Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Play a Train Song...

That's what singer song writer Todd Snider said and what we did was take the Amtrak Texas Flyer from Longview to Chicago. Several folks have asked how it was so I'll do my best to give a review here. I think I am pretty qualified having ridden mass transit trains in Chicago, Europe and the good old USA. This was our second Amtrak ride. The first was a couple of years ago from Springfield Ill. to Chicago which from what I have learned was probably consider a local. As I post photos I'll give my impressions and tips. 

We caught the train in Longview. The station dates form the 1940 although the railroad has been through there since the 1870s. I think the Texas Flyer originates in San Antone. 

There's the train stopping for us. Some stops are pretty quick, pick up passengers, some longer are called smoke stops and occasionally the train pulls to a side track to let something faster pass. If it's a get off break as our final stop in Longview was on return be careful. One lady went in the station for a coke and the train was gone when she came out. 

Pop and Geneva in the dining car. We found the best ticket rate was to buy a coach class ticket for day time riding and have the status of that ticket change to sleeper on one of the stops. Once in the sleeper car we got two meals included in the ticket. You can order anything from the menu depending on meal with separate choices available breakfast, lunch and dinner. Pretty tasty dishes, hot sauce on the table with shrimp, chicken, steak or veggie each meal. I got the surf and turf for dinner which while I would not have paid the posted price it was a hearty well cooked meal and the steak was good quality.   

 We were a party of four so we were always  seated together at meals but it seemed nice that singles and couples were seated with strangers and makes for nice conversations. 

This is Pop in the observation car. This was my favorite place to spend time. Good views and as you can see not crowded. I never felt crowded by people on the ride. Cell phone charging, good wifi and daytime reading light. 

The coach car seats were good, reclining with a foot rest. Maybe a bit better than the upgraded coach class on a flight to Europe. I probably could sleep in those seats better that a plane or bus but the observation car was so pleasant I mostly stayed here.   

Rest rooms were about like an airplane. I think there were showers but I did not use them. I carry a man bag when I travel and I stuffed it with a book, a modest toilet kit, pajamas, and cell charger while the rest of the luggage was checked. Next time I might pack house shoes or flip flops. 

The Great Hall at Union Station in Chicago. Built in 1925, 110' ceiling and the third busiest station in the USA.  

Here's an out the window photo of a drunk guy that had to get off the train. It was no United Airlines deal as the crew and the police got him off without violence. I think the conductor might have had his hat knocked off. There was also an early morning stop that Pop and Geneva witnessed where a sick crew member was picked up by ambulance.  

St. Louis Arch at sundown through the observation car window. 

The Mississippi at St. Louis. 

Cathy in our sleeper car. 

Me sitting across from her. The bottom seats pull together to make a bed and there is a fold down that makes a top bunk. Other accommodations are available but I don't know for sure the details except they are not as good a bargain. 

On the ride to Chicago I took the low bunk. Cathy wanted to switch for the ride back but I could not tolerate the top bunk. I felt claustrophobic like I was in a coffin and had to switch back. I have felt like that before on rare occasions in large crowds. Entering the top bunk really was not a problem and Pop and Geneva were both able to sleep there.  

Amtrak is really not a profitable enterprise and requires government subsidies. I think the north eastern corridor of amtrak is profitable due to the fact of heavy commuter use and some of these profits are used to make ends meet across the operation. Looming budget cuts are a threat to the cross country trains. This should tell us commuter trains are possible and we should have them in Texas. The top speed of an Amtrak train is 150 MPH with speeds around the world ranging from 150 to 267 MPH. At speeds like this you can live in Lufkin and commute for the big bucks in Houston.   

I found train travel to be quite civilized. One compliant was the lost and found. If you roll your teeth up in a napkin and stash it in your bunk they won't find it for you.  



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