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Segment 4 - Fullerton To Chicago

2002 Cross-Country Amtrak Trip:
The Southwest Chief - February 26th-28th, 2002

Amtrak's Southwest Chief Seen Albuquerque, New Mexico
on February 27th, 2002

February 26th, 2002 - Departing Fullerton, Headed To Chicago

I had arrived earlier today at around 3:30pm about 4 hours before my train was scheduled to depart so I could get in some more trainwatching before I left. First I have to thank my Aunt, Uncle and 3 cousins for letting me stay at their house in Placentia for the 3 nights I was there. Thanks so much for everything!!! Tonight's train arrived in Fullerton at approximately 7:45pm, on time. Unfortunately, the sun has long since gone down by then so no photo opportunities were available. The train's consist is as follows...

Amtrak's Southwest Chief - February 26th, 2002
Gov. Tommy G. Thompson
Heritage Baggage
Ex-ATSF Built By ACF - 1955
Superliner II Transition Sleeper
Crew Dorm/Sleeper
Superliner I Sleeper
Sleeping Car
Superliner II Sleeper
Sleeping Car
Superliner I Diner
Dining Car
Superliner I Sightseer Lounge
Lounge & Cafe Car
Superliner I Coach
Coach/Smoker Coach - Former Coach #34100
Superliner I Coach
Superliner I Coach
MHC (7)
Road Railers (8)

   My car for this trip was Superliner I Coach #31591, it was decorated nicely with gray and red seats and the seats reclined back with no problems. I was assigned an aisle seat for this trip (I had a window seat on the way there) and was seated with a group of Amish people headed to Nappanee, Indiana. I had some very nice conversations with them throughout the trip and they found my MiniDisc player to be an interesting gadget.
Shortly after we left Fullerton, the dining car closed up early for the evening. Amtrak's timetable for this train says there is a limited menu on Train #4 departing Los Angeles, but it didn't mention a limited time so that was surprising. Anyway, I headed over to the lounge car which was the next car up from my coach and I had a beer while watching some of the movie "Bandits". Tonight's other lounge car movie was "Tortilla Soup". It was well past sunset so there was no light for photography. I did find it strange that some coach passengers were actually trying to "sleep" in the lounge car, which is open at all times on the trip though the food cafe is only open usually until 11pm or so. I went back to the coach and fell asleep, passing through San Bernardino, Victorville, and Needles, California, then Kingman, Williams Junction, Arizona. I woke up when we arrived at Flagstaff, Arizona around 6:00am..
   I had breakfast in the Dining Car, Pancakes & Sausage, and they were absolutely delicious, some of the best pancakes I've ever had on Amtrak, seriously!!! I had a Diet Pepsi to drink. Our next stop was Winslow, Arizona, then Gallup, New Mexico. At Gallup, Gerald Pinto, a Navajo Indian boarded the train and gave an interesting tour between Gallup and Albuquerque in the lounge car which covered the sights along the way between those two cities. This is a regular event on this train and is a very interesting tour. We arrived in Albuquerque at 12:05pm about 30 minutes early which meant we would be sitting there until 12:55pm, our scheduled departure time! I got off the train to take down car numbers and photograph all the passenger cars of the train. This was a regular service stop for this train where the locomotives refuel courtesy of a fueling truck that pulls up onto the platform and fills each locomotive. Since I had 50 minutes to hang out in Albuquerque, I ran inside the station, called my parents back home then ran over to the Greyhound Bus Station to get some food to take back. I had some Chicken Fingers and a BBQ Rib Sandwich that, I'll be honest, was not very good. I also had a burrito from the stand set up at the station, a real New Mexico Burrito stuffed with beef, refried beans, potatoes, and green chilies, it was delicious!
   We left Albuquerque on time at 12:55pm and passed through some beautiful country before heading into Lamy, New Mexico. This portion of the BNSF is, according to another passenger I talked to, is mostly used by Amtrak as there is no business left on it for freight. This is most likely the reason the line is governed by semaphores guarding the interlockings as well as hand-throw switches! An announcement was made that we would have to move onto a siding to let our westbound counterpart, Train #3, pass us since this was a single track line, we were on time, and our counterpart was 3 hours late. We didn't lose much time waiting for the other train to pass before we left and headed for Las Vegas and Raton, New Mexico. It was now about sunset as I sat down in the dining car for another one of those great steaks! We went through Raton Pass about 20 minutes after sunset and were now in Colorado, on the way to Trinidad. The food on Amtrak, I am convinced, is worth the inflated price you pay because it's prepared very well and tastes great! and the crew does an excellent job with service in the car as well.
   Our next service stop was coming up in La Junta, Colorado. We arrived there about 7:55pm, early again! We were gonna be there until 8:33pm, so myself and another passenger decided to "sprint" over to the Safeway Grocery Store located near the Amtrak Station to get some snack food for the rest of the trip. I picked up 2 20oz bottles of pop (Sierra Mist and Orange Slice, 2 of my favorites!) a package of Cadbury Crème Eggs and a pack of gum, also picked up a Colorado Lottery Ticket but well, I still rode in Coach the rest of the trip, hence, I didn't win anything but oh well!
   I set my watch ahead one hour as we would pass through another time zone overnight. I ended up falling asleep as we stopped at Lamar, Colorado, then entered the state of Kansas. We passed through Garden City, Dodge City, Hutchinson, Newton, & Topeka Kansas overnight. I woke up as we had just left Lawrence, Kansas, about a half hour late. Our next stop was Kansas City but due to more padding in the schedule, we, yes, arrived EARLY!!!! Around 7:50am and left at 8:21am, on time. I had to have those pancakes one more time so I went back to the Dining Car and had the pancakes and sausage with a Diet Pepsi (By now your wondering, why a Diet Pepsi at every meal? Simple, When I was in college, I drank Diet Pepsi to stay awake, it tasted better than coffee, and I guess it just stuck with me!)
   Our next stop was La Plata, Missouri and then Fort Madison, Iowa, the only stop on the Southwest Chief in that state. One of the crew members told me to watch out the window as we were gonna be heading over the Mississippi River Bridge into Illinois. I set up my camera and took a few slides as our train rolled over one of the biggest bridges of its kind in the country! Our next stop was Galesburg, Illinois. We were running around 20-30 minutes late but still I say, not bad considering how long we've traveled. I made 2 Heater Meals for myself at that time as I didn't plan to have lunch in the dining car. We made a couple switches onto different tracks before arriving in Galesburg. We then passed through Princeton, Mendota, and Naperville, Illinois. I started gathering up my bags as Chicago was coming soon. The train crew then made a nice "thank-you" announcement as we were moving through the coach yard and an area where we would dump the road railers from the train. Due, once again to padding in the schedule, we ended up arriving in Chicago at 3:42pm, 54 minutes EARLY!
   Overall, I must say, another great trip across America on this train, the onboard crew was friendly and took care of everything for everyone. This train isn't just a train ride, its an experience you have to see to believe! I headed into Union Station and stored away my bags in a locker for $1.25 (I would end up paying an additional $7.00 when I returned to pick up the bags). I then asked permission to photograph trains on the platform but was denied this time but was thanked for asking first. Apparently, nobody was allowed on the platform until boarding calls were made.
   I picked up some gum and a copy of USA Today at a newsstand then went to McDonald's inside Union Station. I still had some time left so I left the station and walked around Downtown Chicago for a bit and saw such buildings as the Sears Tower, which is amazing! The "Windy City" is awesome, I'll definitely have to come back here again and spend some time just in Chicago! I had about 40 minutes left before my train was scheduled to leave, I'd be taking Train #48, The Lake Shore Limited back to Buffalo...