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San Antonio, TX To Los Angeles, CA On Amtrak's Sunset Limited
Amtrak's Sunset Limited during it's station stop at El Paso, TX
on Thursday, October 1st, 2009
Thursday, October 1st, 2009:
  I woke up around 8:00am. An announcement had been made that we departed San Antonio on time at 5:40am and that members of the crew would be coming by to the coach that joined the train from the Texas Eagle so as to turn the seats around because they now were all facing backwards! For me, I didn’t switch the way I sleep in my sleeper as that doesn't bother me. Our next stop coming up would be Del Rio, TX. It would be a quick smoking break so I used the quick stop to snap a platform photo of the train and take down the rest of the car numbers. After we left Del Rio on time at 8:35am, I headed to the dining car for breakfast! Finally, a "normal" dining car!!! I was seated with a woman from Florida and had the Railroad French Toast once again with Sausage Patties and Orange Juice with a Diet Pepsi. The food and the service were the best I’ve seen so far in this trip! The dining car crew on the Sunset Limited is based in Los Angeles and they take a great deal of pride in their work!!! After breakfast, I ran back to my sleeper to grab the camera and on the way back to the lounge car photographed the Pecos River near Langtry, TX! We were riding over the highest railroad bridge in America! The consist for today’s train is as follows:
Amtrak's Sunset Limited - Wednesday, October 1st, 2009 - 44 Axles
Car/Engine Type:
Heritage Baggage
Baggage Car
Superliner II Transition Sleeper
0132 - Sleeping Car/Crew Sleeper
Superliner II Sleeping Car
0130 - Sleeping Car
Superliner II Dining Car
Dining Car
Superliner I Sightseer Lounge
Cafe/Lounge Car
Superliner I Coach/Baggage
Superliner I Coach
Superliner I Coach
Coach (From Texas Eagle)
Superliner II Sleeping Car
2130 - Sleeping Car (From Texas Eagle)(My Car)
To view a roster photo of each engine/car, simply click on the car number but be sure
to use your browser's BACK button to get back to this page!
Special Note: Superliner II Sleeping Cars were delivered with names
but as they've been shopped, the names have been removed.
  This is my first ride on the Sunset Limited and the scenery is just amazing here in western Texas! We paralleled U.S. Highway 90 for a great distance along with the abandoned original Rte. 90! The landscape here now consists of lots of cactuses and prickly pears with bushes everywhere and lots of rocky hills, a lot different than the eastern end of the state!!! I sat in the lounge car for a bit and took a bunch of pictures as we were riding through Langtry, TX which is right near the Mexican border and the area near Judge Roy Bean’s court. He was known as "the hanging judge"!!! We crossed over Eagle West Creek a well which is scenic. Another passenger had a GPS app on his iPhone and was telling us where we were. I need to see if something like that is available for a BlackBerry!!! My original plan after breakfast was to go back to sleep as I had left my bed set up as such but decided to stay awake for now and take some pictures! We didn’t make a stop at the next stop of Sanderson, TX as it's a flag stop and nobody was getting on or off the train there. An announcement was made that we were actually running about 23 minutes late at Sanderson even though we didn't stop. I continued writing this travelogue and chatting with people in the Sightseer Lounge. I was scheduled for Lunch today at 12:15pm! Lunch today was the special sandwich which consisted of smoked turkey with melted provolone cheese and a small salad on the side. The food was delicious, and of course I had a Diet Pepsi for a beverage!!! The conversation with other passengers was also excellent. Around 1:10pm, we arrived at our next stop of Alpine, TX. They allowed us to get off the train to smoke but I of course, I don't smoke so I took the opportunity to photograph the train! The train made a second spot at the station and we reboarded it there. I have no idea why they chose to do this. Alpine is the station stop near Big Bend National Park and would mark the section of the trip with the longest distance between two stations. The next stop after Alpine would be El Paso, some 218 miles away! We departed Alpine on time at 1:24pm.
  Just west of Alpine, we had to stop so as to let our eastbound counterpart, Train #2 – The Sunset Limited pass us. Being in the last car of the train, I was able to get a great picture of the train passing us while we waited. I eventually did go back to get some rest. As I said before, I didn’t get much sleep the night before so I left my bed set up in my sleeper all day so as to catch some zzz's where possible. Not far outside of El Paso, TX, we passed a huge grove of pecan trees and cotton fields along with alfalfa fields. At 3:55pm, we arrived, 45 minutes early into El Paso. We would pick up a new crew there and we would end up being there for an hour and a half due to us arriving so early along with the way the schedule was written! I had absolutely perfect light as there wasn’t a cloud in the sky and the sun was in the perfect position so I took photos of the whole train while there. One thing that looked a bit concerning was the fact that there was razor wire on the fencing around the station platform. I was told this is because we are so close to the Mexican border. My assumption is this is a security measure. There was also a woman on the platform who was selling homemade burritos! I bought 2 of these things because they were absolutely delicious, they had spicy beef and potatoes in them, yes, real Mexican food!!! I had a good conversation with one of the conductors about this train and how I wish it ran everyday. My personal belief is that if this train ran every day (currently it's only a tri-weekly operation), it would get better ridership. We departed El Paso at 5:25pm on time.
