Wow! My third long distance train trip! It feels like yesterday I set foot on the Pacific Surfliner for a short trip from Los Angeles to San Juan Capistrano. I have now traveled on the Coast Starlight once, and now the Southwest Chief now as well. Unfortunately I cannot supply you with my actually railroad miles traveled on the Amtrak system at this time because MileTrak Classic is still under construction. Back to this trip, as I said it was my third long distance trip and another trip to remember! Enjoy!
Part I - Train #4 LAX-ABQ
4:00PM Friday (Veterans Day)
We left home headed for Union Station, it was getting dark relatively early but I suppose that is to be expected this time of year. The traffic was generally mild and we were there in no time.
We were lucky enough to find a Smart Carte outside of the station and would use it to carry our bags to the Amtrak ticketing section of the station. We needed to get new tickets because the tickets I had originally reserved were for the Sunset Limited/Texas Eagle going to Lordsburg, NM (flag stop). We decided to change the tickets to Albuquerque later because I needed to get back to school Monday. The line was rather short and a helpful Amtrak ticketing clerk helped us change our tickets but the only problem was that when I had changed our tickets over the phone they had me as an ADULT instead of an AAA CHILD so she told us to call 1-800-USA-RAIL and have this changed. It was then my brother realized he had forgotten his cell phone and we only had mine. We called the number and were soon taken care of. She gave us our tickets and we walked to the waiting area to listen for the 6:00PM boarding announcement for Train #4 The Southwest Chief.
(Left: Amtrak Ticketing Sign, Right: Waiting Area)
6:00PM - Boarding
An announcement is made for passengers traveling on the Chief. We are the first ones to arrive at the First Class Sleeping Car side of the line. A few minutes later many other sleeping car passengers, as well as coach passengers began to join the line. Soon the conductor came and stamped CHECKED on our tickets so we walked to Track #12. The train had already come in the station when we arrived and was all ready for boarding. Car - 04-30 easily spotted where our attendant Efren Cuadro collected our tickets and directed us to the upstairs roomettes. We were the first ones to board our car, and I noticed this car had the Phase IVB paint scheme, as well as the wood paneling, and the "blue/green" seats.
NOTE: The name of our attendant is hyper linked because Efren is featured on CrewTen.com for the Southwest Chief!
(Left: Sign for Long Haul Passengers, Right: "To Trains")
6:45PM - On Time Departure
We departed on time from Los Angeles. Efren made an announcement about dinner, smoking, etc. It was at this time I learned that dinner would be first-come, first-serve. I expected this since dinner would start much earlier if a long distance train had departed earlier in the day.
At about 7:00PM we went to the lounge car to see what was going on before dinner. It was sad to not have a Pacific Parlour Car as on the Coast Starlight but it was nice to experience something different to get used to other Amtrak routes I will hopefully travel soon. The lounge car on this train was actually one of the older ones with not with the dark red and gray seating. It was not as the newer ones, but it was nice enough.
7:15PM - Dinner
At about 7:15PM the dining car was open and ready to serve! We were seated with a mother and her fiver year old daughter also heading to Albuquerque then to go all the way to Arkansas. The steak on the menu was the Delmonico. Not one of my favorites on Amtrak, but its not bad at all. My brother and I both had the steak as well as one of our dinner companions. The little girl requested the pizza but they didn't have it so she got the grilled chicken tenders. Our food arrived shortly and the steak was cooked to perfection. I had a baked potato and my salad was accompanied by Italian Dressing. Dinner was delicious and we were soon presented with dessert. I had the Cheesecake with strawberry sauce. I was hoping to have the Chocolate Bundt, but the waitress said that was on the Eastbound train (#3). I'm sorry I forgot to take a few pictures of the food.
During dinner, we stopped in Fullerton for a few minutes before highballing on. I had never seen Fullerton at night all the times passing through on the Pacific Surfliner. Its one of my favorite stations in California. We also stopped in riverside before our dishes were bussed.
8:00PM - Feature Movie in the Lounge
At this time an announcement was made for the evening's movie which was going to be Mr. & Mrs. Smith. We decided to watch the movie, this was the first time I had ever watched a movie in the Sightseer Lounge, in the Parlour Car, the downstairs theater is excellent for canceling out light, and train noises. The movie was very loud in the lounge and rather hard to hear. We got a good seat though, so it was easily viewed.
