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The long trip home from Flint

by Chris Guenzler

After having a great three days at TrainFestival 2009. At 6:45 AM Keith Schimdt met me in the lobby before driving me to the Flint Amtrak Station where he dropped me off. I waited outside for an on time Blue Water to arrive.

Blue Water 365 7/27/2009

You wait behind this locked gate until the train arrives and the agent opens the gate to the platform.

The Blue Water came in to Flint and I was boarded into the last coach. The train consisted of Engine 29, Horizon Cafe/Business Class 58002, Horizon Coaches 54582, 54524 and 54576 with engine 33 on the rear. I put on my DVD of "Jethro Tull Live at Montreux 2003" as the train rolled southwest across Michigan.

The old Battle Creek Station no longer in use. The train arrived into Battle Creek early for a crew change and we all had time to get some fresh air.

Pointing the right way towards Chicago.

The Blue Water at rest at Battle Creek. I listened to Metallica "Death Magnetic" as we continued our on time running.

The station at Niles, Michigan. Later I put on Yes "Open Your Eyes.

Michigan City Harbor.

South Shore Railroad street running in Michigan City. At Porter there was no delay as the train got onto the Norfolk Southern mainline for the rest of the trip into Chicago. The train ran by the Indiana Dunes National Waterfront Park.

A Canadian National unit at the old EJ&E Yard.

Indiana Harbor Belt switcher 8811.

A steel company remote control switcher.

The skyline of Chicago before the Blue Water arrived into Chicago Union Station basically on time.

Chicago 7/27/2009

I walked off the Blue Water and headed for the Metropolitan Lounge but this time I didn't check my luggage in to storage. I found a plug and plugged in my Computer finding the Lounge wireless wasn't working. I told them about it but got the response "I'm not tall enough to reach it!". I said "I could" but she said she would have to call a manager. I asked when might that be and she said "Whenever I get around to it!" I took the computer upstairs to the Bar in the Food Court and posted my stories on from all the Michigan Trips. I returned and still no luck, a gentlemen watched my bags while I went to Gold Coast and got a pair of Char Dogs which I returned to eat in the lounge. The stories I posted were now gone, but consolidated all on one post. I redid my work and had my lunch. I looked at things on the Internet and before leaving I checked and the post was still there. Dead tired I got a ride out to the Southwest Chief for the trip home.

Southwest Chief 4 7/27/2009

Our Southwest Chief with a consist of Engines 25, 6 and 24, Baggage 1337, Transition 39010, Sleepers 32073 California and 32066, Diner 38007, Lounge 33000 and Coaches 34042, 34088, 31023 and 31032. I boarded the 32066 and had Room 3 in the 330 Car. Julio is my Sleeping Car Attendant for this trip.

View of Michigan trains ready for their afternoon departure. Our train departed Chicago Union Station on time and we were off for California and home.

Something told me when I went to the bathroom and saw the electrical tape holding up the toilet seat covers that this trip would end up being unique. I got a 5:00 PM dinner reservation and after Mendota they announced that dinner would be delayed as the Dining Car had no water. This is ridiculous. How could a train leave a terminal with no water? I called the 800 Amtrak Number and got a customer rep on the phone who used to be a Dining Car steward. I asked who is responsible for seeing the Dining Car has water. Four people he said, two in the yard, the head chef and Dining Car Steward. I was not a happy train rider. They announced while I was on the phone, that we would take water for the Dining Car at Galesburg and that dinners tonight would not be served a dessert. Let us just say I was not any happier after I got off the phone than I was before.

The former Rock Island Railroad line now Iowa Interstate that I rode during the Grand Excursion 2004 behind the Milwaukee Road 261.

A farm out in the Illinois countryside.

The former Santa Fe mainline before we reached the Galesburg Amtrak Station where the water hose was already running.

We were allowed off for a fresh air break at Galesburg while they watered the Dining Car.

The water has to be run for at least five minutes then the area around the plug must be cleaned by running water over it for a few minutes.

Now the plug in put in and the Dining Car gets watered.

Once the Dining Car in filled with water, the hose is removed and we left Galesburg twenty minutes late.

At Cameron Jct where we left the old CB&Q Mainline for the old Santa Fe mainline we passed this BNSF waiting for us to clear. They finally called us into the Dining car and I had the Braised Flat Iron Bordelaise for my dinner. They did not serve dessert as they wanted to clear out each seating in the Dining Car as quick as possible. That was unacceptable and adds to my grief with this trip. Back in my room, I watched my Hannah Montana in 3D DVD and enjoyed that pausing it at La Plata and yelling "Hello" to Bob Cox when the train stopped in La Plata. Tired I made up my room and called it a night.


