Indianapolis Spring Board Meeting,
April 17-26, 2006

Don Winter


This trip was to attend the 2006 NRHS Spring Board Meeting in Indianapolis. As usual, we traveled out and back on Amtrak.

The Journey East (4/17-4/20)

Monday, April 17th, 2006

With an early evening departure from Los Angeles Union Station, 120 miles to the south, we plan on leaving Tehachapi at 1 pm, to avoid the impacts of LA traffic. As we're preparing to leave, Chris notices that a tire is flat. So, we head for the Tire Store instead. An hour later, having put lots of air into tires that appear to have no other problems, we head out on Highway 58 to Mojave, south on 14 to Sylmar, "East" on I-210 to Pasadena, and south on the Pasadena freeway to Los Angeles, arriving in the MTA garage by 4:30 pm. We're not checking any bags, so we sit in the garden until the PA calls us to come to the Amtrak Customer Service desk to have our photo IDs compared to our tickets. While in that line, we also get our reservations for dinner on the train. The trainset is about 15 minutes late coming into the platform, so it's departure time before the boarding call is made. As usual, the train is on track 12, and I manage to get the front part of the consist before leaving.


P42            98
P42            163
P42            96
Baggage     1266
Transition    39038
Sleeper        32097    New Hampshire
Sleeper        32113    Vermont
Diner           38008
Lounge        33042
Coach         34065
Coach         31033
Coach         31003

Train 4, 4-17-2006



Los Angeles

 6:45 pm

7:01 pm







San Bernardino












Flagstaff, AZ

4:56/5:01 am

5:18/28 am

Winslow                             PT



Gallup, NM                         MT




12:10/55 pm

11:41 am
12:55 pm




Las Vegas, NM






Trinidad, CO



La Junta



Lamar                                 MT






Lawrence, KS                    CT

5:49 am

5:56 am

Kansas City, MO



La Plata



Ft. Madison, IA



Galesburg, IL

12:10 pm

12:13/17 pm













On taking the consist, I note that this train still has a Sightseer Lounge as well as a full diner. Two women whose room is near ours are bitching because they were not informed about the luggage limitations. When I point out that they're printed on the ticket envelope, these people are not amused (but the Amtrak employee to whom they're complaining thanks me afterwards). These women also object to the small size of their room, but manage to upgrade to a deluxe bedroom.

This is the first day that the new dining policies have applied to this train, so the dining car crew is confused and struggling to learn. This is the first time they've done dinner reservations on leaving Los Angeles, the first time they've done lunch reservations, and the first time they've coped with the smaller crew size. The menus are reduced, no longer having anything done on a griddle, no longer having sauces on baked meats, no longer having ice-cream, no longer having fried eggs or bacon (or toast) for breakfast, etc. However, there are as many choices as there ever were, and the food is quite as tasty as it ever was (except for the lack of those sauces). The crew manages to cope quite well, given the circumstances. We have an 8:15 pm reservation (made on the assumption that service would start at 6:45 pm), and are called about 8:30 pm. We're waited on by the steward himself, and are back in the room in time to go to bed at 10 pm.

Southwest Chief Route Description

Tuesday, April 18th, 2006

Overnight, I notice that the train makes four separate stops at Kingman, AZ, perhaps because it is the crew change point (e.g. locomotive, crew dorm (transition), sleepers, coaches). The train is reasonably on time, this morning, which results in us having breakfast approaching Gallup, NM. (In spite of the press releases, there are no reservations for breakfast, because the crew can't use the PA until after 8 am to call them in!) Chris walks the inside of the train to collect the rest of the consist, and after Albuquerque I make notes on which of the semaphore signals that had been along the route between Albuquerque and La Junta in 1997 are still there in 2006. (This requires both travel directions to complete!) There is a 10 mph slow order south of Lamy that causes the train to lose 13 minutes over that stretch. Train 4 meets train 3 at Canyoncito, exactly where the schedule calls for. Near Las Vegas, NM, we hear on the radio that one of the locomotive crew members is Randy Decker, who is one of the two engineers on our cab ride video of this line! Descending the north slope of Raton Pass, the locomotive crew gets a warning about fire equipment near the track in Starkville, but we don't see any by the time we get there.

