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» RAILforum » Passenger Trains » Amtrak » Changes to the Sunset / Texas Eagle? (Page 1)

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Author Topic: Changes to the Sunset / Texas Eagle?
palmland
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From the 'Trains' newswire;

LOS ANGELES - Amtrak is considering operating a daily train between Los Angeles and New Orleans, a route that's not seen frequencies greater than tri-weekly since Amtrak's inception. Brian Rosenwald, Amtrak's chief of product management, outlined the proposal before the California Rail Political Action Committee/National Association of Railroad Passengers meeting last week.

The train would operate as an extension of the Texas Eagle, which currently connects Chicago with San Antonio, Texas, and would take the place of the current Sunset Limited. A stub train would operate between San Antonio and New Orleans to handle passengers in that portion of the corridor.

Currently, a coach and sleeper from the Sunset operate as through cars to Chicago on the Eagle three days per week, while a dormitory sleeper, full sleeper, dining car and coaches operate to New Orleans. The train had been extended to Miami in April 1993, and cut back to Orlando several years later due to poor timekeeping over the entire Union Pacific/CSX route. It has not operated east of New Orleans since August 2005, even though tracks were rebuilt several months after Hurricaine Katrina's devastation.

In a telephone interview with TRAINS, Rosenwald noted that the concept was still subject to the outcome of negotiations with the Union Pacific. After an exhaustive analysis, Amtrak determined that running the train daily from Los Angeles to Chicago would generate more than enough revenue to offset the increase costs, in part because the tri-weekly train is an inefficient operation due to two-day crew layovers and idled equipment. He stressed that a daily New Orleans-San Antonio train operating with a Cross Country Cafe and business class service would connect with an across-platform connection at San Antonio, leaving the option to add a connecting sleeper and coaches at a later date. Resumption of service east of New Orleans is under review, mandated by Amtrak's 2009 reauthorization.

The new Los Angeles-Chicago train would have its schedule tightened to avoid the long San Antonio layover, offer better times at Maricopa and Tucson, Ariz., and restore a connection with the Los Angeles-Seattle Coast Starlight at Los Angeles. Other changes might include turning on-board crews at Fort Worth, Texas, which would restore food service south of Austin on the Texas Eagle.

Rosenwald said the changes are being targeted for the October timetable change, assuming details with the Union Pacific can be finalized soon. - Bob Johnston

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PullmanCo
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It's only taken Amtrak 38 years to get the idea of a new basic routing!!! There never was a LA-Chicago routing by way of SP/MP in the day. NEVER.

If this happens, comment 1 is GOOD

Comment 2 is ABOUT TIME

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Steve O.
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I have mixed feelings about this.

While daily service is a great thing and should have been done many years ago, I'm not a fan of getting rid of same-train NOL-LAX service.

And how exactly does "Business Class" on a Superliner work? Not sure exactly, unless the CCC he was talking about will really wind up being an Amfleet Diner/Lounge.

The big problem I see with this is that when service east of NOL resumes, it would take two connections for folks west of SAS to get to ORL. I suppose Amtrak just doesn't want to route connections through NOL any longer. Perhaps the new Florida train will offer connections to/from the CONO only.

Anyway, it'll be interesting to see how this all pans out.

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Good morning America, how are ya?

44,950 Amtrak rail miles traveled since August 18, 2003.

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Steve O.
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I wonder if the stub train would keep the same name as the LAX-SAS-CHI train, ala the former Lake Shore Limited, when the Boston section was a stub?

--------------------
Good morning America, how are ya?

44,950 Amtrak rail miles traveled since August 18, 2003.

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Railroad Bill
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I think that better arrival times for Maricopa and Tucson would improve ridership for those who want to travel to Arizona and make rental car/hotel connections there. Everyday service would add more people obviously to the ridership. And the connection to the Coast Starlight is a big plus as well. [Smile]
I agree. Why did it take so long to figure this one out.--
Of course this may be the final death of any talk about extending the Sunset east of New Orleans. [Frown]

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notelvis
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There are some real pluses to this plan -

Daily service, better schedules in and out of Arizona, less dwell time in San Antonio.

