Chattanooga NRHS Convention,
August 16-September 1, 2007

Don Winter


This trip was to attend the 2007 NRHS Convention in Chattanooga. As usual, we traveled out and back on Amtrak. To connect with the bus provided by the Convention from and to Atlanta (connecting from and to the Amtrak service with the northeast), we decide to go around via Chicago and Washington, DC, to get to Atlanta on the directly-connecting service, but to stay overnight in Atlanta on the way back and head west, with a full day in New Orleans before returning to Southern California.

The Journey East (8/16-8/20)

Thursday, August 16th, 2007

The Southwest Chief is scheduled to depart Los Angeles at 6:45 pm, so we leave home at 2 pm, taking our usual traffic-minimizing route around via I-210 and the Pasadena Freeway to get to the MTA parking garage on the east side of Los Angeles Union Station by 4:30 pm, checking two of the bags through to Atlanta (leaving the rest in the car until train time), checking-in with the Customer Service folks, and sitting in the garden area on the north side of the station's Great Hall until 6 pm. We then go back to the car (down on parking level 4, where the "FlyAway" parking area is) to get the carry-on bags, and repair to the easternmost platform in the station, where our trainset is expected momentarily. In the event, it doesn't show up until after the train is supposed to have departed, resulting in a 24-minute late departure for the train.


P42           169
P42            59
Baggage    1732
Dorm        39031
Coach        34004
Coach-Sm. 31040
Coach        34024
Lounge        33047
Diner           38019
Sleeper        32117    West Virginia
Sleeper        32003  

Train 4, 8-16-2007



Los Angeles

 6:45 pm

7:19 pm







San Bernardino






Flagstaff, AZ

4:56/5:01 am

6:10-22 am

Winslow                             PT



Gallup, NM                         MT




12:17/40 pm

12:40/1:15 pm




Las Vegas, NM






Trinidad, CO



La Junta                         MT





Topeka, KS                   CT 5:20 am 6:24 am




Kansas City, MO



La Plata



Ft. Madison, IA


12:40-44 pm

Galesburg, IL

12:10 pm














Southwest Chief Route Description

Because the train is late, the dinner reservations are called in late. Our 8 pm is called in somewhere in Santa Ana canyon, and we go to bed while the train is climbing Cajon Pass. Somewhere between Riverside and San Bernardino, the right side of our sleeping car is splattered with impacts from tomatoes, thrown at the train. Because darkness has fallen, we can't see the overbridges being constructed to replace the grade crossings just north of where I-210 now bridges overhead; nor can we see the construction for the third track, west of the current Track 1, from Keenbrook crossovers all the way to Summit crossovers.

Friday, August 17th, 2007

Overnight, the train makes a lengthy stop, with three spots, at Kingman, AZ, the crew change point. The windows are not cleaned in Albuquerque, so we have the tomato splatters all the way to Chicago. We meet Train 3 at a location requiring our crew to handthrow the switches entering the siding, once for us to enter, and again to reset the switch for the opposing train. By the time Train 3 has passed, we've waited 43 minutes at this location. There are signal problems east of this location, experienced by Train 3 and then by us, which lead to a further loss of time. We eat dinner between Trinidad and La Junta, and don't see Lamar.

Saturday, August 18th, 2007

I have seen reports that the signal bridges along the Emporia Subdivision are being replaced, but I'm still asleep when we pass through the short segment of that subdivision covered by the Southwest Chief, in the pre-dawn darkness, and so don't see any direct evidence of such an event on this trip.

I awake as the train departs Topeka, in heavy overcast. There are now long stretches of speed restrictions on this line, so the nominally 25 minute run to Lawrence takes 70 minutes. As usual, we stop for fuel at the on-line fuel rack at Argentine, before arriving in Kansas City. We take the ground-level route through Santa Fe Junction, not the flyover. This train no longer makes any attempt to connect with the morning train to St. Louis! At Kansas City Union Station, there is a Kansas City Southern F-unit and private care Metis.

Approaching Galesburg, we take the freight track from Graham to the south end of the Galesburg Yard at Waterman, and then head north along the line coming in from Quincy. This means that I can finally see where the wye with the line to Peoria actually connects in! The last stretch into Chicago Union Station, from 14th Street, takes fifteen minutes or more, for no evident reason. With less than two hours until our next train, we make no attempt to go anywhere. As we head down the platform towards our sleeper on the Capitol Limited, we see that Mark Sublette will be our attendant, for the second time in less than three months!


