This blog reports events and interesting tidbits from Rensselaer, Indiana and the surrounding area.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Amtrak Adventure (part 2)

After almost a week in Glenwood Springs, Colorado, it was time to take the train back to Rensselaer. We checked the train schedule and found that the train was running about three hours late. It turned out that that particular train had ended in Reno, NV, and the passengers had been bussed the rest of the way. Hence, it had started from Reno. I never did learn what the story was there.

Glenwood Springs has a very attractive train station, one that is still in use.
It is manned, with a ticket counter. It only has two trains a day, one going east and the other going west, but quite a few people arrive and depart on most days.
One one side of the ticket counter is a railroad museum open a few days a week. On the other side is a waiting room that has preserved the look and feel of the old waiting rooms. Notice the benches that are designed so that people cannot sleep in them.
We got on the train and started up the Colorado River canyon. I had seen most of it before, so did not take many pictures. I watched for rafters after we left the Interstate behind, but saw very few, probably because it was late in the day. On the way in, we had seen several rafters give the train a "Zephyr salute," but it was raining and I could not get a decent picture of them. But then suddenly the Amish in front of the cabin saw something and got quite excited. I was able to take a quick, poorly-focused snapshot. Maybe you can figure out what they are doing, but if not, do not worry about it.
One of the cars that we had not used was the dining car, immediately behind the lounge car. I did visit it to see what it was like. We got mixed reports on the food. Some people thought it was very good and reasonably priced. Others thought the food was substandard and too expensive.
The Rocky Mountains do not have foothills that lead up to the mountains. They just erupt in full majesty to the west of Denver. As we reached the end of the mountains, we could see Denver still illuminated by the setting sun. There was a patch of rain and a rainbow, but I could not get a good picture. By the time we backed into the temporary station (the main station is undergoing renovation and will not be available for a couple years), darkness was settling over the city. We were still about three hours behind schedule, but one of the train people said that there was some slack in the schedule and we might make it up overnight.

We had seen eastern Colorado in the morning on the way west, but it was dark on the way east. I regret not having brought some maps with me to follow track the route. When the sun rose, we were speeding through the cornfields of eastern Nebraska in the area around Hastings. It looked a bit like Indiana, but there were not nearly as many trees.

When we got to Lincoln, we were about five hours behind schedule. Normally the train stops about 3:30 in the morning, but now it was now late enough for a farmers or craft market to be open in the station area. This was a longer stop at which passengers could leave the train and smoke or walk, and some of the passengers dared to go to the market and find food. I was not quite daring enough to search for food. I went and snapped a few pictures.
While some passengers roamed the market, a few of the market visitors came over to examine the train. The conductor let a few of the kids get on the train and look into the passenger cars.

The roof over the platform had some age to it. There were a number of stations with very similar platforms. There were also several stations that featured old steam locomotives on display.
What looked like an old water tank for steam engines was actually a fountain. The water poured out the spigot into a basin. It was a rather clever idea for a fountain. (Rensselaer could use a fountain or two in its parks. Kids love fountains.)
The next memorable sight was the Missouri River. We had not seen it on the way west because it was dark, so even though we had heard repeatedly that there was flooding along this river, it was still something of a shock to see it.
The tracks were only a foot or two above the water line. Below you can see some sort of plant that is partly under water, along with a truck that is mostly under water, with only a little of the cab still dry.
After we crossed the river, there were sandbags along the track stretching for a mile or two.
The train schedule said that the Zephyr was supposed to get into Union Station in Chicago three hours before the Cardinal/Hoosier State left, but we were now about five hour behind schedule. After we crossed into Iowa, perhaps it was after we stopped at Crestor with its magnificent station, the train came to a halt and the conductor said that there were four freight trains ahead of us. The dispatchers in Texas who control all train movement on the Burlington Northern Santa Fe tracks were trying to see if they could maneuver us around them. So for a while we had some stop and go movement. Eventually the conductor said that we had passed the freight trains. However, we were now six hours behind schedule.
The coach attendant told us that Amtrak would take care of us if we missed the connection, but I still worried. I realized that if we were late, we would have some sort of adventure and it might be fun to write about it, but even that possibility was not enough to make me stop worrying. I had been away from home for a week and had had enough adventures, I was ready to return home.

After we got into Illinois, the conductor announced that passengers who were taking the train east to Indianapolis, our train, would be getting off at Galesburg, Illinois and taking a bus to Indianapolis. But there was an exception. Passenger Robert S and companion heading for Rensselaer were not invited to that bus. We were to stay on the train. I got my fifteen seconds of Amtrak fame and did not enjoy it, though I did find it funny that I became Roger as the announcement was repeated later.

So it was quite clear that we would not be making the connection to the Hoosier State or Cardinal, whichever train was running the route that day. We did not know what would happen to us, though I thought a limo ride from Chicago to Rensselaer would be a good idea. We were about to enter the world of Amtrak misconnects and have an unexpected adventure.

Maybe tomorrow I will be able to tell you about life among the misconnects, the term that the Amtrak personal used for people like us.

1 comment:

Michael J Oakes said...

Too bad you have never had the experience of ordinary train travel in Japan.