Chicago Fall Board Meeting,
October 26 -November 4, 2008

Don Winter


This trip was to attend the 2008 NRHS Fall Board Meeting in Chicago. As usual, we traveled out and back on Amtrak.

The Journey East (10/26-10/28)

Sunday, October 26th, 2008

After photographing the Tehachapi detours of Amtrak 14 (with Greg Molloy aboard, at 1:05 pm) and Amtrak 11 (at 2:25 pm), we leave to drive down to Los Angeles. This being a Sunday, with little traffic we head directly in to LA, using the Hollywood Freeway, and get to Union Station around 4:30 pm (including the usual stop at Acton). We check the large suitcase to Chicago, check in with Amtrak Station Services, and then sit in the north patio with our coffee and soda until its time to go and get the other bags from the car, just before 6 pm. We head directly to the platform at just about the time the train is called within the station. After getting to our room, I walk the train to collect the consist before departure.


P42            1
P42            107
Baggae        1260
"Dorm"        32043
Sleeper        32012
Sleeper        32077
Diner           38061
Lounge        33033
Coach         34065
Coach          34022
Private        800116    Louis Sockalexis    (to Winslow)

Train 4, 10-26-2008



Los Angeles

 6:45 pm

6:45 pm


7:20 7:22-35


8:03 8:07-11

San Bernardino

8:29 8:31-37

Victorville                            PT

9:40 9:36-40



Gallup, NM                         MT

8:51 am 9:11 am


12:12 pm
11:27 am
12:55 pm


2:03 2:03-07

Las Vegas, NM

3:45 4:01


5:32 5:42-45

Trinidad, CO

6:31 6:44

La Junta                               MT




Kansas City, MO              CT

7:15 am
7:47 am

La Plata

9:17 10:15-19

Ft. Madison, IA

11:11 11:30-37

Galesburg, IL

12:10 pm 1:03-06 pm


1:00 1:56


1:21 2:16


2:44 3:05-07


3:20 3:55

Southwest Chief Route Description

Darkness has fallen by the time we leave. Our dinner reservation is shortly after departure from Fullerton, and we go to bed as the train climbs Cajon Pass, where the third Main Track has now been completed and is in use.

Monday, October 27th, 2008

I awake as the train departs Winslow, and we scramble to get into the diner for breakfast before the time zone change at the New Mexico border. The colored cliffs to the north of the line are quite spectacular in the lower autumn sun, this trip. As usual, we're into Albuquerque early, eating lunch while we're there (earlier than I had wanted),  and leaving on time. North of Bernalillo, the RailRunner construction gangs are building two new sidings on the west side, and then the new line to Santa Fe diverges to the north, with the track already complete at this point. We meet Train 3 at Fox a bit further east than usual, but still before turning north at Ribera. Dinner is between Trinidad and La Junta, with bed east of Lamar. The jointed track east of Animas Junction seems rougher than usual, tonight.

Tuesday, October 28th, 2008

I awake as the train makes the stop on the fuel rack at Argentine Yard, and we arise during the inspection stop at Kansas City. The weather is much colder here than it had been in New Mexico, the day before (40s, F., as the day's high, compared to 70s, F.), and a crisp fog lingers in the bottoms along the river until a couple of hours after local sunrise. We eat breakfast passing the Missouri River bridge at Sibley and the NS join triple track beyond, and lunch just after the Mississippi River crossing at Fort Madison. At Galesburg, we take the long way around, to the south and then east of the major freight yard, past Waterman.

In Chicago, over half an hour late, Chris reclaims the checked suitcase while I collect the current timetables for the routes we want to ride in the next two days. We then head, on foot, the two-plus city blocks south on Clinton Street (west side of the station's great hall), and down the stairs (ugh!) to the small ticket hall, where we're helped to buy and use a single ticket (we have no dollar bills, but a five works this way) for two $2 fares on the Blue Line. We don't yet know the (favorable) local arrangements at the Cumberland Blue Line station, so we ride out to O-Hare, and take the hotel's free shuttle from there with level transitions everywhere.