  As soon as we left, we passed a smoke stack at a nearby industry that at one point was the tallest in the U.S. I was told this by another passenger in the lounge car. We would then ride directly next to the Mexican border for a couple miles. You could literally see Mexico from the train, and what I saw was what looked like a very poor village with homes with no roofs on them and such, very sad. While in the lounge car, I picked up a bottle of juice and a deck of Amtrak playing cards for my grandmother, she likes to play cards! I was scheduled for a 6:30pm dinner reservation so when the announcement was made, I headed back to the dining car for dinner. I said before that the Sunset Limited has a normal dining car, and is running the "old" simplified dining service. Not quite what the Empire Builder has, but a huge improvement over what's on the Eagle! The special tonight was BBQ Beef Brisquet so I figured since the BBQ Beef Brisquet sandwich I had the day before was good, I should try this. I had a salad and roll as you still get both with your meal on this train! Yes!!! The beef came with mashed potatoes and rice and I had a Diet Pepsi to drink. The food was absolutely delicious! Whoever the chef is on this train, give him a raise!!! The service provided by the dining car crew on this train was better than that I've seen in the last few years I’ve been traveling !!! I'm gonna give my opinion now on Diner-Lite since I’ve had a chance to basically sample it along with regular Simplified Dining Service.
  Diner-Lite was put in place as a means to reduce food service expenses on Amtrak and ultimately combine the lounge car with the dining car so as to operate both as one car and have an all-day menu. The only train that fully implemented this was the City Of New Orleans as the Texas Eagle still has a Sightseer Lounge car and it is staffed. This food cost reduction was part of a mandate by the Bush administration to do so. All this ended up doing was eliminating jobs and reducing the quality of the food if you ask me. Now don’t get me wrong, the food isn’t bad, but it’s not what you would get on the Empire Builder which still has a "normal" dining car where you can get pancakes for breakfast and a steak at dinner and your meal is served on real china plates. It’s also not what you would get on a train like the Sunset Limited which still uses a normal dining car but runs the "Simplified Dining Service" which in itself was implemented a few years ago in a cost-cutting move on food service. One passenger whom I sat with at dinner on the Sunset had been on the Texas Eagle since Chicago and was so unhappy with the dining car service on the Texas Eagle that he seriously considered getting off the train in St. Louis and flying the rest of the way to his destination. This should be a real eye-opener to Amtrak that "dinner in the diner" is a part of the overall experience of riding on a passenger train and though I don’t think anyone is expecting 5 star cuisine when they ride, getting no salad with your dinner served by a crew that wasn’t exactly giving the best service on the Eagle is enough to really turn off passengers from riding again. Let's face it, the dining car never made money. If it was to make a profit, trust me, you (nor I) wouldn't be able to afford to eat there! Amtrak should just bring back the old dining car service that they still have on the Empire Builder. I know from past experience that I've had some incredibly delicious meals in those dining cars on previous trips!!!
  After dinner, I went back to my sleeper and decided to relax until Tucson. We would have another service stop there and I wanted to get night photos of the train there. We had to wait for some freight traffic just before arriving in Tucson. We arrived there at 9:47pm, 1 hour and 3 minutes EARLY!!! We would stay there until 11:35pm. The train was being serviced here so I would wait until after the train was refueled to go get night photos of the train which I was given permission to get by the train crew. The station in Tucson also has a former Southern Pacific steamer on display which I got a couple pictures of along with a statue of Wyatt Erpp and Doc Holiday! I also had a nice chat with a couple Union Pacific railroad cops who were there just hanging out. I talked with them for about 20 minutes and eventually the fuel truck left and I went over to the head end to get a night photo of the train. This trip has been incredible so far, I have gotten night photos in St. Louis, San Antonio, and now Tucson!!! We still had some time before leaving Tucson after I was done taking pictures so I hung out with the Amtrak crew for a bit and then went back to my sleeper and transferred files off my digital camera to their temporary storage facility (my laptop and an external hard drive). We had left Tucson on time at 11:35pm. We would arrive late into Maricopa, our next stop (suburban Phoenix) likely due to freight traffic. The station platform is very small in Maricopa and so the train had to make 3 spots there to let off passengers. There is a building now on the property. Previously the station was built inside a former CB&Q Vista-Dome Observation car which is still on display there. We left Maricopa at 1:19am. I now decided to charge my electronic gadgets (computer, cell phone, iPod, camera battery) and would go take a shower and finally call it a day knowing I had a huge drive ahead of me the following morning. And so ends today…
Thursday, October 2nd, 2009:
  I woke up somewhere near Palm Springs, CA around sunrise.  I decided I was gonna skip breakfast this morning as the dining car was set to open at 5:30am and close shortly after our station stop in Palm Springs.  I figured I should get as much sleep as possible since I have a very long drive ahead of me to suburban Las Vegas!  I would get a knock on my door of my roomette only to have the attendant bring me breakfast from the dining car because she had heard I wanted to sleep in!  She brought me bacon and eggs with hash browns and the food was actually very good!  I ended up getting up shortly before 7am and took a few pictures out the rear end of the train once again.  We made our station stop in Ontario, CA and then Pomona, CA where we left at 8:21am.  An announcement was made that we would have an arrival in Los Angeles around 9:10-9:15am on track #11.  We would end up arriving in Los Angeles at 9:20am, 20 minutes early and so ends an incredible ride on Amtrak!!!  I got off the train only to see 2 interesting things: First, a huge string of New Jersey Transit cars, no idea why they were there.  And second, the private car "Tioga Pass" on the rear end of the Coast Starlight which was pulling into the station and would later go out that day as the northbound Train #14.  I photographed that train and then grabbed my 2 suitcases and walked down into the tunnel to Los Angeles Union Station. Well, what do you say we get to the pictures GENO! Here we go, check out the link below!