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Off to Kentucky

by Chris Guenzler

Feeling the need for a Christmas get away, I booked a Railsale ticket to Chicago and a round trip on the ever endangered Kentucky Cardinal. With tickets in hand. I e-mailed both the Kentucky Railroad Museum and My Old Kentucky Dinner Train, The later, a phone call booked the Dinner Train trip. I always wanted to go to Mammoth Caves, so I booked the largest tour I could book. I called Mike at AAA to get me an Enterprise Rental Car then called Best Western in Bardstown for the night I would need. With the moving of my web site to Trainweb something they wanted for years, I received an early Christmas present from my mother of an Epson Scanner that can do slides and I started adding pictures to my web site. With all that done, let this trip begin!

Surfliner 583 12/25/2002

After a wonderful turkey dinner with my family, my brother Jon drove me down to the Amtrak station where I sat on the platform waiting to start my trip to Kentucky. I boarded Pacific Business Class on the lower level. The train ran perfectly on time to Los Angeles arriving early. Down in Los Angeles Union Station I ran into Woody Lambrith and wished him a very Merry Christmas for the second time today. {The other this morning on Surfliner 769}.

Southwest Chief 4 12/25/2002

Almost as soon as I started the coach line for train number four, the station personal came and told me to go to car 413 and I led the way to the Southwest Chief. I was assigned seat 45, right hand side large window and waited for departure. The book for this trip was a gift from Henry, my sister Laura's husband, called "Last Train to Paradise" by Les Standiford, the story of Henry Flagler and the spectacular rise and fall of the railroad that crossed an ocean. The ocean in this case was from Key Largo and Key West. After we departed on time from track 12, with 194, 177, 49 and 511 for power, we backed onto track 11 to pick up the US Mail in two box cars and 8 road railers that would follow our cars to Chicago. We left the City of Angels at 7:10 PM and headed east.

At Norwalk I upgraded to a sleeper and at Fullerton I walked the outside of the train to my Sleeper 431. On the platform I run into Steve Grande of Trainweb fame, the home of my web site who wished me a good trip. Once the train started moving I went to the dining car and I had a Filet Mignon as we passed through Santa Ana Canyon where BNSF had three trains parked for the holiday. Passing on ET, the movie, I enjoyed the darkened room listening to Yes' "The Ladder" as far as San Bernardino where I called it a night.

12/26/2002 I woke up east of Winslow on Day 2900 of my sobriety {yeah!} to an earth covered with snow and a solid light gray sky as the train sped east. I enjoyed a breakfast of French Toast and sausage with a father and daughter going to Pittsburgh. I returned to my room in the sleeping car Illinois and Victor Karl my excellent attendant made up my room in record time using a unique method which I will not share with you. The fog burned off as we neared New Mexico turning into a beautiful blue as I put on U2's "Joshua Tree". We arrived at Gallup with all of our incoming passengers bundled up against the cold temperatures outside the warmth of the train. I visited the lounge car from Gallup to Baca before I returned to my room to read and relax as the snow disappeared. I had a Black Steak Burger prior to our over an hour layover in Albuquerque while they serviced the train. I went in search of Coca Cola and after heading southwest, I went to the Alveraz Transportation Center {nothing] before I walked four blocks west on Central Ave finding a market for three two liters of Coca Cola. Remember I was a Boy Scout who was two merit badges short of the Eagle Scout Award when the troop broke up. "Be prepared!" has been my motto for most of my life. We left Albuquerque on time after they added two more road railers to the rear of our train.

We ran early to Lamy followed by a few pictures of our train entering Apache Canyon. At Glorieta we passed the westbound 23 car Southwest Chief. After the "S" curve at Blanchard, I started to see the old semaphores signals that are still in service. They started to replace them but the BNSF has put the line up for sale so that may have put an end to their replacement plans. I spent the rest of the afternoon in my room listening to music, reading and then did some word fill in puzzles. Sunset came before we reached Wagon Mound with us back to snow covered ground. I ate at 5 PM with a couple from Santa Clarita going to Raton to transfer to the bus to Denver. I enjoyed another Filet Mignon with a Chocolate Sundae finishing ten minutes before Raton. With the light out in my room, I rode over Raton Pass with the snow on the ground and a star filled sky overhead. It rarely gets better than this. Christmas displays greeted us as we arrived at Trinidad, Co. I rode the rest of the way to La Junta where I made my bed to call it a night or so I thought.

