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Arizona Make-up trip:

Arizona Make-up trip:




            Back in January when I took my Arizona trip, I was hoping to spend a little time in Chicago and visit my friends Greg and Karl, the later I haven’t seen in five years. Unfortunately trains 49 and 22 were 3 to 4 hours late into Chicago leaving me with no time to see them. When I got home from that trip, I found out that Karl was planning on visiting London, Ontario later in the year. I also began planning a return to Chicago trip. Throughout the year, I was waiting to hear from Karl to find out when he’d be going to London. By mid-September, I was starting to wonder if he’d be coming to London. I finally decided that if I had 5 consecutive days off of work and if I didn’t hear from Karl, I’d go on this trip. I found out I had October 9th-13th off. I emailed Karl asking him if he was coming to London around the time and he said that his trip to London had been scrubbed for the foreseeable future.


            While Greg came to Toronto in early September, I was already in the planning stages of this trip and I told him prior that I would come to Chicago around October.


            My plan was to ride Amtrak’s Maple Leaf from Toronto to Amsterdam, New York, spend the night there. The next morning, I would railfan at the station before catching Amtrak train 285 to Utica and then train 49 to Chicago. At Chicago, I would spend the night there while riding around on the CTA and meet up with Greg and Karl. On the 12th, I would get on train 48 and ride to Buffalo where I would either ride a bus or train 63 home to Toronto. All but the last part would go according to plan.


October 9, 2006:


            I got up around 6:45 am. After breakfast, my mom gave me a ride to Union station where I arrived almost an hour before the Maple Leaf would depart. Eventually, boarding commenced. I was seated in Amfleet 2 coach #25047, a refurbished coach with a white and blue interior, digital display boards, and AC outlets by each seat. Upon boarding my coach, I met a railfan who was traveling to Niagara Falls who spoke with an Irish accent. We talked a bit about trains and locomotives.


The train as VIA train 97 departed right on time. As the train passed VIA’s Toronto Maintenance Centre, I took video of the equipment that was in the yard. I was pleased to see the Grand Luxe passenger train, (formerly the American Orient Express) sitting in the yard. The train made its regular stops in Oakville, Aldershot, Grimsby, and St. Catherines. After we left, I went into the café car because I didn’t get a customs form unlike my Arizona trip and my February 2005 trip into the U.S. I filled out the sheet and held onto it as we arrived into Niagara Falls, Ontario. At Niagara Falls, the railfan I was speaking to earlier got off. After, a Girl Scout troop who was traveling to Syracuse got on. I wondered how well behaved these girls would be compared to the high school dance club who rode with me on Amtrak’s Three Rivers back in February of 2005.


The train crossed into the U.S. where we began to be interviewed by the customs agents. The person who interviewed me was an older woman who I found to be quite anal. She asked me what I did for a living, and I told her I work for Wal-Mart. She said, “Does Wal-Mart say you can go?” She even asked for Wal-Mart’s phone number so she could call them. Sheesh, she was talking to me like I was a kid, (i.e. “Does your mother say you can come here?”)


The customs agent asked to see my return ticket. I told her I hadn’t bought it yet since my first plan to come home was to ride the bus where you buy your ticket on the day of travel. She then asked me if I was ever denied permission to enter the United States, which I said no. I was thinking, “And I don’t intend to start”, but didn’t say it. The customs agent then left me for other people. Of the three times I’ve ridden the Maple Leaf across the Canada-U.S. boarder, this was the most anal customs agent to have interviewed me.


Eventually the inspection was finished, but no announcement was made. I eventually stepped off the train and took a couple photos.



We left Niagara Falls, New York shortly thereafter. The train crew announced that we were now running 45 minutes late. In addition, they told us that we would encounter track work which may put the train into New York City 1-2 hours late. I headed to the café car for lunch.


Train 64 stopped at Buffalo Exchange Street station followed by Buffalo-Depew station. Just before we got to Rochester, we stopped to let train 63 pass us. At Rochester, many people got on, filling almost every seat. It was here where I picked up a seat mate who was traveling to New York. We chatted a bit as the train rolled on. As we approached Syracuse, I noticed some Orion 5 CNG buses in a scrapyard.