P42          188
P42            82
Baggage    1263
Dorm        39037
Sleeper      32042
Sleeper      32001
Diner          38003
Lounge       33008
Coach         31028
Coach         34026
Coach         31002 

Train 30, 8-18-2007



Chicago                              CT

 7:05 pm

7:05 pm
South Bend                        ET 9:23 10:06-09
Pittsburgh 5:45 am 6:15 am
Connellsville 7:24 7:56
Cumberland 9:44/51 10:27/39
Martinsburg 11:20 12:15-20 pm
Harpers ferry 11:45 12:46
Rockville 12:30 pm 1:31
Washington, DC 1:30 1:54

Capitol Limited Route Description

One of the other passengers in our sleeper is also heading for NRHS! The train leaves Chicago on time, but from Hammond east trundles along following an NS freight train, until we cross over at MP 463 to go around it. We have 8 pm (CT) dinner reservations, which means we're still in the diner at the South Bend stop.

Sunday, August 19th, 2007

I awake during the stop in Pittsburgh, where the sky is still dark. This means I have no chance at getting detailed route descriptions west of Pittsburgh, but I still do get the section east of Connellsville, that had been during breakfast back in June. Mark has had almost no sleep overnight, so he catches up on the section from Pittsburgh to Cumberland (no-one on the sleeper gets on or off in Connellsville), but we get to talk for awhile east of Cumberland. I notice at Brunswick that our eastbound train uses the northside pair of tracks around the yard, so clearly there's no directional running requirement here.

In Washington, DC, we stash the bags in the Club Acela (First Class lounge), and head off to ride the east end of the Metro Blue Line, which we had not covered before. By the time we get back, other NRHS folks that we know (Rosemary, Ken Brooks) are gathering in Club Acela. When the redcaps take us down to the platform to board the Crescent Limited, we see others we know down there, including Dave Ackerman, Mia Mather, and Tony White, who are all in our sleeper, and whom I greet on the platform during the locomotive change. Karol Lopatkiewicz is also on the train, as is John Bawden, whom we see when we go to the diner, and Terry Wells, as well as some folks in the coaches. Dave is checking up on the folks listed as traveling onward on the bus from Atlanta to Chattanooga.


P42           188
P42            82
Baggage      1712
Sleeper        62000    American View
Sleeper        62048    Wayside View
Diner            8552
Lounge        28013
Coach          25089
Coach           25068
Coach           25102
 Coach          25062

Train 19, 8-19-2007



Washington, DC

 6:30 pm

6:30 pm
Alexandria, VA 6:49 6:47-50
Manassas 7:22 7:22
Culpeper 7:55 7:55
Charlottesville 8:52 8:45-53
Gainesville, GA 6:56 am 6:57 am
Atlanta 8:13 7:51

Crescent Limited Route Description

Leaving Washington to the south, we pass the VRE station at L'Enfant Plaza, where VRE and CSX have recently (August 10-12) added a new third track to the station. Rob Mesite boards the train at Alexandria, and also has a room in our car. Unlike most of the others, we don't rush off to the diner on leaving Union Station, but take the next sitting an hour or so later (so I can capture some route description details while its still light), getting to bed after leaving Charlottesville. In talking with John Bawden, we learn that he had not gone to New Philadelphia (we had commented on missing him there) because he likes to do other sightseeing while in the area of a Convention, and thought there was nothing there to see!

Monday, August 20th, 2007

I awake in Gainesville, and capture the route description details thence to Atlanta, while Chris goes to breakfast and then brings me a bagel from the lounge before the train arrives in Atlanta (early, due to the padding in the schedule).

The NRHS Convention (8/20-8/26)

Monday, August 20th, 2007 (cont.)

Wallace Henderson (in charge of busses for the Convention) is there to greet us, with the Convention bus parked outside. It takes quite awhile to get the checked baggage for the three of us who have such, meaning the bus is unable to leave until 8:45 am. There are 24 people on the bus, some of whom did not arrive on the train (but two of the folks from the train have headed to the airport to pick up a rental car). With all the luggage finally acquired and stowed under the bus, we depart, heading south on Peachtree Street and then north on I-75, passing beneath the western end of the platforms at the station we had just left.

Along the way, we stop for a short break at a gas station/restaurant with which the bus driver has an arrangement, turn west onto I-24, and get to the Chattanooga Choo-Choo, Convention headquarters hotel, at 11 am. Here we check-in with the hotel, and get our room (immediately!), and then go to the NRHS registration room, where we get our tickets from Cynthia (Cindy) McKinley and then sign waivers before getting badges from Joe and Lisa Williams. We also sign up for a banquet table. In the room, we find that the coffee maker will also make hot water for tea, so we (along with Lisa Williams) go to a tea shop across the street outside to buy tea. There's no public transport to get us to the Lookout Mountain Incline, so we just stay around the hotel, running into Jim Compton in the restaurant, and also, at various times, Wes Ross, Alex Mayes and Teresa Renner, Braley and Dianne Pastorino, and Lester Collins. Chris volunteers some time in the registration room, seeing Bob and Diane Heavenrich. Chris and I have dinner in the "Dinner in the Diner" restaurant, which is excellent.

