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Amtrak/UA Trip Report; MSY-LAX-MSY; 71 Pics  
User currently offlineMSYtristar From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Posted (9 years 6 months 2 weeks 5 days ago) and read 31955 times:

I've been wanting to do a report on this one for awhile now, but am just getting around to it.

Recently I took Amtrak's Sunset Limited, train #1, from New Orleans to Los Angeles. I flew back to New Orleans on United...well, it was really Ted if you want to be picky.

All the pics except for one have to do with the rail portion of the trip since my flight back departed LAX at 6:30pm and well, it was night by then. Also, my apologies in advance, since some of them are kind of blurry due to the train window.

So sit back, relax, and enjoy this great American rail journey...and the flight back home.

Amtrak #1
Sunset Limited
Superliner Roomette

This train no longer operates to/from Orlando since Katrina, so New Orleans is once again the Eastern home for this train, which it had been for 100 years before Amtrak expanded service East of New Orleans in 1993. Indeed, the Sunset route is the oldest in the Amtrak system.

The Sunset Limited, historically, has been notorious for massive delays, thanks to its running on mostly Union Pacific track. Only a short portion, New Orleans to Lake Charles, is run on non-UP track (BNSF). This trip though, as many have been recently, was just about on-time...only twenty minutes behind schedule. In fact we would have been EARLY into LAX but we had to hold for a bit maybe 1/2 mile from the station waiting on a track assignment. Regardless, it was very admirable timekeeping this go around.

The service was very friendly, as is usually the case. Of course, with the new budget cuts imposed, the service in the Dining Car (which was usually full) takes longer since there is now only one waiter and one cook...as opposed to two of each not too long ago. Also, the food is now prepared OFF the train, and is simply reheated on the train in convection ovens. Amtrak calls this "Simplified Dining Service", and it is generally hit or miss in terms of quality. Everything was acceptable this go around...I had no real complaints.

I have to give Amtrak credit for the totally refurbished Sightseer Lounge car. It was beautiful...newer, more comfortable seats, new booth seating on the upper level, new tables upstairs, etc. The new lounges are, for now, only running on the Empire Builder and Sunset Limited. All Superliner-equipped trains will have them eventually.

The train itself was in good working order. Leaving NOL, the train was comprised of the following:

2 P42 locomotives
1 baggage car
1 Superliner Transition Sleeper
1 Superliner Sleeping Car
1 Superliner Dining Car
1 Superliner Sightseer Lounge
2 Superliner Coaches

In San Antonio the train picked up one additional Coach and Sleeping Car from the Texas Eagle.

About 40 coach passengers got on in New Orleans, in addition to about 15 Sleeping Car passengers, a decent load for a midweek day in a slow travel period. The train slowly filled up more and more on the way and, by the time we arrived LAX, the Sleeping Cars were 90% full and i'd venture to say that they had about 120 passengers in Coach. Not a terrible load at all.

All in all, it was an excellent, relaxing trip. Long distance rail travel can be an endurance test for many, but it is always a great experience for me. I just hope congress continues to support Amtrak. I wish all the people who say that Amtrak long distance trains should be discontinued would hop on board trains like the Sunset Limited and see how many people board trains in towns like New Iberia, LA....Del Rio, TX...Alpine, TX...Deming, NM...etc. Small communities depend on Amtrak in many instances. Ok, enough ranting.

Now, a quick summary of the flight back home, before I present the pictures.

The flight back home was a typical domestic segment on United/Ted. 3h25 minute flying time, and the flight was 99% full...just a few middle seats open in Economy Plus. "Pirates of the Caribbean 2" was shown, which was pretty entertaining. Service was, well, minimal....one beverage service and one round of coffee, buy on board snack box offerings, and that's it. I was up in seat 3F so I had some good legroom at least. I commend UA for jumping right back into LAX-MSY, even though the seasonal introduction of Ted in the market is a definite service downgrade from UA-proper. Hopefully, when mainline returns next month, it'll stay for good.

Picture time!

