The Pacific Surfliner (1)

The Pacific Surfliner (1) – US Rail Journeys Series 2 Episode 25

Leaving Los Angeles Union Station:

The Pacific Surfliner (1) opens as I board the train. My morning has been bit fraught as I didn’t realise that you needed ID in order to buy a railway ticket! I had to go back to my hotel, grab my passport and get back to the station to get my ticket and board the train.

At least I make the train with 5 minutes to spare.

It appears that quite a few people board this train instead of the northbound Coast Starlight. The conductor makes an announcement to ensure that there are no stray passengers.

As we leave Los Angeles we pass through an industrial area.

Fullerton:

The Pacific Surfliner reaches our first stop at Fullerton. I stopped here on the Southwest Chief nearly two weeks ago. Nearly 400,000 passengers used the station in 2017. We pass through the usual industrial belt as we leave town.

Anaheim:

Anaheim is our next stop. This is a very modern looking station. Thruway buses operate from the station for those going to the Disneyland® Resort; Amtrak passengers travel for free.

Santa Ana:

The historic looking station at Santa Ana. The station opened in 1985 and cost $17 million to build. It is amazing as the station looks so traditional. We leave Santa Ana on time!

Irvine:

The next station is Irvine; another modern station opened in 1990.

As we travel south from Irvine we pass through some lovely countryside. The stations come pretty quickly on this line!

San Juan Capistrano:

As we progress south places seem more laid back. At San Juan Capistrano much of the station appears to be a bar-restaurant. It does benefit from some lovely palm trees. The town claims some antique shops, quaint cafes and historic (!) buildings.

San Clemente, Oceanside and Solana Beach:

We return to the coast shortly before we reach San Clemente station. The train stops next to the magnificent pier. If the sun had been shining I might have got out and paddled in the sea.

Our next stop is at the beach community of Oceanside where the weather is certainly getting better.

Our journey along the coast is magnificent.

We soon reach Solana Beach. You really can understand why the Beach Boys made such happy music!

San Diego Old Town

This episode ends as we make the very short stop at San Diego Old Town station.

View the photographs that accompany this podcast:

Please click on a thumbnail to open the gallery:

Next up:

I hope that you’ve enjoyed this podcast. If so, please join me in two weeks time when I reach San Diego on the Pacific Surfliner , look around the station and then return to  Los Angeles.

Links:

To visit the Amtrak website please follow this link.

You can also listen to this podcast on Amazon Music, iTunes/Apple Podcasts, Castbox, Deezer, Podchaser, Spotify and Stitcher.

Music:

AKM Music has licensed the theme, Steam Railway, and excerpts from Corporate for use in this podcast.

© The MrT Podcast Studio 2019 – 2021

The Coast Starlight (4)

The Coast Starlight (4) – US Rail Journeys Series 2 Episode 24

Santa Barbara:

The Coast Starlight (4) starts as we approach Santa Barbara. We are running beside the road and I see a sign that tells me that the next nine exits are for the city.

Quite a few passengers leave the train at Santa Barbara. We leave the station 53 minutes late. The conductor (guard for UK listeners) is confident that we’ll make up the time.

As we leave Santa Barbara we pass through an expensive part of town with houses that access the beach.

Along the coast:

The Coast Starlight continues south along the coastline. The day is nearly over, the sun is setting and dusk approaches. Here a highway runs between the rail track and the sea.

There must be something very special here because we pass an area with cars and campervans parked along the edge of the road. The parking bays are even marked out for the camper vans.

East, away from the coast, to Los Angeles:

It is dark by the time that we reach Oxnard. The station is used by Amtrak’s Coast Starlight and Pacific Surfliner trains and also by Metrolink commuter trains.

The observation car is now deserted so I return to my reserved seat for the rest of the journey. I could be in a library, the train is so quiet.

Our next stop is at Simi Valley. The train has been travelling up the Simi Valley since we left the coast.

After Simi Valley the next stop is at Van Nuys. A modern station with much of the structure rebuilt in 1995. Just one more station before journey’s end!

Our final stop is at Hollywood Burbank Airport station. In normal times this unstaffed station hosts 40 trains a day. Nearly 74,000 Amtrak. Less than 30 minutes later we arrive in LA Union Station. We’re late, but not nearly as late as we were only a few hours ago.

I have now travelled between Portland and LA on the Coast Starlight, I don’t know which part of the route is best as there is so much to see. I’ve loved the Cascades, the Klamath Falls area, the Cuesta Grade and travelling along the Pacific coastline – how can I choose? This route travels through truly beautiful countryside.

My advice – book a journey on the Coast Starlight between Los Angeles and Seattle – you won’t be disappointed!

View the photographs that accompany this podcast:

Please click on a thumbnail to open the gallery:

Next up:

I hope that you’ve enjoyed this podcast. If so, please join me in two weeks time when I take a daytrip on the Pacific Surfliner from  Los Angeles Union Station to San Diego.

Links:

To visit the Amtrak website please follow this link.

You can also listen to this podcast on Amazon Music, iTunes/Apple Podcasts, Castbox, Deezer, Podchaser, Spotify and Stitcher.

Music:

AKM Music has licensed the theme, Steam Railway, and excerpts from Corporate for use in this podcast.

© The MrT Podcast Studio 2019 – 2020

The Coast Starlight (3)

The Coast Starlight (3) – US Rail Journeys Series 2 Episode 23

Descending the Cuesta Grade:

The Coast Starlight (3) starts as we pass through some of the tunnels at the summit of the Cuesta Grade. We descend at a rate of 2 feet for every 100 feet forwards. Because of the incline passenger trains are limited to 30 mph and freight trains 25 mph.

There are horseshoe turns where I can see both ends of the train from my seat in the Observation car. The highway runs parallel with us for part of the journey. We pass through beautiful scenery with many valleys on the descent.