Tuesday, August 21st, 2007

The first full day of the convention is the first of two days spent on the former L&N Hook & Eye line, running through southeastern Tennessee and North Georgia. This requires a bus ride from the Choo-Choo, east in I-24, I-75, US 64 and US 411 north almost to Etowah, TN, turning east on a side road to the Tennessee Valley Railway Museum's loading point for its Hiwassee Loop trips. The temperature is already in the mid 90s, so the eight buses unload two at a time, and the passengers form two lines (one for coach, one for 'premier') at the grade crossing used for loading the train. We're in premier class, and head for the chair car at the rear of the train, one of two allocated to this class. Among the people we see and greet at this point are Donald Bishop and Nina Lawford-Juviler, whom we had missed at the last two Board Meetings (he's also on the board), and Jean Wright, who sits across from us. Later, we also run into Bob Brewster, who's also back in our car.

Although this trip starts out in TVRM excursion territory, the train is a variant of the Blue Ridge Scenic excursion train used further south on today's run to Blue Ridge, GA.

Loco    TVRM 710    (to Copperhill only)
Loco    TVRM 2391    (to Copperhill only)
Loco     GNRR 7562 (Georgia Northeastern Railroad)    "GP 10", rebuilt from PRR 7098
Loco    GNRR 8704 (Georgia Northeastern Railroad)
Coach    SMRX 642 (Southeastern Railway Museum)
Coach    TV 661
Coach    WATX 500 Clinchfield
Open        2929                                                          (ex-LIRR commuter coach)
Open        2975                                                           (ex-LIRR commuter coach)
Coach        150                                                            (ex-Lackawanna MU car)
Coach    972332                                                          (L&N "Jim Crow" car, via Amtrak & CSX)
Concession    SMRX 206 (Southeastern Railway Museum)    (ex-NP baggage car)
Coach        549                                                            (ex-ATSF, PC, NJT, Greensboro Chapter)
Concession    BAR 114                                                (ex-CN)
Chair        105                                                          (ex-FEC, CN as 10-6, coach conversion CN)
Chair        106    (painted Bangor & Aroostook)     (ex-FEC, CN as 10-6, coach conversion CN)

Etowah to Blue Ridge Route Description

We start away at 9:45 am, and do a photo runby at MP 360 from 11:00 to 11:21 am. The two TVRM locomotives (and their crew) are removed at Copperhill between 12:50 and 1:06 pm. A Blue Ridge Scenic crew takes over. There is another photo runby at Murphy Junction from 1:55 to 2:26 pm. The train arrives in Blue Ride at 2:35 pm, although the weather is too hot for either sightseeing or shopping, and the buses leave for Chattanooga at 3:30 pm, running north on GA SR6 and then west on US 64 through the scenic Ocoee Gorge to pick up the outbound route via US 64, I-75 and I-24 back to the Choo-Choo. Later, we have dinner with Joe and Lisa at a Texas Steak House on the east side of Missionary Ridge.

Wednesday, August 22nd, 2007

On Wednesday, we have to return to Blue Ridge, to pick up the train where we left it on Tuesday. The buses take the same route out that they took back on Tuesday, and we're on the train, ready to start, by 10 am. The train departs at 10:08 am, heading south. The consist is the same as on Tuesday, south of Copperhill. Seated behind us in the rear car, today, is Don Lewis, from Dixon, IL, a correspondent for the revived Passenger Train Journal. The Blue Ridge Scenic describes the histories of its cars both on plaques in the cars and in their guide book, but apparently some of their histories are wrong!

Blue Ridge to Tate Route Description

From 11:39 am to 12:15 pm, we have a photo runby at Ellijay, after which we make a stop to load lunches. There is another runby starting at 1:17 pm, just north of Whitestone, at which Tom Nemeth, publisher of Railpace, is sounding off in the photo line near me. We arrive in Tate at 3:28 pm, the buses leave at 3:45 pm, taking GA SR 53 north and then west to I-75, and thence to I-24, and we're back at the Choo-Choo at 5:35 pm.

Again, we eat dinner with Joe and Lisa Williams, and this time George Rees, who had been our bus host earlier in the day. Southern efficiency in the restaurant means that we're late for the At-Large Members meeting, which is in full swing when we get there. Greg Molloy is speaking, and introduces the person (whose name I don't recall and didn't write down) who has volunteered to help with attracting younger members to NRHS. He and I chat for awhile after the meeting, and we give him my e-mail address, but I haven't yet heard from him.

