Rail Events on February 23, 2008
Report and Photographs by Carl Morrison. Comments welcome at
Amtrak Southwest Chief #4,
Fullerton, California, to LaPlata, Missouri.
Destination - Depot Inn & Suites, LaPlata, Missouri.
7:20 pm, February 19, 2008, 56 degrees, the Southwest Chief
pulled out of Fullerton, California, on time. I was carrying
several large, framed steam train photographs to be put on consignment
at the Depot Inn & Suites in LaPlata, MO, when I boarded. I
would have checked them, but there is no baggage service in LaPlata to
take them off, so I was a bit concerned how I'd get them all safely
stored on the Southwest Chief. Since I had a roomette, I planned
to put my things on the upper bunk, leaving it down the duration of the
trip for storage. Car 430 Attendant, Rene, saw my delima
and quickly suggested that I put my luggage across the hallway in Room
7 since it was out of service for passengers because the electrical did
not work in that room. This was a perfect solution, and I tipped
Rene for the trip at this time...$10 per day.
Car Problems and Amtrak Comment Cards
There were about 6 rooms used in Car 430 at this time of the
trip. Later, in the diner for breakfast, I was talking with a
young man from San diego who was going to Albuquerque in coach, and he
said the coaches were not full either. He did relate a story
about luggage that he had observed in San Bernardino. He said a
train attendant would not allow a young lady to take on all her luggage
and made her leave some of it on the platform there. This seemed
unreasonable to the fellow who was telling the story, as it did to
me. I gave him an amtrak comment card titled, "You're our
guest. Who made you feel like one?" I had picked up a
handful of these in the Fullerton Station the previous week when I saw
a large stack of them in the lobby. I thought at the time, why
aren't these on the train?! The form number is 02165, and is self
addressed and 'no postage necessary.' It is addressed to AMTRAK,
SERVICE STANDARDS, 60 MASSACHUSETTS AVE NE, WASHINGTON DC
20078-8129. Inside are lines for: Name of
Employee(s), Train Name/Number or Station, Date of Trip, Tell us
about your experience (6 lines), Your Name, Phone Number. The
last line says, "You may also contact us at
www.amtrak.com/recognition. (This is a curious URL. It is
not an e-mail address, so how could someone 'contact' them at a URL?)
I had already filled out a "Recognition Card" myself, because after
dinner, my Car Attendant, Rene, could not be called nor found to make
up my roomette for sleeping. I had to flag down a coach car
attendant on his way to the Transition Car, to make up my bed.
Also, the call buttons did not work, nor did the toilets. I was
unable to tell this to anyone until the next morning at breakfast where
I saw an Assistant Conductor and told him.
The non-working toilets seem to be an ongoing problem. The
previous evening my friend Steve Grande, or TrainWeb.com, had arrived
in California on this same car, and he said the toilets didn't work the
whole 2,000 miles of his trip and it looks like today's passengers are
fighting the same problem, 'Please go to the adjoining car to use the
restrooms.' This is not so bad for me, an able-bodied passenger,
but what about those who are in the handicapped rooms because they
cannot climb stairs and for that purpose have a commode in their
room? Also, what about those passengers who spent the extra for
accommodations to have a commode and shower in their room, that they
Dinner in the Diner
My 8 pm dinner reservation was handed to me as I boarded, and after
setting up my "Command Central" with all my electronic gadgets, I made
it to the next car, the diner, and was seated at a table by myself...a
first. The menu was different than my last Amtrak trip. The
ID on the back of the menu was AMT DC 1207.
The new Menu had Dinner:
Appetizers (not included in the meal that comes with
Flat Iron Steak, $21; Seafood (Tilapia this evening) $16.50,
Roast Game Hen, $13; Vegetarian Special, $11; Marketplace Special, $15
(Beef and vegetables this evening); and Build Your Own Burger for
$7.25. Desserts included
Key Lime Pie (my choice); Cheese Cake; and a couple of other choices;
and Ice Cream.
California Omelet, $9; Scrambled Eggs, $6; Railroad French
Toast, $7; Marketplace Special, $8; Continental, $6.75. Sides bacon and
sausage. I had decaf coffee and orange juice.
