Train Trip to Toy Train Convention

July 28

Well the train was late. Not unexpected. It was a interesting morning. Got most of my stuff packed. Berni encouraged me to take along sometime other than sweats and dress T shirts. She says it's not a good look. In the past when faced with look verse comfort I have gone for comfort. This was no exception. Looked at paper and weather looks warm. Did bring umbrella. Brought CD player computer and Camera. Was able to stop and get film, love that Kodacrome, and a new light meter battery. This was a concern and had planed to do it yesterday but work was really hectic.

Lots of train action 2 metro-link trains and 2 San Diego Santa Barbara trains. Starlight was 45 minutes late. Gave me time to talk to dad. Always time well spent. We talked about growing up in South Dakota. Have a good room. Ocean view when we get to the coast.Looking forward to trip. Need some time away from work.

Lunch was interesting. Sat with some rich people from Oxnard. They have a 30 foot sail boat. They were going to San Francisco. Room next to mine has a Mother a 10 year old girl and a 4 year old boy named Benjamin. They make lots of noise. CD player is coming in handy.Train continues to lose time. We're about 2 hours late. Started a new book. May need to find a book store. Probably will need more than three books. Dinner was weird. Sat with some Israeli guy who had a plan to separate atomic waste. We also sat with some lady who thought the world was screwed up because the comet hit jupiter. God save me. I kept my mouth shut. Reason only makes people like that more adamant.

July 29

Slept well. Always sleep well on trains. Got up around 6 AM lots of pretty scenery. We are 2 1/2 hours late and most of these neat mountains are dark if we are on schedule. Breakfast was with a more agreeable couple. They were heading to Portland from San Jose. Had twigs and berries(Fresh fruit and yogurt). Complementary Orange Juice in the sleeper. Nice. They have changed the smoking policy on this train. No smoking on the train which I like. Interested to find out if it is system wide. Ben and his family had to leave. They had to make a connection to the Empire builder which they would normally make in portland I think. Anyway they were going to be bussed for 8 hours. I'm sure Ben would be fun on that trip I don't envy his mother. Before he left we played 800,000,000 questions. You forget how many a four year old can ask. Gave his mother a break looked like she was going to need it. Lunch was with a young couple from Ohio. He also collects toy trains. Turns out they are both doctors. Talked a little about all the Health plan lies. We continue to be late. There is normally no dinner but because we are so late they put on extra meals at portland. I had Chicken cordon blue. That's chicken stuffed with ham and cheese. Way to add those fat grams. Had dinner with a retired SP employee. The SD&AE "T" shirt Wendy gave me was a conversation starter. SD&AE was a subsidiary of SP. They dropped the two private cars we have been hauling from LA. They had come up for the Micro-brewery convention. One appeared to be owned by American Movie Classics. Did not see Bob Dorian on board. The help was dressed in white shirts slacks and black bow ties. Looks like a tough life. Since I was in the last car the view out the back improved once the privates were gone. The young doctor I ate lunch with showed up and we BSed our way to Seattle. He lives in Ohio he's a gynecologist and his wife is a pediatrician. He like MG. We got into Seattle at 11:05. 3 hours late. Took a Taxi to Motel and Showered and went to bed.