Thursday, August 23rd, 2007

Today's activities are split between an excursion on the former Tennessee, Alabama & Gerogia (TAG), and a visit to the Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum, with the complication of an evening dinner cruise on the Tennessee River. The crowd has been split into two groups, some doing TAG in the morning and TVRM in the afternoon, while others are doing the reverse. We are doing the TAG in the morning and TVRM in the afternoon, to leave time before departing for the dinner cruise, while the Heavenriches, for example, have chosen TVRM in the morning while the weather is still relatively cool. The timings in the brochure underestimated the time it will take to cover the remaining TAG line, and we already have revised timings taking 90 minutes longer and squeezing the time available for lunch for those doing TAG in the afternoon.

Then, the train doesn't show up at the Choo-Choo boarding area until almost 8 am (7:50 am, versus a revised 7:30 am departure), and things get later from there. We manage to depart at 7:58 am.

GP7L      TVRM 1829
RDC    TVRM 922    (ex-B&O/MARC)
Coach    TVRM 907    (former CofG Nancy Hanks II car)
|RDC    TVRM 920    (ex-B&O/MARC)

The promised train had been all RDC, but since the only toilets working in the train are in the coach, its presence seems advised!

TAG Line Route Description

We have difficulty getting out of town (this involves running on the NS main line for a segment, with a number of junctions and crossings), with five separate brief stops before we get out onto the former TAG line. There is a photo runby at High Point between 9:25 and 9:52 am (during which I introduce myself to Jim Lilly, NRHS Webmaster), after which Wes Ross (sitting in front of us) is getting concerned about the timing of this train and of its sister afternoon run, with the needed connection to the dinner cruise bus departures. Just after 10 am, we stop and then crawl for awhile because a horse is on the right of way.

It takes from 10:33 to 11:10 to reverse the train at Kensington, after which Wes can get no signal on any cell phone he tries. At 11:52-55, we're delayed by the same horse on the track at the same spot, and we're back at the Choo-Choo at 1pm, the time the second group should be departing on this train (but the crew wants a lunch break!). In the meantime, Wes has been in touch with Naomi Fisher, who has delayed the departure time of the dinner cruise. We've been told that we can just grab lunch and eat it on the bus over to TVRM for the afternoon's activities, but no-one has cleared this with the bus company, and the driver of bus 2 throws a fit when people appear with cups of soda that they're carrying onto his bus. (Apparently, the reason such buses no longer have drop-down tables is that they now 'discourage' riders from bringing drinks onto the bus!) We tell him to discuss this with Wes Ross, whom we point out to him.

TVRM has two locations–a museum at 'Grand Junction', where the NMRA Headquarters is also located, and a workshop at East Chattanooga, with a short train excursion between them. Half the afternoon group (two buses) goes to the former, and half to the latter, with each group taking the train to the other location so that we can all visit both places. The temperature is now in the 100s (F), up from the morning's 90s, so some of us spend as much time as possible in the air-conditioned depot at the museum, and the air-conditioned coaches on the train between museum and workshop. Others of us brave the heat to take photographs at both places.

USA 2-8-0                    610
Open-window Coach  1000 
Air-conditioned Coach 1037  (painted for Southern) (ex-Pullman sleeper, conversion by SR)
Open-window Coach   906                                           (ex CofG Nancy Hanks II "Jim Crow" car)

The Tennessee Valley Railroad Museum runs on a segment of track built by the East Tennessee & Georgia, later part of the Southern Railway, that was rendered surplus when SR built what became De Butts Yard, in 1954. The museum took over this line, including the extant Whiteside tunnel through Missionary Ridge, in 1971, needing only to replace a demolished viaduct at Tunnel Boulevard. The museum's workshops are in East Chattanooga, with the displayed rolling stock at Grand Junction, some three miles further east. The museum's line runs between those two locations.

At East Chattanooga (MP 0.0), there are two tracks reaching southwest to the turntable, two 'display tracks' reaching south-southwest, east of the turntable, and four tracks entering the workshop building east of those 'display tracks'. The East Chattanooga depot is on the northwest side of the northernmost track, having a wooden platform and umbrella shed. The line reduces to single track northeast of the depot, and turns east, past the handthrow switch at East Chattanooga Beltline Junction (MP 0.1) and bridges over Arno Street (MP 0.2), with speed limit increasing from 15 mph to 20 mph at MP 0.3, edging east-southeast to pass through  986 ft. Missionary Ridge tunnel (MP 0.6 -MP 0.78).

The line curves northeast, through the woods, across the Tunnel Boulevard Bridge (MP 1.5), turning east-northeast past the Allied Metals Switch (MP 2.10, with the spur track from Allied metals on the north side of the line, bridging over the two track CSX line at CSX Bridge (MP 2.250, past the south-side siding at McCarty (MP 2.3-MP 2.45), where the CSX Tyner Spur comes alongside to the north, bridging over Chickamauga Creek  (MP 2.5), with the speed limit reducing to 15 mph at MP 2.7, past the switch to the four display tracks on the south side at MP 2.75, to West Wye switch at MP 2.8.