Appetizers - Chicken Wings,
$5; Chips and Salsa, $4. Entrées:
Build your own Burger, $7.25; Chef's Lunch Special, $9; Cold
Sandwiches, $7; or Salad, $6. Drinks were: Wine by the Glass, $5;
in a Roomette
Closet with a window
be a better description of the Roomette on an Amtrak Superliner.
I would not recommend this for more than one traveler, because the two
facing seats in this closet make into a lower bed, along the window,
and a narrower upper bunk drops down. I usually use the upper
bunk for my stuff.
is a retractable table between the two facing seats.
any photo in this report for a double-sized picture; Click BACK
in your browser to return to this page.)
There is a
3-positon light switch on this side for off, night light, or full
light. A call button to have the attendant make up your bed, and
a volume control for announcements.
Central" Left is the other, facing seat. The upper bed can
be down and there will still be space for work. The top bunk
comes down to the top of the headrest in the left photo. There is
a closet big enough for 2 coats with room below for shoes. There
is also a shelf for stepping into the upper bunk, and a waste basket.
Perhaps I should
describe my "Command
Central," as Rail Friend Andy Smith calls my traveling setup.
Because there is ONE outlet in the room, I bring a power bar and
extension cord with 3-hole receptacle so that I can plug the power bar
into the extension cord. Now, into the power bar I plug at least
3 essentials for me: 1. My laptop, 2. My cell phone
charger, 3. My GPS charger. I also carry a scanner to listen to
the railroad talk, but it is battery powered. I could use the
remaining outlets to keep my iPod Touch charged, and to charge my
camera battery. To keep the GPS connected to the satelites, I
have an external antenna with a shelf that suction cups to the
window. On the GPS, which I leave on 24 hrs. to
accumulate useless data, it currently tells me that we've gone 831
miles, at a speed of 69.5 mph, Our 'driving time' is 13:27, our
stopped time is 56:21, our driving average has been 61.8 mph, our
overall average has been 57.8 mph, and the Maximum Speed was 92.2
mph. I can look up the mileage to upcoming cities. For
example, Albuquerque, NM, is 32 miles ahead, as the crow flies.
When set at 800 ft., it shows the railroad tracks as well as streets
and that we are paralleling I-40.
Drive by Shootings (Photos)
Arizona/New Mexico Border and I-40
To a flatlander like me, the Southwestern Desert is very interesting
because the climax vegitation is about waist high, so you can see
A First Time Experience on the
Train....No, not that!
We were early into Albuquerque, I had time to cruise the Indian
Jewelry tables that are always present on the platform there. I
purchased a money clip with two buffalo nickels on it from a 20-yr.
vendor. She reminded me that one should always look for the
initials of the maker on the back which makes it authentic.
always enjoy talking to the Amish who often are riding the
Southwest Chief. They tend to be from Pennsylvania, boarding at
Lewistown, Indiana, and Missouri, boarding at LaPlata. The couple
I talked with in Albuquerque were returning to Pennsylvania after
visiting her brother in Mexico where he was receiving Kemo treatment
for cancer. Amish often purchase drugs in Mexico, being much
cheaper than in the US. The Dr. they see in Tijuana sends a van
and driver to the San Diego station to pick them up and take them
across the border, directly to the Dr's Office. Since Amish do
not have a picture ID, a written ID is ok for entering both Mexico and
reentering the US. The van driver brings them back, stopping at
the grocery store and letting them shop before returning to the train
left, had beautiful work, above, done with silver, turquoise and coral.
Much time passed and we still didn't resume our rail journey.
Finally we started cutting out a car, and I learned that a spring had
broken on the diner (of all cars!)
and it was being cut out of the consist
and left in
Albuquerque. And poor little me, I hadn't had lunch yet!
Photo Credit: Anthony Escarcega the following day.
Photo Credit: Anthony Escarcega the following day.
Once we were underway, the Conductor announced that sleeping car
passengers should bring their ticket stub to the Café Car for a
"free" sandwich, and chips. We were to go to Room A in our
sleeper where they had offloaded the drinks from the diner. Of
course, we all rushed down to the Café car and enjoyed the
conversation in the food line as we received our
lunch. One fellow said, "Just like camp!"
