Southwest Chief Travelogue
Sunday, Mar 04, 2001 3:20 P.M. - Chicago, IL (CH 66 161.100) - On Time
Jodina and I arrived at the station about 1:30 P.M. by taxi. Normally I would check my bags in at the Metropolitan Lounge. Instead, we decided to just place them in a locker near where the taxi dropped us off and go exploring around the station. We had lunch at the Chicago pizza shop upstairs in the station. We then purchased some snacks and drinks for the train trip. There are snacks and drinks available for purchase on the train and also some free sometimes in the Sleeping Car, but the types of snacks and drinks that we purchased I knew would not be available on the train.
It was 2:40 P.M. when I decided that we should check in at the Metropolitan Lounge. They used to give out boarding passes even for Sleeping Car passengers. I thought it would be a good idea if we got one of those and found out when our train would be boarding. To my surprise, it was already boarding! We hurried over the the locker and retrieved our luggage. We then found Track 20 and went out to the platform. Everyone else had already been boarded and the platform was empty! Jodina and I found our car easy enough and boarded. I was a bit surprised to find the luggage rack totally empty of any luggage at all!
As we sat down in our room, I heard the Chief of Onboard Services introduce himself as Bob Stone. I've been on the Southwest Chief 3 previous times when Bob Stone was the Chief of Onboard Services. He is the Chief for Crew #10 out of the Los Angeles Base for the Southwest Chief. Bob is proud of his crew and introduced each one by name. You can find the list of the crew members near the bottom of this page. Bob also has a website for this crew which you can find at: www.crew10.com.
A bit later Bob came through my Sleeping Car and we exchanged warm greetings. We had not seen each other since October of 1998. That was a difficult trip as there was flooding in the Kansas City area and the eastbound and westbound Southwest Chief trains had to exchange passengers. You can read the travelogues of all the other trips that I have taken on the Southwest Chief with Bob Stone as the Chief of Onboard Services by clicking on the links that I have provided below.
Sunday, Mar 04, 2001 3:40 P.M. - Naperville, IL (CH 66 161.100) - On Time
Alvin Lincoln, the Sleeping Car Attendant, has set up a good assortment of drinks and snacks in Room 1 of our Sleeping Car as you can see in the photo above! He also had coffee brewed and ready when we boarded the train.
Sunday, Mar 04, 2001 4:17 P.M. - Mendota, IL (CH 85 161.385) - On Time
As can be seen in the left photo above, Amtrak has refubished and done a bit of redesign in the bathrooms in the Superliner I Sleeping Cars. The old color scheme of the Superliner I Sleeping Cars used to be green, orange, tan and gold. The entire car has been refurbished using the modern grey, blue and purple color scheme of the Superliner II Cars. Most of the bathroom has been redone either in a solid grey or with the speckled grey paneling. The one part of the bathroom that they did not refurbish is the toilet unit itself which is still in the old tan color. The biggest improvement is that they made the sink much deeper than the old stainless steel basin! It is also sort of a speckled grey, but the base color is much darker than the walls with much larger speckles. The old sink was too shallow. Sometimes if the water pressure was set too high, the water would come splashing out onto your clothes when you turned on the faucet. The new deeper sinks avoids that problem. Also, with the old sink design, a lot of water would splash up onto the surface around the sink and would have to be wiped with a towel to clean up the sink. With the new design, the water tends to flow from the surface back into the sink by itself. On the photo above on the right you can see the downstairs restroom area. There are 2 individual restrooms on the left, 1 individual restroom on the right, and a shower/dressing room also on the right. The door at the far end goes to the "Accessible Bedroom". The "Accessible Restroom" is set up like a Standard Bedroom on the left, has a wheelchair lockdown in the center, and has a toilet area on the right separated from the rest of the room by a curtain.
