days 1 and 2
general remarks about the C++ meetings
days 4 to 6
days 7 and 8
days 10 and 11
The Holiday Inn didn’t give me my wakeup call; and when I went to the restaurant for breakfast, I found that they had no printed menu. Instead, one has to scan a QR code with a cell phone. A woman came by with a tablet and starting punching stuff in, I guess to get me a menu. After about three minutes of that, I just got up and left.
I went back to my room and dealt with several days of e-mail messages and did some moderation on the blog, then I checked out. I decided that I didn’t feel quite up to the walk back to Union Station, so the hotel clerk called me a taxi.
After checking in at the Metropolitan Lounge, I went to Sbarro’s which was open for breakfast. I had scrambled eggs, sausage, potatoes and a really big Sbarro’s breadstick. Everything was much better than what I could have gotten at McDonald’s just across the hall; but I didn’t finish the potatoes…that was too much.
Back to the Met. Lounge to try to catch up on my FtB reading. I made it through everything except Pharyngula and stderr, then it was back to Sbarro’s for a really big slice of pizza.
So here I sit in the Met. Lounge waiting for them to call train 21, the Texas Eagle. That’ll probably happen about an hour from now, or maybe a little later.
As I said in the previous post, I switched today’s ticket from train 319 to train 21, principally for checked baggage service; but it’ll also be comfortable to ride in the sleeper. I have room 13, a roomette on the lower level of the double-decker Superliner cars.
They called boarding for train 21, and I decided to avail myself of redcap service.
We departed right on time…actually a couple of minutes early by my watch. I guess it’s OK to do that at big stations once the boarding gates have been closed and there’s no possibility of any passengers arriving at the last minute.
Once we left Amtrak property, we were on Canadian National track; and it’s typical for there to be lots of delays. As expected, we got several red signals due to freight trains crossing in front of us.
The TA came by for dinner reservations. I was surprised to see the “traditional dining” menu like we had on the Builder, and I was hoping that the Eagle was getting with the program. No such luck…that was a mistake. He came back with the “contemporary dining” menu (the microwaved stuff), and I ordered the baked ziti and meatballs for the entree and the vanilla pudding for dessert.
14:38: that last stop waiting for freight trains was a really long one. We’re just now pulling again and we’re only a little way past Summit. We should be departing Joliet about now.
We mostly maintained track speed all the way to Joliet except for one slowdown, but that was just to get some instructions from the dispatcher. It sounded like permission to pass a red flag or red signal, but they didn’t go through the whole track warrant business. Maybe it was something else, or maybe the CN’s rules are more lax in this area.
We stayed about twenty minutes late all the way to just outside of Springfield where we had to stop and wait for train 318 to depart the station. Amtrak’s status page says that 318 was indeed delayed, but that it had arrived at 17:11 which is just when we stopped to wait for it; so this might not take too long.
17:20: here we go.
My 17:30 dinner reservation was called shortly thereafter. Yes, the Texas Eagle does indeed still have a “cross country café” rather than a proper diner. The baked ziti and the vanilla pudding were OK but nothing to write home (or blog) about. It also came with a salad, and for dressing I had my choice of ranch and ranch. I passed.
We actually arrived in Springfield at 17:25, and it’s raining pretty hard. Amazingly, we departed at 17:27…only two minutes of dwell time. I guess the passengers didn’t feel the need to dawdle in the rain.
17:56: we hand another stop due to freight trains in the way, but we’re moving again. We departed Carlinville at 18:11, now :33 late.
This train has no sightseer lounge with a café in the lower level, so they’re using for a “café car” the end of the “cross country café” closest to the coaches. We have only one SA (I guess somebody called out), so the “café car”, the only food source for passengers in the coaches, is closed while serving passengers in the sleeper. It seems to me that that just shouldn’t happen.
We stayed about half an hour late through Alton, then thanks to schedule padding, we arrived in St. Louis at 19:19, just six minutes late.
It took ten or fifteen minutes after the checked baggage arrived in the baggage room for the station agent to finally deign to open up and give passengers their bags.
My car was right where I left it in the long term parking (no surprise), and since it had been raining earlier and the streets were wet, and I hadn’t driven a car in a couple of weeks, I decided to drive home on city streets instead of tooling down the interstate highway.
All in all, this was a very pleasant trip for me, although I’m glad I didn’t have a coach ticket on the Eagle. Yeah, we were hours late into Seattle, but I had planned for that so it didn’t mess up the whole trip.
My next trip will be early in April when I’ll take a round trip ride on the Texas Eagle to Forth Worth. I’ll be attending the Southwestern Rail Converence 2023 in Hurst, TX, about a ten or fifteen minute taxi ride from the Forth Worth station. What would folks like to read about? More geeky train stuff? More personal impressions? Please do give this newbie blogger a hint about anything he’s doing wrong. 😎
I appreciated the peek into something I don’t experience myself. There’s a commuter train in my town that takes about 30 minutes to go from my nearby station to the nearest city, but I haven’t taken that since the pandemic shut the world down. In any event, such a short trip is very uneventful so long as the train stays on the tracks.
Sorry to comment again so soon–would you like to share more about your train experience? And more about trains in general? Here’s something I’ve wondered about; where I live, I can take the state commuter train to the city for about $20 round-trip, but the same trip on Amtrak (which uses the same tracks) is $25 each way. Obviously that’s pricey for a half-hour trip, so I haven’t been aboard an Amtrak train since the 1980s when I went from California to Canada.
Likewise, have you taken trains elsewhere than the USA? When I lived in England, I took trains all the time. Same thing in Japan, and also Holland. Train service was robust and affordable. Have you traveled, and if so, what was your impression?
Katydid, yes, I’ve traveled by train outside the US, but only in the UK and Western Europe.
Most recently, I had some meetings in Belfast in November of ’19 (before COVID and Brexit); and this geek thought it would be Really Cool to make the whole trip on the surface. That involved Amtrak between St. Louis and New York, the Queen Mary 2 both directions across the Pond, and lots of trains in England, Scotland and Northern Ireland. (I’ve still never been to Wales.) I can honestly say that I’ve been from Land’s End to John o’ Groates, although downhill and not by bicycle. 😎 Maybe I’ll do some posts about that if folks are interested.
In June, I’ll be headed to Varna, Bulgaria; but train travel in Eastern Europe seems to me to be not such a good idea. I had a plan to take an overnight train from Sofia to Varna, but that involved more complicated flight arrangements. My current plan is to fly Icelandair between Boston and Berlin, then Wizz Air between Berlin and Varna. Wizz Air is a Hungarian low-cost airline, but it’s just a bit over two hours, so that’s survivable; and the meeting sponsor has assured me privately that he has had good experience with that airline.