July 30

Got a relaxing day ahead. Train leaves at 4:50 PM. Got up showered and tried to get my computer hooked up with no success. Will try harder in Chicago and Detroit. Did get through to voice mail. Nothing of interest. Had Breakfast and then walked over to Seattle Center. The home of the space needle. Lot of the kids are trying to look like Kirk Cobain. Not too surprising. Went back to the Motel and watched the first NFL exhibition game. Kinda lame but it is football. Checked out at noon. Took the Monorail into down town. Found a book store in the mall the monorail stops at. Got 2 more books. Went through one in one day so was starting to worry that I did not have a big enough back log. Beautiful day in Seattle. 70 and blue skies. Every one is out in summer attire. Wendy would thinks it's cold. I'm hauling all my stuff with me. About a 2 mile walk to train station. Have 5 hours. I thought I would look like a clean homeless person with a camera. I turns out I have seen at least 6 people with big back packs and almost everyone has a small one. I fit right in. Saw a movie house showing the "MASK" so I stopped in for a 2 hour break. Great special effects and no plot. Good cartoon. Tons of little shops Berni would love this place. I understand Starbuck Coffee started here. I believe it there is a coffee shop every block. Got to the train station at 4. Train leaves north out of Seattle. I'm excited because I have not been on this route before. Puget sound was pretty. Lots of people out because of the wonderful weather. We are starting out through the Cascades. Very beautiful country. Lots of tree and very high mountains. Had prime rib with a history major from UW and a black lady and her daughter going to Lansing MI. Good meal great scenery. Gotten to know the car attendant. Paul Little. We opened the lower windows and took pictures.Against Amtrak corporate policy but make for much better pictures. I have a lower room for the first time, There are only 2 economy bedrooms on the lower level these super liner cars. There are 16 upstairs so the chances are you sleep up stairs. Good ride but the view is not quite as good. On the eastern side there are several fires burning. They were evacuating a town as we went through. Fire were started by lighting storms that went through 2 day ago.Went to bed around 10. We will lose one hour tonight as we go to mountain time.

July 31

Got up at six MDT. There is a shower in our car so took advantage of it. Very nice but exciting at speed. Some of my back mussels are sore from hiking my gear all over Seattle. Lots of sleeping people in coach. Had mushroom omelet and toast for breakfast. Ate with a teacher and his wife they have a 8 and 6 year old girls. They were still sleeping. We are going through Glacier National Park. Very neat but I think the Cascades are more interesting and rugged. Some very cute stations. Very Alpine looking. Had a very interesting Mountain type 4-8-4 steam locomotive in Havre Montana. Western Montana looks like Wyoming. Rolling plains. Looks like lots of ranching.BN does good business on this route passed about 5 freight trains. Amtrak is experimenting with a new menu. I tried the vegetarian stir fry on rice. Very good. Had lunch with a paper salesman and his wife. They were from St. Louis. Had spent the week in Glacier. Had a great time. The train skirts the southern boundary and the said it was more spectacular as you went north into the park. It's hot in montana today. Must be in the high 80's low 90's. Much nicer in our air conditioned train.We have lost about 45 minutes will have to work to be as late as the Starlight. This is a better crew than the Starlight. Paul is a real extrovert. Has a bunch of sight gag props. Rubber noses and stuff corny but fun.Burlington Northern have been adding concrete ties and welded rail. Very smooth ride. Very fast looks like we are doing about 70 to 80 most of the time. The Wolf Point bank temperature sign says 100 degrees. It is a hot day in Montana.We just entered North Dakota. It looks like eastern Montana. Every thing is surprisingly green it is the beginning of wheat harvest. I'm guess I expected more brown like home. It is a testament to the toughness of people that anyone lives here at all.Lots of wheat elevators. The train continues to pick up people.My guess is that the train is 80% full.This is the only way to get in and out of these places other than automobile. They are asking everyone in coach to only take up one seat because they feel the train will fill up as the night progresses. Had dinner with a retired couple from Philly. They are going home on the Broadway. She is a retired teacher. We all commented on how many young children are on the train. My guess is at least 20% are young kids. Well we are on CDT and it's not getting dark until 10 PM you can sure tell your north It's fun to turn off all your lights in your room and watch the sun set and the landscape change to shades of grey and black with the occasional red of grade crossing signals. Romance of the rails. We've made up time and are only 15 minuets late. We will need it because SOO is on strike and we have to detour to chicago which add an extra hour.

