Thursday, 26 August 2010

Day 3

In the morning I had a couple of hours to kill before going to the station.
I took the elevator to the 94th floor of the John Hancock Building to the Observation Deck.   Its 1500 feet tall the same as the full height of Winter Hill, and its 500 feet taller than the Winter Hill Mast! Great views of Chicago and Lake Michigan.

At lunchtime made my way to Union Station to board the Amtrak California Zephyr to San Francisco.  First I had a look around the Union Station, it was the last built grand terminal built in the States.

As I had a room booked on the train I could go to the lounge to await boarding.  The train is made of 16 cars, all double decked, “Superliner”.
My room was on the top deck just two cars back from the locomotive.  It consists of two seats that fold down to form a bed and bunk above that The cars are rather old now, but it’s built well and very serviceable.  Down below are the bathrooms and showers.  There is a free coffee stand along the hall, and a free fruit juice stand at the other end.  folds down..  Its air conditioned and comfortable enough.
On board the Zephyr

Chicago Union Station
Crossing the Mississipi River
The train left Union Station about 40 minutes late as there was a “mechanical”.  The train rolls south for a short time before turning to the west, it maintains that heading for the next 2700 miles.
The first few hundred miles are made up of flat farmland, millions of hectares of corn and soya beans, totally flat.  We passed through little towns’ right out of the movies, flags flying and chairs on the porch.  I noticed that there was no fence between the rails and the gardens of the houses, where the track ran through a town there was no fence, hundreds of level crossings, at each one the engineer blows the whistle a few times, classic American Train mournful sound.ining Car, clean and neat, great meal of salad, buffalo meatloaf, baked potato and a desert, excellent quality.
Dinner Time on the Zephyr

Night time on the Zephyr and the car attendant makes up the bed.  As the room is on the second level its quiet, no problems and I slept better than I thought I would, woken a few times by the whistle though.  Morning and I set my alarm early, though we gained an hour by crossing into Mountain Time.  Shower and breakfast at 7 am.  The showers would shame some hotels, a bit small  but perfectly manageable.   Crossed from Nebraska into Colorado, next stop Denver.  Although I have been on this train for 16 hours, we are less than a third of the way there!  The crop fields of Illinois and, Idaho have given way to cattle ranches.

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