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Chicago, IL To New Orleans, LA On Amtrak's City Of New Orleans
  After woofing down two Big Macs and a Large Fry from McDonald's faster than I ever have in my life, I retrieved my bags as the boarding call for my next train was coming up. I chatted with a couple other passengers who like me, were waiting for the boarding call for Amtrak Train #59 - The City Of New Orleans. A small part of the lounge was set aside for passengers who would be boarding the two Pullman Rail Journeys cars that were on the end of this train. This is a special service that is run by Iowa Pacific Holdings where private cars owned by them are on the end of the City Of New Orleans and typically run with the train south on Fridays and back north from New Orleans on Mondays.
  Around 7:40pm, the boarding call was made for Sleeping Car passengers and those needing assistance from a red cap to board Train #59. I dragged my bags out of the lounge and followed the crowd back into the normal passenger concourse, then out to Track #22 which was next to the track we arrived on from the Southwest Chief (Track #24 and the train was still parked there, but departed while we were boarding). I took down car numbers as I walked towards my sleeper, the "5900" car and I had Roomette #3. The conductor scanned my ticket on my phone while on the platform and I would come to find out that this particular conductor was a railfan! I put one bag on the shelf downstairs and the other containing my computer in the room. I then walked to the head end for a quick picture and to get the rest of the car numbers. I would also chat with our excellent sleeping car attendant and the conductor a bit more before we departed Chicago on time at 8:05pm. The consist and roster photo tour for tonight's train are shown below:
  As I said earlier, there were two cars on the end of the train that belonged to Iowa Pacific Holdings as part of their "Pullman Rail Journeys" service on this train to New Orleans. Passengers in those cars would not have access to our part of the train as we would not be able to access their part of the train either. We departed Chicago on time at 8:05pm and to my surprise, dinner would be served tonight despite the late normal departure time for this train! Once we got out of Union Station, the train pulled south onto the end of the Norfolk Southern Chicago Line, then did a back up move onto the BNSF former CB&Q (Chicago Racetrack) Chicago Sub, and would pull down to where it would then connect with a line known as the St. Charles Air Line (a line jointly owned by BNSF, Union Pacific and Canadian National) and once it made its way up onto that line, we would eventually head south with our course set for New Orleans, LA. I can hear that song "The City Of New Orleans" by Arlo Guthrie playing in my head now!
  Dinner service in the diner-end of the Diner-Lounge Car began shortly after departing Chicago. The City Of New Orleans has its own distinct Dining Car menu likely due to its schedule and the type of equipment used. I was seated in the car with two women from Chicago who were on their way to New Orleans with good conversation had by all. I would have the Beef Short Rib in a red wine reduction sauce with creamy polenta, a veggie medley and a roll with strawberry cheesecake for dessert and a Diet Pepsi. Considering the food was heated in a convection oven, it was otherwise decent. We made our first station stop of Homewood, IL at 8:55pm, while at dinner and departed at 9:01pm, running 7 minutes late. We would make our next station stop of Kankakee, IL at 9:29pm and depart quickly at 9:31pm, now 8 minutes late. Note, we were still at dinner during that stop. To take another line from the song "The City Of New Orleans", as written by Steve Goodman and performed by Arlo Guthrie, "All along the southbound odyssey, the train pulls out of Kankakee, rolls along past houses, farms and fields", taking another line from that song, as it was fitting here!
  Notice I said we were still at dinner during those two station stops. The server in the Dining Car was the only person working this end of the car, yep, she had to essentially run the diner herself! Now don't get me wrong, she provided absolutely a TOP NOTCH level of service and did her job extremely well. I'm sure most everyone else felt the same way. She desperately needed more help though, and I along with a couple other passengers would tell her this later after dinner. Here's a message to those who somehow think that food and beverage services on Amtrak somehow need to be profitable: IT'S NOT POSSIBLE!!! This type of operation was never profitable even when the freight railroads ran passenger trains, so why should Amtrak be any different? This train was very busy and really needed a normal Dining Car and not one of these Diner/Lounge concepts that I don't think ever worked right even when it was first tried!
  After dinner, I walked over to the other side of the car and had a Heinekin beer and chatted with a passenger who was a railfan from Massachusetts along with a passenger who was from Mississippi who was writing a book! The crew would use the space in the lower level of the Sightseer Lounge (the next car over), so that portion of the car was not likely open to passengers, though I never checked for sure, having only overheard crews saying that's where they would be. We made our next stop at Champaign-Urbana, IL at 10:32pm and departed at 10:37pm now running 3 minutes late. Later on, we made our next stop at Mattoon, IL at 11:14pm and quickly departed at 11:16pm, still holding at 3 minutes late. I would chat with four other passengers in my Sleeping Car on the lower level about automobiles and such for a bit. After that, I would call it a day and head to bed around midnight, and so ends an interesting day, but still a good one!
  I woke up while the train was stopped in the station at Memphis, TN sometime before sunrise. We departed Memphis on time at 6:50am and I would head over to the Dining Car right away for breakfast. Finally, another crew member joined the one server in the car, having boarded the train in Memphis earlier this morning. I was told 120 people boarded the train at Memphis, so a waiting list was started for breakfast in the diner. I had my name added to the list and I headed back to my Sleeping Car and chatted with two passengers in the room across from me. They were visiting the United States from Ireland! I eventually headed to breakfast and would have the Breakfast Blintz with french toast sticks and chicken sausage patties along with a fruit compote with an orange juice and Diet Pepsi. The food was tasty and a good breakfast overall, though I wished they had just regular French Toast. During breakfast, we made a stop at Charleston, MS to let a freight pass us. This route uses tracks owned by the Canadian National Railway and are tracks formerly owned by the Illinois Central Railroad.
