by Griff Murphey DDS
My wife and I are reasonably seasoned Amtrak passengers and we were fascinated with the idea of riding the "Illinois Centeal Monday morning rail..." that Arlo Guthrie sang of so eloquently. We'd been warned that due to flooding we would be bussed from Jackson Miss. to Znew Orkeans... Big letdown... We were impressed with the Metropolitan lounge and the redcap service to the train. Our bedroom had both 120 AC outlets dead, but that would have to wait because we hustled to the dining car which began service while we were still in Union Station. The dining car was a big disappointment as the only dishes available were a cold sandwich, Caesar salad, and microwaved beef bourguignon with a side of peas and carrots. I had the "beef burger" as the waiter termed it, expecting the big tasty Amtrak hamburger. Oh well. The car attendant threw some breakers and I hit reset on the sink one and we had our 120 vac. The poor guy was in charge of two cars and well overworked. The track was very rough and neither one of us had a good night's sleep. The next morning as we "...rolled along past houses, farms, and fields..." we went to breakfast, my wife had fruit and cereal, I had the cheese and turkey sausage sandwich. The sausage and egg bowl on the menu was unavailable. Like the "beef burger" the night before the microwaved turkey and cheese sandwich had cool spots in it. The track was ridiculously rough. I would estimate at times the diner and sleeper swung as wildly as 18" out of line just watching the doorways between the diner and our sleeper. At 11 AM we reached Jackson and were put on two busses. We were issued box lunches frim McAluster's with big hoagies, actually those were the best meals we had. Anyway we love rail travel, but this was the wrong train at the wrong time. We have enjoyed the Amtrak steaks, pasta rushed, short ribs, hot dogs, tilapia, etc. so I guess the downgraded food was the most disappointing loss... I realize the track is somewhat beyond Amtrak's control but it was still awful... Cannot recommend this train!