Amtrak Sunset Limited
September 20 - 23, 1998
Los Angeles,California to Orlando, Florida
This is the travelogue of my journey with my children and one of their
friends on the Amtrak Sunset Limited from Los Angeles, California to
Orlando, Florida, Sunday, September 20, 1998 through Wednesday, September
Select one of the following sets of photographs:
09:55 PM PT- OUT SUN SEP 20 1998 Los Angeles CA
09:55 PM PT- is the scheduled departure time.
I heard that the Engineer missed the train and is going to drive his own
car to Ontario to catch up with it there. If the Engineer missed the train,
then who is in the cab? I guess they must be planning on having more than
one on the first segment of this trip.
11:03 PM PT- OUT SUN SEP 20 1998 Pomona CA
10:55 PM PT- is the scheduled departure time.
11:13 PM PT- OUT SUN SEP 20 1998 Ontario CA
11:05 PM PT- is the scheduled departure time.
"Looks more like a freight train than a passenger train." "Rides like one
too, but doesn't pay like one." I guess there must be a lot of express
or freight cars on this train. I haven't had a chance to view the entire
train from the outside yet.
I went to the snack bar to get some drinks and snacks for the kids. As
I was heading through the Dining Car, who did I see but Ashley Woullard!
Ashley was the Car Attendant in the very first trip that we took on Amtrak.
We've run into each other about once each year since then and greeted with
a hug! The last time was on the Coast Starlight at Thanksgiving when she
was substituting for some staff on holiday. Normally she is with this
train, the Sunset Limited.
Ashley said she was just thinking about me and my kids the other day and
asked if the whole family was with me. I told her that my kids were with
me but not my wife on this trip. She asked what room we are in and said
she would come visit my kids tomorrow. I told here they were still up and
watching television, so she could pop in on them this evening if she
My kids had recorded a number of movies onto the small Video8 tapes in
planning for this trip. During the day I'm recording with the camera, but
at night when it is too dark to record, I let them play movies on the
videocamera. The videocamera has about a 4 inch screen, so it isn't too
hard to watch movies on it.
12:32 AM PT- OUT MON SEP 21 1998 Palm Springs CA
12:32 PM PT- is the scheduled departure time.
01:00 AM PT- OUT MON SEP 21 1998 Indio CA
01:00 PM PT- is the scheduled departure time.
03:17 AM MST OUT MON SEP 21 1998 Yuma AZ
02:55 AM MST is the scheduled departure time.
07:50 AM MST IN- MON SEP 21 1998 Tucson AZ
08:30 AM MST OUT MON SEP 21 1998 Tucson AZ
07:40 AM MST is the scheduled departure time.
We came to breakfast while we were in the Tucson Station. We were served
pretty quickly ordering an assortment of eggs, pancakes, cereal, toast,
sausage, bacon, juice, milk, coffee, etc. One passenger came into the
Dining Car that seemed a bit upset. I guess the person was a vegetarian
and a Dining Car staff person was explaining that they don't have any
vegetarian dishes onboard unless it is special ordered in advance. Looks
like the Sunset Limited is not like the Coast Starlight which always has
a vegetarian selection available for each meal. Not only does the Coast
Starlight have such a selection available at each meal, but that selection
is almost always excellent! They don't expect that only vegetarians will
order it and I usually order the vegetarian selection myself on the
Coast Starlight. The Dining Staff person explained that unless a special
order was made in advance, then they would not have known to pick up the
meals from the commissary and thus would not have the proper meals on the
After the Dining Car was full, many people continued to come in for
breakfast. To each the head of the Dining Car would say: "Please wait in
the Lounge Car. I will call you when I have seats available." People would
try to put their names on a list, but she would answer: "I'm not taking
names anymore. You will have to wait for "Last Call." I think they should
have posted some notice on the entrance to the Dining Car so she didn't
have to repeat these instructions to each person that came into the
We arrived into Tucson almost on time, but had to wait for a freight train
going the other way to pass before we could go on. That delayed us until
8:30 AM and put us 50 minutes behind schedule.
