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News from the Engine Shed – new book

Thanks to those of you who have been asking how I’m getting on with the latest book. I’m pleased to report that I have now finished writing it and I hope that it will be published in February 2021. Time now to start planning some new post COVID adventures. Whilst I’m not quite ready to reveal the title just yet, I would like to tell you a bit more about it. First of all I must say that I have been incredibly fortunate. I returned from my last trip just two weeks before lockdown kicked off in the UK. I […]

November 30, 2020

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Learn to speak Amtrak

Travelling across the U.S. by train recently has revealed a brand new language to me; I have discovered the dialect of the American railway. I now speak fluent “Amtrak”, and you can too. The train language of the rest of the world has had limited chance to interbreed with the U.S, leaving America with a unique set of rail words. Most make some sense to English speakers, but a variety of carriage (sorry, car) types and multiple names for the same thing can at times become confusing. In addition, the first time traveller may be surprised by the way the […]

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The ‘Coast Starlight’ from L.A. to San Francisco

After a rather weird stay on board the Queen Mary, I’m back on the rails today. I never thought I would take to life in L.A, but I was pleasantly surprised by Long Beach nightlife. The Queen Mary is such an iconic ship, but now as a business it is primarily a glorified theme park and the values of Cunard are long gone. I’m with some other British rail travellers and amazingly one of them was actually a passenger on the Queen Mary. The ship didn’t even offer him a complimentary drink to welcome him back. I find that rather […]

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‘The Southwest Chief’ from Flagstaff to Los Angeles

There is much speculation about how late the train will be into Flagstaff this evening. Dan, the Brakeman on my earlier Grand Canyon train, has advised me to buy a bottle of wine and decant it into a water bottle so I can have a drink on the station platform. Four hours delay is quite normal on this service. Amtrak don’t own the track, so freight takes priority. “The Chief” is coming from Chicago, so it will have had plenty of opportunity to pick up a big delay. I return to the station after a quick dinner to discover that […]

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The Grand Canyon Railway

The day didn’t start too well. My bus driver actually got lost trying to find Williams Depot, the home of the Grand Canyon Railway. Mild panic began to creep into my thoughts, but with just ten minutes to spare we arrived at the station and I boarded carriage “E” on the 09.30 train, bound for the south rim of the Grand Canyon. On some days they run a steam train, but today we are hauled by a nicely restored class EMD F40 locomotive with matching silver vintage carriages. My seat is comfy enough in a slightly too tightly packed coach […]

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The Durango & Silverton Railway

I’m slightly “off piste” in a railway sense. To reach Silverton I have had to leave the train at Denver (the train to Grand Junction was cancelled owing to work on the line) and take a bus to Silverton. It would have been too easy to push on west towards the coast, but this part of my journey needs further exploration – I’m seriously enjoying being in Colorado. My journey today is a totally a tourist one, but in the past it was a vital part of the incredible story of the gold and silver rushes. The Durango & Silverton […]

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The ‘California Zephyr’ from Chicago to Denver

Getting into the Panorama Lounge in Union Station gives me a subtle premonition that the journey ahead might not be as straightforward as it should be. The lady on reception isn’t too keen on passengers actually coming in to her lounge, and my paperwork isn’t in order until she has scribbled on it with a pink lumi pen in a special high security way. After a short wait, she issues instructions over the PA for finding the platform the Zephyr is departing from this afternoon. Rather confusingly there is both a platform number and a compass bearing – platform 22, […]

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The ‘Capitol Limited’ from D.C. to Chicago

Leaving the Amtrak Acela lounge and walking down the long platform in Union Station DC, I can’t help but be impressed by the huge size of the train and it’s Superliner carriages. Monstrous in proportions, and with a retro look of silver and fins –  they appear to be part inspired by Airstream and part by Dan Dare. Without getting a tape measure out, they must be taller than the Duplex TGV trains in Europe. As I have time to spare I take a walk down to the front of the train where two locomotives are already attached to haul […]

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Amtrak 141 from N.Y.C. to Washington D.C.

New York’s Penn Station reminds me of Euston in London; frankly it’s a bit of a 1960’s bunker. All is changing for the better though, as a new station building is under construction next door. The original Pennsylvania Avenue Station was actually a really grand marble and granite building, dating back to 1910, but this was sadly demolished in the 1960’s and Madison Square Garden now sits on top of it. So today I descend into the concrete bowels of a station on its last legs, and find a seat in the Amtrak waiting room. The subterranean world of “Penn” […]

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Strawberry Fields

I stood in the seemingly endless immigration line at JFK with mixed feelings. Putting to the back of my mind that with some of the visas in my passport, I might be on the first plane back to Heathrow, I read a book as I made excruciatingly slow progress to the front of the snaking queue. The Hispanic border officer looked suspiciously at my rather worn out passport. It had pages of visas from countries that his President might not approve of. But after a good chat about trains – “is NYC to San Francisco as far as London to […]

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