12/27/2002 I could call it "The night I bounced across Kansas!" My thoughts were I could not wait for the BNSF to sell this line so that the Chief would be rerouted onto the much smoother southern mainline through Amarillo. I got out of bed at BNSF's Argentine Yard and went to the dining car for another wonderful French Toast breakfast. The number one in the kitchen has screwed up every meal I have eaten on this train so far including this one. While I ate the train was refueled before it pulled into Kansas City using the Union Station once again. I detrained taking the stairs and I walked into the new station which was very nice. Back on the train I shaved and showered all before we departed on time.

The Southwest Chief took the flyover out of town and at Sibley crossed high over the Missouri River on the single track bridge. Following a nap to just east of La Plata, I was up for six westbounds all stopped on each other's tails. Brown is the color of the day to describe Missouri on this afternoon. We entered Iowa for a short visit and I was seated in the dining car at Fort Madison for the final meal of this train trip. We crossed the Mississippi River and entered Illinois for the final race to Chicago. I enjoyed another steak burger and had my signature dessert, the Chocolate Cake, now I have named it a "Zorro!" We left the former Santa Fe mainline at Cameron for the former CB&Q {later BN} mainline for the rest of the trip to Chicago. Other than number one who did my meal right for the last time, Charlie Brown runs an excellent dining car with an excellent staff. From Galesburg the rest of the way to Chicago was relaxing.

Leaving Mendota, a major puff of smoke from the 511 made me look to see if the Milwaukee Road 261 was powering our train. Well, I can always have a fantasy. The Southwest Chief made one last stop in Naperville before we followed a Metra train the rest of the way into Chicago. Every time he stopped, we stopped! We wyed before the station dropping off the express cars and road railers before we backed into Chicago Union Station arriving at 3:53 PM, 44 minutes early. What a great trip!

Chicago 12/27/2002

I stored my bags in the Amtrak Metropolitan Lounge and made my way to the Quincy "L" station boarding a Brown Line train to Adams/Wabash where I waited for a Green Line Train 11 for Harlem/Lake which is a new CTA route for me. The sun had set and I sat right behind the operator's compartment so I could enjoy the forward view. We left the loop and I was now on the new route for me. We crossed high above the Chicago River before passing over the leads for both Union Station and the Ogilvie Transportation Center {CNW}. The train crossed the Expressway with my Quality Inn which I use in Chicago in sight. At Ashland there was a beautiful church off to the south. We went by the United Center with no stop for it. Our next stops were California, Kedzie, Conservatory-Central, Park Drive, Pulaski, Cicero, Laramie and Central were run right beside the ex CNW Metra Line to West Chicago with an outbound Metra run passing us. The rest of the stops were Austin, Ridgeland. Oak Park before our final stop at Harlem still right next to the Union Pacific's triple track mainline. I stepped off after thanking the operator before walking down the platform to board my return train to Chicago. There was a great night time view of the Chicago skyline as we returned to the city. Watching a train curve at the downtown crossing was like watching a fourth of July show where the sparks will fly. Following our loop running at the southeast junction I returned to new trackage. At Roosevelt we stopped right next to the Hotel Roosevelt where I stayed on the Final Reclaiming States Trip off a 10.5 hour late Empire Builder where I lived out my gangster fantasy. Now travelling through the south side of Chicago, we stopped at 35th/Bronzeville ITT where the line curved east for a minute. Once heading south again, we stopped at 43rd, 47th, 51st and Garfield. After Garfield we branched off to the west to Halstead after crossing the ex Conrail mains, the Metra Rock Island Line and the Dan Ryan Expressway with passing Orange Line Trains below. We made our way past the storage yard to our final stop of Ashland. I detrained out into a very cold wind finding out my train for Chicago leaves at 6:13 as Train number 622. I enjoyed the station heating lamps before returning to downtown Chicago.