The 10 mph wye is on the south side of the line, with the wye lead extending south across the driveway and past the NMRA headquarters. The main line continues straight, speed limit 15 mph, with the Grand Junction depot on the south side of the line (within the wye), past the switch with the east leg of the wye  (MP 2.95) to the connection with the double-track NS line, which is now alongside to the north, at MP 3.15.

TVRM locomotives:
SR 2-8-2           4501
K&T 2-8-2            10
CN 4-6-2          5288
SR 2-8-0             630
USA 2-8-0          610
USA 2-8-0          611
CofG 4-4-0         349
SR E-8                6914
GP7L        1824 & 1829
RSD1        8669 & 8677
CofG RS3          109

At the workshop, many of us watch 610 being turned on the turntable. Former Southern 2-8-2 4501, of Steam Program fame, is in the workshop building, cosmetically restored, and I take to time to go take a good look (my first) at her. Then, I retreat to the train, and to the depot at Grand Junction, awaiting the departure of the bus back to the Choo-Choo. I have a chance to chat with Judy Decker, and then with Ken and Ann Miller, along with Dan Meyer (one of the bus hosts). At 5:15 pm, the bus takes us back to the Choo-Choo, where we have some time until the retimed bus to the dinner cruise leaves.

The dinner cruise is not worth the effort. The food is acceptable, but not great, but the vast majority of the dining seats have no view, and no-one goes out onto the deck until after dark, so there's no real way to see the sights along the river for most of the evening. The operator thinks that all rail enthusiasts must also be fans of railroad songs sung in twangy country style (amplified), so we're all subject to that all evening long. We do enjoy the conversation with Nina Lawford-Juviler, sitting next to me at the table, however. (We can't converse with Donald Bishop, next to her, because of the ambient sound levels.) When we do get out on the deck, the crew is trying to stack the evenings trash where the passengers want to stand, a most deplorable activity.

Friday, August 24th, 2007

There are no excursions, today, as if often the case on 'meetings day'. Rather, we have the Board Meeting at 1 pm, with the Annual Membership Meeting to follow, and then the Banquet this evening.

The Board Meeting is supposed to last until 3:30 pm, but it includes the very contentious issue of a 50% dues increase. I anticipate that this will extend the meeting, but the pace of the meeting gets well off schedule (including a speech in support of the dues increase by Webmaster Jim Lilly during his report), with the time for the General Membership Meeting being reached before the Board Meeting has even addressed the dues issue. For the latter, John Fiorillo takes the chair, with Joe Williams assisting, so that Greg Molloy and Barry Smith can speak as proponents of the increase. Some (mostly large) Chapters have instructed their National Directors to vote against the increase, no matter their personal opinions on the subject, and some have intimated that they will withdraw from the society if the dues increase goes through. (Greg has already invited those chapters' representatives to leave prior to the vote!)

Eventually, after an incident where a member coming for the general meeting tries to speak on the issue before the Board (out of order, rules John Fiorillo), everything comes down to a roll-call vote on whether to shut off debate (which goes in favor of the shutoff), followed by a tabulated vote on the increase itself (which passes by over 2-to-1 of the weighted votes, with those large chapters all voting against). A few more Agenda Items on the later, the Board Meeting ends at 6:15 pm, with the general Meeting still to go! (Reportedly, the latter took only ten minutes to accomplish!)

At the Banquet, our table includes Doug White (National Secretary), Bob Joyce, Paul Stevens and his wife (Paul is a railroader, who started with the M-K-T and is now with UP in San Antonio, working on the Sunset Route between Flatonia and El Paso), and two others, including the member who tried to speak on the dues issue and was ruled out of order (and who displays his resentment of this). The food is much better than that on the dinner cruise, and the entertainment (a speech by NS CEO Wick Moorman) is worlds away! We even get to bed at a reasonable hour.

Saturday, August 25th, 2007

The Saturday steam excursion on the Summerville line, operated by TVRM, departs from the same track on the north side of the Choo-Choo that Thursday's TAG excursions left from. Carl Jensen says that Terminal Station's coach yards once occupied the area just north of this track, now occupied by commercial facilities. Our seats are in Pullman Clover Colony, a car of the same vintage and style (but not interior layout) as Kitchi Gammi Club. The ticket sales folks appear to have sold more than a pair of tickets for each Section in this car, so Dave Ackerman joins us for the day.