During the movie, we arrived in San Bernadino. This was another quick stop like Fullerton, and San Bernardino. The movie was pretty good, towards the very end around 9:30PM we arrived in Victorville. I walked to the coach directly behind of the Lounge to detrain. When I got off the train the conductor located a purse on the lower level of the coach he stopped the people exiting the train and asked the woman and she said it was hers and was extremely grateful. After all passengers had detrained/boarded in Victoria the conductor gave a Highball to the engineer but was told, "10-4 Amtrak four, we got a few minutes to kill in Victorville". I'm not use to being early on a long haul traveling on the Coast Starlight! Less then 5 minutes later train #4 got the real Highball to leave Victorville.
The movie was now over, and the next stop was not until Barstow at 10:26PM. We settled down in the room and got ready to go to bed. We would wake up in "Fair New Mexico" (New Mexico's nickname, ie: Golden State <California>). I took the lower bed since my brother did not have as much of a preference as when I travel with my mother. It was a rather rocky ride compared to the Coast Starlight but I fell asleep shortly.
Clocks Go Ahead 1 hour --> Mountain Time.
I woke up a few times during the night around 4, and 5am. I woke up officially though before 7:00AM.
7:00AM Saturday -
My brother was still sleeping, so we couldn't go to breakfast yet. I decided to go take a shower downstairs. It was a usual Superliner shower, I was hoping it would be one of the rebuilt ones with the real glass door, instead of the curtain but it was not. After my shower, I went upstairs. My brother was still sleeping, so I got out my Radio Shack PR0-64 400 Direct Entry Scanner. But unfortunately, I had forgotten to pack headphones! I even forgot the small ear buds for my iPod. Since I could not listen to my scanner I decided to get the consist of the train. So I walked up and down the cars, I noticed the train was not very crowded in Coach, and several passengers were still sleeping.
(Left: Morning "Scenery", Right: A Coach car)
Friday, November 11, 2005, Amtrak Southwest Chief, Train #4, Departing Los Angeles Union Sta.
Click Here For more Superliner Information, Visit "Web Lurker's Superliner Roster"
Finally around 8, my brother is waking up. We went to go eat breakfast a few minutes later. We were seated with a young couple. The man was a graduate student at UCLA. My brother just finished under-graduate school at UCLA so they had lots to talk about. I usually have the Continental for breakfast with either Ra sin Bran or Oatmeal but I was rather hungry this morning so I had the Railroad French Toast. My brother had pancakes as did our dining companions. The french toast was excellent and it was enjoyable watching all of the small towns in New Mexico go by as we dined. I saw motels for $15- a night, and small roadside diners. It was very interesting to witness.
(Left: Table set up in the Dining Car, Right: Railroad French Toast)
After breakfast, we went back to our Roomette, we had already arrived in Gallup, so Albuquerque would be the next and our final station stop. The train was also running on time, in fact about 20 minutes early!
(Left: View around 9am Right: Santa Fe freight train)
At this time, I decided to see what souvenirs were being offered in the Cafe car on the lower level of the sightseer lounge. I asked the attendant and he brought out a medium sized plastic container with Amtrak postcards, pin, playing cards, and hat. The Amtrak postcard collection is very large and there are several different set to purchase and usually only one or two are available on each trip. I purchased the two that were available. Also, I got a new Amtrak new logo pin since my old one that I had purchased on Amtrak.com had broke. I also bought one of the kind of playing cards. I have 5 decks of Amtrak playing cards. The deck I purchased I already had one of but it was not sealed so I purchased this one for collective purposes.
After this, it was back to the room. I put this stuff away in my small bag upstairs and went to the lounge to relax I periodically returned to our room anticipating our arrival in Albuquerque.
(Center: My scanner, digital still camera, and Legal pad for trip notes)
11:00AM - Prior to Arrival
Before we arrived in Albuquerque (early-- instead of 12:16PM) we tipped Efren and thanked him for making our journey more enjoyable onboard the Southwest Chief. Following this a conductor made an announcement that we would be arriving in Albuquerque early and he thanked us for choosing Amtrak. He notified passengers going further then Albuquerque that there would be a 1.5 hour layover since we were so early.
Note: I also have a recording of this announcement that I should have up very soon. If you are reading this and I have not yet put the recording up then please email me.
Notice below the picture of the New Mexico Rail Runner commuter train in the yard. The trains are not being operated yet, but should be in the next 1-3 years depending on how fast NMDOT can get it going.
(Left: NM Rail Runner Commuter Train, Rightr: An extra Coach in the ABQ yard just off the platform)
- Arrived in Albuquerque
We got off the train and I took a few pictures of train #4 heading on to Chicago. I also took just a couple of the station since we would be obviously coming back.