“Looks like someone else is getting out of CNG”, I thought to myself. The Toronto Transit Commission, (TTC) is in the process of either retiring or converting buses that previously ran on natural gas to diesel because the natural gas buses aren’t reliable.


At Syracuse, the Girl Scout troop got off and quite a few more people got on. After we left, I lent a pair of AA batteries to my seatmate for his walkman. He soon returned them to me and bought some from the café car. The train stopped at Rome and Utica. At one point, I saw a former Lackawanna E-unit. At Utica, I filmed various pieces of rolling stock belonging to the Adirondack Scenic Valley Tourist train. Between Utica and Amsterdam, I filmed Amtrak train #285 as we passed it.  By now it was after 6:00 pm. I was wondering if the hotel I had reserved would still hold my room since I didn’t reserve it on a credit card. That happened on my trip to Timmins earlier this year when the motel I booked gave away my room. Train 64 arrived in Amsterdam shortly after 7:00 pm, running about 90 minutes late. After getting off, I took a couple photos of the train and a bad video of the train departing.



At Amsterdam, I met up with Richard, who I had met last year when I rode Amtrak’s Three Rivers prior to Amtrak abandoning the route. Back then, he was a conductor with CSX. I found out that he had been promoted to engineer the week before. He gave me a ride to my hotel which was a Best Western hotel about 3 miles from the Amtrak station. Upon getting to the lobby, I found that I still had a room and quickly paid and dropped off my stuff. After, Richard and I headed out to dinner at a Wendy’s. During dinner, I showed Richard the photos I took on my Arizona trip and told him about other trips I had taken since the trip where we met. I also brought up that in August of last year, an Air France jetliner skidded off the runway at Toronto and burst into flames. Amazingly in this plane crash, everyone survived despite the plane being totally destroyed.


After dinner, we headed back to the Amsterdam station to watch some trains. We ended up seeing five eastbound freights passing a few minutes of each other. Richard then took me back to my hotel where I watched a bit of TV. At one point, I saw Amtrak’s westbound Lake Shore Limited from my room. It was running about 3 hours late. I also saw a freight train with at least 5 locomotives on the front. One of the locomotives looked like an ex BC Rail SD40. I eventually called it a night.


October 10, 2006:


I got up at 9:00 am and had breakfast. After breakfast, I headed back to my room where I got packed. From my room, I saw Amtrak train #280 pass by.

I then checked out and called a taxi. The taxi was a few minutes late, but I got down to the Amsterdam train station just as train 63 arrived bound for Toronto.



As train 63 departed, I filmed it pulling out of the station. I noticed that the coaches were the same as the train I rode down on. It just had a different P42 on the head end. 30 minutes after train 63 departed, I photographed a westbound CSX intermodel.



After that freight train passed, I filmed another westbound CSX freight passing. It was led by a GP40 and consisted of 13 empty flat cars. At this point, I was joined by a couple and their young son who wanted to see a freight train up close. I showed them the video of the train that had passed moments earlier. Soon, another westbound CSX intermodel passed much to the delight of the kid. The family waited until the next train passed 20 minutes later. One more freight passed before I filmed Amtrak train #48, the eastbound Lake Shore Limited as it passed non-stop through the station.


I then headed out for lunch, after searching around for awhile, I found a restaurant, but it was closed. The restaurant was trackside, and I photographed a westbound freight.



I then asked at a nearby gas station where I could find a restaurant. I eventually ate at a cafeteria at a nearby hospital. Contrary to belief, the food was pretty good! I then headed back to the station where I found Richard waiting for me. We watched as Amtrak train 283 arrived into Amsterdam and left a minute later. I filmed that train. A westbound freight passed by with a BNSF SD40 in the consist which I photographed.



Shortly after the freight passed, Richard had to go because he had been called for his first revenue run as a CSX engineer. I stayed at the station where I photographed another freight train and filmed Amtrak train #286 as it raced through Amsterdam non stop.


Three more freight passed. The first has a Union Pacific SD70ACe and a CEFX unit as power.




The second train was a work train behind led by a single GP40-2 running long hood forward.



At one point, I went inside the depot building and saw that it had an Amtrak system map that was 13-years out of date! It still had the Desert Wind and Pioneer which were discontinued 9-10 years ago, The Three Rivers route west of Pittsburgh, (then the Broadway Limited), VIA Rail Canada’s Atlantic train through Maine, and the Sunset Limited running through Phoenix! Given Amtrak’s current financial situation, I can’t say I blame them for not updating the map!


