21 May

Continuing my journey across the USA, I had a choice of re-joining the Sunset Ltd or to get a room on the part of the train that carried the passengers all the way from Chicago. I chose the latter, getting a roomette in the part of the train that had been previously connected to the Texas Eagle.

The way it works is that the two sleeping cars attached to the Texas Eagle are uncoupled and joined to the west-bound Sunset Ltd once this arrives from New Orleans. Then, as soon as the eastbound Sunset Ltd arrives from Los Angeles, the two additional sleeping cars are uncoupled and re-attached to the Texas Eagle which then returns to Chicago.

Here are a few interesting stats and info bits about this train. The Texas Eagle is the the longest single train journey from Chicago to Los Angeles via San Antonio (TX). The total journey from Chicago to LA is 61 hours 4 minutes at roughly 145 KM/h. The train is a mix of Superliner 1 and 2 cars made by Pullman Standard between 1975-81 and Bombardier Transportation in 1991-96 respectively.

Unfortunately, I discovered that depending on which side of the train car you sit on will determine either the beauty or the repetitively boring nature of the scenery. Still, I did take some footage from the window of my roomette. I will need some time to review it to see if there was anything that stood out.

One thing that certainly noticeable was the presence of not one but two uniformed Amtrak police officers riding on the train all the way to Los Angeles. Whether this was because we would be travelling within spitting distance of the Mexican border with Ciudad Juarez just on the other side of El Paso in New Mexico I could not determine. I do recall being somewhat taken aback when my smartwatch flashed up the message “Welcome to Mexico!” as we approached El Paso.

Whatever the reason, their presence was fortunate indeed when a liquored up traveller became physically abusive towards his wife and fellow passengers were forced to intervene, while others alerted the two officers to what was happening. The two women - sorry, I should have mentioned that both were women, each carrying a side arm and both were built like NFL linebackers - wasted no time in rushing to the scene and dealing with the situation. I only witnessed the altercation from the other end of the train car and by the time I relealised what was happening, Officer Martinez and Officer Veloso had the situation under control.

Apart from this little excitement, there was nothing more that stood out about the journey, apart from our last fresh air stop in Tucson (Arizona). There, sitting almost discarded and forgotten is the 1900 built Southern Pacific 1673 Locomotive used primarily for hauling freight trains. This is effectively the centrepiece of the  Southern Arizona Transportation Museum. If you ever get the chance to visit Tucson and trains are your thing, check it out …

Our arrival in Los Angeles was almost on schedule, in fact we were 15 minutes early as we had not encountered any major delays from freight or other rail traffic. This allowed me to check out Los Angeles Union Station at my leisure. It was first opened in 1939 and is a stunning example of art deco mission revival architecture. 

The ceiling beams in the port-side tract of the station look like they are made of wood but they are actually metal. This part of the station is usually cordoned off during the day time. Only rarely is this part of the station used for special functions or receptions.

It is the busiest railway station in the Western USA serving 1.4 million travellers a year with 4 Amtrak trains beginning or ending their journey here. By the time I have left Los Angeles for Seattle, I will have travelled on 3 of them 😊 

Coast Starlight (to and from Seattle)

Texas Eagle / Sunset Limited (to and from Chicago / New Orleans respectively).

Southwest Chief  (to and from Chicago through the American West)

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