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Amtrak Adventures

I’m catching up here in ‘The Engine Shed’, my office and writing room at my HQ, located in a quiet corner of West Sussex. It’s been a busy 2019. Not busy with travel, but busy with attempting to reorganise my life, move homes, rebuild my new home and finish writing a book – all at the same time. Fortunately, chaos has finally been overcome, and ‘The Railway to Heaven’ has been published. Deep breath – and relax. So now I can turn my attention to organising some new adventures on the rails. In 2017 I took a trip across the […]

November 12, 2019 USA

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The Lakeshore Limited from NYC to Chicago

Penn Station isn’t the nicest place on earth, but it didn’t take long to find the baggage drop off and the haven of the nearby Club Acela Lounge, which is open to sleeper passengers. The staff here seemed friendly but stretched. One really nice touch here is that an Amtrak agent escorts you from the lounge down to the right track ahead of it being announced in the station, so that you are first on the train and avoid the stampede of coach passengers. The Lakeshore has to navigate through some old tunnels under the Hudson River, and for this […]

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The City of New Orleans

Chicago Union is a wonderful place to be, and although it’s busy, it’s big enough to still feel graceful and calm. The great hall has wooden bench seats and a sign ‘To the Trains’. Checking my bag in takes a couple of minutes, and I’m quickly seated in the refurbished Metropolitan Lounge until the train is called about 40 minutes before departure. A short walk to platform 18, where I’m greeted by a Superliner, a train made up of the Amtrak double-deck carriages. Mine tonight is 5900, where I’m greeted by Lala, who shows me upstairs to my roomette, number […]

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The Sunset Limited from New Orleans to Houston

Matthew Woodward on the rails

It was a bit of a drag getting out of bed at a business-like time to get to the station for the 9.00 am departure of the Sunset Limited with a New Orleans Hurricane based hangover. You need to be there an hour before to check-in baggage, and I don’t like chancing it. As it happened everything went very smoothly, and a really nice chap sorted it all out in a couple of minutes. Better still there was a small lounge, and the usual drill was in play, someone comes to get you and take you to the train. I […]

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The Sunset Limited from Houston to Los Angeles

Amtrak

Back on the rails this evening. The first challenge is finding the Amtrak station in Houston. Lots of local residents don’t even know that Houston actually has an Amtrak station, or that its possible to reach LA or New Orleans from here by rail. For a wealthy city, the station is tiny. Fortunately, my cab driver has sat-nav. When I tell him its 37 hours to LA, he looks at me like I’m a mad man. I’ve got used to watching ‘Wheel of Fortune’ on the television in the Amtrak lounge before catching trains at this time of the day. […]

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The New Mexico Rail Runner

I’m on the rails in the US today, but not with Amtrak, as I’m on the New Mexico Rail Runner which is run independently by Rio Metro. Several times each day their trains connect Albuquerque with Santa Fe and all stops in between. It’s a 60-mile ride that takes less than 2 hours. Waiting for the 09.35 train, passengers mill about in the pre-sunshine cold of the desert morning until the doors of the duplex carriages open 20 minutes before our departure. They are talkative, friendly and really interesting. Onboard the train is clean and comfortable, laid out over two decks […]

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The Southwest Chief from LA to Chicago

LA Union Station has a relaxed feel in the late afternoon, sunshine beams through the high windows and passengers seem in no particular hurry here. Check-in for the Southwest Chief, or ‘The Chief’, is simple but made slightly harder by an Amtrak employee who isn’t very happy about life today. We get there in the end, but I’m pleased I spotted she had mistagged my bag. I always do a physical check, and today it paid off. With this done I headed upstairs to the lounge, which was small but still just had enough seats. The manager told me I […]

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