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La Plata, MO To Chicago, IL On Amtrak's Southwest Chief
  After spending the past three nights in Silver Rails Country, today would be the day I would be leaving here and continuing my journey across our beautiful country by taking the "long way" to get to Los Angeles and eventually San Diego. The plan for today is to take the Southwest Chief back to Chicago, then connect with the City Of New Orleans and head to New Orleans, then onto the Sunset Limited to Los Angeles and Pacific Surfliner to San Diego. I would start the day by returning the rental car that I had while I was here, which was a 2015 Volkswagen Jetta TSI which I rented from Enterprise. After returning the car, I was then driven back to the hotel and grabbed breakfast at Casey's General Store, a place I ate a lot of food from while here, then continued writing this travelogue. And with that, things would now start to get really interesting...
  I received word last night saying that Train #4 - The Southwest Chief that I would ride later today is being lead by a BNSF freight unit! All I kept thinking was this can't end well! Freight units are generally only geared for a top speed around 70mph and there are large parts of this route where the train is supposed to go 90mph as this mainline is equipped with something called "Automated Train Stop" and when the lead locomotive is equipped with the proper "shoe" to work with this system, it permits the train to go 90mph. With having a freight unit leading that didn't have the same shoe on it, this system would not be available. As a result of the delay which happened in Albuquerque, NM the previous day, coupled with no protect unit from Amtrak available, BNSF loaned Amtrak GE C44-9W #4001 to lead the train which caused the train to lose a significant amount of time before it finally departed Albuquerque with the freight unit leading. The train was now not scheduled to arrive in La Plata until after noon! I originally had an approximate 5 hour layover in Chicago which has now been almost cut in half! I kept checking the status of the train with the Amtrak app on my phone which now predicted the train's arrival to be close to 1:00pm.
  I checked out of the Depot Inn & Suites around 11:45am. I was driven over to the station by Jan, using the hotel van and brought my bags inside the waiting room and chatted with the three other passengers who were also waiting for the same train. We all had at-length conversations about trains and other subjects. Two of the passengers were from Missouri and one was from Atlantic City, NJ and was trying to make a connection with the Capitol Limited (which he ultimately would not make, read on). Two other passengers showed up, one from Illinois and one from Iowa who were on their way east as well. At 12:53pm, running 2 hours and 58 minutes late, Train #4 - The Southwest Chief arrived in La Plata. The consist for today's train is shown below including the freight unit on the head end (head-end power on the train was not effected by having a freight unit lead)!
4001 C44-9W (BNSF)   Power (Loaned To Amtrak From BNSF)
168 P42DC   Power
191 P42DC   Power
1708 Heritage Baggage   Baggage Car
39021 Superliner II Transition Sleeper   Crew/Sleeping Car 0440
32091 Superliner II Sleeping Car Minnesota Sleeping Car 0431
32057 Superliner I Sleeping Car Indiana Dunes* Sleeping Car 0430 (My Car - Room #2)
38046 Superliner II Dining Car   Dining Car
33027 Superliner II Sightseer Lounge   Cafe/Lounge Car
34037 Superliner I Coach   Coach
31029 Superliner I Coach/Baggage   Coach
34038 Superliner I Coach   Coach
34097 Superliner I Coach   Coach (Deadhead Move)
SPECIAL NOTE: Superliner I Sleeping Cars were originally to be named after National Parks but the actual names were never applied to the cars.
  After the train made a double-spot at La Plata (one for sleeper, one for coach), we departed La Plata at 12:57pm, now running 3 hours and 2 minutes late. I sat in my sleeper whose room was located on the right side of the train for photography, yes!!! We had to protect a crossing at County Road 42 in Edina, MO due to partial false activation, causing us to have to stop to copy down a track warrant. I noticed a sign on the wall in this car stating that Wi-Fi internet is now available! The conductor walked the train to try to assist people with what will potentially be missed connections. An announcement was made that people connecting from this train to Train #50 - The Cardinal, will need to get off this train at Galesburg, IL and take a bus to Indianapolis, IN to meet the train there.