(Left: Amtrak ABQ sign, Center: #4 at ABQ, RIght: ABQ station waiting area)
Part 2- City of Albuquerque, NM
11:40AM - Catching cab to Marriott Hotel
Outside of the station, their was only one cab outside of the station. We got in and told the driver we needed to get to the Marriott. She took us to the Marriott via the freeway. She told us all about the city, railroads and a general introduction to the city of Albuquerque New Mexico.
12:00PM Marriott Hotel - Albuquerque
We arrived at the hotel around noon. The cab driver gave us her card incase we needed a cab later in the day. When we walked in the hotel we checked in even though the check-in time was not suppose to be until 4:00PM. We got a room on the very top floor, which I believe was the thirteenth or so. The hotel was rather empty. There was not one person by the pool, nor anyone in the lobby besides the people working at the front desk.
(Left: The Marriott Hotel, Right: Indoor/Outdoor Pool and Spa)
When we got to our room we ordered the Marriott business package for $9.95. We quickly connected our laptop and looked up a Railroad museum and only found something called the Wheels Museum. Unfortunately it was still under construction and was not open yet. Since we were hungry we then looked in a hotel guide book and saw a restaurant called Tucanos which was somewhere in the downtown area. We decided to find any restaurant so with some direction from the Concierge we found out we could take the Marriott courtesy shuttle to downtown.
(Left: Rapid Ride Stop, Right: 766 Rapid Ride Bus Arriving)
Around 3:00PM -
We got off the bus right across the street from the Amtrak station and immediately saw Tucanos! We went right in and got a late lunch seating. It was a very crowded restaurant and soon we learned that it was a Brazilian style restaurant where you can have as much meat as you want until you are completely full. If you have never been to one of these restaurants the way it works is that you have a small wooden object on the table, one side is painted GREEN and the other RED. When it is on the green side, your server continues to bring several different cuts of meats ranging from Sirloin steak, to chicken, to chicken hearts. All of the meats have a brazilian flavor. As well as all of these meats, they also have a full buffet with potatoes, salad, pasta, soups, fruit, and more. If you are ever in Albuquerque I highly recommend you visit the best Brazilian restaurant I have ever been to!
(Left: Tucans Sign, Center: Outside, RIght: Viewable Kitchen)
After being stuffed to our limits at Tucanos, we went to the train station where the westbound Southwest Chief #3 had arrived. I noticed this train also had ExpressTrak cars on it. The eastbound Southwest Chief does not.
After we left the station, I noticed the Greyhound station was right across the street. I had never been inside of a Greyhound station before and only seen the outside of the station on Alameda Street in Los Angeles. When I went in I saw chairs, vending machines, and a gift shop/cafe. The station had many more facilities then the Amtrak station does, but I suppose this is necessary since there is literally none of these kinds of things onboard the bus.
(Left: Inside of station, Right: Buses in the yard)
Note: I was a bit scared of taking pictures of Greyhound property since on there website it clearly states that you may not photo any of there buses, stations, etc.
Also near the Amtrak station was an old Santa Fe Building that I took a picture of but have no information about it.
(Center: The mysterious Santa Fe Building)
We got a bus back to the hotel and were soon back in our room. The pool finally had some actual people in it and the spa and sauna were also in use as well. We figured we would go check it out only we did not have any swim trunks. We went across the street to a mall and found it very difficult to find swim trunks since it was mid-November. The only ones we could find were XL -XXXL sized! We bought some and left and were soon back at the hotel. We went swimming for a bit and then were soon hungry again even after our huge lunch at Tucanos.
Near the mall there was a TGI Fridays. We went in and I ordered a Cheeseburger with Fries and a Sprite. My brother ordered a Quesadilla. I finished my cheeseburger and wanted to try one of TGI's special desserts but was to full.We walked back to the hotel in the very cold air.
Back at the hotel we ordered a movie on Pay-Per-View and went to bed early to get the best of the following day before the noon checkout time.
8:30AM - Woke up
I woke up pretty late since I did not sleep well on the train since it was such a bumpy ride. When I woke up I remembered that the internet expired at 12:00PM and if we did not disconnect it by then we would be billed for another 24 hour time period of high speed internet. I checked my email and a few other things before we disconnected the laptop and prepared our belongings for our departure.
9:00AM - Breakfast Buffet
I went downstairs alone to get 2 plates from the breakfast buffet and bring them upstairs to eat in our room. I got toast, bagels, eggs, bacon, muffins, oatmeal, cereal, orange juice, coffee, and milk to eat in the room. Quite a few people were sitting down in the lobby eating since it was a Sunday. Most of the people were locals and regulars to the Sunday breakfast.
