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To the East Coast for the First Time

by Chris Guenzler

My Mother along with my Father were planning to go to a National Miniature Conference {NAME} in Cincinnati, Ohio. When they discussed on how to get there, they asked me about taking the train to Cincinnati and if I would like to come along. I decided I would, which led me to start planning my most extensive Amtrak trip to date. My trip would take me coast to coast across the United States. It would take me to the Northeast and Southwest corners of the Amtrak System. My brother Jon drove us to the Fullerton Amtrak Station on the day of departure. After not to long of a wait, a headlight appeared down the tracks from the west and signaled the start of my first cross country train trip.

The Desert Wind 36 7/12/1990

We boarded our Superliner sleeping car with me having Room 4 and my parents having Room 6. I booked all segments of this trip in sleeping cars so my total rail fare was about $1,000. $325 for the three region All Abroad America Fare and $ 775 for the sleeping car space. Of that about half was for the rooms from the West Coast to Chicago and back. Back East my rooms would be two roomettes and the economy of four Slumbercoaches. Your meals are always included with your room except for the Slumbercoaches. My very cute attendant showed me the workings of the room with me pretending I did not know a thing. She gave me my vouchers for my meals on the train before moving on to my parent's room.

I settled into my room for the trip through Santa Ana Canyon and the Inland Empire. At San Bernardino I went to the lounge side of the dining car for a drink and the ride over Cajon Pass. After Summit I returned to the peace and quiet of my room which is one thing you get when traveling in a sleeping car. At Barstow I detrained out into the very hot desert afternoon during the crew change there before I returned to my room for the trip across the Mojave Desert to Las Vegas. I had a five o'clock dinner reservation and was seated with a group of Black Ladies from Toledo who had been attending a church convention in San Diego. They were really nice women and we shared a meal together getting to know each other. They said that the meeting in San Diego was the best time they ever had in their lives. The Steward came to take care of my check, recognized me and said, "It is nice to see one of our loyal passengers so make sure you come to our dining car tomorrow and we will fix you something really special." I walked away from my table feeling really thankful I had met these nice people and went away with a very special feeling.

We arrived at Las Vegas and I dashed into the station to the liquor store to purchase some supplies for my trip. I returned to the train to let my private party Start. I enjoyed the climb north out of Vegas and the southern end of the Meadow Valley Wash before darkness took hold. I sat in the darkness of my room so I could still enjoy the scenery in the dark under a full moon and enjoy a few more drinks. This is one of my favorite ways to spend an evening on the train at night. There is a very special feeling that comes along with doing the ride this way. I made up my room for the first of the eleven nights in a sleeping car on this trip.

7/13/1990 I woke up just before Salt Lake City, checked my watch to see we were running thirty minutes early so I got dressed and detrained upon arrival. With an hour to kill I walked through the depot to the park where the Union Pacific 4-8-4 838 is on display. Returning to the depot, I saw our car being put on the rear of the Zephyr but where is the Pioneer. I saw our dining car staff led by the Steward who came up to me and said in a very sad voice, "We are going to Seattle. Have a nice safe trip Chris!" Now that put a dark cloud on today's trip. I asked the conductor, "What happened to the Pioneer?" He told me the Pioneer had been behind a freight train derailment and lost about three hours. So instead of holding us in Salt Lake City they will run via Wyoming and should be in Denver waiting for us when we get there tonight.

We left Salt Lake City right on time and after the yard limits were passed, we sped down the Rio Grande mainline to Provo with me having breakfast. I went to the lounge car for the climb over Soldier Summit with a couple of screwdrivers. Just after the Guilly Loops there was a knock on my door and my attendant was there looking worried and asked "You are a coach so do you know CPR?" "Yes" "Help me!" She took me back to Deluxe Bedroom C where the black women I had dinner last night was on the floor. I checked for breathing and a pulse finding neither I started CPR on here. A minute later the Conductor came and after I asked him "Do you know CPR?" with his "Yes" he took over the chest compressions and I did the breathing. We both did this until we pulled in to Helper when a doctor came on and pronounced her dead. The conductor and I looked at each other in disbelief. They removed the body from the train and after we answered a sheriff's questions, the California Zephyr left Helper with me in a very somber mood.

I was back in my room as the body was removed from the train. It made me think of the power of death. This lady was having the time of her life one day and death takes her away next. I began to realize she was doing something she truly wanted to when she was taken and I just hope when my time comes I will be that lucky. We left Helper, Utah forty five minutes late in a very somber mood. My sleeping car attendant came to my room and shut the door. She thanked me for all I tried to do before she broke down in tears in my arms about the loss of her first passenger ever. I gave her some advice on how to handle it, cracked a few jokes and told a few stories which put a smile back on her face so she could get back to work and face the remaining passenger. I told her I am always here for you until Chicago. I fixed a drink and drank a toast to her memory. May God now take good and loving care of her!

I returned to the lounge car just as the train was heading out into the Utah Desert. I sat staring out a the Book Cliff until we crossed the Green River. I am amazed at the shapes I think I see in those cliffs. I like the Utah Desert as there is nothing to hide the awesome beauty plus it is so peaceful to look at. I need this serenity on what turned out to be an emotional dark day. I got a couple more screwdrivers after the brief stop at Thompson where we picked up a lone passenger. Leaving Thompson we descended to Westwater and almost like magic my mood changes. Seeing the Colorado River means my favorite canyon out of the many I have traveled through is next, the wonderful "people free" environment of Ruby Canyon.

I went back to my room, got my camera out, then headed downstairs to open the window and take some pictures of the train, the canyon and the incredible beauty of this place.

Upon exiting Ruby Canyon, through a tunnel, I decided to go to the dining car for lunch before we arrived at Grand Junction, our next servicing stop. I detrained during our ten minute stop to see if Bob was still working the baggage room. I was told that Bob is in Denver working the baggage room there. Maybe, I will run into him there while in Denver. I reboarded, but the train sat for another fifteen minutes waiting for a Rio Grande freight to clear, allowing our departure on a clear signal. The train passed through Dubuque Canyon meeting our westbound counterpart at Dubuque siding. We continued through Rifle to our next station stop at Glenwood Springs where I returned to the lounge car for a riverside seat prior to our arrival there.

Glenwood Canyon was passed through with the Interstate Highway construction in full swing.I went to my room to wait for a dinner reservation which I requested five o'clock. I always love to eat early because the dining car never runs out of things at a first seating. It will be interesting to see what the canyon will look like when they get the whole project finished in the future. Once we reached Dotsero, the junction with the DRGW line to Pueblo, we turned north. The train is heading through Red Rock Canyon before passing through Bond followed by Gore and Byers Canyons. Upon exiting Byers, first call for five P.M. dinner reservations was called so I headed forward to the dining car for a New York Steak and dessert which was excellently prepared. I returned to the lounge car for some after dinner drinks. We stopped at Granby, Fraser and then climbed the last miles to the Moffat Tunnel. After passing through the bore's darkness under the Continental Divide, we descended the Front Range of the Rockies. Once out of the canyons, darkness took hold, a sea of lights turned on out on the plains and became more intense as the darkness of the night became darker. On the curves you could see the lights of our train as it twisted and turned. The lights of Denver now shone brightly and after rounding the Big Ten Curve, we headed straight to them.

Over the PA we heard, "Ladies and Gentlemen, next stop is the mile high city of Denver. For our passengers going past Denver, with our late running we expect to be in Denver only a short time so if you get off the train in Denver you must remain in the station until the reboarding announcement is given. Thank you for riding Amtrak." We backed into Denver Union Station one hour late. Again, "Where is the Pioneer?" Once inside the station, I heard, "The Pioneer has been delayed." I asked, "Where is it?" and got told "It is up on the Union Pacific somewhere!" With that wonderful information, I decided to find out for myself. I called the Union Pacific Dispatching Center, explained who I was and what I am doing. I received a friendly answer, "It left out of Ogden three hours late, the crew died on the law at Rawlins, and it should be in Laramie right now." "Thank you," I said, "Now I can plan my evening in Denver since you can tell me the train's ETA into Denver and nobody here can." He then said, "I will put it into Denver about 12:30 A.M." "Thank you," I said." Anytime you need to know about Amtrak trains on the Union Pacific, feel free to call." and with that he hung up.

I wandered into Grandpa's Depot which has some railroad souvenirs and met a couple who I had talked to in the lounge car earlier in the evening. I bought a California Zephyr Towel from the original CZ, I explained the Pioneer's difficulties and the 1:30 A.M. ETA and the couple suggested we go across the street to Wynkoop Brewery and had a few rounds of beers to kill the time. We sat around, drinking and telling stories of our train riding. About Midnight, we decided to go back to the train and found the station lobby full of people. I got an idea, so they followed me outside to the baggage room. We entered and got about halfway through when I heard, "Chris!" I turned to see Bob standing there. After a few minutes of pleasant conversion, Bob escorted us back to the train. My sleeping car attendant is standing there waiting for me and said, "Welcome back. Did you have a nice evening in Denver? Your bed is all made up and thank you for helping me get through this morning. I could not have gotten through it without you." I smiled and said, "Thank you," and we exchanged a big hug before I went upstairs and off to bed.