Below me I can see the Stenner Creek Trestle, built in 1904 from components fabricated in Pittsburgh. The components were brought west by rail.

Near the bottom we pass a State Penitentiary. Dr Timothy Leary, a leading member of the 1960s psychedelic counterculture, apparently escaped from here.

San Luis Obispo:

We arrive at the station at San Luis Obispo as the late running northbound Coast Starlight is about to leave for the climb up the Cuesta Grade and on towards Seattle.

As we pass some modern housing beside the tracks we see a father, with his young child, waving to us as we pass.

On the edge of the Pacific Coast:

We reach the Pacific coast after travelling through an agricultural area. We emerge through the dunes and see the sea!

The journey along the coastline is one of superlatives. We are so close to the sea. We are only a few feet from the edge. At times it is probably only 30 feet (10 metres) above the beach. So close to the Pacific Ocean.

We travel through the Vandenberg Air Force Base – the train goes across the base where no road would be allowed to go.

We travel for over 100 miles along the stunning coastline. For people in Britain think Dawlish on steroids!

On to Santa Barbara:

At the end of the journey we turn inland towards Santa Barbara. As the episode ends the conductor announces that we’ll arrive in 10 minutes.

View the photographs that accompany this podcast:

Please click on a thumbnail to open the gallery:

Next up:

I hope that you’ve enjoyed this podcast. If so, please join me in two weeks time when we travel from Santa Barbara to Los Angeles Union Station on the Coast Starlight.

Links:

To visit the Amtrak website please follow this link.

You can also listen to this podcast on Amazon Music, iTunes/Apple Podcasts, Castbox, Deezer, Podchaser, Spotify and Stitcher.

Music:

AKM Music has licensed the theme, Steam Railway, for use in this podcast.

Storyblocks has licensed Surfin Ghoul by Paul Mitchell Beebe and Second Wave by Lance Conrad for use as incidental music in this episode.

© The MrT Podcast Studio 2019 – 2020

The Coast Starlight (2)

The Coast Starlight (2) – US Rail Journeys Series 2 Episode 22

South to San Jose:

The Coast Starlight (2) starts with the conductor announcing that we’ll shortly arrive in San Jose. We’ve just gone through Santa Clara.

As we approach San Jose we pass a Caltrain depot. Caltrain runs commuter services between San Francisco and San Jose. There is a $1.9 billion project to electrify 51 miles of track.

As we progress I see the concrete stubs in the ground which will have the cable masts bolted to them. A little further on they’re pouring concrete.

Visitor from the Netherlands:

I get the opportunity to speak to a visitor from the Netherlands. After a period in Portland, Oregon, he is now working his way south through California.

He tells me that he’ll be returning home after a few more weeks. We talk about the differences in the railways in the Netherlands and the US.

Into the countryside:

We pass through an area of fruit trees. Then past ploughed fields, the Santa Cruz mountain range and Mount Hamilton before we reach Gilroy. Gilroy is the garlic capital of the world!

We then travel through the Pajaro Gap and as we start to descend we pass a large quarry. There are many rail cars being filled with aggregate in the sidings at the quarry.

Agriculture:

As we carry on southward we see people working in the fields, large irrigation systems an early crops growing. We reach Salinas which is known as the artichoke capital of the world – two world capitals in a very short distance.

Our route takes us on to Paso Robles. On the journey we pass an area of Nodding Donkeys pumping oil.

The Cuesta Grade

This episode ends as we reach the crest of the Cuesta Grade and start the steep downhill journey to San Luis Obispo. Find out more here.

View the photographs that accompany this podcast:

Please click on a thumbnail to open the gallery:

Next up:

I hope that you’ve enjoyed this podcast. If so, please join me in two weeks time when we travel down the Cuesta Grade, through the horseshoe bends and south towards Los Angeles on the stunning Coast Starlight route.

Links:

To visit the Amtrak website please follow this link.

You can also listen to this podcast on Amazon Music, iTunes/Apple Podcasts, Castbox, Deezer, Podchaser, Spotify and Stitcher.

Music:

AKM Music has licensed the theme, Steam Railway, for use in this podcast.

Storyblocks has licensed Easy Ride by William L Newman for use as incidental music in this episode.

© The MrT Podcast Studio 2019 – 2020

The Coast Starlight (1)

The Coast Starlight (1) – US Rail Journeys Series 2 Episode 21

Emeryville:

The Coast Starlight (1) starts with my arrival at Emeryville Station, bright and early, on Monday morning. I spent the weekend at the Hilton Garden Inn on the waterfront by the Bay Bridge. I can see the station from my room in the hotel.

We soon learn that our train is delayed. I could have had another hour in bed. The station is busy, there are people waiting to board the Coast Starlight, the Capital Corridor, the California Zephyr and the San Joaquins services. Commuters are also arriving to start the week’s work.

The station has a ‘greeter’. She’s a lovely lady and tells people who are going to Sacramento to visit the California State Railroad Museum. She describes it as the ‘second best railway museum in the world’. She tells me that the best is the National Railway Museum in York!

Our train arrives, we board for the journey south and I make my way to the Sightseer Lounge.

Oakland, Jack London Square:

The 5 mile journey from Emeryville to Oakland, Jack London Square, is scheduled to take 15 minutes. We pass Oakland’s large port area and the train travels down 1st Street before arriving in the station. The square is named after the author, journalist and social activist Jack London.

We see that the delays are due to ‘congestion’.

The station opened in 1995 to replace the 16th Street Station which had been badly damaged in the 1989 earthquake. The station is named after C L Dellums who was a long time Oakland resident. He was a co-founder of the Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters.

South through the Oakland suburbs:

Our journey south is through an area that shows the divide in the US between the rich and poor. Many people have a view of a wealthy, scenic California but take the train and you see a different side.