Sunday, Mar 04, 2001 5:07 P.M. - Princeton, IL (CH 85 161.385) - On Time
From Chicago to here, the Standard Bedrooms seem to all be empty. Jodina and I are in Room 6 and there doesn't seem to be anyone else in any of the other Standard Bedrooms. All but one of the Deluxe Bedrooms are occupied. My understanding is that most of the Standard Bedrooms will be in use at one point or another before we get to Los Angeles.
Sunday, Mar 04, 2001 6:24 P.M. - Galesburg, IL (CH 51 160.875) - On Time
I had the temperature control set to as cold as it could go all the way since Chicago and this room was still burning up! We called Alvin, the Sleeping Car Attendant, to see if he could fix the problem. I had already checked the rooms across the hall and found there was no heat coming up from under the windows of those rooms with the temperature control set to maximum cold. Alvin said that he would shut off the master control for the floor heat for my side of the car. While he did that, I did check the other rooms on my side of the car that had the temperature control set to the coldest setting. All of the rooms on my side of the car were producing a lot of heat from under the window, even those that had the setting on as cold as possible.
Alvin said that we could move to Room 9 which was on the other side of the car. He said Room 9 would be empty all the way to Fullerton. Jodina and I picked up everything and moved to Room 9. The temperature was just right in there with no heat coming up from under the window or from the floor! Later I checked back in Room 6 and found that it had also become cool once the master control for the floor heat was turned off for that side of the car.
Sunday, Mar 04, 2001 7:13 P.M. - Crossing Mississippi into Iowa
Bob Stone told us that the Southwest Chief travels through 8 states on its way from Chicago to Los Angeles, but is only in Iowa for about 20 miles which it takes about 25 minutes to traverse, including the one stop in Ft. Madison, Iowa.
Sunday, Mar 04, 2001 7:25 P.M. - Fort Madison, Iowa (CH 36 160.650) - On Time
Our first Conductor, Mr. Pleasanton (sp?) and the Engineer are relieved at this stop. The next Conductor and Engineer will take this train from Fort Madison to Kansas City.
(CH 30 160.560)
Sunday, Mar 04, 2001 8:28 P.M. - La Plata, MO - On Time
The ride has been very shakey and noisey in Room 9! We were rocking and rolling in Room 6, but Room 9 is even more so being the very last room in the very last passenger car of the train. The express cars are right behind us. I've heard Amtrak crew members mention that the train rides a lot rougher when there are express cars on the end of the train. I'm not sure why that is, but it certainly seems so from this room!
Sunday, Mar 04, 2001 10:34 P.M. Arrival - Kansas City, MO - On Time
Sunday, Mar 04, 2001 10:49 P.M. Departure - Kansas City, MO - On Time
I heard that we are carrying 3 Santa Fe and 2 Union Pacific Crew Members onboard that we'll be dropping off. I guess 3 will be dropped off at a depot and 2 at the fuel pad.
Monday, Mar 05, 2001 1:15 A.M. - Lawrence, KS - On Time
Monday, Mar 05, 2001 1:46 A.M. - Topeka, KS - On Time (CH 30 160.560)
Monday, Mar 05, 2001 7:02 A.M. Central Time - Garden City, KS (CH 85 161.385)
Something funny happened at Garden City as we dropped off a passenger at 13th Street, one road crossing beyond the station. The station agent was notified and was driving to the crossing to pick up the passenger. I guess the passenger must have forgotten to get off at their stop in time.
Monday, Mar 05, 2001 7:20 A.M. Mountain Time - Lamar, CO
Monday, Mar 05, 2001 8:10 A.M. - La Junta, CO - Early Arrival
Joidna and I went down to breakfast at about 7:30 A.M. Since this was close to the time for the last call for breakfast, we were able to sit across from each other and nobody else was seated at our table. Just as we were close to finishing our breakfast, we arrived into La Junta about 13 minutes ahead of schedule! Since La Junta is a service stop and we normally stop here for 25 minutes, our early arrival meant that we would be in the station for 38 minutes.
This long stop at La Junta gave me plenty of time to walk the entire train getting the car numbers and taking a few photographs. It was a very long walk to get to the very rear of the train as there are 18 express cars on this train!
