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Chicago, IL To Los Angeles, CA On Amtrak's Southwest Chief
  At about 2:30pm, the boarding call was made and we were directed to Track #14 where Train #3 - The Southwest Chief was waiting for us. I walked down the platform alongside the train to take down car numbers until I found my car which was the "0330" car and I was in Roomette #2. I was introduced to my attendant for this trip and one of my bags was put in the rack downstairs and I put the other in my room with my camera bag. I then ran back outside onto the platform to get the rest of the car numbers and a few pictures. On my way back to my car, a sleeper attendant in another car tried telling me I couldn't take pictures here. I just politely listened and walked back to my car (I would speak with her later regarding this and there were no issues, Amtrak's photo policy allows for hand-held photography on the platform when boarding or alighting from your train if you're a ticketed passenger). The consist and roster photo tour for today's train is shown below...
  We departed Chicago Union Station on time at 3:00pm. The third sleeping car must be substituting for the normal crew sleeper which would be a Superliner II Transition Sleeper. The typical announcements were made by the train crew letting everyone know to stay in our seats until the conductor comes by to lift tickets. Our Dining Car LSA (lead service attendant) and Cafe Car LSA made announcements as well. Our sleeper attendant introduced himself to all of us personally which was very nice. The conductor also lifted tickets and a member of the Dining Car staff walked through the car to take dinner reservations for which I opted for the 6:30pm seating. We made our first station stop at Naperville, IL at 3:31pm and departed at 3:35pm, on time. One of the things that was unique to this train was that starting at 4:00pm and running for one hour would be "Happy Hour" in the Sightseer Lounge featuring $3.00 Pabst Blue Ribbon beer along with two varieties of wine and a mixed drink all available at cheaper prices. I decided to participate in this Happy Hour and have a beer and a bag of trail mix (I must be on a train, those are two things I never have together anywhere else!). After having the beer and trail mix, I started dozing off. We made our next stop at Mendota, IL at 4:42pm and departed at 4:26pm, running 2 minutes late. America is really starting to spread out now, lots of farmland from as far as the eye can see. I have always believed, the American farmer and farming industry is the backbone of our economy! If they didn't take the risk they take in growing the food we eat, we wouldn't eat at all, so kudos to the American farmer!
  We made our next stop at Princeton, IL at 4:45pm and departed quickly at 4:46pm, running on time. The first smoking break for this trip was not scheduled until Kansas City, MO and we were otherwise on time so far. It was now dark out as the sun had set shortly after leaving Princeton. We made our next stop at Galesburg, IL at 5:36pm and departed at 5:40pm, 2 minutes late. We would have to only briefly wait for some freight traffic in the area before being on our way. I would sit in my sleeping car and do some Sudoku puzzles on my phone and listen to the radio as I waited for the "dinner bell"! The announcement was made for passengers holding the 6:30pm dinner reservations to come to the diner now. I would be seated with a passenger who was a private railroad car owner, he told me his car was called "Bedford". The two passengers sitting across from me were not railfans but conversation was good nonetheless. One of those passengers had been riding on the same trains as I was since Fort Lauderdale, FL on Saturday! I had the Amtrak Signature Steak with mashed potatoes, a vegetable medley, a side salad and a Diet Pepsi. I would also have cheesecake for dessert. The service in the Dining Car overall was a bit slow, but good. We made our next stop at Fort Madison, IA while at dinner at 6:46pm. During dinner, the HEP went out in the train briefly but returned and at 6:54pm, running 12 minutes late, we departed the only stop on the Southwest Chief in the Hawkeye State of Iowa, Fort Madison.
  We were coming up on our next stop of La Plata, MO. I had checked with the conductor previously as to where the station work would be done for this stop as the caretaker in La Plata was a friend of mine and I wanted to say hi when we got there. At 8:05pm, we arrived at La Plata. I stepped off the train and quickly chatted with the caretaker on the platform before reboarding and at 8:07pm, now 16 minutes late, we departed La Plata, MO. I headed back to my Sleeping Car to continue writing this travelogue. I then just relaxed until the next station stop of Kansas City, MO. A backup move would be done to get the train into Kansas City Union Station and at 10:22pm, after making the backup move, we arrived in Kansas City, running 11 minutes late. Temps were in the 30's when we all stepped off the train to get some air, or in my case, you guessed it, more pictures! The train was parked almost to the end of the platform which was partially under construction so photography proved to be a bit difficult (and the cold temps didn't help either), but I still managed to get some decent photos nonetheless. At 10:58pm, running 13 minutes late, we departed Kansas City. We would make a fueling stop at the BNSF (Formerly Santa Fe) Argentine Yard fueling pad and I would take a shower and head off to bed, and so ends an excellent day!
