• Sunset Limited : July 6 - July 8

  • Tell us where you were and what you saw!
Tell us where you were and what you saw!

Moderator: David Benton

  by Antonio Luna
On July 6 I stood on the station platform in Yuma Az anxiously waiting for Amtrak’s #2 the Sunset Limited to arrive. Along with a dozen or so passengers we all waited and waited and waited some more until about 10:15 PM, when we finally saw the headlight from the lead P42 coming across the Colorado river into Yuma.

The Sunset Limited is a train I always wanted to ride. I remember back when I was a kid living in West Covina Ca. we lived right along Valley Blvd and I used to see the train fly by on its run eastward. I decided to finally take a weekend to ride it all the way to New Orleans.

When the train arrived in Yuma I was immediately greeted by Steve, my excellent sleeping car attendant. I made sure to stand near the front of the platform, since I was booked in room 22 in the transition sleeper. When I made it upstairs to my room my bed was already made and all I had to do really was climb in and organize for my 2 carry ons. Right before calling it a night, I noticed that we had come to a stop at West Wellton where we had to wait for a UP westbound freight. This would be the first of many delays on this trip.

The next morning (the train running about 4 hours late) I awoke and ran downstairs to take a quick shower. Now I think I remember hearing that the trans dorm had a shower upstairs but I didn’t see it. It might have been at the end of the car upstairs, but since that area was for the crew, I didn’t bother to venture that way. The showers downstairs were bigger than the showers in the regular sleepers. They also don’t say shower on the door. They say men’s lounge if I remember correctly. I went off to breakfast after getting dressed and sat with a man and his son on their way to Chicago. He seemed to be quite upset with all the delays. I explained to him about the UP and how Amtrak runs on their tracks, all the freight traffic we have to stop for, all the single track….etc..

After breakfast I went off to the lounge car to fill my mini cooler with Diet Pepsi. Jane was our lounge attendant and she was excellent as well. Back in my roomette we were racing across the New Mexico desert on our way to Lordsburg Nm. We failed to stop so I’m guessing there was no one to get off or on here. We did however stop at the next station which was Deming Nm. After a bit of a nap I noticed we were getting closer and closer to El Paso. By now the scenery was getting a tad more interesting as we were passing some nice rolling hills on our way into El Paso. I then noticed the US/Mexico border off to my right. I could not believe how close the train came to the border fence. After arriving in El Paso, I got the chance to jump off and stretch my legs a bit. I ran into the very nice El Paso depot to grab a newspaper and take some pictures. We were delayed here a bit after a few checked bags bound for El Paso failed to turn up. Turns out they were still in the baggage car and the attendants forgot to remove them. After all that was sorted we were finally on our way still running about 4 hours late. The train continued through town passing UP’s Dallas St Yard. There were plenty of locomotives in the El Paso locomotive facility waiting for their assignments.

After a quick angus burger lunch, we finally made it out of town towards Alpine Tx. At one point I noticed we were going maybe 30 MPH. This continued on for sometime. The conductor came on and announced that we were following a UP freight and that we had to wait an hour to finally make it around him. It was stop and go for quite some time until we finally reached the siding at Sierra Blanca. Here we were able to go around the UP eastbound that had been holding us up for so long. We would continue on our way and then once again have to stop for a freight to pass. This trend would continue through out the day and for most of the trip. Once we arrived in Alpine Tx, now 6 hours late I was once again able to jump off and get some air. The first thing I noticed was the humidity. I decided to cut my break short and jump back into the AC comfort of my sleeper. When we started to move eastward out of town I noticed the local high school in Alpine had a rather nice looking football stadium. That movie Friday Night Lights immediately came to mind. I know for a fact Texans love their High School Football teams.

