Facebook Page

Completing the Amtrak System once again 7/1/2015

by Chris Guenzler

I first completed the entire Amtrak system at Tampa, Florida on the Silver Star Tampa Section when it arrived at the station at 12:17 P.M. Eastern Daylight Time on August 17, 1996. My second time was on the Ethan Allen Express 291 on June 16, 1997 upon arrival in Rutland, Vermont. On October 14, 1997, I completed riding the entire Amtrak System sober when I arrived on the Silver Palm in Miami, Florida. I completed it yet again on Amtrak 822, The Heartland Flyer, on August 30, 1999 when I arrived in Oklahoma City then once again, on The Lake Country Limited 343 on June 20, 2000 when it arrived in Janesville, Wisconsin. My sixth time was aboard Kentucky Cardinal 850 on September 2, 2000 at Jeffersonville, Indiana. My seventh was on Downeaster 681 on December 31, 2000, when it arrived in Portland, Maine, I achieved this yet again on the Kentucky Cardinal 850 on December 27, 2002 at 8:40 EST in Louisville.

Over the years I waited for new routes but my wait would take a while. The first addition was Brunswick to Portland, then later Norfolk to Petersburg but with nothing planned in the East, I never had a chance to ride these. Finally the 2015 NRHS Convention in Rutland gave me a reason to complete the system again. On December 29, 2014, Springfield to Brattleboro came back and now I planned the trip to give me all the missing pieces. I rode Brunswick to Portland on June 26, 2015 and Springfield to Brattleboro two days later. Now this morning, when we reach the junction with the CSX in Petersburg, I will have once again completed riding the Amtrak system until a new route is added.

Robin and I would take Northeast Regional 174 from Norfolk to Washington, DC, where Robin would take a different route home. I would then take the Cardinal to Chicago in a Viewliner Sleeper, then coach from Chicago to La Plata for a two night's restful stay. After that, it would be coach back to Galesburg on the Southwest Chief, then sleeper on the California Zephyr to Sacramento, a one-night stay there and then San Joaquin 702, Thruway Bus and Pacific Surfliner home to Santa Ana.

We woke up at the Tazewell Hotel in Norfolk via three different methods. First the alarm clock, then Robin's cell phone and finally the wake-up call. With that we were up and ready to go, checked out and the front desk called us a taxi. We exited through the side door to wait and a few minutes later, a taxi arrived and whisked off to the Amtrak station. Out on the platform was a large TSA presence but did not bother me as I started taking pictures.

Northeast Regional 174 7/1/2015

The Norfolk station message board says it all this morning.

The TSA staff and the red signal that protects the lift bridge over the bay.

I saw a headlight coming and I knew it was our train to Washington, DC.

The lift bridge came down and then we had a green signal.

The train arrived and we boarded with me sitting on the left hand side Robin two seats behind me on this final trip together. We departed on time and I told my conductor what I would be doing at Petersburg. The train headed out into the darkness of this early morning, passing through the low elevation Virginia forests. I went to the cafe car to get a cinnamon roll and orange juice for my breakfast and was tired but happy as we headed up the rails to complete my next goal and was on the Norfolk Southern Railroad heading to Petersburg and the connection to CSX.

Robin kept me updated on just how far we were from Petersburg since this was my first trip on this piece of Norfolk Southern track. I was busy writing stories as I was trying to catch up and thought that would be the case by the time I was on the California Zephyr. This just shows how many different things Robin and I did on this trip; it would end up being 43 stories by the time I got home. Not bad for a 27 day trip!

Views of Virginia on this very early July 1st morning. Robin gave me the 15 minute warning and I started to really look at this railroad. We then came to a switch and we came off the Norfolk Southern mainline.

We were now on the connection to the CSX and rode the connection towards the mainline.

There was a CSX freight waiting to follow us north.

When we reached the switch with the CSX mainline. I had recompleted the Amtrak system and was very happy to be doing this once again. I would like to thank Amtrak for all of my rides over the years and all they have done for me. We stopped at Petersburg and then headed to Richmond.

The train crossed the James River before making its way to Richmond where many more passengers boarded.

North of Richmond we crossed many different rivers.

This one had a large marina.

This one had no marina.

At Lorton we passed the cars of the Amtrak Auto Train.

The motive power for the Amtrak Auto Train. We continued north with me still writing stories, stopped at Alexandria then crossed the Potomac River before arriving at Washington Union Station, ending this trip.

Amtrak's new electric ACS-64 625.

Brand new Viewliner baggage car 61007. Robin and I then went up the elevator into Washington Union Station and picked up his tickets for home and I went into Club Acela to wait for the Cardinal, accessed the Internet and enjoyed an orange drink while I waited. Robin came by to say goodbye and thanked me for the great trip we had together. I waited for a Red Cap to help take my luggage to my room on the Cardinal, and a few minutes later was taken to the side door to meet my Red Cap who walked me out to the Cardinal, putting my bags in Room 1 of the 5100 car. I then detrained to note the consist and take a few pictures.

Acela power car 2020.

The rear of our train.

An Acela Express train waiting to depart.

Amtrak SW1 737, ex. Amtrak 250, exx. Penn Central 8499, nee New York Central 703. This is the only remaining SW1 operating on Amtrak and at one time, operated as the Wilmington Shops switcher.

Amtrak ACS-64 614.

