50TH HIGH SCHOOL REUNION
Amtrak - Champaign to Brookhaven
We arrived in Champaign several hours before the 10:34PM departure of train #59, the City of New Orleans; and scouted out the long term parking situation, picked up our tickets, took a quick auto tour of the U of I campus, had supper, and walked around the downtown area near the station that contained quite a few sidewalk restaurants.
The Amtrak station is part of a modern, inter-modal transportation center called the Illinois Terminal. It sits across University Avenue from the former Illinois Central Railroad station, now filled with restaurants, and across a side street from the former Illinois Terminal Railroad inter-urban station, now an office building. Long term free parking is available in a well lit lot under camera surveillance on the other side of the tracks. After parking you have to walk about a block around the corner and under an overpass to get to back the station. You are required to sign a sheet at the ticket counter for long term parking. The constant automated heightened security, no smoking, and no littering announcements were annoying and seemed unnecessary
The train arrived about 20 minutes late; and boarding seemed very inefficient. Naturally, the train stopped so that the vestibule between the dining and lounge cars landed at the exit from the platform, making the those getting on and off walk the maximum distance. Even the sleeping car passengers were not allowed to board until the large number of coach passengers had detrained. They seemed to arrive in three widely separated waves from the three coaches. By the time we were allowed to board, we had to run; and even then we heard the two toots of the horn signaling departure as we reached the sleeper.
The train's consist included a single P42 engine, transition sleeper, sleeper, diner-lounge (formerly known as a cross-country-cafe, now used exclusively as a diner and crew hangout), sightseer lounge, and 3 coaches (one being a coach-baggage car).
The downstairs community luggage rack was full; so Henry, the better than average sleeping car attendant, has us put our folding bikes in the unused handicapped room.
The late evening departure didn't leave time for a night cap in the lounge. So we retired right away; and I didn't wake up until Memphis around 6:30 AM, despite the constant loud horn. The standard 2 longs, a short, and a long at each crossing seemed to be replaced by long, random blasts, sometimes as many as 20 in a row. Also, at least in Illinois, there seemed to be a relatively low volume sound, followed by a much louder, closer sounding blast, sort of like a reverse echo.
The City of New Orleans calling at Memphis. Our sleeping car was the one partially visible to the right. Normally, between the lead engine and the transition sleeper/dorm (car between the engine and ours) on a long distance train, there are a second engine and a baggage car, both lacking on the City of New Orleans. This made the engine horn seem that much louder.
We left Memphis on time after which we had our usual breakfast of veggie omelette and sausage for myself and the continental with bacon for Jeanine. We arrived early in Jackson making for a long smoke stop, since the train can't leave before its scheduled time.
Since we would arrive on time in Brookhaven at 12:16, we had our sleeping car attendant (who received a well-deserved tip) bring us a takeout lunch of veggie and angus burgers from the dining car.
Ready to roll. As the sign indicates the large former Illinois Central station is now occupied by the local Parks and Recreation Department. The actual station was a small, glass covered, bus stop style bench (not shown).First Previous Next Last
Across the street from the station was a bike shop and about that time a couple of roadies in full uniform rode by. I hoped this was an indication of what was to follow. But alas, except on the bike trails, we saw very little in the way of bicyclists or bicycle infrastructure.