7/14/1990 The next morning I woke up on the Burlington Northern on new mileage as the train pulled into McCook, NE, the first stop in Cornhusker State. We should have been here about Midnight. At this point we were running six hours late and unless a miracle happened, I would miss my connection in Chicago. That thought quickly faded as I realized I was riding on new trackage for me so I am going to see as much of the countryside as I can. I walked up to the lounge car to get my usual rounds of screwdrivers and found a very nasty crowd that is upset about being late. I found the couple from last night and said out loud so that everyone in the car would here, "Is this fantastic? We are going to get to see almost all of Nebraska, something you never get to see if you are running on time!" People stared at me but I could tell what they were thinking about what I had said. The meanness in their faces turned into smiles and nice conversations returned. Several passengers came to me to thank me for pointing out what they should have realized. I was in the right place once more to help people.

Our train was traveling through the rolling hills of southern Nebraska with each small town having at least one grain elevator if not two or three. It has wheat fields every place you look in between. After seeing scenic Nebraska in the daylight, I now knew why they pass through here in the middle of the night. During the morning we stopped in Holdrege and Hastings before arriving in Lincoln, home of the University of Nebraska. The countryside has turned flatter with other crops planted besides wheat. Leaving Lincoln we passed a Burlington Northern yard and shops before heading to Omaha and entering town through a canyon under a maze of highway bridges which leads to the Omaha Amtrak Station, near the Missouri River. Leaving Omaha, the lunch call was announced and I was number sixty seven on a waiting list. The train was running along the west bank of the Missouri River for about thirty minutes before crossing the river and entering Iowa. Iowa is not what I expected. I assumed that it would be extremely flat but it was anything but flat. I find rolling hills with a river dissecting its way through it. While I still see a lot of wheat, I started to see what Iowa is known for, corn. We passed through Creston and Osceola then crossed the Des Moines River before arriving at Ottumwa, hometown of Radar O'Reilly of MASH fame. Continuing east we stopped at Mt Pleasant and then wound our way to our last stop in Iowa at Burlington.

As we are crossing the Mississippi River and entered Illinois, my name is finally called for lunch. Once I am in the dining car, the Steward sat me at a table, he explained that, "Since the Desert Winds dining car did not go to Denver yesterday the diner is out of food. But fear not, at Galesburg they will bring on enough Colonel Saunders Kentucky Fried Chicken to feed all of us who have not had lunch. I was asked if I was connecting in Chicago and when I said, "Yes!" I was told Amtrak service people will board at Princeton to assist all connecting passengers. I went back to the lounge car for a couple more drinks until Galesburg. Once the train departed Galesburg, they called "Forty two through ninety seven, your meals are ready!" We received a box with a three piece dinner with all the fixings and a soft drink for free. It actually hits the spot and I left the car feeling full, returning to my sleeping car to get my parents so they can be first in line to see what plans are in store for them to get them to Cincinnati and how I would continue my journey. I have an idea of what I am going to ask for. I am hoping Amtrak will go for it. With the arrival in Princeton, all of the connecting passengers are waiting in the lounge car to wait their turn with the Amtrak service people.

My parents went first. They were given vouchers, one for taxi cab fare and another for bus fare for the midnight bus to Cincinnati. They walked away happy, at least my mother is now. She will arrive in Cincinnati in time for the first meeting of her miniature convention the next morning. Now it is my turn. I show my print out of my schedule. "Can I take the Broadway Limited to Philadelphia then a corridor train to DC to resume the rest of my trip?" I asked. "Thanks for thinking of another way to get to DC for us. We could not have done it as quickly as you did. Thanks so very much for your help!" she said. I walked back and told my parents it is better. My sleeping car attendant stopped by to see how I made out and found one excited passenger. With the sun now out of the sky, we traveled the last remaining miles into Chicago under the cover of darkness. We arrived at Chicago Union Station exactly five hours late with segment number one completed on this trip.

The Broadway Limited 40 7/14/1990

I detrained off of the Zephyr and on the next track over standing before me was the Broadway Limited. I asked one of the coach attendants which car I should board? He said, "Choose anyone one you want as they are all going to the same place." I started walking the train. Amfleet, no! Amfleet, no! I kept walking, Amfleet, No! Amfleet, No! I then saw my car, a heritage coach, with a square box on its side. My memory went into high gear, ex Southern Pacific, forty four seats, seats recline almost flat, Perfect! I boarded the "Golden Sands" for my unexpected journey to Philadelphia. I was the first passenger to board so they must be letting all of the connecting passenger's board first. A few more familiar faces from the Zephyr came on board followed by the general masses. We then left Chicago Union Station out into the night exactly an hour late.

The conductor came through to collect tickets and stopped me from telling him that he is not supposed to take my ticket as I was instructed by service personal. He pulled it apart, looked at it and said, "Oops. I just made a mistake!" I was not supposed to take your ticket." "That's what I was trying to tell you. Got any tape?" Please write a note and sign it saying you mistakenly took it and returned it to me for further passage," I said. He disappeared for a few minutes then returns with some scotch tape and a nice note. He then said, "I am sorry for the mix up. I am just trying to do my job the best I can and fast." "Please always listen to a passenger who is trying to explain an odd situation to you," I replied. "I wished all my passengers could be as nice as you!" he said as he walked away to collect more tickets.

I had not noticed while we had been talking to the conductor that the air conditioner was working. I mean, working really well as it was getting down right cold in here. Since I had only packed shorts for this trip knowing that I had a sleeping car every night of the trip. I never dreamed I would end up in a coach seat for the night but here I am. I went back to the lounge for some warmth and to buy a few rounds to take back to my seat. As I was walking, I thought at least I bought my MacArthur jacket so I can cover up my legs with it. It became my turn at the counter with me ordering three CCs and sevens when I saw the answer to my problem on the counter behind the attendant. I purchased an Amtrak souvenir blanket and took it back to my seat with my drinks as the solution to my problem for the night.

At Hammond-Whitning, a very attractive young woman sat down next to me. I introduced myself to her and her name was Susan. She remarked about how cold it was in this car and then noticed my brand new Amtrak blanket covering up my legs. She wonders how warm it was so I covered her legs with it. She then wondered what I am drinking so I told her and she wanted to try some saying, "It sure tastes good!" She asked where did I get it and I told her four cars back. She got up and left and ten minutes later returns with four more and then asks, "Can I share your blanket tonight!" then whispers into my ear, "And you too!" I smiled and said, "Let us drink a toast to a successful night!" The train continued to roll into the night, through Indiana, and Ohio towards the next morning. Chris' rule number nine-Never kiss and tell and more importantly, do not write it in a book. I will say, I have never shared a seat with anyone like that before. It was one fine night!

7/15/1990 The next morning, the first place I noticed is Beaver Falls, Pennsylvania, the hometown of Joe Namath, the great New York Jet quarterback. We were began following the Ohio River making our way past working and abandoned industries, then past Conrail's rather large Conway Yard before entering Pittsburgh. I saw the Golden Triangle and shot a few pictures of the Pittsburgh Skyline before the train crossed the Allegheny River and into the Pittsburgh Amtrak Station which was the next servicing stop for the train. While the train was in Pittsburgh, Susan and I went to the diner for some breakfast and morning conversation. Before heading to the lounge car for some more screwdrivers, the Broadway Limited left Pittsburgh and Susan saw three college age girls playing cards and asked me if I would mind if she joined them. I said, "No. Go right ahead. I'll go back to the coach and watch the scenery pass." We shared a very nice goodbye kiss. On the way back to my seat, I stopped at the bar for two to go.

The train headed into an area of heavy coal mining and our next stop at Greensburg is located right in the middle of it. We began our crossing of the Allegheny Mountains by passing through the Packsaddle Gap cut by the Conemaugh River. Our next station stop, Johnstown is most known for its famous flood of May 31, 1889, where in a mere ten minutes every building in town was destroyed. It ranks second in most deaths in a disaster after the Galveston Hurricane of 1900 which registered over 6,000 people killed. From Johnstown to Altoona is the legendary crossing of the former Pennsylvania Railroad {Conrail} Alleghenies Mountains. We passed Cresson, where helper engines are kept in wait for eastbound trains up the one percent grade to Gallitzan where trains pass under the summit 2,200 feet above sea level in a long tunnel. This summit marks the watershed divide with water flowing east into the Atlantic Ocean and waters flowing west into the Gulf of Mexico via the Mississippi River. Upon exiting the tunnel, I got ready for the engineering marvel called the Horseshoe Curve.

We started into the curve by making a large left hand turn before the start of the larger sweeping curve to the right. Thanks to the material handling cars we were long enough for some great pictures. On display at the Visitor Center is a Pennsylvania Railroad GP-9. We finished that sweeping curve then made one more to the left and the highlight of today's trip is over. I can now say that I have ridden around the Horseshoe Curve. The train then got back to its twisting and turning descent to our next station stop at Altoona.

We stopped at Altoona. The shops of the Pennsylvania railroad were located here and the part near the station has become a museum. We continued our descent next stopping at Tyronne where Susan returned and we spent the afternoon together until she detrained at Harrisburg. I did notice the stops at Huntington and Lewistown along with the crossing of the Susquehanna River but my attention had been diverted from the world passing outside the train, thanks to a certain young lady sitting next to me. I helped Susan off with her bag at Harrisburg and then spent the next five minutes saying goodbye in a passionate make out scene. I was so involved with the goodbye I did not even notice the GG-1 on display on the next track over until about three minutes after she left my view. Susan was the unexpected surprise of riding the Broadway Limited, all thanks to my Amtrak souvenir blanket.

