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Part Three -- Denver to Chicago

9:36 PM MST February 27, 1998 Denver, CO

While sightseeing in Denver, I called 1-800-USA-RAIL to check the status of my train. The agent gave me an arrival time of 8:20 PM, 38 minutes late. I wasn't too worried about my connection in Chicago as I had over four hours between trains. Finding a place to eat in downtown Denver on a Friday night is a nightmare! Parking is even worse. Running late, we had to settle for a gourmet dinner at Burger King in a shopping mall near the depot. We went to the Old Spaghetti Factory which is two blocks from the Denver Union Depot, but there was over a 40 minute wait.

At the station, Christine, Clark and I went up to the platform for some night time photos. As soon as we reached the platform, a station attendant asked us to leave the platform and return to the station to obtain a boarding pass. He was quite rude about it and I told him I would comply after I took a few photos of my friends. The attendant said that was fine. Being the busy people that they are, Christine and Clark had to depart to Ft. Collins, a 45 minute drive so they could rest up for work the following day. We said goodbye at 7:30 PM and my train arrived at 8:50 PM, 1:08 late!

When I reached my assigned car, there was no attendant to take my boarding pass, so I boarded and proceeded to my room where I unpacked my gear. Denver Union Depot is very well lit so I took my camera downstairs and shot a few night photos of the train. My car attendant, Fritz, made an appearance from cleaning one of the bathrooms and I gave him my boarding pass. He said that he had been looking for me and he was about to declare me a "no show" and sell my room to another person! He saw my bags sitting on the seats so he knew that I was lurking about somewhere. I told him that there was nobody there to greet me when I arrived. He denied leaving his post at the door, but I knew better!

My room contained exactly the same items (and therefore lacked the same) as the trip from Sacramento to Denver. There was one big difference; a fresh pot of coffee was ready! I filled my Coast Starlight cup three times before I was done! Caffeine doesn't keep me awake, therefore, I was not concerned about tossing and turning. This car was a Superliner 1 sleeper but it had new carpeting, curtains and upholstery. The colors match that of the Superliner 2 sleeper which have a blue and gray interior color scheme. This car has a very noisy bearing in one of the trucks ahead of me and it is quite annoying. I'm glad I am in room #3, further away from the noisy wheel. I found out later on that the Superliner II car ahead of mine had a clogged toilet system since Sacramento, which explained the high amount of traffic in the hallway and around the bathrooms. Crews in Omaha, NE would attempt to repair (and it would fail) the toilets.

9:24 PM Dp. Denver, CO; 52 minutes late

10:46 PM Dp. Fort Morgan, CO; 56 minutes late

2:08 AM Dp. McCook, NE; 53 minutes late

3:14 AM Dp. Holdrege, NE; 51 minutes late

4:06 AM Dp. Hastings, NE; 53 minutes late

5:40 AM Dp. Lincoln, NE; 52 minutes late

7:02 AM Dp. Omaha, NE; 15 minutes late

8:23 AM CST between Omaha, NE and Creston, IA

Thanks to schedule padding along the way, we are only running 15 minutes late. I anticipate an early arrival in Chicago as there is 50 minutes of padding between Naperville and Chicago, 1:21 to cover only 28 miles. Breakfast consisted of biscuits and gravy, two sausage patties, orange Juice and coffee. Delicious food served on hard plastic plates, coffee in hard plastic (not paper this time) cups and real silverware. Why don't they just use real plates too since they have to wash the knives/spoons and forks anyway? The couple I sat with had been skiing in Winter Park and were returning home to Naperville, IL, which is the stop before Chicago.

In Omaha, NE, I heard a humorous conversation between our engineer and a station worker. I didn't get it on tape so here it is:

  • Engineer: "Are you done 'succulating' those toilets in the 632 car yet?"
  • Worker: "Almost done. They're still fueling the last locomotive."
  • Engineer: "Yeah, were sucking it in and having it sucked out all at once!"
  • Laughter followed outside the train among the servicing crew.

    8:48 AM Dp. Creston, IA; 11 minutes late

    9:22 AM Dp. Osceola, 9 minutes late

    Fritz is the best car attendant I've ever had so far! While eating breakfast, he stopped by my table and asked if I'd like my room made up. Also, he made an announcement (10:10 AM) to our car only that he has brewed a fresh pot of coffee! What a guy. Fritz was up at 5 AM and I could smell coffee brewing at 5:15 AM! There was a light dusting of snow on the ground up until Osceola with overcast skies.

    10:48 AM Dp. Ottumwa; 14 minutes late

    11:32 AM Dp. Mt. Pleasant; 12 minutes late

    12:05 PM Dp. Burlington; 11 minutes late

    12:56 PM Dp. Galesberg, IL; 11 minutes late

    For lunch I had today's special, a chicken breast sandwich with potato chips and a pickle. I drank Slice and 7 UP from now on because I can't stand the taste of Amtrak's cola anymore. Finally they had apple pie but not a la mode. As a service reduction, they no longer have ice cream on most Amtrak trains. I think the coast Starlight and Sunset Limited still have ice cream. The rumor of having ice cream in the dining car on the Sunset Limited will be confirmed when I ride train #1 next Tuesday out of Orlando. I sat with a couple from East Lansing, MI who were on their way home from a trip to California. The couple own a golf club making business. They too were displaced by the cancellation of the Coast Starlight. They were scheduled to board the train the day before I was to leave on my trip. In Los Angeles, after all passengers were ON BOARD the train, they decided to cancel the train right then and there! Everybody was put on busses to Bakersfield to take a San Joaquin train to Emeryville. The San Joaquin train that carried the Starlight manifest that day ran out of food two hours after it pulled out of Bakersfield because the snack car attendant had already stocked his inventory, unaware of the onslaught of people that would invade his car! The other woman was traveling to Naperville where she owns a small weekly-published newspaper.

    We just went over a detector at MP 59.6, the distance to Chicago following this Burlington Northern Santa Fe line. I'm very surprised at the lack of freight traffic on this line. I thought I'd see a freight in every siding we passed but I have not seen any freight trains since Mt. Pleasant. Closing in on Chicago at 79 MPH, we will be there in a little over an hour so I'm going to pack up the laptop, radio gear and antenna. I always keep one radio with a stubby duck antenna handy to listen to rail traffic until we enter the depot. I doubt I will work on the computer in the Metropolitan Lounge for I'm all caught up with my travelogues! I thought I'd never gain any ground with this computer's technical difficulties in Sacramento and Nevada. I did find a reset button on the back in which the computer can be re-booted while already on (warm boot) with a locked-up system Finder! I wish I had found it earlier, but at least I DID find it still early on in my journey. This train's voltage must be more to the norm for my scanner is not heating up as much or as quickly. The laptop gets quite warm but not sizzling like before. Having this computer enables me to free up micro cassettes that I talk notes into in between travelogue input sessions into the computer.

    2:53 PM Dp. Naperville; 4 minutes late

    3:31 PM Ar. Chicago; 39 minutes early

    Consist of Train #6, Denver to Chicago

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