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Author Topic: Pullman Rail Journeys
Gilbert B Norman
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Well, maybe just maybe, that outfit is for real, for once.

But they could start with getting their website to work; I'm getting a "little tired" of only seeing Daisy gazing pensively at someone whom I would guess is Nick.

addendum: Aug 25; there are now a few more photos in addition to Daisy and Nick; also of interest, a page about the refurbishment work on their fleet.

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palmland
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Pullman Rail Journeys website has been updated.

For those of us who enjoy train travel as it should be, this looks like the ultimate.

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Gilbert B Norman
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Well, it appears Mr. Ellis and his crew have emulated Gordon Gekko; "Greed is good".

October 5: "on the head", i.e. CHI-#59(5)-NOL; RM $342.

On the rear: CHI-PRJ(5)-NOL; Lower BERTH $900.

"We report, you decide".

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20th Century
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Soooo?! What happened? Clicked on my bookmarked Rail Pullman journeys and it seems to be not found or under construction....whatever. Does anyone have inside info on this once promising classy rail conveyance?
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Gilbert B Norman
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At this time, www.travelpullman.com is active. There is no mention of CHI-NYP service and CHI-NOL is presently accepting reservations for CHI departures Oct 29, Nov 2, 6, 10, 14, Dec 12, 19. There is no reference if other days are being operated but at present are sold out - just nothing.

Stay tuned for more....

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palmland
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Last week, Trains.com quoted Ed Ellis as saying:

"Ed Ellis, president of Iowa Pacific, tells Trains News Wire that additional dates will be announced after the October-November trips are evaluated."

Sounds like a sensible approach for a speculative venture, but I wonder why he didn't start with that plan? Makes you also wonder about his marketing department (if any).

'Trains' goes on to say "The service is being positioned not as a luxury train serving gourmet meals, but as a careful restoration of a first class train with “plush accommodations and superb service from attentive porters and stewards” presiding over “classic American dining.” One modern trapping: free wifi."

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20th Century
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Mr. Norman, thank you for the link. I bookmarked it. Palmland, I agree it is a sensible approach for such a venture, but I truly hope it works. It sounds perfect for a pleasant rail trip.
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Gilbert B Norman
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For benefit of TRAINS subscribers, here is a link to the material noted by Mr. Palmland:

TRAINS Newswire

For "others", here is a brief passage:

  • The company is planning departures from Chicago on Oct. 29 and Nov. 2, 6, 10, and 14. Return trips from New Orleans are scheduled on Oct. 31 and Nov. 4, 8, 12, and 16. Two types of accommodations are offered in the three lightweight sleeping cars: a standard bedroom for two with upper and lower berth for $1,950, and a master bedroom for two with a fixed lower double bed for $2,850. There is no single occupancy rate, but fares for the two October trips, designated as “training trips,” are 50 percent off
Of interest is that even though there are Roomettes in several of the PRJ cars, such as their former L&N "Colorado Pine" 6-4-6, they are not being offered for sale. Likely they are for crew.

Who knows if they were to let one "bail out" at Jackson (which they won't; the ASWC would "definitely frown" on such in view of PRJ's non-Agreement workforce), I'd bite for a "50 off" joyride in a Lower (return in line space on 58), New Orleans is simply a "turn off" with me.

To continue, I have to question if Mr. Ellis and his comrades are completely certain where their equipment was assigned while in railroad revenue service. From my records of consists, I find that the regularly assigned Obs cars, or at least until 1965 when I "left town to serve" were "Gulfport" and "Memphis". These cars, built for the first LW Panama in 1938, were configured 2BR 2CP 1DR Lng. Parlor Car seating was in a "straight" Parlor numbered 3351 and named "Mardi Gras". This was a HW Coach "heavily" rebuilt from the underframe up and had an exceptionally attractive "French Quarter" motif. Possibly the car PRJ has acquired that they have named "Pontchartrain Club" was assigned to the Panama/Magnolia Star operation during 1967 (or maybe even as early as 1965), but when I returned to Champaign during 1969 as a Viet-Nam vet to "finish what I had started" (translation: I dropped out June 1965, returned June 1969, graduated June 1970), the Magnolia Star was gone and the Panama was simply a Coach Sleeper train minus any Parlor or Obs.

