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Chicago, IL To San Antonio, TX On Amtrak's Texas Eagle
Tuesday, September 27th, 2011:
  After a nice chat with a few fellow passengers who would be riding along with myself, the boarding call was made for Train #21/421 - The Texas Eagle. An announcement was made that the Conductor would be collecting tickets inside the Metropolitan Lounge which seems to be a standard practice for just about all Amtrak trains that have passengers who will be riding in sleeping cars. One nice perk for having a sleeping car ticket is usually you're one of the first people to board the train. As soon as the boarding call was made, I dragged my 2 suitcases out to the platform to track #18. My ticket was for the "2130" car in Roomette #10. The car was Superliner I Sleeping Car #32051. It just so happens that this was the last car in the train which does then allow for a nice view out the back of the train as well. The consist for today's train is shown below:
Superliner II Transition Sleeper
2132 - Sleeping Car/Crew Sleeper
Superliner I Diner/Lounge
Dining Car
Superliner II Sightseer Lounge
Lounge/Cafe Car
Superliner I Coach/Baggage
Superliner I Coach
Superliner I Coach
Superliner I Sleeping Car
Capitol Reef*
2130 - Sleeping Car (My Car)
  We departed Chicago on time at 1:45pm. For this trip, Amtrak had two managers riding, one of which was in the roomette across the hall from me! I explained to her what I planned to do with this trip and how I would go about my photography. We then had to stop for at least 15 minutes to wait for clearance to enter a work area. We were on our way after that but this did put the train behind schedule. We eventually made it to Joliet, IL our first stop at 2:55pm. We made a double spot there and departed at 3:06pm now 26 minutes late. I noticed between Chicago and Joliet that Canadian National, the railroad that owns that line is doing a serious amount of trackwork and upgrades through that area. We left our next stop of Pontiac, IL at 3:55pm, now running 28 minutes late and Bloomington-Normal, IL at 4:25pm running 21 minutes late having made up some time. Our next stop was a very quick one in Lincoln, IL as we left there at 4:54pm running 17 minutes late so at least we're making up the time. A smoking break was permitted at our next stop of Springfield, IL. We departed at 5:29pm now 15 minutes late.
  It was now time for dinner! I along with the 2 other passengers seated with me opted to have the New York Strip Steak. Mine came with a dinner salad and roll, and I had rice and mashed potatoes with a Diet Pepsi and Cheesecake for dessert. The steak was cooked perfectly and needed no steak sauce. Hey Amtrak, whoever your chef was on this train, give him a raise already!!! We made our next stop at Carlinville, IL at 6:05pm, 16 minutes late. We later had to pull into a siding in Shipman, IL to let Amtrak Train #306 pass us. This required a backup move back out onto the main line after Train #306 passed us. Our Conductor was waiting in back of the last car (which was also my aforementioned sleeping car) to facilitate this backup move. Once complete, we were on our way. I got a couple nice sunset photos near Alton, IL, our next stop. We departed there at 7:01pm now down 39 minutes. As we got closer to St. Louis, I pulled out my BlackBerry to use VZ Navigator to see where we were. I could now see the St. Louis Arch but it was too dark by then to photograph it, bummer! I would also see a sign that advertised what would be the cheapest gas price I saw on this trip, $2.99 a gallon! We arrived in St. Louis at 7:36pm running 15 minutes late. St. Louis is a service/fueling stop for the train along with a crew change point. I decided I wanted to get a night photo here so I prepped the camera before arriving and upon arrival, set up the camera and tripod on the platform. Now when I made this trip in 2009, I was hassled after taking a photo, having been told I needed some kind of "prior written consent" to take a photo there. Excuse Me??? Maybe if I was doing this commercially, but this site as you can plainly see costs you nothing to visit and I'm not in this for money! I explained this previous situation to both the managers on the train and neither had issue with me taking a picture there. As it would turn out, this year, I had absolutely no hassles unlike my last visit! I got a great night photo of the train in almost perfect light (you saw it at the top of this page)! We ended up departing St. Louis on time at 8:00pm. Shortly after departing, I decided I was now seriously tired so I set up my own bed in my sleeper (our sleeper attendant had enough to worry about so I took care of my own bed), I then took a shower and called it a day…
