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I don't mean commuter trains. I'm an old guy who had an unlimited pass on what was the A.T. & S.F. Ry. Co., for coach car, unfortunately, not the sleeper cars, anywhere on the company;s system. My pass was also good for cabooses and the engine cab, which trust me, neither is any fun. No point trying to sleep in a caboose on a cold or warm night. From the engine cab, those rails look tiny.

My two favorite trains were the Super Chief and the San Franciscan, all high cars with fine dining cars, club cars with an observation deck, and every trip on them was a good experience, except when we had a freight derail east of Winslow and had to set tight in Winslow for 6 hours.

Usually, I caught the trains in Flagstaff, whether east or westbound, and I nearly always had a 3 1/2 day weekend. I usally carried an attache case with a pint of V.O. and a couple of salami sandwiches, a couple of fresh shirts, undwear and a shaving kit.

The food in the dining car was superb, white linen table cloths, fine china, silverware the most expensive hambugers I ever ate.

I enjoyed the black porters who were usually all of good humor, and could provide whatever vice your little ole heart desired, so I'm told.

Other than old steam engine touring trains around the country, I haven't rode any of the old luxury passenger trains since 1972, but do want to take the one that runs through North Dakota to the west coast, to see how the experience feels today.

I decided to start this thread because the "Hello America, I'm the one they call the City of New Orleans," song has been buzzing in my head the past couple of days, and as Arlo Guthrie spins his song of a special train and trip, I am able to envision myself on that trip.

Anyhow, I would like to hear from those who have had those kind of trips and your impressions.
 

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Alaska Railroad passenger service between Fairbanks and Anchorage in the summer of 1980. The passenger cars, including a glass-domed observation unit, were from the glory days of railroading USA during the 1950s and 60s. Unfortunately, the electrical generators that heated or cooled each car were geared to the wheels of each car. Unfortunate, in that the Alaska rail line is full of turns and curves, due to the topography, and so the speeds were much slower than the original design the generators required in order to perform efficiently. The upper deck in that observation car was, let's say, toasty.

But the view?! Oh. My. Goodness. Mile after mile after mile of wilderness in the Last Frontier. I won't even try to describe what I saw, words fail me. The pictures we took are long buried in some obscure box somewhere in this house, in which we have lived for more than 31 years. But, they are still in my memory. Trees, rivers, creeks, cliffs, mountains, moose, bears, deer, eagles, hawks, more rivers . . . it just goes on and on.

Another unique thing about the Alaska Railroad - it stops for every person alongside the track who signals that they want to board, anywhere along the right-of-way. Also, a passengers may let the conductor know, ahead of time, where they want to disembark, and the conductor will let the engineer know as they reach that point. You never know who might board the train during your journey, how long they've been living in the wilderness, and what they might have with them. There are no roads in most of Alaska, just vast tracts with no towns, no villages. The railroad is their only transportation, in or out.

When we rode the Alaska rails, it wasn't white linen and first class service; it was a working railroad, a mix of freight and passenger cars, stops anywhere, and wildlife and vistas - the memories of which will last a lifetime.
 

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When a student at SIU Carbondale in the early 70's I had occasion to ride the City of New Orleans back to school from Chicago one time. Those were certainly the olden days when I both smoked cigarettes and the trains had smoking cars. To stretch my legs, I got up for a walk and spent some time in the open landing in the middle of the car, with the half door open on top. Savored my smoke and watched the flat lands of Illinois roll on by in the moonlight. The Guthrie song has a place in my heart.

The last train ride of any length was the Amtrak across Missouri. We were into bicycle touring and the KATY trail was fairly new in the latter 90's. I planned a week long self contained tour from St. Charles, MO to Sedalia staying at B & B's and motels on the way. It was early April and I made some serious miscalculations regarding our fitness levels so early in the season, along with the prevailing winds. :eek: The first two days were approximately 45 miles each and were arduous to say the least. The third day, the 10-15 mph breeze subsided per my prayers and we got rain instead.

