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» RAILforum » Passenger Trains » Amtrak » GBN Goes Coach - by Choice

   
Author Topic: GBN Goes Coach - by Choice
Gilbert B Norman
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Well, sort of by choice, as to book a room to travel 85 miles Chicago to Mendota pushes my "vanity button' and for the return, Business Class would also done likewise.

Yesterday I traveled Chicago to Mendota and return for my NRHS Chapter's (North Western Illinois) annual Holiday (can't call it Christmas anymore) Dinner which was held at a restaurant a short walk from the train station. The outbound schedule of #3, Chief, and the return of #382, Carl Sandburg, could only be described as "perfect".

So, in view of that the weather was "threatening" (mist/drizzle; temps ranging from 31 to 33dg) and that I am now best advised to "limit" my nighttime driving, Amtrak was going to get my business.

So the .6mi hoof started from my house at 1233P, a quick stop to "play the slots" at the bank (and observe the Branch Manager playing "Santa Claus"). At 1252P, I was aboard BNSF 1314 and on my way. Arrival at CUS was on time (what else on Warren's 1:1 Lionel set) and in that there was some 90 minutes to wait for #3, I made my way to the Great Hall (funny how it was simply the Waiting Room in railroadese), got out the book I am currently reading, and settled in. But first, time for the "excitement' of the day (I don't mean to write an installment for Mr. Sommer's novella, but "I ain't making this stuff up").

When I first sat down, I noted a large wheeliebag that possibly was unattended as I had looked around to see if anyone else in sight 'belonged" to it (all I had was my Red tote bag some here have seen with me). After about fifteen minutes had passed and no one had made the scene, the bag was graduating to status in my mind of 'apparently unattended' and to the level of 'see something, say something' - so I did.

I noted a female APD Officer in the Hall and approached her. "I hope I'm not making mountains of molehills..." "No sir, you have done the right thing. Even if we allow some leeway, our rules are the same as at an airport...' 'I saw it myself; thought it was yours".."No ma'am it is not; this tote bag is all I have" 'I'm going to call for a K-9 unit" "You have one?' 'They're out at Lumber Street where we keep our cars, that last radio call said they are responding..they'll be here in five minutes... if the dog (does something that I'm not saying) then this area will be evacuated". The K-9 unit showed up, and the German Shepherd was satisfied that all was "OK". They wheeled the bag away and otherwise so far as I was concerned end of incident.

Now for a new experience for me - boarding an LD train as a Coach passenger. At CUS, the Conductor lifts tickets at a dais in front of the loading gate (a procedure with which, as an auditor, I guess I have become somewhat more comfortable) then tells you (in my case) "three cars forward. There was a Coach Attendant, courteous but a bit officious, saying 'take Seat 68 and put this check up on the rack'. I think a railfan or two would have had their problems with Seat 68 as it was over the wheels of S-I Coach #34067 (in "state of Good Repair; honest) and the view was obstructed by a window post (first time I ever had occasion to know that Superliner seats do not all line up with the posts). Nevertheless, departure of #3 (12) was on time, but about 20 minutes was lost near Lisle with the Chicago Sub (the Racetrack in fanese) becoming a single track railroad account trackwork. Other than a jaunt to the "WC", no reason to leave my seat ("just not interested" in the Lounge Car scene nor looking out the rear vestibule anymore).

Arrival at Mendota also 20 min down, but "no biggie'. Attendance at the Dinner was down, even though the restaurant is as good as some of the Google reviews suggest it is (fresh Broccoli; not some kind of warmed over "banquet mush"), however, even if not really impacting me now that the Markets have greatly, but not yet fully, recovered and my RRTA "hasn't missed a beat', I must be mindful that there is a recession out there and that the $18.50 Dinner, plus cash bar, could represent a hardship. The younger members were "conspicuously' absent; just us older 60+ folk showed up, presumably adequately "set" in this life.

Return on 382 (12) was flawless, left Mendota on time arrived CUS 15min early. I really "haven't a problem' with the Horizons. I know the windows are small, but maybe the majority of passengers could care less, They ride perfectly well and 54067 was again in "state of good repair'. Return home on BNSF 1321 was on time; the Conductor warned me that it was slick out there; although I didn't "go down' (that is a bit harder on us 68 year olds than it is on you youngsters around here), the walk home called for "diligence".

All told, even if the journey "home to back home" was eleven hours and would have been six had I driven, I'm retired and my time isn't worth a plugged nickel. The $23.80 fare paid (historical fare now that trip is completed) was about what I think Lex Noir would have burned up in gas; never mind the rest of an auto's costs.

I'm glad I did it.

Posts: 9388 | From: Clarendon Hills, IL USA (BNSF Chicago Sub MP 18.71) | Registered: Apr 2002  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
dns8560
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What is BNSF 1310 - a Metra train?

--------------------
Everybody has to believe in something. I believe I'll take the train!