Later, we eat dinner in the hotel's restaurant, since there seem to be no alternatives nearby.

In Chicago (10/29-11/02)

Wednesday, October 29th, 2008

I'm not sure how long the Blue Line will take to get us to Union Station, this morning, so with an 8:15 am departure from the South Concourse, we arise at 5:30 am and head out, in the pre-dawn darkness, to the Cumberland station, which proves to have only a short walk and an elevator to get us to the bridge over to the station, where we top-up the one ticket and buy another before boarding the train for the city center. Darkness prevails the whole way to the subway section in the city center, and for the walk between stations.

Arriving in the South Lounge, I can estimate our timing for the first time, and we're somewhere between 30 and 45 minutes early for the start of boarding for Business Class passengers. When the time comes, we're held in the lounge (but after check-in) until the flow of commuters from two south-side Metra trains has passed. This reduces the boarding time by about ten minutes, meaning I can't walk the train before departure. The Business Class car is right behind the locomotive, which is nearest the station since this train backs out before reversing onto the St. Charles Air Line.


P42            139
Cafe        48177
Coach      54546
Coach      54536
Coach      54574

Trains 391/392, 10-29-2008





Chicago 8:15 am 8:14 am 10:45 pm 11:00 pm
Homewood 8:56 9:18-20 9:27 10:10-12
Kankakee 9:22 9:59 9:00 9:21
Gilman 9:44 10:20 8:38 8:59
Rantoul 10:10 10:48 8:12 8:33
Champaign-Urbana 10:25 11:01-04 7:59 8:16-19
Mattoon 11:05 11:52 7:16 7:18
Effingham 11:29 12:18 6:52 6:52-54
Centralia 12:16 pm 1:13 6:08 6:07-09
Du Quoin 12:49 2:54-56 5:36 5:36
Carbondale 1:45 3:17 5:15 pm 5:15 pm

Saluki/Illini Route Description

The two women seated in front of us work for a Chicago bank, and are headed to Carbondale for a business meeting with a prospective customer. They will be returning with us this evening. They spend the morning and early afternoon on the 'phone, and preparing their presentation on a laptop.

The sun is up by the time the train emerges from the underground part of the station, and I have no trouble taking route-description notes from the start of the St. Charles Air Line. We have a lengthy delay (26 minutes) at the 16th Street Tower (flat crossing with the Rock Island Metra line to/from Las Salle Street station), with our portion of the trains topped on the bridge over the Chicago River, with a glorious view of the south end of downtown, and then meet the City of New Orleans on the Air Line. Further south, after several minutes additional loss due to freight train meets on the single track, this delay is compounded by a freight train on the single track section south of Centralia tripping a hotbox, with a coal train between us and that train. We sit on the double track in Centralia for a long time (over 40 minutes), and then run very slowly behind the loaded coal train (a BNSF train from the Powder River, heading for the barge port on the Ohio River just east of Cairo), and eventually get to Carbondale about 90 minutes late.

This rather cramps the style of the two businesswomen, but they tell us later that they do manage to get in their presentation and necessary discussion with the prospective customer before having to return to the station. Meanwhile, we walk around the run-down downtown area of Carbondale, consuming the much-shortened waiting time between the train's arrival and its return departure. On the way back, the light holds up as far as Centralia, which allows me to resolve the ambiguities in the route description that I had found during the morning's lengthy passage through the area (the main tracks split on either side of the yard and shop facilities, and can't always be seen from one another).

North of Champaign, we have an 18-minute delay waiting for an opposing freight, and then another twenty minutes, north of Kankakee, with a 5-minute delay at Union Avenue, exiting the Air Line. We get back to Union Station about 15 minutes late, at 11 pm, and then have to negotiate the late-evening ride on the CTA Blue Line out to Cumberland, with loud announcements about the Red Line subway not running and intending passengers having to go to Library station on the south leg of the El, getting to the hotel after midnight. We get to bed as soon as we reasonably can.