We pass piles of rubbish, probably the result of fly tipping, near the the Oakland Coliseum Stadium and also in the streets to the south of it. The train has frequent stops, no doubt because of the congestion. One stop shows the divide, a squatter living between the track and the fence with decent housing behind it.

The scenery improves:

Once we get free of the Oakland suburbs the countryside improves. We pass marshland at the side of San Francisco Bay and also the Don Edwards San Francisco Bay National Wildlife Refuge. Our next stop is San Jose.

View the photographs that accompany this podcast:

Please click on a thumbnail to open the gallery:

Next up:

I hope that you’ve enjoyed this podcast. If so, please join me in two weeks time when I continue on the journey south to Los Angeles on the stunning Coast Starlight route.

Links:

To visit the Amtrak website please follow this link.

You can also listen to this podcast on Amazon Music, iTunes/Apple Podcasts, Castbox, Deezer, Podchaser, Spotify and Stitcher.

Music:

AKM Music has licensed the theme, Steam Railway, for use in this podcast.

Storyblocks has licensed Easy Ride by William L Newman for use as incidental music in this episode.

© The MrT Podcast Studio 2019 – 2020

The San Joaquins

The San Joaquins – US Rail Journeys Series 2 Episode 20

Thruway service from LA to Bakersfield:

The San Joaquins starts with my arrival back in LA Union Station on Saturday morning. I go to the Thruway bus terminal at the side of the station for the journey to Bakersfield.

There are two Thruway busses waiting for the Bakersfield passengers. We hear the announcement for the northbound Coast Starlight as we wait. Once my luggage is loaded on to the bus we set off.

Bakersfield:

We arrive in good time. The Amtrak California train is in the station waiting for us. Once the crew are ready we board the train and have the options of Airline or table seating.

The Thruway bus depot at Bakersfield is quite large because busses go to various parts of LA as well as Palm Springs, San Bernardino and Las Vegas.

Bakersfield is a significant city, the ninth most populous in California and the 52nd in the United States.

Our train leaves 3 minutes late.

Travelling north across central California:

There are a number of stops along the route because this is a regional train rather than a long distance train. A large number of commuters use this service on weekdays. We stop at:

  • Wasco – our first stop is 24 miles northwest of Bakersfield.
  • Allensworth – a special stop missed on my journey.
  • Corcoran – the station is known for its Spanish Revival architecture.
  • Hanford – the original station, built in 1897, survives.
  • Fresno – Mission Revival station from 1897.
  • Madera – platform with a shelter.
  • Merced – for connections to Yosemite.
  • Turlock-Denair – platform with shelter with 4 trains each way per day.
  • Modesto – a modern station (1999) with waiting room.
  • Stockton San Joaquin – Mission Revival station from 1900, restored and reopened in 2003.

West to the coast, then South:

  • Antioch-Pittsburg – an unstaffed station.
  • Martinez – a busy station because it hosts Amtrak’s California Zephyr, Coast Starlight and Capital Corridor trains in addition to the San Joaquins.
  • Richmond – journey’s end (for me) because I’m using the BART system to take me to my hotel. The station is described as ‘post-modern’.

For completeness, the last two stops for the train are:

  • Emeryville – the first new station in northern California in over 60 years.
  • Oakland – in Jack London Square, the heart of the port area.

More about those stations in the next episode!

The photographs that accompany the podcast:

Please click on a thumbnail to open the gallery:

Next up:

I hope that you’ve enjoyed this podcast. If so, please join me in two weeks time when I travel from Emeryville to Los Angeles on the stunning Coast Starlight route.

Links:

To visit the Amtrak website please follow this link.

You can also listen to this podcast on Amazon Music, iTunes/Apple Podcasts, Castbox, Deezer, Podchaser, Spotify and Stitcher.

Music:

AKM Music has licensed the theme, Steam Railway, for use in this podcast.

Storyblocks has licensed Easy Ride by William L Newman for use as incidental music in this episode.

© The MrT Podcast Studio 2019 – 2020

The Sunset Limited (8)

The Sunset Limited (8) – US Rail Journeys Series 2 Episode 19

Ontario, CA, next stop:

The Sunset Limited (8) starts with us running some hours late through southern California. Our next stop is Ontario. We are well into the outskirts of Los Angeles.

On our approach we pass large marshalling yards with complicated track arrangements. We pass a lumber yard followed by an industrial gases site. A wide range of different industries.

I talk to a music teacher who is on his Spring break. He hates flying and loves the way that you see the country unfold when on a train.

On to Pomona:

It is only a few miles from Ontario to Pomona, the journey takes around 10 minutes! We pass yet more freight yards. It is difficult to see the scenery as my view is blocked by trains with containers double stacked.

Next stop – Union Station, LA:

We’re told we’ll be in LA in 30 minutes, I wonder… There is a lot of graffiti, its everywhere I look. Painted on trains, walls and bridges. We pass a team cleaning it off. I wonder – is it worth it? Someone will come back to the cleaned space tonight.

The conductor announces that the Thruway bus to Bakersfield is being held until we arrive and special arrangements are being made for passengers to join the Coast Starlight which left earlier. We hear details for the other services that passengers are joining.

At Union Station:

Back where I started eight days ago! Its been an adventure. I’ve met some fantastic people and seen some amazing places. Tomorrow I start on the next section of my adventures.

The photographs that accompany the podcast:

Please click on a thumbnail to open the gallery:

Next up:

I hope that you’ve enjoyed this podcast. If so, please join me in two weeks time when I travel by Thruway bus to Bakersfield and travel on the San Joaquins to the bay area.

Links:

To visit the Amtrak website please follow this link.

You can also listen to this podcast on Amazon Music, iTunes/Apple Podcasts, Castbox, Deezer, Podchaser, Spotify and Stitcher.