We have lunch late, and dinner east of La Junta. At several meals on this trip, we share the table with people who perk up when told that we're on our way to the NRHS Spring Board of Directors' Meeting, and turn out to be railfans themselves, with stories to tell about why they're on this train, or in one case, the widow and son of a longtime Niagara Frontier chapter member, who are taking a trip planned by the late husband/father. The widow asks whether we know her chapter's National Director, Becky Gerstung.

Wednesday, April 19th, 2006

 To my surprise, the morning light level is too low between Topeka and Kansas City for capturing route description data. (This is earlier in the year than our usual trips, and the train is not always as on time as it is today.) So, we don't get up until after Kansas City, and don't eat breakfast until east of the Missouri River. As a result, we eat lunch east of Galesburg! In Chicago, where the train pulls straight into the platform rather than turning south at the wye and then backing in, the weather is sunny, and we have time to go up to the Observation Deck of the Sears Tower, where I take a multitude of photos documenting what the nearby rail facilities look like to my long lens from this vantage point, before buying deli sandwiches and drinks to eat on the Hoosier State, a one car (plus deadheads) train that has no food service, even though it carries two conductors!


P42            78
P42            202
Coach        54543 (Horizon fleet)
Buffer Car  1040 (looks like a baggage car)
Lounge       33049 (deadheading to Beech Grove)

Train 318, 4-19-2006



Chicago, IL

7:45 pm

7:44 pm

Dyer, IN



Rensselaer                          CT



Lafayette                             ET


12:04 am


12:15 am





Hoosier State/Cardinal Route Description

This train runs on the four days of the week that the Cardinal does not, and exists mainly to ferry cars and locomotives between the main Amtrak system and its maintenance shops at Beech Grove, on the southeast side of Indianapolis. Tonight's train proves to have two locomotives, one active coach, a "buffer car", and a deadhead Superliner Lounge car, with the latter and, I suspect, one of the locomotives headed for the shops. The train has to stop twice, for a total of 27 minutes, between 81st Street and Dolton Junction, due to Union Pacific putting intermodal freight trains out in front of it. After that, the run is uneventful, and the pad in the schedule heading into Indianapolis puts us into our destination on time. We walk around the station area to our hotel, the Crowne Plaza, which is built into parts of the old Indianapolis Union Station train shed that are no longer used for railroad purposes, and check in. The front desk informs us that our use of a debit card means that they must take $35/day out of our account ahead of time in case we make charges against the room, only refunding the money afterwards (which could take up to two weeks). I describe this as 'sharp practice', which doesn't seem to offend the person checking us in.

A few minutes later, I notice that the clock in our room is an hour later than I had expected, and walk back to the front desk to ask which time zone we're in. (I know Indianapolis is in the Eastern Time zone, but this transpires to be the first time they've gone on daylight time in many decades!) The time really is 2 am! As we unpack, we discover that the plastic bag containing my prescription glasses (that I use when I'm not wearing my contact lenses) seems to have gone astray on the trip out. A call to Amtrak gets us the 'phone number of the Lost and Found in Chicago, but a call to them gets us only an answering machine even during normal business hours. We have little more success trying to get there in person while passing through Chicago on the way back.

In Indianapolis (4/20-4/23)

Thursday, April 20th, 2006

We arise around noon, and have lunch in the hotel restaurant (the better to use up that extra charge). We encounter a Dr. Howard Blackburn at the next table, who is a local railroad enthusiast who had sold to the hotel the heavyweight Pullman cars that are a featured segment of the available guest rooms. He is here to try to register for the Board Meeting (since he will attend the banquet), but the desk will not open until 4 pm, and he won't be around that late. We then run into Greg Molloy in the lobby, and chat for awhile. After 4 pm, we go to the NRHS Registration Desk to check in and get our registration packet and name badges.

We're supposed to be meeting Alfred Eaker, whom I know electronically from Internet Classical Music lists, but he doesn't arrive at the appointed time and we don't know what's happening until Donald and Nancy Winters, from New Jersey, stop by our room to say they've been getting voice mail messages from him! We go to the front desk and get them to make a note that he's tying to call us, not them, which is ultimately successful, but not until we've concluded, an hour after he should have arrived, that he's not coming and have gone out for a walk around the area (through the Circle Center shopping mall and return). On our return, we discover a voice mail from Al's wife, saying they were in the hotel just a couple of minutes after we had left. Of course, by now they're no longer here. I call the numbers they gave me, and we arrange to meet on Sunday afternoon.

