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Author Topic: Pullman Rail Journeys
Gilbert B Norman
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Anyone; wanna bet?

http://intransit.blogs.nytimes.com/2013/12/23/re-creating-the-golden-age-of-rail-travel/

Brief passage:

  • Pullman Rail Journeys, a Chicago-based independent operator of first-class passenger service on Amtrak and private trains and charters, plans to introduce overnight train service between Chicago and New York in mid-2014
After a browse around the PRJ website, a few points of note:

Lower fares: An Upper can presently be had for $390 and proportionate reductions to other accommodations.

On-Board Live Entertainment: Hope you enjoy the 'folk' genre (I know first hand Mr. Ellis does); but is this 'innovation' really necessary? Possibly the strategy here is that since alcohol is open bar, the entertainment will hold down on the amount of booze in circulation benefiting both Mr. Ellis' pocketbook and reducing the likelihood of having a passenger 'get out of line'.

No registration?, no browsing: In order to 'take a peek' to see rates and schedules, you now must register to do so. I got registered last Summer when my 'almost joyride' was about to be booked. Sooner or later, bombardments will begin. Incidentally, no dates presently available for this announced New York service. Chi-NO appears to be 'once a week' with extra trips for the annual 'bombast of bacchanalia' and Easter.

Finally, here are exterior and interior photos of 'Allegheny Club' the on board service car that appears to be in regular service and that Dr. Mullins reported was on his journeys. It appears that the location of the tables with regards to the windows has been addressed since C&O converted the cars from Sleeper Lounges to Dorm Diners during 1961. Regarding Mr. Palmland's immediate comment concerning 'Ponchartrain Club', while this car's round end 'looks pretty', it does not have any food service capacity and as such if it were to operate in PRJ service, there would need to be a separate Diner. Twenty or so passengers can hardly justify such; however, learning that 'Allegheny Club' was assigned laid to rest my earlier concerns that some kind of catered food service was being offered.

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Gilbert B Norman
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Quotations from the 'Great AGR Experience' topic that certainly have relevance to further discussion here:
quote:
Originally posted by Gilbert B Norman:
. It seems last July when I was about to have my 'almost' PRJ joyride......If I am to think of such this year, somehow I think I'd have to {use].....Southwest KMDW-KMSY,,,,,they offer refundable fares and with Ellis' track record of last minute cancellations, not sure if I want to look at a $200 exchange fee on [another carrier]

quote:
Originally posted by palmland:
As to Pullman Co., our SCA on the CONO worked it regularly and said he hadn't seen their cars since early last fall. It was supposed to have been on our train, but MIA. Perhaps the cold weather?


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Gilbert B Norman
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I just did a little 'snooping' around the PRJ website; since you have to register with them in order to snoop, and I did have a bona fide reason to do so last year, I figured I'd do a little snooping today.

Presently, here is number of trips the website says they have/have planned to run NB NO to Chi:

Jan 4
Feb 4
Mar 5 (Shrove Tuesday Mar 4)
Apr 5 (Easter Sunday Apr 20)
May 4
Jun 3
Jul 3
Aug 5
Sep 4
Oct 4
Nov 5
Dec 4

It also appears that the fares have come WAY DOWN; For a Thursday June 26 departure, a Roomette is now only $396 - that is down from $900 a year ago.

If I'm to do what I planned last year, i.e. fly down, Pullman back, I would only consider a fully refundable airline ticket (my preference for United is simply that I don't fly all that much nowadays, they seem to go where I want to go, and I know my way around ORD Terminal 1 as well as their website. Also they had the MILW's Travel Desk when I was there - even if most of my flights on railroad business seemed to be on Northwest) which we all know cost heap big wampum more than the use it or lose it varietal. Also, should the trip be cancelled at the last minute, I'd appreciate some kind of indemnification from PRJ, i.e. a refund of the applicable exchange fee ($200 seems to be the going rate) as well as a credit for the CANX'd trip to my American Express within 24 hours, and not just for some future trip (I think we all know how agreeable he would be to that).

I really think that in view of my experience last year, such is reasonable - and if Ed or one of his Lieutenants reviews this site, I hope they would agree.

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Gilbert B Norman
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Pullman Rail is presently airing 15 second 'spots' on WBBM 780/105.9 albeit during 'off-hours'.

PRJ's website continues to be a disaster area; in fact I got a malware warning from Norton with their recommendation to 'vamanos', which I did.

But before Mr. Norton's warning I had a chance to review the CANX policy, which calls for 60 days notice in writing (e-mail and FAX OK) of such for a full refund. 60-45 days partial, under 45 days? 'sorry Charlie'.