09:25 AM MST OUT MON SEP 21 1998 Benson AZ
08:40 PM MST is the scheduled departure time.
This is a Superliner I Sleeping Car, but I noticed that the walls have
a new textured shape to them. Evidently Amtrak has had some refurbishing
done to this car and applied wall panels. I like the look! The addition
definitely looks more classy! They have also applied new panels to where
the wall curves up to the ceiling. I took a picture of what this looks
like and you can see it in the first set of photos above. It also appears
they have added similar panels to the bottom of the fold-up beds and the
ceilings inside the bedrooms.
Another change I just noticed is that they have changed all the fabric
to be blue and purple just like in the Superliner II Sleeping Cars! I like
the blue and purple color scheme a lot better than the earthtone orange
and greens from the 1970s that is in the unrefurbished Superliner I
??:?? PM MT- OUT MON SEP 21 1998 Lordsburg NM
11:40 AM MT- is the scheduled departure time.
Lordsburg is a flag stop. I'm not sure whether we stopped there or not.
If so, they didn't announce it. A bit further down the rails the train
had to stop when the Hot Box Detector at milepost 1165.0 said that we
had an overheated axle. The crew walked the train checking for any
problems. They communicated with each other on Channel 8 (160.230).
This train got stopped by the exact same Hot Box Detector on its previous
trip east. Turns out that the Hot Box detected the problem on the exact
same axle as before. The crew suspects that the problem is with the
Detector since this is the only one reporting a problem. That axle is
probably running a bit hotter than the others, which in itself should
be some reason for concern, otherwise the Hot Box Detector would not have
picked up on the exact same axle in both directions. However, since no
other Detector has picked this up as a problem, it is something to just
keep an eye on rather than set a car out.
I noticed that the train seems pretty full. All of the Standard Bedrooms,
even on the lower level, are full. I asked the Car Attendant about this.
He said the train was quite full but agreed that is a good sign for
01:28 PM MT- OUT MON SEP 21 1998 Deming NM
12:35 PM MT- is the scheduled departure time.
02:55 PM MT- IN- MON SEP 21 1998 El Paso TX
03:23 PM MT- OUT MON SEP 21 1998 El Paso TX
03:10 PM MT- is the scheduled departure time.
09:03 PM CT- OUT MON SEP 21 1998 Alpine TX
07:55 PM CT- is the scheduled departure time.
??:?? PM CT- OUT MON SEP 21 1998 Sanderson TX
09:46 PM CT- is the scheduled departure time.
02:53 AM CT- OUT TUE SEP 22 1998 Del Rio TX
12:25 AM CT- is the scheduled departure time.
05:40 AM CT- IN- TUE SEP 22 1998 San Antonio TX
06:30 AM CT- OUT TUE SEP 22 1998 San Antonio TX
04:35 AM CT- is the scheduled departure time.
I walked most of the length of the train to get the numbers of all the
cars. I did not get the numbers on the last 2 express freight cars
as there were service trucks and people working around them. I watched
as they disconnected all the freight cars as well as one Sleeping Car
and on Coach Car to be transferred to the Texas Eagle. I did not get a
chance to see if they put any of the express freight cars back onto the
Sunset Limited or if they were all transferred to the Texas Eagle.
11:15 AM CT- IN- TUE SEP 22 1998 Houston TX
12:09 PM CT- OUT TUE SEP 22 1998 Houston TX
09:35 AM CT- is the scheduled departure time.
02:15 PM CT- OUT TUE SEP 22 1998 Beaumont TX
11:43 AM CT- is the scheduled departure time.
03:30 PM CT- OUT TUE SEP 22 1998 Lake Charles LA
01:06 PM CT- is the scheduled departure time.
05:28 PM CT- OUT TUE SEP 22 1998 Lafayette LA
02:46 PM CT- is the scheduled departure time.
05:56 PM CT- OUT TUE SEP 22 1998 New Iberia LA
03:14 PM CT- is the scheduled departure time.