1) Boarding in New Orleans. Train #1 (Sunset Limited) on the left. Train #58 (City of New Orleans) on the right.
2) Train 58, on the left, departs daily for Chicago @ 1:45pm.
3) Corridor of my Superliner Sleeping Car.
4) Amtrak's coach yards as we pull out of NOL.
5) Amtrak's NOL engine shop.
6) This neighborhood got about five feet of water after Katrina and is still basically abandoned.
7) Fifteen minutes after leaving the station, we start our climb over the 4.4 mile Huey P. Long bridge, which spans the Mississippi River.
8) The bridge was built in the 1930's and still sees dozens of trains per day.
9) Approaching the superstructure crossing the river.
10) A levee that didn't fail.
11) It's always interesting crossing the bridge by car when a train passes.
12) Dreary shot of N.O skyline as we descend into Bayou country.
13) Bayou country.
14) Crossing the Atchafalaya River in Morgan City, LA.
15) A few boats.
16) Rainy day in New Iberia, LA.
17) One of the many water crossings on the Sunset's route in Louisiana.
18) Oil rig waiting to be used.
19) Lafayette, LA station stop.
20) About twenty people boarded here, all in Coach.
21) Totally refurbished Sightseer Lounge Car.
22) New booth seating on the upper level...very nice!
23) Soggy fields of Southwest Louisiana.
24) Relaxing in my Superliner Roomette.
25) A pretty large Rice mill in between Lafayette and Lake Charles.
26) more Rice mill...
27) Sunset on the Sunset.
28) Dining Car before the crowd arrived.
29) After a fairly restful sleep, I woke up to this scene, in between San Antonio and Del Rio, TX.
30) Approaching Del Rio.
31) A small park in downtown Del Rio.
32) At the Del Rio station.
33) Gotta love those Superliner cars.
34) My home for 48 hours.
35) That's Mexico on the other side of the Rio Grande river.
36) The beautiful Lake Amistad.
37) No, we didn't stop at this small town.
38) Getting ready to cross the Pecos River High Bridge.
39) The bridge is 280 feet high...about twice as high as the Huey P. Long bridge.
40) One more...beautiful, eh?
41) Eagle's Nest canyon, near Langtry, TX.
42) Beautiful landscape...to some people, pretty boring I would imagine.
43) View from the last car on the train.
44) Lots of interesting views along the Sunset route.
45) Getting ready to cross that old bridge.

46) That's Highway 90, which follows our route (for the most part) from New Orleans to El Paso.
47) Alpine, TX.
48) Alpine's neat little station.
49) Mountain.
50) Those packages won't get there on time.
51) The top bunk can be a tight fit some some people.
52) In between Alpine and El Paso.
53) Sunset #2.
54) The beautiful El Paso train station.
55) Unloading baggage from the well-used Baggage Car.
56) Maybe two dozen people boarded here.
57) I woke up as we pulled into Palm Springs, CA. Here's a view of Palm Springs from the Dining Car window.
58) More Palm Springs...
59) One of the two dozen or so UP frieghts that passed us along the route.
60) Orange groves in between Palm Springs and Ontario.
61) The huge Colton Yards near Ontario.
62) Ontario airport.
63) Pomona, CA.
64) Skyline of L.A
65) Head end of our train as we approach Union Station.
66) And the tail end...
67) Stopped over the L.A River just a few hundred yards from the station.
68) We came to a stop just twenty minutes behind schedule. Here's what was pulling us.
69) The Coast Starlight departing for Seattle.
70) Every Sleeping Car room had one of these...also a postcard, timetable, and two bottles of water.

71) My only airplane picture of the trip...some classic international heavies at the TBIT.

Well that's all. I hope you guys got a real sense of what a long distance train trip is like. If you've never tried it before, give it a shot. You may like it.  Smile

25 replies: All unread, showing first 25:
User currently offlineWN230 From United States of America, joined Jul 2006, 341 posts, RR: 1
Reply 1, posted (9 years 6 months 2 weeks 4 days 23 hours ago) and read 31925 times:

That was actually quite enjoyable. Its great that you bring in a different mode of transportation that we don't get to see a lot here. Big grin Good job with the pics.


Judas Priest North American tour in '08 . . . cannot wait!!!
User currently offline767747 From United States of America, joined Jan 2005, 2131 posts, RR: 23
Reply 2, posted (9 years 6 months 2 weeks 4 days 12 hours ago) and read 31505 times:
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Great report! I would like to take a long trip on a train sometime soon. You really get to see the country!