On our way back from the walk, we're able to get inside parts of the old Union Station headhouse, and then get back into the hotel portion through the are where the Pullman cars are located (on tracks that use to be station tracks in operational days). By now, NRHS Board Members are arriving, and we chat with some of them whom we encounter around the hotel, including Bill Chapman who has a room above the Pullman cars.

After dinner, again, in the hotel restaurant (where we meet fellow National Director for At-Large Members Bill Gill, and his wife, at an adjacent table), we also encounter Diane and Braley Pastorino, who have been here since Wednesday but still haven't quite adjusted to their six hour time change from Hawaii, and Bob and Diane Heavenrich, who drove down from Ann Arbor this afternoon. We go to bed early in anticipation of the early start of our train trip on Friday.

Friday, April 21st, 2006

Today's excursion is over the line of the Indiana Rail Road, a regional railroad that operates the former Illinois Central Indianapolis Branch, south out of its yard on the south side of Indianapolis to Bloomington, IN, and a few miles beyond. The buses from the hotel to the boarding point in the yard are advertised as "board 7:30 am, depart 8:00 am", but in the event they don't depart until about 8:30 am, because they don't leave until the railroad indicates it is ready to receive us. In the meantime, we chat with old friends. The IRR yard is just over a mile south of Union Station, about a block beyond I-70, so it doesn't take long to get there. Once there, we board the two former Long Island Railroad cars comprising the train, and take seats (getting two together facing forward, for the southward journey) in the car with the refreshment counter and the operating toilet. There is a theater window and lounge seats at the far end of the car, but we're not permitted to sit there as our primary seats (and thus never do).

The train departs about 9 am, with two GP38ACs as the power (one facing each way to facilitate the run-around at the far end). I use a combination of the SPV Great Lakes East atlas and the AAA street map of Indianapolis and road map of the state to make detailed notes on the route we cover, south through the city and for the first few miles beyond, and then generally southwest through the hills to the university town of Bloomington, our advertised destination.

The Indiana Rail Road is one of the relatively new regional railroads in the midwest, in this case formed to take over the operations of the former Illinois Central branch to Indianapolis on March 18, 1986, mostly on the basis of the coal traffic into the power plant on the line at Indiana University in Bloomington. The railroad's track was totally rebuilt in the late 1990s. With the 1999 split of Conrail, and the assumption of its lines in the Indianapolis area by CSX, the latter has become the only major railroad serving the city, and the Indiana Rail Road is one of the few alternatives available to shippers who are limited to, or desire to use, rail service for their shipments.

The Indiana Rail Road route description

Along the way, the Hoosierland Chapter folks running the excursion serve coffee and donuts. Lunches are loaded in Bloomington, after which we continue southwest, turning away from the westward IRR line on the west side of town, on a segment of line that was once the Monon line through this area for a few miles, and then turning south-southwest away from that right-of-way on some recently-constructed track that serves a limestone quarry and has run-around facilities. Greg Molloy is exultant about where we have gone for the last few miles, since it is somewhere none of his mileage-collector friends have ever been. The trash from lunch is deposited in a trackside bin at the place the lunches had been loaded, and the train returns to Indianapolis (with us no facing backwards, of course, but since I've already done the route description notes that doesn't matter as much as it otherwise would). At the yard, a few minutes are available for taking photographs of the train and locomotives, and of the former CSS&SB electric cars that are stored on the east side of the yard.

Back at the hotel, Chris and I walk two blocks east and go to the top of the hotel's parking garage, from which good views of the east end of the station and the two junctions to its east are available. The original Indianapolis Union Station was built between 1852 and 1853, with the current Romanesque-style headhouse opened in 1888. The attached train shed, with tracks elevated above street level, opened in 1922. The east-west train shed has five large arches and two side smaller arches at its east and west ends. Once, the support posts between the arches were aligned with the platforms, providing six platforms serving twelve tracks. The freight bypass lines had (and still have) their own structure sheltering two tracks on the south side of the train shed, which covered four city blocks east-west, bridging over the main north-south streets (one in the center, one just beyond each end).

