You are currently browsing the category archive for the ‘Amtrak’ category.

If you’re starting with this post, here’s background:  back in January I bought an Amtrak USA Rail Pass on sale for $299.  Here are the rules and conditions.  I researched and assembled an itinerary, which so far has brought zero glitches.  I’m combining trains with rental cars.  

Segment 7 of 10 begins in Kansas City.  The 1914 Union Station today is much more than a place to board/debark trains.

In one of the great halls of the spectacular station, a  STEM fair was taking place the day I arrived. 

Right across the street from the station is the World War 1 Museum and Memorial. The dedication in 1921 brought together high ranking reps of many nations.

Many timely exhibits can be seen. 

Considering KC MO is on the Missouri River,  a must-see sight is the steamboat Arabia wreck museum.

Another is the historic jazz district of KC, where I saw this tribute to hometown hero Yardbird.  I was happy to have watched Ken Burns’ Jazz last winter.

Other features of the 18th & Vine district include Arthur Bryant’s BBQ and so much more like this.   More about this area when I catch up with a tagster post. 

The Southwest Chief, Chicago-bound, was running precisely on time.  I know . . . there are many and differently-scenic parts of these named train routes . . . so many miles and so little time.

Just east of KC, we pass the Sugar Creek barge loading port;  just to the left of those buildings and trees is the Missouri River. A view of this operation from the river would be piers and loading/unloading elevators.

We crossed the Missouri at Sibley, and a club car seat offered an illuminated view of the bends and bars in the river.


Again, riding the tracks gives a good view of places like Hardin MO, which you may not have known before, unless you recall the 1993 disaster . . . 

or La Plata, which still has an Amtrak stop.

We crossed the Des Moines River.

Recall that these are all photos from the train taken with the speed of a cell phone, so excuse the sparse detail.  See that white horizontal band across the middle of the photo?  Those are blades at the Siemens Gamesa wind turbine plant in Fort Madison, the end of this segment of my trip.  Here’s another link.

Just north of the Amtrak station in Fort Madison, where I ended this segment,  is another preserved locomotive, the Santa Fe 2913.  Maybe some train folks could answer this question:  As these steam trains were turned into monuments, was any attention paid to preservation such that these engines could again be fired up?  I suspect the answer might be . . . some were and others not.

From the Kingsley Inn lobby right across the street from the train station and the Mississippi River beyond,  two livestream 5′ x 3′ screens pay tribute to the location.   The screens stream virtual railfan Ft. Madison and streamtime live Mississippi River lock 19. This place seems popular with folks interested in rail and river traffic.

More on this upbound tow in tomorrow’s post.

All photos, any errors, WVD.

Of all the possible tugster variants, I’d never expected this mutation, but I hope you’re enjoying this traxcentric report on a journey as much as I’m enjoying the journey.  This part 5 is based on three [technically two] Amtrak segments from Alpine TX to Oklahoma City OK, i.e., Sunset Limited, Texas Eagle and Heartland Express.  

The 835 pm Sunset Limited was delayed, in part by wild weather in its starting point, LA.  It was dark through to San Antonio, where my coach was rebranded the Texas Eagle.

It took me a while to “get” the landscape, but when we passed a HUGE hobo camp along the rails just south of Austin, my focus returned.  I’d heard of homelessness in Austin; I’d also recently read Lawrence Wright’s New Yorker article on booming times in the same city.  The dissonance provoked reflection.  Were hobos ever called homeless?  Do we just rename things generation to generation and miss any sort of fix?  Is there a fix?  What ended the Hoovervilles and hobo camps of several generations back?  The train moves quickly, and now I wish I’d snapped pics of the elaborate hobo complexes along the tracks that appeared and then were gone.

By the way, the building is Block 185. The river is the other Colorado, not the one that created the Grand Canyon.  Lots of kayakers enjoyed the warm day.

As the Texas Eagle soars northward, we pass Hutto and 

Taylor. Remember, this is a traxcentric perspective, and I was pleased by the amount of old iron on display in stations. 

Also, I snapped photos using subjective impulse.  So these are from Moody

McGregor [which has a SpaceX presence], 


and the outskirts now of Fort Worth.  Someone else would have snapped other views. Taking this trip is obviously illustrating the vastness of this country past and present.  Check out that “Fort Worth” link for a hint of what I mean.