Music:

AKM Music has licensed the theme, Steam Railway, for use in this podcast.

Storyblocks has licensed California Sun by Bobby Cole for use as incidental music in this episode.

© The MrT Podcast Studio 2019 – 2020

The Sunset Limited (7)

The Sunset Limited (7) – US Rail Journeys Series 2 Episode 18

Nearing the border town of El Paso:

The Sunset Limited (7) starts in the far west of Texas as we approach El Paso. El Paso is a ‘border town’ with Mexico. We pass oil refineries, sidings and rail cars waiting to be filled to transport the oil across the US.

Our stop in El Paso:

We are still running some hours late and our stop at El Paso will be shorter than usual. There is a crew change at El Paso and we can get out for a breath of air. As the stop is being ‘expedited’ we are asked to stay near the train.

Our arrival in El Paso coincides with the call for those wanting an early dinner. If we’d been on time the call would have been for those wanting a late lunch!

The train is heading directly into the late afternoon sun. We say our farewells to people we’ve met on the journey, re-board with a new crew and set off. We climb out of El Paso for the 90 minute journey to Deming.

Overnight:

It is a wonderful sunset. We travel through the night passing through a number of small stops. There is our last ‘air break’ at Tucson. Most have gone to sleep by the time we arrive.

Morning:

I awake at 6.30 a.m. as we reach Palm Springs in California. We are still some hours behind schedule. We should have been in LA at the unhospitable time of 5.30 a.m.!

I breakfast and, as we approach Ontario (California), we pass orange groves and commuter traffic slowly driving along the roads.

The photographs that accompany the podcast:

Please click on a thumbnail to open the gallery:

Next up:

I hope that you’ve enjoyed this podcast. If so, please join me in two weeks time for the next episode where the Sunset Limited reaches Los Angeles.

Links:

To visit the Amtrak website please follow this link.

You can also listen to this podcast on iTunes/Apple Podcasts, Castbox, Deezer, Podchaser, Spotify and Stitcher.

Music:

AKM Music has licensed the theme, Steam Railway, for use in this podcast.

Storyblocks has licensed Border Town by Nathan Krieswirth, Mexican Hat Danceby Ron Komie and California Sun by Bobby Cole for use as incidental music in this episode.

© The MrT Podcast Studio 2019 – 2020

The Sunset Limited (6)

The Sunset Limited (6) – US Rail Journeys Series 2 Episode 17

Near the Southern Border of the United States:

The Sunset Limited (6) continues our journey across Texas. We are near the southern border of the US and will later start to see the agriculture made possible by the Rio Grande.

The land certainly isn’t as bare as it was earlier, we pass an orchard and some ploughed fields with people working in them. This is certainly more hospitable than earlier when all we saw was a few cattle.

Some of the agriculture is supported by large irrigation systems.

Trying to catch up?

As we pass from agriculture back into semi desert the train picks up speed. I wonder if we are trying to recover from some of the delays that we’ve had earlier.

As we pass through the semi-desert we see a few birds of prey circling.

Points failure:

We slow and then stop. Lunch comes, and goes. People doze in the sun although the air conditioning is keeping the temperature pleasant.

We wait because there is a freight train ahead of us. Then we hear that there is a points failure. Two hours pass before we start again. There is a further delay because the eastbound Sunset Limited has to pass before we can proceed. We should have left El Paso over two hours before it arrived!

We finally get going again and as we approach El Paso, hours late, we reach 80 mph.

The photographs that accompany the podcast:

Please click on a thumbnail to open the gallery:

Next up:

I hope that you’ve enjoyed this podcast. If so, please join me in two weeks time for the next episode where we continue on the Sunset Limited through El Paso and along the southern border of the United States towards Los Angeles.

Links:

To visit the Amtrak website please follow this link.

You can also listen to this podcast on iTunes/Apple Podcasts, Castbox, Deezer, Podchaser, Spotify and Stitcher.

Music:

AKM Music has licensed the theme, Steam Railway, for use in this podcast.

Storyblocks has licensed Southern Border by Richard Ted Ivanoff and Mexican Cantina by Steve Glotzer for use as incidental music in this episode.

© The MrT Podcast Studio 2019 – 2020

The Sunset Limited (5)

The Sunset Limited (5) – US Rail Journeys Series 2 Episode 16

A disagreement:

The Sunset Limited (5) starts with a disagreement. A lady has been verbally abusing some passengers. They’ve complained and the conductor has arrived to ask the lady to be quiet and return to her seat.

She resents this and is extremely, and unpleasantly, rude to the conductor. When she refuses to return to her seat he tells her that she’ll be leaving the train when we reach Alpine.

In the end the Police took her off the train at Alpine.

Sedate progress:

They’re taking lunch reservations as we travel from Sanderson to Alpine. We seem to be ‘drifting’ through the desert. The scenery is still awesome and, of course, we pass yet more scrap.

We’re running over 3 hours late:

The schedule says that we should leave Alpine at 10.38 a.m., the reality is that lunch is well in progress. The conductor tells us about the rest of the stops on the route. He asks that everyone sits in their allocated seats because we’re running late so that they can be woken for their stop.

The time on the train goes back one hour to ‘Mountain time’ when we leave Alpine. It will go back another hour to Pacific time before we arrive in Los Angeles.

The photographs that accompany the podcast:

Please click on a thumbnail to open the gallery:

Next up:

I hope that you’ve enjoyed this podcast. If so, please join me in two weeks time for the next episode where the journey continues on the Sunset Limited  along the southern border of the United States towards Los Angeles.

Links:

To visit the Amtrak website please follow this link.

You can also listen to this podcast on iTunes/Apple Podcasts, Castbox, Deezer, Podchaser, Spotify and Stitcher.