Also noted was 'to allow our passengers more time at our destinations, we have changed our schedules'. To what, I know not.

New York remains a 'coming soon'.

All told, I wish this outfit 'good luck'; I think it is needed.

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TBlack
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Gilbert,
Your posting prompted me to take a look at the PRJ website. I got no malware warning and, although I'm not registered, I was able to fully move around the site.

One question though: under the heading "schedule" the CONO schedule pops up. Are we to believe that PRJ runs daily? And do they have enough equipment to do that?
Tom

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Gilbert B Norman
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Mr. Black--

It appears that you did not go as far to find out what days they actually intend to operate (I avoid the use of the word 'Will'). I tried to determine just that without success.

But at this time, PRJ's rates are almost at parity with Amtrak's: for example they note Roomettes from $396. Going out a month, Amtrak today offered a Roomette CHI-NOL Mar 16 for $368.

It sure seems that if a supposed 'luxotrain' is being priced essentially same as Amtrak (Cheaper than Amtrak if you can live with an Upper @ $240), they are getting a bit 'desperate'. I think it best to consider anything shelled out to them as 'Vegas $$$'; in short, be ready to ride Amtrak in their place, or if 'no room at the Inn' to fly - and that would be at air piracy rates.

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palmland
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Worked just fine for me with the dates shown. Prices are still 'low' ($780 for BR) for most trips although a June date was $1950). Shows 4 scheduled each way in March, 6 in April, 2 in May, 3 in June. Amtrak was $359-$489 for a BR.
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Gilbert B Norman
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The site is now working for me.

This one simply 'sounds too good to be true', so it probably is.

Entering NB June 12, PRJ is offering a Roomette for $198, by comparison Amtrak wants $296 for same.

But all told, whatever happened to their $1000 p/p price point; somebody's desperate.

This far out, United wants $399 for a morning flight down on a SkyWest Bombardier (someone else is likely cheaper, but that is the only airline website I know my way around), so all told, $700 instead of the $1300 I was ready to put on the table last Summer.

But I could still foresee being 'out' the $198, 'no room at the Inn' last minute on the City, and having simply to fly home at air piracy rates.

In short, an airfan joyride.

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smitty195
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You're right---they are desperate. You never want to bite the hand that feeds you! Undercutting Amtrak is probably the worst idea you could come up with at this point. There's more, but I better keep my lips sealed.
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Gilbert B Norman
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At this time, I'm inclined to think of the noted $198 rate as an OPTION (long 'Call') to ride at that rate if they are still in business four months from now.

Mr. Mayo, do you think Ladbrokes is taking bets that PRJ will or won't be around four months from now? That would be the most immediate way at hand to 'hedge'.

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palmland
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The railfan circuit is buzzing over the sale of Iowa Pacific (operator of Pullman Rail Journeys as well as some successful short line railroads). While many were saying the end is near, Mr. Ellis spoke on the record with Fred Frailey of Trains magazine in his blog.

So, is the sun setting or rising on Iowa Pacific and its Pullman Rail Journeys adventure that will surely be one for business schools case studies if it ever turns a profit (or even breaks even)?

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Gilbert B Norman
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Of interest, no major newssource, as distinct from recognized - the category into which I place the Frailey blog and one S&NC on-line Upstate NY newspaper, has to date reported this story of the Zell majority acquisition of IPH.

That paper, the Glens Falls Post Star, was most concerned that S&NC is reportedly 'not to speedy' paying their vendors.

Possibly related (redacted) material:

STB filing

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palmland
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This gives you a better idea of what Mr. Ellis is about. It's a link to his presentation at the Southwesern Rail Conference. Quite interesting (and not particularly encouraging for freight rail investors). It is clear he truly believes there is a market for non high speed, privately operated, intercity passenger rail beyond Amtrak's national network. It does several minutes to download the video, be patient.
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Gilbert B Norman
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Either I had been previously unaware, or this is a new addition to their site, but Pullman Rail now has an FAQ page, and which gives further information regarding their service:

http://www.travelpullman.com/explore/faq.html

At this time, even for registered users, the 'book' page appears disabled. Evidently to book, you must phone them as it appears that 'browsers' are not really welcome.

Oh well, I hope Ellis and his 'High Command' are enjoying their joyrides, and Sam could well get one in himself, but I doubt if this extravaganza is long for this world.

But allow me note that I DO believe that PRJ will 'go out' just as did the Santa Fe on A-Day Eve with nothing downgraded.

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I was able to get to the spot in making a reservation where it asked for my billing information. Plenty of "browsing" seems to be allowed.

Frank in overcast and cool SBA

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Gilbert B Norman
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Not surprised; an awful lot of sites can no longer support IE8 which is the highest XP can support.

