette on 22, so I’ll be comfortable on the train.

So here I sit in the first class lounge wondering what to do with myself.  They’ll probably start boarding in about 40 minites.

We’re pulling only 8 minutes late.

The map and GPS location on the little screen on my cell phone really isn’t very good at all.  I really need to get a new GPS receiver that I can plug into my laptop.

They served an early lunch because of the scheduled arrival time in Chicago, but that was fine with me because I had had an early breakfast.  I had the meatballs and baked ziti which I guess could be called food.  I wish they’d restore a proper diner on the Texas Eagle, but the chances of that are probably nill.

We were as close to on time as makes no difference almost all the way into Chicago.  There was a danger of having to wait a while for cross traffic just south of Joliet, but that didn’t happen today.

The Joliet station now has an island platform…that’s new since the last time I was on a train that stopped there.

We’re on Canadian National tracks from Joliet to Chicago, and there’s always the danger of getting stopped there.  We did have some cross traffic to wait for at 13:00, but that lasted only about five minutes.

One thing I noticed is that UP’s trackside detectors don’t go through the whole spiel any more if there’s nothing to report.  CN’s detectors do.

We crossed the bridge onto amtrak property at 13:22 and made our final stop at 13:32.  I’ll definitely make my connection to the Empire Builder.

Just five minutes before my next train’s scheduled departure, we were advised that boarding would be delayed one hour due to mechanical issues (I’m guessing the Siemens engines).  We’ll see how long the delay really is.

We started boarding around 16:00.  This train has three engine units, two Siemens Chargers, numbers 302 and 304, and one General Electric Genesis unit, number 44.  The Seattle section has a baggage car, a crew sleeper with several roomettes sold as revenue space, one regular sleeper, a diner, and just one coach.  The Portland section has an accessible coach, a coach-bag, a “cross country café” instead of the usual Sightseer Lounge, and the Portland sleeper.

I’m in room C in the Seattle sleeper, and the bedrooms are on the fireman’s side (the left side of the train), so I’ll have the sun in my eyes and have to close the curtains during parts of the day depending on the time of day and our actual direction of travel at the moment.

We finally got out from under the station at 16:48, so we’re on our way, but METRA and CP/Soo Line are treating us very badly, crossing us over between tracks and giving us lots of stop and restricting signals.

We’re already 2:14 minutes late at the first stop of Glenview, IL.

We’re stopped again due to “low MR pressure.”  (“MR” is “main reservoir”, an air tank for the brakes.)  That caused an emergency brake application, so the conductor needs to walk the train because such a brake application can cause a derailment…not expected for shorter passenger trains, but they have to make sure.

We started moving but almost immediately got another emergency application, and the conductor needed to walk the train again.

Moving again.

It’s time for my dinner reservation.  The Empire Builder has a proper diner, and I was looking forward to it.  Unfortunately, I was underwhelmed.  It’s a lot better than the “cross-country café” on the Texas Eagle, but it’s not nearly up to the standards of the diners that Amtrak ran a decade or so ago.

I had the flatiron steak with mashed potatoes and a mix of green and wax beans.  The steak was OK, but everything else was cold by the time I got it.  Also, the beans were cooked in that style where, I guess, the chef lays on hands and intones the magic word, “steam.”  I grew up with what I’ve learned is German style cooking, and I really don’t like tough vegetables.

We didn’t lose any additional time into St. Paul.

As I said here, I’m now in my Seattle hotel and I’m a little wiped out from the trip, so this is about all I can accomplish tonight.  I should be able to get in sync with the reports for days 1 through 3 tomorrow.


  1. Katydid says

    Back in the 1980s, I took a train from Sacramento to Vancouver, BC. It was magical. Back in the 1980s, air travel was meh, fine.

    It seems as if taking the train is as bad as flying has become?

  2. billseymour says

    Katydid @1:

    It seems as if taking the train is as bad as flying has become?

    Not in my opinion. It was always ground transportation and so you’d need to have the time or be able to make the time; and in the U.S. where passenger trains are an afterthought, there have always been delays that you’d have to plan for; but I find it much more comfortable than flying, and much less intrusive than the “security” theater at airports.

    OTOH, I’m fortunate that I can afford to get a private room on overnight trains if I don’t try to afford other stuff that I don’t really want that much anyway.  Sleeper fares seem to be comparable to business class air fares, sometimes a bit less, but YMMV.

  3. Katydid says

    Periodically, I take a commuter train from where I live to where I occasionally have classes or meetings. The trip is maybe 30 minutes and doesn’t include eating or sleeping. It’s much more pleasant than driving and trying to find (and pay for!) city parking. I’m looking forward to reading your adventures on long trips.

    A few years ago, I took trains in England and Holland, and I really enjoyed the trains there. For all train trips, there’s a hospitality cart that sells snacks and drinks. Again, not on the trains long enough to need to sleep or eat a meal.

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