Dallas Winter Board Meeting,
April 17-26, 2006

Don Winter


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

The Journey East (1/23-1/25)

Wednesday, January 23rd, 2008

The weather forecast is predicting snow in Tehachapi by mid-morning, so we get up earlier than we normally would to leave on the Sunset Limited, and depart by 9 am to head to lower elevations on our way to Los Angeles via Lancaster. We stop in the latter to pick up a Dallas street map from the Auto Club, and then continue south. As we drop down out of Santa Clarita, the freeway message board says that the Highway Patrol is already running convoys of cars and trucks over the 4,000 ft. high Grapevine Pass (to Bakersfield), so we're glad we're down below the snow line already. (Photos in the Tehachapi News will show plenty of snow in Tehachapi by the following day.)

At Los Angeles Union Station, after checking the suitcase, we encounter Diane and Braley Pastorino, who had flown in the previous day on their way to the same meeting we're attending in Dallas. We'll see a lot of them over the next seven days! We head out for lunch at Philippe's, which we've heard a lot about but ever been to before. We're not overly impressed. By 2 pm, we're boarding the train (the four of us are in the same sleeping car), after which I collect the consist as usual. As I do so, I notice that the New Orleans sleeping car attendant is the same one we had had at the end of August, and she remembers me, too.


P42            170
P42                2
Transition    39031
Sleeper        32048
Diner           38065
Lounge        33009
Coach         31032
Coach         34054
Coach         34091
Sleeper        32032

Train 2, 1-23-2008



Los Angeles

2:30 pm 2:47 pm
Pomona 3:11 3:37-50
Palm Springs                       PT 5:06 5:58-6:05
Yuma                                    MT 8:24 9:43-45
El Paso                                 MT 8:16 am
8:44 am
Alpine                                 CT 2:20 pm 2:15-33
Sanderson 4:11 5:28
Del Rio 6:27 8:06-8:23

Southern California Route Descriptions

Sunset Limited Route Description

Union Pacific is replacing the ties on the Alhambra subdivision, so out train is routed out to Colton by the Los Angeles sub. (UP Riverside line) and a short stretch of the BNSF Fullerton line, taking the southeast quadrant connector at Colton Crossing to regain the Sunset Route. Our departure from LA Union Station is thus dependent on when UP is willing to take us, since we take the LA sub. all the way from downtown, not just from Pomona as had been 'advertised' in the railfan e-mail lists. The train stops at the Metrolink platform in Pomona, across the complete track formation from the Amtrak platform, and has to wait while passengers negotiate the footbridge elevators to get to the train. It skips Ontario, because it doesn't pass through that station. Although it passes through the Riverside Downtown station, the train does not stop there.

We have dinner while passing the Salton Sea, and go to bed as the train leaves Yuma.

Thursday, January 24th, 2008

The train makes a long stop in Tucson, leaving approximately on time. I awake east of Deming, with no awareness of stopping at any of the three flagstops. We're late into El Paso, but out on time. We eat lunch on the last stretch into Alpine from the west. A woman sitting with us tells us she takes the train because her ear infection can't take the pain that results from flying, due to the low air pressure. I ask if she's suffering that pain at present, and then point out that even as we speak, and even though we're still out on the high plains, not in the mountains, we're passing through Paisano Junction, and thus over the highest point on Paisano Pass, at an altitude of just over 5,000 ft. She's happy to hear that we won't be going any higher!

It's been raining in the mountains of west Texas, so the triple stop at Alpine is made with the doors on the road crossing and there's no possibility of any smokers getting off for a drag. Some twenty miles west of Sanderson, the dispatchers tells us he has a track light ahead, and we must flag the section at restricted speed. The track indication turns out to be real—a broken rail with a gap of about 1½ inches, about 5 inches from an existing field weld, but located on a 30 ft. bridge over a wash. The train is on the bridge before the engineer can get stopped, and has to reverse onto solid ground. We then have to wait for the track inspector from Sanderson to drive out, which he does on a super-slippery maintenance road, and temporarily secure the free ends of the rail so that we can pass over at 5 mph. While we're doing this, the maintenance folks are high-railing west from Sanderson, passing us at the intervening siding, to insert a 35 ft. piece of rail replacing the segments on the bridge. (It's against the rules to make another field weld that close to an existing one.)