August 1

Woke up at 6:15 CDT. Trains stopped looks like we are at are in St. Paul. If we are we're ahead of schedule. We are and it is. Left St. Paul on time the strike is making Amtrak bus people to intermediate connections because all of their stations are built on SOO tracks. We will be traveling on BN. They have mostly welded rail and Bobbi the Amtrak crew chief says it's much smoother than the SOO. Had breakfast with a handicapped young girl (mongoloid and about twelve I guess , very sweet child , thank god for what you've got) and a guy from Vancouver who works for a Italian Soft drink company (real Wally Cox kinda guy). Dinning on the train is always a adventure. Took another shower after much Raulping (Load yelling, no hot water , another obscure movie reference) was very refreshing The no smoking policy was only on selected trains. They are allowing smoking in the sleepers. Some of the secondhand smoke does get through the AC and my allergies have been acting up. We are traveling down the Mississippi and it is surprisingly large. Minnesota is very green.Lots of pools of water with green scum on them. Looks like the stories of mosquito the size Mack trucks may be true if this water is any indication. Lots of coal fired power plants. Not to surprising lots of cooling water and coal by barge. Lots of corn in Illinois. Got into Chicago about 1 hour late as advertised. Decided I need the exercise and walked the 1 1/2 miles to the Hotel. Going east on Jackson at 5 PM is like a salmon swimming up stream. The Amtrak station is also the commuter station. All the business people are heading out of town. The skies are clouding up. Supposed to thunder storms. Easy walk all flat. Found the hotel no problem. Bunch of germans staying here. Neat. Also bunch of chinese business men. Saw Thai restaurant I want to try on the walk in. Big thunderstorm hit while at dinner. Thai place was OK but not Tommy Tangs (few place are). Thunder storm was neat.

August 2

Got up around 5:45 AM and walked to the Chicago Union Station. Some very interesting Architecture in this town. The Public Library has some great gargoyles on it. Wolverine took off at 7 AM. Flat run to Detroit. Great station at Niles. Got off in Ann Arbor. Rented a car and found the Botsford Inn. Recommended by a B&B book. The oldest Inn in Michigan. Neat place. Goofy phones. May have to use there FAX machine. FAX line are usually straight phone line and it's easy to hook up computers to them. Found the Hyatt in Deerborn. Got registered for the convention. Had dinner at the Botsford. Great meal looks like I've found a home for 5 days.

August 3

Today is the LIONEL factory tour. The tour is great and it's neat to see were and how they build all those trains. Working on the LIONEL assembly line for 5$ an hour would be mind numbing.This tour was the straw that broke the camel's back as far as going on this trip. For a Train Freak it was something not to be missed. As long as I was here I signed up for 4 other tours. Probably the last time I will be in Detroit so ought to see it. The Afternoon was spent at CARAIL.` This is Mr. Kughn the new owner of LIONEL, collection display. He collects trains and cars hence CARAIL. The place is amazing. It is so out of touch with my financial condition one can't even become envious. The guy has a Cadillac "Woody" station wagon. One of 7 built. He has 6 full time mechanics and technicians on staff at the place. A standard gauge layout with the same square footage as my house. All this stuff is stored in a old Oldsmobile dealership in Detroit. He just culled his automobile collection by 85 classic cars. Still has about 100. AMAZING. I figure the upkeep on his collection must be around half a million a year.He made his money in Land development. His karma may suffer but not his bankbook. LIONEL is just a small side line. Got the computer out through there FAX. Worked fine but made them nervous tying up there FAX during business hour. Agreed to do it in the evening from here on out. Another good meal at the Botsford.

August 4

Today we have Madison Hardware and the Detroit river tour. Madison Hardware was the first LIONEL service station and the possessors of a warehouse full of LIONEL parts. Mr. Kughn bought Madison hardware and brought it all to Detroit. He took out the stuff he wanted and now is selling off the rest by mail order. This stuff is stored in a warehouse in downtown Detroit. Kughn keeps the rest of his car collection here as well. The guy likes Pontiacs and Packards. The amount of train parts is unbelievable. The afternoon tour was a boat ride on the Detroit river which is actually a straight between the great lakes. The tour guide was very knowledgeable about Detroit early history including it's French past. A weather front came through and it rained on us. Fun time.