In 2006, there is just one platform with a track on each side using the two most southerly main arches. At the west end, the hotel's second and third levels occupy the space of the three most northerly main arches and the small one to the north, with the rear of the hotel thus forming the north wall of the remaining space inside the train shed. On the second level, heavyweight Pullman cars occupy tracks remaining from the glory days of the station, and are used as premium guest rooms. (At ground level, the hotel's guest rooms extend back only as far as the rooms on the second and third floors, but all the meeting rooms are further south, underneath the still-active station tracks above.) East and west of the train shed, the two extant tracks through the shed trail into the more northerly of the freight tracks to the south.

The old headhouse is located in the second quarter of the length of the station from the east end, on the north side of the train shed. It has been preserved, and is today used for large banquets and as a conference center. The original staircases used for accessing the platforms are clearly visible within the space where this building extends southward into the trainshed. Today's Amtrak station is located at ground level on the south side of the trainshed, extending under the tracks on the west side of the street passing under the center of the train shed, sufficiently far that the elevator in its northwest corner is aligned with the center of the remaining platform towards the west end of where today's Amtrak trains stop. There is also a staircase aligned with the elevator, but further east, that passengers with sufficient physical strength and stamina (for carrying their luggage) may use to reach the platform.

Chris chats with Al Weber when we return to the hotel, and learns that a "computer review committee" is being established, and how to submit my name for participation, which we duly do. Then, we go to the start of the "Meet the Authors" event for Indiana University Press, where we buy a couple of books but don't stay for the presentations. We again eat dinner at the hotel, and go to bed even earlier for our even earlier start in the morning.

Saturday, April 22nd, 2006

 The posted time for our visit to Amtrak's Beech Grove Shops this morning is "board buses 6:30 am, depart 7:15 am". In the event, we depart about 7:30 am for the 20-minute drive south on I-65, east on I-465/70, and then north on city streets to the shops in the suburban enclave of Beech Grove. These are the former "Big Four" shops, along the southwest side of that railroad's line between Indianapolis and Cincinnati that was once the route of the James Whitcomb Riley, but is no longer a through line to anywhere. Here, we divide up into groups of 25 people, and are taken around the shops by members of the management team. Our leader is the "Hearings Officer" at the shops.

Beech Grove Shops were built by the New York Central Railroad between 1906 and 1908, covering more than 100 acres on the southwest side of the Big Four line between Indianapolis and Cincinnati, six miles southeast of downtown Indianapolis. All original buildings were constructed by 1914. The shops passed to Penn Central in 1968, and were divided between Amtrak and Conrail in 1975/76. Amtrak purchased Conrail's portion of the shops in 1981 to reunify the entire 108 acres, which in 2006 comprises 12 major buildings with about 900,000 sg. ft. under roof. The facility serves all of Amtrak except the Northeast Corridor. The shops are currently undergoing progressive renovations and enhancement that started in 2004.

Coach Shop 1, dating from 1910, is 500 ft. long and 80 ' wide, with a 100 ft. long annex on the west end of the north track. Passenger and baggage cars undergo Heavy Overhauls in this shop. The various Component shops (Maintenance, Air Brake, A/C) overhaul components that are removed from the cars for separate treatment, such as air brakes, air conditioners, and wheel sets, along with all electronic components. The Locomotive Shop, dating from 1907, has 17 active bays for the overhaul of diesel locomotives, in five acres under roof, currently including the P-32, P-42 and F-59 types. Coach Shop 2, with 3.5 covered acres, performs wreck repair, along with various conversions and remanufacturing programs. The Trim Shop performs all of the final stages of repairs and overhauls, including the return of removed components, the addition of decorative trim and furnishings, and all required painting.

We visit, in turn, Coach Shop 1, an area east of that shop where a new shop is being built that currently has locos and cars stored in it, the Maintenance Shop, the Loco Shop, including the Wheel Shop, the tracks out back (beyond the former Conrail buildings) where cars awaiting repair are stored—I made a rough estimate that some eighty Superliners, Horizon Fleet, and Heritage Fleet Baggage and other cars were there in various state of health (some for general scheduled maintenance, some for rebuilding, some for repair of crash damage), the transfer table between the Forge and Coach Shop 2, Coach Shop 2, and then Trim Shop.