Wednesday, September 28th, 2011:
  I woke up around 7:00am having slept rather well considering we were traveling over 55mph stick rail for a good portion of the night! It seems the slight rocking of the train must have helped me sleep! I remember seeing the station stop at Arkadelphia, AR but then fell back asleep. Just after I got up, an announcement was made that our next stop of Marshall, TX was a crew change point but no smoking break as that would happen in Longview, TX, the next stop. One of the Amtrak managers told me I missed a night photo opportunity as we ended up sitting in Little Rock, AR for an hour due to schedule padding! The only problem was that I was dead asleep at that overnight hour and have no memory of the train stopping there! Oh well, maybe next time! I had breakfast which was Railroad French Toast with Pork Sausage Patties and Orange Juice with a Diet Pepsi. I was seated with two ladies heading home to El Paso, TX and the food was excellent. We have a head Dining Car Steward on this train that really loves his job and you could tell by how well he took care of passengers! I ate breakfast relatively quickly as our next stop at Longview, TX was coming up and it would be a smoking break which means what else? MORE PICTURES!!! I was able to get a few pix in before departing there at 8:30am, 2 minutes late. I went back to my sleeper to back up the pictures I took from yesterday and continue writing this travelogue. We had to stop once in Big Sandy, TX likely due to a freight delay. Our next stop was Mineola, TX where they have a nice caboose on display across from the station there. We departed there at 9:35am running 10 minutes late. So far, the delays have really been for the most part no big deal. At Terrell, TX, we got slowed down by a freight in front of us that was waiting for a freight in front of it to get into a siding at Terrell. We would end up following this slow UP freight all the way to Fort Worth! This freight ended up delaying our arrival at Dallas and thus we arrived there at 12:21pm running 51 minutes late. A smoking break was permitted though it would be a quick one as we were behind schedule so we couldn't spend too much time there. We were ready to depart when the Conductor went walking through the train looking for a passenger that didn't get off. That passenger eventually got off and we left Dallas at 12:37pm running 47 minutes late.
  As I said earlier, we were following the freight train since after Mineola and this would slow us down even further once we got out of Dallas. I decided to have lunch between Dallas and Forth Worth. I had lunch with a couple from Plattsburg, NY who were on their way to Pomona, CA along with another passenger on her way to somewhere in Texas if I remember correctly. I had the Angus Steak Burger with Chips and a Diet Pepsi for lunch and a Chocolate Éclair for dessert, all the food was very good! I managed to photograph Cowboys Stadium along with Rangers Ballbark At Arlington, the Stadium the Texas Rangers play at along with the Six Flags Over Texas Theme Park before we arrived at our next stop of Fort Worth, TX. This is another service stop/crew change point for the train. We ended up not arriving in Fort Worth until 2:19pm running 54 minutes late. The train was inspected and the pump truck was called in to pump at least 2 of the cars. I took a bunch of pictures of the train during our brief stop there and we were on our way out of Fort Worth at 2:42pm running 32 minutes late.
  It was easy to see our Conductor coming into Fort Worth was not happy at all with Union Pacific's dispatching which was the biggest reason for the train's lateness. We would leave Fort Worth now on BNSF trackage to Temple, TX. I had a conversation with another passenger who was on his way to an event he was working on with ESPN! I also chatted with a newspaper writer from the Fort Worth area about Amtrak for a bit as we went past Tower 55 on our way out (as well as into) Fort Worth Station. Our next stop was Cleburne, TX. There was a Santa Fe caboose on display at the station there, nice! We left Cleburne at 3:38pm running 46 minutes late. I had a pizza and a Diet Pepsi as an afternoon snack and had a chat with the café car attendant whom I rode with on the California Zephyr back in 2007! Our next stop was McGregor, TX and we left at 4:57pm running 57 minutes late. I was scheduled for a 5:30pm dinner in the dining car but wanted to see the equipment on display at our next stop of Temple, TX so I decided to just go to dinner late. At 5:37pm, we arrived at Temple where a brief smoking break was permitted. I then took a bunch of pictures and reboarded and thereafter went to dinner.
