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The Transcontinental Conveyer belt

by Webmaster on May 13th, 2008

So this is how it went down on our latest vacation:

Monday we arrived in Chicago by air. It rained so we spent the day in museums, Chicago has lots of them and they are all great.

Tuesday the weather was clear and cool so we walked the city but included a ride on the loop. If you are a rail fan you MUST ride the loop. A two day pass on the CTA cost $9.00 and will take you any place on the system including transit and bus. The loop is unbelievable and you can actually ride up front with the motorman! That afternoon we had an appointment with the South West Chief so we arrived at Union Station and settled into the first class lounge. Our train, Number 3, was called and departed on time. Sailing across the old triple track Burlington main line to Galesburg was a delight and our attendant, a man with 30 years of service was professional and quite a wit. The food on the train was very good with a dining car staff that obviously liked the work and made the dining experience fun. BNSF handled our train superbly, however, for reason unknown to us, I didn’t ask, we los 70 minutes in KC while we slept.

Waking, still in Kansas, it’s big; we had a very good breakfast and watched the Great Plains unfold before our eyes. Noonish brought us to southern Colorado and the assent to Raton (ra- tone) Pass. Up we went twisting and turning and over the top thence down to the town of Raton. Lunch was great and we made up time. Glorieta pass, a more gentile decent, went smoothly and soon we were in Lamey the connection to Santa Fe MN, named for Rev. Lemay a very stern but influential Catholic leader in early New Mexico. We arrived in Albuquerque in the midst of a ferocious dust storm passing a railrunner commuter train on the outskirts. We struggled to find a taxi; the Amtrak agents helped us, and fled to our hotel. I must mention the Railrunner commuter service, by the way everyone calls it the Roadrunner, this brand new service runs from Belene (bee lyn) to a suburb about thirty miles north of Albuquerque. It’s only one year old and is already being expanded to Santa Fe. The last 15 miles of this extension is brand new roadbed placed mostly within the median strip of the interstate. Not bad for two small cities who recognize that its highways are not going to keep up with its growth. Eventually the two cities will probably become connected with vast suburban neighborhoods.

The next morning we visited Belene, a crew change with a medium size yard on the BNSF. A Harvey House museum including a fair model railroad is located at the old station. We sat in the Roadrunner station for about one hour and saw nine trains arrived and depart with new crews, what a show.

That afternoon we went to Santa Fe and for four days forgot about trains and enjoyed New Mexico with several road trips and a day down town. Santa Fe is at 14,000 feet and can get cold at night but the days were perfect. Our B&B was great and we had a wonderful time.

Next we departed Santa Fe via I 40 for the painted dessert and the Petrified Forest finally arriving in Winslow Arizona sometime after three PM. The treat of the trip for me and also for Christine, excepting maybe lunch in Sedona, was the two day stay at La Posada! La Posada is a completely restored Fred Harvey hotel with reasonable rates and very good food. Located with the front of the building facing the ATSF main line which host up to one hundred, that’s right I said one hundred, trains a day all getting a change of crew usually within ten minutes the show never ends. No grade crossings exist in Winslow so the trains are almost silent as they glide in and out. Some have radio control pushers and no train I saw was less then a mile long. This incredible piece of American railroad is definitely getting the job done! Train crews are friendly but definitely stay off the property as railroad police frequently patrol the yard area. You can see it all from La Posada and public roads. Winslow also has the ?? standing on the corner statue and flatbed Ford from the song made legendary by the Eagles, and a great gift shop catering to Route 66 memorabilia.

After two days of drinking fine wine on our balcony, make sure you get the Bob Hope Room it has a balcony, looking out on the tracks and watching the transcontinental conveyer belt we reluctantly moved on towards Flagstaff, called the �Flag� by the railroaders. Traveling west again on I 40 we took a side trip to Canyon Diablo on a road, that will test your skills avoiding boulders and ruts that probably I shouldn�t have tried in a Dodge Avenger, but we mad it the three miles and were not disappointed. Don�t try this side trip if your partner is squeamish it�s a long way from civilization and you could be stranded facing a three mile walk back out to the interstate!

Back on the road we could see several mile long trains following each other at seventy miles per hour over the vast expanse of the Arizona high dessert, absolutely amazing vistas with the San Francisco Peaks in the distance with snow on the higher elevations.

We stopped at Flagstaff at the beautiful Amtrak depot and caught one last westbound Z train headed west. Alas we then had to turn south towards Phoenix for our date with Air Tran Airways for the trip back to Beautiful but train starved Massachusetts.

This was a vacation for anyone with a partner who enjoys beautiful scenery and fine food. Your significant other will love La Posada; it’s a three star hotel and restaurant that just happens to have arguably the greatest train show on earth. Flagstaff has it all and of course be sure to take Oak Creek Canyon Road down to Sedona, maybe the most beautiful town in America. Williams and the Grand Canyon are also within easy reach of Flagstaff.

Carl and Christine

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