USA 2-8-0            610
GP7L                 1829
Open Coach      1000
Coach                 907                                           (ex CofG Nancy Hanks II "Jim Crow" car)
Coach                 906                                           (ex CofG Nancy Hanks II "Jim Crow" car)
Commissary          50    'Emporium'                    (ex-US Army)
RDC                       22                                           (ex-B&O/MARC)
Coach                3203
RDC                       20                                           (ex-B&O/MARC)
Coach                1037  (painted for Southern) (ex-Pullman sleeper, conversion by SR)
Diner                  3158    'Traveler's Fare'            (ex-SR)
Pullman            Clover Colony                            (ex-Pullman 8 section, 5 compartment)
Business Car      Eden Isle                                    (ex-B&O)

Summerville Line Route Description

The train departs at 7:56 am, and stops momentarily between 8:03 and 8:04 am before heading south down the former Central Of Georgia line. There's a photo runby between 9:07 and 9:50 am at the Chickamauga Oakwood Baptist Church, and another from 10:13 to 10:59 am at Murphy Oil, still in Chickamauga. After lunch, there's a runby from 12:55 to 1:24 pm at Trion, followed by a layover at Summerville from 1:49 to 4:10 pm, during which the locomotive is turned on the turntable and then serviced alongside the train.

On the way back, there's a runby at Rock Springs from 6:10 to 6:38 pm, and after a momentary stop at 23rd Street in Chattanooga, the train returns to the Choo-Choo at 8:25 pm, directly down the south leg of the wye, after crossing all the double slip switches. We've been eating snacks all day, so dinner is a pizza from the 'Pizza in the Diner' car at the Choo-Choo.

Sunday, August 26th, 2007

We've arranged for a 1 pm checkout time, to coincide with the bus departure, and eat a leisurely breakfast earlier. After checking out, Chris sees the NRHS budget folks at lunch (they have a two-day budget meeting, now that the dues increase is settled). The bus, with the same driver as last Monday, heads south the same way we had come north, and stops at the same set of restaurants with which the driver has an arrangement. The sunny day in Chattanooga turns into heavy thunderstorms by the time we get to Atlanta, where we check the bags for Monday's train while the rest of the folks get ready for their departure northward this evening, some four hours after the bus arrives.

The Journey West (8/26-9/1)

Sunday, August 26th, 2007 (cont.)

We have Amtrak call us a taxi to take us to our hotel on Peachtree Street in midtown, and then, since the rain is too heavy for us to want to walk to a MARTA station, we settle down in the room instead. I read some more of Parker lamb's book Perfection of the American Steam Locomotive, and we later eat dinner in the hotel.

Monday, August 27th, 2007

We take a taxi back to the station in plenty of time for our westbound train (which is on time this morning, as it had been a week earlier). Redcap assistance with the bags gets us down on the platform in plenty of time for me to collect the consist before departure. Once our tickets have been taken, we go directly to breakfast in the diner just behind our sleeper.


P42            46
P42            72
Baggage    1701
Sleeper    62029    Palm View
Sleeper    62024    National View
Diner        8502
Cafe        28010
Coach      25110
Coach      25041
Coach      25119
Coach      25005   

Train 19, 8-26-2007





Atlanta                              ET 8:13/36 am 7:50/8:37 am
Anniston, AL                    CT 10:00 10:23-25
Birmingham 11:44 am
12:02 pm
12:35 pm
Tuscaloosa 1:11 1:49-51
Meridian, MS 2:50 3:52-58
Laurel 3:47 5:07
Hattiesburg 4:19 5:37-40
Picayune 5:21 6:45
Slidell 5:44 7:11
New Orleans, LA 7:23 8:10

As usual, this train is half empty west of Atlanta (and gets emptier as the day goes on). It gets late soon after departure, when it stops from 8:42 to 9:08 am, east of Howell Interlocking (a mile or two west of the station) to wait for CSX traffic to clear. (CSX controls the interlocking.) From 11:21 to 11:51 am, the train stops in the middle of Leeds, AL, due to CTC failure. (This one can be laid at the door of NS.) we eat lunch soon after leaving Birmingham, AL. From 1:58 to 2:09 pm, the train waits at the west end of Tuscaloosa siding to meet Amtrak train 20, which is later than we are.

Just after 3:30 pm, we run over a tree branch on the track, and immediately afterwards pass a dragging equipment detector, which gives us alarms under the locomotive. At the same time, we heard strange noises under our sleeping car. We stop from 3:33 to 3:39 pm to remove residual tree parts and check to make sure nothing on the train is damaged. From 4:15 to 4:26 pm, we stop at Basic, and then crawl through the siding meeting an opposing train. We see a LORAM rail grinding train in a siding just north of Hattiesburg station.

The residential areas of New Orleans near the north end of the Industrial Canal seem to have been reoccupied, a change from when we passed by in early July, 2006. As usual, the train pulls down a southward track west of the locomotive facilities near New Orleans Union Passenger Terminal, and then reverses around the southeast leg of a wye into the station. We take a taxi to our hotel in the French Quarter, and have dinner at a nearby seafood restaurant before retiring for the night.