There was a problem with the door closing mechanism in the Smoking Lounge that is downstairs in the first Coach Car after the Dining Car. There is only one Smoking Lounge in the Southwest Chief. Not all long distance Amtrak trains have a Smoking Lounge. Smoking is not allowed on those Amtrak trains that do not have a Smoking Lounge. But, when a train doesn't have such a lounge, they usually have a number of 5 minute stops every few hours to let passengers step out to smoke. The Amtrak Coast Starlight is an example of an Amtrak train that does not allow smoking onboard.
Passengers that smoke are fortunate on the Amtrak Southwest Chief. There usually is a lounge for smokers downstairs in the first Coach Car just past the Dining Car. This lounge has been modified by Amtrak to have a ventilation system that does not mix the lounge air with air in the rest of the train. The air from the Smoking Lounge is sent right outside the train.
These was a problem with the door closing mechanism in the Smoking Lounge on this train. Bob Stone and the Sleeping Car Attendant from the 0330 car came up with a make-shift solution using a plastic bag from the train. You can see what they came up with in the above photo. Don't laugh! It worked quite well! Since the airflow goes from the Smoking Lounge directly out of the train, that created air circulation such that air was sucked in from under the plastic doorway. Thus, fresh air would flow in but no smoke would flow out. There wasn't even a hint of a smell of smoke as I walked through the upstairs level of that coach car! An an extra measure of precaution, Bob had closed off the seats and the ashtrays that were just inside the door of the Smoking Lounge. Without any smokers or cigarette butts near the door, that made even the chance of the smell of smoke going the wrong way out the door even more remote.
Take a look at the walls in the Sleeping Car in the above photos. The 0330 Sleeping Car is a Superliner I that has been refurbished. The hallway walls are not flat but are instead made out of a molded plastic that is shaped like waves. There are very few Superliners that have been refurbished with this material. I was once in a Sleeping Car that had been refurbished with this material. I don't know if this is the same car or if more cars have been refurbished with the same material. The Sleeping Car that I am in now has also been refurbished, but it just has flat panels in the hallways and does not have the oddly shaped panels of the other Sleeping Car.
Monday, Mar 05, 2001 9:02 A.M. - La Junta, CO - On Time Departure
Monday, Mar 05, 2001 9:50 A.M. - Mile Post 618.5 (CH 32 160.590)
First Hot Box Detector: "You have a defect! Left Side Axle 3 Left Side Axle 4." The Signal Maintainer communicated with our crew to disregard that indication. The Signal Maintenance crew explained that they were working on fixing that hot box detector and it evidently is still now working correctly yet.
Monday, Mar 05, 2001 10:18 A.M. - Trinidad, CO (CH 32 160.590)
Monday, Mar 05, 2001 11:19 A.M. - Raton, NM (CH 32 160.590)
Monday, Mar 05, 2001 2:45 P.M. - Lamy, NM (CH 32 160.590) - On Time
Monday, Mar 05, 2001 3:40 P.M. - Albuquerque, NM (CH 32 160.590) - Early Arrival
I headed straight for the food truck where I knew I would find the best Burritos that I have had anywhere! This is a bit of a late lunch for me, especially with a dinner reservation coming up at just 6:00 PM, but there is no way that I'm passing through Albuquerque without having one of those Burritos! I don't know anywhere in Southern California that makes them this way. I also took a number of photos of the new Alvarado Transportation Center intermodal facility that is under construction. You can see those photos in sets 4 and 5 below.