Soon, I saw my train, Amtrak train #285 arriving. The train pulled in 7 minutes late. As it arrived, I saw it was lead by P32AC-DM #701, the unit that led train #286 back in July of 2005 when I rode that train to Rochester.


I boarded Amfleet 1 Capstone rebuilt coach #82024, which had blue seats, electronic display boards, and AC outlets by each seat. We soon left Amsterdam.


I would be on the train for about an hour because I was getting off at Utica, the next stop to transfer to the Lake Shore Limited to Chicago. After waiting for my ticket to be taken, I went to the café car and found the conductor. He took my ticket right there and gave me a seat check which I put over my seat. I then went back to the café car and bought some nachos to snack on just in case the Lake Shore Limited would be hours late into Utica like it was yesterday and back in January when I rode it to Chicago on my Arizona trip. We took the siding for a couple freights and were passed by Amtrak train #64. We arrived in Utica about 25 minutes late. After getting off, I took a photo of the train and various pieces of railway rolling stock in the immediate area.



As train 285 departed, I filmed the train pulling out. I then went into the station where I called home to check in. I then called Julie to find the status of train 49 and found it was about 40 minutes late. That was certainly better than 2.5 hours late!


I then went outside and photographed the Alco RSD series locomotive on display. I then went by the restaurant where I had dinner on the first night of my Arizona trip because 49 was running so late, but this time I didn’t go in.


Throughout the evening, I photographed some of the equipment around the station and kept calling Julie about the status of train 49. The train showed up about 50 minutes late. As it pulled in, I noticed that there were four Viewliner sleeping cars on the train. The first one was being used as a substitute for the 2500 series crew sleeper which is usually run behind the baggage car. I boarded the train and was initially directed to the only unrefurbished Amfleet 2 coach on the train, but found it to be full. I then moved to the next car back which was refurbished and saw it was also full. I then chose a seat and stowed my bag. I took an aisle seat since there was someone sitting in the window seat.


After my ticket was taken, I headed to the diner and saw that it was a Temoinsa refurbished diner. They told me the diner was preparing to close. I then got something from the café car which was an unrefurbished Amfleet 2 café car, just like the first time I rode the Lakeshore Limited. I then returned to my seat where I was joined by my seatmate. Soon, I decided to try to sleep. I was disturbed by the lady behind me who was snoring very loudly! I started looking for another place to sit! I eventually found two free seats on the left side of the train two cars ahead of me and I moved. In that coach, there were no snorers, but I found out that there were no curtains in the windows either! I decided to stay.


Outside of Rochester, we stopped. The train crew announced that a freight train had hit a car west of Rochester and that we would proceed down to Rochester and wait. We didn’t move for awhile, we eventually got to Rochester though were I stepped off and took some photos.



Shortly after I got back on the train, we departed. I guess they must have resolved the problem. We stopped at Buffalo-Depew before heading west for Erie and points west. I then pulled out the blanket I bought on the Three Rivers and tried to get some sleep, though I woke up as we arrived into Erie, Pennsylvania.


October 11, 2006:


I woke up as we were approaching Toledo. When we stopped, I got out and took a few photos since this was a smoking stop.



I got back on the train and had a nap. The train soon left. After awhile I got up and headed to the dining car for breakfast. While I was having breakfast, the train stopped at Elkhart where I filmed the New York Central Railway museum. This time I was able to film the museum without a freight train ruining my shot!


I soon left and went back to my coach. After awhile, I went to the café car just before it closed. The train stopped in South Bend. We soon departed and I went back to my coach. We passed a few freights. At least one had BNSF power.


Soon, we were approaching Chicago. Just like my Arizona trip, I wasn’t sure if the train would front in or be wyed and back in. Once again, we fronted it. As we passed Amtrak’s 14th street yard, I filmed various pieces of equipment in the yard. I even saw Amtrak business car #10001, Beech Grove, a modified Amfleet coach that is used by Amtrak Management on special trips around the Amtrak System.


Train 49 arrived into Chicago one hour and 2 minutes late. After I got off, I took some photos of the train and either the Southwest Chief or the California Zephyr on the track next to us.




