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Chicago, IL To San Antonio, TX On Amtrak's Texas Eagle
Amtrak's Texas Eagle taking an extended break at Dallas, TX
on Wednesday, September 30th, 2009
Tuesday, September 29th, 2009:
  When the boarding announcement in the Metropolitan Lounge was made, I walked out to the train with a crowd of other sleeping car passengers. I was assigned to room #5 in the "2130" sleeper. This would be Superliner II Sleeping Car #32117 "Wisconsin". Once boarded, I found my room and got situated. This car was second from the engine and would be the car that will be cut off from the train in San Antonio, TX and connected to the Sunset Limited. Thus my ticket was printed with the train #421 which is considered to be the sleeper and coach that continue the trip with the Sunset Limited to Los Angeles. I then got the rest of the car numbers on the train and was able to take a few photos before leaving (I asked the sleeper attendant and was granted permission to take the photos). We left Chicago on time at 1:45pm. The consist for today’s train is shown below:
Amtrak's Texas Eagle - Tuesday, September 29th, 2009 - 32 Axles
Car/Engine Type:
Superliner II Transition Sleeper
2132 - Sleeping Car/Crew Sleeper
Superliner II Sleeping Car
2130 - Sleeping Car (To Los Angeles) (My Car)
Superliner I Diner-Lounge
Dining Car
Superliner II Sightseer Lounge
Cafe/Lounge Car
Superliner I Coach/Baggage
Coach/Baggage Car
Superliner I Coach
Superliner I Coach
Coach (To Los Angeles)
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 would be my first trip in a Superliner II sleeping car as all of my previous trips in a Superliner sleeper have been with Superliner I equipment. The room is largely the same as a Superliner I with only subtle changes such as an open area for hanging your clothes as compared to a small narrow closet in the Superliner I. After leaving Chicago, I chatted briefly with the passenger in the room across from me. She was originally from Rochester, NY, about an hour east of Buffalo. We talked for a bit and I was told the Conductor would come by to collect tickets. We traveled on Canadian National trackage from Chicago to Joliet which is of former Illinois Central heritage. We crossed over several other railroads between Chicago and Joliet as well. We made our first station stop in Joliet, IL and left there at 2:48pm, running 8 minutes late. I had seen a Conductor walk through my car at least 2-3 times but never stopped by to collect my ticket. I would come to find out that tickets were collected in the station in Chicago, but for some reason, mine wasn't collected, and I never heard an announcement saying they would be. I found the Conductor in the dining car and gave him my ticket. I then grabbed the camera and headed for the Sightseer Lounge to get in some pictures while there was still some good light. I met up with a couple from suburban Syracuse, NY who had seen me in Union Station back in Chicago. They were big fans of Syracuse University sports and I was wearing a Syracuse University hoody! We had an interesting conversation about a variety of topics. We left our next stop at Pontiac, IL at 3:41pm now 14 minutes late. The Texas Eagle runs with only one engine and no baggage car though the train does offer checked baggage service and utilizes a Superliner I Coach/Baggage Car for the service.
  We left our next stop of Normal, IL at 4:10pm now only 6 minutes late. One of the Dining Car attendants came by and took reservations for dinner from which I chose the 5:30pm seating. The Texas Eagle uses the same kind of "experimental" Diner-Lounge cars for dining service. This is the same car as what was on the Capitol Limited. It features the "Cross Country Cafe" with an all-day menu though I don't remember ever seeing the car open for service outside of regular meal times. For dinner, I was seated with 2 other passengers. One originally from Florida on his way to San Antonio and another from New York on her way to Palm Springs. This would be my first of 8 dining car meals on this train so I decided to try the Braised Beef selection. It came with a choice of baked potato, mashed potatoes or rice and a vegetable. The veggie was cauliflower and broccoli, 2 veggies I can't stand (bring back the corn medley, that was delicious!). I had rice as the side dish with a Diet Pepsi to drink. I had a chocolate-peanut butter cheesecake for dessert which was delicious. The beef was very soft and tender and tasted more like a pot roast.