I rode back to Adams/Wabash and then transferred to the first train that would take me back to Quincy. With this trip done, that leaves just the Green Line branch to Cottage Grove and the Orange Line to Midway and I will have ridden every route of the CTA. God willing, that should be Monday when I come back from Kentucky. I made my way back through the cold south winds to Union Station for my Char Dogs and Root Beer at Gold Coast, the best hot dogs I have ever eaten. I returned to the Metropolitan Lounge to wait for the boarding of my next train.

Kentucky Cardinal 850 12/27/2002

We all were boarded in the last Horizon Car of an eight car mixed train with our out of service express cars and Horizon Cars heading to the shops at Beech Grove for repairs. The Horizon cars in front of ours have no heat so it was about 32 degrees inside and the conductor decided to use that car as a smoking car on a nonsmoking train. We left Chicago with seventy seats with sixty-nine passengers. To use another passenger's comment, "We are packed in like sardines packed in a can!" There were two distinct types of passengers on this train, the loud and talkative Indianapolis passengers and the quiet trying to sleep passengers like me. One woman from Lafayette, IN was so loud that she told the whole car how she always calls Amtrak to complain making up things that are not true so she receives travel vouchers. It was quite a group of passengers to say the least.

We headed southeast to Dyer picking up no one, but sitting for twenty minutes since we did not pick up any express cars in Chicago which was built into our schedule. I slept off and on until a cell phone woke me up at Rensselaer where we gained one more female passenger maxing out the car. We stopped for twenty five minutes at Reynolds where the interlocking {crossing} had to be cleared following several attempts of pushing a button in the interlocking box. At Lafayette, twelve passengers detrained allowing my seatmate to finally sit with his girlfriend so I could stretch out across two seats. Happiness occurred in Indianapolis when all those noisy passengers detrained and I slept soundly until about an hour north of Louisville.

12/28/2002 Waking up, I prepared for the day ahead of me, wrote the story of this train ride from Chicago before we arrived at Jeffersonville. Now it is all new trackage the rest of the way to Louisville. I could see downtown Louisville and our bridge over the Ohio River ahead of us to the south. We crossed over Interstate 65 before passing through the rest of Jeffersonville. We crossed the Ohio River with its rapids on the north side {wild river} and the calm waters {south side} used by boats with a lock system seen off in the distance. With that welcome to Kentucky! We entered Louisville through an industrial area. At a control point called Mark, we turned east crossing several roadways before we turned south again with Louisville Union Station off to the northeast. We went by the station leads before our conductor threw the switch and we backed into the platform out back of Louisville Union Station. At 8:40 EST we arrived {50 minutes late} and I once again completed riding every mile of the Amtrak system. After I detrained, I had the conductor take my picture in front of the train which she was excited to do. I walked down and shot pictures with the train in front of the station before the train pulled out to go to its daily layover spot.

Kentucky 12/28/2002

I inspected Louisville Union Station with one of the last two horse drawn cars of the Louisville Street Railway beside it. After I had talked with the guard about the hours on Sunday, I walked out the front door onto Broadway and started east looking for the Enterprise Car Rental Office. There I rented a Dodge SE and was told the return procedures for Sunday when the office would be closed. I drove south on the well designed Interstate 65 to Kentucky 245 which took me to Bardstown. I found My Old Kentucky Dinner Train with the two RJ Coram F units.

I photographed the entire train before our engineer for tomorrow, although I did not know that at the time, escorted me to my hotel, the Best Western General Nelson. Following check in, I showered, shaved and rearranged my back pack for my first visit of the trip in New Haven.

Kentucky Railroad Museum 12/28/2002

After I purchased a ticket for the train that afternoon at 2 PM, I photographed Santa Fe CF-7 2546 in fresh Santa Fe paint, the only CF-7 still painted that way. Next I was off to the barn where the Monon BL-2 32 and L&N 4-6-2 152 were resting inside along with the other Louisville horse drawn car. Back outside I shot all of the rest of their equipment including C&O 2-8-4 2716. They have quite a few L&N passenger cars as well as L&N E-6A 770 at the east end of the line along with US Army 1846, an H-12-44 which I had shot a picture of in Sparks, NV years ago

It is sure a small world! I toured the inside museum as well as the fantastic Model Train Center, a real pleasant surprise. After a call home to my mother, I wrote the Kentucky part of this story as I waited for my train ride.

