Some back story and departure from Boston
The bee in my bonnet for this trip was reading a book called The Christmas Train by David Baldacci. I had a lot of hard thinking to do on this one, but decided despite my poor mobility it was worth a try. I convinced Joanne to do this with me and hoped I could rely on very good Red Caps and Car Attendants to get me to California. I was very lucky on all counts.
I do tend to sweat the small stuff, the first obstacle would be getting into South Station in Boston, as there is no drop off location. The problem solved itself there, as I stopped in a traffic lane next to the station, blocked a lane of commuters and unloaded suitcases, a wheel chair and ourselves. Our friend Linda, then drove off heading back to NH. I didn't bother to look at the mess I caused. We then dragged into the station and to the Amtrak ticket office. A quick scan of my receipt was all that was needed and we went to the Red Cap area and were greeted by Frank. A very amiable and helpful chap who took custody of our luggage and escorted us to the Amtrak lounge to await our departure.
Over a cup of coffee, we met Ken K. He was a trainer for the Amtrak Police's K-9 force. A retired Mass. State Trooper, he contracted to train the dogs in explosive detection. He was there to test 2 newer dogs. Both efficiently found the minute test items. We spoke at length about our retiree cop life and soon Frank came to escort us to the Lake Shore Limited.
I opted to use the wheel chair, as often the distance from the terminal to an assigned car could be very substantial. We were met at our Viewliner Sleeping car by our attendant, Cam. He and Frank saw that our luggage and bodies were safely ensconced in our handicap accessible bedroom compartment. Folks that have cruised know that accommodations can be tight. Train compartments are no different. But it would be home until Wednesday Morning. Exactly at 12:50 the twin P-42 (4200 hp each) diesels growled to life and began pulling us toward Chicago.
Hunger began to overtake us and we bobbed and weaved to the cafe car only two cars away. A quick salad and we returned to watch the scenery pass by. At about 6 pm, we stopped in Albany, New York and the train from NYC joined up with us to make a very large and long train. By 7:15 we were on the way again, and dinner was delivered to us in the compartment. With the added cars in Albany, the dining car was 7 cars away. The food on the trains is very good and freshly prepared on board. The menus were varied.
Soon it was time to sleep, as we left home very early that morning. Cam made up the bed and lowered the upper berth for Joanne. He placed the climbing ladder and we were left to our own devices to get in bed. The harness rig to keep Joanne in bed was a problem, so it just hung loose, banging against the ladder and helping to keep me awake. The jiggling and jerking of the train didn't help either. Our car was only one away from the engines and the horn blew for crossings all night. A seemingly restless night left us still tired in the morning, when we ordered our coffee and breakfast. It was time to pack up and await arrival in Chicago on time at 9:45. Cam arranged for a Red Cap to grab our luggage and transport us to Union Station Amtrak Lounge to await our next train. A very comfortable lounge with snacks and coffee, even a wine and cheese tasting event. There we met another Amtrak Police K-9 guy and chatted for some time. Soon it was time to board the Southwest Chief for our 3 pm departure. Our Red Cap guy had already loaded our luggage and whisked us to the platform and our Superliner Sleeping Car. Jesus, our attendant, was waiting and helped us load into our different type of handicap accessible compartment. Again the twin P-42s came to life and the Mighty Southwest Chief was heading for California.
Click on an image above if you want a larger picture