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Author Topic: A train trip to Trainfest
CG96
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I just returned last night from a weekend trip to MKE. This was my trip to get together with a few old friends, catch up on old times, and attend the TrainFest model RR show. When I found out the dates for this year's Trainfest, I figured why no take Amtrak to the Trainfest?
It was only a matter of getting people to meet in MKE on a day that didn't conflict with schedules. Once that matter was resolved, I then purchased the tickets. The Empire Builder is noted for being sold out much of the year, with no true "off-season" period. I embarked at Red Wing, MN, after a little adventure that involved moving my car and getting an overnight parking permit from the local Tourism Bureau (the permits can be issued by the person who is inside the old MILW station). Needless to say, I completed that unexpected task just in time get aboard.
Train #28 was about 10-15 minutes late that morning, but for my purposes that was just fine. The weather was pleasant, and so was the crew. I found the train crew on the entire trip to be pleasant, curteous, businesslike, and professional in their demeanor & attitude. My only regret was on the way east, I was on the "Wrong" side of the train, so in order for me to look out across the Mississippi River, I went to the observation car. The rail traffic increased significantly once I was east of La Crosse, however, the train was never sidetracked once to wait for on-coming traffic. We never really made up the 10 minutes' lateness. being a veteran train buff, I also embarked with a positive attitude that I was only travelling coach. In the past, I have had trips on coaches that had duct-taped seats, coaches where the septic tanks were plugged (and thus unable to be emptied in the regular fashion), cars where the toilets look as though they had been attacked by a fleet of human B-52s, and trains that appeared to have no shock absorbers whatsoever, so I approach my trips with the expectation that things won't be absolutly perfect. I understand that when travelling coach, sometimes things happen. In any event, the trip to MKE and return were uneventful. The only real surprise for me was finding one coach in both directions that was almost completely vacant. I guess, perhaps, that the day-trippers such as myself were concentrated and organized on to the front couple of coaches, and that the long-distance riders were assigned elsewhere.
On the return trip from Milwaukee, train #7 was scheduled in such a fasion that my friends and I could spend the day at Trainfest , and then go our separate ways at the station. The west-bound Empire Builder arrived about 20 minutes late into MKE. Apparently one of the sleepers had to be removed in CHI, and the decision to remove the car wasn't made until 15 minutes before departure from CUS. One can imagine that the sleeper cars customers were not completely happy when they were informed that they all had to be concentrated on a train with one less sleeper, especially 15 minute before departure. However, I didn't hear any complaints when I ate dinner that evening in the diner. I also had the good fortune to have a chef who did a real good job on the filet mignon that I had - very tasty. I also had a discussion with other patrons who were quite surprised to learn that Amtrak travelled over privately owned tracks. One individual I conversed with said she was surprised when she discovered that there were only two trains per day over this route. I also was able to converse with fellow travellers who remarked on the shirt I was wearing.
I arrived in Red Wing about 15 minutes later than scheduled, but the only real complaint that I would have in regards to this trip was the fact that I was unable to book a room at the Ramada that's within walking distance of the Milwaukee station. Other than that, i had a fine trip taking the train to the Train show in Milwaukee. It makes me wonder if other members of this board have the same opportunity to combine two or more different elements of the rail fan hobby. Some additional things that I noticed and didn't expect was that there appeared to be an unusual amount of run-through motive power in Conrail and NS colors. BNSF main across the river from us was as busy as it could be, with much traffic. Overall, a good trip.

[This message has been edited by CG96 (edited 11-10-2002).]


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dilly
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Nice report. It's always good when you can combine two interests (in your case, tiny trains and real ones) into one adventure.

As for the duct tape issue -- I always take some along even when I'm riding in coach. Just in case.


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CG96
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Time for another trip to Trainfest in Milwaukee.
I boarded the Empire Builder in Red Wing, November 7, and started my trip. Due to my delaying myself (some last minute cleaning had to be done), I got to the station and parked the car just in time to see the train pull into town. I ran to the platform, and was the last one to board at red Wing. Security didn't seem to be too much of an issue, and the train crew were friendly and understanding to someone who just ran up to the door at the very last second. We depaerted on time. The Mississippi River valley can be picturesque this time of the year, and I was one of the forunate ones who found a seat on the "river" side of the train. Unlike my trip over this route in September, we encountered no delays until east of La Crosse, WI. When we arrived at La Crosse, the announcer came on the PA and told everyone that the train would be full to capacity for almost the rest of the trip, and all passengers should expect to have the seat next to them filled. Indeed, there was a large number of folks who embarked at La Crosse. the passenger who sat next to me was attending a wedding in the Chicago area, and related that it was his first time on the train. We departed on time. I explained to him, later on in the bar, that the freight railroads own the tracks, and as such, they do all their own traffic control, and can give the Amtrak trains the red light should they feel like it. It has been mentioned several times in this forum and others that this is the case in certain other parts of the country. We accelerated out of town, and got to Tomah, where equal numbers of passengers got on and off. the train was to remain very full until we got to Milwaukee. After we left Tomah, We had to take the sidig once or twice to let CP frieghts pass us going the other direction. One interesting sight: running into BNSF engines apparently doing some kind of run-through power arrangement. This event lead us to be about a half hour behind or so, not that big of a deal for someone like me going to the model train show in Milwaukee. So, we arrived in Milwaukee 30 minutes later than scheduled. At least I was able to get to the station to catch the train in time! The model train show in Milwaukee was packed, but it was smaller than I remember it being in past years. I figured, why not combine the two aspects of my interest in trains? So, I did.
The return trip was uneventful, with the exception that the train was late in departing Chicago by about 20 minutes. It remianed this late for the rest of the trip. The train tracks pass the HQ of Miller Brewing, and there were a few comments about how the train that passes less than a block from there would be carrying only Anhauser-Busch beverages. Hmmm.
I was able to watch the lunar eclipse with a few other friendly folks in the lounge car, despite the fact that the route had us traveling due west for a significant portion of the event. I was also able to get dinner in the diner ( the steak tasted good, with a bottle of wine , which is something I have always looked forward to when traveling by train. The folks who were seated with me were polite, and from Conneticut, and apparently were making the trip west as a part of their vacation/wedding anniversary.

