Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Chicago to Washington on the Capitol Limited

The Texas Eagle arrives in Chicago’s Union Station close to on time and I go directly to Amtrak’s Metropolitan Lounge to stash my bags. The lounge is crowded at that time of day because several trains are coming and going. The California Zephyr departs at 2:00 and the Southwest Chief leaves at 3:15.

After trying to phone a couple of Chicago-area friends, I head off for a brisk walk around the station, stopping in at a noisy Irish bar for a late lunch. (Question: What would prompt a very attractive female bartender in her mid-20s to have a dozen studs piercing her lips and eyebrows? Oh, well …)

The Lounge has thinned out considerably by the time I return and, while waiting for the Capitol Limited to board, I settle down to a couple of chapters in Paul Theroux’s latest book, Ghost Train to the Eastern Star …which I heartily recommend.

We depart on time just after 7:00 p.m. and as soon as I check in with the car attendant I proceed to the dining car where I’m seated with a history professor, recently-retired from the University of London. He arrived in Chicago earlier today aboard the Southwest Chief, coming all the way from Los Angeles. As a retirement gift to himself, he’s on a ‘round-the-world trip, taking the train wherever possible. We’re mutually delighted to discover that four days earlier he had completed the trans-Australia ride from Perth to Sydney on the Indian Pacific, the same train I’d taken in the other direction a month earlier.

Peering out the Viewliner window the next morning, I see that the train is running alongside a rushing stream with fishermen on the banks or wading in mid-stream – so many of them that I suspect this could well be the first day of the fishing season in these parts.

The rest of the morning we pass through small towns and villages, more and more with clapboard or brick houses of an design that says they’ve been around since Civil War days.

Finally, under a very low overcast and occasional spatters of rain on the windows, we trundle through the suburbs of Washington, pass within sight of the well-known monuments and come to a stop at magnificent Union Station.

NARP (National Association of Railroad Passengers) meetings begin tomorrow.


1 comment:

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