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Texas Eagle - October, 2006

By Daniel Chazin,

    It’s 3:45 p.m. on Tuesday, October 17, 2006, and I’ve just arrived at Dallas Union Station, where I will be boarding the Texas Eagle to Chicago.  I flew down yesterday morning to attend a meeting and stayed overnight.  This morning, I rode the Trinity Railway Express between Dallas and Richland Hills.  In the afternoon, I returned my rental car to Love Field, took a bus to downtown Dallas, then transferred to the DART light-rail for the final leg of the trip to Union Station.

    After detraining from the light-rail vehicle, I walked into the station and checked with the agent as to the status of the Texas Eagle.  She informed me that the train had arrived Fort Worth half an hour late, and would probably reach Dallas between 4:30 and 5:00 p.m.  I sat down in the waiting room until about 4:20 p.m., when I gathered up my belongings and walked outside to the platform.  On Track 3, used by the Trinity Railway Express, were two trains – one was boarding passengers for the 4:33 p.m. departure to Fort Worth, and the other train was behind it, awaiting a later departure.  I walked over to the platform between Tracks 4 and 5 (the two Amtrak tracks) to await the arrival of my train.  There were a few other passengers waiting there.  The TRE train departed on time at 4:33 p.m., and soon another train, made up of Budd cars, pulled into the station.  That would be used for the 4:53 p.m. departure to the Centreport/DFW Airport station.

    At 4:46 p.m., I observed the Texas Eagle stopped just outside the station.  The train now began to move forward and pull into the station.  It was pulled by engine #92 and included a transition/crew dorm car, a dining car, a Sightseer Lounge, a coach with a baggage compartment on the lower level, a 34000-series coach with handicapped seating on the lower level, and a sleeper at the rear.  

    This morning, I had been informed by the agent at the Dallas station that I would be in the front sleeper, so I walked forward to board my car.  The door was open, but no attendant was stationed at the door.  Then I noticed the attendant walking down the platform towards me.  He told me that although my ticket indicated that I was assigned to Room #17, I had been moved to Room #19.

    I boarded the train, left my suitcase on the lower level, and walked upstairs to my room.  After putting down the rest of my belongings, I thought I might have time to detrain briefly and take a picture of the engine.  I walked downstairs, where I found the door still open.  However, looking out at the platform, it appeared that we were almost ready to depart.  Sure enough, we started moving only about a minute later, at 4:54 p.m.  The door was still open, so I took the initiative and closed it.  I then walked back upstairs to my room and got settled.

    Soon, the attendant came by to collect my ticket.  An announcement had already been made that anyone who has not already done so must come to the dining car within the next ten minutes to make a dinner reservation, but the attendant informed me that he had already made a reservation for me for the 6:30 p.m. dinner sitting.

    I now decided to carefully examine the transition/crew dorm sleeper that I was in.  This is the first time that I have ever occupied a room in such a sleeper (on my last trip from Dallas on the Texas Eagle this past February, I had been assigned a room in the crew dorm, but a regular sleeper was substituted).  The upper level of the car has two sections, each with eight rooms (formerly called “standard bedrooms,” and now known as “roomettes”).  The eight rooms at the rear of the car, numbered from 17 to 24, are now made available for sale to the public, while the eight rooms in the front of the car, numbered from 1 to 8, are reserved for the crew.  (I noticed a sign-in sheet in the center of the car, on which crew members had to indicate which room they were occupying.)  There is another room at the very rear of the upper level of the car that was designed, I think, as the conductor’s office, but at present, the room contains just one seat (no table) and does not appear to be used for any purpose.  Opposite this room is a combination restroom/shower, unlike any other that I’ve seen on an Amtrak train.  When you walk in, there is a small room with a toilet and sink, but opening into it is a separate shower room.  