The minus - San Antonio - New Orleans is an awful long way to go in coach.....and there is a real danger that connection at SAS would wind up being at pretty awkward middle-of-the-night times.

Again, the absence of a sleeper SAS - NOL is going to be a problem.

Sunset East of NOL - not likely to come back.

Separate train east of New Orleans.....or an extension of the City of New Orleans....maybe.

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Steve O.
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Also, from what I have read, both the TE and SL names would be dropped in favor of the proposed name "Golden State". I know progress is progress, but it'd be a sad day to see those two names disappear.

The lack of a sleeper between NOL-SAS...even a transition selling Roomettes only...is a huge letdown. 14 hours in coach is probably a tough sell for some. And coach-only on the longer segment NOL-ORL? I'd ride it, but that's an 18-hour ride, minimum.

notelvis, I think you are right...if they want the "Golden State" to connect with the Starlight, the departure time from SAS would have to be somewhere betweem say midnight and 2:00am...probably close to the latter. Cross platform connection, sure...but at fairly inconvenient times. The other direction wouldn't be as bad....it'd prob. arrive SAS around 6:00am, give or take a few.

--------------------
Good morning America, how are ya?

44,950 Amtrak rail miles traveled since August 18, 2003.

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Gilbert B Norman
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Possibly, and I mean this with all respect considering the youth prevalent at any of these boards, Steve O is unaware that the Golden State is a railroad name for a Chicago-LA train that was routed Chi-CRI&P-Santa Rosa-SP-LA.

I rode it Chi-El Paso during December 1963; despite its Extra Fare, it was hardly in the league with either the Super or City.

As I recall its Adios drumhead went up during 1966.

Here's a consist:

http://www.railroad.net/forums/viewtopic.php?f=155&t=12524&p=454388#p454388

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Steve O.
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Thanks, Mr. Norman. I thought it had a historic ring to it. I found a schedule for it, as well...

http://streamlinerschedules.com/concourse/track9/goldstate194812.html

--------------------
Good morning America, how are ya?

44,950 Amtrak rail miles traveled since August 18, 2003.

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bill haithcoat
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Also, NativeSon, the Golden State never received dome cars.That was a telling mark of distinction amongst trains which served the west coast.

This backs up what Mr. Norman said about it being not that great of a train.

But also as pointed out it was a grand old traditional railroad name.

--------------------
bill haithcoat

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PullmanCo
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The Golden State didn't get domes because SP partnered with that granger road of all granger roads, the Rock Island.
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palmland
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There are a lot of good points about this as many have mentioned.

This certainly makes a transcontinental trip via St. Louis more attractive. Now they just need to get the Cardinal to go there from Cinci, maybe via Indianapolis. Of course all the connections would still be there for those traveling via Chicago.

Note Rosenwald doesn't rule out a LA-New Orleans sleeper at a later date. A daylight schedule into New Orleans from San Antonio seems to make it more likely that if service is extended east, it would be a late evening overnight train out of New Orleans and early morning arrival there going westbound. Lets hear it for a revival of the Gulf Wind.

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George Harris
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The Golden State was the best thing Rock Island did, and given their finances, was the best they could do. They had two other top notch (as much as they could make it) trains, the Rocky Mountain Rocket and the Twin Star Rocket. If you have ever seen any of their track charts and found out what they had in the track for rail, they were truly pushing the envelope.

As to a Chicago - Los Angeles routing: To go through San Antonio is a far cry from the original Golden State in both routing and end to end time. To say the routing is round about is an understatement.

The primary culprit is going from Ft. Worth to El Paso via San Antonio. The direct rail distance is 615 miles. by way of San Antonio is 888 miles, a penalty of 273 miles, and including some very slow running in the San Antonio area.

