May 20 2010

Crescent – New Orleans to Washington, DC

As the Crescent left New Orleans, we headed due North until we passed the Lakefront Airport.  I thought the geometry of the concrete freeway ramps was interesting:


We hugged the lake for miles.  There were lots of these pilings sticking out of the water from former docks and piers:


I took a short nap, and when I woke up, we were in Tuscaloosa, Alabama.


These gentlemen were loitering at the station.  Lots of people were loitering at the station.  The train only comes once a day, so I wasn’t sure why.


As we approached Birmingham, the rural landscape gave way to factories and old brick housing complexes.


We had a short stop in Birmingham, and I took a few pictures of the station.


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May 14 2010

Sunset Limited: San Antonio to New Orleans

The Texas Eagle from Austin took me the relatively short distance to San Antonio, Texas.  After some slight misinformation that was no fault of the train crew, I left my things on the wrong train (a now-northbound Texas Eagle) resulting in some serious panic and confusion when the conductor packed it all up for me and put it in the station without my knowledge. This led to a harrowing 10 minutes that seemed like forever while I was running around the empty train while the crew was preparing to shunt the cars around. They were not pleased. When I figured out what happened, I was relieved to learn that the thousands of dollars of camera and computer gear I’d left set up in the lounge car wasn’t actually stolen, but the adrenaline lasted far longer than that.

I finally got settled in my seat on the eastbound Sunset Limited I had a ticket for and relaxed as the train rolled away from the station just after Midnight.

Here’s the conductor taking us out:


At some point, I passed out, tired and exhausted from a day of drinking and an hour of panic.  I’d had some trouble sleeping in the coach seats up until now, but perhaps it was the exhaustion or my body getting used to it, but I had my first full night of uninterrupted sleep in a coach seat.  When I woke up, we were already in Louisiana.

I asked this woman if I could take a photo of her cuddling with her newborn.  She agreed.  It was the sweetest thing I’ve seen on the train yet:


I wanted to talk to her and ask her about her story, but her baby was sleeping so I left them alone.  I was hoping I’d have an opportunity to have a conversation, but it never happened.

Here are some photos I shot out of the window on the way through Louisiana:










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May 11 2010

Sunset Limited: Maricopa, AZ to San Antonio, TX

Okay, I need to get better about writing blog posts immediately because I’m still two days behind, and I’m already getting blurry about key details.  (Lots of drinking in Austin will do that!)

So let’s get caught up to speed.  When I left off at the last post, we were just leaving Maricopa, Arizona.  I had trouble sleeping, so after talking to a nice gentleman in the lounge car, I made my way back to my seat to try to get some sleep.  Sleeping in two coach seats isn’t that easy, and I stayed awake for some unknown amount of time, but probably conked out at about 3:30am.  When I woke back up, it was light out and we were stopped in Tucson.  Still groggy from sleep deprivation, I hopped off the train to stretch my legs and hang out with the smokers.


I forgot this gentleman’s name, but he was on his way to Lake Charles or Lafayette. He shared with me his frustration about how far behind schedule we were, but I made an attempt to explain how I was taking it in stride, since we were both going to miss what we were hoping to do when we got to our respective destinations.

“I’m going to miss a funeral!” he said.

I immediately felt very very bad, since all I was going to miss was a party in Austin.


Here are our crewmembers, Jerry and Kevin.  I began to feel really bad for them, the passengers were all very frustrated with the situation and they had to bear the brunt of the complaints.

The stop in Tucson took a bit longer than anticipated, as we gained another locomotive.  We had one locomotive pulling the train all night between our breakdown near the Salton Sea and now.  Jerry told me that Amtrak paid $20,000 to “borrow” a locomotive from Union Pacific to pull the train.


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May 9 2010

Sunset Limited: Los Angeles to the Salton Sea

I’m now a day behind in blogging due to reasons I’ll reveal in the next post, but I’ll start with Friday’s events, as that’s where I left off.

After a full day of events on Friday, I wound up sleeping in a lot later than I had anticipated.  My original plan was to make it to Union Station extra-early, go across the street to Philippes and get a french dip, and spend a few hours shooting the station.  In reality, I wound up getting to the station with just enough time to check my suitcase, grab an overpriced (yet still pretty good, just not $11!) bagel sandwich from the restaurant in the station, and hop on the train.

We passed over the concrete-lined LA river, and I shot these photos out of the window of the moving train:

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May 7 2010

Day One: Coast Starlight

Since I set up this blog this morning, I’m already at the end of Day 2 of my trip.  Which means I’m two days behind on this blog.  My goal is to never be a day behind and, not only update this blog at least once a day, but write posts when the events of the day are still fresh in my mind and before I forget important details.

So, this is what happened yesterday.

I woke up really early in the morning, did a last check of everything I brought with me (as it will be the only stuff I’ll have with me for a month), and got in the car.  Liz dropped me off at the BART station on the way to work, and I got on the first train of the trip.  (although I’m undecided if I’ll be counting local light rail and subway trains toward the total number of trains I’ll be on this trip as it’ll significantly inflate the numbers).

Jack London Square is the major rail station in the Bay Area (there are others, but all Amtrak and most commuter trains go through Jack London), but yet the BART station is actually about a quarter of a mile away.  This was the moment I realized I should have packed a little lighter.  I only have a backpack and a suitcase with 9 days worth of clothes (meaning I’ll have to do laundry two or three times), and in some cases there are things that I’ll eventually need that just didn’t fit.  (A pillow comes to mind). I decided to take a bus.  The bus didn’t take me all the way.  At this point I realized I was going to be lugging this thing around for a month.

After all that, I still arrived early.  After picking up my 30-day pass and my tickets, I amused myself with taking photos of the seats:

Then I went outside and climbed up onto the bridge over the tracks.  I was up there for barely a minute when I saw my train coming:

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