I love to fly!
User currently offlineClrd2go From United States of America, joined Feb 2003, 1000 posts, RR: 0
Reply 3, posted (9 years 6 months 2 weeks 4 days 11 hours ago) and read 31476 times:

Great report...I love reading Amtrak trip reports, except it makes me want to take a nice long ride. I've done Bos-SF area a few times and would really like to do it again.


What a long strange trip it's been
User currently offlineTom in NO From United States of America, joined Nov 1999, 7194 posts, RR: 31
Reply 4, posted (9 years 6 months 2 weeks 4 days 9 hours ago) and read 31327 times:

First of all, great pics, looks like you had a great trip!
Secondly, thanks for making me homesick with the pics from SoCal  wink 
Finally, guess it's time to throw my "Silver Streak" DVD back into the viewer  wink 

Tom at MSY

"The criminal ineptitude makes you furious"-Bruce Springsteen, after seeing firsthand the damage from Hurricane Katrina
User currently offlineMSYtristar From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 5, posted (9 years 6 months 2 weeks 4 days 9 hours ago) and read 31312 times:

Quoting Tom in NO (Reply 4):
Finally, guess it's time to throw my "Silver Streak" DVD back into the viewer

Man, that's a great movie. I may have to go buy that soon.

PS- shoot me an email Tom...have some big news.

User currently offlineLH459 From United States of America, joined Aug 2005, 886 posts, RR: 1
Reply 6, posted (9 years 6 months 2 weeks 4 days 3 hours ago) and read 31107 times:

I love train reports! Thanks for posting this, the pics were great!
I just wish those sleepers weren't so expensive on Amtrak...

"I object to violence because when it appears to do good, the good is temporary; the evil it does is permanent" - Ghandi
User currently offlineLASOctoberB6 From Japan, joined Nov 2006, 2380 posts, RR: 1
Reply 7, posted (9 years 6 months 2 weeks 4 days ago) and read 31026 times:

reminds me of a trip i took from Utica, NY to Penn Station, NY. my aunt and brother sat in front of me, i had two seats for myself. within the first 20 minutes, we smell something foul. really foul.... i tapped my brother and he said that it wasnt him. my aunt gave us some sweet smelling lotion to sniff our hands when it got worse. turns out, this guy in the middle of the car, was letting stink bombs loose from his body..... my second time on a train. i wish i took pictures. Sad

User currently offlineDon From Japan, joined Jun 2003, 275 posts, RR: 0
Reply 8, posted (9 years 6 months 2 weeks 3 days 23 hours ago) and read 30988 times:

Thanks a lot for the train trip report , my second most favorite mode of transport and the beautiful photos. My dream rail trip is what you did and go back east thru' Chicago by empire builder (?).

User currently offlineMSYtristar From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 9, posted (9 years 6 months 2 weeks 3 days 23 hours ago) and read 30985 times:

Quoting Don (Reply 8):
My dream rail trip is what you did and go back east thru' Chicago by empire builder (?).

You can take the Sunset to L.A and then take the Coast Starlight up to Seattle and then from there take the Empire Builder to Chicago. That would make for a very nice trip.

User currently offlineANCFlyer From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 10, posted (9 years 6 months 2 weeks 3 days 19 hours ago) and read 30879 times:

Another excellent trip report - especially the trains . . . those P42s simply look powerful . . .

User currently offlineQANTAS077 From Australia, joined Jan 2004, 5954 posts, RR: 36
Reply 11, posted (9 years 6 months 2 weeks 3 days 17 hours ago) and read 30850 times:

excellent report, always nice to read a report that has a perspective other than just air travel. i did one myself recently, bus trip across australia.

One Day In September & Pics (by QANTAS077 Oct 3 2006 in Trip Reports)

a true friend is someone who sees the pain in your eyes, while everyone else believes the smile on your face.
User currently onlineN353SK From United States of America, joined Jun 2006, 910 posts, RR: 0
Reply 12, posted (9 years 6 months 2 weeks 3 days 10 hours ago) and read 30734 times:

MSYTristar - I have to ask, do you find the Huey P. more terrifying in a car or on a train?