So, we have
Texas Eagle - Sunset, current route: 2728 miles according to Amtrak
Chicago - Ft. Worth - El Paso - Los Angeles: 2455 miles
Golden State original via Tucumcari: 2483 miles
Southwest Chief, current routing: 2256 miles

However, the Rock Island line between Chicago and Kansas City has been partially abandoned. So, if we say, rather than that 510 miles, it follows the Southwest Chief's route of 437 miles, as near as practical rebirth of the original Golden State route would be 2410 miles.

One nice thing about the original Golden State via Kansas City was the the through cars to/from Minneapolis up the Rock Island line (now UP) via Des Moines IA.

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chrisg
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Brain had asked that this not be mentioned until
it has been approved which would be this summer.


Chris

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sojourner
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This is part of what I reported hearing when I was in NO--the talk was hopeful that a train from FL to New Orleans with connections on the CONO would also begin running, perhaps in January. But in this article, it does now sound less promising in that regard! I hope that is not the case. I would like to see a train from FL to New Orleans. I don't care if it connects to Los Angeles or if there is a layover, although 2 layovers is definitely trickier.
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PullmanCo
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quote:
Originally posted by George Harris:
However, the Rock Island line between Chicago and Kansas City has been partially abandoned. So, if we say, rather than that 510 miles, it follows the Southwest Chief's route of 437 miles, as near as practical rebirth of the original Golden State route would be 2410 miles.

There's more than one way to skin that cat... and it's called the BNSF/ATSF. I've been to Philmont from KC twice now, both times following the historic RI. Yeah, it's single track beyond Herington, but it's there.

From KC-Chi run it on the Santa Fe. GBN can probably suggest other routings.

Even so, the name is being re-used for a new routing. Maybe the right thing is pick up Austin, bypass DFW, and move towards Little Rock.

Memo for Chris G: "Brian" should know better than to talk to newsies if he wants info kept completely quiet. That's his problem, not ours.

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George Harris
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PullmanCo, I know the old CRIP west of Kansas City is all still in place, and that using the current SW chief route east of KC not only is possible, but saves both time and distance over the original route. Much of Topeka to Tucumcari to El Paso now has a 70 mph speed limit for freight trains, by the way.

As far as service to people is concerned, however, The Texas Eagle route with a direct run between Ft. Worth and El Paso would be about as fast and serves more people.

I am assuming that by talking bypass Dallas and going straight to Little Rock you are talking about taking the original route of the San Antonia section of the TE, through Hearne and Palestine. Skipping the DFW area misses a huge market.

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Gilbert B Norman
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A safe assumption is that Mr. Rosenwald, in his capacity as an Amtrak spokesman, said exactly what his handlers programmed him say. Lest we forget, he has what it takes to survive within Amtrak management as he has been there practically since A-Day - and I've had the occasion to meet him "along the way".

Finally, a further safe assumption is that such pronoucement hit Douglas Street like a lead balloon.

usual disclaimer; hold position in UNP.

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mr williams
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Didn't the Texas Eagle run as a through train from Chi-LAX on its own without the Sunset one day a week back around 2002/03 ish? It only lasted for a year or so but I'm sure I'm not dreaming!
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20th Century
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Mr. Williams, if so, it probably it probably only lasted a year because of its one day aweek schedule.
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Gilbert B Norman
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Quite correct Mr. Williams; the additional frequency was inaugurated in anticipation of handling freight (whoops Mail & Express).
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palmland
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Surely Amtrak had some kind of preliminary agreement with the UP before going public. If not, good luck on the UP agreeing on a daily operation west of San Antonio - even with their recent track work to add capacity. Hopefully this is not just another Amtrak blunder.

While the Golden State would be a good name, I always liked the sound of the 'Imperial' a secondary train on that route. Although I am sure that name would never fly into today's world.