Oh well, that's why I have now ordered a new Inspirion desktop from Dell that will have 8.1 and presumably supports the latest IE.

I can't believe how inexpensive these things have become.

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palmland
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It may be going out with a bang but a couple new trips will be offered this fall. This was according to their rep they had at the Spencer show. Around thanksgiving they will offer a trip to NYC from Chicago on the Cardinal. Around Christmas they'll have a couple trips on the LSL. One catch- got to buy a RT ticket (at least initially - I guess until they see how it sells.) He said it was on web site but I couldn't find it.

And supposedly next year it will be done a regular basis. We'll see.

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Mike Smith
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If it is not too late, order a solid state hard drive (SSD) for your computer. Blazing fast startup and opening all programs!
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Gilbert B Norman
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Mr. Smith, I simply ordered from Dell what my CIO neighbor, who has offered to come over and install it, what he said to. He took the time to wade through the Dell order form and check what I needed - and ignore what I did not.

I can't believe how inexpensive these things have become over the years. This System is $1738; albeit with no audio or printer. My first computer, an IBM I got during 1983, was something like $3500.

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smitty195
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My two latest computers (MacBook Pro and iMac) both have solid state hard drives. They are absolutely blazingly fast. Loving this new technology!
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RRRICH
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Well, Gil -- I have Windows 8.1 on this new laptop, and I HATE IT!!!!!! Why does Microsoft have to ruin a good thing like XP? So what if it's old?
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Gilbert B Norman
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Also, another 'ha-ha; bonus' of the 'upgrade', Lotus 123 is no longer published, so I will have to get Office (preloaded; all you need do is click and pay up). I'm sure I can learn it, but why when Lotus does everything I want.
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PullmanCo
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Have a Mac, won't look back.

Goodbye, Mr Gates. Your OS is horrid. I have to have all these extras to maintain it.

Hello, Mr Jobs. Your OS works. I don't spend time maintaining my configuration, I'm productive.

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TBlack
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We did sort of get away from the PRJ topic. Just to pull it back, I took #58 earlier this week which had the 2 PRJ cars on the back. Looked like about 6-8 passengers for them. Our side of the train was packed!
Tom

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Gilbert B Norman
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Thank you Mr. Black for returning this topic to its roots. As an aside, sorry I missed a meetup; I was out of town myself this past weekend.

Good grief, it appears that the passenger count was exceeded by the staff. Who knows how many of those were farepayers???? Did you note if the Obs was round ended (Ponchartrain Club) or Butt-ended (Allegheny Club)?

Finally, I must give Mr. Ellis credit for going out in style (how can this be sustained as a going business enterprise?); so far, he has not resorted to a downgrade of the produjct by cutting the consist to one car and offering catered food service.

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TBlack
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Gilbert,
It was the Ponchartrain Club. I suppose, with the reduction in fare, I could have taken the PRJ to Chicago. But the risk is that there isn't anyone on it with you, and, therefore, no one to talk to. On Amtrak there's always some one with an interesting story!
Tom

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Gilbert B Norman
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As of today, I have a new Dell desktop up and running; I am now able to access the PRJ website.

Thank you very much, Marshall.

It seems as if the moment Microsoft ceased to support XP, things fell like dominoes. My frequently visited sites such as New York Times clearly said they no longer supported IE7, which was becoming an annoyance as much of the site that I pay for was suddenly unavailable. Wall Street Journal (also pay) was at best 'cranky' and often crashed.

And hold your hat for this; with the trip to Salzburg now two weeks away, I decided it was time for a SMART phone. So I now have a Samsung Galaxy S5. I even have learned how to use the Google maps and have located the Hauptbahnhof, my Crowne Plaza hotel, and the Festspielhaus. Also, I downloaded on my own a German-English translator app.

My LG 'Dumbphone' is now deactivated but it can still reach 9-1-1. I know of a battered women's shelter that can put it to use and that is where it will be donated.

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Gilbert B Norman
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quote:
Originally posted by RRRICH:
Well, Gil -- I have Windows 8.1 on this new laptop, and I HATE IT!!!!!! Why does Microsoft have to ruin a good thing like XP? So what if it's old?

Rich, now being an 8.1 'veteran' of about twelve hours standing, I have no issues with 8.1 (would, just like you, wished Microsoft continued to support XP - even if pay); just be sure to set it for Desktop and the landscape will look far more familiar.

I have learned that MSFT is selling continued XP support to commercial users such as banks where the ATM system runs with XP.