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City of Miami
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Thank you for your report, Mr. Norman. I especially like the last line which elicited an outloud HOW WONDERFUL from me!
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Ocala Mike
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quote:
Originally posted by dns8560:
What is BNSF 1310 - a Metra train?

Yes, a weekend train on BNSF (Metra) that makes the run to CUS in 50 minutes.
Posts: 1496 | From: Ocala, FL | Registered: Dec 2006  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
zephyr
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I'm still trying to recover from the thought of Our Boy from Ill Annoy riding coach, but that was a great report.

Thanks for the interesting read.

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notelvis
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Great report -

Out of curiousity, how densely populated did you find the coaches on both trains you rode? What about boarding #3 in CUS? Last time I boarded coach on an LD train at Chicago it was kind of a mob scene.

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David Pressley

Advocating for passenger trains since 1973!

Climbing toward 5,000 posts like the Southwest Chief ascending Raton Pass. Cautiously, not nearly as fast as in the old days, and hoping to avoid premature reroutes.

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Gilbert B Norman
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"Adequately filled" is the best description.
Posts: 9388 | From: Clarendon Hills, IL USA (BNSF Chicago Sub MP 18.71) | Registered: Apr 2002  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
20th Century
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Thank you Mr.Norman. You chose wisely when you decided to take the train.
Posts: 498 | From: New Hope, PA, USA | Registered: Jan 2003  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Gilbert B Norman
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Well yesterday was redux: CHI-3(11)-MDT-382(11)-CHI - this time with a companion; the lady with whom I go to some Chicago Symphony Orchestra concerts. Her train riding has been limited to METRA, but had "always wanted to try out Amtrak".

So, now that the Symphony has left Ravinia and there is a 'drought" until the new season starts "back where it belongs" i.e. Orchestra Hall, she called me and suggested a Dinner.

So Dear, here's your chance to go to, considering "it's Mendota', this "darned good" restaurant which it looks like my NRHS Chapter is abandoning in favor of one with fare "more acceptable to the Members". Also your chance to try out Amtrak.

All told, everything worked fine. Both trains were on time, and from a 'first timer's" perspective, "it has so much more room and the seats so much more comfortable than METRA (never left the Lower Level of a #34XXX S-I Coach)". Even the Horizon for the return got her rave reviews for its comfort. Also of note: "everybody is so friendly".

I "ditched her" (encouraged to do so) on the return at LAG - just a simple fact I could be home an hour earlier than had I been a "gentleman' and ridden all the way to CUS - and back. Apparently, she made her MILW West Line OK.

So who knows, maybe she will be 'back for more'. I wouldn't rule out trying a good restaurant in Galesburg (RRBob knows it as well) that is within walking distance of the station and for which a CHI-5-GBB-382-CHI itinerary would work.

Posts: 9388 | From: Clarendon Hills, IL USA (BNSF Chicago Sub MP 18.71) | Registered: Apr 2002  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
palmland
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Sounds like a fun outing, GBN. I'm glad she liked the excursion and I certainly agree with her about the Horizon cars. I know there are those who don't like the small windows, but for a short trip I think they are great. Much more like a 'real' coach than the unfortunate Amfleet design.

On our recent Cardinal excursion, I sampled them on the Hiawatha service. Clean cars, nice crews and the snack cart was appreciated (but sadly lacking coffee). I was very impressed with the renovations to the Milwaukee station and glad to see there is a proposed new train shed in the works.

Also of interest is the planned service to Rockford and Quincy. I would appreciate it if someone could confirm if the former CNW route through Elgin was the one selected. If so, that would make an ideal excursion to the Illinois RR museum in Union. Their trolley cars clank down their track for four or five miles next to the CNW line.

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Ocala Mike
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GBN, please keep us apprised of how these budding AMTK/CSO/"fine dining" encounters turn out. Sounds like there are possibilities for this to be,in the words of Mr. Richard Blaine/Humphrey Bogart, "the beginning of a beautiful friendship."
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TBlack
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Yes, I'm going to echo Ocala Mike's thoughts. I'm sure the ride was entirely satisfactory for her in part due to Amtrak, but largely due to the company she was keeping! Way to go GBN!

TB

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Railroad Bob
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quote:
Originally posted by Gilbert B Norman:

So who knows, maybe she will be 'back for more'. I wouldn't rule out trying a good restaurant in Galesburg (RRBob knows it as well) that is within walking distance of the station and for which a CHI-5-GBB-382-CHI itinerary would work. [/QB]

That would be the "Packinghouse..." Not a bad beanery at all..famous for their home-cooked dessert cinnamon buns and quite satisfactory cuts of "carne de res o de vaca" (or nice selections of beef.) [Wink] Friendly smaller town restaurant; an easy one block walk from Galesburg "union" station. Includes a wine list-- did we have a "sommelier" Mr. N (on our visit?) [Wink]
Posts: 588 | From: East San Diego County, CA | Registered: Oct 2004  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
   

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