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Chicago, IL to La Plata, MO On Amtrak's Southwest Chief
  After getting back to the Metropolitan Lounge and retrieving my bags and chatting with the aforementioned NARP members, the boarding call was made for Train #3 - The Southwest Chief at around 2:20pm. Coach passengers right now, begin their boarding from inside the Great Hall at Union Station due to renovations being done near the regular gates, whereas Sleeping Car passengers still board from the exit out of the lounge. I took down car numbers as I walked the platform to get to my Sleeping Car which was Superliner I Sleeping Car #32042, the "0330" car and I was assigned to Roomette #2. I put my big bag on the lower level of the car and my smaller one in the room along with my camera bag, then walked the rest of the train to get the rest of the consist and a quick picture. I noticed we would have a Heritage Baggage in the consist which is becoming a rarity since the new Viewliner II Baggage Cars have come online. The consist for today's train is shown below:
18 P42DC   Power
96 P42DC   Power
1756 Heritage Baggage Car   Baggage Car
39033 Superliner II Transition Sleeper   Crew/Sleeping Car 0340
32068 Superliner I Sleeping Car Wind Cave Sleeping Car 0331
32042 Superliner I Sleeping Car Wrangell-St. Elias Sleeping Car 0330 (My Car - Room #2)
38049 Superliner II Dining Car   Dining Car
33003 Superliner I Sightseer Lounge   Cafe/Lounge Car
34074 Superliner I Coach   Coach
31000 Superliner I Coach   Coach
34065 Superliner I Coach   Coach
SPECIAL NOTE: Superliner I Sleeping Cars were originally set to be named after National Parks but the names were never applied outside of two cars that were named, but not after the parks.
  I would take a few more photos on the platform before going back to my room and at 3:00pm, Train #3 departed Chicago Union Station on time and would head south out of the station, then turn west on to a BNSF mainline. The sleeping car attendant in my car introduced himself to everyone in the car and let us know where the bathrooms were in the car and other services he provides. He was very professional and did his job very well. An announcement was made letting us know that dinner in the diner was by reservation only and a member of the staff would be walking through the train to take down reservations. The conductor came by and scanned my phone which had my ticket displayed in the "Apple Wallet" app (formerly called the "Passbook" app). We had to sit outside the Naperville, IL station for about 5 minutes to let a Metra commuter train clear the station. I would take a reservation for 6:00pm for dinner since I was getting off the train in La Plata, MO. There must have been 6 seatings announced for dinner, with the last one being after 8:00pm! When I boarded this train in 2012 at La Plata to head for Los Angeles, I was served dinner just after departing there so that late of a seating available would make sense. We made our first stop of Naperville, IL at 3:39pm and quickly departed at 3:41pm, running 6 minutes late.
I headed over to the lounge car and had a Sierra Nevada beer which really hit the spot! I had a good chat with the cafe car attendant who just happened to be in McDonald's when I was there eating lunch in Union Station. We had a Superliner I Sightseer Lounge on today's train which is something I haven't rode in in a few years. The upper level of the car looks largely the same as a Superliner II but the lower level is a completely different configuration. After the beer, I headed back to my Sleeping Car and just relaxed as we made our next stop at Mendota, IL at 4:30pm and departed there at 4:33pm, now 9 minutes late. The ride was otherwise uneventful and I was realizing now how tired I was considering how early this day started for me! We made our next stop at Princeton, IL at 4:52pm and departed at 4:54pm, running 8 minutes late. Continuing the journey west, we eventually made our next stop at Galesburg, IL at 5:44pm and would depart there at 5:50pm, now 12 minutes late. It was getting close to sunset and shortly after departing Galesburg, the announcement was made for passengers holding a 6:00pm dinner reservation to head to the dining car. After being seated, two other passengers joined me who were from Westchester, PA on their way to Albuquerque, NM. We would talk a lot about rail travel in general.
  I would have the Amtrak Signature Steak with rice pilaf and a mushroom sauce. I also had a side salad and strawberry cheesecake for dessert along with a Diet Pepsi. More good eats in the Dining Car! We would make our way across the mighty Mississippi River and cross briefly into Iowa and make our only stop in the Hawkeye State shortly thereafter in Fort Madison. We arrived there at 6:44pm and the HEP (Head-End Power, which is the electric power in the train, supplied by one of the locomotives) went out for a few minutes while stopped at that station. We would depart Fort Madison at 6:49pm, now 7 minutes late. After dinner, I headed back to my sleeping car as my stop at La Plata, MO was coming up soon. It was now completely dark out so I couldn't see much from the train. Track conditions were rough in some spots but nothing terrible. At 7:48pm, Train #3 arrived in La Plata and had to do a double-spot since I got off the train in the sleeper and there were other coach passengers who also got off the train here.
  On the platform was one of the La Plata station's caretakers, Bob Cox of the American Passenger Railroad Heritage Foundation (he's the president of this group), and also Alyse from the Depot Inn & Suites who was there to drive me back to the Depot Inn which would be my "home away from home" for the next three nights. I was booked in the Pullman Suite which is a beautifully appointed room with a huge king size bed and a rather large TV on the opposite wall. I headed over to Casey's General Store to get some food (a place I would become very familiar with during my time here). Eventually, I would call it a day, and overall, another good one! La Plata is home to Silver Rails Country, and what you'll soon see are photos covering lots of great things to do while here. Before we get to that, check out some photos taken on the way here!