User currently offlineAlexPorter From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 13, posted (9 years 6 months 2 weeks 3 days 10 hours ago) and read 30714 times:

I've always wanted to give Amtrak a try... unfortunately to travel between PHX and MSP on Amtrak requires a bus trip to Flagstaff, then a train to LAX, then another train up to PDX or SEA, and finally another train from PDX or SEA to MSP. Amtrak doesn't even serve Phoenix proper anymore but instead a small town about a half an hour away. But since I don't have a car and that town is not served by public buses, a Greyhound to Flagstaff is all that works. I might take them from MSP-Chicago sometime though!

User currently offlineMSYtristar From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 14, posted (9 years 6 months 2 weeks 3 days 6 hours ago) and read 30653 times:

Quoting N353SK (Reply 12):
I have to ask, do you find the Huey P. more terrifying in a car or on a train?

I'd say a car since the lanes are VERY narrow. It's always an experience when you have an 18 wheeler flying past you on that bridge. Although the train is unique because there are no visible railings...you just see the land/water below.

User currently offlineJonnyGT From United States of America, joined Oct 2001, 242 posts, RR: 1
Reply 15, posted (9 years 6 months 2 weeks 1 day 22 hours ago) and read 30408 times:

Wow, the Sunset Limited arrived into Los Angeles nearly on time?

Good lord, this is amazing! Over the last year, I would guess it averaged around 7-10 hours late into LA.

I took the Texas Eagle from Dallas to Los Angeles two years ago and we were 6 hours late into LA. On the trip home, the train was so delayed due to UP's horrific mismanagement that the train was cancelled in El Paso and I was bused to Dallas. It was horrible. I'm so glad to hear that UP isn't sidelining Amtrak trains for hours on end. Did you ask any of the Amtrak staff about the recent solid timekeeping?

This makes me eager to hit the rails again. I love train travel, but the way UP mismanages the route makes me wary to spend money booking a ticket. Luckily, other companies like BNSF do an admirable job of keeping the Amtrak trains running. The Southwest Chief from LA to Chicago is rarely late, averaging 65 mph the whole way.

User currently offlineEurohub From United Kingdom, joined Jan 2005, 261 posts, RR: 0
Reply 16, posted (9 years 6 months 2 weeks 1 day 16 hours ago) and read 30382 times:

Being more of a trainspotter than a planespotter, I really enjoyed this TR - it was interesting to read about something I've always wanted to try, long-distance rail travel in the US... hopefully one day.


Forget A vs B - Give me E or BAe any day of the week!
User currently offlineMSYtristar From , joined Dec 1969, posts, RR:
Reply 17, posted (9 years 6 months 2 weeks 1 day 15 hours ago) and read 30354 times:

Quoting JonnyGT (Reply 15):
Did you ask any of the Amtrak staff about the recent solid timekeeping?

Apparently Amtrak's new CEO wrote a letter to both CSX and Union Pacific stating the obvious: passenger trains should get priority over freight trains, and that if the excessive delays continue, legal action may be pursured.

Now that may or may not be the reason why the trains have been close to on time lately, but I have to say we were only pulled to the side four times the entire route to wait for a freight to pass. We were one hour late at El Paso but we made up the time overnight.

User currently offlineManchesterMAN From United Kingdom, joined Sep 2003, 1257 posts, RR: 1
Reply 18, posted (9 years 6 months 2 weeks 1 day 14 hours ago) and read 30335 times:

Great report. I love Amtrak and can't wait until my next long distance trip with them. I'm thinking of taking the Empire Builder at some point in the Spring.

Quoting Tom in NO (Reply 4):
Finally, guess it's time to throw my "Silver Streak" DVD back into the viewer

Love that film too. Reminds me of the LA-Chicago trip I took in May. Ended up with 1 death, an assault and a 15 hour delay (really). And I'd still go back for more!!

