Posts Tagged ‘aboard Amtrak’

Last Dinner on the Broadway Limited

February 3, 2018

It Saturday night in the dining car on Amtrak’s eastbound Broadway Limited. Despite the train having departed Chicago at 8:55 p.m., the dining car is open and serving.

At first glance, there is nothing out of the ordinary about these scenes. What is playing out has occurred countless times aboard this car, whose heritage predates the creation of Amtrak by two decades.

It was built in 1948 by Budd for the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy, which named it Silver Cafe.  Amtrak modernized it when it rebuilt the car in June 1980 for head-end power as part of the Heritage Fleet.

Tonight every table and nearly every seat in the Silver Cafe is taken as train No. 40 roars toward New York through Indiana on CSX tracks that once belonged to the Baltimore & Ohio.

But this trip was different because it would be the last run of the Broadway Limited.

The next day, Nos. 40 and 41 will began operating only between Pittsburgh and New York and will be renamed the Three Rivers.

The change was part of a route rationalization plan launched amid a budget cut and the cutbacks could have been more severe than they were.

These images that I made during the last dinner on the Broadway Limited were made on color print film and turned out grainy.

Nonetheless, they remind me of one of my most memorable dinners aboard Amtrak.

The entree, I believe it was trout with a mustard sauce was served with steamed carrots and a rice pilaf, and was quite tasty. The desert was chocolate cake that I recall was embellished by the server, John Long.

Despite it being a last run, the dining car crew was courteous and seemed to go out of their way to make the event something special and worth remembering.


The St. Charles Air Line

January 19, 2018

Since March 1972, Amtrak trains going to and from the Illinois Central mainline between Chicago and New Orleans have plied the St. Charles Air Line to gain access to Chicago Union Station.

At some point a train arriving or leaving Union Station must do a backup move to get into or out of the station. All of this adds to the running time and for years there has been talk of creating a more direct connection to the IC mainline and the route into Union Station.

But that has yet to come to fruition so six Amtrak trains a day use the St. Charles Air Line.

In the Illinois Central passenger train days, varnish going to and from the Iowa Division used a portion of the St. Charles Air Line.  Of course, freight trains use the Air Line, too.

Some Chicago officials and land developers would like to see the Air Line abandoned because it traverses territory that in the past decade has seen rapid grown of high-end residential housing. The former site of Central Station has been converted to a housing development.

But for the foreseeable future Amtrak and freight trains will continue to use the Air Line at all hours of the day.

I made the image above from the last car on Amtrak Train No. 393, the Illini, to Carbondale, Illinois, back in June 2010.

In a few minutes No. 393 will round the curve at South Wye Junction and gain the Mainline of Mid America. The train will accelerate as it passes beneath McCormick place and heads southward.

Those Lost Little Touches

January 18, 2018

There was a time when Amtrak offered a number of small touches for passengers holding sleeping car tickets.

Notice this display inside my room in a Viewliner sleeper on the Lake Shore Limited out of Chicago in June 2010. The car attendant has left a printed greeting with his name.

Another touch was the artificial flowers and the chocolate mint. You could also expect to get a newspaper delivered to your room in the morning and a route schedule to be there as well. Back in the day, as they say, Amtrak even provided route guides.

Now all of these things are gone, victims of cost cutting and changes in service philosophies.


Ready for You This Morning

January 5, 2018

It is morning in the dining car of the westbound Capitol Limited. The train is somewhere in Indiana as you arrive in the dining car in anticipation of having a hot breakfast.

Although the car is nearly full, there are a few seats available. You sit down and the menu is laid out for you on the table. You look it over and tell the server what you want.

In days of old, you would have written your order on a check. That was the way it was in the early days of Amtrak, but now the dining car is run much like a regular restaurant, albeit one that is moving along at nearly 80 miles per hour.

In due time your breakfast arrives and you dig in. No matter how many times you’ve done this before aboard a dining car, it never seems to get old.


Amtrak Eyes Reducing Seat Pitch in Coaches

July 13, 2017

Amtrak may take a page out of the airlines playbook and try to squeeze more passengers into its coaches.

Co-CEO Charles “Wick” Moorman said this week that Amtrak is studying the creation of a new economy class that would have less room between seats, known as seat pitch.

“We are looking at doing some creative things in terms of creating an economy class,” Moorman told the National Press Club in Washington.

For years the airlines have been reducing seat pitch in an effort to increase seating and therefore increase the amount of revenue earned per flight.

Moorman said the carrier has not decided whether to implement the idea, but acknowledged “there will be some other things that just don’t make it quite as comfortable.”

For years, Amtrak has touted how it offers more leg room than the airlines and that its trains do not have a center seat as do many jetliners.