August 5

No organized activity till noon. Slept in for me 7 AM. Had breakfast and wandered down to the train meet. Yesterdays rain storm has dropped the temperature about 10 degrees. Cool and crisp. Great weather as far as I'm concerned. Well I sucked in and bought something. Got a Norfolk and Southern container car. Neat thing and will provide something for the container loader I got at Christmas. Long box should be able to haul it home in my duffel. Went on the last tour. A tourist train ride. The train is on a section of the old Michigan Central. Became part of the New York Central. More flat corn country. The most interesting thing about the railroad is the Lionel guys cam down and painted the GP9 orange and blue with Lionel Lines on it. The marble mile posts left over from the NYC are a trip. Got back about 5 PM. Been eating dinners at the Botsford. Good food at reasonable prices. Gone through there menu and the Chicken Pot Pie is there best dish. They bring outs to a 8" square pastry puff and fill it with chicken stuff. All tender white meat. Very good. Pastry appears to be felo dough. Went to a movie."Airheads" Very funny. Reminded me of some of Dana's bands.

August 6

A free day nothing scheduled. Since it's probably the last time I be in Detroit decided the Greenfield Village was in order. Henry Ford collected famous buildings and put them in Greenfield Village. Thomas Edison's Menlo Park Lab the Wright Brothers Bicycle Shop and others. They have lots of demonstrations. One of the more interesting was a operating Blacksmith shop. Not surprisingly the Hollywood old west version is not very accurate. Went back to train meet to see if any dramatic price drop had occurred. They hadn't. Went back to the Botsford had dinner then walked over to get some fruit. This standard midwestern diet has been playing havoc with my digestive system. Will be leaving early in morning to catch train so a non-standard breakfast.

August 7

Did not sleep well. subconscious is worried about missing the train. Got to the Amtrak station in Ann Arbor in plenty of time. Some people going to San Francisco on the Zephyr. Shared my experience with them. Train was on time. Caught some Z's like everyone else on this train. Saw some interesting South-Shore Catenary. A famous Chicago interurban. Got to Chicago on time. They have a first class lounge for us sleeping car guys. Very nice. Peanuts , Orange Juice ,TV and muffins all the comforts of home. Got about four hours before they board the chief. Down town Chicago closes down on sunday so I think I stay here. The lounge got pretty crowded with 3 trains getting ready to board(Chief,Empire Builder, Zephyr).Ran in a family from wisconsin. Mother Father and 4 kids ,3 girls and a 2 year old boy. Oldest girl is 8. After talking to them for awhile found out # 5 on the way. Nice family but looks like lots of kids to me. They boarded us at 4:30. Feels good to be on my last train. It's been a fun trip but I'm looking froward to getting home. Had dinner with a older couple from New Jersey. He's a chef. They had come out on the Broadway and weren't impressed with the food. Told them the Chief should be better. It was a good meal. I has prime rib. Was in bed by 9 PM. Very tired from last night.

August 8

Got up at 7 AM. Took what I hope is my last shower on the train. If the train stays close to schedule will be taking next shower at home. Shower at speed is still the most exciting thing on the train. Had breakfast with a black couple from LA. They had been in Lansing for a Youth Conference. We look to be about 1 hour late. Still in Kansas but about to enter Colorado. Should get to Albuquerque about 6 PM. We are into eastern Colorado. You can tell we're in the West it's starting to get dry. Got a peak of the head- end as we went around a curve. Got 2 of those new diesels. Will have to take some pictures at a long stop. Great day in New Mexico. Thunder Storms over the mountains. Very dramatic. Had lunch with a retired couple from Missouri and a minister from Dodge City. Ended up talking about Lutheran theologians who opposed Hitler during WWII. Very interesting.Very green in north eastern New Mexico. Must be all the monsoon rain in the fall. Male rain over the Big Res. Navahos call the hard thunder storm gully washers male rain. Female rain is the soft long winter rains. Read too many Tony Hillerman books. Had dinner with a retired Amtrak Car attendant. Worked for UP before Amtrak. Watched rainbows and lightning as we at dinner. A spectacular setting. Train is back on schedule. Finished my fourth book. Glad I bought backups.

August 9

Woke up early. 5 AM. Still dark. Just left Barstow. They are serving breakfast from 5:30 to 6:30 AM. Had breakfast with a retired teacher and his wife from San Diego. Great scenery as the sun rose over the Cajon pass. Since the blue line is going into Pasadena the Chief now goes into Fullerton. Looks like we will be into LA at 8:15 about 15 minutes early then it's on to the MTA bus line 90 or 91 and home. Bus was populated with the usual interesting people myself included. Got home ate 9:40 AM.