Music:

AKM Music has licensed the theme, Steam Railway, for use in this podcast.

Storyblocks has licensed Twang in Texas by Keith LeBrant for use as incidental music in this episode.

© The MrT Podcast Studio 2019 – 2020

The Sunset Limited (4)

The Sunset Limited (4) – US Rail Journeys Series 2 Episode 15

Leaving Houston:

The Sunset Limited (4) starts as we leave Houston, where the station is located below motorways. The city has the sixth largest population in the US with over 2.3 million residents.

The station opened in October 1959 when it replaced Houston Grand Central Station. Passenger numbers rose to 20,460 in 2019.

Through the night:

After leaving Houston, and passing through the outskirts of the city, I have dinner and, after a long day, have a good night’s sleep.

We stop at St. Antonio where carriages from the Texas Eagle join our train. The Texas Eagle runs daily between Chicago and St. Antonio and then, three days a week, continues to Los Angeles as part of the Sunset Limited.

I awake as we reach Del Rio; we are two hours late! We must have been delayed during the night.

Onward through the desert:

You meet new friends at meals when travelling with Amtrak. A group of less than four is joined by others. I breakfast well, the charge is included if you’re a sleeper. One of my new friends is a stand up comic taking the trip in order to rest.

It is a beautiful day and the desert is stunning but I wouldn’t like to be out there in the heat. We continue our journey with only a few stops because we’re living up to the ‘Limited’ part of the train’s name.

I meet a regular traveller on this route. They’re regulars because he and his wife are relocating from California to Louisiana and so they use the train for their journeys.

The photographs that accompany the podcast:

Please click on a thumbnail to open the gallery:

Next up:

I hope that you’ve enjoyed this podcast. If so, please join me in two weeks time for the next episode where the journey continues on the Sunset Limited  along the southern border of the United States towards Los Angeles.

Links:

To visit the Amtrak website please follow this link.

You can also listen to this podcast on iTunes/Apple Podcasts, Castbox, Deezer, Podchaser, Spotify and Stitcher.

Music:

AKM Music has licensed the theme, Steam Railway, for use in this podcast.

Storyblocks has licensed Twang in Texas by Keith LeBrant and Border Town by Nathan Krieswirth for use as incidental music in this episode.

© The MrT Podcast Studio 2019 – 2020

The Sunset Limited (3)

The Sunset Limited (3) – US Rail Journeys Series 2 Episode 14

Lake Charles, Louisiana:

The Sunset Limited (3) starts as we approach the City of Lake Charles. The city is home to just under 72,000 (2010 census). It is the fifth largest city in Louisiana.

The major activities include petroleum refining, gaming, tourism and education. It is one of the three most humid places in the US.

We cross the lake beside the bridge carrying road traffic and head off into the lush countryside. Then we pass both small and large waterways, go through small towns and pass farms growing sugarcane.

Once over the Sabine river we’re in Texas. It doesn’t look any different!

Beaumont, Texas:

The station in Beaumont was built in 2012 and in 2019 passenger numbers increased to 3,651. We get an air break and so we can walk along the platform whilst there is a crew change. A crew change means a new engineer and conductors whereas the passenger care team is on the train for the whole journey.

We leave the Beaumont running late. As our journey continues we see that oil is never far away in Texas.

Houston:

We travel at speed for parts of the next leg, probably because we’re running late. I get the opportunity to talk to Henrietta and learn about the Cajun culture and cooking.

Houston is the fourth most populous city in the US. Industries in Houston include oil and natural gas, biomedical research and aeronautics. And, of course, there is the NASA Space Centre.

The station is below a flyover on the edge of the city. On the platform I see traditional luggage carts being used to move passenger baggage. In a siding there are a couple of historic railway carriages.

After our break we rejoin the train and start the journey to our next stop at San Antonio where we will be joined by the Los Angeles section of the Texas Eagle.

So far, we’ve averaged 36 miles per hour!

The photographs that accompany the podcast:

Please click on a thumbnail to open the gallery:

Next up:

I hope that you’ve enjoyed this podcast. If so please join me in two weeks for the next episode where I continue my journey on the Sunset Limited  along the southern border of the United States towards Los Angeles.

Links:

To visit the Amtrak website please follow this link.

You can also listen to this podcast on iTunes/Apple Podcasts, Castbox, Deezer, Podchaser, Spotify and Stitcher.

Music:

AKM Music has licensed the theme, Steam Railway, for use in this podcast.

Audioblocks has licensed Twang in Texas by Keith LeBrant for use as incidental music in this episode.

© The MrT Podcast Studio 2019 – 2020

The Sunset Limited (2)

The Sunset Limited (2) – US Rail Journeys Series 2 Episode 13

Morgan City:

The Sunset Limited (2) begins as we cross the Atchafalaya River at Morgan City. The river is a tributary of the Mississippi. There are two road bridges and one rail bridge crossing the river here.

The population peaked in the 1970s and has declined by about 35% since then.

Many of the houses in this area are in need of some TLC. This may be because, in 2018, the median income in Louisiana was just under $48,000. This compares to a US average of $62,000.

New Iberia:

The train is lightly loaded today. If those who travel by car and plane took the train they’d travel in comfort and see so much more of the magnificent scenery.

New Iberia has a short platform so the train moves forward to let the coach passengers get on. There are about 20 of them.

As we leave New Iberia the line from Avery Island curves in on the left. Avery Island is the home of Tabasco.

Towards Lafayette:

Our journey takes us past a great deal of agriculture. Rice and sugar cane are two major crops because the climate is suitable for them.

We reach Lafayette, the fourth largest city in Louisiana. The station has been rebuilt because the original one burnt down in May 2001.

A childhood on a rice farm:

In the last part of the podcast I learn about growing up on a rice farm. I hear that it was hard work but that there was a great sense of family. The family had a natural well which gave them large quantities of water for irrigation and cooling down in the summer heat.