I returned to reality long enough to run back into the train, grabbed my camera to photograph the GG-1 while the diesels were replaced on the head end with an AME7 electric locomotive for the trip under the wire to Philadelphia. Leaving town, we travelled along the Susquehanna River and I saw the ill fated Three Mile Island Nuclear Power Plant. We turned away from the river climbing a slight grade to our next station stop of Lancaster. From here we headed into Amish country, so I began to see some horse and buggies. I was rewarded for my patience as I counted fifteen before our next stop at Parkesburg where we let a group of school children off. We sped off to our next stop at Paola. It was just a few short minutes later, when the Broadway Limited passed Zoo Tower, Amtrak's yard and into Philadelphia's 30th Street Station. I detrained here and went upstairs into the station with its giant statues guarding over the waiting room to wait for the next corridor train to Washington, DC.

The Bay State 71 7/15/1990

I walked down the tunnel to track twelve and just as I reached track level, the twelve car, two engine Bay State pulled into Philadelphia. Since this is high loading platform, all the doors on the Amfleet and former Metroliner cars opened up so all I had to do was walk in without climbing steps. This is a first for me on Amfleet equipment and I found a window seat on the right hand side. With everyone on, we left Philadelphia accelerating to 60 mph right out of the station through a turnout, then hits 75 mph on a curve, then 90 mph on a short piece of straight track before we round a curve and the engineer opened it up to 120 MPH, the fastest I have ever traveled on a train. This was the most impressive show of speed I have ever seen on a train. So here I am, living out one of my railroad dreams, I am riding down the Northeast Corridor at high speed. I just love it.

The train is sailing down the corridor meeting trains at speed on this multiple track high speed mainline. All the grade crossings have been removed and most of the line is now fenced. We left Philadelphia behind and sped on to our next station stop and our only stop in the state of Delaware, Wilmington which was a minute stop. There really is an advantage to high loading platforms. We were in Delaware for a whole twenty minutes before we entered Maryland and just south of Perryville we crossed the Susquehanna River for the second time today {I will cross it tonight for a third time} with it being much larger here at its mouth where it flows into Chesapeake Bay. From here to Baltimore, we crossed three other rivers which dump into Chesapeake Bay, the Bush, Gunpowder and Middle Rivers then passed the row houses of Baltimore before we arrived at Pennsylvania Station at Baltimore.

We left Baltimore and plunged into the B&P Tunnels before we resumed our high speed to our next stop of BWI {Baltimore-Washington International Airport} where quite a few passengers in my car got off and within a minute we resumed our high speed journey. We quickly got back up to speed before zipping through Bowie before braking for our next stop at New Carrollton which allows Amtrak passengers to connect with the Washington Metro Subway. After another brief stop, we sped off towards our last station stop of Washington, DC. We passed the Amtrak coach yards, the Ivy City Diesel Terminal and where the B&O line joins and it makes me realize that if all goes right I will be arriving into DC on that line in four days. We pulled into Washington Union Station ten minutes early ending a most interesting detour with highlights being Susan, the Broadway Limited, the Horseshoe Curve and a daylight run down the Northeast Corridor. I will still get to ride the route of the Cardinal so the tardiness of the Desert Wind/California Zephyr turned out to be a blessing for me. I would not have gotten to experience any of these things had we ran on time on that first segment.

Washington, DC 1 7/15/1990 My First Encounter

I entered into Washington Union Station on a Sunday night and I discovered that there is a shopping mall inside the building. Being a Sunday night almost everything is closed but knowing I am going to be back here two more times on this trip, I decided to get a feel for the place. There is a post office, liquor store, instant teller, railroad hobby shop and various other shops. On the lower level is a food court and in the Grand Hall there is a restaurant and a bar which just happened to be opened. I killed almost a whole hour having a few rounds of drinks and enjoyed the architecture of this magnificent building. My server suggested I walk out the front of the building for the night time view of DC. I followed his advice and saw a great night time view of DC especially the United States Capitol Building. On the way back to the waiting room, I found a bathroom and noticed there were lockers. I thought they might be useful at a later date on this trip. I walked past gate after gate, until I found the one which read "Night Owl" and parked myself in front of it in a chair. I put on my headphones and did word search puzzles for two hours. When I heard, "Now boarding sleeping car passengers for the Night Owl!" I packed up and then headed through the gate to the waiting train.

The Night Owl 66 7/15/1990

One of my goals on this trip was to ride the entire Northeast Corridor and spend a full day in Boston without having to use a hotel there. I studied the schedule with the Night Owl proving to be the answer to both. I boarded the Pacific Lodge, an ex Union Pacific 10/6 sleeper and have roomette number one in the middle of the car. I found my room with the bed already made up with a wine and cheese basket plus a split of wine and a packet of writing paper. My attendant comes by to tell me he will bring me a continental breakfast in the morning and the lounge is open right now for sleeping car passengers should I desire anything which I do. I went forward one car, got a couple CCs and seven and returned to my room. I drank one prior to departure and the second on the way to BWI before I pulled down the shade and fell asleep. At times during the night the train would reach speeds of 120 mph on its way to New York.

7/16/1990 I awoke in Massachusetts as the train was making its final run towards Boston. Since I went to sleep last night the train has passed through parts of Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut and Rhode Island. It was pulled by an electric locomotive Washington to New Haven and by a diesel the rest of the way to Boston. My breakfast arrived of juice, donuts and other assorted pastries. My bed was made up and the room was returned to a seating area as the train arrived at Route 128, a suburban stop for the greater Boston area which is really a large park and ride lot. We sprinted to our next stop at Back Bay before I enjoyed the entrance into the city of Boston. We pulled into South Station on time ending my ride up the Northeast Corridor.

Boston 7/16/90

As I detrained I asked my sleeping car attendant what would be the best way to see Boston in a short period of time. He said I should take a bus tour because they let you get off anyplace you want to look around and then back on at no additional charge. He told me to go five blocks north of the station to catch it. Off I went after one last picture of the Night Owl. I walked through South Station which is just a head house of the former great station building and out onto the streets of Boston. I think, "It must get really nasty here in the winter." I walked down the streets of Boston following his directions and after walking five blocks I found the Sightseer Bus.

I paid the man seven dollars for what can be a one hour tour or an all day event if I chose. Just get off at those places you really like to see. I boarded the bus and off we went. Our first stop was the old North Church {"One if by land and two if by sea!"}. We crossed the North River then to Bunker Hill {"Don't fire until you see the white in their eyes!"} then back across the North River to the Boston Garden where I saw an open door so I debussed. I walked up to the front door and I was met by the security guard. Thinking fast, I said, "Hello. Is there any way I could look inside and see the spot where your great Boston Celtics beat my Los Angeles Lakers in what always seemed like a seventh game and see the banners your team has won hanging from the ceiling?" He said, "With a line like that what Celtic Fan would not let you in. So go inside and stay as long as you want!" I entered the hallowed Boston Gardens, walked out into the middle of the floor and then starred up. It was so impressive as all the memories of those great games returning to me. I looked up at all the empty seats now knowing what the players saw. It was an incredible experience and I walked out thanking the guard for making a basketball fan's dream come true.

I boarded the next bus which took me by the Boston Commons, by Harvard and then the bar used for the outside shots on the TV show "Cheers". Inside it does not look a thing like the one on television, but I had a drink anyway. I learned the bar based in "Cheers" is a block away from South Station. I now knew where I was having lunch. Back on the bus we went past the Hancock and Prudential buildings before we swung by the waterfront to the Boston Tea Party Boat where I again got off and took a tour of it. I paid a small price to thrown a phony bag of tea into the harbor. I returned on the bus to the end of its route then walked back towards South Station finding "Three Cheers" and the bar exactly like the one on "Cheers." I ordered a beer, sat in Norm's seat and ate an order of Buffalo Chicken Wings, the first I have ever had. I found something new that I love to eat.

Returning to South Station, I noticed there was a commuter train going to some place called Forest Hills so I went to the ticket counter, bought a ticket and then boarded the train. The cars are like the Horizon fleet cars Amtrak has except the seating is 2-3 instead of the standard coach arrangement. After all the MTBA "T" is a commuter railroad. The train left with me being the only passenger on board. We made a stop at Back Bay before arriving at Forest Hills which just happened to be on the Northeast Corridor. I enjoyed my twenty minutes there before reboarding on a nice summer New England afternoon. We returned to South Station after letting a couple pieces of Amtrak equipment move across the river before the station. It gave me a chance to take a hard look at the Boston skyline standing out against a summer's blue sky. I returned to "Three Cheers" for another beer and an order of Buffalo Chicken Wings before ending my Boston experience by returning to South Station to board my next train.

The Lakeshore Limited 449/48 7/16/1990

Boarding with my stomach full was a smart move as the Lakeshore's Boston section dinette only served tray meals. Would not Buffalo Wings make a great tray meal. I am riding in a sixty seat long distance Amfleet coach in Albany where I switch to my first Slumbercoach ever. The conductor taking my ticket explained the move I would make in Albany since my Slumbercoach is on the New York section of the Lakeshore. I headed to the lounge car for a drink as the train departed Boston on time.

