Posts Tagged ‘aboard Amtrak’

Stopping in Waycross

January 25, 2021

It is early July 1977 and the conductor of Amtrak’s southbound Floridian is preparing to get down as the train makes its station stop in Waycross, Georgia.

A few passengers are waiting on the platform and perhaps a few other will disembark here. Waycross has been off the Amtrak map since the Floridian was discontinued in early October 1979.

I wonder if that is the original station off to the right.

Amtrak Eyes Assigned Seating on Trains

June 1, 2020

Amtrak is considering assigned seats on more of its trains as way to aid in enforcing social distancing during the CVOID-19 pandemic.

The passenger carrier already has assigned seating in first class on Acela Express trains and business class on Northeast Regional trains

“We are working on options to expand assigned seating and reserved travel,” said Amtrak spokesman Jason Abrams.

However, he declined to provide further details about when assigned seating might begin.

Amtrak for a time in the middle 1970s on its trains but the practice was short lived.

It is also common for conductors to assign seats to passengers boarding long-distance trains at some stations.

Your Seat in an Amtrak Viewliner Roomette

May 23, 2020

Here is your seat in your Viewliner roomette aboard Amtrak’s Lake Shore Limited.

You’ve just boarded and are looking forward to a relaxing trip to the East Coast.

But right now you’re just getting settled in your room as No. 48 sits in Chicago Union Station.

As a sleeper class passenger you were able to board ahead of most passengers so it will be several minutes before the Lake Shore leaves Union Station behind.

One downside to your seat is that it doesn’t recline as much as a coach seat does. But your seat does fold down into a bed, which is a benefit those in coach doesn’t have.

So have a seat and welcome aboard. Your train travel journey is about to begin.

Cooling Their Heels

May 10, 2020

A gaggle of American Superliners sit in the coach yard outside Chicago Union Station awaiting service, repairs or the call to return to the road.

This image was made from aboard the outbound Illini as it was backing out of the station en route to Carbondale, Illinois, on June 2, 2012.

Scenic Passage Through the Sierra Nevada Mountains

May 8, 2020

Back in the 1970s Amtrak trains 5 and 6 were named the San Francisco Zephyr, an amalgamation of the names of two trains that were combined to create the route in 1971.

That would have been the City of San Francisco from Union Pacific and the Denver Zephyr from Burlington Northern.

Amtrak wanted to operate the California Zephyr, but by 1971 it’s Western Pacific segment had been discontinued.

That left a “California Service” remnant that used BN, the Denver & Rio Grande Western, and Southern Pacific.

Then the D&RGW declined to join Amtrak thus the amalgamation.

It is July 31, 1979, and I am riding Train No. 5 to Oakland. We’re twisting and turning our way through the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California and the crew doesn’t mind if you make photographs from open vestibule windows.

Winding Through the Mountains

February 15, 2020

It is July 31, 1979. I’m riding the westbound San Francisco Zephyr en route to Oakland, California, after having boarded in Denver the day before.

No. 5 is twisting and turning through the Sierra Nevada Mountains of California on the tracks of Southern Pacific.

Up front pulling the train is a pair of SDP40F locomotives.

It’s my first trip on this route and I’m not sure where I made this photograph.

But it was out an open vestibule door window. It was quite a warm day and by the time we got out of the mountains the air conditioning has ceased working in some cars.

Standing by an open vestibule window felt good.

Did Amtrak Ever Use This Serving Area

January 28, 2020

I made this image of the upper level of an Amtrak Superliner Sightseer lounge while riding aboard the Capitol Limited from Cleveland to Chicago on May 31, 2012.

It got me to wondering if Amtrak has ever used the upper serving area of a Sightseer lounge.

I’ve never seen anyone working this area in a Sightseer lounge car. It appears that the purpose of this serving station is to provide beverages.

I asked a friend who once worked as a lounge car attendant for Amtrak if he knew whether this serving station had ever been used.

He primarily worked Amfleet cars in the Northeast Corridor, but had made a few runs aboard Nos. 29 and 30 between Chicago and Washington.

He could not recall this serving area being used and suggested that was  because that would mean paying two attendants to work the lounge car.

Perhaps in the early years of the use of Superliners aboard Amtrak this area was used. Yet the Superliner equipment began arriving at a time when Amtrak was being squeezed financially.

Perhaps its a case of it seemed like a good idea at the time the car was designed but in practice the carrier decided it didn’t need to use this area.

Yet the fact that a modern soap dispenser is present suggests that maybe, yes, this area is used at times. I’ve just never seen it done.

A Private Car Was on the Rear of No. 29

January 25, 2020

It is shortly after sunrise in Waterloo, Indiana, as Amtrak’s westbound Capitol Limited makes it station stop.

I’m riding in the rear Superliner coach and behind us is a private car making the trek with us to Chicago.