  One thing I didn't catch right away that another passenger seated with me noticed was that there is no longer a dinner salad included with the dinner entrees. This must be new because this was included as of last year! If you want a salad now, you have to pay extra for it. I have to give a little "mini-rant" on this subject: I know times are tough, but the dinner salad they served was less than a cup of some variation of "Dole Classic Blend Salad" (which is not that expensive and is on sale quite frequently in most grocery stores) and was served in a plastic bowl with 2 cherry tomatoes and your choice of dressings. I can't for the life of me figure out why an item that really has a relatively low cost like that would be eliminated as part of dinner. Several things have been eliminated over the years which won't stop me personally from wanting to continue riding, but can be a real detractor in terms of customer satisfaction. Among them are free pop in the sleeping car, free wine tasting for sleeping car passengers on trains that offer it (there's a charge for it now), and now the dinner salad in the dining car is gone. These are things that need to seriously be addressed if Amtrak is to succeed in getting new riders. As you'll read later in the travelogue, I would come to find out that no salad at dinner was relegated to just the Texas Eagle on this trip.
  After dinner, I headed back to my sleeper and just hung out there until or next stop in St. Louis, MO. We crossed the Mississippi River and thus into the state of Missouri. At 7:17pm, running 4 minutes early, we arrived in St. Louis. This would be a service stop and crew change point for the train as our crew that brought the train to St. Louis would end their run and a new crew would board who would take us to Little Rock, AR. I decided since we had the time that I would get in some night photography on the platform. I managed to get a beautiful night photo of the train as well as a BNSF Freight that was also parked there. I was then told by some station manager that photography there was only allowed with prior written consent. I was told this however, after I had already gotten the pictures and was not asked to delete my photos so this was a moot point. At St. Louis, the train took on water and the locomotive was refueled. The drain in one of the bedroom showers in my car had to be worked on by Amtrak’s mechanical crew while during the service stop as it had become plugged up. This problem was rectified for the most part at that point. We departed St. Louis on time at 8:00pm.
  After leaving St. Louis, the tone for the attendant call button kept going off repeatedly in the car for no reason but this stopped after about a half-hour. I have no idea why it kept going off! I got out the computer and went to the lounge car to show this web site to the new Assistant Conductor we just got and to continue writing this travelogue. I noticed my ears were popping as we were traveling through the Ozark Mountains but since it was after dark, I couldn't see anything outside. I decided to go have a beer so I paid $5.50 (good honest inflated price) for a Heineken Beer from the Sightseer Lounge. I had a chat with a few other passengers along with another passenger who was soon joining the United States Marines. Just before midnight, I decided to take a shower and call it a day. The sleeper attendant was nowhere to be found so I figured out how to convert my chair into a bed in the sleeping car and set it up myself. And so ends today.
Tuesday, September 29th, 2009:
  I woke up around 7am and decided it was time for breakfast! I had the Railroad French Toast with sausage patties and hash browns with Orange Juice and Diet Pepsi to drink. All of the food was good. I was seated with 3 other passengers, can't remember where they all were headed but conversation was positive! We had made an early arrival into Marshall, TX, our next stop. We ended up arriving in Marshall very early around 7:25am, running almost 50 minutes early! We departed there on time at 8:15am after doing a couple backup moves, no idea why we had to do the backup moves. The station in Marshall is a former Texas & Pacific passenger station. Our next stop was Longview, TX which we also arrived at early at 8:39am. A smoking break was granted there so I got pictures of the entire train while there. We departed on time from Longview at 9:00am (my watch said 8:59am but we were set for an on-time departure). One thing I've noticed on this trip is just how dirt cheap gasoline is. I’m seeing $2.19/gallon in Texas. I guess it helps that several refineries are located here so transportation costs are lower. For comparison, last Thursday in Buffalo, I paid $2.77/gallon!
  One conductor on the train I tried to make conversation with at Longview told me he didn’t like trains and it's only a job when I had asked some questions about the train. My thought process on this is simple: You don't have to be, nor do I expect every Amtrak conductor to be a railfan, but a negative comment like that in front of a bunch of passengers doesn't paint a very pretty picture in the minds of the people for which you are entrusted to protect when they use your service, just a thought. An announcement was made that the next smoking break would be at Dallas, TX. We made our next stop at Mineola, TX and departed there at 9:57am, about 7 minutes late. On-Time Performance has been decent so far on all trains I've ridden so far. I met up with a bunch of women in the lounge car who said they were having a "hen party". They had requested I take their picture with their cameras, so I must have used 4 or 5 of other people's cameras to take their picture! Very festive crowd I must say! I walked back to my sleeper and continued writing this travelogue. Our stop in Dallas was coming up, and we would end up arriving there "way too early" which is a good thing! We were following a freight train for a fair distance until we arrived at 11:39am in Dallas, some 21 minutes early.