  Lunch was being served in the Dining Car so I headed over there and would be seated with two other passengers, and though I'm really good at including as many details as possible in these travelogues, I can't remember where these two passengers were from, oh well! I would have the Panko-Crusted Chicken Breast with garlic mashed potatoes and onion gravy with a side salad and chocolate tiramisu for dessert with a Diet Pepsi, another excellent meal in the Amtrak diner! We made our next station stop at Fort Madison, IA at 2:18pm while having lunch and a smoking break was permitted here as we had to pick up a new engineer to take us east. At 2:26pm, with our new engineer at the throttle, we departed Fort Madison now running 3 hours and 17 minutes late. After lunch, I headed back to my sleeper and would watch the scenery, and listen to my radio as we continued the journey to Chicago, albeit at a slower pace since we had the aforementioned freight unit doing the honors as our leader today. More or less, a freight unit is designed for having a lot of pulling power for pulling long freight trains, not necessarily for pulling said trains at super high speeds. For example, your daily driver for work everyday is a Chevy Camaro, but it's gonna have some mechanical work done so while it's in the shop, the loaner car the mechanic gives you is a Chevy Suburban! It's designed much more for power and towing capacity, not getting you there in a flash! That's what it was like having a freight unit doing the pulling on this train, it took much longer to get up to speed! We eventually crossed the Mississippi River and into the state of Illinois where we had to stop at CP-1699 due to a red signal which is just west of Galesburg, IL where we change mainlines from the old Santa Fe to the old Burlington Route to take all the way back to Chicago. We made our next station stop at Galesburg at 3:39pm and departed at 3:46pm now running 3 hours and 36 minutes late.
  To Amtrak's credit, the cafe car remained open throughout this time. We arrived at our next stop of Princeton, IL at 4:44pm and quickly departed at 4:46pm, now running 3 hours and 48 minutes late. It was after the stop at Princeton that a whole slew of announcements were made regarding missed connections and they included the following: Passengers going to Michigan will have alternate transportation provided (possibly a bus?) and were told to see Customer Service once they arrived in Chicago. Passengers heading to Milwaukee, WI will be reaccomodated on Hiawatha Service Train #341 with an 8:05pm departure. The big one was that if we don't make it in time for the departure of Train #30 - The Capitol Limited, passengers that can be, will be reaccomodated on Train #48 - The Lake Shore Limited and those who can't will spend the night in Chicago. My connection was with Train #59 - The City Of New Orleans and with an 8:05pm departure, so far, that connection is safe.
  We would pass our westbound counterpart, Train #3, somewhere just east of Princeton, IL. We made our next station stop of Mendota, IL at 5:08pm and quickly departed at 5:10pm, running 3 hours and 51 minutes late. The slower freight unit just wasn't able to keep up with this train's schedule it would seem. Repeated announcements were made that we still might make it to Chicago to make the connection with Train #30, but I kept checking the app and were now looking to arrive just a minute or two before that train was supposed to depart (Train #30's scheduled departure time is 6:40pm). Announcements were made by the Dining Car LSA (Lead Service Attendant) and the Cafe Car LSA thanking passengers for riding. Just outside Naperville, IL, our next stop, the Cafe Car LSA announced that the car would be closing and all passengers upstairs would need to head back to their seats or rooms as the whole car was closed off. We made our next stop at Naperville at 6:09pm and quickly departed at 6:11pm, as this station is drop off-only so no new passengers would board. We were now down 3 hours and 29 minutes thanks to some padding in the schedule, which may be why the crew thought we might be able to make the connection to Train #30.
  I briefly chatted with a volunteer from the Cuyahoga Valley Scenic Railroad which is south of Cleveland, OH, as this passenger had a room in the same Sleeping Car as me. We talked a bit about Nickel Plate #765 which also ran trips there in addition to the trip I rode and chased back in August! Unfortunately for passengers hoping to make the connection to Train #30, the announcement was made that that train departed already, on time at 6:40pm. We finally arrived in Chicago at 6:42pm, 3 hours and 27 minutes late. Why Amtrak couldn't hold that train for another 5-10 minutes is a question I'm not qualified to answer. I walked up the platform and got one more picture before heading inside and over to the Metropolitan Lounge. I'm glad I got there when I did because a huge line formed behind me of passenger who also got off this train, trying to check in here. I stored my luggage and darted upstairs to McDonald's as I was under the impression that there would be no dinner service in the diner on the City Of New Orleans once we got out of Chicago (and my sleeper attendant on the Southwest Chief didn't know if that train offered such service, so I did check beforehand!). I then walked back to the Metropolitan Lounge and never ate two Big Mac's so fast in my life as the boarding call for my next train was coming up. Before we head off to New Orleans, check out the link below for some photos taken from La Plata back here to Chicago!