The expectant smokers are disappointed at Sanderson, where they're not allowed off, and have to wait for Del Rio, over ten hours from El Paso, while we're having dinner. Even with these delays, the Sunset Limited is on time out of San Antonio, leaving our sleeper and the rearmost coach behind to be switched into the Texas Eagle before its 7 am departure.

Friday, January 25th, 2008


P42            86
Transition    39002
Sleeper        32032*
Diner           38039
Lounge        33001
Coach         31010
Coach         34091*
*Transferred from Train 2

Train 22, 1-25-2008



San Antonio

7:00 am 7:04 am
San Marcos 8:32 8:44
Austin 9:31 9:26-35
Taylor 10:22 10:35
Temple 11:25 11:22-32
McGregor 11:51 12:08-10 pm
Cleburne 1:00 pm 1:41
Fort Worth 2:08
Dallas (arr.) 3:30 4:07

Texas Eagle Route Description

Most of the switching to put the sleeper ahead of the diner and the transfer coach at the rear of the Texas Eagle is done shortly after the Sunset Limited leaves. This morning, the train switches from Track 2 to Track 1 just once, leading us to run on quite different sections of the tracks from the previous June. The dining car crew now boards in Austin, so we get box breakfasts in the sleeper. (The train still has a full diner and a full lounge, not the converted diner that I'd seen suggested for this train.) The train is delayed a few minutes at Temple because a piece of maintenance equipment has broken down on the single track north of Temple siding. Nonetheless, we get to Tower 55 in time to watch Train 21 reverse on the former MKT next to us before entering the Fort Worth station. (It's scheduled to be 20 minutes ahead of us.) After leaving Fort Worth, we're stopped just outside Dallas Union Station as the UP starts a freight train across the junction in front of us, after we've come to a stop!

On the platform, the temperature is 29°F, colder than when we'd left home up in the mountains! Braley gets the taxi people to bring a van that will take all four of us out to the hotel, which comes after about ten minutes wait (outside). We head out I-35E to I-635 on the northwest side of Dallas, where the Holiday Inn Select North is in the north quadrant of the intersection of the two freeways. As we had been told, the meter reading is $28, but with supplement for the extra people and tip, we conclude the cost is $20 per couple. We're at the hotel before 5 pm.

At the Board Meeting (1/25-1/27)

Friday, January 25th, 2008

Once in our room, we've basically nothing to do for a while. I've made arrangements with Joe Williams to have dinner together, but Joe and Mia Mather won't arrive at the hotel until 8:15 pm or so. Joe calls us at 8:30 pm, and we head downstairs. He has a rental car with a GPS navigation device, which he insists on using as the four of us travel in that car, east on I-635, south on US 75, and then west a short distance on TX-12 to a McCormick & Schmitt's for seafood, which is excellent, as is the conversation. We return, as instructed by the navigator, west on TX-12,, with a turn down a side street, a U-turn on that side street, and a return to TX-12 heading west(!), north on the tollway (55 cents), and west on I-635.

Saturday, January 26th, 2008

On checking in for the meeting, this morning, we find we have to pay for box lunches, arranged for after we had left home! The meeting room is full, due to registrations made after the room had been booked, so we have to sit on chairs against the back wall. The first part of the meeting (about an hour) is the standard early part of a formal Board Meeting—the reports and such, after which we go into "Committee of the Whole" to discuss the proposed Strategy that had been presented in Houston. There's lots of healthy discussion in which reasons for belonging to National NRHS are advanced, and the proposed Mission Statement, and just about all of the six Objectives are reworded to say things appropriate to NRHS National, and to which the participants in the room agree. Then, the assembled National Directors select two of the Objectives to work on in the short term. Perhaps not surprisingly, these are the one on Archives (which includes the Library, an subject of considerable discussion), and the one on maintaining and growing the organization, which includes the membership retention and attraction of new members efforts. (Three of the other Objectives are concerned mainly with the functions the National Society is already performing well—Conventions, RailCamp, the various publications.)

