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» RAILforum » Passenger Trains » Amtrak » Trip report: Late SW Chief

   
Author Topic: Trip report: Late SW Chief
Geoff Mayo
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Last week I had a rare opportunity to ride a late westbound Southwest Chief from Victorville to Los Angeles. The reason it was late was because it hit a vehicle the day before which caused some damage that required a couple of extended stops beyond the initial accident scene to "bodge" the locomotive enough to get to LA where proper repairs could take place.

I had contemplated catching the eastbound Chief the night before and catching a few hours' kip in Needles, CA. However, with a post-midnight arrival in an unknown town with a not-insignificant hike to the nearest motel, I thought better. Instead, my wife dropped me off the following morning at the Amtrak station in Victorville - more than two hours before the train eventually arrived but she had church to go to.

I was the sole passenger boarding and initially I was confused about where to board. The train stopped with the sleeping cars adjacent to the platform but the conductor made no effort to inform me that I should wait for the train to move up until I ran towards him, thinking they might leave me behind. Panic over and I boarded after maybe 10-15 passengers disembarked, got myself assigned a seat which I ignored to go straight to the lounge car which was busy but not full.

At this point it was around 11am and the diner car staff were inviting sleeping car passengers to the diner for beef stew lunch and water. Normally the train would arrive in LA long before lunch but this train was on emergency rations, presumably stashed away in the diner somewhere for exactly this purpose. Coach passengers were invited next but I wasn't too sure if this was to be free or not. After not many takers went through from coach it was announced again, this time stating it was free whereupon something like 25-30 coach passengers went forward - probably only 25% of the entire coach passenger crowd which surprised me. Free lunch? No thanks, for many it seemed! I'd been snacking so I didn't bother either.

The rest of the journey was uneventful. The only thing that I've noticed on my few trips recently is the complete lack of information regarding delays. No apologies, no time estimates beyond "LA in about 15 minutes". I realise it can be difficult to predict arrival times of a train that is way outside of its booked path (thus low priority usually) but I know some people would have liked to have at least a rough idea of arrival times as they were being picked up.

I headed up to the front of the train upon arrival at LA. I'd looked at the front at Victorville but didn't notice anything except a new weld seam, shiny against the dirt of the cowcatcher. But upon closer examination, the cowcatcher on the left (fireman side) was bent out of shape, and looked like a plate had been welded either on top or welds had been used to fuse bits together. An Amtrak maintenance engineer was taking pictures of the front and just gave a wry smile when I said "the train won then".

A short Metrolink ride later and I was at my business appointment, having gotten some work done on the train.

Some low quality pictures...

Just below Summit in Cajon Pass, with a BNSF mixed train coming up (east/north) the original and steepest main track

Hill 582 on Cajon Pass is a popular train-watching spot for foamers. They're out in force today for the late Southwest Chief - a rare view in daylight

Atmospheric shot of the last signal gantry before LA Union Station, with downtown LA visible in the haze

Damaged front of the lead engine

--------------------
Geoff M.

Posts: 2426 | From: Apple Valley, CA | Registered: Sep 2000  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Gilbert B Norman
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Bodge
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palmland
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Glad you had a chance for railfan jaunt, Geoff. That would have been a treat to see Cajon in daylight. If trackwork in KS and CO improves speed and reliability of the SWC, I would hope CHI departure could be later and arrival earlier- more like the Super Chief.
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George Harris
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quote:
Originally posted by Gilbert B Norman:
Bodge

"The English and the Americans are divided by a common language"
Posts: 2693 | From: Olive Branch MS | Registered: Nov 2002  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
Mike Smith
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I do not speak English. I speak Texan.
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George Harris
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quote:
Originally posted by Mike Smith:
I do not speak English. I speak Texan.

Let it be clearly understood that Texan is derived from Tennessean. (My state of birth and ancestry.)
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Mike Smith
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Texan is derived from a number of places, Tennessee being one of those places,
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Geoff Mayo
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quote:
Originally posted by palmland:
Glad you had a chance for railfan jaunt, Geoff. That would have been a treat to see Cajon in daylight. If trackwork in KS and CO improves speed and reliability of the SWC, I would hope CHI departure could be later and arrival earlier- more like the Super Chief.

Maybe these track improvements over Raton will speed that section, too. I would rather not an earlier arrival in LAX though as it would limit my chances further of riding in daylight again!

What would be great is if Metrolink ran a train up to Victorville in the evening and back to LA the following morning. There would be plenty of riders from anecdotal evidence. But I think I might be joining Mr. Norman in a lunch of headwear if that ever happens.

--------------------
Geoff M.

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George Harris
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quote:
Originally posted by Mike Smith:
Texan is derived from a number of places, Tennessee being one of those places,

Duly noted. Actually I knew, having lived in both states, but I could not resist the dig. [Big Grin]

As part of my Texas stint, I spent two years working on DART (86-88) when it went through its first planning stage before dying a political death. What has been built by now bears a very close resemblance to the system we had on paper by then. One major difference: Our thought at that time was to be fully grade separated. The multiple grade crossings in the current system was part of trying to build el cheapo.

I know some would not consider Dallas part of true Texas, and that is somewhat true, although that is not so much so as Austin.

Posts: 2693 | From: Olive Branch MS | Registered: Nov 2002  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
   

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