Tuesday, August 28th, 2007

This layover day is entirely due to Amtrak's three-days-a-week schedule on the Sunset Limited, not our desire to be tourists in New Orleans, but we do take the opportunity to ride the Canal Street streetcar lines that we haven't ridden before. There are two destinations of the streetcars heading northwest on Canal Street—the Cemeteries, and City Park. There are currently seven of the Perley-Thomas streetcars operating on these lines, which permits a service of four cars an hour to the cemeteries, and two to City Park. Nominally, this means a car every ten minutes on the southeasterly portion of Canal Street, with uneven service further northwest.

We're out on Canal Street, adjacent to the French Quarter, by 10:15 am, and board a car heading for the cemeteries. At the latter, we take the same car back to the Carrollton Boulevard intersection, where we transfer (after a 25-minute wait) to a car headed for City Park, and then ride that car to the park and back all the way to the foot of Canal Street. We have lunch at a restaurant on Calle Real, and then return to the hotel for the afternoon. After dark, we have dinner at a restaurant on Bourbon Street, after rejecting the prices displayed outside Arnaud's on the intervening street.

Wednesday, August 29th, 2007

We have breakfast in the hotel before taking a taxi over to the station around 11 am, checking in at the Amtrak ticket counter and repairing to the room used as a First-Class lounge at this station. We're invited to board the train around 11:30 am, and I collect the consist as we walk down the train, before boarding our sleeper.


P42            167
P42                1
Baggage    1708
Dorm        39006
Sleeper      32077    District of Columbia
Diner          38008
Lounge      33006
Coach        34061
Coach        34105
Coach        34099                       )these two cars added
Sleeper      32071    Arizona       )in San Antonio

Train 1, 8-29-2007



New Orleans 11:55 am 11:54 am
Schriever 1:25 pm 3:19-8:03 pm
Lake Charles 4:59 pm 6:13-21 am
Beaumont, TX 6:43 pm 7:30-39 am
Houston 9:15 pm
9:50 pm
10:41 am
10:49 am
San Antonio 3:00 am
5:40 am
3:28 pm
4:06 pm
Del Rio                       CT 8:35 am 9:21-32 pm
El Paso                      MT 5:10 pm
5:55 pm
5:44 am
6:08 am
Deming, NM 7:26 pm 7:31 am
Lordsburg                 MT 8:21 pm 8:21 am
Benson, AZ                PT 9:35 pm 9:11 am
Tucson 11:20 pm
11:55 pm
10:14 am
10:47 am
Maricopa 1:22 am
1:32 am
12:06 pm
12:16 pm
Yuma 4:19 am 6:24-36 pm
Palm Springs, CA 6:37 am 11:15 pm
12:57 am
Ontario 8:05 am 5:02-06 am
Pomona 8:15 am 5:21-23 am
Los Angeles 10:10 am 6:11 am

Sunset Limited Route Description

I make detailed route description notes on the line between New Orleans and the end of CTC west of Avondale Yard that we had traversed in darkness, in July, 2006. We meet a CSX manifest on the west ramp of the Huey Long Bridge, but since that's double track, it causes us no delay. We are, however, delayed 10 minutes before West Bridge Junction, and three more minutes at West Bridge Junction, and then 53 minutes at the west end of CTC (and double track) at Live Oak, waiting for a freight to clear. At MP 36, we stop for 15 minutes to await further authority from the dispatcher. These delays all mean nothing, however, since at MP 64.64, there is a leak in a gas pipeline, that must be repaired before we can pass. Thus, we wait out the leak at the (minimal) station at Schriever, where we sit for 4 hours and 44 minutes, extending across dinner time until after darkness has fallen.

Within 20 minutes of resuming our journey, a woman in the lower level of one of the coaches collapses, and we stop in the siding at Berwick from 8:42 until 11:01 pm, for first the paramedics, and then the coroner (since the woman has died) to arrive and do their work. Once the body has been taken away, we resume our journey. (I'm long since in bed, and have been asleep during the latter delay.)

Thursday, August 30th, 2007

I awake as we make a station stop, not long after dawn. The station is on the south side of the line, but since the surroundings are not Houston this must be . . . Lake Charles, LA, which means we're over 13 hours late! Conversation with the crew turns up a broken rail, somewhere west of Iowa Junction (which makes it a Union Pacific responsibility). Well, this means that I can get detailed route descriptions on the area we would normally pass in darkness! In fact, we're on a segment right now that I didn't get in detail because it was lunchtime when we passed in July, 2006, but I don't get dressed fast enough to capture much of it. I do get the westbound-only segment from Beaumont to Houston (the former SP line), however, along with the segment from the Colorado River (east of Flatonia), through San Antonio, until darkness falls east of Del Rio.

A couple of times we 'regain' time (due to the padding in the schedule), and then promptly lose it again (due to UP freight activity). We have breakfast along the Sabine River between Orange and Beaumont, TX, lunch west of Houston, and dinner in the darkness, east of Del Rio.