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RRRICH
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Gil -- with the W 8.1 laptop on my train trip, I inserted my RR map discs into the CD drive, but I could never figure out how to open them with the Windows 8.1 "file explorer," and at one time I couldn't even get the computer turned on after I tried to use the wi-fi at Hotel Indigo in Santa Barbara, so I ended up paying $50 ($25 each way) for a taxicab from LAUPT to Best Buy (Geek Squad) in Glendale, only to have them tell me to "hard start" my computer by holding the "on" key down for 30 seconds + (why couldn't the Geek Squad guy have told me that on the phone when I first called him from the LAUPT Metropolitan lounge?)

Also, my typing is so bad that every time I tried to post a Train Web message from W 8.1, I would hit "wrong keys" every second or two and get all kinds of weird pop-ups which I never got with XP, in spite of my lousy typing.

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Gilbert B Norman
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Rich, neither of us do this stuff every day, and, with hindsight the new computer should have been ordered with a bit more lead time prior to starting your trip. However, I have my own issues to deal with at present regarding the new computer. It seems that I ordered an unneded monitor as I did not know that the monitor and the 'box' are now all in one. When my friend Marshall, CIO for a regional brokerage firm, came over to install it for me yesterday, he first said what is that extra carton? I said 'I ordered a monitor'. He said 'you didn't need to do that; it is all in one'. When he pulled it out of the carton, I said 'Where's my box?'. So right this very minute I am 'listening to the music' with Dell to return the monitor ($250). Now I just heard from somebody over in India who says within 24 hours they will email me return labels for either UPS or Fedex.

No wonder I simply NEVER order tangible goods over the internet. This time I made an exception as Marshall took his time to select what I needed - and didn't need. He sent it to me on line and that is how I ended up ordering it such. Had I ordered it by phone as I had two pevious Dells, the Sales Rep surely would have explained to me all in one means both box snd monitor together.

Oh well, at least Dell includes Sales Tax so I need not file a separate Use Tax Return.

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Gilbert B Norman
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Update; shipping documents showed up from Dell; after my morning "hopscotching around India for help", it was almost anticlimactic to have the e-mail show up authorizing the monitor's return.

I took it down to a UPS facility (somewhat West of Cass on 63rd, Rich), and it is their job to get it back to Dell.

Oh, and the shipment was Prepaid by Dell.

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Getting back to Pullman Rail Journeys, Trip Advisor reviews are quite mixed:

http://www.tripadvisor.com/Attraction_Review-g35805-d3948641-Reviews-Pullman_Rail_Journeys-Chicago_Illinois.html

Richard

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Gilbert B Norman
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Anybody?????

https://www.travelpullman.com/packages/fun-in-the-sun.html

I guess he wants to see how many packages get sold before offering rail only passage.

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Geoff Mayo
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If one needs to ask then one can't afford it.

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Geoff M.

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Gilbert B Norman
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I received an email from PRJ today offering 50% off the $3500 or whatever for the "Fun in the Sun" tour package.

I'd guess bookings are not where they expected them to be. Willing to bet that "rail only " will be quite available lest anyone be interested.

Posts: 9450 | 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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GBN, I hope you will treat yourself to a Christmas present courtesy of PRJ. They might even give you a deal of a one way fare, then United home. It might not be the City of Miami but will be a big improvement over Amtrak.
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Gilbert B Norman
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Tempting; but I think it will be a late February junket to Miami and two Cleveland Orchestra concerts for which I booked the hotel (Marriott Biscayne Bay; catty corner to the Arsht Center) some ten months ago. Auto Train could be part of the deal; so might a meet up with Ocala Mike.
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Ocala Mike
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Sounds doable, Gil. Also, I was contacted through Twitter by an old college pal who had a long career with Electric Boat in New London, CT who may be visiting one of his relatives in Sarasota early April or so. Slight detour off I-75, and might get together with him. He's also a bit of an Amtrak aficianado.
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50 year railfan
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I'm curious that there have not been any posts regarding the loss of the contract with Amtrak. Does this mean that those of you in the know realize that the service is gone forever, or will further negotiations lead to a better outcome?

I'm not one who would ever likely ride this train, but I have admired the effort - especially the early video of the long string of IC Pullman cars on an early run.

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Gilbert B Norman
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"Over thy wounds now do I prophesize..."

quote:
Finally, I guess Ellis is out of business "for the duration".
I had no knowledge whatever until Mr. Railfan's immediate posting that PRJ was out of the "scheduled of sorts" CHI-NOL business. A quick review of their webpage suggests that they are now another "private car for hire" business.

Apparently, their next adventure will be some kind of CHI-Louisville journey for the Kentucky Derby. However PRJ will be remembered by me for my "one click away" escapade.

"Have car, will travel"

Posts: 9450 | 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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