At the end of the tour, we're all given hard hats, brochures on the shops, and some other material for those who wanted it. We're back at the hotel by 11 am, so I take the opportunity to chat with Al Weber for awhile. Then, it's time for the At-Large Director and Alternates to meet for lunch with NRHS President Greg Molloy and (supposedly) SVP Barry Smith, who appears late in the meeting time slot. Here is where most of us meet Chuck Bogart for the first time. All five National Directors for At-Large members and three of the Alternates are present. (Blane Ryan, who lives close by, has a work-related convention out west this same weekend.) Greg discusses some of NRHS National's current problems, and we all have the opportunity to present ideas about how we might get the representation of At-Large Members rolling. Chuck agrees to develop a short article on the subject for the next NRHS News, and we all agree to build on the draft survey that had already been developed prior to the San Jose Board Meeting into something that can go out with the 2007 Dues Bills for At-Large members in October, 2006. A date for a conference call to discuss this (after some expected e-mail discussion) is set up.

After the meeting, Chris and I need to go to a drug store for some allergy pills for her, but we start out by visiting the area on the west side of the station, alongside the RCA Dome, where I can get a couple of shots of the track layout west of the station. Here, we run into Bill Chapman, and have some further discussion, before walking the five blocks north to the drug store and back. At 4:30 pm. the pre-meeting meeting covers the plans the officers have for getting dues bills (for the Chapters, as well as the At-Large Members) not only out-on-time, but also 'correct'. This is non-trivial, since the differing dues structures of the various Chapters all have to be taken into account. Eventually, the new Information System (for the review of which the Computer Review Committee has been established) will handle this, but for the 2007 dues bills an interim system will be used

A man named Chuck Macklin has a large array of books for sale out in the hallways by this meeting room, and we peruse the books as well. I don't buy anything at the time, but I will from his printed listing at a later date. Following this is the banquet, where we sit with Bob & Diane Heavenrich, Ellen Pinsky, John Fiorillo, Larry Klingbiel, Mike Treziak and Bob Ernst, four of whom are from the Chicago Chapter. The after-dinner talk is on the Indiana Rail Road, and is concluded by 9 pm.

Sunday, April 23rd, 2006

 The Board Meeting itself is this morning. The room assigned for the purpose seems to be rather tight (all of these rooms have structural steel support columns forming part of the support for the rail lines and platforms that are, or once were, at the second level in this former station building, with the rooms vibrating whenever a train goes by), with access to the tables being only from alternate aisles due to blockage by the support columns. Compared to some recent board meetings, this one proceeds in an orderly fashion with essentially no debate from the floor as the officers and designated spokespersons proceed through the reports on the agenda. No major decisions were required at this meeting, all votes were voice votes, and not a single nay was expressed during the meeting. Three chapters were authorized to start the planning for hosting future Board Meetings in 2007 and 2008, but no plans for the 2008 Convention are yet forthcoming.

The Board Meeting is over by noon, and people start leaving immediately. Our train is not until early Monday morning, so we're not among them. We have lunch, and then Al Eaker and his wife Whitney come by at about 2:30 pm. Al is an artist and art film maker, and classical music lover (and also a jewelry salesman) whom I have met on internet classical music lists. He and I have had some interesting e-mail exchanges, so when I knew we were coming to the town he resides in, I asked if we could get together to chat. There are no musical events in the area, so we just spend the next four hours talking about art, art films, and our classical music interests, as well as other things that come up. When they do leave, it is because she has to get up at 4 am, not because the conversation is exhausted.

We walk four blocks up the main street next to the hotel to eat dinner at a Chinese Restaurant (we've exhausted the menu in the hotel), check up on the progress of our train to determine when we need to get up (it's about 90 minutes down, but will pick up some time due to slop in the schedule before getting to Indianapolis, so we move our desired wake-up time only about 30 minutes later), finish packing, and go to bed.