I woke up early short of Garden City and enjoyed French Toast and sausage patties for breakfast. I napped in bed until Lamar and at La Junta got on-line seeing that my posts had again been consolidated. This morning the coffee marker in the Dining Car is not working so no hot beverages would be available. I worked on my Orange County Historical Railway Society Program for September before taking Fresh Air Break at Raton. At 12:00 PM I had the Angus Beef Burger with the Peanut Caramel etc. Dessert. I listened to the Gandy Dancers CD and after that the Jethro Tull CD "This Was". At 1:55 PM the train came to a stop just passed Signal 813.1 just before the siding at Rowe, New Mexico.

The view of the train while we were stopped. I put on my DVD of Motley Crue "Loud, Tattooed and Crued". We were told the lead engine had an air break problem that has locked its brakes. At 3:10 PM, while I was in the shower, the train moved slowly pushing Engine 25 with the other two engines and train into the siding at Rowe. I put on my DVD of Cheap Trick Live. As the band played the eastbound Southwest Chief finally got by us at 4:09 PM on its way to Chicago arriving there 1 hour and 35 minutes late at 4:55 PM. Our conductor told me that this was a first and the Amtrak motive power desk had no idea what to do. A call to General Electric gave them the how to get the brakes unlocked on Engine 25. Engine 25 now with no brakes would have to be chained down to keep it from rolling away. We waited 45 more minutes for the first BNSF truck to arrive but he didn't have the chains needed to secure the unit in place. At 5:00 PM I went to the Dining car for a Dinner of Salmon and at 5:05 PM the second BNSF truck arrived with the chains needed to secure the Engine 25 in place.

The view during dinner. At 5:31 PM the train backed one car length to cut off Engine 25 and the Head End Power {HEP} was cut off. At 5:53 PM the HEP was restored. At 6:00 PM the train started backing out of the Rowe siding. At 6:05 the Southwest Chief left Rowe for Lamy and points west.

We left Engine 25 at Rowe as we headed west as I put on my DVD of the Rolling Stones "Shine a Light".

Apache Canyon before we stopped at Lamy at 6:51 PM {2:24 PM}. The train ran to the siding at Domingo for a Railrunner Train. Back on the move the Southwest Chief headed south.

Scenes on the way towards Albuquerque. At 7:43 PM we stopped for a crew change at the Sandoval County/US 550 Railrunner station as our crew was about to die on the Hours of Service Law. We departed that station at 7:49 PM and headed to Albuquerque arriving there at 8:08 PM {3:55 PM} for our servicing stop. I got off the train in the 78 degree air with a good strong breeze blowing. The Southwest Chief departed Albuquerque at 8:47 PM {4:45 PM} and made up my room and called it a night.


I woke up at the US Highway 95 Crossing west of Needles and went to the Lounge Car to wait for breakfast that was supposed to be at 6:30 AM. At 6:35 AM I was berated by a member of the crew while waiting for the Dining Car to open in the sleeping car hallway. "Either go back to your room or lounge car to wait but not here!" When I asked when might the Dining Car be open she said wait for an announcement. I went and visited with the excellent conductor Dave Arthur when they announced "The Dining car ventilation system is out and thus we can not serve any breakfast." Dave told me food would be brought on at some point. I said "It would most likely have cheese on it and I can't eat it." The train made its way to Barstow where we got a fresh air break. We left Barstow at 7:51 AM {3:39 AM}.

The Ostrich Farm before Victorville where the food would be brought aboard.

Old meets the new, BNSF unit and a Santa Fe Caboose.

Old Town Route 66 Sign in Victorville.

A BNSF freight comes out of the Upper Mojave Narrows.

The Southwest Chief passed through the Upper Mojave Narrows. They passed out the breakfast Ham and Cheese Sandwiches which I couldn't eat. I went to the Lounge Car and the attendant comped me a Mrs. Goodcookie Chocolate Chunk Cookie. I enjoyed that as the train climbed Cajon Pass to Summit before descending the steeper west side.

Our train took the Number 2 mainline down the west slope of Cajon Pass.

Views of the Mormon Rocks.

Looking down on the steeper south track.

Sullivan's Curve. The train ran the rest of the grade down Cajon Pass to San Bernardino. There we set off the checked baggage for San Joaquin points and the Coast Starlight points north of San Jose. We left there at San Bernardino 9:58 AM {5:32 AM}. The train headed to Riverside.

The old Union Pacific Station in Colton, California. The train ran to Riverside leaving there at 10:16 AM {5:53 AM}. From there the train ran to Fullerton where I detrained at 10:57 AM {6:34 AM} ending the worst trip I have ever taken aboard the Southwest Chief.

The Southwest Chief starts its final sprint to LAUPT arriving there at 11:45 AM, 3 hours and 30 minutes late {8:15 AM}.

A BNSF train comes through Fullerton on Track 2.

Surfliner 769 came into Fullerton.

Surfliner 572 arrived into Fullerton and I boarded Pacific Business Class for the quick trip to Santa Ana where a tried Chris detrained for the final time on this trip. My mother picked me up and soon I was at home ending a fantastic time in Michigan and hoped I would never have another trip on the Southwest Chief like this one.