Amtrak ACS-64 625. I returned to Room 1 in Car 5100 for my trip to Chicago.

The Cardinal Train 51 7/1/2015

This train had a consist of P42 60, Viewliner baggage 61016, Viewliner sleepers 62004 and 62043 "Sunset View", Amfleet dinette 62043, Amfleet coaches 25062, 25071 and 25059 with baggage car 1705. Mr. Tyree, aka Mr. T., was my fantastic Sleeping Car Attendant for this trip. I have had him before and he is always excellent. I was settled into my room and started writing as the train left Washington, DC on time heading to Chicago. Now sit back, relax and enjoy the views aboard the Cardinal.

The old tower at the old Potomac Yard. I went to the Dinette for lunch having a hamburger and ice cream for dessert. Now the trip through the New River Gorge.

The Cardinal at Charlottesville.

The Chesapeake and Ohio Charlottesville station built in 1905.

Views along the way to Clifton Forge.

Buckingham Railroad GP40 13, ex. Pennsylvania-Reading Seashore Lines 2815, exx. Kansas City Southern 4738, exxx. National Railroad Equipment 2031, exxxx. SOO Line 2031, exxxxxx. Milwaukee Road 2031, nee Milwaukee Road 158:1, built by Electro-Motive Division in 1967, at Staunton.

Buckingham Railroad GP40-3 12, ex. Pennsylvania-Reading Seashore Lines 2837, exx. Kansas City Southern 2837, exxx. Kansas City Southern 4790, exxxx. Kansas City Southern 735, exxxxxx. Conrail GP40 3718, nee Pennsylvania Railroad 3178 built by Electro-Motive Division in 1968, also at Staunton.

An old passenger car of unknown origin.

Views on the way to Clifton Forge.

A view of the Clifton Forge station.

The Cardinal at Clifton Forge.

Coal is the big business here for the CSX railroad we are travelling on.

An old Chesapeake and Ohio coaling tower here.

Views on the way to the New River Gorge. I went to the Dinette and had the braised beef, which was excellent, with ice cream for dessert.

The trip through the New River Gorge. I was tired so made up my room and called it a night.

7/2/2015 I slept for 12 hours and felt really good then went to the cafe side of the Dinette car for a cinnamon roll and orange juice.

Three views of scenic Indiana on the way to Chicago. It had been a fantastic trip on the Cardinal which arrived at Chicago Union Station 14 minutes early. I detrained and headed into the Metropolitan Lounge and checked in two of my bags then took my usual seat with the electrical plug behind me and a table in front. I finished the story I had been working on and uploaded most of the stories and pictures before their Internet crashed. I went up to Gold Coast for a pair of Char Dogs and a bottle of Coca-Cola which I bought back to the lounge then stored the computer and retrieved my luggage before being the Southwest Chief passengers were called to line up at the rear door where we were walked out to the train set.

Southwest Chief 3 7/2/2015

I was given the first seat in the Superliner coach so I did not have a table. A nice black lady, Shirley, joined and we had a great time together. The train left Chicago on time and I was labelling the pictures for the Shoreline Trolley Museum story and met the two Rail & Trails people who were also going to La Plata with me.

An Illinois view on my way to La Plata. I finished so started writing the Shoreline Trolley Museum story and I pulled out my list of trolleys only to realize it was by date so I would have to scan the list each time I needed to find a trolley. Shirley decided to help me since four eyes are always better than two. We did all the trolleys in the story and had a fantastic time doing it with us laughing and joking our way through it. I showed her how I did things on the computer and she was amazed. I finished just after Fort Madison then relaxed until the old bridge west of Gibbs. I thanked Shirley and wished her a safe trip to Lawerence then went downstairs to detrain in La Plata and stepped off to find Bob Cox was working the station this night.

La Plata 7/2/2015

I had to call the Depot Inn & Suites to pick up me and the Rails and Trails guides. Once at the hotel, I was given the Pullman Suite where I uploaded the rest of the missing pictures then called Elizabeth to tell her she could proof the stories then called it a night.

7/3/2015 in La Plata, a Rest Day?

I was up early and had breakfast in the lobby then acquired the golf cart keys and made my way to the golf cart with my computer and drove to the Chris Guenzler Million Mile Lookout Point.

My favorite path in the whole wide world. Between trains I would put the corrections into the stories then upload all of them I had done.

BNSF 7418 East was my first train of the morning.

He was followed by BNSF 7001 East.

Next came BNSF 4088 East.

Then came BNSF 7450 East.

BNSF 7201 West was next. Westbound photography from the lookout point was getting harder and harder due to the vegetational growth. What was once a clear view is almost a hidden view now!

BNSF 5368 East came through La Plata next.

Two more BNSF westbound trains.

BNSF 4363 West went by the lookout point.

BNSF 8164 West was next by my location.

BNSF 7228 West was next.

Union Pacific 8415 West then came through.

BNSF 7459 East passed my location.

Union Pacific 8219 West came through town.

BNSF 6697 west was the final freight train of my visit.

The four-hour late Southwest Chief Train 4 heading to Chicago.

I took the path back to the Depot Inn & Suites where I wrote three more stories in the Pullman Suite. Tom Anderson picked me up at 6:00 PM and we went to Colton's Steakhouse in Kirksville and I had a 12 ounce sirloin steak. Back at the hotel, I put in corrections then took a sauna bath before calling it a night.