    I recall reading that there is supposed to be a crew lounge in the lower level of these cars, but if such a lounge ever existed, it has been removed.  Instead, one end of the lower level is now empty space, with two tables (of the type found in a dining car) having been installed at the end adjacent to the center vestibule.  These tables are designed to be used as the conductor’s office, and I noticed the conductor sitting there for part of the time.  The other end of the lower level is fashioned the same as a regular Superliner sleeper, with three restrooms and a separate shower, and a handicapped bedroom (which was not occupied) at the end.

    I found it rather ironic that there was a blue curtain that separated the hallway into which our rooms faced from the area in the center of car, which contains the stairway leading downstairs.  The purpose of the curtain was to indicate that passengers should not go beyond this point, but it was made clear to us by the attendant that we were welcome to use the restroom and shower facilities on the lower level of the car (and, of course, to store our luggage in the luggage racks down there).  The only areas that were stated to be off-limits to passengers were the front of the upper level of the car, where the rooms for the crew were located, and the open area/lounge on the lower level.  But to reach the lower level, you had to pass the curtain!  It would seem that the curtain should be relocated to the entrance to the corridor leading to the front of the car, where the crew rooms are located.

    After exploring my car, I walked through the train to see what the rest of the cars looked like.  My first surprise was the Sightseer Lounge.  I had previously ridden in this car, #33028, twice (both times on the Coast Starlight).  But it didn’t look at all familiar, as the car had been completely reconditioned.  The front end of the upper level of the car had the single and paired seats that face outward – the type of seating traditionally provided on the upper level of a Sightseer Lounge car.  These seats had been reupholstered in an attractive dark blue cloth material with a pattern, but otherwise resembled the traditional seating provided.    

    What surprised me was the rear end of the car.  Here, all of the seats had been removed and replaced with ten tables, of the type normally found on the lower level.  These tables were very attractive and provided one with the opportunity of spreading out papers, playing cards, etc., while still enjoying the views from the large windows provided in the Sightseer Lounge car.

    The next car, coach/baggage car #31033, featured reupholstered seats in an attractive dark blue pattern, but was otherwise unremarkable in appearance.  What was remarkable about this car was its history.  Looking at my records of Amtrak equipment, I discovered that this car has been involved in no fewer than three derailments, and that in one of these incidents (involving the Southwest Chief in 2000) the car actually overturned!  (Two of the derailments were when the car bore the number 31533 when it was rebuilt as a smoker/coach.)  The second coach, #34062, was of note only because my records indicate that it has never been part of the consist of an Amtrak train that I have ridden (at this point, that can be said about relatively few Superliner coaches!).

    The last car on the train, sleeper #32045, had been completely reconditioned, with simulated wood paneling installed along the hallways.  When I used one of the restrooms on the lower level of the car, I found that it had also been totally reconditioned and had a far more attractive appearance than it did when originally installed in this Superliner I sleeper.  The restroom featured not only simulated wood paneling but also simulated marble for the sink.  Another nice feature was that this car was the last car on the train, so that the view from the rear was not blocked by freight or express cars.  I made another trip down to the rear of the train a little later, and spent some time looking out the back.

    At one point, the attendant in the rear sleeper questioned what I was doing there, but when I explained to him that I had a room in the front sleeper, he had no problem with my spending some time in his car.  I also took advantage of the juice and coffee that was made available to passengers in the rear sleeper (no such amenities were provided in my sleeper).

    After exploring the train, I returned to my room and started working on these memoirs.  In the hour following our departure from Dallas, we were twice put on a siding to wait for freight trains.  In the first instance, we were delayed for only four minutes, but the second time, we waited 13 minutes for the freight train to arrive and then another four minutes for it to pass us.  Altogether, we were delayed over 20 minutes by these two freight trains, and when we stopped the second time, the conductor made an announcement over the loudspeaker explaining the reason for the delay.

    At 5:30 p.m., an announcement was made that all passengers with a 5:30 p.m. dinner sitting should immediately come to the dining car.  It seems that some passengers with this reservation did not heed the call, because the announcement was repeated twice more, and the third announcement included the comment that it is imperative that one come at the designated time, because “we will not be able to take you at a later time.”