More specifically, the train stops twice, for a total delay of 20 minutes, between Lake Charles ad Beaumont, three times for a total delay of 18 minutes before we get to the split of the ex-SP line and ex-MP line west of Beaumont (at which we take the directional ex-SP line), takes 11 minutes cover a long slow order at Deyers (after which there are many 25 mph and 40 mph slow orders between Deyers and Houston), eleven minutes at the west end of a siding just east of Dawes, several minutes flagging red signal at Dawes, and various stops for a total of eight minutes (plus the loss due to slow running) between Settegast Junction and Tower 108.

However, there is much padding in the schedule into Houston, and the train shaves the stop there to only nine minutes, resulting in it being only 13 hours late out of Houston. It loses a little more time due to a four minute stop at MP 365.5, still in the Houston area, and then much more time approaching San Antonio, including a five minute stop at the west end of Randolph siding, eight minutes at MP 199 for a crew change (that should have taken place at San Antonio), a two minute stop to copy a 10 mph slow order, a fifteen minute stop on the on-line fuel rack at Kirby (to refuel the locomotives), and a two minute stop south of the San Antonio station, before reversing to connect with the connecting cars already sitting there.

Schedule padding also makes us seem to reduce the lateness at San Antonio ( to only 10 hours and 25 minutes on departure from there), but we promptly begin losing more time again, following a 40 mph freight that had passed us during the time in the station, stopping for sixteen minutes in MacDona to meet an opposing freight, flagging the signal at the east end of Dunlavy to follow the freight ahead into the same siding, waiting 21 minutes there for two opposing freights to clear, finally overtaking the westbound freight at the next siding, and meeting an eastbound UP freight and an eastbound BNSF freight at the sidings beyond that. Then, we wait 26 minutes at a siding to meet Amtrak train 2, and sixteen more minutes at another siding to meet an eastbound UP freight, before reaching Del Rio, making us again 13 hours late leaving Del Rio!

Friday, August 31st, 2007

I awake in time to note the time at El Paso, and then get up after we've crossed the Rio Grande into New Mexico. We have breakfast between Lordsburg and Deming, lunch while sitting in the siding at Maricopa, and dinner leaving Yuma. We're just twelve hours late leaving El Paso, less than eleven hours late leaving Tucson, and apparently less than eleven hours late leaving Maricopa. The latter is a misperception, however, since we have to change crews in Maricopa, and in spite of our 'departure' at 12:16 pm, our crew isn't even on duty, in Phoenix (35 miles to the north by road) until 1 pm! So, we pull west of the station and siding, and then back into the siding to wait for our crew to arrive. Several eastbound UP freights, and one westbound, pass us while we wait. Our new crew is on board by 2:05 pm, but we don't depart westward until 2:31 pm, back to 13 hours late! This one (2 hrs and 15 minutes additional delay) is entirely attributable to Amtrak.

We have one five-minute stop along the way, to meet an opposing freight, even though we meet eleven eastbounds and overtake two westbounds (which entails some 40 mph running in each case) along the way. Eventually, however, we catch up to the tail end of a string of westbounds changing crews, and waiting to change crews, in Yuma, leading to another half hour or so of delay approaching Yuma, where we're now over 14 hours late on departure.

Our on-board crew has been commenting on what could happen west of Yuma, and they seem to be right. We have a 22-minute stop, a nine-minute stop, and a twenty-minute stop along the way, before meeting Amtrak train 2 at Niland. We then have a couple of momentary stops, followed by a 34-minute stop east of Indio. We finally make the passenger stop at Palm Springs at 11:15 pm, 16 hours and 40 minutes late. But wait! Our crew has told the Dispatcher that our "train inspection" expires at midnight, and so they must inspect the train at Palm Springs, supposedly a 45-minute task. However, their hours of service will expire at 1 am, so we wait at Palm Springs for the new crew to arrive, finally departing at 12:57 am on September 1st. (The extra 90 minutes delay is also attributable to Amtrak.) Meanwhile, we've put down the beds (but not the bedding), and are getting some rest and/or sleep.

Saturday, September 1st, 2007

Sometime during the night, I awake when we're stopped just west of Ordway, in San Timoteo Canyon. After and eastbound double-stack goes by, we cross over and overtake the line of freights waiting to enter West Colton Yard. It's now after 4 am. The stops at Ontario and Pomona are brief, and we take the I-10 median (Metrolink) route into Los Angeles, finally arriving twenty hours late!

Happily for us, its now daylight, so after reclaiming the checked bags, we have a quick traffic-free drive directly north on the Hollywood Freeway to the Golden State Freeway to the Antelope Valley Freeway, making our usual stop at McDonald's in Acton at about 7:30 am, and getting home at 8:45 am. Everything, and everyone, at home appears to be just fine.