Within minutes a gentleman joins me who turns out to be a Conrail engineer. We started talking with him telling me that he is based in New York and is dead heading home. I told him about my trip riding around the United States and California. He had an idea. The engineer on our train is a friend of his so at Framingham he ran up front to see if I could have a ride across the Berkshires in the engine. After the station stop he returned and said it was all set. We will get off at Pittsfield and ride up front. The conductor walked by and told me to bring my bags here so we can do it quickly at Pittsfield. I returned to my coach, collected my bags before returning to the lounge car for a few more rounds as he pointed out the countryside. This is his normal run so he knows the route like the back of his hand. While we talked the train made stops at Worcester and Springfield, crossed the Connecticut River and leaves the valley to start the climb up the Berkshires.

The conductor walked us through the sleeping car then at Pittsfield, detrained, walked past the baggage car and climbed up into the F-40PH. The engineer asked, "Ever been in the cab of a locomotive before?" I answer, "No!" He responded with, "The first one is always the most special and you could not have picked a better run to experience it on!" The sun had just set and the headlight was beginning to take effect. I think to myself. "I have never had a cab ride before and on this trip what do I get besides all the great life long memories." Looking out of the cab I was in heaven as there is no better view than a forward view from a train. My engineer then asked, "Ever blown a locomotive horn before?" "No," I replied. "Come here. When I tell you blow two longs, one short and one long as we cross that dirt road ahead." I blew the horn and when I was done he said, "Perfect. You blow for the next four." and when I see the markers I do just that. "Chris, you are a natural!" With that I returned to the fireman's seat as we approached the State Line Tunnel. We plunged into it and exited in New York where we met an eastbound Conrail freight. We descended the grade, swung off the Conrail Boston-Albany mainline and travelled down twelve miles of track before arriving at Albany-Rensselaer ending my first cab ride ever. I thanked the engineer and the engineer said "Just do not use my name in your book if you write it." I now will honor his request. I climbed off the engine with my bag, ending a wonderful educational experience. Now I am off to experience a Slumbercoach.

As I walked into the Albany-Rensselaer Amtrak Station, I listened to an announcement that the New York section will be an hour late and I started to do word search puzzles. By the time I was done with the fourth one, the train had arrived. All the switching was done and I could now board my first Slumbercoach called the Tonawanda Harbor. It was built for New York Central in 1949 as a 22 roomette car rebuilt into a Slumbercoach 16/10 in 1961. My room featured floor to ceiling space, something I learned is unusual in Slumbercoach rooms but since its room one it all makes sense. I made the bed and unlike the roomette I still have access to the toilet. Best of all the price is right. The Slumbercoach is the best bargain on rails. I walked the five cars to the lounge car to purchase a couple of nightcaps before I returned to my room to celebrate one of the greatest days of traveling in my life. I am on a roll, two straight great days. What will tomorrow bring? I fell fast asleep as the train headed west down the Water Level Route of the ex New York Central {Conrail} in an ex NYC Slumbercoach. What could be better?

7/17/1990 The next morning I awoke from a wonderful sleep just as the train was pulling out of Cleveland, Ohio. During the night I had slept across upstate New York, the northwest corner of Pennsylvania and part of Ohio. I walked the six cars forward to the dining car for a breakfast of hot cakes, sausage and a screwdriver. This was followed by a trip to the lounge car for an order of screwdrivers to go. I took them back to my room to enjoy the view as we ran along the shore and near Lake Erie. We were running an hour late with me enjoying that view all the way to Sandusky Bay, the main scenic highlight on this morning's trip. We crossed over the bay before we arrived in Toledo after waiting for two Conrail freights to clear the depot. During the servicing stop I managed to get a good walk and stretch in before the train continued its way west.

Curiosity had been nagging at me regarding what the car behind me is so I decided to take a look. I walked in and found it to be a crew dorm-baggage car. I then heard. "Sir, you are not supposed to be here." I thought to myself. "I know that voice!" I turned around to find out that it was my sleeping car porter from the Sunset Limited on a Deming, NM to Los Angeles trip I took a few years ago. As I looked at him he said, "It is you! The gentleman who wrote the nice letter to Amtrak that stated what a good hard worker I am. That letter helped get me promoted to Train Chief and this is my regular run. What are you doing here Sir?" I explained my trip and then he offered me a shower which I gladly accepted after five nights out on the road. After I was done, he returned and said, "You can now have anything you want in the lounge car and it will be charged to my account. So go have a party on me. It was just my way of saying thanks! I will always be grateful to you Sir!" I said, "Thanks. Just remember to always do that excellent work from the first time we met and you will go far!" "Thank you Sir." and off he went. It is nice to know a letter I write occasionally does some good for someone and he was the perfect example for Amtrak to promote.

I decided to walk up to the lounge car to see if this would work so I ordered a screwdriver and the LSA said, "Here is a second one to go. I was told to make sure you had an enjoyable and memorable trip Sir!" I think I am going to like this. For the third straight day incredible luck is with me and the streak is still going strong. We are on a section of railroad that is sixty eight miles straight without a single curve, one of the longest in the United States. The countryside is flat farmlands and the train sped down the double track mainline stopping briefly at Bryon before crossing into Indiana to our next stop at Elkhart. There is a railroad museum south of the tracks here which has a PRR GG-1 4882, NYC E-8A 4085 and NYC 3001 a Mohawk plus other assorted equipment.

I started to photograph the equipment as we left the station. We passed through Conrail's Elkhart Yard before we returned to high speed running across the flat lands of Indiana. West of Elkhart, we encountered three eastbound Conrail freights, one following another. I had another couple of rounds as the train crossed Indiana. We stopped at South Bend, home of my parent's arch enemy college of Norte Dame as they are both USC Grads. The train quickly got back up to speed and as I finished my last drink the train pulled through Porter, IN where the Amtrak trains to Michigan divert from this route. I think to myself that one day soon I will be on those tracks. I returned back to my room. The train passed the steel mills of Gary which I remember from the 1971 camper cross the nation trip as the smoggiest place that I have ever been and today it is living up to that title in my memory. I got a glimpse of Lake Michigan before I finally received a clear view of it in spite of the smog. As we left the Gary area, the air visibility improves and I could see quite a ways out into the lake.

The train made its way to its last stop in Indiana at Hammond-Whitning before taking off for the final miles to Chicago. My attendant told me to remain seated once we arrived in Chicago for a surprise. The skyline of Chicago stood out against a hazy sky before we passed another steel mill then crossed the Calumet River and entered Illinois. We passed through a Conrail yard and then went over the Illinois Central mainline. I will ride those rails someday in the future. We passed the homes of the South-side then ran by Comisky Park, home of the Chicago White Sox and by their new stadium being built. As we came to Amtrak's Chicago maintenance base, the train pulled around the wye before backing into Chicago Union Station. We arrived forty seven minutes late thus ending my first trip on the Lakeshore Limited.

Chicago II 7/17/1990

This is the second time on this trip I have been to the Windy City and this time I am going to get to see some of it. On the last stop in Chicago I was off one train to another one. I was sitting patiently in my room for the Train Chief who finally arrives. "Let me take your bags for you Sir." and off the train we went. "Have any plans for Chicago Sir?" "No!", I replied. "May I make a recommendation, Sir?" "Of course," I said. He walked me down to the basement where I was able to store my bags and get a shower for free by just showing my tickets. I dropped off my bags, intending to shower later. "Right outside the station, two blocks away is the Sear's Tower and then take the double deck bus tour of Chicago, Sir. That is the best way to see Chicago for the first time." I said, "Thanks!" and he said, "Anytime, Sir. Have a safe trip, hope to see you in the future and thanks for riding Amtrak!" and we departed company.

I followed his advice and began walking to the Sear's Tower. I went to the Taste of Chicago show before going to the top of the World's Highest Building. Not the greatest visibility but I shot pictures from all four sides with my favorite side being the one which overlooked the Amtrak maintenance base. After all of the fantastic views, a fifty two second elevator ride took me back to ground level. I went out into the streets of Chicago and found the double deck bus tour. Since it was a nice a summer afternoon I opted for the upper level open air seat. We headed east towards Lake Michigan, then went south on Lakeshore Drive out to the Museum of History, Museum of Science and Industry to Soldier Field. We turned around and headed north up Lakeshore Drive passing the piers and wharfs on Lake Michigan before we passed the classy waterfront apartment buildings. We circled to the north of downtown Chicago, crossed the Chicago River twice before we returned to our point of origin. I have now seen Chicago from above and at ground level but now I was thirsty. I went to a bar across the street which turned out to be a White Sox bar. With me having Bobby Thigpen on my fantasy baseball team, I felt right at home. I ordered a couple of drinks while I looked at all the baseball pictures on the wall. Returning to Union Station, I showered and washed my hair, I felt so good to be completely clean. I gathered my bags and with a forty five minute wait before departure, I went to the Amtrak first class lounge, ordered a soft drink and waited for my next train heading to Harpers Ferry, West Virginia.

