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La Plata, MO To Los Angeles, CA On Amtrak's Southwest Chief
Thursday, October 18th, 2012
  Around 7:00pm, I arrived at the La Plata Amtrak Station to board Amtrak Train #3 - The Southwest Chief for my next destination on this trip which would be Los Angeles, CA. Tonight's train would have a decent amount of people boarding. At 7:43pm, running 8 minutes early, Train #3 arrived at La Plata. The consist for tonight's train is shown below:
  The train departed at 7:53pm, 2 minutes late after making a triple spot at La Plata Station due to its short platform. I was introduced to my sleeping car attendant who actually handles the 0331 car in addition to the 0340 car that I was ticketed for which is also the crew sleeper. There is a drape covering the walkway with an overhead sign that says "Crew Only" which states the part of the car that the public cannot access. The lower level of the car features a big office for the conductor to use so on trains like this, the conductors don't use a table in the lounge car though I have seen at least on example in my travels where the conductor had set up shop in the dining car when it was not serving meals (overnight).
  I had boarded the train in time for last call in the dining car for dinner! I opted to have the Herb Roasted Half Chicken with mashed potatoes and a Diet Pepsi with a slice of Oreo cheesecake for dessert. All the food was very good. I was seated with a college professor from Chicago and we had some good conversations about literature of all things! After dinner, I walked over to the lounge car to go have a beer however the attendant was on his meal break so I just hung out in the car and chatted with a passenger from New York City along with a BNSF engineer who was deadheading back home as well as the conductor from our train. When the attendant returned from his meal break, I ordered a Bud Light and continued chatting with the aforementioned people. At 9:57pm, running a whopping 14 minutes early, we arrived at the next station stop of Kansas City, MO. This is a crew change point for the train as well as a service stop. We were permitted to step outside and smoke, get some air, or if you're me, well guess...TAKE PICTURES!!! This should be of no surprise to anyone who has read my travelogues in the past!
  Now on my last trip here in 2008, I was hassled by a ticket agent when I tried to take the same photo I wanted to take tonight! Give me a break!!! As luck would have it, I would have no problems at all this year taking the photo. As a bonus, I also photographed Missouri River Runner Train #313 which was also on the property getting ready to go back as Train #314 the following day. There were 2 private cars on the property as well but they were blocked by a fence so I never photographed them. It started raining pretty good while in Kansas City Union Station so after a couple other general photos, I got back on the train and put the camera away. We departed Kansas City Union Station at 10:45pm, running 1 minute late. I decided to go take a shower after leaving Kansas City. We arrived at our next station stop of Lawrence, KS at 11:49pm and departed on time at 11:52pm. I decided by now, it was time to call it a day so I pulled out my iPod and listened to some smooth jazz music before eventually falling asleep. The overnight stops included Topeka, Newton, Hutchinson, Dodge City, and Garden City, all in Kansas. And so ends today.
Friday, October 19th, 2012:
  I woke up around 7:00am, now in the Mountain Time Zone and headed to the dining car for breakfast. Breakfast this morning was French Toast and sausage patties with a Diet Pepsi. All the food was very good. I was seated with a veteran of the United States Navy, having served on the USS Maddox destroyer. Our next stop would be a crew change point for the train at La Junta, CO. This would also be the place where the Transition Sleeper (my car) would have to be watered as it apparently was not watered in Chicago and was now spitting out air in the faucets! At 8:08am, running 7 minutes early, we arrived at La Junta. I immediately got off the train and realized just how cold it really was, ran back upstairs and put on my hoodie, then proceeded to go outside again to take more pictures. There was a military train parked a couple tracks over from us which was very cool! At 8:30am, running on time, we departed La Junta.