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royaltrain
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[QUOTE]
While the Golden State would be a good name, I always liked the sound of the 'Imperial' a secondary train on that route. Although I am sure that name would never fly into today's world.

In the early 1950's I rode both the Golden State Limited and the Imperial between L.A. and Phoenix. I seem to recall the the Imperial (then hauled by steam) dipped down into Mexico and then back into California. I was very young at the time so have only fleeting memories.

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George Harris
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quote:
Originally posted by royaltrain:
[QUOTE]In the early 1950's I rode both the Golden State Limited and the Imperial between L.A. and Phoenix. I seem to recall the the Imperial (then hauled by steam) dipped down into Mexico and then back into California. I was very young at the time so have only fleeting memories.

If you had gone east out of San Diego, you would have dipped down into Mexico, but you would not have gotten any closer to Mexico than Yuma AZ on the route out of Los Angeles. The train east out of San Diego ran on the old SD&AE which was an SP subsidiary. The Mexican portion was called the Tijuana and Tecate. 37 miles were in Mexico. My mother-in-law talked about being on that train once during WW2 on the first part of her way back home - with three small kids - after my father-in-law's ship left port, 2 nights, 2 days and the first part of a third night in total to get home.
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gp35
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Golden State name shows who is behind all of this.
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Hoop
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I would prefer that the train kept the name Texas Eagle, since it will be in Texas in the middle of it's journey. It would also give folks a general idea about where this train actually travels through.

Golden State tells nobody anything.

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Gilbert B Norman
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Mr. Hoop does have a point; the Golden State Route simply "cut the corner" as in baseball of the Texas panhandle making a stop at Dalhart. Considering that the Eagle travels some 1136 miles within Texas, the existing name appears quite appropriate.
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TwinStarRocket
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As much as I would like to see a former Rock Island name in the system, I think "Texas Eagle" is a more appropriate name as well. California (the Golden State?) already has their name on a train.

Rock Island will have a revived train name when they bring back the Twin Star Rocket for me.

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palmland
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Going with the Texas theme, I think a change is in order since, presumably, it will be much improved over today's Texas Eagle.

So, I would propose the Westerner, a train on the Texas and Pacific to El Paso, or, even better, the Texas Special. A classy little train on the Frisco to San Antonio. I well remember walking through the gorgeous 14rmte-4DBR bright crimson and stainless steel sleeper that the B&O carried from Washington enroute to San Antonio via St. Louis.

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sojourner
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I vote for keeping Texas Eagle because I love the song (even though that is about the older route) by Steve Earle with the Del McCoury Band--in spite of its somewhat insulting reference to that Amtrak "thaing"
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George Harris
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I would think keepng Texas Eagle would be appropriate. The Texas Special route is used only between Temple and Granger, Texas. All the rest of the portion south of St. Louis and east of El Paso, other than the Ft. Worth to Temple, which is ex Texas Chief territory is on the route of the Eagle.
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gp35
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The stub train will flop and be replaced with bus service. The only people who will ride this train is a few rail buffs and families looking for weekend getaways. Weekdays the train will be empty. I-10 is too fast to expect anyone to seriously give up their +70 mph cars for a much slower train. Anyway it is much cheaper for a family of 4 to drive.

Here is alternative plan.
Continue to run the Sunset tri-weekly with TE through cars. Use 2 of 3 sitting
Superlines sets in New Orleans for the TE CHI-SAS-LA. That leaves SAS-LA Daily. Tri-weekly Sunset SAS-LA and 4 times weekly TE.
That leaves SAS-NOL tri-weekly. Next you split
the Crescent in NOL, Half goes to SAS and the other half waits for another half from SAS for return to NYC. Now SAS-NOL is daily. The final set of Superliner can extend the CONO to Florida. NOL-CHI would be daily, but NOL-Jax will be tri-weekly.

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Steve O.
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From what I have heard, there's a chance that the Sunset Limited name will be kept, if this goes though. The "Golden State" name is by no means a done deal.