The Train Ride 12/28/2002

Today's excursion train was CF-7 2546, L&N 363 Kentucky {business car}, Tennessee Central 8038 {dining car}, the 884{ex MKT} and the 2359 {ex SP}. When it was time to board they loaded through only one door and used only the last two cars. The ticket has written on it, "The Rolling Fork River Valley Line" and we are riding on an ex Louisville and Nashville charter line built in 1856 which CSX sold to the museum back in 1988. The museum moved to New Haven in 1990 and has already survived a tornado as well as a flood. We left New Haven heading west across the Rolling Fork River and out into the beautiful country side. A few miles later, we crossed the Rolling Fork River once again. This car with the large windows made me think of who it was once owned by. I went to get a picture out the back of the train and on the wall on a sheet of paper I found the history. I am riding an ex SP coach behind a Santa Fe CF-7 on a train in Kentucky going between New Haven and Boston. Have I not already traveled between those to cities before? Cities before, towns now! We passed through forests waiting for spring to come along with a few pines. This train is traveling faster than the Kentucky Cardinal did this morning. We crossed under the Blue Grass Parkway and out across another valley. Our train crossed the Beech Fork River twice before we arrived in Boston. There people were allowed off the train to either shop like I did or tour the engine. Once everyone was done touring, I got my pictures of the train in Boston. When everyone was loaded, the train pulled forward to a siding where the 2546 ran around the train for the trip back to New Haven. Back in New Haven our conductor gave myself and two other passengers a tour of the shops where he explained everything and when the train was respotted, a tour of the L&N 363, the business car which was totally impressive. I thanked him for a most wonderful visit at the Kentucky Railroad Museum and that great excursion train. I drove back to Bardstown and changed for my next train trip.

My Old Kentucky Dinner Train 12/28/2002

I drove down to their depot, parked the car, took a few more pictures before I headed into the station. I picked up my ticket and was told to go straight to my car right outside the end of the building. Our train consisted of the RJ Coram FP-7A's 1941 and 1940 both ex Southern Railway, RJC 011 {ex Eisenhower funeral train}, RJC 777, RJC 021 and my car RJC 007. The tracks we are going to be taking were built in 1860 as the Bardstown and Louisville, later become part of the L&N then CSX who sold the line in 1987 to RJ Coram. Dinner train operations started in July of 1988 with a GP-7 and two cars the 007 and 011. For six months all meals were catered. In 1989 the kitchen car RJC 777 arrived and all meals were then cooked on board. Car RJC 011 arrived in 1992. The trip is 32 miles round trip at 20 MPH. They carry over 20,000 passengers a year and there are even murder mysteries. The line also does a good amount a freight business mainly distillery products, plastics and they serve brickyards. Our trip will go from Bardstown to Limestone Springs and back. What I learned about the cars history is below.

The RJC 011 car is a 1946 Budd sleeper/lounge now table seating. The RJC 777 car is a 1946 Budd coach now table seating. The RJC 021 car is a 1946 Budd blunt end lounge/obs now kitchen{probably ex ACL/SAL/SCL}. The RJC 007 car is a 1946 Budd table car is ex Amtrak 5435, nee PC 4056, a 54 seat reclining leg rest coach built 1946.

