Having spoken about my favorite pre-Amtrak train trip, I guess I'll add my 2 cents' worth on a post-Amtrak version.
This was a trip from Boston to Chicago on the Amtrak's "George Washington", which was an extension in both directions of the original C&O train of the same name on a pre-Amtrak trip I once rode on one of the several "non-Phoebe Snow" sampler to see what another route New York-Chicago. While the original "George Washington" required me to transfer along the NY-Chicago trip, for a short time, Amtrak, having expanded its initial system a bit in the early 1970's, took the "George Washington to its longest through route length iunder the same name of the train it would ever provide by routing it from Boston (via the shore line), New York, Washington DC, Cincinnati (via the "George Washington's" original C&O route), and into Chicago (via the NYC route).
As a matter of interest, at the time Amtrak/Southern concurrently operated a through transcontinental sleeper between Boston and Los Angeles via the Southern Railway's Southern Crescent (which for a time had become a through Boston-Atlanta-New Orleans train operated between Boston and Washington by Amtrak and Washington-Atalanta-New Orleans by Southern Railway), and Amtrak's Sunset Limited New Orleans-Los Angeles with an overnight layover. I wish I had have had the opportunity for that trip as well, being the longest ever through sleeping car service in North America, and covered a route which was both Amtrak AND a privately operated long-haul passenger rail service by Southern Railway as both an interline "train" (Southern Crescent) and as an interline trough car service, which in the process provided a "night out on the town" in New Orleans without the need to check-in/check-out at a hotel for the stopover: you simply slept on in the sleeper at the station when you return out on the town, and if you slept in late, you didn't have to worry, since the car would be coupled on to the Sunset! Had I have had the opportunity during that short period of time to do that trip, my story would have been a different one! This would have been one of the most interesting and unusual through sleeper car services ever!
But, as things were, my Boston through-midwest post-Amtrak trips were to be limited to the "George Washington". However, it was also an interesting tapestry of an extension by Amtrak of an existing pre-Amtrak train. The name of the "George Washington" actually was only applied westbound on this "super-extended" route. On the equivalent eastbound direction of the route, the name applied was the "James Whitcomb Riley" whch was originally a pre-Amtrak NYC train between Cincinnati and Chicago. Thus Amtrak continued to honor the two people (the General and the President, as well as the poet) whose names had originally been given trains on the routes that were then joined up as a single train end-to-end. In pre-Amtrak times, I had also ridden the "Riley" as a connection to travel on the N&W "Pocahontas".
So with a pedigree as it was, I was eager to travel all the way from Boston to Chicago for a work meeting (By the time Amtrak started up, I was an adult and working), even though normally I'd have used the Broadway Limited from New York where I still lived, since as I recall the Lake Shore Limited, the other "third" rail route at that Amtrak time frame, did not have a good schedule for morning arrivals at Chicago business meetings. But I went out from New York on the first train out in the morning to Boston simply just to be able to board the "George Washington" at Boston to make the trip.
Between Boston and Washington, Amtrak's "George Washington" functioned as a Northeast Corridor train with many unreserved-seat coaches and parlor car with lots of on-off intermediate pasasenger traffic, BUT with a difference: like the Southern Crescent and the Montrealer, the Washington/Riley had real full dining service and a lounge, which "normal" Amtrak NE Corridor trains by then did NOT have, just some had parlor car space but food was only in the form of snack bars. These 3 "full-service" trains were well patronized and appreciated by passengers. On my trip on the "George Washington" dining passengers were constantly waiting on line to get seated, since the car itself was one of those ex C&O observation-diner-lounge-bedroom cars which had everything in it, biut the downside of it all was that it was all in small quantities. In addotion to the unreserved seat coaches, the parlor, and the Observation-Diner-Sleeper-Lounge, there were several reserved seat coaches (also a rarity on corridor trains, and even more so that one could reserve a seat within the NE corridor and not just for the "west-of-Washington" portion of the trip), plus a 10-6 sleeper, in which my roomette was located. My sleeper was directly coupled with the obsrvation lounge, which was a bit of a disappountment since it would have been nice to have the observation lounge at the reat of the train pointed in the correct direction, so what ought to have been a more enhanced corridor train by having a properly located and oriented observation car was less that whai it could have been, since even the observation end was run backwards, let alone coupled to my sleeper. Still, even a 4-6 chair lounge section and a 4-6 trable diner section and the bedrooms at the other end of the car, all provided a full dining kitchen and waiter service at tables, what there was of these multiple facilities within the one car, was still appreciated by the passengers as being a cut above the "normal" corridor trains. At Washington, a dome car was also added once the catenary wires were no longer on the C&O main.
A lot has been debated about dome / catenary safety issues, but the actual presence of the domes under glass, even under restricted height of the overhead wires under the station overpasses did not appar to be a problem, but of course the short stretch of overhead in the Washington terminal for C&O use was under low speed conditions. As I recall the dome car was "full height" Budd-Domes, not the "low-profile" PS domes built for the B&O. On a previous pre-Amtrak trip to sample a "non-Phoebe Snow" trip on the Capitol Limited, coming into Washington about 10 minutes before arrival, the train crews told passengers to go downstairs and not stay in the dome. On this "George Washinton" train, the just-added dome car would not have been yet occupied until well after the catenary no longer was a factor,
My meeting in Chicago was fortuitously scheduled for a Monday morning so I was able to do the Boston-Chicago trip over the weekend, leaving New York early Saturday morning. getting onto the "George Washington at Boston early afternoon, and in the evening most of the cars (unreserved coaches and parlor car) had been dropped, leaving my 10-6 sleeper, the added dome coach, the observation-lounge-diner-bedroom sleeper-crew room car, and a couple of reserved seat coaches, for the rest of the trip to Chicago.
While after the NE corridor portion after Washington the train decidedly took to a more laid-back operation, it was not without its events. In the morning through Indiana, a country road parallelling the tracks was being used as a race track by one car trying to race the train which was at a good clip. I was in the dome car taking in the views of the cornfields after breakfast. Those of us watching the car racing along gradually became aware that this car was trying to "outrun" the train at an upcoming grade crossing: one of the passengers was a "local" who'd be getting off in a few minutes and he was familiar with the road, and he said that the road did a dog-leg grade crossing accross the tracks and from what he figured the guy wanted to race the train accross the crossing. Our eyes were riveted as the drama unfolded, We heard the warning whistle, not yet the "two longs, a short, then a long" that would indicate the level croaasing, but some other signal I was not familiar, possibly an emergency warning hazard signal to alert this guy in his car even before the statutory whistle needed to be sounded, as I'm sure the locomotive engineer was obviously concerned that the car driver was trying to race the train to the crossing, but to no avail. The car kept overtaking the train bit by bit.
I don't know how it all actually occurred, as I never heard the details, but I did sense that the engineer, while not putting on the emergency brakes which it was not guaranteed that the car would not stop, took off the power and coasted to at least lessen the speed in anticipation of a hit, but with the speed of the train and its momentum, the injuries due to "flooring" by passengers not braced and not aware of what would hapen by emergency braking, I'm sure he'd figure better not to. When we hit the car, apparently it was only clipped at its rear fender corner spinning it around on pretty even terrain without major fixed obstacles. Had the enginer not let up on the throttle, the loco would probably have hit the entire car broadside. As it tuirned out, the car driver survived. If hit broadside, he'd have been hamburger meat. After that, the trip was uneventful but filled with conversation among the passengers, though we were late several hours with police getting details etc The train continued without technical problem.
Anyway that was my most "interesting" Amtrak trup! Have to finish now!
Vytautas B. Radzivanas
Perth, Western Australia