  The train would end up sitting at the Temple Station for the entire time I was in the dining car eating dinner. I had the steak again, same as last night and all the food was very good. I was seated with a woman on her way home to suburban San Antonio, TX. As I said before, the train didn't move an inch while I was eating dinner. The reason now was that a freight train became disabled as it uncoupled in one spot in Little River, TX which is just south of Temple. Having sat at Temple Station for 1 hour and 4 minutes, we finally departed there at 6:41pm running 1 hour and 58 minutes late. We would only end up travelling a short distance only to now be stopped again because of this disabled freight. We were now sitting in Little River, TX waiting for this train to go to a siding so we could get around it. I had a chat with a few passengers and took some nice sunset photos there. We must have sat there for close to a half hour only to move a couple thousand feet and stop again, this time for about 1 hour and 45 minutes waiting for this freight train to get on the move again. I then went back to my sleeping car to back up the pictures I took today, and continue writing this travelogue while listening to the scanner to find out what was happening. To Amtrak's credit, they did keep us informed about the status of the train and what was holding us back from moving further. We FINNALY got moving again at 8:48pm out of Little River and continued onto our next stop of Taylor, TX.
  I headed over to the lounge car to have a Screwdriver (cost $6.50 but at least they use Absolut Vodka!) and had a conversation with another passenger who studied computer animation in college and so we discussed computers and such before making the next stop at Taylor, TX. We arrived there at 9:23pm and made a double spot there then departed at 9:30pm running 3 hours and 54 minutes late. I later found out more information about the disabled train that caused us this huge delay. It was a BNSF freight that became uncoupled and the locomotive now on the end of the train (likely to push the train back together maybe?) had an issue where its brakes refused to release which just added more to the problem! The train was travelling on UP track but was a BNSF train trying to reach the yard in Temple. An announcement was made that after Austin, TX, there would be no more announcements made for the rest of the ride to San Antonio. To Amtrak's credit, snack packs and bottled water were given to everyone on the train due to the lateness of the train which was very nice of them to do so! We arrived at Austin at 10:08pm and were granted a quick smoking break. It wasn't long enough to get a night photo so I just got some air and thought "now we're in Austin, and so now I have that Blake Shelton song "Austin" playing in my head!" Oh well, we were out of Austin at 10:18pm now 3 hours and 48 minutes late. The next stop was at San Marcos, TX and it was brief, departing at 11:04pm, 3 hours and 52 minutes late. I took one walk back through the train then went back to my sleeper and checked to see how far we were from San Antonio on the VZ Navigator and just waited until we finally arrived in San Antonio at 12:30am, running 2 hours and 35 minutes late thanks to schedule padding. This part of the journey ended a bit late but this trip is by no means over, please read on…
Thursday, September 29th, 2011:
 This day started shortly after arriving in San Antonio on the Texas Eagle. As I said earlier, we arrived in San Antonio at 12:30am running 2 hours and 35 minutes late. Passengers travelling on to points west have the option at San Antonio of going out and exploring the city as the train has a rather long layover there. I decided to just stay at the station and went to go get a night photo of the train before they broke it up. Amtrak did the smart thing this time in putting the sleeper and coach that are going to Los Angeles as the last 2 cars in the train which makes breaking up the train so much easier and faster! This was not the case 2 years ago as the train had to be broken up in multiple places to isolate the 2 cars that were heading west. While at the station, I had also photographed the Southern Pacific steamer on the station grounds only to get back to my car and see it was closed off as the train was now being broken up. They spotted my sleeper and the coach for LA at about the same place where the power was spotted when we arrived. This involved having to swap the positions of both cars so that the sleeping car would be the last car but overall, the way this was done was very quick and efficient. They serviced the 2 cars (as well as the rest of the train when it initially arrived in San Antonio as well as hooked up the HEP again so we would have power and water in both cars. I decided to go take a shower as I was gonna stay awake for the arrival of the Sunset Limited which is now after 4:00am as its running late. After I got out of the shower, I noticed a puddle of water next to my sleeping car on the ground. It turns out that the shower water does drain outside as it's not an environmental concern like toilet waste which goes into a holding tank and is pumped out of the car eventually. Train #1 – The Sunset Limited was running late and wasn't scheduled until around 4:30am. I managed to get another night photo of the Texas Eagle now sitting on a further away track as it would be going north later today with 2 cars added that would replace the coach and sleeper that were put on the Sunset Limited from my train. And now, check out some great photos taken along the route of Amtrak's Texas Eagle!!!