This Viewliner, #62018, “Meadow View” is being substituted for a #2500 series crew dorm car. I bet the Amtrak crew liked that.



After I got into the terminal, I stowed my luggage in a locker. I then headed out to the El. I saw that CTA recently got some New Flyer D60LF articulated buses with the newer style front. I filmed one of those buses as it drove past. I soon found the El, but a couple people asked me for money to get on the El, which I didn’t give any.


When I got to the platform, I rode one of CTA’s 2200 series El Cars which are the oldest cars in revenue service with CTA. I got off the train at Clark/Lake station where I filmed the train pulling out. I then headed to the green line and rode to the Clinton station where I headed to CTA’s main office building to buy a day pass much like what I did in February of 2005.


I then headed back catching my first ride on CTA’s new pink line. The pink line opened at the end of summer of 2006. The line runs around the Loop, follows the green line for two stops, then takes a turn to the left running non-stop until it intersects a branch of the blue line which previously only saw service during peak hours. The pink line runs four car trains, which always consist of a pair of 2600 cars and a pair of 2200s. This is the only time where you could stand a chance of riding a 2200 series car leading. One other thing worth noting is that CTA shrink wrapped a few 2600 series cars assigned to the pink line to promote the new line. The cars are appropriately now pink! No 2200s were wrapped though.


After I boarded, we sat in the station for several minutes. This was because the el crosses the Chicago River on a drawbridge, and the bridge was raised for boat traffic! After awhile, the bridge was lowered and we were off. I then got off at Clark/Lake station, where I photographed the train and filmed it pulling out.



I then rode the Blue line back to the Clinton station (which is about six blocks away from the Clinton station on the green line), and then walked three blocks to the Amtrak station. Once I got to the station, I bought lunch then retrieved my stuff from the locker. I then headed back to the el.


A couple taxi drivers asked if I needed a lift, but I said no. One guy escorted me to the station, even though I didn’t need it. He was another person who asked me for money and I told him no. I was reminded of how on my trip to Arizona, one guy kept asking me for $10, even though I kept telling him no. I thought to myself, “People like the $10 guy shouldn’t be allowed to breed!”


I got back onto the El and boarded another 2200 series car. The car was pretty full, though I had a seat, I was cramped because I was hauling my suitcase and my duffel bag and at one point, I almost had no feeling in my legs! I was thankful when I finally got off. I then had to transfer to a bus to get to my hotel.


When I finally got to my hotel, I was able to check in and go to my room with little trouble. After dropping off my stuff, I turned on the TV and the first thing I saw was that a plane had crashed into an apartment building in New York! New York’s LaGuardia Airport was closed. I thought to myself, “good thing I took the train!”


I then headed back out and took a bus back to the El. Once I got to the Jefferson Park station, I called my friend Karl from a payphone and got through. We arranged to meet back at my hotel around 7:00 pm. I then headed downtown again. I then caught a train downtown where I transferred to a pink line train being led by CTA series 2200 cars 2201 and 2202, the first two 2200’s. They are the oldest cars in revenue service with CTA, but they have some older cars. They have two 4000 series cars which are CTA’s historic cars which are mostly used for charters. CTA also has a pair of 2000 series cars in storage. The 2000 series were bought before the 2200s and were retired in 1994, being outlasted by the older 6000 series and 1-50 series el cars.


I got off the train and photographed it and filmed the train as it pulled out.



After the train pulled out, I went to a payphone and called Greg. He told me to meet him at the Clinton station on the green line at 5:30.


I then headed to the platform to catch the next inbound Pink line train When it came in, I saw that it was being led by a pair of 2200s and had two 2600 series cars that were shrinkwrapped pink. I boarded and rode to Clinton station arriving several minutes early. I set up to record the train leaving. As it left, a CTA employee on the opposite side told me I wasn’t supposed to take pictures. I said sorry, but he soon left on the next train.


I was a little annoyed, but soon went back to filming and photographing trains. I believe that CTA may have a policy similar to TTC where professional photography (i.e. media or movie companies) is prohibited unless you have a permit. However, it the TTC’s bylaw does NOT restrict private photography. This guy would be the only CTA employee to attempt to hinder me taking pictures.


