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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.

Welcome to my March 2023 avatar . .  traxster, traveling my own defined 5000+ loop around the US on a USA Rail Pass, which gives me 30 days and ten steps as defined by Amtrak.  See here if you want more.  Background on Amtrak here.  Amtrak defines routes by names as here. Traxter 1 and 2 are on the Lake Shore Limited. They are two steps because I got off the train in Rochester NY for a personal side trip, before continuing to Chicago.  Last preliminaries are these:  most of these photos will be from my train seat,  one side of the train, through tinted glass, and with a “smart phone.”  Reason for this last point:  this camera is fastest focus.  Choice of photos is somewhat random . . . what catches my eye and stays in my memory.  I’ll do minimal writing in order to sustain the plan.  

Starting point was NYP, aka Penn Station Moynihan Hall. If you want more info, use google or some other search engine.

I’ll also use place ID as the “phone” gives it:  Fort Washington Park.  That’s Carolina Coast towing sugar barge Jonathan.

Peekskill looking toward fog in the Highlands.

Bear Mountain Bridge, in that fog.

Constitution Island looking at West Point.

Bannerman’s Island as seen from Beacon.


Tilcon from Poughkeepsie.

High Peaks from Germantown.

SUNY Plaza, from Albany . . .  actually from the bridge.

Erie Canal lock 10 from Amsterdam.

Mohawk River from Amsterdam.

Old Montgomery Courthouse from Fonda. 

NY Central No. 6721 from Utica.

Green Empire Farms from Oneida.

Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge from Savannah NY.

Huge farm retirement auction from drone in Marion NY.

auction by JMartin

All photos, any errors, WVD.


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March 2023