Finally, I think the noted PRJ car was assigned to the Chi-Stl Green Diamond (like the Wabash, an also ran; but they sure had the classic station in Springfield making Amtrak's "adequate" look like some Amshack), but it was never on the Panama any time I was in Champaign.

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PullmanCo
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1950 OW in a Double Bedroom.

No listing for berth sections

Historic rate of advance (1947): 57.9MPH (15:55)

Current rate of advance: 48.9 MPH (19:32)

Automobile time of travel at 60MPH rate of advance: 15:03.

Air travel including 2 hrs home/hotel to/from airport and 90 min at each airport boarding/debarking (nonstop service, Southwest): 9:10

Explain the business model, other than nostalgia, again, please?

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Gilbert B Norman
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Well, a review of the PRJ website would suggest that the November 14 "maiden voyage" Chi to NO is a "go".

Two persons, Round Trip return Nov 16, Bedroom double occupancy will set you back $5500.00.

It will be interesting to see if any sites such as Yelp or TripAdvisor will have reviews. Naturally, should a reporter from either the Trib, Sun Times, or Times Picayune be invited, wonderful words of the "superb experience" will flow.

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TBlack
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Gilbert,

Can you do the trip as a single, or do you have to pay for a double?

Tom

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Gilbert B Norman
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One person could travel Northbound Nov 16 in a Roomette for $900; Single occupancy Bedroom is $1275. Those rates not available SB Nov 14, but if PRJ survives, I'm sure they will be on other SB dates. If they don't, maybe some "desparation fares" before they fold.

The 1962 rate One Way Panama Roomette $58.40 Bedroom $66.09. Anyone having a "deflator" table handy can decide how competitive Mr. Ellis is with the "good old day" (never mind 16'30" schedule prevailing back then).

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palmland
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And the answer is - $447. No question the service is pricey, but then with only one or two sleepers you get a full observation lounge and a dome diner plus all meals. And the world has changed a bit since 1962.

They are also offering sections. An upper will set you back $500. The beds in the sections are so comfortable and probably little time would be spent there since most will probably make use of the obs and dome. Sounds like I'm trying to convince myself it's a good deal.

Roomettes were not initially offered but they have now obtained a baggage dorm which frees up the roomettes in Colorado Pine, aka Plantation Pine ex L&N.

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notelvis
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I am drooling thinking of the possibilities with my AGR Mastercard.

Best not take the bait though...... I would have to also bear the cost of getting to/from Chicago and New Orleans.

--------------------
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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yukon11
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Does anyone know why they picked Chicago to New Orleans? Is it an easier route, as far as not running getting into a quagmire with the freight railroads?

I sure hope that Pullman Rail Journeys is a success. If so, I think it could mean the realization of a long-held thought; a "Rocky Mountaineer" excursion in this country could be very successful. I like the fact that PRJ offers sleeping accomodations, on board, unlike the Rocky Mountaineer. I hope the PRJ meal service is top notch.

If CHI-NOL is successful, how about Seattle & Portland to Chicago via the Empire Builder route..or, even a branch from Idaho along the Montana Rail Links to Billings and back to ND to the EB route.

Richard

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Gilbert B Norman
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Richard, possibly not adequately clarified is that Pullman Rail Journeys intends to only use scheduled Amtrak trains; as such they are limited to existing routes.