Greg soon arrived and we caught another pink line train to Adams station where we ate dinner at a pub. On the el, Greg and I talked about the plane crash in New York earlier. He mentioned that the pilot was from the New York Yankees. I asked if it was Derek Jeter, because my sister has a crush on Derek and would be very upset if he was killed. Fortunately, the pilot was not Derek.


While we were at dinner, we swapped stories, telling him about the “adventure” I had coming home on my Arizona trip and dealing with the guy who kept asking me for $10, even though I kept telling him no. Greg also said he wouldn’t have given the guy any money. I also told Greg about the anal customs agent who interviewed me on Amtrak’s Maple Leaf two days earlier.


Greg told me of a recent excursion on a chartered Amtrak train. The train was delayed significantly even before it left the yard! We also discussed recent events at the Illinois Railway Museum where Greg is a streetcar operator there. We mostly discussed the Nebraska Zephyr which is presently out for repairs following a split switch accident last year.


After dinner, we headed back to the el. I realized I had lost my day pass somewhere. After searching, Greg gave me some money to get on. I offered to pay him back, but he said it was okay. We then caught the next green line train.


As we went around the curve north of the Wabash el station, Greg pointed out that it was the scene of a bad accident in the late 1970’s. The operator of a train consisting of 6000 series el cars rear-ended a train consisting of a set of 2000 series el cars and a set of 2200 el cars. According to Greg, the operator of the 6000 series train was trying to impress some female passengers and allowed his train to get too close before breaking. With the first impact, the driver was thrown against the control level which made the train accelerate. As it approached the sharp curve, the train in front was shoved right off the tracks and fell down to the street below, killing 11, including at least one person on the street.


We then rode the green line to Austin station. During the ride, Greg gave me a history lesson of the area of the line. He said that one station was built on a grade so one end was higher than the other. He also pointed out at one point that we were on the highest point on the CTA system.


When we got to Austin, we walked a few blocks to where Greg’s car was parked. He then drove me back to my hotel. Along the way, we talked about various hauntings in Chicago. The only one I’m familiar with is the one surrounding the fatal crash of American Airlines flight 191 on May 25, 1979.


On that day, the plane, a DC-10 was taking off from Chicago O’Hare International airport bound for Los Angeles when the engine on the left wing tore itself off. Shortly after takeoff, the plane rolled to the left and crashed killing all 271 on board as well as two people on the ground. Following the crash, odd lights were reported at the crash site and spirits of people were observed in a nearby trailer park. In addition, people have reported another spirit by the gate where flight 191 departed from, making a call from a payphone.


I asked Greg if there were any hauntings relating to the el, and he said he had no knowledge.


I got back to my hotel at 8:00 pm. Of course, I was to meet Karl after 7:00. I saw there was a message on the answering machine that was from Karl. I then called him back and he said he lived a few minutes away from my hotel and that he could be over shortly.


A few minutes later, Karl arrived. We started to catch up on what had happened since we last met. I had actually met Karl in the summer of 2000 while he was living in Michigan and a member of the Michigan Transit Museum which in 1996 acquired former Toronto PCC streetcar #4601, one of the 19 that were mothballed at the end of 1995 and one of my two favorite cars of the bunch. I met Karl again the following summer when he visited the Halton County Radial Railway Museum about an hour west of Toronto.


Karl and I talked a little about airplanes and the new Airbus A380 super jumbo that has a large turning radius than a Boeing 747 and requires runways at airports to be wider. I also told Karl about some of the trips I had taken since 2004 and showed him the photos I took on my trip to Arizona.


Karl works for Union Pacific and he told me some stories from the railway, including one time where a Metra commuter train actually ran out of gas! That train had to be pushed in by another Metra train. I bet there was a lot of embarrassment after that incident!


After awhile, Karl had to leave because he had to be up early the next morning, but we agreed to keep in contact. We also decided that my next trip to Chicago, if I had quite a bit of time, we’d hit various museums and such.


After Karl left, I watched a little TV before I called it a night.


October 12, 2006:


I got up and headed to the lobby of the hotel for the complimentary continental breakfast. The first thing I saw when I got outside was that it was snowing! After breakfast, I walked over to a Target department store two blocks away where I browsed a bit before I bought Weird Al’s new CD. I then returned to my hotel where I got packed and checked out. I then caught a bus to the el station where I rode to O’Hare Airport. By now, the snow had stopped, but it was still cold.