07:23 PM CT- OUT TUE SEP 22 1998 Schriever LA (approx.)
04:41 PM CT- is the scheduled departure time.
08:40 PM CT- IN- TUE SEP 22 1998 New Orleans LA (approx.)
10:15 PM CT- OUT TUE SEP 22 1998 New Orleans LA
08:15 PM CT- is the scheduled departure time.
The train backed into the New Orleans station.
We decided to go into the station. I knew they had a Subway plus other
eating places and snack machines in the station. However, when we got to
the station, everything was closed except for one eating place! The
Subway and the Gift Shop was closed and both snack vending machines
were out of order! Even the vending machine that dispenses stickers was
out of order! At the snack shop, one of my daughters got a hot dog. Her
friend wanted a slice of pizza, but they were out of slices and more would
not be ready for 15 minutes. We were worried that might be too long to wait
and that we might miss reboarding the train. My other daughter wanted ice
cream, but they were out of that too! This seems like a very strange
station where all the eating places are closed or out of most food and
all the vending machines are broken!
The one nice thing about New Orleans was The Magnolia Room, the lounge
for first class passengers. There were couches, a rocking chair, a
television, free coffee, and even free paperback reading books that you
could take with you on your trip! We took a number of pictures of this
room as well as the rest of the station and those photos are posted
One thing to keep in mind about this station is that they are very
strict about not allowing passengers onto the platform nor back onto
the train until official boarding of all passengers. So, plan to have
to stay in the station until reboarding of your train is announced.
After pulling out of the station, we backed up to the station again
into a different track to pick up two more express freight cars.
11:58 PM CT- OUT TUE SEP 22 1998 Bay St. Louis MS
09:27 PM CT- is the scheduled departure time.
12:19 AM CT- OUT WED SEP 23 1998 Gulfport, MS
09:49 PM CT- is the scheduled departure time.
12:39 AM CT- OUT WED SEP 23 1998 Biloxi MS
10:06 PM CT- is the scheduled departure time.
01:09 AM CT- OUT WED SEP 23 1998 Pascagoula MS
10:29 PM CT- is the scheduled departure time.
??:?? PM CT- OUT WED SEP 23 1998 Mobile AL
11:31 PM CT- is the scheduled departure time.
I was just checking on some Amtrak history and just realized that the
schedule of this Sunset Limited comes closest to the fifth
anniversary of the worst disaster in Amtrak history! It happened right here
when an eastbound Sunset Limited plunged off the drawbridge over the Mobile
River on September 22, 1993 at 2:50 AM. Two barges had broken loose from
their tugs, hit the bridge, and severely misaligned the tracks, just
moments before the Sunset Limited reached the bridge. Over 47 passengers
died in that tragedy, most of whom were on the lower level and died from
drowning. We are crossing the same bridge on an eastbound Sunset Limited
on September 23, 1998 at about 3:05 AM. I assume we will have better luck
at getting across the bridge than that unfortunate Sunset Limited of
??:?? AM CT- OUT WED SEP 23 1998 Atmore AL
12:24 AM CT- is the scheduled departure time.
??:?? AM CT- OUT WED SEP 23 1998 Pensacola FL
02:25 AM CT- is the scheduled departure time.
07:30 AM CT- OUT WED SEP 23 1998 Crestview FL
03:26 AM CT- is the scheduled departure time.
07:55 AM CT- OUT WED SEP 23 1998 Chipley FL
04:45 AM CT- is the scheduled departure time.
Engineer inquired: "Peanut butter & jelly sandwiches aren't in our diner,
are they?" I don't know why he asked that, but they are! On the children's
section of the menu. Maybe somebody brought him some food up from the
dining car and he was wondering how a peanut butter & jelly sandwich got
into the assortment.
12:05 PM ET- OUT WED SEP 23 1998 Tallahassee FL
07:55 AM ET- is the scheduled departure time.
01:28 PM ET- OUT WED SEP 23 1998 Madison FL
09:15 AM ET- is the scheduled departure time.