At the end of the day, we exit the "Committee of the Whole" and recess until Sunday morning. Chris and I  have arranged to have dinner with Jack Hilborn and Bill Chapman, with Greg and Patrick Molloy joining us at the table for interesting conversation. (Braley and Diane apparently aren't interested in eating dinner, this evening.)

Sunday, January 27th, 2008

The Board meeting resumes from the point it had left on Saturday morning (before the committee discussions), going through the usual areas, including voting to approve the statements of Mission and Objectives that had been developed on Saturday afternoon. Under New Business, and based on some of the dues payment transition problems that had been reported on Saturday, Ron Vile introduces a motion to introduce national-level dues handling for all members, including handling the chapter dues. Because this needs to be discussed at the Chapter level, it was postponed until the April Board Meeting, in Syracuse.

After the meeting, many of the participants hurry off to catch airplanes. We eat lunch in the hotel, sharing a table with Scott Andes of the Cincinnati Chapter, with other small groups at other tables. When we tell Barry Smith that we're going to the symphony, he makes a comment about how, since Chris goes along with "my trains" it's only right that I should go along to "her symphony". He seems confused to hear that we both like both things!

We have to take a taxi to the symphony. The taxi driver first goes to the wrong hotel, and then doesn't know where the symphony hall is. Fortunately, I had brought along the pages from their website, showing the address and cross streets, and can thus help him find them on his map. The location is in the northern part of the downtown area.

The Morton H. Meyerson Symphony hall is about ten years old, and quite modern in its architecture, although not as striking as the Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles. The interior has a shoebox shape, with upper levels curving around in horseshoe shapes, but since it is dedicated to the orchestra it has no proscenium, and has 'Coral Terraces' behind the orchestra platform. (A new opera house is rising next door, to replace the old hall that once housed both organizations on the state fairgrounds.) We're up in the second row of the Grand Tier, the top level of seating, as is our preference. The sound is good, but not as good as Walt Disney Concert Hall or the Berlin Philharmonie.

The Dallas Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Pinchas Steinberg, plays Richard Strauss' Serenade for Wind Instruments, Grieg's Suite from Holberg's Time, for strings, and Shostakovich's 10th Symphony. The brass and percussion only play in the latter. The performances of the first two, before intermission, are bland, and the latter, while immensely exciting, is marred by many ensemble problems, even as the individual players are obviously quite capable. This is not, currently, a first tier orchestra, worthy of its excellent hall.

As arranged, (at his suggestion), the cab driver is waiting for us when we get out of the concert, and drives us back to the hotel. The cost of the two cab rides is almost as high as the cost of the tickets! At dinner, in the hotel, we see an NRHS small group already eating there, but eat by ourselves, chatting with them afterwards.

The Journey West (1/28-1/31)

Monday, January 28th, 2008

We get together with the Pastorinos to take a van-taxi back to the station, getting there about an hour before the train is due to arrive, with plenty of time to check our suitcase. However, the train arrives some 35 minutes early, and thus has nearly an hour to wait before departure! We're out on the platform for its arrival, and I take my only photographs of the trip.