The cool part is that Amtrak allowed bicycles to be loaded up right in your passenger car on the overhead rack, pedals turned in and the handlebars loosened to sit sideways. We had parked at Kirkwood, MO after leaving our bikes and gear to the hotel in St Charles since the bridge over the Big Muddy is impassable by bicycle. The police let us leave our car in their lot, which is a block away from the train station and we took a taxi back north to the hotel to start our journey the next morning.

It was interesting riding the three + hours back on the train backtracking the route that took us five days to cover.
 

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Reading Trucks' story of the Alaska railway...it reminds me that I still long to ride one of the remaining lines out in the Rockies...a bucket list thing for sure. Considering that the other bucket list things of a bicycle trip from PIT to DCA and the Natchez Trace from Franklin TN to Jackson MS may just be an unfulfilled dream.
 

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We rode the same Fairbanks to Anchorage train 3 years ago during the summer. The beautiful visas and observation cars are still there, but all the stops are now scheduled. We loved it!

Also rode in first class on an modern express train in India about 10 years ago. By first class they mean it. The assigned seats were like first class airline seats of the 1970's, very plush, reclining, and even had foot rests like a Lazyboy recliner. We boarded in early morning. No dining cars needed for us first class passengers. Instead, upon boarding, the porter ask us if he could get us anything to drink. 20 minutes after pulling out of the station, the train's Chef came to us and asked when and what he could prepare for our breakfast. I ask to see a menu and my Indian friend just laughed and explained I could order anything I would like. The scrambled eggs, spicy chicken sausages,toast and honey were perfect and served on a lift up table covered with a cloth table cloth.
Now 3rd class trains rides in India are nothing more than a packed cattle car with ticket prices of less that a dime.
 

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Never went on a "famous" one. But I'm old enough that in my youth passenger trains were a viable means of transportation. I used to ride one from Brattleboro VT to Boston a couple of times a year as it was the best way to get to a major airport. Otherwise it was a bus to Hartford. The train was better. Flying out of Boston was better.

My brother and I used to ride one from Philadelphia down to Louisville to go to our grandparents every summer. But those trains are long gone I'm sure.
 

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Anyone remember The Freedom Train? It was a train that travelled across the US in 1976 commemorating the bi-centennial. It had historical displays and artifacts on it. Our high school class (class of '77) rode it from Union Station in LA to Anaheim Stadium (yes, a railroad spur goes through the parking lot of the Big A). Not really a passenger train per se, but a famous train.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freedom_Train
 

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Discussion Starter #9
Anyone remember The Freedom Train? It was a train that travelled across the US in 1976 commemorating the bi-centennial. It had historical displays and artifacts on it. Our high school class (class of '77) rode it from Union Station in LA to Anaheim Stadium (yes, a railroad spur goes through the parking lot of the Big A). Not really a passenger train per se, but a famous train.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Freedom_Train
Union Station was a grand marvel as a train station or terminal in the late 60's and early 70's, a really beautiful example of Architecture, as were many of the large citie's Stations. I probably traveled in and out of it at least 10 times.

A friend of mine fabricated all of the steel and his erector put it up at the Anaheim Rail Transportaion project "ARTIC" about 5 years ago. It was and may still be the most complex steel structure ever built. Since the California Bullet train project never got completed, and probably never will, today the structure houses homeless folks.

 
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Discussion Starter #10
Union Station, Los Angeles












 

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Discussion Starter #12 (Edited)
Here is the Super Chief in 1971 pulling into the yards in Chicago, the same configuration as when I was riding the rails





The depot I traveled from most of the time in Flagstaff. Route 66 runs in front with the rails in the back



The Tudor Design with steep pitched roof reflected the Alpine setting and heavy snow loadings in it's Architecture.
The elevation at the depot is 6,902 feet ASL

 
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Probably a couple of guys here remember coming west in a covered wagon.
Not me. I let my grandchildren go west in the covered wagons, waited 'till they had the ranch house built, then got on the train to join them after the trans-continental railroad was done. :p
 

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I don't think it's famous, but one of the fondest memories of my time in Europe was taking the train up the Rhine valley from Bavaria to around Cologne. Amazing views, with vinyards and castle ruins all along the river.
 

