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Chicago Union Station - The Experience

2002 Cross-Country Amtrak Trip
Chicago Union Station -
The Experience

February 21st, 2002:

   After wheeling my luggage down the platform into Union Station (Thank God it had wheels on it!!!!) I began looking around the station for a place to store my luggage for 3 hours. My past experience with Amtrak holding luggage is that they usually will do so for a small charge. I also noticed several lockers available for rental as well. I walked over to a set of these lockers only to find out they were all full, a likely story! I then walked over to the Baggage Check counter and was told I needed to rent a locker as they couldn't store it there. I then replied that I was told all the lockers were full. I was then told by the agent to check another set of lockers near the baggage claim area which is set up similar to baggage claim areas in airports. Lucky for me, I found one locker available. I rented the locker for an initial fee of $1.25 and put away my two suitcases and kept my camera bag with me. Altogether, this took up 35 minutes of my time.
   As I walked around the station, I noticed a couple other trains parked on the platform so I asked permission to walk on the platform to photograph some of these trains. The crew today had no problem with my doing so, probably because I asked first. Sitting on the platform was Amtrak Train #7, The Westbound Empire Builder which would depart later this afternoon but before the Southwest Chief. A Hiawatha Service train complete with a "Cabbage" Cab Control Former F40PH on one end and a P42 on the other. Also on the platform were a few Metra Commuter Trains but not too many because the afternoon rush hour was not yet upon us. After heading back inside since it was cold on the platform, I called my Parents back home in New York to let them know that I arrived late but otherwise OK. Upstairs in Union Station is a large Food Emporium so I decided since I was hungry that I should get some lunch while I'm here. I had some Chinese Food that was well, OK at best, but oh well. I also checked out the Great Hall of Union Station where there were several vendors selling everything from artwork to sweaters to purses to CD's. Union Station is an architectural gem, a beautiful building that I'm glad is being used today. My only hope is that Buffalo can save and restore Central Terminal so it can go back to being the way Chicago Union Station is today. After lunch and a bunch of slides of the inside of the station, I stopped by a newsstand for a Snicker's Bar and a copy of USA Today to read on the train. I didn't leave the station, just took a few more slides on the platform and then decided with about a half hour or so before they would make our boarding call, it was time to pick up my luggage. I then paid $6.00 to get our my luggage, yes, it's expensive but it was better than lugging 100 pounds of luggage around!!! I headed over to the South Gates and was told to wait at Gate E for the boarding call for the Southwest Chief. They eventually made the call and first let Senior Citizens, Families, and Sleeping Car Passengers board first before Coach passengers. I boarded the train and took the seat assigned to me by the crew member on the platform.