  I woke up shortly after the station stop at Garden City, KS and knew by now we must have lost more time overnight. I also noticed that there was light snow on the ground so it must be very cold out! I headed into the Dining Car for my Railroad French Toast and pork sausage patties with orange juice and a Diet Pepsi, the breakfast of "champion railfans"! I was seated with a passenger from New Mexico who was on her way home though there wasn't much conversation during this meal. After breakfast, we had a stop signal at a siding in Holly, CO. The conductor made an announcement that we were having signal problems in the area and that signal maintainers were in the area working out the problems. The dispatcher was called to walk us past a red signal and we had to continue at restricted speed until getting a more favorable signal, which eventually happened. We made our next stop at Lamar, CO at 8:40am and departed quickly at 8:41am, running 1 hour and 42 minutes late. We would ride past the John Martin Reservoir along the Arkansas River which was very neat to see. An announcement was also made that we are now in the Mountain Time Zone so as to set our watches back an hour. Our next stop coming up would be La Junta, CO which is a crew change point for the train. We would have the chance to get some air at this stop. For me, I needed roster photos of the entire train and hoped to get them at this stop. At 9:38am, running 1 hour and 23 minutes late, we arrived in La Junta.
  I immediately started getting roster photos of the entire train and I realized very quickly, it was EXTREMELY COLD here!!!! I checked the temperature on my phone, and it was 19 degrees out! This feels like home in January! An announcement was made shortly before arriving here regarding passengers who had parked cars at the station. The content of the announcement was that their cars may have been moved! It turns out, the parking lot is being resurfaced here and some cars had to be moved to make way for the work to be done. This didn't effect me obviously, though the announcement sounded a bit "comical"!
  Well, one thing that managed to hitch a ride with us to La Junta from somewhere was a big old piece of tumbleweed, stuck in the snowplow of the lead unit! After getting roster photos, we ended up stating at the station a little longer than expected due to a medical emergency in another one of the Sleeping Cars. We finally departed La Junta with a new crew at 10:18am, now 1 hour and 48 minutes late. I then headed for the Lounge Car and picked up a very well-deserved hot chocolate! I noticed snow flying past the window of my car as we trekked across southeastern Colorado though eventually, the sun did come out and the light snow had stopped. With the sun, warmer temperatures would hopefully follow, well not exactly! I checked the temp on my phone only to find it's now 21 degrees in Trinidad, CO to which we arrived at 11:39am and quickly departed at 11:40am now running 1 hour and 50 minutes late. There used to be a nice little Santa Fe station at this stop but that was torn down years ago after it got in the way of a road project on nearby Interstate 25. I decided to head to the Lounge Car and get photos going over Raton Pass. I thought I might have better luck there because the window in my Sleeping Car was now rather dirty, though this would end up being the case for the whole train. We eventually passed the Dick Wooton Ranch on the old Santa Fe Trail then made it over Raton Pass which was the highest point on the Santa Fe Railway. I would have a 12:30pm lunch reservation coming up though I would be late for lunch as our next stop at Raton, NM included a brief smoking break. So as to take advantage of that time to get more photos, I headed outside at 12:35pm when the train arrived in Raton. We departed there at 12:44pm, running 1 hour and 28 minutes late, thanks to some schedule padding.
  After the brief break in Raton, I had lunch which would be the Marketplace Special consisting of Turkey Meatballs in a tomato sauce with parmesan cheese on top. I would also have a side salad and a Diet Pepsi with chocolate moose for dessert. I was seated with three passengers, two from Indiana but the third I'm not sure where. One of the passengers was a ham radio operator, and as of September 2014, yours truly also is! Our next stop would be Las Vegas, NM where we arrived at 2:28pm, and departed at 2:30pm, running 1 hour and 52 minutes late, having lost some time since Raton. Due to our lateness, I began to realize that if we get any time at Albuquerque, it would be after sunset due to the shortened November daylight, so any pix I take there would end up being night photos, not a bad thing at all, as I think I've proven that you don't necessarily need "daylight" for photography!!!