P42            84
Transition    39003
Sleeper        32032
Diner           38039
Lounge        33001
Coach         31012
Coach         34091

Train 21, 1-27-2008




Dallas 12:00 noon
12:20 pm
11:23 am
12:23 pm
Fort Worth 1:55
Cleburne 3:22 3:40
McGregor 4:30 4:51-53
Temple 5:13 5:29-38
Taylor 6:16 7:14
Austin 7:10 8:19-24

We eat lunch immediately on train departure from Dallas, finding that the waitress refers to us as 'repeat offenders', since we've traveled with her before. (This train also still has the full diner and lounge, perhaps not surprising since it's basically the same trainset as we had going north.) The train is early into Fort Worth, spending over an hour there, with Train 22 arriving and departing in the meantime. In the new food scheme, the dining car crew gets off at Austin, so the only dinner times available are 4:30, 4:45, and 5:00 pm! Neither we nor the Pastorinos (we wind up eating together) are ready for dinner, but we have no choice if we're to get our included main meal of the day. We go to bed not long after leaving Austin (an hour late, for a variety of reasons, including having to run at restricted proceed for almost the entire ex-MKT segment, and waiting for a freight train climbing the hill out of Austin), but are awakened by the switching in San Antonio, to arrange the two transfer cars for pickup by the Sunset Limited, before midnight.

Tuesday, January 29th, 2008


P42            36
P42            134
P42            118
Transition    39031
Sleeper        32048
Diner           38065
Lounge        33009
Coach         31032
Coach         34054
Coach         34091*
Sleeper        32032*
*Transferred from Texas Eagle

Train 1, 1-28-2008




Del Rio 8:35 am 9:18-24 am
Sanderson 11:10 12:20 pm
Alpine                                 CT 1:24 pm 2:06-14
El Paso                                MT 5:10
Deming 7:25 7:59-8:03
Lordsburg                           MT 8:21 8:51-53
Palm Springs                      PT 6:37 am 7:09-18
Pomona 8:15 9:22
Los Angeles 10:10 10:06

I awake, near Uvalde, TX, to a foggy morning, which persists through breakfast, but has cleared before we reach Del Rio. Not only is this the same trainset that we had gone east with, the previous week, but the same crew (on the New Orleans cars) also. In this direction, nothing much happens until a track gang doesn't clear the line for us (but clears up to end their day, instead), almost into El Paso (within the urban area), and we have to sit for quite awhile. In El Paso, I walk the platform to get the locomotive numbers (which are different from the previous week). We go to bed before the train reaches Arizona.

Wednesday, January 30th, 2008

The train is stopped in Indio, CA, when I awake, and then moves up one set of Absolute Signals to the west end of double track, west of Indio. Soon, it's moving again and heading for the stop at Palm Springs. We eat breakfast while the train is crossing Beaumont Pass, and are somewhat surprise, after the conductor has made an announcement about the expected detour, when the train runs straight ahead, across Colton Crossing, onto the Alhambra sub. The train reaches LA Union Station on time, and we say goodbye to the Pastorinos, take our bags to the car, collect the checked bag and take it to the car, and head to the Metro Plaza Hotel, just across the street, where we're in our room by 11 am.

For lunch, we go to a Chinese restaurant in Chinatown, and then decide just to spend the afternoon in the room, leaving for another Chinese meal and then a walk down to the Walt Disney Concert Hall for this evening's symphony concert. We patronize the Symphony Shop, and then go up to the fifth level to take out seats. The Amsterdam Royal Concertgebouw Orchestra, conducted by its Music Director, Mariss Jansons, performs Richard Strauss' tone poem Don Juan  and Mahler's 5th Symphony. The tone poem is excellent, played at a somewhat smaller scale than usual, and the symphony thrilling, although some of the tempo changes seem a little wayward (perhaps they remain in the Concertgebouw's parts from Mengelberg's days). This is, after all, one of the world's great orchestras, playing a tour concert in one of the world's great concert halls.

After the concert, we walk back to the hotel and go to bed.

Thursday, January 31st, 2008

We get up around 9 am, have the included light breakfast, and head for home, making a number of incidental stops along the way and reaching our house somewhat after 1 pm. The weather in Tehachapi has been cold while we've been gone, but is sunny and clear at our time of return.