The photographs that accompany the podcast:

Please click on a thumbnail to open the gallery:

Next up:

I hope that you’ve enjoyed this podcast. If so please join me in two weeks for the next episode where I continue my journey on the Sunset Limited  along the southern border of the United States towards Los Angeles.

Links:

To visit the Amtrak website please follow this link.

You can also listen to this podcast on iTunes/Apple Podcasts, Castbox, Deezer, Podchaser, Spotify and Stitcher.

Music:

AKM Music has licensed the theme, Steam Railway, for use in this podcast.

Audioblocks has licensed Railroad Blues by Bobby Cole, Country Train Ride by Michael Nickolas & Carl Carter and Southbound Train Alt Mix by William Pearson for use as incidental music in this episode.

© The MrT Podcast Studio 2019 – 2020

The Sunset Limited (1)

The Sunset Limited (1) – US Rail Journeys Series 2 Episode 12

At the station:

The Sunset Limited (1) begins when I arrive at the station in New Orleans, its quite early in the morning and I need breakfast. I’m able to get something to eat and drink in the Magnolia Room. The Magnolia Room is the Amtrak equivalent of an airport lounge.

The Union Station retains the style of the 1950s, it opened in 1954 .

Our train:

Our boarding call is in good time for a prompt departure. I have the time to take a few photographs and spend a little time talking to the station staff.

The carriage where my Roomette is located is the newest I’ve travelled in. No signs of wear! I put my things in the Roomette and walk down to the Observation car where I will spend much of the journey.

We’re off:

We pass through the Amtrak service yards shortly after leaving the station. Carriages and locomotives are being prepared for their next journeys.

We soon cross the Mississippi on the Huey P Long bridge. It opened in 1935. The bridge, and approach viaducts, are some 4.5 miles long. The bridge was named after a Louisiana State Governor and Senator. He was assassinated a couple of months before the bridge opened.

Into the Bayous:

Our journey takes us into the Bayou country. Here we see swamps, forests and slow moving water. If we are lucky we might see an alligator – sadly not this time.

We travel through some small communities. This really is a beautiful part of the world.

Agriculture:

I learn that one of the major crops in this part of the world is rice. Rice farming is big business here. We pass the ‘paddy’ fields where the rice is grown as we travel onward.

The photographs that accompany the podcast:

Please click on a thumbnail to open the gallery:

Next up:

I hope that you’ve enjoyed this podcast. Please join me in two weeks for the next episode where I continue my journey on the Sunset Limited  along the southern border of the United States towards Los Angeles.

Links:

To visit the Amtrak website please follow this link.

You can also listen to this podcast on iTunes/Apple Podcasts, Castbox, Deezer, Podchaser, Spotify and Stitcher.

Music:

AKM Music has licensed the theme, Steam Railway, for use in this podcast.

Audioblocks has licensed Swamp Blues Stinger by Bobby Cole, New Orleans Jazz Band – Drums and Tuba by Michael Nickolas and Down in New Orleans by Ron Komie for use as incidental music in this episode.

© The MrT Podcast Studio 2019 – 2020

A day in New Orleans


A day in New Orleans – US Rail Journeys Series 2 Episode 11

To the hotel:

A day in New Orleans begins with our late arrival at the station, a taxi ride to our hotel and a good night’s sleep at the French Market Inn. Get more details here.

Morning:

I woke refreshed, dressed and went to reception to meet my friends. We decided to go across the road to Cafe Beignet on Decatur Street. You can find out more about the restaurant here.

We then went through Jackson Square and the Colonnade Market to the hop on, hop off bus stop. The route that the bus takes is here. We got off when the bus reached Basin Street Station as there is a small museum there.

We then got on the next bus and travelled through the Garden District, past some of the famed above ground cemeteries and into the City Centre.

On foot:

We then walked back to the Garden District and stopped for a reviving cup of coffee. Our route then took  us towards one of the famous cemeteries. We spent an hour or so looking round. They’re like towns of small houses arranged on streets. The same families have occupied some of the mausoleums for hundreds of years.

After we left the cemetery we went in search of a streetcar. Some of the New Orleans street cars date from the 1920s. The Charles line first opened in 1835 and is the oldest streetcar route in the world. When you board a streetcar you are ‘boarding a piece of movable New Orleans history’. Find out more about the New Orleans streetcars and other public transport here.

Afternoon:

The streetcar took us into the main ‘Downtown’ area. We decided to get off and look for a late lunch.

After lunch we returned to the hotel to rest our weary feet, and in some cases, take a ‘Zizzzzzz’.

Refreshed by our rest we met up in reception and went out for an aperitif and dinner.

Evening:

We first went to the river to marvel at the majesty of the Mississippi as it makes its way to the sea.

After crossing the road back into the French Quarter our walk took us through streets of houses with amazing ironwork, past a jazz band playing on a street corner and some strange sights. We found a lovely bar, the Pirates Alley Cafe, for a relaxing drink.

Refreshed we walked back towards our hotel for the last part of ‘a day in New Orleans’. We were had an excellent dinner at Tujague’s restaurant. This is a traditional restaurant that opened in 1856. You can find out all about it here.

The photographs that accompany the podcast:

Please click on a thumbnail to open the gallery:

Next up:

I hope that you’ve enjoyed this podcast. Please join me in two weeks for the next episode where I board the Sunset Limited for the start of my journey along the southern border of the United States towards Los Angeles.

Links:

To visit the Amtrak website please follow this link.

You can also listen to this podcast on iTunes/Apple Podcasts, Castbox, Deezer, Podchaser, Spotify and Stitcher.

Music:

AKM Music has licensed the theme, Steam Railway, for use in this podcast.