“We compete very well with the airlines,” Moorman said, adding that travelers in the New York-Washington who take Amtrak avoid New York’s LaGuardia Airport and lengthy airport security lines.

The tighter seat proposal was revealed on the same day that Moorman began sharing the CEO post with Richard Anderson, a former Delta Air Lines head.


From the Vestibule Aboard the National Limited

May 31, 2017

In the early days of Amtrak, crew members often said little to nothing if you made photographs from the windows of the vestibule doors.

I’m sure there were crew members who would chase you out of the vestibule if they saw you standing there, but I had some good luck in being able to make images while the crew either looked the other way or gave their tacit approval.

The conductor of Amtrak’s westbound National Limited fell into the latter category along with the rear brakeman. In fact the brakeman talked to myself and another passenger at length and even led us to the vestibule window at the rear of the train.

In the photograph above, No. 31 is arriving at Indianapolis Union Station on a Saturday morning in April 1977. Those Amtrak passenger cars on the other tracks might be waiting to go to the Beech Grove shops. At the time Nos. 30 and 31 were the only Amtrak trains serving Indianapolis.

The bottom photograph was made as No. 31 was going around a curve in East St. Louis, Illinois, to cross the Mississippi River over MacArthur Bridge and enter St. Louis.

On the point of No. 31 are a pair of freight diesels, Penn Central SD35 No. 6029 and Conrail SD40 No. 6319, both former Pennsylvania Railroad locomotives. That seemed appropriate given that much of the route of the National Limited across Pennsylvania, Ohio, Indiana and Illinois was former PRR trackage. The exception was the track between Indianapolis and Terre Haute, Indiana, which was former New York Central.

I do not know where these freight units were put on. They were on  the train when it rolled in Dayton, Ohio, where I boarded. I can only guess that Amtrak E8A No. 477 had mechanical problems en route. By coincidence, No. 477 was also a former PRR diesel, No. 5790.

There were limits to the crew’s tolerance. After we crossed the Mississippi, the conductor came back and shooed us into the coach. I remember him saying, “I let  you ride [in the vestibule] across the river.”

Indeed he had and I was grateful for that. I returned to my seat where I remained for the rest of the journey to Kirkwood, Missouri.


Staying Cool in the Sightseer Lounge

May 5, 2017

Outside the temperature is going to be an unseasonably 90 plus degrees in North Dakota. But inside the Sightseer Lounge of Amtrak’s westbound Empire Builder, the passengers are staying cool.

There is hardly a seat to be found as the train rolls west of Minot.  When this image was made in May 2014, the oil boom was at its peak and BNSF was laying new tracks as fast as it could.

Oil is still pumped here, but the amount of it moving by rail has fallen off.


The Diner Looks Inviting

April 21, 2017

You’ve just spent your first night on the train as part of a three-day journey. It’s early morning and some breakfast would sure taste good along with a hot beverage.

The dining car is right next to your sleeping car. You get up, get dressed and head for the diner. Breakfast is just on the other side of that door.


At Least the Menus Are Still Colorful

April 19, 2017

Amtrak operations have been well photographed over the years, yet less attention seems to have been paid to the way in which is projects itself.

There probably are people out there who collect Amtrak memorabilia such as poster, menu covers and various marketing products.

Some of these items show up for sale at train shows and flea markets.

Amtrak menu covers have spanned the spectrum from plain white covers with nothing more than the Amtrak logo to covers with elaborate art work.

In recent years, the images shown on posters to promote individual trains have been used for menu covers.

Those images tend to have a dominant image that portrays something about the territory served by the train.

Yet I’ve long wondered why the menu covers for the Capitol Limited do not show an image of the nation’s capitol.

Instead, it shows a generic looking city skyline that is not Washington and, if you use your imagination, looks a little like Chicago. But at least it shows a train.


At the Throttle of the Last WB National Limited

March 14, 2017

Conrail engineer Russell Smith awaits a highball in Indianapolis aboard Amtrak’s last westbound National Limited.

Smith has his left hand on the throttle of of F40PH No. 310 as it barrels along toward Terre Haute.

Looking over the engineer’s shoulder as Amtrak No. 31 rolls over the former New York Central mainline west of Indianapolis for the final time as a scheduled train.

It is Oct. 1, 1979, and Amtrak train No. 31 has arrived early into Indianapolis. This is a crew change point and for the final time the engineer and fireman will board the head end of the National Limited to take it west, working as far as St. Louis. Both are Conrail employees.

Tomorrow, the National Limited will be no more. It’s last trips departed from their endpoint cities on Sept. 30 and were allowed to continue to their destinations.

I got permission from the engineer to ride in the cab of F40PH No. 310 as far as Terre Haute, Indiana.

All of these photographs were made using Kodak Tri-X film. The images were scanned from the negatives.