Here I debarked the Texas Eagle to board the Heartland Flyer.  Hat tip to the folks at Amtrak who came up with these evocative names.

For those who watch, sights abound at the transfer points. So ends segment 5 for me;  once I’m aboard the Heartland Flyer, it’s segment 6 of the 10 max allowed by the railpass.

The population of Haslet has grown 700% since 1970.

As the sun descends, we arrive in Ardmore, which means we’re in Oklahoma.  Along the track, the town features grain elevators with murals and 

oil industry.

Night falls, the Heartland Express has reached its terminus . . . the heart of the heartland, I suppose.  I walked across the street to my lodging, fatigued after a 24-hour jaunt station-to-station, ALP to OKC in Amtrak-speak.

Thanks for riding along and perusing my subjectively chosen set of snapshots.  I appreciate your comments here or in email. In late summer 1986, I had a Eurail Pass and did something similar–although sans social media–from Greece to Norway and then back to Amsterdam.

I will get back to tugsterfare at some point soon, with some exciting plans for the late spring and summer. 



The Sunset Limited is quite the daunting trip, and I only took half of it:  NOL to Alpine TX.  On the map below, Alpine is about halfway across the route.  It’s the jumping off point for Big Bend NP, my reason to debark there, but that’s another post . . . another blog even.  Click on the map below to get the link to the Sunset Limited.  Had I continued on to LA, I’d have spent a whole 24 more hours on the train that I’d spent 26 hours on.

In these traxter posts, I’m sticking as much as possible to focus on water, infrastructure, and agriculture.  At least, that’s what’s in my head;  I’m not sure that’s getting across.   The challenge here is that most of these photos are shot through the train windows, as I’ve mentioned before.  If the term “snapshot” ever fits, it’s certainly fits here.

The train takes the Huey P Long Bridge over the Mississippi.

Amtrak takes the Berwick Bay Bridge over the Atchafalaya at Morgan City.  We had quick views of this floating dry dock with a Miss Madeline in foreground and rig museum Mr. Charlie with the tall vertical structure in the distance. 

A cemetery in New Iberia, where I spent a lot of time last year.

Know what you’re seeing here?



From New Iberia to the Texas border, it’s not so much sugar cane as rice farming. Again, that’s a whole different post and blog.

I believe the wheel marks in the field here are post-harvesting by big combines.


Beaumont on the Neches River is a significant port, significant but relatively unknown city, at least to me.  Skim at this link.

In the Houston train yard, four-wheelers are used to inspect/repair trains, it seems.  This one was loaded with heavy tools.

Unlike passenger train cars in the NE, elsewhere in the US, these have higher clearance . . .  because of no low, old bridges.

Maybe of interest to folks in ship/boat preservation, I’ve seen lots of historic locomotives in stations. More on 794 here

Del Rio TX deserves more time.  The tracks here run near the international border.

A surprise for me was Amistad National recreation area.  This is one aspect of the US/MX border you just don’t hear about.  So many things are more complicated than we even imagine…  a Rio Grande reservoir 

A lot of these are found along the rails and I understand.

Even more of these “deer blinds” (I know that’s NOT what they are, but they remind me of them.), and I don’t know what they are.

And finally I approach my destination . . .  Big Bend National Park is beyond those hills.

Dan Blocker went to college in Alpine and is memorialized on this mural in town, as is

this . . . just a block from the station.

All photos, any errors, WVD, whose parameters I mentioned at the start of this post.  Obviously, this is just a series of impressions gleaned during a 25-hour train trip over many rivers and through many watersheds, much of which was in darkness.  

Step 3 started here in Chicago Union Station, or as Amtrak calls it, CHI, and ends in NOL.  You know the song.

Since Train 59 departed after dark, the first photos I got were here, Loosahatchee River, just north of Memphis.  What I’ve learned is that when on WiFi, photos do not identify location taken.  Remember that all these photos are taken through tinted windows and from the tracks.

Dry bulk barge loading port on the Wolf River.

Memphis Pyramid with I-40 Bridge in background.

American Queen.

House in Memphis just south of Frontline condos.

Inside the Superliner Sightseer Lounge Car.  

Mississippi River valley agriculture.

I saw a crop-duster airplane but the scale here made the shot impossible.