With a highest point en route of perhaps 1000' somewhere in Southern Illinois, the City is only assigned one P-42 unit, which can easily handle a seven car Superliner consist. With Mr. Ellis' five additional cars (guess: Dorm, 2 Slprs, Diner, Obs Lng) a second unit will need be assinged. Certainly, when Amtrak quoted PRJ a rate, that second unit was factored therein. However, Amtrak does need to handle units from a main facility such as Chi to an outlying facility that is NO. This of course means that a second unit will be in consist on occasion. Now if Amtrak can schedule the rotation of these units on days that Mr. Ellis is running, Amtrak is $$$$ ahead for being able to charge a "PV" operator an expense that Amtrak will be incurring anyway.

But I'm sure that the decision to initially offer Chi-NO service was brought about for other reasons such as the tourist destination New Orleans has once again become. Even if wouldn't be about to pay a plugged nickel to visit New Orleans, many others out there are of different thought.

Considering that the PRJ rate is roundly treble that of riding up front in line space on the City, their on-board service had BETTER be superlative.

First trip is on its way tomorrow (subject to change without notice).

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yukon11
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Thanks for the clarification, Mr. Norman. I await news to see how successful PRJ bcomes.

Richard

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Gilbert B Norman
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Wonder if they are going to run; they are scheduled to leave in less than two hours from this posting, so Nov 14 SB reservations are now understandably closed. However, NB Nov 16 is also closed. When I last reported three days ago, there appeared to be plenty of space open. Did he sell this quickly?

Honestly, I have to wonder if they are even going to run; be assured I'm not about to chase down to somewhere such as Roosevelt Road to observe #59(14) depart (forty years ago, maybe). I'll leave that to someone else.

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palmland
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Judging by their website, it appears to me that they close out reservations for the NB trip once the SB departs. Maybe because of stocking and staffing considerations. Of more concern is that the couple trips in Dec. have disappeared from their website. Ellis did say they would regroup after initial trips to establish longer term plan.
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Ocala Mike
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So, any reports about the maiden voyage? All I've been able to find out (at another forum) is that 59(14) "had private cars in the consist" when it left CUS.
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palmland
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Mike, according to a report by Mr. Ellis, the inaugural run was Nov. 2. Apparently a great success but his comments give us some insight into this:

"But we do have to sell beds to make this work, and we are selling through consolidators, such as AAA or AARP, through travel agents both domestic and international, as well as directly through the website. We are working on partnerships with cruise lines and especially with the American Queen Steamboat Company. The basic price point of $975 per person double occupancy in a bedroom compares favorably with the Venice-Simplon Orient Express current pricing of $3,300 for what is also a one-night trip. We are slightly higher than the Rocky Mountaineer one-day trip.

While we announced both New Orleans and New York, we have elected to focus on Chicago-New Orleans, and on getting the cars and service right. Our team has learned a lot in the first few weeks of operation, and our goal is to be Best In Class. That will, frankly, take some time to achieve because each trip brings new opportunities for learning, which our talented people are soaking up. So, while we might run some special trips in other lanes, look for us to focus on New Orleans. It's a great destination, food, activities, sports, people."

Another trip was reported on Nov. 9. And the trips in Dec. I reported not seeing, are back on their website: Dec. 12 and 19 from Chicago.

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Ocala Mike
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Thanks for that info; I thought this was the inaugural run. Let's hope it lasts and maybe spreads to other overnight routes.
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Gilbert B Norman
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It would appear, Mr. Palmland, that Mr. Ellis hired Baghdad Bob or maybe whoever VIA Rail hired to make a service retrenchment into an expansion.

Otherwise, if he is having to reach to consolidators, it appears to be a sign of desparation.

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Gilbert B Norman
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Here are two videos of Pullman Rail Journeys operations. Unfortunately, the first video does not identify a location or date:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s6YtTp5y044

This video does identify the location as Carbondale:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Rh83_SzhQ4Y&feature=related

Finally, there is a confirmed report, i.e. two independent sources, at another site that there was a minor derailment incident occurring Nov 17 (trip originating NO Nov 16) at Tuscola IL. The two rear PRJ cars had to be set out.