The Capitol Limited 30 7/17/1990

The Sleeping Car passengers boarded the train first so I walked out to the train, boarding the second sleeping car the Pine Grove and located roomette number three. There was the usual wine and cheese basket and since I still had the wine from the Night Owl I sat back and enjoyed them while the coach passengers were boarding. Departure time came and went. My attendant paid me a visit to let me know we were waiting on late western trains {now the shoe is on the other foot!} and asked if I wanted a five thirty or seven P.M. dinner reservation. Since it was now 5:25 and we were not going anyplace soon, I took the early one and headed to the dining car. The dining car tables all had linen and real China on the table not that plastic stuff on all the other trains. It is an experiment Amtrak is trying and if successful will be expanded to other trains. I had a New York Strip, baked potato, corn, dinner rolls and wine along with ice cream for dessert. I do not know if it was the china or what but that was one the best steak dinners I have ever had on Amtrak. I finished dinner and the train was still sitting in Chicago Union Station. I went to the lounge car to get a couple of after dinner drinks. When I had finished the first one the train finally moved and pulled out of Chicago, an hour twenty three minutes late.

I took the second drink one car forward and climbed the steps into the Dome taking the first forward seat on the right. This vantage point gave me a totally different view leaving Chicago than I had for the coach three nights ago. We followed the now familiar route out through Hammond-Whitning to Pine Junction, IN where we turned southeast off the route of the Lakeshore Limited which I had come in on this morning. In fact I was on the same trackage I was on riding the Broadway Limited to Pittsburgh just a different train with a different consist. We headed east down the former Pennsylvania Railroad mainline Chicago-New York, now a secondary main of Conrail in what is left of the afternoon sun. The countryside has patches of ruralness as we escaped the urban grip of Chicago and made our next stop at Valparaiso in twilight. Darkness took hold as I watched the position signals change from green to red and I did this through Fort Wayne and out into Ohio. I went to the lounge car, bought my two nightcaps and returned to my room to make my bed. Finishing the drinks, I called it a night after another interesting day of traveling by Amtrak around the United States.

7/18/1990 The next morning I arose to find the train somewhere east of Pittsburgh with a sky covered by low clouds which are obscuring the ridge line above the valley. I went to the dining car for a breakfast of French Toast with a screwdriver as the train made the stop at Connellsville, PA. By this time I had finished my meal and I made a trip to the lounge car for a pair of screwdrivers to go before I went up into the Dome as the train reached Confluence. From here the train followed the Casselman River towards Sand Patch. The clouds are even lower now as we gain elevation and climb towards the clouds. With all the clouds there is barely enough light to take pictures of a westbound CSX freight. Since Pittsburgh we have been traveling on the ex Baltimore & Ohio Railroad now CSX mainline.

The Capitol Limited passed through a few short tunnels. I really love passing through tunnels in a dome car because at some point you can really see the light at the end of the tunnel. We continued to twist and climb as we passed another CSX freight. At Meyersdale we lose the Casselman River and followed Little Flaugherty Creek the rest of the way to Sand Patch Summit 2,258 feet above sea level. We passed through the Sand Patch Tunnel and under the watershed boundary. Water flowing east runs into the Potomac River which empties into the Atlantic Ocean and water flows west to the Gulf of Mexico via the Ohio and Mississippi Rivers. From Sand Patch Summit we descended the steepest part of a two percent grade down the east slope of the Alleghenies. We rounded a lesser known horseshoe curve than the famous one on the route of the Broadway Limited. We followed Willis Creek down to Hyndman where there is still a tower and two helper locomotive sets waiting for action. We continued downgrade entering Maryland before we arrived at our next station stop at Cumberland where CSX has a large yard east of the station. From Cumberland, we followed the Potomac River down into the valley to a stop in Martinsburg where there is an old B&O roundhouse. With the stop done, I left the Dome, packed up and just enjoyed the last remaining miles in my roomette just thinking how much I have enjoyed my two trips in them. From here on its three different Slumbercoaches and an Economy Bedroom home but that is all in the future. I am going to sit back and enjoy the present. As we arrived at Harpers Ferry, West Virginia, my attendant took my bag and placed it on the ground as I detrained. He gave the all clear and I watched the Capitol Limited cross the Potomac River into Maryland and into a tunnel going out of sight as I watched the train leave Harpers Ferry.

Harpers Ferry, West Virginia 7/18/1990

I walked in and through the station which was empty then out front to get a taxi cab but there were not any there. In fact the more I walked around, the more I discovered that Harpers Ferry is not a town but a National Historical Location. It was here when John Brown's attempted to seize the town's arsenal in 1859 just before the Civil War. Brown ended his life in the gallows because of his part in the raid. I had a reservation at the Hilltop House so I asked a merchant which road would led to the hotel and off I went walking up a steep hill lugging my bag behind me to the Hilltop House. I checked in and received a room on the second floor east side overlooking the town and the junction of the Potomac and Shenandoah Rivers. This is the point where the three states of West Virginia, Maryland and Virginia meet. It is a fantastic view. Following a nice relaxing shower, I decided to go and explore Harpers Ferry. I walked around the buildings, looked through the shops windows before I hiked across the bridge to the Maryland side and climbed the ridge with the railroad and river far below. I stayed up there for two hours and never saw a train pass. It appeared that my lucky streak had ended. Well it is a great view anyway and across the valley painted all white is the Hilltop House. I hiked back down to the station and noticed the schedules for both the MARC and Amtrak trains. If I eat an early dinner, I should be able to shoot photos of three passenger trains. I returned to the hotel immediately and ordered a Southern Fried Chicken Dinner which was excellent. From my dinner table I watched an eastbound CSX freight go by however I was eating this wonderful meal and the lighting would have been all wrong for a picture. I hiked back down the hill and was rewarded with four trains. The first one was a MARC commuter train pulled by one of their F-units.

Then I set up for the westbound Capitol Limited which had Amtrak's prototype Viewliner Sleeper on the rear.

Next a CSX freight came off the mainline and onto the branch along the Shenandoah River followed by what to me is the icing on my cake.

The second MARC commuter train which was a pair of RDCs that I love. Guess my luck has changed again as it does not get any better than this! With the sun going down and darkness taking over, I hiked back up the hill to the Hilltop House, had four nightcaps and then fell into my first non-moveable bed in six nights. I heard a passing CSX freight in the night right before I fell asleep. I enjoyed a good night's rest.

7/19/1990 The next morning I got up and took a long, long, long shower before going downstairs for breakfast. I looked at the menu to see what I could order that Amtrak does not offer. I settled for a Belgium Waffle, sausage, bacon and grapefruit juice which really hit the spot. I repacked my bags separating clean ones from the dirty ones before I checked out. The clerk had me fill out a card and when I write I learned of the Hilltop House in Passenger Train Journal, she leaned over and said, "Now I know why you had that early dinner last night." There is always a method to my madness. I walked back down the hill to the train station to wait for the eastbound twenty four hour later than yesterday Capitol Limited.

The Capitol Limited 30 7/19/1990

The train pulled in right on schedule and I boarded an Amfleet sixty seat coach which was two cars back from the only Viewliner prototype dining car. I walked through the lounge to take a look. The dining car Steward was seated at a table and seeing me said, "Sorry, we are closed!" I responded with, "I am not here to eat. I just wanted a look at this car." "Well, that is different, follow me and I will give you a quick tour." The Steward led me though the car including the kitchen which proved to be most interesting. My luck continues. Just as he finished the tour, the lounge car made his last call so I was off to get two screwdrivers to go. I headed to the Dome and sat down just as the train was passing the nice looking Point of Rock station building. Down the line at Silver Springs we ran alongside of the Washington Metro Subway before we entered the District of Colombia and they made us all exit the dome car before we reached the Northeast Corridor. I asked the attendant why we must exit and he gives me a story about, "What if a live wire fell off the catenary and landed on the car. Certain death for anyone in the car!" he said. I think about this and if this was the case you could not run a passenger car with a metal body anywhere under overhead wire but a rule is a rule and I must blindly obey. We entered the Northeast Corridor passed Amtrak's yard and pulled into Washington Union Station ending a triangle DC to Boston to Chicago to DC trip. I detrained from the Capitol Limited with some more life long memories. I should have done this trip a long time ago.

Washington, DC II 7/19/1990 I have returned!

Walking back into Washington Union Station with an hour and half to kill, I kept my bag with me. I visited the railroad hobby shop picking up some magazines to read on the train. Next a stop was made at the gift shop to buy dome post cards followed by a trip to the Post Office to mail them. I went to the liquor store for some supplies for my trip to Florida followed by a trip to the food court for lunch. I enjoyed a roast beef sandwich, plain of course, before visiting the bar for a drink before I returned to the gate where I would wait for the Silver Star to arrive from New York. I must say I did make good use of my time on my second visit to Washington, DC.