    About 6:15 p.m., I again walked through the train and counted about 45 coach passengers aboard, with many pairs of seats in both coaches unoccupied.  About this time, we passed through the town of Wills Point, which features an attractive brick station.  When I returned to my car, I went downstairs and remarked to the conductor that we must have lost another 20 minutes due to freight train interference after we left Dallas.  Somewhat to my surprise, the conductor replied that we should be back on time by the time we reach the Marshall station.  (And it turned out that he was basically correct!)

    At 6:27 p.m., an announcement was made calling all passengers with 6:30 p.m. reservations to the dining car.  I immediately walked one car back to the diner, where I was seated at a table with three other passengers, all of whom were traveling by coach.  Next to me sat a man who was employed by a company that delivers motor homes to purchasers throughout the country.  He had just delivered a motor home to a customer in Temple, Texas and was on his way back home to Goshen, Indiana (about ten miles from Elkhart).  Opposite me sat a young man in his 20s who was employed as a painter by a company with retail outlets throughout the country.  He had just finished painting a store near San Antonio and was traveling back to his home in Indianapolis (he would be detraining in Bloomington, Illinois and taking a bus from there to Indianapolis).

    The fourth person was perhaps the most interesting.  She was a woman, probably about 80 years old (she mentioned that she had a sister who is 90), who grew up in New Rochelle, New York and now lives in San Antonio.  For much of her life, she worked as a technical writer for an agency of the United Nations that specializes in agriculture.  In this capacity, she was assigned, at times, to work in Geneva, Switzerland and Rome, Italy.  She also lived for some period in New Brunswick, New Jersey and Berkeley, California.  She was on her way to New York City, where she would be spending a week visiting museums and going to concerts.  Interestingly, the woman mentioned that a friend had given her a ride this morning to the San Antonio station, and – not knowing any better – dropped her off at the Sunset Station, the original station constructed over a century ago by the Southern Pacific Railroad.  Tragically, this station is no longer used for its intended purpose and has instead been converted to a restaurant and bar.  It was, of course, closed at the early morning hour when she was dropped off, but the door was not locked.  She walked into the station and looked around, but found no one.  Finally, she noticed some Amtrak employees nearby, but across a fence from the Sunset Station, and they explained that Amtrak no longer uses that facility.  They then helped her carry her luggage over to the inadequate “Amshack” station that Amtrak now uses.

    We had quite a lively and enjoyable conversation for much of the dinner meal.  I had a beef dinner, which I enjoyed very much.  The other three passengers, who ordered items ranging from pork chops to roast chicken, indicated that their meals were quite good.  The only complaint I heard was from the woman, who commented that the rolls that were served were stale.  The meals were served on plastic, rather than real china, but the plastic plates used were of high quality, with a pattern that imitated real china.  In fact, you had to look carefully to notice that the plate was made of plastic, rather than china, and cloth napkins and metal silverware were used.  Overall, this was one of the most enjoyable meals that I’ve eaten aboard an Amtrak train, largely due to the interesting conversations with the passengers seated next to me.

    During dinner, we stopped briefly at Mineola at 6:43 p.m.  When we departed a minute later, we were 39 minutes late.  We also stopped at Longview, where we arrived at 7:28 p.m. and departed four minutes later.

    I stayed in the dining car until about 7:50 p.m., when I returned to my room.  Soon afterwards, we reached our next stop, Marshall, which features a magnificent brick station built by the Texas and Pacific Railroad in 1912.  Actually, it looks more like a house than a station, and it features ornate details that give it a unique appearance.  According the new Amtrak Route Guide that I found in my room, the station was “restored in 2001 after it was rescued from demolition by determined citizens.”  It seems quite amazing that such an architectural treasure could have been slated for demolition, and we should certainly be thankful for the dedicated efforts of the citizens who saved the building from destruction.