Thursday, October 30th, 2008

After a close perusal of the relevant timetables, and mindful of how later Wednesday's activity ended, I've decided not to try to do the Metra North Central line and the South Shore line on the same day. Accordingly, we sleep in until around 10 am this morning, and then head for the Blue Line, running into the arriving Helen and Smoke Shaak as they exit the elevator at that station on their way in to the hotel. We ride into town, in the broad daylight this time, getting off at Jackson, and exiting at the Adams Street end, turning west and heading one block to Elephant & Castle for lunch.

After lunch, we walk to Union Station, and buy round-trip tickets out on the Metra North Central Line to Antioch. At a little after 12:30 pm, we board this train in its platform on the north side of the station.

Trains 105/116, 10-30-2008





Chicago 1:00 pm 1:00 pm 4:35 4:33
Western Avenue - pass 1:08 4:24 4:22
River Grove 1:20 1:21 - pass 4:09
Belmont Ave. (Franklin Park) 1:24 1:25 4:08 4:07
Schiller Park 1:27 1:28 4:04 4:03
Rosemont 1:30 1:31 4:01 4:01
O'Hate Transfer 1:32 1:33 3:58 3:57
Prospect Heights 1:42 1:44 3:46 3:46
Wheeling 1:47 1:49 3:41 3:41
Buffalo Grove 1:51 1:53 3:37 3:37
Prairie View 1:55 1:56 3:33 3:33
Vernon Hills 1:58 1:59 3:30 3:30
Mundelein 3:04 3:06 3:24 3:24
Prairie Crossing 2:10 2:12 3:18 3:18
Grayslake (Washington St.) 2:16 2:24 3:13 3:13
Round Lake Beach 2:20 2:28 3:10 3:10
Lake Villa 2:24 2:32 3:06 3:06
Antioch 2:35 2:38 3:00 pm 3:00 pm

Metra North Central Route Description

We haven't ridden the line north from Franklin Park in ten years. Then, it was the Wisoncins Central, and was a slow single-track line with passing places, and a few spartan stations. Now, its the Canadian National, with much faster track, mostly double track (except where there are obstacles, such as complicated junctions or multiple flat crossings), with brick depots and double platforms at most stations. It also transpires that this is the only line whose radio transmitter we can hear from the hotel room!

The line north from Franklin Park passes a mile or two west of the hotel (but east of O-Hare Airport), but there's no easy way to get to either the Rosemont or O-Hare Transfer stations from the hotel. That's part of why I gave up on riding this line's morning outbound train. On the way out, we lose eight minutes waiting for two separate CN freights, so that we don't let passengers off with a train approaching on the other track.

We get back to Union Station just after 4:30 pm, and ride a fairly-crowded Blue Line train (standing room only, from Jackson to Logan Square) back out to Cumberland. Arriving at Cumberland, I notice that a crossover switch on the line lays in pieces between the rails, obviously in partial stages of refurbishment. (There are signs proclaiming the improvement work on this segment of the Blue Line at every station, and on the trains).

Returning to the hotel, we see many NRHS members talking in the lobby (Barry Smith, Al Weber, Ed Graham, Carl Jensen, and several others), and ascertain from Bob Ernst that there won't be a NRHS registration desk until 7 am on Friday morning. At dinner, we see a number of others (Dianne and Braley Pastorino, Bill Chapman), and spend some time chatting with Nina Lawford-Juviler and Don Bishop.

Friday, October 31st, 2008

This morning, we stop by the registration desk on the second floor, and then join the 22 other people on the bus heading for the Museum of Science and Industry at 9 am. The trip in to town on the Kennedy Expressway takes less time than anticipated, so at the museum we have to wait until 10 am for our guide, David Harrison, to appear. David is not only the expert on the rail areas of the museum, but also an expert on the history of the CTA, and will be our guide on Saturday's excursion. In the museum, we walk through the space area, visit the U-boat exhibit (a real U-boat, captured during WWII), and the visit the New York Central 999 steam locomotive and the Burlington Zephyr, which unfortunately is being refurbished so we can't go inside.  Then we visit the large model railroad, supported by BNSF, which comprises a stylized version of the BNSF "line" between Chicago and Seattle. (Somehow, it has both coal mines and Glacier Park on the same line, which doesn't match reality) The cityscapes for Chicago and Seattle are excellent. David also shows us the workshop used for maintaining the model railroad exhibit.