I was a little more forutnate this time around in that I was albe to get a room at a hotel less than a mile from the MKE station. Also, the lunar eclipse was a plus. Overall, another good trip on Amtrak. The condition of the cars was good, the service on board the trains was polite and professional, and we were transported over the route in a punctula fashion both ways. There are also some very friendly folks in the lounge cars, as well. I should also point out that the return journey wasn't as packed as the eastbound trip was.
What about any other members of the forum? Is there anyone else who combines some aspects of thier interest in trains, like what I did?

[This message has been edited by CG96 (edited 11-09-2003).]


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zephyr
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CG96, great reports. To answer your question about combining train interests, my combination is an Amtrak trip to an historical society convention.

My interests are rail travel and rail history. Each year, I take a look at locations of annual conventions of various historical societies, and then narrow my choice down to those that have Amtrak service.

In 2002, I attended the Amtrak Historical Society convention in Portland, OR. This year, it was the Great Northern HS annual convention in Havre, MT. Both locations gave me an excuse to board a train.

My experiences at these historical society conventions have been excellent. They have all been well organized; speakers and presentations were outstanding; their costs are a real value; and the people you meet are great (but, then, aren't all us railfans?). And they are just flat fun.

For those of you who haven't attended an annual convention, you might want to consider it. To get a taste of what goes on at these things, most of their websites have information and photos of prior conventions. And some information about next years'.



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CG96
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It's time yet again for another train trip to Train Fest. I embarked aboard #8 in St. Cloud for my trip. The train was delayed in its arrival, by about an hour and a half. This wasn't a problem for me, as I was simply going to Milwaukee and not connecting to other trains. I stayed at the same hotel I had used on earlier trips. Boarding the train, I was able to find a coach seat ok. After reading for a while, I went to the diver to have breakfast. The service was punctual and efficient and polite. The train worked its way down the Mississippi River valley. We seemed to load up along the way, gathering more and more passengers. Train Fest was packed, BTW. There were numerous young children in attendence wearing the paper Amtrak conductor caps, yet any sort of Amtrak promotional booth was nowhere to be found.

On the return trip, the train was delayed because an engineer had to deadhead to Chicago, in order to operate the train from there to Milwaukee. The train remained pretty much on time from Milwaukee to Saint Cloud. The dinner was good, and the staff was polite in their dealings with the passengers. This train and its crew lived up to my expectations. Well done, Amtrak.

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"Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one corner of the Earth all one's life."

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CG96
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Its that time once again. I took the train to Train Fest in Milwaukee. The model train show was held over the Veteran's Day weekend, which makes it a bit easier for everyone involved. I was able to stay at the Best Western that was at Old World Third street. The trip from Saint Cloud was a quite and uneventful on, with overcast skies. We left about 20 minutes late, but made up for that time south of Saint Paul. The train was not as full as it had been on other trips, which was nice for me as I was able to get a seat on the "river" side of the coach. I was able to catch up on some reading for grad school, and get numerous notes taken, which was another good thing I could not have done while driving. The train show was packed as usual.

The return trip was punctual, and the dining car staff was able to accomodate me at last call, which was nice for dinner. Both the outbound and the return trip were on-time, the cars were clean (for the most part), the staff acted in a curteous, professional manner, and both BNSF & Canadian Pacific made a "good faith" effort to get me over the route without much fuss.

The only serious downside was that, at the end of the trip, I still had a considerable amount of my 25 page paper to write, and one of the tires on my car was almost completely flat. Other than that, a good trip overall.

--------------------
"Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one corner of the Earth all one's life."

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CG96
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Well, it was time for another trip to Train Fest just outside of Milwaukee, WI. I boarded the train in St. Cloud, MN on November 9, and returned on the 10th. The outbound trip arrived about 15 minutes late, so I embarked at 5:30 am instead of the scheduled 5:14 am. The train really was close to on schedule in both directions and the weather was nice and sunny. I got to have both breakfast (on the way out) and dinner (on the return trip) in the diner. This year was disappointing as the friend I had met with from previous year trips was unable to get away from work on Saturday the 10th, and he was my ride to the train show, so neither of us was able to attend the train show this year. I got to explore downtown Milwaukee for several hours, though, which was ok. I even got to watch a bit of the football game (Badgers won). On the return trip, the train was at least 75 percent full as I traveled west across Wisconsin. We got behind a CP freight train that was having engine trouble, which delayed us for about an hour or so as the dispatcher looked for an availability for us to get around it. That was the one disappointment of the return trip.

Otherwise, an ok trip.

--------------------
"Travel is fatal to prejudice, bigotry, and narrow-mindedness, and many of our people need it sorely on these accounts. Broad, wholesome, charitable views of men and things cannot be acquired by vegetating in one corner of the Earth all one's life."

Posts: 506 | From: Wisconsin | Registered: Mar 2002  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a Moderator
   

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