I was seated at a table by myself which worked well for me since I am writing and taking a few pictures documenting my trip aboard this dinner train so I can use all the space I can get. Course number one was crackers, grapes, celery and a dip. We left at 5:08 PM and will follow most of the same route that I drove over on Kentucky 245 this morning so even if it gets dark I have already seen the country side which makes me happy. One surprise right away outside of town was a field with llamas who do not like trains as well as horses do. This is definitely Kentucky horse country and they have plenty of land to run upon. There are cows present as well. The land is far more rolling than the other trip I was on this afternoon. The under carriages of the cars are equipped with lights which reminds me of the Lynn Lake Mixed Train in my Coldest Trip Ever Story. Salads were next which I of course passed on and continued to drink hot tea. At Deatsville we passed eight huge bourbon storage buildings belonging to the Heaven Hill Distillery. The line started to descend as we passed a pair of manmade fishing lakes as the wheels squealed on the curves. We crossed the 40 foot high curving Jackson Hollow Trestle with me at the back door of the train to enjoy the view. The under light shining brightly really lets me see the superb rock strata along the line. Mrs. Angle that most wonderful science teacher I know would love this trip plus what I am going to do tomorrow. The Jim Beam Distillery Plant 1 was next before we reached Limestone Springs. My Prime Rib arrived with little potatoes, vegetables and rolls which provided me with an excellent meal. The out bound engineer joined me trying to answer my questions and we had an enjoyable conversation. Later on the way back, he came and walked me through the two engine compartments so I could have a cab ride and meet the engineer who could answer more of my questions. This was a bonus of the trip with me getting a ride in my all time favorite type of train engine. I truly enjoyed my entire trip on My Old Kentucky Dinner Train. The service by Sandy was excellent, the food fantastic and of course the cab ride topped it off. Back at Bardstown, they ran the engines around the train before backing us into the depot. Once I detrained, I was given permission to tour the other cars which were incredible. My Old Kentucky Dinner Train is really a first class operation in every way. I returned to my hotel, watched the last three minutes of the Oakland Raiders shutting out the Kansas City Chiefs in a torrential rain and on a muddy swampy field. I went to bed in Kentucky a very satisfied human being.

South to Mammoth Caves 12/29/2002

Sleeping in later than normal, I took the Blue Grass Parkway back over to Interstate 65 making my way to Cave City. On the way there I got my morning surprise when I came to a sign which read "Entering the Central Time Zone". As I had based getting there on a time schedule, I now had an extra hour in my life to play with. I stopped at Cave City at a McDonald's for Hot Cakes and Sausage which I took to a grade crossing in town and ate while I waited for any CSX trains to show which they never did. I drove on up to Mammoth Caves stopping at a gift shop for some post cards and at Mike's Rocks and Gems to get a gift for Mrs Angle. I drove to the visitor center, picked up my tickets, a video tape and a few more post cards for my Classroom post card wall. From then until the tour started I relaxed in the warming Kentucky sunshine as for the next part of my life as I will be spending some time underground.

Mammoth Cave Grand Avenue Tour 12/29/2002

This tour goes for 4.5 hours and will cover 4 miles underground in Mammoth Cave. We all loaded into buses after Ranger Amy gave us a talk of what laid ahead and what we would have to do physical to complete this tour. We took the bus to the Carmichael Entrance that would take our group to the depths of Mammoth Cave. We went down 180 steps that took us down starting in the dry area of the cave called Cleveland Avenue. As we walked easily down Cleveland up on the cave ceiling were Gypsum Flowers. One of the other features on Cleveland Avenue is the Cleveland Cabinet formation. Our Ranger Amy is excellent at pointing out things as I was walking right behind her this whole tour. To me this is the best place to be as you get firsthand information as well as seeing the darken cave come to light in an unobstructed view every time we come to a new section when she turned on the lighting. It was incredible to see it this way. We later saw the Wild Cave Tour coming out of what's called the birth canal into Cleveland Avenue with their Ranger spanking each member of their group as they enter our world and calling out whether it is a boy or a girl. After about an hour we arrived at the Snowball Room for lunch and the restroom. This room looks as if someone had thrown snowballs up to the ceiling and they stuck. The food is brought down by a long elevator. It is a unique restaurant located at -267 feet below the surface. After lunch we headed underground east down Boone Avenue passed Mary's vineyard to Thorpe Pit before we turned off down very narrow passageways with ceilings about 40 feet above us. At the Rock of Gibraltar we entered Kentucky Avenue passing Alice Grotto. We had to climb 85 feet to the top of Mount McKinley and a restroom stop at the summit. That gave everyone in our group reason to complete the climb. From the top we went 95 feet down to reach the Grand Canyon. A steel cable crossing is still high above and people used to ride across the Grand Canyon. Of course, the carrying vehicle would have dropped you twenty feet down when you started. Our group has done an excellent job of staying together during our trip. Our continuing journey next took as to the Aero Bridge and the Big Break before we arrived in Grand Central Station. Here we rested while Amy demonstrated just how dark this cave really is. First she turned out the lights and you were in pitch darkness. Next just a lighter followed by her flashlight before the lights were restored. It was a pretty amazing demonstration. From here to our exit the cave changes from a dry environment to a wet environment as there is no cap rock above our next part of the cave to keep the water out. This is one part of Mammoth Cave which features stalactites and stalagmites, pits, domes and drip stone formations. They are also cave grapes and cave bacon. We went on a narrow walkway with drops on both sides called Lover's Leap, along College Heights, into Moonlight Dome, Frozen Niagara which under it is the Drapery Room which is incredible.