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Do the ones at Disneyland and Knotts Berry Farm and Ghost Town count?
Otherwise NO.
Only the 7.5 inch (Port Orchard Wa.) and the 16 inch (Balboa Park/San Diego Zoo Ca.) gauges.
One time about 1950/1951 from San Diego to Del Mar and back. The only full size train I've ever ridden.
I would like to but it is financially impossible now.
As much as I like trains I've not ridden them much.
 

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TGV's, even thru the chunnel to England.

Thomas the Tank Engine

Strausburg Railroad

Yea I'm jealous
 
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Discussion Starter #17
Do the ones at Disneyland and Knotts Berry Farm and Ghost Town count?
Otherwise NO.
Only the 7.5 inch (Port Orchard Wa.) and the 16 inch (Balboa Park/San Diego Zoo Ca.) gauges.
One time about 1950/1951 from San Diego to Del Mar and back. The only full size train I've ever ridden.
I would like to but it is financially impossible now.
As much as I like trains I've not ridden them much.
In the last couple of years, I have considered taking the old North West route on Amtrak from Minot to the West Coast, and was surprised to find Amtrak had a Senior Discount and the rate was pretty cheap. The problem is the 1200 mile drive from Lubbock to Minot each way!
 

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I grew up in Galesburg, Il. Big train town and still is, large switching yard and all that stuff.

My parents divorced when I was 4. My Dad remarried and moved to Phoenix, Az. He had a brother and SIL that lived in Flagstaff. During the summer, to give my Mom a break, she would take me and my older brother down to the Santa Fe train station and send us to Az. for about 6 weeks. Keep in mind I was 6 and my older brother was 10 the first time we traveled on the train. No adult supervision. Well except the porters Jake mentions. When speaking with the porters it was yes sir, no sir, please, thank you, it made no difference that these men were black.

I may be wrong but I'm going to say the El Capitan, California Zepher, and Super Chief were trains we traveled on over the next several years. Plus many years later I traveled to So. California by train. I would very much like to buy one of Amtrak's, don't know what to call it, multi zone passes, get a sleeper car and ride the rails for a summer.

A side not to Jake. My Dad's brother and SIL had a candy store in Flagstaff. It was a little white building where they made homemade candy type stuff. There names were Wayne and Fran. Unfortunately I don't remember the name of the store. I'll have to look and see if I still have a photo of them in front of the store. Anyway, maybe you stopped in and bought some candy from them!


PS: I should probably add a time frame. The first time we rode the train would have been 1961 and I think the last time would have been 1967.
 

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Yep, Union Station in LA is magnificent. We used to ride up from Fullerton on the ATSF to Union Station. Then walk over to Olvera Street. Prolly only SoCal locals know about that. Someone also mentioned Knott's Berry Farm and Disneyland. Yep, worked at them both through high school. Oh, for the days of my yute.
 

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Not famous but been on the light rail in St.Louis and Chicago. Most of the lines there in those two cities. A airman at the time, who shall remain nameless, knew and still may, know every rail that has ever been laid in the country and the trains that ran or run on it. He was amazing in his knowledge. Got us then recruits around Chicago and St. Louis by rail. Even had the train schedules of regular trains and light rail in his head. From the Bronx he was. Unforgettable he is.

Without looking at train or light rail schedules he got we Air Force trainees from Chanute AFB to two MLB games. 6 of us took the trains from Illinois to our destinations for the baseball games. The teams we rooted for all lost, but we still had a blast.
 
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