  I spent a good chunk of time in the lounge car next to a passenger who had his guitar with him. He didn't play it himself but the passenger next to him did and was a huge fan of Carlos Santana so he was playing a little "Oya Coma Va" on the guitar which was really cool. Carlos Santana is one of my favorites! The scenery for the most part was filled with cows, mountains and old buildings! We arrived at our next stop of Trinidad, CO at 9:45am and departed there at 9:50am, again, on time! Trinidad used to have a nice old Santa Fe-built station but that was torn down a few years back due to an improvement project on Interstate 25, oh well, that's progress for you! The station now is simply a bus shelter and a platform! It was by now that we were entering one of the most scenic parts of the Southwest Chief's route: going over the famous Raton Pass, the highest point on the old Santa Fe. We would pass the Dick Wooton Ranch on the Santa Fe Trail then go through Raton Tunnel and enter the state of New Mexico. Our next station stop would be Raton, NM where we arrived at 10:46am, 10 minutes early and thus, a smoking break was permitted here. I couldn't help but notice just how dark blue the sky was here. I needed no polarizer filter to get some of the richest, deepest blue skies I've ever seen! This was made possible in large part due to the extremely low humidity in that area. I checked the Weather Channel's iPhone app and they said it was 24% humidity in Raton, that's insanely low!!! I would spend the next hour or so chatting with our excellent conductors as I was in the Trans-Dorm and their office was on the lower level of the car. At 12:00 noon, it was time for lunch so I shook hands with the conductors and walked back to the dining car.
  Lunch today would be the Angus Steak Burger with kettle chips and a Diet Pepsi with that delicious Oreo Cheesecake for dessert, all were once again, very good! I was seated with 2 passengers who actually live less than an hour from where I live back in New York! They were part of a tour group that was on the train called "America By Rail" and they were riding from Chicago on this train to Los Angeles, then they would take the Coast Starlight up to Portland, then the Empire Builder back to Chicago. I met several people from this group including their leader who gave me a catalogue about their products! I was also seated with a woman from Albuquerque as well. With all the meals I ate in the dining car on this train thus far, I made sure to photograph them all! We made our next stop at Las Vegas, NM at 12:38pm while still at lunch and departed there at 12:41pm, running 3 minutes late. So far, there have been no major issues with timekeeping but that would all change later on...
  I spent the next hour or so photographing the beautiful Glorieta Pass. When we got to Canyoncito, we waited for our eastbound counterpart, Train #4 to pass us there. By the time Train #4 passed us, it was running over a hour late. Coincidentally, in 2008, the last time I rode this train, we stopped at Canyoncito to let Train #4 pass us there also! We made our next stop at Lamy, NM at 2:59pm and departed at 3:01pm having lost some time now running 37 minutes late. Thankfully, there is some padding in the schedule between Lamy and Albuquerque so the hope of course was to try to make up some time. I began to notice that the memory card in my camera was filling up very fast! I went back to my room and tried to back up the 231 photos I had taken since the last backup yesterday. As luck would have it, I got the photos backed up onto 3 hard drives shortly before arriving at the next stop of Albuquerque. Thanks to the aforementioned schedule padding, we arrived at Albuquerque at 4:10pm, running only 15 minutes late. This is a service stop and crew change point for the train. It is also a fueling stop as well. The fuel truck was waiting for the train to arrive so they could begin refueling. The rest of the train was inspected and window washers eventually washed the windows on the train as well. I took the time to get more photos before the "All Aboard" signal was given and we all headed back to the train. At 4:50pm, running 5 minutes late, we departed Albuquerque. West of Albuquerque, we had more slow orders to contend with. I had a 5:30pm dinner reservation so once I walked back to the dining car, I was seated with a passenger from Utica, NY and 2 others from Iowa. I decided tonight to have the Amtrak Signature Steak with mashed potatoes, rice and a salad and roll with a Diet Pepsi. I had the Oreo Cheesecake again for dessert and all the food was good. It was around now that we would end up with the biggest delay on this portion of the trip!
  A passenger who had a medical emergency needed to be removed from the train so an EMS unit was called. We could see from the dining car that we were stopped in the middle of nowhere waiting for the ambulance to arrive. About an hour had passed from when the train was stopped and the passenger removed. After dinner, I put the camera away and walked back to the lounge car for a beer, this time a Corona, and yes, they have limes too!!! After enjoying the beer and chatting with a few more passengers, I walked back to my sleeper to relax. By now, I was still getting over that nasty cold I picked up in La Plata but I'm holding my own and doing OK! We arrived at our next station stop of Gallup, NM at 8:23pm and departed at 8:30pm now down 1 hour and 22 minutes. I was getting tired very quickly (I wasn't able to keep my eyes open while writing this travelogue in the lounge car so I just sat in my room and vedged out for another hour and half as I wanted to get off the train in Flagstaff during a scheduled smoking break for more pictures). I ended up sleeping through the next stop at Winslow, AZ. At 10:13pm, we arrived in Flagstaff running 1 hour and 22 minutes late. A smoking break was permitted and it was on the platform in Flagstaff that I met longtime fellow member Danny Lawson. I chatted with him briefly before reboarding as we departed Flagstaff at 10:29pm running 1 hour and 32 minutes late. I decided now to go take a shower and afterwards we arrived at our next stop of Williams Junction, AZ which is a direct connection to the Grand Canyon Railway at 11:08pm and departed there at 11:16pm running 1 hour and 43 minutes late. I then got out the computer and finished catching up on writing this travelogue as I did so earlier this evening and wasn't able to think straight because I was so tired! An announcement was made that breakfast would be served at 5:00am tomorrow. I hadn't decided yet if I was gonna eat that early, by now I was very tired and decided to just go to bed and if I was gonna eat that early, I would just decide in the morning. And so ends today...