Climbing back up we went by Crystal Lake before we went through a short man made entrance and returned to the surface and daylight. A bus then took as back to the Visitor Center and that was the end of the tour. It was an incredible tour and if you take it make sure you do plenty of walking before you come here like I did so you are in great shape for a fantastic trek.

Back to Louisville 12/29/2002

Before I left the park, I stopped at a display of the old Mammoth Railroad. It was built in 1886 to take passengers from the L&N mainline in Cave City to the Park. It lasted until 1929. The last engine named Hercules and a combine are under cover and on display. I drove back to Cave City stopping at a Kentucky Fried Chicken which did not taste any better here in Kentucky than it does back home. I drove back down Interstate 65 to Louisville where I gassed up the Dodge before I returned it leaving the car under the port and put the keys into the key return device. I walked back to Louisville Union Station passing the old L&N building with L&N all lit up in red neon. I dropped my bags off at the guard station before walking three blocks west to the Broadway Cinema where I saw "Two Weeks Notice" with Sandra Bullock and Hugh Grant. It was an enjoyable movie and I was the only person in the theater. As I walked back to Union Station, I heard a horn and as I arrived back at the station, my train was backing in. I retrieved my luggage at the Guard Station thanking him for watching it for me and walked out to the train thinking how blessed I had been with the weather here. 50 degrees and clear was far better than the rain, sleet or snow with cold temperatures that I could have faced. Maybe I am the bringer of good weather! What a great time I had in Kentucky! I stepped onto the one car train with a big smile on my face.

Kentucky Cardinal 851 12/29/2002

In my usual spot on this one car train, the conductor took my ticket and it turned out that he used to work for Metrolink on the Lancaster trains. I was tried after such a great day in my life but decided to stay awake to Jeffersonville. On time we backed out and once our conductor threw a switch we were on our way north. In an industrial yard I saw a Thomas the Tank Engine in really poor shape. We crossed the Ohio River with a great view of downtown Louisville before heading to Jeffersonville where a family detrained and we picked up five more giving twenty two passengers when we left. We sat waiting for departure time which used to pick up the former express car business that came from here. We headed north on time and I slept very soundly through the night.

12/30/2002 Waking up briefly in Indianapolis after the car had been cut off with no heat, I rearranged things as it was raining out before falling back into a deep sleep that lasted until 7:30 AM that morning. I awoke to snow covered fields before I went to get breakfast in the Cardinal dining car. We were the rear car now on the Cardinal that picked us up in Indy. I walked through three different coaches {Metroliner Cab Car, Amfleet II and Amfleet I with those horrible orange seats} then rebuilt Amfleet Lounge 28000 with smoking room New York before arriving at the rebuilt Diner 8504. This one has the small counter which is never used. There I had dry French Toast as this train was sent out with no syrup. As the Cardinal headed to Chicago under grey skies, I finished reading "Last Train to Paradise". We arrived at Dyer at 9:00 AM {7:16} EDT. Our eight car train got stopped at Dalton waiting to get onto the UP{CE&I} blocked by a UP freight. As we started moving a CN{GTW} train passed us going into Chicago on the route we just were on. Nearing Chicago I noticed how wet it was out but it was not raining at all. How odd. We crossed over the ICRR/Metra Electric Lines and slowly made our way north stopping and going. Under the Metra Rock Island Line and then we went under the CTA Blue Line I rode the other night. We passed Comisky Park with me already planning a trip to see a game there. The Cardinal passed above China Town before crossing the Chicago River and pulled straight into Chicago Union Station just as the Lake Shore Limited was backing in. We arrived at Chicago Union Station at 9:41 AM CST or forty one minutes late ending another part of this adventure.