Monday, Mar 05, 2001 5:05 P.M. - Albuquerque, NM (CH 32 160.590) - On Time Departure
Earlier in the day, Bob Stone, the Chief of Onboard Services, told me to make dinner reservations for 3 and he would join Jodina and I for dinner. I made reservations for 6 P.M. At dinner, the topics covered about every angle of Amtrak history, the future of Amtrak, and, of course, the internet and the web. Bob did mention that there are some rumors about changes coming to the Chiefs program, but nothing is definite yet. More will probably be known before the end of this month. A possibility that may be under consideration is that the Chiefs will no longer ride the entire route, but will just ride the train for the first few hundred miles out of Los Angeles and maybe Chicago. The main purpose of this would be a cost savings for Amtrak. By having the Chief onboard at the start of the trip, he/she could make sure the train gets off to a proper start, could handle any problems that develop early, and hopefully things will go smoothly or can be handled by the rest of the crew for the rest of the journey. Both of us agreed that a Chief that does his job properly on the train can be an invaluable asset to the crew in ensuring a satisfactory journey for the passengers.
Monday, Mar 05, 2001 7:25 P.M. - Gallup, NM - On Time
Monday, Mar 05, 2001 10:10 P.M. - Flagstaff, AZ - On Time
Monday, Mar 05, 2001 10:49 P.M. - Williams Jct., AZ (CH 55 160.935)
Tuesday, Mar 06, 2001 6:07 A.M. - San Bernardino, CA
I woke up just before the train arrived into San Bernardino. Though they had started serving breakfast at 5:30 A.M., Jodina and I decided to skip breakfast on the train and get something to eat a bit later since we'd be getting off the train in just a bit more than an hour.
Even though we were running right on schedule and the train was expected to arrive early into Los Angeles, the passengers connecting to the Amtrak Coast Starlight were taken off the train in San Bernardino anyway. Because of the heavy rains, there was a potential of landslides along the coast. Thus, the passengers would be bussed from San Bernardino to meet with the Coast Starlight in probably either Santa Barbara or San Luis Obispo.
While we were 30 minutes out from Fullerton, Bob Stone began making announcments over the P.A. System about our arrival into Fullerton. In those announcments, he mentioned that Fullerton is the home of the world famous "TrainWeb.com" website! Thank's Bob! I appreciate that exposure for trainweb.com, especially to people that ride trains. Those are the people most likely to enjoy the information that they find on TrainWeb.
Tuesday, Mar 06, 2001 7:20 A.M. - Fullerton, CA - Early Arrival
The train arrived a few minutes early into Fullerton, California. That means that it will arrive very early into Los Angeles. From Fullerton to Los Angeles only takes about 35 minutes by rail, so this train should arrive into Los Angeles just before 8 A.M., 40 minutes ahead of schedule.
Before arriving into Fullerton, Bob Stone, the Chief of Onboard Services, came to my room one last time to say good-bye. He gave me a giftbag labeled "Steve Grande - TrainWeb.com". Inside was a bottle of red wine that Bob knows that I liked and a number of mints. Bob is a frequent visitor to TrainWeb and again reminded me that he finds TrainWeb to be the most information site on the web for rail information. The only modest reply that I could think of is just to tell him that we certainly do try!
Overall, this trip has been great! The train arrived into every station very close to schedule, often even arriving early, and made it into Los Angeles well ahead of schedule. The crew was very pleasant and helpful. This is the only Amtrak crew that I know of that has their own website, www.crew10.com, which helps to create a team spirit and an atmosphere where the crew members take pride in their work.
For those of you that would like to learn more about the Amtrak Southwest Chief, visit the following websites:
For those of you that would like to learn more about Amtrak and its history, try to attend the Amtrak Historical Society Annual Conference that will be held on the last weekend in April in Chicago this year. Click here to visit there website where you can also register online for the conference.
My previous journeys on the Amtrak Southwest Chief with Crew #10 (www.crew10.com) and Bob Stone as Chief of Onboard Services:
Are you interested in rail travel along some or all of this journey yourself? There are very few travel agents that have the necessary knowledge and experience of rail travel to answer your questions and to book a journey that you will remember for a lifetime. TrainWeb has sought out those travel agencies and rail tourism companies that not only have the knowledge to book your travel, but have gained the required experience through extensive rail travel themselves! Click here or visit RAILagencies.com or RAILexcursions.com for a list of these rail travel providers!