  I hung out for an extended period in the Lounge Car, and would partake in the "Happy Hour" drink special which today included two varieties of wine, some kind of pre-mixed drink and Pabst Blue Ribbon beer. I would have he special beer and buy a bag of pretzels as we made our way through the hills of northern New Mexico. I would end up meeting two passengers from the Rochester, NY area who happened to be on the train, one of which had a Canon camera similar to mine, though she told me she wasn't a railfan, but wanted to ride the train rather than driving! I also had an interesting chat with a passenger who was truck driver from Michigan who would drive a truck one way and take the train back home. We made our next station stop of Lamy, NM at 4:10pm. Lamy has some interesting equipment on display at the station including a Bulkhead Flat Car with a Reefer Car body on it, with no trucks! We would depart Lamy at 4:13pm, running 1 hour and 49 minutes late. I would stay in the Lounge Car until around sunset before heading back to my room. We made our next stop at Albuquerque, NM at 5:18pm, this would be a service/fueling stop and a crew change point. It was now well after sunset so I took a few night photos on the platform though due to our lateness, we would not stay the full 50 minutes the schedule provides. I bought a Diet Coke from one of the vendors on the platform as well. Continuing a tradition that is over 100 years old, Native Americans in the area sell merchandise including jewelry, clothing, and blankets on the platform. This tradition dates back to the days when the Santa Fe Railway's premier train "The Super Chief" would make its daily stop in Albuquerque.
  I took a few night photos while here, enjoying the 66 degree air especially considering how cold it was this morning in La Junta! At 5:49pm, running now only 1 hour and 4 minutes late, we departed Albuquerque for points west. We would now have many "neighbors" on the railroad in the form of lots of BNSF freight trains as we were now gonna be riding on the "Transcon" which is one of their busiest main lines! The Raton Pass route we had been on has very little freight business left on it so we didn't have much of any freight traffic to contend with there. I headed to the Lounge Car to get a bag of Peanut M&M's, then relaxed in my Sleeping Car until it was time for dinner. I opted for the 6:45pm seating so as to have the time in Albuquerque to get pictures. I then headed to the Dining Car for dinner, having been seated with two passengers, one of which I had been riding with since Florida! No, I wasn't the only passenger on this train going cross-country! He would be getting off the train tomorrow morning in Victorville, CA and I would continue on to Los Angeles. The passenger next to him, I had been riding with since Chicago and all conversation was good! The passenger next to me is one of the programmers for a web site that helps show delays to Amtrak trains. We all had some great conversations that lasted well past the end of dinner. I would have the Amtrak Signature Steak once more, with the three grain rice pilaf, mashed potatoes and the vegetable medley with a Diet Pepsi, side salad and cheesecake for dessert. Once again, another great steak on Amtrak. The level of service in this car and on all the Amtrak trains that I've eaten in Dining Cars on have been excellent!!!
  After dinner, I headed back to my Sleeping Car to continue writing this travelogue. One thing I did notice ever since Albuquerque, are the number of freight trains passing us by! As I was saying earlier, the old Santa Fe Raton Pass route gets hardly any freight business anymore so there was some talk of Amtrak rerouting this train onto the BNSF Transcon in Kansas which would have it run through cities like Wichita, KS and Amarillo, TX. It turns out, it doesn't look like this will happen, as since this travelogue went online, it appears BNSF will be upgrading this line so the train can stay on it which is what appears that all parties involved would like to have happen. I continued writing this travelogue from my Sleeping Car after that. An announcement was made that the next station stop of Gallup, NM would be a brief smoking stop as well. With not enough time to do any serious night photos, I would just bring the camera and do some high-ISO images while there. We arrived in Gallup at 8:43pm and would depart after the brief break at 8:47pm. After that stop, I continued writing this travelogue some more.
  Shortly after the stop in Gallup, I headed back to the Lounge Car for a "snack" after dinner. I had a nice chat with the LSA and had some "Buffalo Chicken Chunks" or whatever they called them with ranch dressing and a Mug Root Beer. Surprisingly, these are quite tasty actually, considering they're heated up in a microwave. After having my snack, I walked back through the Dining Car and and had an excellent conversation with the Dining Car LSA and the server. I will say this crew (both Diner and Lounge) definitely had a good sense of humor. I chatted with them about Amtrak in general as we made our next stop at Winslow, AZ (now I got that song "Taking It Easy" by The Eagles playing in my head) at 10:35pm and departed at 10:37pm, running 1 hour and 47 minutes late.
  I then headed back to the Sleeping Car and started dozing off. It didn't help that the temperature in the room was quite warm with no real way to cool it down. The temperature control in the room was set to the cold position but it didn't really matter as there is only a very light flow of air in the ventilation system. I guess to each is own, because I'm sure there's many passengers who would rather have the temperature very warm. For me however, if it gets too warm, I start to doze off, which might explain why when the outside temp at home gets to 65, my air conditioner in my car is usually on! We made our next stop at Flagstaff, AZ at 11:54pm, with only a very brief stop. I was hoping to meet up with a friend in the area but he wasn't at the station when we arrived, so we departed at 11:58pm, now down 2 hours and 1 minute. I would take a shower and would go to bed shortly after the next stop at Williams Junction, AZ where we arrived at 12:35am, and departed at 12:39am, now 2 hours and 6 minutes late. And so ends an excellent day with interesting weather and good train riding, the delays so far are not having any impact on my travel plans at all...