Audioblocks has licensed Taste of the French Quarter and Tasty Louisiana Barbecue by Bob Khurana, New Orleans Jazz sting by Michael Nicholas and Down in New Orleans by Ron Komie for use as incidental music in this episode.

© The MrT Podcast Studio 2019 – 2020

The City of New Orleans (3)

The City of New Orleans (3) – US Rail Journeys Series 2 Episode 10

The bus journey continues:

The City of New Orleans (3) begins as we reach Arkansas on our bus. The train has no stops in Arkansas so I wonder whether this is an extra state!

We soon pass Osceola. The town is on the Mississippi which forms the border between Arkansas and Tennessee.

Memphis:

The bus is making reasonable progress. We reach Memphis during the rush hour and our progress is slow. Once we get south of the city the road is clearer although we’re on a single track highway.

We stop at another truck stop to pick up an additional driver and a member of the Amtrak team.

Marks:

The next stop is at the small town of Marks. The station opened on 4th May 2018. It results from two decades of work by local civic leaders. The total cost came to $1.2 million. The station was the result of an agreement between Quitman County, Amtrak and Canadian National.

As our journey continues we pass Yazoo City, a flag stop on the rail route. We don’t stop as there are no passengers. We are now 400 rail miles south of Carbondale.

When we reach Jackson we change bus. We had been notified that we would be on a bus for the last part of the journey because of flooding.

On to New Orleans:

As we start our last 180 miles to New Orleans we meet up with people we’ve not seen since morning. This bus is full but I’m sat next to a man who is accompanying a school party who are visiting New Orleans.

It is late when we arrive, so off to the hotel and bed.

The photographs that accompany the podcast:

Please click on a thumbnail to open the gallery:

Next up:

I hope that you’ve enjoyed this podcast. Please join me in two weeks for the next episode where I spend a day looking round the amazing city of New Orleans.

Links:

To visit the Amtrak website please follow this link.

You can also listen to this podcast on iTunes/Apple Podcasts, Castbox, Deezer, Podchaser, Spotify and Stitcher.

Music:

AKM Music has licensed the theme, Steam Railway, for use in this podcast.

Audioblocks has licensed Train Station by Jason Donnelly and Railroad Blues by Bobby Cole for use as incidental music in this episode.

© The MrT Podcast Studio 2019 – 2020

The City of New Orleans part 2

The City of New Orleans part 2 – US Rail Journeys Series 2 Episode 9

Carbondale:

The City of New Orleans part 2 begins as we realise that the train will go no further. It is 6.30 am and we are in Carbondale. We are given the options of returning the way we came or going on by bus.

Some of the passengers are not happy!

Our train failure is news! A local TV station comes to report on the situation and interview the passengers – it must be a slow news day!

We hear that buses are coming, but from some distance away. Because there will be a delay I go to look for coffee but find that the shops don’t open early. Its after 9.00 a.m. and nothing is open!

The buses arrive, they are driven on to the platform. The first gets caught on some fencing and suffers slight damage. It is soon full so we get on the second one which, after a short delay, sets off for our journey south.

Going South:

The bus makes reasonable progress. Our route takes us past shopping areas all with single storey buildings and brands that are new to me. We then come to an area with hotels.

The bus then turns off down a dirt track. At the end of the track we come to Fulton station. Its basically a container with a couple of windows. The person we were meant to pick up has gone. I can’t understand why – we are only 7 hours late!

Someone calls 911:

The bus turns, we retrace our route to the highway and get going. A passenger complains loudly about the route we are taking. The Amtrak staff member tries to calm her. The complaints continue. She is disturbing the other passengers so she is warned that she must be quiet or get off the bus.

A police car overtakes us. The bus stops. All because the complaining passenger dialled 911. The policeman gives the passenger a choice, keep quiet or get off. There’s not much here so she stays.

Gourmet lunch:

We stop at Loves. It is a truck stop. At least it is an opportunity to get something to eat.

The photographs that accompany the podcast:

Please click on a thumbnail to open the gallery:

Next up:

I hope that you’ve enjoyed this podcast. Please join me in two weeks for the next episode where the journey on the Rail Replacement Bus continues and we reach New Orleans.

Links:

To visit the Amtrak website please follow this link.

You can also listen to this podcast on iTunes/Apple Podcasts, Castbox, Deezer, Podchaser, Spotify and Stitcher.

Music:

AKM Music has licensed the theme, Steam Railway, for use in this podcast.

Audioblocks has licensed Train Station by Jason Donnelly and Country Road both by Bobby Cole for use as incidental music in this episode.

© The MrT Podcast Studio 2019 – 2020

The City of New Orleans part 1

The City of New Orleans part 1 – US Rail Journeys Series 2 Episode 8

The first part – Departure from Union Station, Chicago

The City of New Orleans part 1 starts as I board the train in Chicago Union Station. We leave on time.

After a short distance the train stops. We then reverse. The train stops again. We learn that a set of points have failed. After some manoeuvres we get going again. By now we are running late.

It is dark outside and the lights of Chicago are magnificent. The total journey on the City of New Orleans is advertised as taking 19 hours – click here for more details. Long distance passenger trains in the US often run late because freight trains take priority. We already know that the last part of our journey will be by bus because of the flooding.  That will lengthen the journey.

The Café Lounge opens and we cross the Chicago River. Those wishing to dine are called to the Dining Car.

Our route through the night:

The schedule for our train takes us through a number of stations in Illinois and then south through Kentucky. When I wake in the morning we should be in Memphis Tennessee.

I go to bed. It appears that the train is now running very late.

I awake in the middle of the night to find the lights flashing on and off. The train is stopped. I finally get to sleep again. I wake at 6 a.m. to find that we’ve reached Carbondale. We are now 4½ hours late and still in Illinois!