The Journey West (4/24-4/26)

Monday, April 24th, 2006

When we awake, we immediately check on the train's progress again. It hasn't lost any more time during the night, so we get up, get ready to leave, check out of the hotel, and walk around, under the railroad viaduct, to the Amtrak station under the southeast corner of the same block of the trainshed of which the hotel occupies the north side. There is a line of people, including several Amish families, waiting to buy tickets for the train. The line is stopped, because one of these people does not have any kind of photoID. This has the agent completely stymied.

When we hear the train arrive (directly above us), we ask around and determine that since we have tickets, we can go up to the platform. So we take the elevator up, and then walk to the back of the train where our car is. When we climb on, we find that NRHS Regional Vice-President Ron Dick and his wife have the room opposite ours. They're heading for Chicago for a couple of days before taking the Capitol Limited and Silver Star back home to Columbia, SC.


P42            131
Coach        25034
Coach        25101
Coach        25094
Dinette        43381
Sleeper        62030    Patriot View

Train 51, 4-23-2006






Indianapolis, IN 

6:39/50 am

7:48 am




Lafayette                               ET



Rensselaer                            CT






Chicago, IL


1:09 pm

This time, we're covering this trackage in daylight, so I get out my draft route description to mark up with the details. As soon as the train starts, we and the Dicks head for the dining end of the AmDinette, where we're served the breakfast that comes with our First Class tickets. I take my notes along, and keep up with the features of the route as we talk and eat. By the time we're done with breakfast (acceptable, but obviously a more limited menu than on the Superliner Diner), we're out of the urban area and traversing the western Indiana countryside.

At Ames, the train stops in the former Conrail siding while the CSX Dispatcher puts a northbound Norfolk Southern coal train out on the former Monon (a CSX property) ahead of us. We follow this train, on its yellow and red blocks, all the way to Lafayette Junction, where it takes the NS (ex-Wabash) line north while we remain on the ex-Monon line. Arrival in Chicago Union Station is at about 1 pm, so we take our bags to the Metropolitan Lounge and then go up to the Mezzanine level for some lunch.

After lunch, we walk over to the Great Hall on the other side of Canal Street (using the passage under the street), where I take some photographs and we encounter Ed von Nordeck, who is spending a few days riding Metra trains on lines he hasn't been on before, while on his way to the NARP meting in Washington DC this coming weekend. We chat for awhile, and then Ed has to go catch one of these trains while we return to the lounge. We also go to Amtrak Customer Service to try to determine if Chicago Lost and Found has my lost glasses, but the lady behind the counter can't raise the people in Lost and Found (in the basement) and heads off to take a look personally, while we now have to head for our train back to Los Angeles, using the rear exit from the lounge.


P42            148
P42            58
P42            186
Baggage      1160
Transition    39010
Sleeper        32030
Sleeper        32084    Kansas
Diner           38025
Lounge        33024
Coach         34102
Coach         31045
Coach         31044
Express Box 74019
Express Box 74056 (to Albuquerque)
Private Car    Metis (from Kansas City)

Train 3, 4-24-2006



Chicago, IL

3:15 pm

3:15 pm













Ft. Madison, IA



La Plata, MO






Dodge City, KS

6:00 am

6:42/46 am

Garden City                        CT



Lamar, CO                           MT



La Junta


11:57 am
12:10 pm




Raton, NM



Las Vegas, NM

12:30 pm





Albuquerque                     MT






Barstow, CA                      PT

3:29 am

7:43 am




San Bernardino









Los Angeles


12:14 pm

I collect the consist as I walk down the platform on track 28, walking forward after I have dropped my bags off in our room on the lower level of car 331. In the car, the people across from us are arguing because they have checked all of their clothes in their checked luggage, and thus will have none for the upcoming days on the train. The folks behind me argue constantly for the next day and a half—an older couple in which the man appears to suffer from Alzheimer's disease, while the woman berates him constantly for not stepping up to her needs and ideals.

Approaching Fort Madison, we have to wait a few moments because the Mississippi River bridge is open for barge traffic. We eat dinner this evening after the train has crossed into Iowa and then Missouri, and go to bed before the train reaches Kansas City, running ahead of time into stations and precisely to time on departure.

