Sunday, February 20, 2011

Chicago to Boston...

Day 18, Feb 20th

Woke at about 8am after a pretty good nights sleep. The Viewliner’s top bunk is wayyy better than the Superliner. I can actually sit on the end of the bed with enough headroom to sit up and the extra width of the bed at the head and shoulders end makes a world of difference to comfort. The window is also good for those times you wake in the night where you can look out and see what’s going on. Surprisingly, the times I awoke during the night usually coincided with a stop. I guess the rocking and rolling of the train helps you to sleep but when it stops, the body reacts by waking up.

We took the ‘Journey to the Centre of the Train’ for breakfast. Fair dinkum, I thought we were never going to get there. Carriage after carriage of coach passengers all curled in weird and wonderful positions trying to get comfortable. I had the daily special which was spinach quiche with a side of pork sausage and Diane had scrambled eggs with a side of bacon. Juice and coffees were consumed as the train rolled into Buffalo. We returned to our room where Bill had just finished making up our room into day mode.

We had a lazy morning (sort of hard to do anything reading, writing blogs and sightseeing from our room. We decided to either skip lunch altogether or get Bill to get us something when he goes up later. One thing I have learnt about AMTRAK so far is that there are a lot of people who prefer to eat in the privacy of their room than in the dining car. This requires the SCA to order and pickup the meal and deliver it back to the room. I guess it’s part of his job but an extra tip is expected I’d imagine.

Some of the scenery from today...

One of the numerous multi-lane highways you see whilst crossing America. How they managed to think 2 lanes either way was going to be OK for the M5 is beyond me..

The Viewliner. Note the top windows in the sleeping car which are for the upper bunk..

They like colourful housing in NY State and Massachusetts...

Many of the rivers are either fully or partially frozen. The second shot is not great, taken from the train at high speed and dodging pylons, but it was a pretty amazing sight. An ice breaker had travelled down the centre of the river breaking the ice into small chunks and creating a channel about 5 metres wide. At different times along this trail, the ice pack had fractured and you could see the cracks open up and reach all the way to the shore..

Late morning the Lead Service Attendant (LSA), the dining car boss, came around for lunch reservations. Diane and I looked at each other and to be honest, we both couldn’t be bothered taking the trip back again. She said she would let Bill know and if we wanted lunch to let him know and he could deliver it. That was the last we heard or saw of anybody for ages. Bill is rarely seen at all, unlike Cindy who was constantly making sure we were comfortable and had enough water or coffee etc. I knew it was inevitable we would have varying levels of service from our SCA’s, but Bill suffered badly in the giant shadow cast by Cindy. Another big difference between the crew on the Southwest Chief (SC) and this train, the Lake Shore Limited (LSL), is the amount of announcements and the lack of information provided over the intercoms on the LSL. During lunch and dinner on the SC, the LSA would come on every 15mins and invite passengers with an 11:45-12:00-12:15 etc reservation to make their way to the dining car. No such announcements whatsoever on the LSL. On the SC, the Lounge Car Attendant would make announcements about what was available in the Lounge Car after every couple of hours, plus advise when she was going to close and reopen for her employee meal break. I wouldn’t even know if the LSL has a Lounge Car as we heard nothing.

Bill, the invisible SCA, materialised at our door around 1pm and asked if we wanted lunch. Diane said we weren’t going to bother taking the walk and Bill said he knew because the LSA had informed him. So we both just ordered a sandwich and off he went. He returned 15 mins later with 2 meals nicely presented on AMTRAK plates. He then vaporised again until I had to crash tackle him as he made one of his infrequent walks down the corridor about 4pm to get him to take the plates away.

After the train was ‘split up’ at Albany and Train 48 made its own way to New York, I read on one of the brochures that there would be no dining car on the Albany/Boston run and a hot meal would be served in the Lounge Car for sleeper passengers. This was not communicated in any shape or form whatsoever. Diane commented that she wondered what happened to the LSA as she hadn’t come around for dinner reservation times and I told her that it looks like its dinner in the Lounge Car.

Another thing that troubled us was that at Albany a large group of 15/16yo kids got on the train, possibly as part of the long weekend getaway. After the train pulled out of Albany, a steady stream of this group, all girls, made their way thru the sleeping car to ‘have a look’. Now it sounds harmless enough I know, but it is strictly prohibited for all different reasons. If any one of these girls is on some sort of reconnaissance with a view to stealing valuables, they just had a blueprint. Wander down the sleepers, have a look to see who has a laptop or camera out and wait for them to pass back thru the coach car on their way to dinner. Bingo, they’ve got 30 minutes minimum to go thru your belongings.

Casper Bill stuck his head in the door about 6:15pm and told us dinner was being served in the Lounge Car for the few sleeper passengers that were left on board. I mentioned to Bill that we had a steady stream of young ‘visitors’ in the past hour. He looked at me and said ‘really?’ I told him we were uncomfortable going to dinner and leaving our belongings unattended in the room if it was open slather to have a wander thru the sleeper for all and sundry. He told me that it wasn’t acceptable and he would stop anybody entering the sleeper. A few minutes later we made our way to the Lounge Car which fortunately was closer. There were only 2 coach cars between us and the Lounge Car in the new configuration.

We were greeted and seated at the Lounge Car by none other than Bill. That’s right, Bill who was also back in Car 4820 protecting our The dinner was a choice of a beef hotpot and ravioli pasta, a far cry from the 6 or so quality choices in the main Dining Car. Fortunately the ravioli was nice so it wasn’t a complete shutout.

After dinner we made our way back to our room with all our belongings seemingly still there and waited to roll into Boston. After looking like we would be about an hour late, we made up a heap of time and arrived just after due time at 9:30. We grabbed a red cap who carted our luggage from the platform all the way out to the taxi rank and than loaded the bags into the taxi. Those guys are gold and for the few dollars you tip them, they are great value. The taxi delivered us to our hotel which at first glance seems really nice. I rang when we were a few hours out of Boston as it looked like we would be checking in late at around 11pm, I didn't want them to think we weren't coming. When we checked in, we were told we had been upgraded to a deluxe King. Thank you sir!!

A nice hot shower was needed and we are currently ready for bed, being just after midnight here in Boston. Tomorrow we will do a city tour, hopefully it's not too crowded as it is a Public Holiday here in the USA. The one thing I want to see is Fenway Park, home of the Boston Red Sox. They have ballpark tours and that is what I'm aiming for.



  1. Very enjoyable blog. Hope you all are having a great time in Boston. There is so much history there.

  2. Hi to you both, remember we are all still following your train trip, most of it is very interesting, sounds relaxing, take care

  3. Thx for the comments. Glad to see people are still reading, thx Janet.