    Right before we pulled into the Marshall station, an announcement was made that we would be making two stops here – the first, to change the crew, and the second for passengers.  We stopped right in front of the station at 7:57 p.m., and our crew-change stop lasted for four minutes (the crew boarded the crew sleeper car in which my room is located).  Then the train pulled forward, and the passengers detrained and boarded.  I counted about 15 passengers waiting to board the train in Marshall.  When we departed at 8:04 p.m., we were only three minutes late!  The conductor who predicted that we would be on time when we arrived at Marshall was correct.  There is a significant amount of make-up time built into the schedule between Dallas and Marshall, and despite the fact that we departed Dallas 24 minutes late and lost at least another 20 minutes waiting for freight trains to pass us, we still departed Marshall essentially on time.

    I now walked through the train again.  A movie was playing in the lounge car, and about 30 people were watching it.  This trip will probably be the last time I will experience a movie being played in the lounge car of an Amtrak train, as Amtrak has announced that, effective with the timetable change on October 30th, movies will no longer be shown (except on the Auto-Train).  The official announcement stated that passengers will have the opportunity instead to rent DigEplayers on which they can watch a wide selection of movies, but these players were not made available for rental at the Dallas station.  I now counted about 60 coach passengers aboard, a net increase of about 15 passengers since we departed Dallas.  I also noticed that about 20 pieces of luggage were stored in the lower level of the rear sleeper, thus indicating that this sleeping car is quite full.  I tried to look out of the back of the train, but it was completely dark, and you couldn’t see anything.  About 8:30 p.m., we stopped to let a freight train pass us, and we lost about five minutes as a result.

    Our next stop, Texarkana, was announced as a smoking stop, and the conductor mentioned that I could detrain from my car.  So, when we arrived at Texarkana at 9:16 p.m., I stepped off the train and walked down the platform.  Our stop at Texarkana lasted for five minutes, and when we departed at 9:21 p.m., we were eight minutes late.

    When my attendant had come by earlier and asked when I wanted him to make up the room for night occupancy, I replied that he should do so when we arrive at Texarkana.  I wasn’t ready to go to sleep yet, but I realized that there were other places on the train where I could comfortably spend the remaining time before I decided to go to sleep.  My first thought was to sit in the Sightseer Lounge car, where there were tables provided in the rear.  But when I walked into that car, I found that a Jesse James movie was playing there.  Interestingly, the scene being shown was of a train robbery, so I actually looked at the movie for a minute or two!  I didn’t want to be distracted by the noise of the movie, though, so I decided to move back to the first coach, where there were a number of unoccupied pairs of seats.  The seats in a Superliner coach are actually more comfortable than those in the sleeping and lounge cars, and the spacious windows in the Sightseer Lounge car weren’t of much use after dark, so I remained in the coach even after the movie was over.

    At 9:54 p.m., we came to a stop just outside of Hope, Arkansas.  An announcement was soon made by the conductor over the public address system that we were waiting for a freight train ahead of us.  Since it was just before 10:00 p.m., he stated that this would be the last announcement of the night, and he continued by noting that our on-time performance would depend on the amount of freight train traffic that we would encounter throughout the night.  Finally, he stated that, from 11:00 p.m. to 6:30 a.m., the lounge car would be closed and the conductor would be stationed in the diner.  I thought that the latter announcement – letting passengers know where the conductor will be located during the night – was very thoughtful, as it would enable passengers to locate the conductor if they had a problem or question.  To the best of my knowledge, this is the first time that I’ve heard such an announcement made on an Amtrak train.

    At 10:06 p.m., we moved ahead very slowly, but we soon came to a stop.  Then, at 10:24 p.m., we started to move again, and soon regained track speed.  We had lost over half an hour waiting for this freight train.  We soon passed two stations for the city of Hope – a large brick passenger station, and an older wooden building, which appeared to be a freight station.  Both buildings appear to have been restored.   

    I remained at my comfortable coach seat, working on these memoirs, until about 11:10 p.m., when I began to feel tired and decided to go to sleep.  As I arrived at my room at 11:13 p.m., we passed the station in Arkadelphia.  Arkadelphia is shown on the timetable as a flag stop, and apparently no passengers were scheduled to get on or off here, as we didn’t even slow down for the stop.  We did stop briefly at Malvern, another flag stop, and when we departed Malvern at 11:34 p.m., we were 43 minutes late.