--------------------
Good morning America, how are ya?

44,950 Amtrak rail miles traveled since August 18, 2003.

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gp35
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The Sunset Limited is not the Amtrak flaghship train, but it is the Flagship name. 115 years and counting. Amtrak must keep the name for the snub train.
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Steve O.
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I agree...gotta keep the name Sunset Limited, stub train or not.

And the more I think about it, the more I am OK with daily service with a cross-platform connection in SAS for starters.

Realistically, there is probably more traffic between NOL and HOS/SAS than there is between NOL and LAX. So this will benefit the "majority" of the passengers to/from New Orleans. I bet you the same would hold true for Houston, as well...likely more HOS-NOL and HOS-SAS traffic than there is HOS-LAX.

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Good morning America, how are ya?

44,950 Amtrak rail miles traveled since August 18, 2003.

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gp35
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Amtrak has a file online showing passengers destinations. Houston and Beaumont numbers were nearly identical. 25% HOS-LA, HOS-ELP was about 23%, and what shocked me was Houston-Beaumont had high percentage. Does anyone know where I can find that file?
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Geoff Mayo
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Presumably that is actual ticketed passenger destinations rather than forecast routings were the trains available. In which case you can't use such historic figures to predict whether a route would be viable.

As an example, I would bet you that there are no tickets issued from San Marcos, TX to Del Rio, TX simply because it takes nearly 13 hours to do 222 miles, of which over 7 hours is stopped at San Antonio. But make the SAS stop 20 minutes or so and it suddenly looks a lot more of a viable option for passengers. Ignore, for the sake of argument, that driving is still far less time and that such a short stop is unlikely.

As they say in gambling - sorry, I mean the investments world - past performance is no indicator of future return.

On a similar note, in railway terms, a "stub" train that connects into a long haul train is far more likely to gain patronage than the same train which does not connect. Think branch line and main line.

Geoff M.

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Geoff M.

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delvyrails
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I think it's a mistake to run a coach-only train of whatever frequency on the San Antonio-New Orleand route. That would turn off the sleeping car clientele who might just be persuaded to make a cross-platform daytime transfer at SAS.

With arrival time at NOL in late evening and departure at breakfast time, consider this idea: through route the Sunset with a completely retimed City of New Orleans. Yes, through cars Chicago-New Orleans-San Antonio. That would make CONO an overnight train NOL-Memphis and day train north of there. All-rail Houston-Chicago travel would be restored, plus some other new pairings.

The cheapest thing to do is NOT to change the name Sunset Limited. The tear-jerking media would have a field day proclaiming that the "Sunset is no more". It would take years before all of the public recognized that in fact it was only the name that had been retired.

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John Pawson

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ehbowen
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quote:
Originally posted by George Harris:
If you had gone east out of San Diego, you would have dipped down into Mexico, but you would not have gotten any closer to Mexico than Yuma AZ on the route out of Los Angeles. The train east out of San Diego ran on the old SD&AE which was an SP subsidiary. The Mexican portion was called the Tijuana and Tecate. 37 miles were in Mexico.

Actually, Mr. Harris, the main stem of the Imperial did in fact dip into Mexico for fifty miles between Cantu and Calexico, CA (or Algodones and Mexicali, Baja California, on the Mexican side). This was east of the LA/San Diego section split at Calexico, so if you were headed to/from San Diego you would make a second excursion south of the border between Tijuana and Tecate.

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--------Eric H. Bowen

Stop by my website: Streamliner Schedules - Historic timetables of the great trains of the past!

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Gilbert B Norman
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quote:
Originally posted by PullmanCo:
There never was a LA-Chicago routing by way of SP/MP in the day.

Mr. Pullman, we should note that there were through Pullmans Dallas-T&P-El Paso-SP-LA.
Posts: 8957 | From: Clarendon Hills, IL USA (BNSF Chicago Sub MP 18.71) | Registered: Apr 2002  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
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