Delayed 10 minutes to put water into the Dining Car.
02:30 PM ET- OUT WED SEP 23 1998 Lake City FL
10:05 AM ET- is the scheduled departure time.
03:34 PM ET- OUT WED SEP 23 1998 Jacksonville FL
03:45 PM ET- OUT WED SEP 23 1998 Jacksonville FL
12:10 PM ET- is the scheduled departure time.
We spent a few minutes in this station and I was able to take a few photos
of the outside of the train and the Jacksonville station. I noticed that
we had picked up two express freight cars in New Orleans. From the slack in
the schedule and reducing our layover time in Jacksonville, we were able to
reduce our lateness from 4 hours and 25 minutes to 3 hours and 35 minutes.
05:00 PM ET- OUT WED SEP 23 1998 Palatka FL
01:13 PM ET- is the scheduled departure time.
06:28 PM ET- OUT WED SEP 23 1998 DeLand FL
01:58 PM ET- is the scheduled departure time.
Although the eastbound schedule shows that we are 4 hours and 30 minutes
late, the westbound schedule shows that the train only takes 1 hour and
1 minute to get from Orlando to DeLand! Thus, there is a bit of slack
built into this schedule. Without further delays, I assume we will make it
into Orlando around 7:30 PM, 4 hours and 10 minutes behind schedule.
I was hoping to get some photos of the Auto-Train, but because of our
lateness, we had to pull into a siding to wait for it to pass. All we
saw was the bottom of the train go by our window! Much too close for
06:46 PM ET- OUT WED SEP 23 1998 Sanford FL
02:21 PM ET- is the scheduled departure time.
07:10 PM ET- OUT WED SEP 23 1998 Winter Park FL
02:45 PM ET- is the scheduled departure time.
07:22 PM ET- OUT WED SEP 23 1998 Orlando FL
03:20 PM ET- is the scheduled departure time.
One of the sets of photographs above shows the Disneyworld Monorail
going through our hotel, the Contemporary Resort. The station is
actually on the fifth floor of the hotel.
On Wednesday evening, September 23, 1998, we were treated to a rehearsal
for Disney's Rock 'n Rockets show that is to be held on Thursday and
Friday evenings. The rehearsal included a tremendous fireworks display.
We listened to the music and watched the fireworks from our balcony in
the Disneyworld Contemporary Resort.
On Thursday evening, September 24, 1998, we were treated to the actual
live performance of the Disney Rock 'n Rockets show which we again
experienced from our balcony in the Disneyworld Contemporary Resort.
You can see a number of photographs that I took of these fireworks
Disney's Rock 'n Rockets was promoted as "The most spectacular fireworks
show in the history of the United States ..." I can't disagree with
that promotion. From 10:00 PM until 10:30 PM dozens of rockets were
launched simultaneously and continuously. I've seen quite a few fireworks
shows, but none could hold a candle to this display! Part of the reason
for such an extensive display was that this was also to celebrate the
50th Anniversary of the American Pyrotechnics Association (APA) whose
convention was being held at our hotel.
- Car Attendant (0230): Harold?
- Car Attendant (0231): Ashley Woullard
- Dining Car Attendant: George
- --831 Genesis Locomotive
- --834 Genesis Locomotive
- -1161 Baggage Car
- 39042 Superliner 2 (0110) Transition Sleeper (Crew Dorm)
- 32046 Superliner 1 (0231) Sleeping Car
- 32045 Superliner 1 (0230) Sleeping Car (refurbished)
- 38064 Superliner Dining Car
- 33000 Superliner Sightseer Lounge Car
- 31500 Superliner 1 (0213) Coach Car
- 34078 Superliner 1 (0212) Coach Car
- 34005 Superliner 1 (22??) Coach Car
- 32015 Superliner 2 (2230) Sleeping Car
- 71044 All Silver Express Freight Car
- 71197 Silver Express Freight Car with blue stripe
- 70005 Express Freight Car
- 71107 Express Freight Car
- And 2 more Express Freight Cars!
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