  At Swan Lake, MS, we had to do a backup move to get around another freight train there. Also during breakfast, an announcement was made that I never thought I'd ever hear on a passenger train, but it had to be advised that there was to be no smoking of marijuana on this train as it's a federal crime! Considering this was the first time I had ever heard this type of an announcement on an Amtrak train, it can only mean someone must have gotten busted smoking weed on the train! We made our next stop at Greenwood, MS at 9:33am, which was a crew change point for the train so a smoking break was permitted though I was in the diner eating breakfast at the time. The HEP went out briefly while stopped there, and an announcement was made that there was a mechanical problem, but they didn't elaborate as to what it was. The problem ultimately was fixed and we departed Greenwood at 9:51am, now 51 minutes late.
  I would spend some time just relaxing in my sleeping car and taking photos along the route. We made our next stop at Yazoo City, MS at 10:44am, and departed at 10:46am, now 55 minutes late. Things would continue to be otherwise uneventful and we would pass a CN freight train (throughout the ride, we passed a few), though we did have one speed restriction near Flora, MS, no big deal. We arrived at our next station stop of Jackson, MS, the capital of the Magnolia State at 11:45am. A smoking break was permitted and there was a huge crowd getting on the train including a bunch of women who wore turquoise-colored shirts that said "Hootin' Owl Girls", which I found out later was just a bunch of ladies who were headed to New Orleans for the weekend jus to have fun!
  At 12:01pm, running 41 minutes late, thanks to some schedule padding, we departed Jackson. I would opt to have lunch after departing the Jackson Station and would be seated with the same two ladies I was seated with last night out of Chicago during dinner. We made our next stop of Hazelhurst, MS while at lunch at 12:38pm and quickly left at 12:40pm, running 45 minutes late. I would have the Penne Pasta with meatballs in a tomato sauce with a Diet Pepsi for lunch and it was excellent! After lunch, I retreated back to my Sleeping Car and continued just to take in the sights along this route as this was my first ride on the City Of New Orleans. We made our next station stop at Brookhaven, MS at 12:58pm and departed at 1:00pm, running 44 minutes late. We would pass another freight around McComb, MS which was our next stop. We arrived there at 1:24pm and departed at 1:27pm, now running 47 minutes late. Shortly after departing McComb, the Cafe portion of the Diner/Lounge closed for the rest of the run to New Orleans. My sleeping car attendant told me of some scenic spots to take photos once we got out of our next stop at Hammond, MS. We arrived there at 2:14pm and departed at 2:17pm, now 49 minutes late.
  Well, my attendant was right! There was some big time scenery to see once we got out of Hammond, and by that I mean, Lake Maurepas, which is south of Pontchatula, LA. Now I know this area was hit pretty hard by Hurricane Katrina 10 years ago. I took several photos of this lake and the surrounding swamps! We would pass our northbound counterpart, Train #58, and La Place, LA. We now would pass Lake Pontchatrain and the big swamps. Unfortunately, this New Yorker didn't see something he would like to have seen that we don't have up north...GATORS!!! Oh well, I didn't see any, but those swamps and wooden bridges we were using to get through them were quite interesting! Once past the swamps, we turned east and headed towards the Crescent City of New Orleans, LA! An announcement was made that we would have to make a backup move to get into the station. We were also asked to remain seated during the backup move! I never viewed Amtrak as a roller coaster ride but OK, I'll follow the rules! We made about a 1.5 mile backup move that ended with our train arriving at New Orleans Union Station at 3:28pm, running 4 minutes early thanks to schedule padding, so the train's lateness throughout the ride ended up being a non-issue!
  I took my bags in the station but not before taking some quick photos of the train. I would then get a taxi to my hotel for the evening, the Courtyard By Marriott New Orleans/Iberville which was located on Iberville Street in the French Quarter, just a block from Bourbon Street. Now before you even think about it, NO, I didn't go to Bourbon Street as I didn't have time and I hardly ever drink anyway! This hotel had a bellhop who brought my bags up to my room after I checked in, something I've never seen at a Courtyard By Marriott and I've stayed at more of these specific brand hotels over the years than I can count! After my bags were delivered, I walked to a nearby McDonald's for a very quick dinner, then to a nearby Walgreens to pick up some more pop and bottled water for the next leg of the trip. I then walked back to the hotel to start my laundry and at that point, had my blunder for the day! I managed to somehow leave my toiletry bag on the train! (cue the sad trombone). This ended up being a bright spot for Amtrak, and me losing another $30.00 on cab fares! I called Amtrak and they pointed me to the lost and found department at the New Orleans station and low and behold, they found my bag, so all I had to do was go pick it up! I got a cab back to the station, (it was only .4 miles from the hotel and the cabs charged a flat fare for it), picked up the bag and taxied back to the hotel and finished the laundry and repacked some of the luggage so as to fit 6 bottles of water and 9 small cans of pop inside! I later tried to continue writing this travelogue after backing up photos but never got around to it as I realized just how tired I really was and would end up calling it a day! Before we head outta the Crescent City for my next destination, the City of Angels, aka, Los Angeles, check out some great photos from this trip by clicking the link below...