Fast Action Saved the Day on Amtrak Trip

Amtrak’s Texas Eagle saunters into St. Louis in a vide made from a downtown hotel. That is the Mississippi River in the background and Busch Stadium in the right foreground.

Some quick thinking and fast action enabled Ed Ribinskas to avoid what could have been a major league disappointment traveling on Amtrak earlier this month.

When he saw that Amtrak’s westbound Capitol Limited was not leaving Pittsburgh he was able to rebook his trip to Chicago on the Lake Shore Limited.

That was important because Ed, his brother Steve, and his nephew Justin were making a connection in Chicago with the Texas Eagle en route to St. Louis for a long weekend that included taking in a MLB baseball game at Busch Stadium.

No. 29 arrived in Pittsburgh 33 minutes late, but by the time it left the station it was five hours behind schedule.

It wouldn’t get any better. It arrived in Cleveland at 9:44 a.m., nearly seven hours late, and reached Chicago at 3:54 p.m., seven hours late.

Ed said he wonders if other passengers holding reservations aboard No. 29 that day were stuck in Cleveland until it showed up.

He said the Cleveland station agent made no announcements about the status of No. 29.

Yet at such stops as Toledo and Elkhart, Indiana, Amtrak onboard personnel said they were boarding passengers for both trains.

The crew on No. 49, Ed said, was very friendly and helpful.

To be sure, No. 49 was 31 minutes late arriving in Cleveland and 50 minutes behind schedule in Chicago, but Ed’s travel party easily made the connection to the Eagle.

That day’s Texas Eagle had Phase III livery P40 No. 822 on the point. No. 21 departed Chicago 36 minutes late and arrived in St. Louis 46 minutes down.

One reason Ed wanted to ride No. 21 was to have dinner in the dining car. It would be the only train of the four he rode with a full-service diner.

Ed’s party was able to get the first seating for dinner. When they arrived just three tables were occupied. “However, our waiter and the food were very good,” he said.

Ed and Steve had the Norwegian salmon with rice pilaf and baby green beans. Justin had the thyme-roasted with mashed potatoes and baby green beans.

The return trip to Cleveland began on a Tuesday morning aboard Lincoln Service Train No. 302 “[It] probably had the best crew I’ve seen,” Ed said. “It was just the conductor and café attendant but they did everything.”

There was no dining car, so Ed settled for having a cinnamon roll and coffee for breakfast.

In Chicago, Ed said he saw the 822 return with a late No. 22.

That night’s eastbound Capitol Limited left Union Station 41 minutes late and pulled into Cleveland 1.5 hours off schedule.

On the way past the Chicago service facility aboard No. 30, Ed managed to get some grab shots of a couple of Amtrak heritage locomotives.

He reported that he also twice saw locomotives wearing the colors of the Bessemer & Lake Erie, one in Gary, Indiana, and another near Joliet, Illinois.

But neither time was he able to get his camera out fast enough to get a photo.

In looking back on his trip, Ed said the crews on the Lake Shore Limited, Texas Eagle and Lincoln Service were good to very good. But the crew on the Capitol Limited was cranky.

Photographs by Edward Ribinskas

The Phase III P40 heritage unit brought the Texas Eagle back to Chicago. It is seen in the Amtrak coach yard.

The Phase IV heritage unit was also in Chicago as Ed passed by aboard No. 30.

Ed’s borther Steve (left) and nephew Justin show off some Cleveland pride at Busch Stadium, but note that they are wearing St. Louis Cardinals hats. The redbirds were hosting the Arizona Diamondbacks.

A view of St. Louis looking west from the Gateway Arch. Union Station can be seen in the distance.

One of the fabled Budweiser Clydesdale horses was an attracting during a tour of the brewery.

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