By the time we're done with all this, there's insufficient time to visit the coal mine exhibit before our bus will leave at 1 pm, so we visit the bookshop and have lunch in the food court with Bill Chapman and Doug White. At 1 pm, the bus takes us to the north side of downtown, location of the Chicago History Museum. There are two possible tour guides: the rail-oriented one has brought along his 'toys' for people to play with, so we choose the other guide, who gives us a good overview of the museum in the time available. There is a real steam locomotive in this museum, also: an old American-type (4-4-0) named 'Pioneer", from the Chicago and Galena Union, the first railroad in Chicago. (This is the oldest steam locomotive still extant from the area.) We also patronize the bookstore here.

Departing at 3:45 pm (it should have been 3:30 pm, but Nina didn't get the word), it takes almost an hour on crowded north-side streets (which are populated by children in Halloween costumes, even though the sky is still bright) to get back to the expressway, after which it takes only another half hour back to the hotel. Again, we eat at the hotel.

Saturday, November 1st, 2008

The first advertised plans for today said our CTA charter train would leave Cumberland at 9 am. However, the CTA track refurbishment project has closed down the line between Cumberland and Jefferson Park for the weekend, so our train will depart the latter at "9 am", and we must take the public shuttle bus over there before that time. The preferred time to leave the hotel seems to be 8:15 am, so we join the crowd (many more than 24 people today, with not only those who had attended the Regional Vice-Presidents' Meeting on Friday, but a number of others as well joining the group). On the platform, Jack Hilborn introduces us to his wife, who is attending her first NRHS meeting (at least since Jack has been on the Board) Our charter train shows up at 8:45 am, with David Harrison on board, and departs at 8:52 am.

Our train heads towards town on the Blue Line, down the center of the Kennedy expressway, and then through the subway section exiting the expressway through Belmont and Logan Square, emerging onto the original "Logan Square El." segment that runs above the ground, just to the south of Milwaukee Avenue. David points our some places where there had once been other "El." segments, before we get to the spot where the El once turned south to head for the 'Connector', west of downtown, and today's line (since the early 1950s) descends into the subway that will become the Dearborn Street subway through downtown. The line first runs below Milwaukee Avenue, then turns east under Lake Street (with the abandoned portals of what had been intended to be a flying junction with a subway connection to the Lake Street line visible at the turn), and south under Dearborn Street.

At the south end of the "Loop" area of downtown, the line turns west, and then, west of the Clinton station rises to the ground level, in the median of the Eisenhower (formerly Congress) expressway. As the line emerges, David points out the two unused tunnel portals to the north side, that were intended for a subway for the terminal segment of the Chicago, Aurora and Elgin interurban, which once used the Congress Street line (the "el"  that once ran above the line we're now running on) to reach its city terminal at Wells Street. That line was abandoned before the subway opened, and never made use of the tunnels intended for it.

Two stations west, where the Douglas Line trains had, until 2006, left the Blue Line to the west, we take the former Douglas Line connection, which rises up to "Elevated" height, and then curves south to trail into the "Connector" that is now used by the Pink Line trains which have taken over this route. Our charter train then takes the Pink Line out to 54th and Cermak, end of the line, where we have a biology break and wait for the photographers, who had left the train at the previous station to photograph ours train leaving, to arrive on the next service train. We head back into town, and this time we take the Connector ourselves, turning east where the Connector had once continued north to Logan Square (crossing a still-extant, but today unconnected, through bowstring girder bridge over the Metra Milwaukee and C&NW West lines, that we had passed under on Thursday),  passing the junction with the Green Line, and then reversing in Ashland station to head west, out the Green Line to its Harlem station, end of the line, where we have our lunch break. Chris and I eat at Boston Market, with Dianne and Braley.