Our dinner came from Las Vegas, New Mexico, where chicken fried steak
was brought on. The following morning, at Kansas City, a
breakfast burrito, donut, apple, and banana were delivered to our
of our Diner as it was left in Albuquerque. My 430 car was next
to the diner, so a group of us from the sleeper watched out the back
window and wished the dining car a quick recovery. The next day,
friends on the Southwest Chief #4 said there was a large spring
unloaded from their car.
took 3 tracks since we came in on #1, we left the sightseeing lounge
and coaches on #2, and set off the diner on #3. This, of couse
took some time to get permission for such a maneuver.
A number of
electrical lines, air hoses, and couplers had to be connected once we
rejoined with the Sightseeing Lounge and coaches.
The creeks were frozen.
Curves are so
shape you can see the locomotives pulling the train.
Before we got
indoor plumbing, my Dad used to describe our home as "Five rooms and a
Path," which became "Five rooms and a Bath." This photo shows
what appears to be "Two Rooms and a Path."
parallels I-25 before turning east, while I-25 continues north to
Pueblo, Colorado Springs, and Denver.
This bridge is
said to date back to the Civil War Era.
I always look
for this unusual structure which appears to be a desert lizard to
me. It has recently received the mid-section roof.
painting on an abandoned rail car in the New Mexico desert.
Right: Las Vegas, New Mexico, Station where we had a fresh air
break while the crew loaded our chicken fried steak dinners.
It was a grey winter day in Las Vegas, with recent snow still clinging
to the station's eves.
For the first time, I had time to take a few shots of the:
La Castaneda Hotel
524 Railroad Avenue; Built 1898
to be a jewel in Fred Harvey's famed chain of railroad hotels, La
Castaneda is one of the early Harvey Houses to be built in the Mission
Revival Style. Its main facade and courtyard face the railroad tracks.
La Castaneda was a sister hotel to Albuquerque's Alvarado Hotel, which
was demolished in 1970. A visit to La Castaneda should include a walk
through the hotel's once grand lobby and dining room, both remarkably
At the Las Vegas, NM, Station, the state
flag flew proudly in the winter wind below the Stars and Stripes.
The yellow field and red symbol
colors are the colors of Spain. First brought to New Mexico by Spanish
explorers in 1540. On New Mexico's flag we see a red sun with rays
out from it. There are four groups of rays with four rays in each
This is an ancient sun symbol of a Native American people called the
The Zia believed that the giver of all good gave them gifts in groups
four. These gifts are:
- The four
directions - north, east,
south and west.
- The four
seasons - spring, summer,
fall and winter.
- The day -
sunrise, noon, evening
- Life itself
- childhood, youth,
middle years and old age.
All of these are bound by a circle
of life and love, without a beginning or end.
Enjoying our chicken
steak dinner in the comfort of our roomette, we rode the Southwest
Chief north eastward as the sun set in the west.
We arrived in La Plata, Missouri, near our scheduled 9:57 a.m. time,
after our only other Missouri stop, Kansas City. In K.C., a crew
change stop, we took on breakfast for the sleeping car
passengers. The two hour ride from K.C. to LaPlata was consumed
with morning shower, breakfast, and packing for my departure from the
train, and arrival at the Depot Inn & Suites in La Plata.
My confirmed reservations at the Depot
Inn & Suites in LaPlata included being met at the Amtrak Station by
hotel staff. In this case, it was Sally, who immediately said,
"Hello, Carl." It warms your heart to hear welcoming words like
that when you're over 2,000 miles from home. The Depot Inn and
Suites always says their guests are part of their family, and they sure
make you feel that way! Sally took me to the Inn and I got
settled in my room with 2 queen beds. Not having been in much
snow since I moved from Indiana to California in 1968, I took a walk
around the property:
Depot Inn & Suites, A New Railroad Themed Hotel
1245 North Brown Street, LaPlata, MO 63549
Click any photo in this report for a double-sized picture; Click
BACK in your browser to return to this page.)
Even the playground is railroad themed!
Antique luggage cart.
These stripes represent valor, purity
and vigilance and justice. A
circle is centered on the flag surrounded by a band of blue enclosing
the Missouri Coat of Arms on a white background. The blue band displays
24 white five-pointed stars representing Missouri as the 24th State.