Pano looking across a field toward the Mississippi River…

Marks MS

Little Tallahatchee River

Money MS.  Check that link.

Pulp wood for a paper mill

Note the livery on these Kansas City Southern locomotive and compare it to that on the Panama Canal Railway engine here.  There is a connection.

Brookhaven MS.

McComb MS has a Bo Diddley connection, and acknowledges it here.

McComb also has this Illinois Central locomotive on display.

Since we were doing 79 mph parts of the trip, half an hour after crossing into Hammond LA, we took the causeway east of Lake Maurepas and started the long arc around Pontchartrain heading for NOL.

Note the greenery under the interstate bridges. 

All photos, any errors, WVD.

This marks the end of step 3 of 10, about 2000 of +5000 miles done.


Step 2 on my USA Railpass runs from ROC to CHI, as Amtrak abbreviates the stations.  Since my train departed after dark, here’s all I have. 

I passed through Cleveland, and an area of Cleveland over the Cuyahoga I know somewhat, at 0400. That brightly colored tower is Terminal Tower.

Sunrise happened west of Toledo in Archbold OH.  Somewhere around here we left the Great Lakes watershed and entered the Mississippi River watershed.

Bryan OH is home of Spangler Candy Co., makes of Dumdums

Waterloo IN has personal significance, since I worked there one summer left in the foggy parts of my memory . . .  as a CDL instructor . . . summer 1986.  Yes, I was a CDL coach . . . double clutching forward  and backing into docks, before I left that very short career.

I had no sense until this trip of the scale of Elkhart IN as a rail center. 

Since I’m heading into more agricultural country on this trip, this is New Carlisle IN.

Whatever associations you have with Gary IN, here’s what I saw from the south side of the tracks.  Had I been on the north side, I would have seen Arcelor Mittal/Cliffs furnaces in Burns Harbor IN a bit earlier.

East Chicago IL hints at Chicago, a rail hub.

Chicago Skyway Bridge over the Calumet River.

Tugs– Tanner and Old Mission— in the Calumet River.

Bright Star, built in Sturgeon Bay WI in 2003,  is one of Shoreline’s many tourboats on the Chicago River.

An interesting mural inside Chicago Union Station.  I believe it’s an art deco- and WPA-influenced more recent print.  Leslie Ragan or Robert LaDuke influences?  Someone else?

All photos, any errors, WVD.

You may recall that back in 2014, I often juxtaposed  canal&river/rail in photos like the one below.


This post was originally going to feature only photos of the river and canal from the rails, like the one below, but


then I decided to pair photos from the train toward the water with the opposite:  photos from the water toward roughly the same land area where the rails lay and the trains speed.


Train shots are difficult because of speed, coatings on the windows, trees and poles along the tracks . . .  but I’m quite sure a letter that begins “Dear Amtrak:  could you slow down, open windows, and otherwise accommodate the photographers” would not yield a positive response.


I hope you enjoy this attempt on my part.  And if you ever have a chance to ride Amtrak along the Hudson, Mohawk, and Lake Champlain . . . sit on the better side of the car; switch sides if necessary.


Here we’re on the Livingstone Avenue Bridge looking south and


here we are south of it, looking north.  Yes, that’s Crow, Empire, W. O. Decker, and Grand Erie passing through the open swivel.


Here’s the pedestrian bridge in Amsterdam


as seen from both vantage points.


The 1766 Guy Park Manor from a speeding train and


from the Mohawk River/Erie Canal, where post-Irene repair has been going on since 2011.   Here’s a photo taken soon after the unusual weather.


Schoharie Aqueduct from Amtrak,


a slow boat, and


the east bank of Schoharie Creek.


Little Falls onramp to I-90 from rail and




The rail bridge at Lock 19 from the span and


from west of it at Lock 19.


And these all east of Utica I can’t pair, but decided to include here anyhow:  a dairy pasture,


a construction yard, and


a truck depot.


Maybe if I write that “Dear Amtrak” letter, I could just ask if the window could be cleaned a bit.  If you’re going to try this, take amtrak when the leaves are off the trees.

All photos by Will Van Dorp, who embeds this post from “Good Morning Gloucester” to reveal a bit of my past . . . 1988.  Scroll all the way through to see a piece of shipwreck “treasure.”

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