After lunch, we take the Green Line all the way to its southern end, in Englewood. Somehow, we leave four people behind, who have to take the next service train to catch us up (and who miss David's commentary along the way). We would have taken the north and east legs of the Elevated 'Loop', downtown, except that they, too, are closed for maintenance this weekend and we have to take the west and south legs, instead. As we leave the southeast corner of the Loop, southward, David points out in quick succession the Roosevelt Road location where the Chicago, North Shore & Milwaukee once had its southern terminal, the ramps used by the tracks from the south end of State Street Subway to reach the elevated, used by the Howard-Englewood Line until early 1993, and the junction with the Orange Line (opened 1995), whose tracks were used by the Lake-Dan Ryan Line until that same date in early 1993 to reach the connectors down onto the median of the Dan Ryan Expressway, now used by the Red Line.

The line passes through a tube installed for noise reduction purposes on the campus of Illinois Institute of Technology, and jogs east at 40th Street, where branches used to depart to the east and west (the latter to the Stockyards), and the masonry embankment once used by the Chicago Junction is still extant, alongside and to the north. At 58th Street, we take the Englewood line, turning west, crossing above the Dan Ryan expressway and the Red Line, turning south and crossing above the ex-PRR line between Chicago Union Station and Englewood Union Station (whose location is visible, to the southeast), and then turning west again, where another branch once headed south, to reach the end of the line at 63rd and Ashland, where there is a CTA yard on the south side of the line, east of the station and there are visible signs of the aborted project to extend the line further west.

Here, we have another biology break and wait for those who missed the train at the Harlem end of the line to catch us up. On leaving, we return to the Loop, where we see the abuilding Trump Tower, directly north on the Wabash Street side of the Loop, and we're delayed near the Library station due to the backup of trains from the engineering work near the flat crossing with connectors in all but the northwest quadrant, at the northwest corner of the Loop. We take the Pink Line south from Ashland, dropping off a crewman at Harrison Junction and reversing at Polk to take the connecting track once used by the Douglas Line trains down to the Blue Line at that junction, and then head through the Dearborn subway, stopping at Jackson to let off those who want to ride the Northwest El out to Howard, and then heading back out to Jefferson Park, where we say goodbye to David, and transfer to the public shuttle for the return to Cumberland and the hotel.

At the hotel, it's time for the "pre-meeting" meeting of the members of the NRHS Board of Directors. Here, we find out that we had left home before the majority of the documents were distributed by e-mail (we ever do receive a hardcopy distribution), and we need copies of the reports and the Budget proposals. (We never get copies of the Minutes, either.) The meeting is largely devoted to the proposed budget, including some amendments, once of which is for the enhanced society web presence. A number of us object to the lack of potential review of these proposals before allocating the money, but this discussion is deferred until the actual Board Meeting on Sunday.

Chris and I are the last people to come down for the banquet, and discover that the only available seats are at the table reserved fro the host chapter and tonight's speaker, where no-one had been expected to sit. Eventually, we're asked to sit there, but the host chapter thinks this means there are two people in the room who have not paid for the banquet. The 'speaker' actually simply sets in motion a previously prepared multi-media show on the California Zephyr, which does, however, feature his voice on the narration.

Sunday, November 2nd, 2008

The Fall NRHS Board Meeting is the 'organizational' meeting for the following year. The Board approves or elects the Directors, Officers, and Presidential Appointees for the year. Approval of the Budget requires approval of the management team's proposed amendments, including the funding for the enhanced web presence. I had told Greg the previous afternoon that I though we needed a review team on this, but a motion by Steve Wasby, a poorly focused response from Jeff Smith to a comment from me, and a long comment by Carl Jensen, lead to Greg's commitment to have two committees, one for the business requirements, and one for the high-level design, appointed to review the work in this area before the Winter Meeting in Philadelphia. With those commitments, Steve withdraws his motion.

The meeting runs a little late, so Carl Jensen wants to move up his segment so he can leave right at noon. Carl is taking Amtrak 5, at 1:50 PM. but John Goodman, Dan Meyer, and Dawn Holmberg, who are taking Train 7, along with someone I don't know who is taking Train 3 (along with us), all leave at the same time and take the same taxi down to Union Station (for $45).