    I soon fell asleep, but woke up while we were stopped at Little Rock.  When we departed Little Rock at 12:29 a.m., we were precisely half an hour late.  I watched as we crossed the truss bridge over the Arkansas River just north of the city, and soon fell asleep again.  I slept through the next stop, Walnut Ridge, but awoke during our stop in Poplar Bluff, from where we departed at 3:24 a.m., now only 15 minutes late.

    I woke up for good about 6:30 a.m.  A few minutes later, I heard on the scanner that we had just passed milepost 63.4, which meant that we had about 65 miles to go to reach St. Louis.  I remained in bed for a while, as it was still dark out.  But around 7:00 a.m., it started getting light.  It was hazy and dreary out, but I soon decided to get up.  I walked down the hallway and took a shower, then returned to my room and got dressed.  We were proceeding along the Mississippi River, which is ordinarily a very scenic ride, but the dreary weather meant that there wasn’t much to see this morning.

    At 7:44 a.m., we reached Davis Jct., where the train departs from the rail line along the river and begins to head inland.  Then, at 8:00 a.m., we came to a stop just before reaching Iron Mountain Jct., where we join the line coming in from Kansas City.  We waited ten minutes here and did not continue ahead until 8:10 a.m.  We then crawled along towards the next junction at Grand Avenue, on the way passing a freight train, pulled by three old engines of the Terminal Railroad Association of St. Louis.  Not until 8:22 a.m. did we pass the Grand Avenue junction.  Just beyond, we went by a station of the St. Louis light-rail system, with quite a few people waiting for an approaching train.  I have never ridden this light-rail system, and will have to do some time in the future.  

    We finally pulled into the St. Louis station at 8:32 a.m.  It had taken us over half an hour to travel from Iron Mountain Jct. to the Amtrak station, a distance of only about three miles!
I detrained from my sleeper and noticed that, to our left, there was a train parked, made up of Amfleet and Horizon equipment.  I had to walk back along the platform in order to get around the parked train and reach the station building.  Not only was it dreary out, but it was even drizzling slightly.
    As I neared the back of our train, I noticed that another coach, for local passengers, was being added to the rear.  The car being added was snack-bar coach #35002, and it was pushed by engine #195.  I found it interesting that we now had one of each type of Superliner equipment on our train: 31000-series coach/baggage; 32000-series sleeper; 33000-series Sightseer Lounge; 34000-series coach; 35000-series snack-bar coach; 38000-series diner; and 39000-series transition crew-dorm sleeper.  (Of course, the snack bar in the lower level of coach #35002 was not in operation.)

    I now walked into the Amtrak St. Louis station.  This building opened only last year, replacing a similar facility a short distance to the east that was affectionately known as the St. Louis Union Trailers (SLUT).  But the new station is a simple functional structure, and it seems to be little improved over the older building that it replaced.  (I subsequently found out that even this station is intended as a stopgap measure and that it will soon be replaced by a combination bus terminal/train station that will feature two platforms, four tracks and an overhead walkway connecting the tracks with the station.  This new station is already under construction and is scheduled to open in the fall of 2007.)  I noticed that, on the train status board, the on-time status of departing Train #311, the Kansas City Mule, that was scheduled to depart at 7:30 a.m., was reported as “bus.”  It seems that the equipment for this train may have been bad ordered, with the result that the equipment was left at the station and the passengers bustituted.