Saturday, October 20th, 2012:
  Overnight, we passed through the following stops: Kingman, AZ and Needles, CA. At around 5:30am, I decided to get up and go have breakfast because the Amtrak iPhone app was putting us into Los Angeles now later than schedule which would leave me less time to take a break and get a quick breakfast in Union Station. I considered all of this as there is no breakfast service on the Coast Starlight out of Los Angeles as it's scheduled to leave at 10:20am. I walked to the dining car and had the French toast and sausage patties with 2 small cans of Diet Pepsi. We made our station stop at Barstow while I was walking to breakfast having arrived there at 5:31am and departed at 5:40am running 2 hours and 1 minute late. The train made some sort of a backup move out of the Barstow station, then continued west. After breakfast, I went back to my sleeping car and switched it over to day use while there was now visible light in the eastern sky as sunrise would be soon. I then got out the computer and continued writing this travelogue. We made our next station stop at Victorville, CA at 6:23am and departed at 6:26am running 2 hours and 8 minutes late. At this point, I'm not really concerned about my connection to the Starlight as at this time, due to some schedule padding, we were set for about a 9:12am arrival as of leaving Victorville. I would take care of backing up the pictures I took yesterday and get ready for an arrival in Los Angeles that is sure to be a short layover. The sun had risen by now but the fog also rolled in just before sunrise so you couldn't see the sun unfortunately and for awhile there it looked like it was gonna be a beautiful sunrise!
  We arrived at our next stop of San Bernardino, CA at 7:32am. With the lateness of the train, this meant being able to see cities like San Bernardino in daylight which would otherwise not be possible. We departed there at 7:38am, running 2 hours and 6 minutes late. Our next stop was Riverside, CA where we arrived at 7:58am and departed at 8:00am running 2 hours and 7 minutes late. Our next stop after Riverside was at Fullerton, CA, a place I've railfanned at several times over the years on trips to the west coast. We arrived at Fullerton at 8:48am. Fullerton is a "Drop Off Only" stop as there is frequent service between here and Los Angeles Union Station on Metrolink, the Southern California commuter rail system. We departed Fullerton at 8:51am, now down 2 hours and 17 minutes. The crews made their thank you announcements as we eventually made our way towards the "City Of Angels"! We passed by the Redondo Roundhouse which is the home of the Santa Fe Steam Locomotive #3751. This is located next to Amtrak's 8th Street yard and shops. We eventually passed Los Angeles Metro's yard and eventually saw the Los Angeles skyline and arrived on Track #12 at Los Angeles Union Passenger Terminal at 9:27am, thanks to schedule padding, we were only 1 hour and 12 minutes late.
  As soon as I got off the train, I dragged my luggage down the platform to get one final picture of the train before heading inside the station to find out where my next train, Train #14 – The Coast Starlight would be boarding from. I was directed to the Traxx Lounge which serves as the first class lounge at this station as there is no Metropolitan Lounge in Los Angeles. The lounge is located in the back of the main waiting area of the station near the old ticket counters that are no longer used except when a movie is being shot in the station. There is also an upscale restaurant called the Traxx Restaurant near the lounge as well. I checked in to the lounge and had a Diet Coke but my time here would be very short. The attendant in the lounge told me I could head up to the platform now to get ready to board the Starlight. By now, you're probably thinking "OK Geno, enough yapping, where are the pictures???" Don't worry, there's plenty, check out the link below!!!