Chicago 12/30/2002

I could not find a locker, called for help on their phone and for $7.50 they put my bags in the oversized storage room. I walked to the Quincy stop of the CTA and boarded an Orange Line train for Midway. The train had arrived quickly on another cold windy day for a reverse trip around the loop. Once on the loop we went to Roosevelt with the doors only staying open for ten seconds. Where the tracks make the tight "S" curve off Wabash is going to be straightened out as they have already constructed pillars. This one thing will increase CTA speed in and out of Chicago. Once we passed Roosevelt we turned off the Green Line and I was again on new CTA trackage. I have seen a lot of Chicago and the outlying regions thanks to Metra and the CTA. We crossed the Metra Rock Island Line and the junction I just came in on at 23rd Street. We ran above the Texas Eagle Route and the former Santa Fe route the Southwest Chief used to run in on. We stopped at Halstead and right before Ashland crossed the Chicago River. The former Santa Fe turned off to the west with us still following the former ICRR{CN} line to 35th/Archer where we left that line for a Belt Railway of Chicago Line near their large yard to the east and the Wheatland Tube Company on the west where we turned southwest. We stopped at Kedzie before we climbed high over the southern leads of BNSF's Corwith Yard to Pulaski. Within two minutes we were passing the CTA maintenance facility prior to going below grade to the Midway Airport stop ending my ride on the Orange Line. Once there I walked across the platform to take the next train back to Chicago and the Roosevelt stop.

After a quick picture of that Hotel Roosevelt, I boarded a Blue Line train to 63rd and Cottage Grove, a repeat of Friday's trip as far as Garfield and the junction to Ashland. Once passed that junction, I was on new trackage once again. I was on my final miles of the CTA. We passed the CTA maintenance facility before we turned east to our next stop at King Drive. We then made a straight shot to Cottage Grove and with that I had just completed riding every mile and route of the CTA. After a couple of quick pictures, I took the Blue Line back through the loop to Clinton. On the way there off to the east along Lake Michigan I saw the new Chicago Bear Stadium being built. I got off at Clinton, walked through the ex Chicago Northwestern Station stopping off at Waldens Book to buy "The Christmas Train" by David Baldacci. Back at Union Station, I had a Gold Coast Char Skirt Steak before I retrieved my luggage and waited for my train home to California.

Southwest Chief 3 12/30/2002

I was assigned to seat number one at the front of the car right hand side. You know the one with no table but plenty of leg space right over the trucks. I am hoping to upgrade to a room again as there were five rooms still open when I checked this morning. We left on time and pulled down even with the Metra yard to add the 8 mail/express cars and 14 roadrailers. The Chief sped through the western suburbs out to Aurora where the line to Minneapolis branches off bringing back memories of my Milwaukee Road 261 trip last summer over that line. I spent a nice trip to Galesburg in conversation with Henry going to San Bernardino and a couple heading home to Bakersfield. I shared several of my interesting stories which made time really fly. Our conductor told me I had a room for $257.60 and to be ready to walk up at Galesburg. I went to the dining car since I had a 5:30 dinner reservation and would have to move right during my meal if he could change me to a later time which our steward Ken was more than happy to move me to 7:00 PM. A few more stories and then I was down stairs ready for my move.