Ouch, for those paying the "grand a pop" that Mr. Ellis has reported is his price point and who wanted to recreate in the Obs of the Panama the journeys that I had Champaign-Chi while a Univ of Illinois student. Only diff, that was about $6 rail and parlor seat - and another $6 or so for a French Toast breakfast.

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Gilbert B Norman
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From informed sources at other sites, it now appears that the derailment incident involved a broken axle and had the potential to be far more serious than it was:

http://www.railroad.net/forums/viewtopic.php?f=46&t=51901&start=2670#p1109535

Will Amtrak simply embargo the PRJ equipment with "and the ball game's over" consequences?

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Gilbert B Norman
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I have now learned that the CN/IC will not accept any Iowa Pacific, or whatever subsidiary thereof, passenger equipment operating on their lines "pending investigation".

Even if the PRJ website suggests business as usual, "they're done for".

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notelvis
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The Spirit of Pullman was willing but the axle was weak.

--------------------
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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palmland
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Being optimistic I wouldn't write off PRJ just yet. Their website has now added twice a week departures from Chicago starting in January.

If I were Ed Ellis, regardless of what the CN did, I would have halted all service too until I jointly with the CN inspected all cars and replaced axles/wheels as necessary.

We'll see how deep his pockets are and if the CN really means "pending further investigation". Speculation I saw was there was a crack in the axle and it broke when hitting the diamond at Tuscola. Not a good thing and saved by an alert porter on the affected car that pulled the emergency brake cord before it derailed.

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Gilbert B Norman
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This week is Fourth Quarter Begathon for the Chicago PBS outlet; WTTW.

At present, they are offering a drawing (no contribution required; but "they'd like one") for a round trip for two on PRJ.

Just call 800-588-1111; it is a sweepstakes; "no purchase necessary".

As for me, they just get my check in the mail; no muss no fuss. About all I watch is McLaughlin Group. Suffice to say, they are making direct mail solicitations all through the year as is their commerxial radio station, WFMT 98.7.

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Henry Kisor
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I caught that end of the WTTW begathon, too, GBN. Either rumors of the enterprise's demise are premature or somebody didn't get the word. Do you know whether the begathon is live or taped?
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Gilbert B Norman
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Something tells me that there is still Kubler-Ross Phase I (denial) on Clinton Street (IPH's HQ). Informing Window To The World Communications, Inc. that there may be a "delivery problem" with the Grand Prize is not yet on the radar screen.

But the fact remains that IP tendered improperly inspected equipment to a Class I (Amtrak; yes it is a railroad) who in turn tendered it to a road over which they hold an operating contract (CN/IC) - and it came too close to a "really bad day". But to give credit where due, somewhere I learned that an alert PRJ Car Attendant's (they're back to that of so PI term of Porter) "railfan training" kicked in, pulled to cord, and the train stopped before resuming track speed after X-ing the UP/C&EI "diamond" at Tuscola.

Begathons are live; the Illinois CPA Society "shanghaied" me once or twice during my career. I even once got on-air and also to sit at a cafeteria table with Marty Robinson and Ray Norstrand.

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Henry Kisor
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I, too, was acquainted with Marty and Ray back in the day; before joining the literary beat I worked TV/radio stuff on the arts & amusements desk. Nice gentlemen, too, both certified intellectuals. Wonder what they would think of television and radio today, especially the wet garbage euphemistically called talk radio.

Just to keep this thread on track: I never asked them their opinion of Amtrak.

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palmland
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Our discussion on the Pullman Co. now takes a turn into entertainment. Opening this week in Washington is a new play 'Pullman Porter Blues'. Although some feel the term Porter is not P.C., here it's use is certainly appropriate to properly tell the story of porters on the Panama Limited in 1937, which is roughly the same route and schedule as that used now by the Pullman Co. on the CONO. Here are some comments from the review posted that can be found at Trains.com