    I took a few pictures of the train and the station and then reboarded the train towards the rear and walked ahead to my sleeper.  Our station stop in St. Louis lasted for 23 minutes, and when we departed at 8:55 a.m., we were 25 minutes late.
    As soon as we pulled out of the station, the final call for breakfast was made over the loudspeaker, so I proceeded to the dining car for breakfast.  At first, I was told to sit at a table already occupied by three other people.  But when I approached that table, the rather heavy woman sitting next to the single unoccupied seat (with a large bag next to her) informed me that there was insufficient room for me to sit down there.  I went back to the attendant, who now instructed me to sit at an unoccupied table in the front section of the car (which was otherwise used only for the crew).  So I had a table to myself for breakfast.  I ordered the Continental breakfast and was promptly served a breakfast of Rice Krispies, orange juice, coffee, a croissant and yogurt.
    Although I had a table to myself for breakfast, I was sitting near some crew members, and was able to listen to their conversations.  The most interesting item I heard related to an incident that took place with the southbound Texas Eagle, Train #21, two days ago.  (The equipment of that train had turned to become the equipment of our train, and the on-board crew was the same, too).  My attendant mentioned that the southbound train had struck a truck at some grade crossing in Texas.  Apparently, the driver was not injured, and the damage to the engine was superficial, so after inspection, the train was permitted to continue on its way.  But when I examined the front of our engine #92 upon arrival at Chicago Union Station later in the day, I noticed that there was some damage to the front of the engine, and that the coupler was scratched.

    While in the dining car, I noticed two people wearing National Park Service uniforms, with one of them also wearing a Trails and Rails Badge.  I went over to them and explained that I, too, am a participant in the Trails and Rails program on the Adirondack.  They explained that they present the program between Springfield and St. Louis, but only on the corridor trains, not on the Texas Eagle.  Today, they were on their way to Springfield to present a special program from Springfield back to St. Louis.  One of the NPS people mentioned that he was the coordinator of his program, and he recognized the name of Tom McMartin, the coordinator of the Adirondack program.    
    Our trip out of St. Louis was quite slow.  We pulled onto the MacArthur Bridge (the bridge that crosses the river just east of the Amtrak station), but just sat there for about ten minutes.  Not until 9:07 a.m. did we move ahead and cross the bridge.  Even then, we proceeded quite slowly, and didn’t arrive at our next stop, Alton, until 9:57 a.m.  When we departed Alton two minutes later, we were 41 minutes late, having lost an additional 16 minutes since we left St. Louis.

    Our stop at Alton was notable in that, during our short, two-minute stop, my computer managed to connect to the Linksys wireless Internet network, and I succeeded in downloading about 40 messages that I had received in the 26 hours since I last had the opportunity to get online!  To the best of my knowledge, this is the first time that I’ve gotten on the Internet with my computer while traveling on an Amtrak train!  

    I now decided to take advantage of the spacious and comfortable facilities provided in our remodeled Sightseer Lounge car, so I took my backpack with my computer to the lounge car and appropriated an unoccupied table.  I remained there for most of the next three and one-half hours (with the exception of an hour for lunch in the dining car).  I really appreciated being able to spread out my computer, SPV Rail Atlas and other papers on a large table and enjoy the scenery through the large windows, while working on my computer!

    I first went through my downloaded e-mail messages, deleted the spam, read the other messages, and composed replies to several that would be sent when I next obtained Internet access.  I then continued working on the story of the trip.  I didn’t take very many pictures, as it was still quite dreary out, but I did ask a fellow passenger to take a picture of me sitting at the table with my computer.    

    I walked to the rear of the train and looked out the back as we passed through Springfield, where we stopped at 11:18 a.m.  Although passengers were not permitted to step off the train, we spent three minutes here, and when we departed at 11:21 a.m., we were 52 minutes late.

    Our next station stop was Lincoln, where we arrived at 11:50 a.m.  As we approached the station, I noticed that a fairly large crowd of about 25 people were waiting in front.  I also noticed several police cars along a street that crosses the tracks just south of the station.  I assumed that all 25 or so people would be boarding our train, but we stopped for less than a minute and proceeded ahead.  It would hardly have been possible for all those people to board our train in the very limited amount of time we paused at the station.