A new day has broken over Northern Indiana and there is a little bit of early morning color on the clouds on the eastern horizon.

The building to the right appears to be a former New York Central freight station.

Aboard the North Coast Hiawatha During Its Last Days

January 8, 2020

I made it a point in September 1979 to make a trip from Chicago to Seattle aboard the North Coast Hiawatha.

The train was set to be discontinued on Oct. 1 although a court order kept it running for a few more days before the inevitable occurred.

Shown is the dome car assigned to No. 17. I made this image from an open vestibule door as the train made its way through Montana.

Dome cars on Amtrak’s western trains were becoming an endangered species at the time.

New Superliner equipment was coming and watching the Rocky Mountains from a dome would within another year or two become a thing of the past unless you were traveling in a private car.

No. 17 is on the tracks of the former Northern Pacific, which heavily promoted its use of dome cars on its North Coast Limited.

Party Time on the 5:08 to Milwaukee

December 21, 2019

Some passengers who ride Amtrak’s Hiawatha Service trains on weekdays are commuters and they’ve gotten to know each other quite well.

They see each other standing on the platform at the same time every morning and afternoon and sitting in the same seats in the same cars.

That leads them to strike up conversations, share laughs, talk about family and even create their own Facebook page.

They know each other well enough to celebrate together birthdays, retirements and holidays.

“You tend to bond with people you see every day standing on the platform shivering at 6 a.m.” said Carol Abing, who has commuted from Milwaukee to Chicago for her job for nine years.

Todd Allen of West Allis, Wisconsin, agreed. “You spend three hours a day with these people, so you get to know them,” he said. “They become friends and family, both on and off the train.”

Allen has worked in Chicago for 30 years and met a lot of people on the rails during that time.

The website On Milwaukee recently profiled the good times these passengers have had over the years.

That included their recent annual party to celebrate the December holidays that was held as they rode home.

It took place on the train that left Chicago Union Station at 5:08 p.m. and included eating, drinking and laughing that got under way in the café car before the conducted had given the highball to leave the station.

In early May the group holds a Cinco de Mayo party on the same train that features blender drinks. Once there even a pinata.

The parties are held with the approval of Amtrak. “The conductors know we aren’t going to cause any problems or get too wild,” said Allen, who served as the bartender for the party along with his daughter, Rachel.

“It’s one of the high points of my year,” said Rachel Allen, who lives and works in Milwaukee. “I get to spend time with my dad and make sure all these fantastic human beings have a bartender so they can spend more time with each other.”

Many of the party goers sipped SouBoxer’s ready-to-pour Old Fashioned drinks, but shots of Tully and seasonal cans of Miller Lite beer also were consumed in red plastic cups.

There was also taco dip, pizza and homemade cookies to eat.

Sandy Ross of Milwaukee, collected signatures and donations for the conductors’ holiday cards, a tradition of giving cash-filled envelope to the 13 conductors working the route as a gate agent I Chicago.

“This is the most generous group you will ever meet. We raised over $900 for the conductors. They take good care of us, and they put up with our shenanigans,” Ross said.

As the train raced south of Milwaukee the party crowd switched to clean up mode to return the café car to condition it was in when they boarded.

It was then that Santa Clause appeared to hand out boxes of “Naughty Bag” condoms.

Playing Santa was Gary Hollander who has commuted to Chicago from Fox Point,

Wisconsin, for 20 years. It was his first time playing Santa.

“I wasn’t willing to wear a fat suit, but otherwise I’m fine being Jewish Santa handing out condoms,” said Hollander who works as a consultant for a non-profit group working to reduce sexually-transmitted infections and teen pregnancy.

The Hiawatha commuter pay $416 a week or about 5,000 a year to ride Amtrak.

“I look at it as a car payment,” Ross said. “Because I live in Downtown Milwaukee and work in Downtown Chicago, I don’t need to own a car.”

He used to drive to work but began taking the train because it was easier. “Driving to work is more work for people like us,” Allen said.

The train can have drawbacks including  delays and mechanical malfunctions. Allen said those who miss the 5:08 p.m. train are stuck in Chicago until the next train leaves at 8 p.m.

The other reality of commuting by rail is a 14-hour work days.

Yet many said they wouldn’t want to live in Chicago because it is too expensive.

Shea Royal said Milwaukee has everything Chicago has and is smaller and easier to get around.

And knowing people on the train has helped him cope with the time spent away from his family.

He said he met the Milwaukee commuters during their last party.

“I was looking for a place to get some water and walked through their party car. I asked them for a cup for water and they said I absolutely should not drink the water on the train because it’s nasty. So they offered me beer and Tully instead. Basically this group saved my life,” he said.

Brian Bell will be retiring soon after working in Chicago for 24 years for the Environmental Protection Agency.

“And I’ll be back on the train occasionally after I retire,” he said. “For the parties.”