Tuesday, April 25th, 2006

 Since the train was running to time when we went to bed, I have no reason to suspect otherwise when I awake, and thus presume that the station from which we depart at 6:46 am is Garden City. However, it rapidly becomes clear that it is in fact Dodge City, and thus we're now 45 minutes late. Then it becomes clear why: the lead locomotive has a problem sensor on one of the bearings of traction motor two, and is giving false alarms requiring (a) a stop for the crew to inspect the bearing, and (b) the train to travel at 50 mph or less for the next ten miles to see if the problem recurs. It had happened once east of Hutchinson (the radio traffic reveals), happens again between Dodge City and Garden City, and yet again (reporting "sensor failure" this time) just west of Garden City. After lengthy discussions with Amtrak's technical services as to what must be done in response to the new error message, the decision is taken to set the unit out at the west end of the spur at Lakin, KS. By the time we're done with the several stops to check the bearing, with setting out the lead unit, and with resetting the second unit to be the "lead" unit, so the HEP will run (fortunately, the three units are arranged elephant-style), the train is more than four hours late at Lamar, CO, and just less than four hours late leaving the service stop at La Junta, CO. An added complication is that the new lead locomotive doesn't have an Automatic Train Stop shoe, so to permit 90 mph running on the appropriate line segments, the crew must get the Dispatcher to establish "an Absolute Block in front of the train" for those line segments.

I take the opportunity of daylight travel west from Dodge City to capture more of the route description details than I had anticipated (after being unable to capture any between Topeka and Kansas City on the way east) between Dodge City and La Junta, and then switch to checking on the type of signals (for those not seen on the way east) between La Junta and Albuquerque. We eat breakfast during the stop to set out the locomotive, and lunch on the way over Raton Pass. The HEP is taken down for the last part of the climb to Raton, so that the two remaining locomotives can devote all of their horsepower to moving the train up the grade. Our train meets train 4 at Watrous at 4 pm, much further north than the usual meet, entirely due to our lateness. On the curves at Ribera, Chris notices that we now have a private car on the rear of the train (it must have been added in Kansas City), so in Albuquerque, as sunset approaches, we walk back to identify and photograph it. Our dinner reservation is after the Albuquerque stop on this late 'schedule'.

When we're done with train inspection and locomotive fueling in Albuquerque, it transpires that the rear Express boxcar has to be set out here, the process of which (with the difficulty of the private car behind it), takes about 45 minutes of switching with the whole train! This not only loses the time gained by the schedule padding into Albuquerque, but another half hour beyond that (83 minutes total elapsed time at Albuquerque!). We're eating dinner during the switching moves, and go to bed not long after reaching the main transcon and turning west again at Dalies.

Wednesday, April 26th, 2006

I awake somewhere near Amboy, in the low portion of the Mojave Desert, identifying the climb up the separate westbound track at Ash Hill and the volcanic features at Pisgah. I take note of the new third track (and additional construction) between Daggett and East Barstow, and some features at Barstow Yard I had not taken note of before. Because this is now mid morning, we have to handle freight traffic over Cajon Pass in a different way from what it would be at the scheduled 4 am, following a westbound stack train with no opportunity to weave around because of the eastbound parade of stack trains and intermodals. We come to a stop in Hesperia, behind the queue of trains awaiting inspection at Summit before making the westbound descent. After two more stops, we cross over to track 1 at Lugo, and when the UP train in front of us cuts off into track 3 at Martinez, we slip through past the queue now on both sides of us (three BNSF trains in track 2), cross back to track 2, and head down the hills past the three eastbound trains waiting on track 1 for us to clear.

South of Keenbrook, we use the new third track on the east side, observing more construction of extra spurs and tracks at Verdemont. Passengers for the Coast Starlight are taken off at San Bernardino, to be bussed (it is claimed) to Santa Barbara to catch up with their train (which seems a tall order to me, given the time it already is). West of Fullerton, we see the new construction of the third track on the south side, and the construction of the new Buena Park Metrolink station. We arrive in LA just four hours late.

Chris and I decide to eat in a Mexican Restaurant in the Plaza before heading home, then stop at a Bristol Farms in South Pasadena before making the 120 mile drive to Tehachapi, where we stop to pick up the accumulated mail before getting home a little after 4 pm. We will have nine full days at home before leaving for Italy.