The train is going no further:

We hear that the train has broken down and can go no further. The issue is that the electrical supply to the carriages has failed. This means no air conditioning or rest rooms (toilets).

We are offered a choice of either return on the Saluki train the way we came or continue by ‘Rail Replacement’ bus. We still have 625 miles to go until New Orleans.

Carbondale station:

I have to proceed towards New Orleans, no matter what time I arrive. I decide to wait for the Rail Replacement bus. It is a beautiful morning. I is also April 1st!

As I enter the station building I see a sign saying that guns aren’t allowed. There is another saying no soliciting ….

The photographs that accompany the words:

Please click on a thumbnail to open the gallery:

Next up:

I hope that you’ve enjoyed this podcast. Please join me in two weeks for the next episode where I take the Rail Replacement Bus for the journey south.

Links:

To visit the Amtrak website please follow this link.

You can also listen to this podcast on iTunes/Apple Podcasts, Castbox, Deezer, Podchaser, Spotify and Stitcher.

Music:

AKM Music has licensed the theme, Steam Railway, for use in this podcast.

Audioblocks has licensed Chicago Blues and Railroad Blues both by Bobby Cole for use as incidental music in this episode.

© The MrT Podcast Studio 2019 – 2020

The Southwest Chief part 6

The Southwest Chief part 6 – US Rail Journeys Series 2 Episode 7

The first part – From Mendota into Union Station, Chicago

The Southwest Chief part 6 starts as I interview two fellow travellers in the Observation car. The observation car is a very sociable area on an Amtrak long distance train.

As we progress towards Chicago the weather brightens. The total journey on the Southwest Chief is advertised as taking 40+ hours – click  here for more details.  Long distance passenger trains in the US often run late because freight trains take priority.

The old railway buildings at Mendota are now a rail museum. There is a steam engine by the platform. The platform is short, the sleeper passengers are first. Then the train has to pull forward, across a level crossing,  for the coach passengers.  This means that a long traffic queue builds up!

There are many grain silos by the side of the track in this part of Illinois. One of the silos in Mendota has a corn-cob painted on it.

Through farmland to Naperville:

The arable farms are large in this part of Illinois, they stretch into the far distance.

The next stop is Naperville. This is the last stop before Chicago’s Union Station. The station first opened in 1910 and is used by Amtrak’s Southwest Chief, the California Zephyr, the Carl Sandburg and the Illinois Zephyr. It is also used by over 20,000 Metra passengers each week.

About 30 minutes later we reach the magnificent Union Station.

theWit – my hotel in Chicago:

I stay the night at theWit, a DoubleTree hotel from Hilton. This hotel is spectacular and centrally located. I have a lovely room, the breakfast is  fantastic and the staff…..

The staff at this hotel are fantastic and really helpful. I made a good choice booking here. I shall return on my next trip. (Sadly delayed by Covid 19).

The Museum of Science and Industry:

I only scratch the surface of this brilliant museum. I visit the gallery reserved for U 505. It is an amazing story and brings the Second World War Battle of the Atlantic to life for visitors.

I then  find myself in the Transport gallery. This is home to an amazing model railway. It recreates the highlights of the Empire Builder  route. Listen to US Rail Journeys, Series 1, for my journey on this route.

The photographs that accompany the words:

Please click on a thumbnail to open the gallery:

Next up:

If you’ve enjoyed this podcast. Please join me in two weeks for the next episode where I join the City of New Orleans for a journey to Carbondale.

Links:

To visit the Amtrak website please follow this link.

You can find out more about my home in Chicago – theWit here.

The Museum of Science and Industry is here.

You can also listen to this podcast on iTunes/Apple Podcasts, Castbox, Deezer, Podchaser, Spotify and Stitcher.

Music:

AKM Music has licensed the theme, Steam Railway, for use in this podcast.

Audioblocks has licensed Chicago Blues by Bobby Cole for use as incidental music in this episode.

© The MrT Podcast Studio 2019 – 2020

The Southwest Chief part 5

The Southwest Chief part 5 – US Rail Journeys Series 2 Episode 6

From La Plata, Missouri to Princeton, Illinois

The Southwest Chief part 5 starts as we  pass wet and muddy farms and cross flooded level crossings. As we approach La Plata in Missouri the train is still running late. This morning, sadly, there is no sun – just rain and flooding. The total journey is advertised as taking 40+ hours – click  here for more details.  Long distance passenger trains in the US often run late because freight trains take priority.

After leaving La Plata we pass flooded land where we can’t see where the river ends and land begins. There is an awful lot of floodwater here. Luckily another passenger is on hand to tell us why.

Fort Madison and the toll bridge:

We reach the station at Fort Madison and have a chance to stretch our legs. There is even floodwater in parts of the town as we go past. After two miles we reach the mile long Fort Madison toll bridge. The bridge takes us from Iowa to Illinois. The top layer of the bridge is for vehicles and the lower one for trains.

The bridge, used by 100 trains a day, was built in 1927.  It swings open, up to 5 times a day, to let river traffic through – click here to see it open. The ‘swing’ section is 525 feet long (160 metres).

The Mississippi really is vast!

Onward into Illinois:

As we travel through Illinois the sky starts to lighten. Here and there a touch of blue and yellow. There is a short stop at Galesburg and then we continue on to Princeton.

If you’ve enjoyed this podcast. Please join me in two weeks for the next episode where I complete my journey to Chicago.

Please click on a thumbnail to open the gallery:

 

To visit the Amtrak website please follow this link.

You can also listen to this podcast on iTunes/Apple Podcasts, Deezer, Podchaser, Spotify and Stitcher.

Music:

AKM Music has licensed the theme, Steam Railway, for use in this podcast.

Audioblocks has licensed Country Train Ride by Michael Nicholas & Carl Carter for use as incidental music in this episode.

© The MrT Podcast Studio 2019 – 2020