    The various mysteries were solved when, at 12:10 p.m., we passed a southbound Amtrak train.  It was later explained to me by the conductor that this was a special train that was carrying invited guests to celebrate the inauguration, on October 30th, of several new corridor trains out of Chicago, including two additional trains between Chicago and St. Louis (bringing the total number of daily trains between these points to five).  The conductor mentioned that one of the people on this train was the Governor of Illinois!  This would explain the presence of the  police cars at the Lincoln station.  It would also explain why our stop in Lincoln was so short – nearly all of the people waiting at the station were there to greet or board the special southbound train, rather than to board the northbound Texas Eagle.  (And, of course, the NPS rangers whom I met on our train earlier this morning were there to present the Trails and Rails program on this special train.)

    Just before we arrived at Springfield, the first and second calls for lunch were made in quick succession.  About 11:35 a.m., I decided to head to the dining car for lunch.  I was seated at a table with two other passengers.  The man sitting opposite me was Cliff, the motor home driver from Indiana, who had joined me for dinner last night.  Next to me sat a 65-year-old retired Pennsylvania State Trooper.  He lived near Harrisburg and was returning from Houston, to where he had traveled with his wife and 82-year-old mother.  His mother would be spending some time with his sister, who lived in Houston, and he and his wife were now returning home.  Since his wife does not like to fly, they made the trip by train (his wife was not feeling well and therefore did not join us for lunch).

    Unlike the other meals, where service was quite prompt, we had to wait about half an hour before our food arrived.  But that was of little concern, as we were entertained by the various stories that the retired trooper told us about his experiences.  Indeed, we remained at our table even after everyone else had left, enjoying the meal and our conversations.  Finally, after about an hour, we finished our meal just before we pulled into the Bloomington-Normal station at 12:34 p.m.  We made two stops here, and when we departed three minutes later, we were 55 minutes late.

    I now decided to walk through the train.  I found that there were a total of about 120 coach passengers aboard, and that many passengers boarding north of St. Louis were assigned to one of the two front coaches.  There remained a few pairs of unoccupied seats in these two coaches, but at least one person was sitting in almost every seat pair.  I noticed that there were a number of very young children sitting in the first coach and found out that this was a special trip for these pre-schoolers.  The group had just boarded in Bloomington-Normal and would be getting off at the next station, Pontiac, where a van would be meeting them to take them back to Bloomington.  The children seemed to be having a very good time – there is certainly more than enough room for a four-year-old in the very spacious Superliner coach seats!  (I subsequently found a discarded ticket stub which indicated that the cost of this 32-mile ride was $5.00 a person.)  The train rides of these pre-schoolers lasted for only half an hour, as they all detrained when we arrived at our next stop, Pontiac, at 1:05 p.m.

    I now returned to the lounge car, where I continued working on these memoirs.  About 1:45 p.m., the batteries on my computer were running low, so I went back to my room, where I could plug in my computer.  We made our final stop at Joliet, where the train stops only to detrain passengers, at 1:58 p.m.  When we departed one minute later, we were 49 minutes late.

    We had only about another hour to go before we reached our final destination, Chicago Union Station, so I decided that I should pack up all of my belongings.  Although I had left my suitcase on the lower level up to now, I seemed to make sense to bring it upstairs so that I could most easily repack it.  When I finished packing, I moved the suitcase back down to the lower level.  

    The line from Joliet to Chicago crosses several busy freight lines at grade, which can sometimes lead to long delays.  Today, though, although we had to stop at some of these crossings to await clearance from the dispatcher, we did not encounter any long delays.

    At 3:02 p.m., we pulled into Track 26 at Chicago Union Station.  We were 48 minutes late.  I detrained, gave my attendant a small tip in recognition of his positive and friendly attitude and good service, and walked into the station.  I proceeded to the Metropolitan Lounge to await the departure of my connecting train, the Lake Shore Limited, at 7:55 p.m.

    My trip to Chicago on the Texas Eagle was very enjoyable and fulfilled all of my expectations.  I’m now looking forward to the second leg of my trip – the Lake Shore Limited to New York City.

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