The Silver Star 91 7/19/1990

I boarded Slumbercoach Loch Ackaig, an ex CB&Q car originally built for the New York Central in 1959. I had room number four which is an upper version in the car. Everything works just the same on this car as the car three days ago. We left DC on time and plunged into the Capitol Tunnel. Upon exiting, I view the Washington Monument, we passed the Jefferson Monument and off in the distance was the Lincoln Monument before we crossed the Potomac River and entered Virginia with a quick view of the Pentagon Building. We passed through Alexandria's downtown before we came to the Alexandria station. I poured myself a drink, put my feet up on the bulkhead and watched the Virginia countryside pass by. The train picked up speed and then passed Lorton, VI, the home terminal for Amtrak's Auto Train with one being loaded as we sped by. We were traveling down the double track mainline of the former Richmond, Fredericksburg and Potomac now part of CSX. After passing through Quantico we crossed over the Rappahannock River before we came to our next stop at Fredericksburg. I decided to walk the train to see what kind of consist we had. Being in the last car, I walked forward through four coaches and the lounge car. Next was the kitchen car along with two cafeteria cars {table cars} and I left the Miami section of the train. I entered the Tampa section where there was another lounge, followed by four more coaches, then a 10/6 sleeper with a baggage car ahead and two locomotives pulling. That makes this a sixteen car train and a nice long walk for me. I stopped at both the Tampa and Miami lounges for a drink on my way back to my room. Returning to my room, I watched Virginia forest interspersed with farms and a few little towns that the train sped through before we reached our next stop of Richmond, which is located outside of town. The train passed through the CSX yard and a few minutes later crossed the James River. I had a five thirty dinner reservation so I walked up to the kitchen car to get a half baked chicken, baked potato and drink, paid for it before being escorted to a table in the next car where I ate my meal. Comparing this service to the full dining car, I will always take the later. This way of eating is too fast food in style and takes away the romance of a meal on the train. I guess their motto is move them in and move them out. As soon as I finished, I was asked to leave. Thank God I did not meet any members of the opposite sex at this meal or else we would not have gotten to know each other at all. I returned to my Slumbercoach realizing we had entered North Carolina so I poured myself a drink to celebrate my arrival in this state. We were still passing through the forest as the sun faded from the afternoon sky and darkness took hold. I enjoyed the passing countryside with the light of my room off and by having a few more nightcaps. With the Silver Star's arrival in Raleigh, the capitol of North Carolina, I made up my bed and called it a night as the Silver Star sailed southward down the mainline on this night.

7/20/1990 The next morning I woke in Jacksonville, FL with the train having crossed South Carolina and southeast Georgia during the night. There was no power in my room, which meant they must be cutting out the Tampa section and so I pulled the shade down to fall back asleep not waking until Ocala to Florida version of forest. I began to see citrus groves as the train came to the junction of the Tampa line and we curved east on it only to turn south a few miles later at Auburndale. We made our next stop at Winterhaven and a half hour later at Sebring. We then passed near the eastern edge of Lake Okeechobee and with every crossing of water I looked for alligators. After bridging four waterways I finally saw a group of alligators sunning themselves on the bank of the channel. With all the swamps and water around this is what I thought all of Florida was, not the more rolling forested lands to the north. Another myth killed by the education of traveling. From Okeechobee to West Palm Beach we raced along fifty seven miles without a curve but that's not the longest in the United States. I did that one in my sleep last night from Hamlet, SC to past Lugoff, SC a total of seventy nine miles perfectly straight. After miles of scrub pines and swamps the train returned to the urban environment making stops at West Palm Beach, Delray Beach, Fort Lauderdale and Hollywood. We passed the CSX yard, Amtrak's Hialeah maintenance facility before pulling into Amtrak Miami Station, ending my trip on the Silver Star.

Miami ie Hialeah 7/20/1990

Amtrak's Miami station is Miami only in name. In reality it is in Hialeah which is miles from downtown so when I planned this trip for my hotel here I used the AAA tour book for the closet one which was at the airport. I took a picture of the train before hopping into a taxi for a ten dollar cab ride to my hotel. Once I was at the hotel, I checked in with my room on the sixth floor that overlooked what else, the airport. An airplane fan would love this room but not the train rider. I took a nice long shower, washed my hair and left the bathroom with a nice clean feeling.

I needed to replenish my supplies so I went to the front desk to ask for directions, His last words to me were, "Be careful!" I wondered what he meant by that? As I walked the eight blocks to the store, I was passed by eight different police cars. I passed large amounts of graffiti, got asked three times if I wanted to buy some drugs and twice asked if I wanted to buy a woman to have sex with. I arrived at the store and walked in to a guy with an automatic weapon pointing it at me as I entered the store. Maybe this technique scares off potential holdup men. I bought my various items, went to the register to pay for them with the gun trained on me until I am all the way out of the store and out on the street. I decided to walk down the other side of the street back to the hotel maybe it is a better side. Wrong! Six offers for drugs, four for sex, one for something I had never heard of and even more graffiti, even the trunks of the trees and the pavement of the streets can not escape it. No offense to the Hialeah Chamber of Commerce but this part of your town is a dump reminding me of those areas in South Central Los Angeles that no one in their right mind goes into. I got back to the safety of the hotel with my life and an interesting tale to tell.

I watched the Guiding Light when down at the bottom of the screen a special weather statement for strong thunderstorms appeared. I opened the curtains to watch the nature show and after I had one drink the sky let loose with me thinking that less than two hours ago I was walking under a perfectly blue sky. How quickly things can change. It rained good and hard for about twenty minutes before the sun returned. I walked out onto the balcony into a sauna. It is the highest humidity that I have ever been in and when the water evaporated I watched a fine mist rising. I have never seen anything like this but I guessed that is how rainfall in Florida is recycled.

Anytime I am in a new place I love to look through the local phone book to get a feel for the place and also to look at the maps if they are included. Scanning the pages I noticed something called Tri Rail and there is a stop five blocks east of my hotel. With the ground now completely dry, I walked to the station finding not only it but also a Tri Rail Commuter Train. I learned from the conductor that this is a brand new service from West Palm Beach to here and then he gave me a tour of the equipment during its layover. He gave me a schedule and said if I am ever back down here to ride it. Maybe one day I will. The rest of my stay in Miami was in my hotel room I watched two national network newscasts and the Weather Channel to see what the weather is like at home and in, DC and Chicago in three to five days. Looks like my luck of having good weather is going to hold up. I ordered a Prime Rib dinner from room service, the first time in my life for doing that. I watched an evening of television, airplane landings and drank my usual nightcaps before falling asleep.

7/21/1990 Six thirty the wakeup call came so I showered, packed and then checked out. I waited for a taxi cab and another ten dollar ride back to the train station. At least the driver took a different route back to the station showing me some more of Hialeah before we reached the station. I explored the station before finding a seat to wait for boarding. A thought occurred to me. I had now been to all the four corners of the Amtrak system: San Diego, Seattle, Boston and now Miami in clockwise order although Miami will always be Hialeah to me.

Silver Meteor 98 7/21/1990

When I planned this trip, I noticed the Silver Star had a route between Washington and Miami with the Silver Meteor having another so I made sure I would travel over both. It was a sunny morning in Hialeah when I boarded the Slumbercoach Dunkirk Harbor an ex NYC car built in 1949 and rebuilt in 1961 and went to room number five, the lower version of the design. The first thing I noticed was my leg space is under room four. No feet having to rest on the bulkhead on this trip, I have a west side room so I will be seeing the same scenery on the routes that the two trains shared. The trip back north through Florida's lower east coast and along Lake Okeechobee was almost the same as coming down yesterday but alas there were no alligators. We made the stops at Sebring and Winterhaven before we pulled to Auburndale. Here is where things started to change.

We pulled onto the east leg of the wye to wait for the Tampa section to arrive. First the Tampa engine cuts off and joined our engines. Next our baggage car is placed in front of the Tampa section which dropped its lounge before they coupled onto us before we returned to get the Tampa lounge which was placed right behind my car. We now have a seventeen car train and head north. I wanted to know why the Tampa lounge is on the rear so I walked back and ordered a drink. I learned that the lounge will be cut off at Jacksonville thus making one round trip per day to Tampa. Sounds like an easy job for the LSA.

The stops now came in quick succession. Orlando, Winter Park and Sanford each with nice stations surrounded by palm trees. In fact I have seen more palm trees on this route than on any other route that I have travelled on. Sanford by the way is the southern terminus for Amtrak's Auto Train with a train preparing to leave behind us. North of Sanford we passed through Orange City which to me made sense. There should be a city in Florida with that name since more oranges are grown here than in any other state in my country. Sorry to my neighboring city of Orange, CA where you now have to look for one orange tree let alone a whole grove. Florida is full of orange groves never having the urban growth of let us say Orange County, CA. A little known truth about me is that I miss having an orange grove right across the street from where I live like I had when I was a kid. In spite of heavy passenger loadings the Silver Meteor continued to run on time. We came to our next stop at Deland before crossing the St John River and stopping again at Palatka. Once on the move again, the train sped north arriving at our last stop in Florida of Jacksonville. Since the train was going to be here for fifteen minutes I was going to detrain, but when I hit the vestibule feeling the heat and the humidity, I had second thoughts about it. I preferred the air conditioned world of a slumbercoach to the real world outside. They removed the Tampa lounge from its place behind the train and I am now in the rear car of the train.