Flown: A300,A319,A320,A321,A330,A340.A380,717,727,737,747,757,767,777,DC9,DC10,MD11,MD80,F100,F50,ERJ,E190,CRJ,BAe146,Da
User currently offlineTom in NO From United States of America, joined Nov 1999, 7194 posts, RR: 31
Reply 19, posted (9 years 6 months 2 weeks 1 day 12 hours ago) and read 30299 times:

Quoting N353SK (Reply 12):
I have to ask, do you find the Huey P. more terrifying in a car or on a train?

I've never done the Huey P on a train, but driving a car in those 8-foot wide lanes, with no shoulders can be exciting at times. Especially considering a slight jog at the at east-bank side top span (when they were building the bridge, they built from both sides, attempting to meet at exactly the proper point over the river. Only thing is, they were off by almost two feet at the junction, so now there's a two-foot jog there on an already tight bridge).

The Huey P is a mess during any rush hour, but any accident in the area, you might as well detour 10-15 miles in either direction to either the Crescent City Connection or the Hale Boggs Bridge.

Tom at MSY

"The criminal ineptitude makes you furious"-Bruce Springsteen, after seeing firsthand the damage from Hurricane Katrina
User currently offlineBMIFlyer From UK - England, joined Feb 2004, 8810 posts, RR: 56
Reply 20, posted (9 years 6 months 2 weeks 15 hours ago) and read 30149 times:

Excellent report Big grin

I remember going on this train all the way from Orlando to LAX about 3 years ago, IIRC.

When I arrived into NOLA, I got off the train and went into a "Subway" store for a sandwich, plus I took some pics of the NOLA skyline too.

We attatched a heritage saloon car (privately owned) on the rear of the train before we headed on to LAX.

It was a great trip. The best part was the stop at El Paso, it was so HOT, being the middle of the day.

I am hoping to travel around the states by train next year. So far Ive done the sunset Limited, Southwest Chief, Acela and also the Capitol Limited.

I am planning on arriving into New York by Air, then taking the Acela to Washington, The Capitol to Chicago, The City of New Orleans to NOLA, then The Sunset Limited to LAX, the Coast Starlight to Seattle, the Empire builder back to Chicago, then fly home from there  Smile


Sometimes You Can't Make It On Your Own
User currently offlineDeltaRules From United States of America, joined Sep 2001, 4188 posts, RR: 8
Reply 21, posted (9 years 6 months 2 weeks 13 hours ago) and read 30129 times:

Nice TR! We went on the Coast Starlight back in 1995 from San Francisco to Seattle & back & it was a fun trip. I'm tempted to do another Amtrak trip for the fun of it.


Let's Kick the Tires & Light the Fires!!
User currently offlineUsair320 From United States of America, joined Nov 2003, 991 posts, RR: 2
Reply 22, posted (9 years 6 months 1 week 5 days ago) and read 29906 times:

Nice report! always enjoy a good Amtrak report every now and then.

User currently offlineGlid4500 From United States of America, joined Sep 2005, 587 posts, RR: 6
Reply 23, posted (9 years 4 months 2 weeks 5 days 9 hours ago) and read 29269 times:

that is a very nice trip report. thanks for sharing it. I rode the Sunset Limited twice. The first time was the day after thanksgiving from SAT-LAX. Second time was actually the Texas Eagle from CHI-SAT-LAX. They usually attach the Texas through cars at the end of the Sunset limited in San Antonio.

for the last couple weeks or so, Ive spotted the long distance trains ( i.e. Trains 1, 3, 11, 21/421 arrive in LAX pretty much on time ). i guess UP is finally showing some courtesy on the road.

again thanks for sharing

User currently offlineMirrodie From United States of America, joined Apr 2000, 7459 posts, RR: 60
Reply 24, posted (9 years 1 month 3 weeks 5 days 23 hours ago) and read 28581 times:
Support Airliners.net - become a First Class Member!

I starred this weeks ago and finally got a moment to read it. It was great to read!

Forum moderator 2001-2010; He's a pedantic, pontificating, pretentious bastard, a belligerent old fart, a worthless st
User currently offlineExFATboy From United States of America, joined Jul 2003, 2974 posts, RR: 9
Reply 25, posted (9 years 1 month 3 weeks 3 days 2 hours ago) and read 28217 times:

Very cool report and great pics! It's a shame that more folks don't get the chance to travel cross-country this way.

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