  I woke up before arriving at the Victorville, CA stop where we arrived at 6:15am and departed at 6:18am, running 2 hours late. Of course since we crossed into California overnight, we were now in the Pacific Time Zone. I have concluded in my travels that we all have a "brain clock" and that is set to whatever your home time zone is and I've also learned that even traveling across the country by land doesn't allow you to adjust to the changing time, so as far as I was concerned, the time was 6:18am but my "brain clock" says it's 9:18am! The Dining Car LSA made an announcement that the car would be open to San Bernardino and told us to "rise & shine, cock-a-doodle-doo!!!". In my case, I haven't had my morning Diet Pepsi so I'm still half asleep (no coffee for this camper)! Anyways, after getting up, I headed to the Dining Car for breakfast which would be the Railroad French Toast with pork sausage patties and some orange juice as they were out of Diet Pepsi (but I had some in my Sleeping Car so I was OK!). I was seated with a couple who were going to visit their son in Davis, CA and would connect with the Coast Starlight upon arrival in Los Angeles.
  We were now encountering some very serious freight traffic as we made our way to the next stop at San Bernardino, CA. An announcement was made by the Lounge Car LSA to let us know it was open and that we could have pizza for breakfast if we wanted as it was available. I did head over there after breakfast for a bag of Peanut M&M's and would head back to my Sleeping Car and continue writing this travelogue. You may have noticed that I have repeatedly taken out time to write this travelogue and that's because the only way I can remember all the details I'm providing you, the reader, is to write the travelogue as I take the trip, so periodically, during each day, I keep writing the travelogue as I"m experiencing it!
  Once again, when the sun was coming up this morning, it looked beautiful but would end being cloudy shortly after sunrise, just like my last visit to LA two years ago. I could never figure out what that is! The conductor made an announcement that all station stops going forward from San Bernardino would be brief as we have passengers making connections with other trains. Later on, just before the San Bernardino stop, he made another announcement that due to freight traffic, we would be sitting in San Bernardino for 3-4 minutes so if you were "dying for a cigarette", now would be the time to have one! We made our next stop at San Bernardino, CA at 7:49am. After a very brief 3 minute stop, we departed at 7:52am, now 2 hours and 20 minutes late. There is some padding in the schedule between Fullerton and Los Angeles so I didn't anticipate us arriving in LA as late as we are currently. I continued writing this travelogue after the San Bernardino stop with most of my stuff already packed and ready to go in Los Angeles.
  We made our next stop at Riverside, CA at 8:09am and quickly departed at 8:10am. The Metrolink station is used for Amtrak to stop in this city though the original Santa Fe station is located nearby but is not in use. An announcement was made that Amtrak would allow passengers to detrain at Fullerton and connect with Pacific Surfliner Train #566 if they were to continue their trip south from LA. The only catch of course is that if they had checked baggage, it would stay on this train and be put on the next train in LA and delivered to the proper station. Having most of my stuff already packed, I just relaxed and took some more pictures as we made our way to the next stop at Fullerton, CA where we arrived at 8:58am and departed at 9:04am, running 2 hours and 30 minutes late. This stop was drop off-only as frequent service between Fullerton and Los Angeles is available on Metrolink. Shortly after departing Fullerton, the Lounge Car had closed and all passengers sitting in the upper level of the car were asked to return to their seats.
  With my attendant's permission, I walked over to an empty room on the other side of the car so as to get pictures as we went over the flyover and past the Redondo Roundhouse and Amtrak's 8th Street yard and shops. At 9:41am, we finally arrived at Los Angeles Union Passenger Terminal, running 1 hour and 26 minutes late thanks to the aforementioned schedule padding. Upon detraining, I got a bunch of photos of the trains on other platforms before heading inside and walking out to the back of the station where I would purchase a ticket for the FlyAway bus to Los Angeles International Airport for $8.00. I then waited for the bus to arrive and once it did, I headed over to LAX airport and took the shuttle to Enterprise Rent-A-Car where I would pick up my 2015 Nissan Altima as my rental car for this part of the trip. After leaving Enterprise, I drove straight to the California Science Center to see the fourth of the four space shuttles, and that would be none other than Space Shuttle Endeavour! Included below is a link to photos taken along this 2265 mile journey from Chicago to LA! There's so many of them that they are set up on three pages, yes, there's that much to see, and there's a link to each page of photos below! After checking out the pix, be sure to see Space Shuttle Endeavour, it's amazing!!!