With the train back on the move I headed to the dining sections of the train for my evening meal. I went to the kitchen car to order and pick up my food like I did before, but this time I remembered to pick up my dessert then went to pay for it. I handed the Steward my American Express Card who said go eat and I will bring it to you by the time you are done. I do not like leaving my cards with anyone and never out of my presence. He made up a stupid story that he checks all Amex cards to make sure they are valid. I asked "Why did not you check the guy's card in front of me?" He responded, "He looked ok to me!" I felt insulted and said,"Like I do not! I have never had any problem using my Amex anyplace I have ever been. I will now walk away but will write both Amtrak and Amex about this incident!" I finished my meal and then had to wait for ten minutes for the steward to bring me my bill. When he returned he put the bill in front of me and I signed it. He had the gull to ask me for a tip. I got the final laugh on him." If you were in a restaurant used your card and was treated like you treated me, would you tip?" He starred at me with a blank look on his face. I crossed out the box that said tip and instead of tipping him, I wrote his name on my copy, got up and walked away. I wondered if he ever got the picture. I returned back to my room via the lounge car picking up a drink on the way to enjoy along with my private stock. I watched the early evening countryside pass while I enjoyed my drinks and the train passed into Georgia and sped towards Savannah through the coastal forest and over streams. We arrived at Savannah in twilight and then headed north into the night. I did my usual sleeping car ritual before falling asleep on the Silver Meteor passing through forest of Southern Pines and heading north into the night. We traveled during the night through the southeast corner of Georgia, South Carolina, North Carolina and Virginia.

7/22/1990 The next morning I awoke just as the train was arriving at Alexandria and repeated the views of arriving into Washington, DC. It was an overcast morning with low clouds as the train crossed the Potomac River and entered the District of Columbia. The streets are empty this Sunday morning making our nation's capital more like a ghost town than the bustling place of our national government. We headed into the tunnel and after passing under Capitol Hill, we arrived at Washington Union Station for the last time on this trip. I detrained off of the Silver Meteor and stopped to take one last look at the train. It was a nice quick trip from Miami to here with seven hours to kill I wondered what kind of Washington, DC adventure I would have?

Washington, DC 7/22/1990 The Final Visit

I stored my bags in a locker which I had located on DC visit number one and then walked out into the early morning drizzle. I walked right to the United States Capitol Building and stood right in front of it with not a single person in sight. I decided to walk around the building something I did not get a chance to do on my family visit to it back in 1971. I walked all the way around it back to the spot where I had started. Right then a limousine pulled up and out stepped a very well dressed man from out of the back seat. "What are you doing here so early on a Sunday morning?" he said. "I am taking a train trip around the United States and since I had time in between trains, I decided to walk over and see our Capitol Building," I responded. "My name is House Member {He asked me not to use it or the state he was from} and I have some spare time. I will show you around!" he said. Together we walked up the steps to a door where the guard let us in and I started my private tour of the United States Capitol Building.

We walked into the House of Representatives and he showed me his desk where he works. He then said, "Go up to the podium and stand right where the Speaker of the House stands." I walked up there, put my hands on the podium and looked out. It was an incredible rush. I felt like I was a part of our government. He then said, "Say something." "My fellow Americans. I am a train rider!" We both laughed at that. We walked into the Senate Chambers and repeated the process for a second incredible feeling. I looked up at the balcony where in 1971 I was when I had taken the tour and thought, "Look at me now!" What a rush. He then said that he had some work to do so we headed back outside. I thanked him for all of his time and he asked me, "What time does your train leave?" I said, "After one." He asked me, "What in DC would I like to see?" I said, "The Smithsonian so I could see the steam locomotive there." He told his driver to, "Take Chris there and make sure he gets to see it."

His driver drove me straight to the Smithsonian and we walked up to the VIP entrance. He walked up and talked to the lady at the desk who then got on the phone. A minute later, a gentleman walked up to us and said, "Sir, please follow me." We walked through two halls of exhibits and there it is. The Southern Railway 1401, a 4-6-2, built in 1926 looking absolutely beautiful. I was surprised when he said, "Go ahead, climb in and take a long look." I climbed up the ladder and spent three minutes looking around the locomotive's cab. I am in heaven with my luck stronger than ever. What an experience I was having. I could not have dreamed this in my wildest dreams. What a marvelous experience. I climbed down and thanked everyone on the way back outside and to the car.

The driver asked me what time my train was and we decided to take a quick drive around DC. We swung by the Jefferson, Lincoln and Washington Monuments before passing by the White House and the Capitol Building before he dropped me off at Union Station. I thanked him for the ride and wrote a note of thanks to the House Member for everything. I walked back into Washington Union Station thinking just how lucky I have been on this trip and what a wonderful Washington, DC experience I had. I stopped by the bar for one last DC drink, the ATM and the liquor store for fresh supplies then retrieved my bags out of the locker. I went to the gate to wait for my next train that will take me back to Chicago and a connection for home.

The Cardinal 51 7/22/1990

The train pulled in from New York City and I boarded my Slumbercoach the Loch Lomond, built for the Northern Pacific in 1959. I had room number three, a lower for my trip to Chicago. I am on the right side so I got the same view leaving DC that I had on the two Florida trains as far as Alexandria where we departed the CSX route for the rails of the Southern Railway mainline. We'll be on the Southern's steel as far as Orange so I will get to live out a lifelong train rider's dream of riding on the Southern Railway. We lost an hour at Alexandria because the Head End Power {HEP} went out. Amtrak sent out a crew from DC to fix it but as soon as we passed Manassas the HEP went out again, then on for five minutes, off for ten and this was the pattern for the afternoon. The lady from across the hall engaged me in conversation so I did not really see anything outside of the train except the green hills of Virginia. We walked up to the Dinette car as the Cardinal does not have a dining car and she ordered us a couple of drinks. As we continued our conversation the train left the Southern mainline and swung onto the old Chesapeake and Ohio {C&O} now CSX. Once I am on their rails, I realized that I had now ridden down all the mainlines of all the great eastern railroads on this trip, the Pennsylvania, New York Central, Baltimore and Ohio and Chesapeake and Ohio. If I only had ridden a train on the Reading I would have ridden on all the railroads on a Monopoly board.

When the train stopped in Charlottesville she decided to stay at the table and play cards with another couple so I went back through a very warm Amfleet car, to a heritage coach with all the vestibule windows open to create a nice breeze which kept the car cool to my Slumbercoach with the rear door open and the vestibule windows open. I stopped by my room for a quick drink then rode the back of the train up the ex C&O mainline over the Blue Ridge Mountains. We started our climb up the Appalachians. First we climbed over the ridge that separates Tidewater Virginia from the Shenandoah Valley and descended to Waynesboro. We crossed the Shenandoah River with the last time me seeing it was leaving Harpers Ferry on the Capitol Limited. Now the train started its climb out of the Shenandoah Valley for the long and curving trek up the Appalachians and through a couple of tunnels. We arrived in Clifton Forge where the mainline from Newport News joined the CSX line from DC. This is the line all the coal the C&O hauled out of the mountains took on its way to tidewater at Newport News so the CSX had a major yard here.

We left Clinton Forge and the conductor came back and said, "You got the best seat on the whole train. How far are you going?" "Chicago", I said with a big smile on my face. "Well, next we're going to cross the Alleghenies and head into the New River Gorge before night falls. Here is a list of all the tunnels and their lengths, so enjoy yourself and if I have time I will come back and point things out for you." I asked, "Do you have an extra employee timetable?" He said, "I do not think so but if I do it is yours." "Thanks. Have a good and safe trip," I say as he walked away. As the train really started its climb up to the summit, I looked at the sheets of tunnel names he had given me and noticed that every tunnel had a name not a number as I was used to out west. I mean our long tunnels like the Cascade, Libby and Moffat tunnels have names but the smaller ones are just numbered. As I was looking down into the valley, we entered the next tunnel, a short one called Mud Tunnel. This was followed by Kelly Tunnel which cuts through a ridge to put us on a northern slope for the rest of the climb. We next passed through Lake Tunnel as we continued our twisting and turning climb towards the summit. We rounded a curve and there before us was the summit ridge of the Allegheny Mountains. We plunged into the Lewis Tunnel, a 3061 foot affair. We left the Atlantic watershed for that of the Ohio River and entered West Virginia.

After climbing all afternoon, we started our westward descent now twisting and turning down into the Valley where we followed the Greenbrier River to our next stop at White Sulphur Springs, home of the World's famous Greenbrier Resort. Four CSX business cars are on a siding here by the depot and it would not surprise me if the CSX did not use this beautiful location to host its business clientele. Leaving White Sulphur Springs behind we followed the Greenbrier River down through a forested canyon which is getting deeper and steeper until it joined the New River into its Gorge with the same name. The New River unlike what is it name would imply is one of the oldest streams in the world. We pulled into our next stop at Hinton a railroading town if there ever was one complete with a coaling tower and turntable. Hinton is to the C&O what Altoona was to the Pennsylvania Railroad. Leaving Hinton we passed a waterfall as the Gorge got deeper and deeper. About thirty minutes later we passed through Prince a classic old town with another coaling tower and entered the New River Gorge proper.