At Galesburg I led four other passengers from the coaches to our sleeping car the 331. I was given room 11 downstairs north side of the train which I was happy with since I rode the south side on my trip east. I paid the conductor for the room and then waited for 7:00 PM to come rolling along as the train took the Cameron Connection back to the old Santa Fe. I went to the dining car where I found Camile with her always fabulous smile working off the extra board. She had served me so many excellent meals on the Coast Starlight I knew my meals on this train would be fun. On the way to diner I noticed the name of my sleeper was Illinois. Funny thing is that was the car I had going east so while I went to Kentucky and spent the night there, this car went to Washington, DC and spent the night there. That also means that Coach I had been sitting in out of Chicago was the same coach that I was in out of Los Angeles. Now the funny part of this was my table mates at dinner going home to Albuquerque had the same sleeper going to Chicago when they had gone east on the 19th. It is a small world! I had another Filet Mignon and a "Zorro". Following more good conversation, I went and took a nice shower removing the sweat from Mammoth Cave. I felt like a new man. I read some more of the book before making my bed and calling it a night in western Missouri.

12/31/2002 Waking up on my birthday {number 45 this year} has occurred in my different locations over the years. Last year it was in Boston going to Maine and in other years places like Sufragio, Sinaloa waiting for my day to start going over the CHP to Copper Canyon. 2002 found me waking near Dodge City where I took a shower while the train waited for the time to leave. I went to the lounge car to wait for the diner to open before having breakfast of French Toast with the man going to Bakersfield and a couple visiting from Toronto heading to LA before going up the Coast to Vancouver then across on the Canadian. We had really good conversation of places where we had been, politics and just life in general. We cruised along to Lamar and arrived La Junta forty five minutes early. I took an eleven minute power walk to the park with the Santa Fe 2-6-2 1024 on display. I picked up a pack of donuts at a Texaco Food Mart on the way back to the train I returned and was reading the Pueblo Chieftain as the Southwest Chief left La Junta on time.

I read more of "The Christmas Train" until about halfway up Raton Pass where I was going to get a picture of our train curving climbing up the pass. What I got instead was us passing a BNSF freight with two Norfolk Southern units mixed in up front and more units buried mid train. Once out of the Raton Tunnel in New Mexico where I caught on film the old Santa Fe "Raton Tunnel" sign. We arrived in Raton and I sat in the room waiting for lunch to be called. I had another Steak Burger and Ice Cream Sundae with the same couple I had dinner with last night. I returned to my room for more of the book which I later finished when we descended Glorieta Pass into Apache Canyon. At Canyoncito we met the 23 car eastbound Southwest Chief while our 31 car train ran through the siding. We arrived at Albuquerque almost an hour early. With that I called home to my mother, bought a turquoise and silver ring for myself for my birthday and a USA Today. I got in a good power walk on the platform as we waited for our departure time. Sunset happened before we left and right after we left town I went to the dining car for my final dinner of the trip, another Filet and "Zorro" with a father and son from Oklahoma going to the Rose Bowl. I relaxed in my room doing fill ins and listening to music. This has been the quietest birthday of my life by far and I made my bed and fell fast asleep.

That was until Gallup when two young men who if you were watching television dressed as gang bangers got thrown off the train. They had boarded in Chicago dressed like that and today I learned that they had started problems in the lounge car and our conductor must have had enough of the pair. I was sleeping soundly and was awakened to the sounds of the police telling the two to get off of the train. The two were swearing at the police and calling the conductor a racist. They started banging on my wall with a lady telling the police that they are not ghetto boys but from.... She finally got quiet after the police said that they would just put them on a bus to LA. We took a forty five minute delay before I tried to get back to sleep with limited success with my bed at home calling to me. After the latest event, I could not wait!

1/1/2003 What a way to start a New Year waking up in a sleeping car outside of Barstow, taking a shower and enjoying a final breakfast on the Southwest Chief to Victorville. Our descent down Cajon Pass was under the stars. Twilight came at San Bernardino and now if we can get to Fullerton in time for me to connect with Surfliner 564 to Santa Ana my trip would end perfectly. Riverside was a pre sunrise stop and now the sprint to Fullerton would take place. Sunrise came to the peaks at Arlington as the big wheels continued to spin. The fog in Santa Ana Canyon was interesting and the BNSF had three trains parked in the canyon. The train arrived at Fullerton at 7:35 AM and the train would arrive in Los Angeles on time. I crossed the pedestrian bridge, called home so my mom would be waiting and took 564 home to Santa Ana on time, ending another fantastic trip.