The food was pretty good. After breakfast I decided to go for a quick swim before we checked out.
11:00AM - Eaten, packed up, ready to leave
I called Amtrak to check the status on Train #3. According to Julie it was running 1 minute late and was estimated to arrive 15 minutes early into Albuquerque.
We left our room around noon and headed for downtown where we anticipated on leaving our bags at the station then walking around the city and getting some lunch since we would not get lunch on the train.
Since it was a Sunday, the Rapid Ride stretch bus we had rode on Saturday was not operating. Unfortunately we would have to take a smaller older bus, then connect to another small bus. Both buses were crowded, and we had suitcases to make it even more interesting!
( Hotel Lobby, Bad picture, sorry! )
1:00PM - Amtrak Station
The baggage room of the station notified us it was $2- a bag to leave at the station. We left our two bags and carried our small bags with us.
For lunch we went to an Italian buffet called Fresh Choices. They were not to crowded nor was anything in the proximity. The food was pretty good and we stayed there about 45 minutes to have a place to sit instead of sitting in the small station until our train arrived.
(A freight train with BNSF, NS, CN, UP, CSX etc. cars on it)
(Train #3 has arrived.)
Part 3- Train #3 ABQ-LAX
We got to the train station about 40 minutes before the arrival of train #3. Since we had plenty of time, I immediately claimed our bags, and I ran across the street to the Greyhound station gift shop in order to purchase a pair of headphones. Back at the station, there were only a few people inside of the train station, and we were the only ones out on the platform except for the vendors preparing to show passengers there merchandise upon arrival. We walked down the platform a bit towards where the 31 Sleeper would stop. We then saw the rather famous burrito stand. I decided to purchase an authentic blanket, and a railroad whistle. We also talked to one of the owners who told us that the building being remodeled directly behind the train tracks was soon going to be the new Greyhound station. The building across the street would no longer be in use. Unfortunately for Amtrak, they would not get a new station and only get a paint job on the current station.
The train arrived about ten minutes early. We immediately found car 31. Our attendant was Bob. We lef tour baggage on the lower level as always, and went upstairs to settle in our room. Since the train had about one hour until departure, I wanted to take a walk on the platform to get the consist numbers since this would be the only chance I really had.
The eastbound Southwest Chief I found carries three ExpressTrak cars on the back.
Sunday, November 13, 2005, Amtrak Southwest Chief, Train #3, Departing Albuquerque Amtrak Station
**The links above are to websites not related to myself or Amtrak that have pictures of the specified cars.
VIDEO - S.W. CHIEF #3 ARRIVING
(Southwest Chief Train #3 Arriving in Albuquerque, New Mexico. Nov. 12, 2005.)
(Left: Baggage car Center:, A stop sign on the same track as the train!? Right: The ExpressTrak cars)
4:45PM - Departure
At exactly 4:45PM I heard "highball" on my scanner. The train did exactly that and was off to Los Angeles. The little light left outside was very little and would last less than an hour.
(Final look at the ABQ station)
Announcement from LSA in Dining Car after departing ABQ
4:54PM - Lavatory problem in 0331
Bob stopped by our room to introduce himself at 4:54PM. He told us that there was a problem with the plumbing in this car so we would have to use the restrooms in car 0330. This would create a small inconvenience, but as long as the bathrooms were clean I did not mind. (He had also gave us a Dinner Reservation for 6:30PM when we first boarded).
As we were relaxing in our room, I found a small piece of paper on the floor. At first I thought it was just trash from passenger that had traveled prior to Albuquerque. But it turned out it was Bob's manifest. Bob was eating dinner in the dining car so I took it to him and he was very grateful as he explained that it has most likely fallen out of him pocket when he visited our roomette. After that, I quickly took a walk though the Coach cars as I usually do.
(What looks to be an un refurbished Superliner I with green seats, and orange curtains!)
6:30PM - Dinner
Our seating companions was a man from Chicago, going to Los Angeles, and a woman from Albuquerque going to Flagstaff. Both passengers were traveling in Sleeping Car. The man was in 0331 and when we got to the table he was asking the LSA to request a conductor to the dining car because he wanted to complain about the lavatory situation. At first I thought he was a perfectionist, but then I overheard him telling the conductor that he had travled on the Dessert Wind and The Pioneer. I was very surprised he was complaining about this situation.
The steak on the menu this evening was the Flat Iron, I had never seen this steak before on Amtrak but as I always do for dinner I ordered it. Everyone else at the table also ordered the meat.