  While in Dallas, I took several pictures of the train as well as some local rapid transit trains that stop at Dallas Union Station. The station is very nice and modern. I checked the local weather on my BlackBerry and it said it was about 75 degrees there, nice! We left Dallas at 12:19pm, 1 minute early. As soon as you leave the station, you will see Dealey Plaza, which is where former President John F. Kennedy was assassinated in 1963. I decided to head to the Dining Car for lunch after a chat with a few passengers. I decided to try the BBQ Beef Brisquet sandwich with chips and a Diet Pepsi. This was my first experience with this meal and it turned out to be excellent!!! I also had the chocolate-peanut butter cheesecake dessert, same as yesterday's dessert after dinner. I walked back to my sleeping car and finally at 1:11pm running an amazing 44 minutes early, we arrived in Fort Worth, TX, the next stop. This is a service stop/crew change/refueling point for the train. Fort Worth is also the southern terminus of the "Heartland Flyer" train that runs up to Oklahoma City. That train was also at the station in the nearby BNSF yard there. A wheel set was being changed out on one of its coaches while there.
  Not long after I photographed that train, the northbound Texas Eagle arrived…YES!!!!!!! I got a few pictures of it as well. I would come to find out that the reason for so much schedule padding had to do with partially, the slow economy and lack of a serious amount of freight traffic, along with schedule padding from the "mail and express" days being over with and that time not being taken out of the schedule. After chatting with some Amtrak employees and such, I headed back to my sleeper to transfer pictures off my camera and continue writing this travelogue. We departed Fort Worth on time at 2:40pm. We made subsequent stops in Cleburn and McGregor, TX. I headed to the Dining Car for dinner with our next stop in Temple, TX coming up. The station in temple is a former Santa Fe station with lots of historic equipment on display. I knew I had to get pictures of this stuff so I was able to sneak out of the dining car for 5 minutes during the station stop and get the pictures! I was asked by a conductor if I was trying to get some exercise because I was practically running to get the photos! I told him no and that I needed to get back to the dining car! I had the BBQ Spare Ribs for dinner with rice and garlic mashed potatoes with a Diet Pepsi to drink. They didn't serve us any dessert tonight as the dining car crew gets off the train at Austin, TX and picks up the northbound Texas Eagle the following morning so they needed to get the car closed down before they got off the train there. This was a cost-cutting move initiated years ago which if you ask me is rather dumb, hopefully this will change someday! We made our stop in Taylor, TX and it was now evening time. We arrived in Austin, our next stop at 6:50pm and were granted a smoking break there. We were there for 10 minutes and left on time at 7:00pm.
An announcement was eventually made that the sleeping car and coach that would be traveling west to Los Angeles would be locked.   We made a station stop in San Marcos, TX and ended up arriving at San Antonio, TX, the endpoint for this train at 9:25pm, 1 hour early!!! I decided to just hang out and try to get in some night photography as there were some things I wanted to photograph! I got permission at the station to do some night photos, among those I took included the train, as well as a former Southern Pacific steam locomotive on display by the station. I also photographed the Hemisphere Tower from the 1968 Worlds Fair, all lit up!!! We had a lot of time on our hands as we wouldn’t be departing San Antonio, as part of Train #1 - The Sunset Limited, until 5:40am!!! We got a new sleeping car attendant at San Antonio. She went to work right away cleaning up the car. In all honesty, she did more to keep the car clean and running properly than the attendant from Chicago ever did! I told her not to worry about turning down my bed as I now know how to do so myself and I figured she had enough work to do anyway. Now here is where she went the extra mile to take care of me as a passenger. She, along with a ticket agent in the station had figured out how to keep me in the same sleeping car all the way to Los Angeles so I would end up not needing to change sleepers in El Paso, TX! They were able to pull a few strings and keep me in the same room! NICE WORK!!!
  At around 12:30am, the crew in San Antonio began the process of breaking up the train. In doing this, the HEP (Head End Power) went out a few times. I decided to wait to take a shower until after the breaking up of the train was completed so as to not worry about the power going out and thus the shower quitting! They set out my sleeper and one coach from the train and picked up at least 1 coach and maybe a sleeper that were set out on track #2 at the station. I noticed both tracks were blue-flagged using blue flashing lights as both tracks represented a work area so by federal law, a blue flag needed to be put up on the tracks. After our sleeper and coach were set out, I took my shower and at 3:00am, the Sunset Limited arrived and would back up onto our 2 cars. I decided I had enough fun for one day and went to bed and so ends today. When I wake up, I would be riding as part of the Sunset Limited in what would be the last car of the train. OK Geno, let's see some pictures!!!