"The action takes place on the southbound run of the the Illinois Central’s Chicago-to-New Orleans Panama Limited on the night of June 27, 1937, the night of an historic heavyweight prize fight between Joe Lewis and James Braddock. In between various diversions that include bombastic and gregarious female blues singer Sister Juba (played by E. Faye Butler) and a backing band, a stowaway passenger, and a tipsy and troublemaking conductor, the main thrust of the story revolves around a combination of intergenerational strife between the three generations of porters and the still-evolving face of both labor relations and civil rights of African-Americans during the turbulent pre-World War II era. (The Pullman Co. granted recognition to the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters with a collective bargaining agreement in August 1937, less than two months after the play's setting.) Tex, the train's conductor, spares no effort to remind the porters of their second-rate status, on the train or off it, even as the family argues over whether Cephas should return to college to pursue his studies, an opportunity the older men have worked hard to assure that he would have, at one of the few lucrative jobs available to blacks in the era.

Playwright West certainly did not intend for this play to be a documentary, but at the same time the play relies heavily upon the train and Pullman for the story and setting.............

The play is note perfect. At times it appears to be trying to decide whether to be a musical or a play about issues and conflict. The dialogue is also a bit forced or stilted, and the play ends abruptly, before the train even reaches New Orleans. The distraction of bold musical performances of blues standards aside, "Pullman Porter Blues" joins the expanding inventory of overdue examinations of the African-American railroading experience.

Pullman Porter Blues appears through Jan. 6 at the Arena Stage Kreeger Theater, 1101 Sixth Street SW, Washington, D.C., 20024.

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Ocala Mike
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Brings to mind the 2002 film, "10,000 Black Men Named George," which I saw on the tube a while back.
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Gilbert B Norman
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A review of Pullman Rail Journeys website shows that their first trip Southbound is scheduled for March 29. Of interest, not all that long ago, PRJ had some three round trips available for sale during January and a like number during February.

Of further interest, Super Bowl is Feb 3; Mardi Gras Feb 12. Couple of big traffic sources "down the hopper".

Don't know about this one; if you choose to book, best make any deposits by means of a credit, as distinct from a debit, card, as you have far greater recourse against any merchant that does not perform with use of the former.

Bets, anyone?

Posts: 7129 | From: Clarendon Hills, IL USA (BNSF Chicago Sub MP 18.34) | Registered: Apr 2002  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
smitty195
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I was wondering about this myself. I saw on another train website that the given reason for this is because on their first trip (their "launch" trip), one of the PVs had an axel issue and it derailed, causing great delay to the Amtrak train it was connected to. The railroad and Amtrak were not happy about this. Because of that, all of the cars that they were to use on their charter trains have been pulled and are being inspected with a fine tooth comb by Amtrak mechanical people. I don't know the nitty gritty details of this, however, that's what I read was happening and that is why things are iffy right now. I hope it goes through---I was trying to figure out a way to ride this train.
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Gilbert B Norman
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An interesting point has been raised at another site, which can simply be described as "no room at the Inn".

While I guess all seven Class I's serve Chicago (KCS has some kind of haulage arrangement with what was the MILW - IC&E I think nowadays), six serve New Orleans (SOO Line absent). All have some kind of "executrain"; all have various luminaries "expecting" to be wined and dined during both Super Bowl and Mardi Gras.

Surely other PV operators will be making their "way down yonder" for these two annual displays of bacchanalia. It appears likely that NOUPT will be a busy place during that time frame.

It appears that even if New Orleans has lost one-third of its population and much remains devastated post-Kat (oh; and Sunset East has not been restored), sounds like it is "let the good times roll" again in "The Big Easy".

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PullmanCo
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N'Awlins is warm(er) in February.

Kansas City, New York, Chicago, ad infinitum are not.

The facts speak for themselves.

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smitty195
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Here we go:

http://cs.trains.com/trn/b/fred-frailey/archive/2013/01/02/the-remarkable-quest-of-ed-ellis.aspx

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notelvis
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Interesting -

I'm usually fascinated by the subjects Fred Frailey presents. He is one of my favorites at Trains.

--------------------
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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