At O’Hare, I looked around a bit before I bought a day pass. I then caught an el train downtown. At one point, the train ran express and bypassed a few stops until it got to Clark/Lake station. After that, it resumed running locally. At one point, a girl had missed her stop. Instead of riding to the next stop, she actually pulled the emergency door open handle and exited the train! The doors soon closed though and we were underway.


I got off at Clinton station and walked to Union station where I stowed my bags. I then grabbed lunch in the station, noticing the arrival of Amtrak’s Cardinal was delayed by hours because of a stalled freight.


After lunch, I headed over to Amtrak’s 14th Street yard and photographed the coaches there.





It was cold and windy, so I made a hasty retreat back to the el station and caught an orange line train to the Library station where I got off and transferred to a brown line train. I was going to ride the brown line since Greg and I didn’t the day before. I rode the train almost to the end of the line where I saw that some portions of the line crossed public roads at grade. I also noticed that the Francisco station was being rehabilitated and was merely a skeleton. After I got off, I filmed my train passing through a grade crossing before I rode the line to the Belmont station where I transferred to a red line train and rode all the way to Howard. At Howard, I got off and transferred to the Skokie Swift. As the train passed CTA’s Skokie shops, I filmed it. I also saw the set of 2000 series el cars that CTA has in storage.


After riding back to Howard on the same train, I took a photo of the train before I got on another red line train.



I rode the red line train to Fullerton where I transferred to a brown line train and rode to Merchandise Mart. I called home from Merchandise Mart. I also attempted to call Greg, but he didn’t answer. I then rode over to the Clinton station on the green line to try to meet him, but he was gone. I eventually returned to Union station after riding one more set of 2200 series el cars on the blue line. At Clinton, I filmed the train pulling out before I returned to Union station.


At Union station, I retrieved my stuff from the locker and changed memory sticks on my digital camera. I then bought some snacks from a convenience store before I went out to wait for the Lake Shore Limited to board.


While I was waiting, I saw that the Cardinal was going to depart at 7:45, but I didn’t see a train at the platform. I only saw Superliner snack coach #35002, and no engine. I guess they decided to turn the train at Indianapolis and send were going to send a shuttle train to meet it there. I also saw that a company was renting portable entertainment sets and I almost rented one, but opted out at the last minute. Soon, train 48 boarded.


I was seated in Amfleet 2 coach #25046, a refurbished coach. This coach did have curtains. I watched the City of New Orleans depart and then noticed a tumbleweed on the track next to my train. I figure that some people might use that as a reflection on Amtrak’s ridership!


We had boarded pretty early and I figured that we would leave on time. We ended up waiting for at least 30 minutes because the California Zephyr, which has a guaranteed connection with the Lake Shore, had arrived late, which had people transferring to the Lake Shore, so we waited. I overheard another passenger mention that they were on the previous day’s California Zephyr and had missed their connection with the Lake Shore, so Amtrak put them in a hotel and put them on tonight’s train. She mentioned that it’s better to be late on the train than on an airplane. I agree because on my Arizona trip, despite the fact the eastbound Sunset Limited was 12 hours late, Amtrak ensured we got where we were going by chartering a highway coach and bused many passengers to Dallas to meet the Texas Eagle.


We finally left and I saw two private coaches sitting in Amtrak’s 14th Street yard. Soon, they were taking dinner reservations for 9:30 pm central time. I asked for a seat.  After awhile, I headed to the café car, which was a refurbished Amfleet 2 car with a smoking lounge. I took some photos of the interior before I started talking with a man traveling to Boston about airplane crashes.


Soon, I went into the diner for dinner. The car was not a Temoinsa refurbished diner. The car was packed, but I did eventually get a table. During the course of my meal, the train stopped and remained stopped while we waited for a couple NS freights. I paid for my meal and went back to my coach where I laid across the two seats and tried to get some sleep. At times, I found it to be quite difficult because an Amish woman seated in front of me was snoring. I thought to myself that people who snore should be seated in their own coach away from people who don’t snore!



Click here to read the bad conclusion to an otherwise good trip: Arizona Make up trip part 2.htm