The Journey West (11/02-11/04)

Sunday, November 2nd, 2008 (cont.)

Chris and I stay until the end of the meeting, check out, walk over to the CTA Cumberland station, take the shuttle bus to Jefferson Park (the track work is still going on), take the Blue Line to Clinton, drag the bags up the upper flight of stairs to the street (there are escalators further down), and walk to Union Station, reaching the Metropolitan Lounge just as the Conductor for Train 5 is taking tickets. Since the detour arrangements mean that we didn't pass through a fare-collection gate at all, our trip downtown actually cost us nothing, but we would have been happy to pay the $2 apiece.

Chris has decided that we don't need to check the big suitcase on this leg of the journey, so we stow all the bags in the Metropolitan Lounge, and head to the Mezzanine level for lunch. Here, we find the other four early-leavers, finishing up their lunch, so we have a discussion on 'where did the money go' (requiring the big dues increases of recent years), and then 'what is required for the increased web presence review', before the three folks from the Twin Cities have to leave for their train.

Back in the Metropolitan Lounge, Train 3's conductor takes tickets at 2:30 pm, and the Redcaps come at 2:45 pm, taking us out to the platform. I collect the consist as we head down the platforms, and then walk up front to finish the job before departure.


P42            41
P42            148
Baggae        1758
Dorm          39033
Sleeper        32021
Sleeper        32093    Missouri
Diner           38062
Lounge        33025
Coach          34014
Coach          34107
Coach          34093

Train 3, 11-2-2008




3:15 pm

3:17 pm
Naperville 3:50 3:59-4:04
Mendota 4:39 4:54
Princeton 5:01 5:14
Galesburg 5:53 6:12-16
Fort Madison 6:57 7:13-18
La Plata                                  CT 8:05 9:17-20
Lamar                                    MT 7:06 am 7:09-11 am
La Junta 8:15
Trinidad 9:50 9:46-50
Raton 10:56 10:46-56
Las Vegas, NM 12:38 pm 12:36-38 pm
Lamy 2:24 2:17-24
Albuquerque 3:55
Gallup 7:08 7:05-15
Winslow                            MT 8:50 9:13
San Bernardino                 PT 5:32 am 6:10-16 am
Riverside 5:53 6:35-37
Fullerton 6:34 7:36-40
Los Angeles 8:15 8:25

We eat dinner as the train crosses the Mississippi River into Fort Madison, Iowa. Later, an accident of some sort up ahead causes us to sit and wait for 50 minutes, somewhere east of La Plata, Missouri.

After dinner, our car attendant, Leonard, is in a surly mood, and complains to me for walking between a lower-level room and the toilet without shoes. He won't listen to my response, and says he'll send the conductor to talk to me. Then, Chris tells him that two of the toilets are stuffed with paper towels', and he takes umbrage at that. An hour later, after we're in bed, the conductors appear, knock on the room door, and lecture us on 'treating the attendant with respect' and that 'walking about the train' (in their safety announcements) now includes everywhere outside one's personal room space, not just passing between cars and using the stairs.

Monday, November 3rd, 2008

The padding and long stop at Kansas City have allowed the train to catch up to its schedule by morning. We eat breakfast in the Arkansas River valley, and lunch south of Raton, NM. We meet train 4 at Waldo, west of Lamy, and are six minutes late both into and out of Albuquerque. We eat dinner crossing the continental divide and descending into Gallup. West of Gallup, a problem with an eastbound freight nullifies a piece of dispatching wizardry, and we have to follow the rail grinder west for some miles, east of Winslow, resulting in a  twenty-minute delay. We're in bed before Flagstaff.

Tuesday, November 4th, 2008

By morning, we're 45 minutes late at San Bernardino, and get slightly later by Fullerton, such that the padding into Los Angeles isn't enough to prevent a ten minute late arrival. However, with no checked bag to collect, we can go directly to the car, and get right away.

With the usual stop at Bristol Farms in South Pasadena, and a biology stop at Acton, we're still home around 11 am, even after getting the mail.