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Column for 6.6.12
Reading Carl Trainor’s railroad column, which I enjoy, has been making me think about Amtrak trips I’ve taken over the years. I’ve had the good fortune to have ridden every route Amtrak has to offer, some routes several times.
I’ve seen and heard things during those Amtrak trips, including the items that follow:
Item 1 - Chance, I never did get his last name, was in charge of onboard services on the Lake Shore Limited, which runs between Chicago and New York City. We were running late on this particular trip and I asked Chance, who was named after a character in a Tennessee Williams play, if there was any possibility of making up the time and getting into Chicago on time. “There’s an old saying,” Chance said, “a late train usually gets later.” Chance was correct. We pulled into Chicago more than two hours late.
Item 2 - Give me a quarter - make that a dime - for every junk car that is within sight of passing railroad trains in this country and I could retire. If I could get the same deal for discarded tires to be seen from passenger trains, my family and friends could also retire.
Item 3 - A train’s horn, especially late at night, is a sorrowful sound, even more so when the train is passing through railroad crossings in small towns out in the middle of nowhere. That sound is even sadder if you are traveling alone.
Item 4 - The train station in Washington, D.C. is - at least in my humble opinion - the best and most impressive train station in the country. The station is beautiful to look at, easy to use and fun to be in, what with all its shops and restaurants. Also on my list of Top 10 U.S. railroad stations is Los Angeles and San Antonio. Utica’s Union Station is impressive and ranks right up there with the best in the country. By the way, Utica’s Union Station’s name has nothing to do with labor. It is named Union because of the many train lines that met or were united in Utica.
Item 5 - There are “capitals” all across the country. Some “capitals” can even be seen from the train, including the “Artichoke Capital of the World,” which is Castroville, California, where miles and miles of the plants have been planted parallel to the tracks; “The Garlic Capital of the World,” which is Gilroy, California; and “The Lumber Capital of the World,” which is Eugene, Oregon.
Item 6 - While riding Amtrak’s Coast Starlight, which does, in fact, run right along the California coast, passengers see the ocean and various beaches, including Bates Beach. I couldn’t understand why passengers were craning their necks to see Bates Beach until it was pointed out to me that Bates Beach is a nude beach.
Item 7 - One rule of life is that people of all ages wave at passing trains. Passengers wave back. The exception that makes the rule was in Glenwood Springs, Colorado. A hermit who lived on the side of a mountain overlooking the tracks would stand outside his cave but never wave.
Item 8 - I’m no fortuneteller but I predict there’s an Amtrak trip for yours truly coming up in the near future. I blame Carl Trainor for this.