Amtrak Excursion 2014
2014 Ted H. Schaar

1. Milwaukee & Chicago
Milwaukee Intermodal
Milwaukee Intermodal Station.

Hiawatha

Boarded the Hiawatha out of Milwaukee on-time at 11:00 a.m. and were in Chicago's downtown Union Station by about 1:00 p.m. 

The Hiawatha runs between the cities about every two hours; it's a commuter train and plain. 

There are plenty of bathrooms but no lounge car or vending machines.

Union Station

Union Station is a grand old place and we easily found our way to the waiting area for the Southwest Chief which would take us to Los Angeles.

And wait we did.  Our 3:00 p.m. departure time came and went without a word from Amtrak.

Around 4:00, an Amtrak representative announced that our train was delayed due to equipment problems. "Equipment" is what rail personnel call just about everything connected with trains, including locomotives. 

The voice also said our train wasn't on the right track.


During our trip we would experience various delays, most associated with equipment, but not Amtrak equipment.

The waiting room was overflowing and finally at about 6:00 p.m. our train to California was ready, and we descended to the boarding area.
Unio Depot Chicago
Union Station Chicago
Union Station Chicago
Union Station Chicago
Click for larger view.

Boarding

We walked the pathway shown above until we encountered a conductor who asked for our tickets and directed us to a double-decker car near the rear of the train.  Sleeping car attendant Vincent was waiting. 

He helped carry our luggage up the winding stairs to a deluxe bedroom on the second level.  It's about six by eight feet with a bathroom in the middle and a small sink near the door into the passageway
.

On the wall toward the back of the car is a couch that becomes a single bed and above it, a fold-down cot.

A sliding door with a curtain is on the passageway side; curtained windows line the outside wall.

Compact

At first, I couldn't figure out where the shower was but soon found it directly above the toilet; a closet-sized room serves as bathroom and shower.

Our deluxe bedroom was well-planned, clean, comfortable.

Rolling west

Vincent said he's been on the job 24 years but doesn't look a day over 35.

During his public address announcement he mentioned he's from California and followed a nostalgic "All aboard!" with, "We're going home!"

Soon after we were visited by a dining car attendant who said dinner would be at 7:00. 

Dinner

Amtrak seats strangers together for meals to use space better, and it's a lot of fun. 

Our companions the first night were a husband, 89, and wife, 84.  They wed in 1995, and both were in second marriages.  He was spry enough to carry their luggage up to the sleeping car's second level.

Observation car

Afterward we found seats in the observation car which was our living room while aboard trains and watched the world roll by through big windows. 

Saw a huge array of blinking red lights on the dark prairies southwest of Chicago. Must have been 50 or more. Deduced they were warning lights for wind turbines.

When we returned to our bedroom, Vincent said he'd prepare the beds which involved folding the upper down and moving cushions around on the lower.

My uneasiness about heights post-cerebral hemorrhage resulted in Pam taking the upper, at least for the first night.  Getting to it is a bit of a climb up a small ladder. Beginning the second night, I took the upper.

Got to bed later than usual.





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Photos 2014 Ted H. Schaar except where noted.