We plunged into the Stretcher Neck Tunnel as the canyon walls are strewned with rocks before we stopped at Thurmond. We crossed the New River as the railroad splits with our line running down the south side of the river and the other mainline staying on the north side of the river. Now I am in the heart of the New River Gorge and a note in my tunnel guide lists the Highway 19 across the top of the New River Gorge. The bridge is 378 feet above the river and has a span of 1,700 feet. As we approached its location the conductor returned saying, "Sorry! No luck with the timetable but we are almost to the Highway 19 bridge, the second highest in the United States after the Royal Gorge Bridge in Colorado. Each year they close the bridge down on Bridge Day when people parachute off of it down towards the river." Just as he finished talking, the bridge came into sight and something fell off of it attached to a rope. After dropping for seconds, the person reverses direction and heads upwards again. "Bungee jumping," he said. 'It is the latest craze but I think a better word for those people would be Bungee Crazies as you would never catch me doing something like that." "Me neither," I said as two more people went off the bridge. As we got under it three more people bungeed as we passed on the downstream side. As we turned a corner losing sight of the bridge I said," It was interesting to watch them but the only way I would ever do that I would have to be dead and they could bungee my body off the bridge." We both had a long hard laugh at the thought.

The north side mainline rejoined our line after crossing the New River with my conductor pointing out Lover's Leap but did not tell any stories about it like I could not figure it out for myself. Next we passed the Hawk's Nest Dam which backs up the New River into the Gorge which is one of the reasons the river has such a peaceful feel to it in the lower Gorge while on the river part it is pretty wild with lots of rapids. The New River Gorge ends with the river's junction with the Kenawha River. Thus ended my journey through one of Amtrak's scenic highlights, the New River Gorge with some wonderful lively memories that will live with me forever. With the evening turning darker the last thing visible across the river were the barges that were formerly used for river travel but now sit forever forlorn. We arrived at our next stop of Charleston and I saw the state capitol building of West Virginia. Seeing it made me think of how many state capitols I have passed through on this trip so far and after a few moments of thought I came up with a total of ten in the twenty three states that I have traveled through so far. I returned to my room, did my ritual nightcaps before I fell asleep in West Virginia on my last night in a Slumbercoach on this trip.

7/23/1990 While I slept the train passed through northern Kentucky along the south shore of the Ohio River before crossing it at Cincinnati where my parents boarded the Cardinal in a bedroom in the 10/6 sleeper at the front of the train. The train then continued its westward trek across southern Ohio into southern Indiana before arriving at Indianapolis, another state capitol where I peeked out of my window and saw the Indianapolis Union Station and once under way again the Hoosier Dome sports complex. I walked up to the 10/6 sleeper to see if my parents were up which they were. We visited for a few minutes about their time in Cincinnati. My mother's convention went really well and my father even went to Riverfront Stadium to see the Cincinnati Reds play baseball. I told them briefly about my journey and we finished up with their interesting story of their bus journey to Cincinnati after we had parted company in Chicago.

I returned to my room picking up a breakfast of chocolate donuts and a screwdriver from the Dinette car. We have traveled through the rolling hills of Southern Indiana on a Conrail line which took us to our next stop at Crawfordville and the junction which led us onto the ex Monon line {CSX} to start our trek north. Leaving town we headed out into the forest then crossed over a very pretty stream before arriving at Lafayette. It was not the normal way a train enters a town. We crossed under a stone bridge {almost a tunnel} which had drainage problems followed by passing through people's backyards before running down the middle of 5th Street to the Amtrak Station located in a gift shop. This is one of the most unique Amtrak stations in the whole country. CSX is building a new line around downtown Lafayette to avoid running their freight trains down the city's streets. We departed town only coming to a stop in the CSX yard to change crews. We headed north as the landscape became flatter and the agricultural interests took hold. We passed the Tippecanoe Battlefield State Memorial followed by passing through Brookstone an active small Indiana town with people out everywhere. The next town is Monon before we came to the junction with the line which heads to Michigan where we curved off to the northwest. We next passed through Pleasant Ridge before we crossed the Kankakee River and ten minutes later pulled into Dyer. From here we headed north through the housing developments and industries to reach the Conrail mainline and joining the main Amtrak route to Chicago. We stopped at Hammond-Whiting before continuing west passing all the now familiar landmarks before we reached the wye and backed into Chicago Union Station arriving one hour and twenty minutes late.

Chicago III 7/23/1990

For this four hour visit to Chicago, I stored my bag downstairs, took a long and well deserved hot shower before finding something to eat. I picked up some Metra commuter train timetables and noticed they had trains which leave from Northwestern Station so I walked over there to pick up schedules for future reference. I made a decision that the next time I am in Chicago and if time permits, I will start riding Metra routes which will give me new mileage on every future trip to Chicago. I walked back to Union Station, got my bag back from the basement before going to the First Class Passenger Lounge to wait for my final Superliner train to take me back to California.

Southwest Chief 3 7/23/1990

I boarded Economy Bedroom number three in the sleeping car named George Pullman. My parents are located in room five and the three of us quickly settled in. To my total surprise our sleeping car attendant is the same very cute attractive and bright women who I travelled east with on the Desert Wind/California Zephyr on my first leg of the trip. She asked me about how my journey went after we had parted and I told her a couple of very interesting stories before she went about her duties. The dining car steward stopped by and I took a five thirty dinner reservation. The Southwest Chief left on time on its 2,247 mile journey down the Santa Fe mainline west to California.

We left Chicago running through the industrial areas on the southwest side of town and followed the Chicago Sanitary and Ship Canal to Joliet our first station stop. Before arriving there I went to the dining car to have a New York Strip Steak dinner with a glass of wine and dessert. By the time I had finished, the Southwest Chief was running out in the Illinois countryside. I walked forward to the lounge car, ordered some after dinner drinks and watched the countryside for the reminder of the daylight. This is my first time on the east end of this route and everything will be new until we reach La Junta tomorrow morning with familiar scenery in familiar territory after that. We arrived in Streetor and crossed the Vermillion River before entering a massive thunderstorm that lasts until nightfall. I returned to my room for the usual nightcaps and tonight's ride down the Santa Fe double track mainline west towards Kansas City and beyond.

7/24/1990 The next morning I awoke just as the train arrived at Newton, KS and we left an hour and half late which is just fine with me as it allows me to see more of the countryside in Kansas. I walked to the dining car for a breakfast of French Toast, bacon, juice and a screwdriver. I walked up to the lounge car to enjoy my morning screwdrivers. The train stopped in Dodge City, the end of those famous cattle drives and wild west town that had both Bat Materson and Wyatt Earp as sheriff but today looks like a peaceful modern agricultural town. The countryside consists of either large farms or cattle ranches as we continued west down the single track mainline at speeds up to ninety miles an hour. We arrived in Garden City and on the way out of town I saw the engines of the Garden City Western Railroad switching cars west of town. It is a tiny short line which serves the needs of its customers. We next passed through miles of fields of sunflowers before we crossed into Colorado. We crossed the Arkansas River and fifteen minutes later arrived in Lamar. Outside of town we passed the John Martin Dam. Later we passed Fort Lyon and then spotted Bent Old Fort. We continued our rush of speed before arriving at La Junta, our servicing stop where I detrained for some fresh air. I saw the motel where I stayed on my previous trip to here from Los Angeles and realized I have now completed riding the entire Southwest Chief route.

An engine was added to the point of our train as we departed west from La Junta where we continued to climb while splitting the semaphore signals to our next stop at Trinidad. I was back in the lounge car for the trip over Raton Pass at 7,588 feet and we passed through a mile and a half long tunnel after entering New Mexico. This was my third ride over Raton Pas and was as exciting as my first two were. I was totally into the crossing of the pass with both ends of the train in view at the same time on many occasions. It is a unique piece of railroading in North America. We descended the south side of the pass to Raton, NM. I headed to the dining car for lunch. I had a plain beef burger, chips and a seven up as the train sped towards its next station stop at Las Vegas, NM. No gambling here in this town. I sat in the lounge car as the train passed Wagon Mound and the old Harvey House in Las Vegas. I had an after lunch drink as the Southwest Chief passed Starvation Peak and the descent around the double horseshoe curve towards the crossing of the Pecos River. From there the train climbed Glorieta Pass before descending through Apache Canyon to Lamy. We continued to drop to the Rio Grande River Valley, passed the Pueblos to our next servicing stop at Albuquerque where the train received a well deserved window cleaning. I detrained and looked at the Indian jewelry during the servicing stop. We left New Mexico's largest city forty minutes late and I went to the dining car for my final dinner of the trip which was another New York Steak, wine and ice cream. I returned to the lounge car for my after dinner drinks, listened to the Indian Guide and watched the mesas change colors in the final light of the day. We crossed the Continental Divide and arrived at Gallup right at sunset. I returned to my room for my final night on the train, final rounds of nightcaps and my final night of sleep of this trip.

7/25/1990 The next morning I was up for breakfast as the train descended Cajon Pass. I had a couple of screwdrivers between San Bernardino and Pomona. We traveled through the upper San Gabriel Valley through the bedroom communities and industries before running down the middle of the 210 Freeway to Pasadena. We twisted and turned down the grade, crossed the Arroyo Seco Bridge, passed through the backyards before crossing the Los Angeles River and arrived at the Los Angeles Union Station one hour fifteen minutes late.

San Diegan 774 7/25/1990

Waiting across the platform from the Southwest Chief in Los Angeles was my connecting San Diegan. I stepped off that train right onto my San Diegan for home. Ten minutes later we were off on a thirty six mile trip back to Santa Ana. What a trip I had! All the way across the United States, to the eastern corners of the Amtrak system, all the new trains, new places and people I met along with all the life long memories I now have. I detrained at Santa Ana wanting a rest but already thinking of future trips.