Once we left Alpine I decided to read a bit in my roomette. After awhile I could hear a commotion outside my room in the hallway and after sliding my door open I found it was Steve who was talking with another passenger. He quickly asked if I needed anything. I was about ready for bed so I asked him if he could make up my bed when he had a chance. He was like, “well Ill do it now if you like,,,” I stood in the hallway trying to connect to ESPN on my phone. After all I had to see how my LA Dodgers had been doing. After Steve made up my bed he saw me struggling to access the baseball scores on my phone. I told him I was a Dodgers fan and needed to see how they were doing these past few days. He then quickly grabbed his cell phone and got on to the Fox Sports site where I was able to watch clips of the games from the night before right on his phone. I thanked him for that and after seeing that my Dodgers had lost both Friday & Saturday I was off to bed.

The next morning I awoke in San Antonio Tx. It must have been about 6:30 am. I had forgotten to turn the speaker down in my room so the sound of the conductor telling all the Texas Eagle passengers to stay in their cars woke me up. I tried to go back to sleep but that was not happening. I decided to just get up, shower and go to the diner for another French toast breakfast. In the diner I was seated with a young women and her young son on their way to Houston. His name was Archer and he was maybe 5. This was his first time on a train and it looked like he was having a blast. After leaving San Antonio, we stooped at Kirby to fuel to locomotives. At Kirby I noticed the Ringling Brothers Circus train off to our left. I made sure to let Archer know about the train and he immediately sprang up. He wanted to see some Elephants and heck at 7:00 am in the morning; I would have loved to have seen some as well. Unfortunately no animals were to be found on this day.

Back on our way after the Kirby fuel stop, it was once again stop and go through Texas. Every so often we had to stop for a UP freight to pass. I took a long nap and woke up about an hour away from Houston. The first thing I noticed as we entered Houston was the vast number of rail lines going every which way. At a place called west junction we met a BNSF freight waiting for us to pass. I thought it was fitting that the first BNSF freight we encounter is waiting for us to pass. With the UP it’s the other way around. After negotiating all the junctions in the Houston area we finally came to a stop at the Amtrak Depot right in the heart of the city. We were about 7 hours down at this point. Our stop was brief, about 15 mins. We then proceeded out of town and I must say it took FOREVER to make it out of Houston. At about Carr St we came to a stop and it was announced that we would be making a reverse move onto the Houston Belt Subdivision. We then continued north for a bit until we made the connection to UP’s Beaumont sub to continue our trip to Beaumont Tx. I believe this was an old Missouri Pacific line and we were only allowed 60 MPH on here. That was fine by me since we did not encounter any further delays and made a straight bee line to Beaumont.

At Beaumont I took a quick breather outside and after feeling the humidity I was back in my roomette waiting to leave. After leaving the station we came to a quick stop right before Wall St. Here we had to wait for a few trains in front of us to clear. I think we were here maybe an hour. Up near Francis we came to another stop. Here we had to wait for a CN freight to pass. Also some kids decided it be a cool idea to place a lawn mower on the tracks. The CN freight came along and I’m sure destroyed the thing. This made for more delays as the crew got out and inspected the track. Once it was ok to pass we got moving and with the CP freight now in the Francis siding we proceeded on.

At this point my stomach was growling and my original plan was to wait for New Orleans to eat but since we were now due in well after midnight I decided to just have another burger in the dining car. At that point they had run out of a bunch of stuff and only had burgers and pizzas on the menu. We got into Lake Charles La, now 10 hours down and made a brief stop there. We were now in the hands of the BNSF and we had no further freight delays from here on out. We did however have an elderly gentleman take a nasty fall down the steps in one of the coaches, so an ambulance was waiting for him in Schriever La. After that I took a quick nap as it was getting pretty late. When I awoke I noticed we were on the Huey P Long Bridge heading into New Orleans. That was a sight to see and I would have loved to have seen it in the day time. After getting my bags ready and thanking Steve for his excellent service I got ready for our imminent arrival into New Orleans. All I wanted to do at this point was grab a cab to my hotel. We came into town and went down a wye, where we then made a reverse move into the terminal. I noticed the New Orleans arena and Superdome to my right. Also Amtrak had a small engine facility and coach yard near its terminal. After coming to a stop we all detrained and headed towards the terminal where a young male coach passenger was being detained by police. Turns out he was carrying a fairly large hunting knife..

I kind of laughed and thought, “..what a way to end the trip…”