Amtrak's steaks include: New York Strip, T-bone, Delmonico, Flat Iron, Tenderoloin, Twin Medallions, and there may be a few others. Out of these my favorite would be the Twin Medallions. I have never had the Tenderloin.
Dinner arrived in a bit and it was exceptional. The steak was cooked to medium rare as I had ordered it. My brother and our seating companions also enjoyed there dinner. For dessert I had the Chocolate Bundt (highly recommended) with strawberry syrup on top. This and the Cheesecake are my favorite Amtrak desserts.
Next Stop: Winslow, AZ
During the summer I had hoped to go to Winslow but I didn't want to since there would be virtually no scenery since the entire train trip would be during the night. From what I understand, there is a hotel in Winslow that also owns the train depot. When I went downstairs on 0330 Bob was not there to open up the doors because nobody was boarding in the sleepers in Winslow. About three minutes after arriving we departed winslow ON TIME. (Words not to familiar on the Coast Starlight)
Back in the room I sat down and enjoyed some of Amtrak's "Thirster" brand Apple juice. Its actually really good.
Around this time, I decided to walk to the sightseer lounge. As I walked through the dining car I showed my brother one of the newer Amtrak menu's and I showed him how they use to have menu's that actually said "Southwest Chief" or "Coast Starlight" instead of "Amtrak" on the front. I was then approached by our very friendly SA during dinner, Winston. He talked to us for 10-15 minutes about art in Lamy, as well as the Southwest Chief route in general. He then also told us that he use to work on the Coast Starlight. I asked him if he knew any of the crew we had been with on our last few trips and he told us that he was actually on the same crew (#4) on the Coast Starlight as we were my first time on the Starlight! He explained going to the Southwest Chief because of the Coast Starlight's departure/arrival times.
The Coast Starlight leaves Los Angeles (crew base) at: 10:15AM and the employees must report much earlier.
and arrives at 8:04PM (usually MUCH later).
This creates an inconvenience for the crew of the starlight, so some go over to the Chief.
Next Stop: Flagstaff, AZ
This was a six minute stop, and was also something that I had slept through on the eastbound trip. We got out for the six minutes and I really liked what I could see from the train station. It seemed to be a rather cozy town from what I could see at night.
Next Stop: Williams, AZ
Although its not a Flag stop, its probably the most deserted stop on any of Amtrak's routes. Nestled in the middle of the Grand Canyon, passengers who detrain in Williams are met by a white van which says Amtrak on it and also has the logo of the Grand Canyon Railway Hotel, takes passengers back to the hotel. The drivers of the van were dressed as cowboys. Williams was obviously a double stop, we detrained in a Coach where a conductor opened the door for one woman who was from Sydney, Australia. She was using Amtrak to see America. We were not allowed to detrain in Williams, but it was really nice to see it for a few moments from the vestibule area. (It was just as small and deserted as I had heard).
(The van w/ trailer that takes one to the Grand Canyon Railway Hotel)
Around 10 or so we retired for the night anticipating an early breakfast the following morning in the dining car. This was because the train would arrive into Los Angeles around 8am, so it was necessary they stripped the dining car before our arrival.
Part 4- Train #3 ABQ-LAX - Final Chapter
We woke up relatively early, I quickly showered then we headed down to the dining car for breakfast. I was not very hungry so I just ordered the continental with oatmeal, croissant, and strawberry yogurt. This is always a good choice when your not very hungry at an early breakfast seating.
Fullerton, CA (Last stop before Los Angeles)
We stopped in Fullerton for about five minutes, while we were in Fullerton we ran inside the cafe below the old TrainWeb office to get some cash to tip Bob.
The train left only a few moments after we stepped back onboard.
These are the pictures I took while going thru the industrial section before Union Station:
(Left: BNSF Locomotive w/ new logo, Center: That's a lot of garbage trucks!, Right: P42)
(Downtown Los Angeles)
Before long we were back in Los Angeles and the trip was over...
(We arrived exactly 12 minutes late)
This was a very enjoyable trip, and it was nice to try a different route besides the Coast Lines (Pacific Surfliner / Coast Starlight). The scenery was obviously not nearly as spectacular but it was still a new experience on Amtrak. In April of 2006, I will be taking my 3rd trip to Chemult, OR on the Coast Starlight. This is my favorite Amtrak destination and I cant wait until this trip. You can read about some of my past trips in the "Trip Report" section of my website.
PS. April 23, 2006: After months of problems uploading pages to on my FTP, I was finally able to upload this report. Thank you Trainweb for resolving the technical problems.
Happy rails everyone!
-Anton, 9th grade rail enthusiast.
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