Leave No Station Unphotographed: The Blog of SubwayNut.com

 

A Friendly Sunset Limited to Houston, Running into a Previous Amtrak Dining Companion

I stopped for breakfast which I ate quickly and was worrying about being late. Had I already had a ticket I wouldn’t of worried so much but I didn’t see a Quick-Trak machine when it was in the station. I rushed over and arrived at 8:35. There was a long line to board but the ticket counter was empty. The line started moving, I got my ticket, got a few last photos and walked out to the platform. I manage to be assigned the last window seat in my coach car (I had forgotten the Sunset has only 2 until SAS when the eagle joins it). Sitting next to a man with his wife and kid behind. Its my first time with a seat check with the numbers pre-printed. I think boarding last if seat assignments are being given is my new strategy.

  • 9:03 – We get the usual welcome aboard announcements and we larch forward at 9:05
  • 9:25 – pass east bridge junction and rise up onto the bridge. I go to the rear of the train for photos of the wooden track bed. The last car is more empty with travelers for non major stops. It’s a very slow crossing.
  • 9:43 – descend from the trestle. I wonder back to the lounge car, a nicely newly renovated one with seat outlets.
  • 9:47 – start going through a huge intermodal freight yard. Pass Avondale and see a Tropicana Juice train and stop at the edge of the yard at 9:54.
  • 9:59 – Were moving again passing a cemetery fill of flowers I guess due to memorial day. We reenter the trees.
  • 10:10 – We speed up and go into flat marshy fields
  • 10:23 – We slow down again in Des Allemendas and cross a bayou I believe
  • 10:39 – Keep speeding through flat green farmland and trees
  • 10:49 – I’m at the back window as we arrive Schriever, I’m surprised how many passengers are
    getting on maybe 10 and like 3 off. The stop is basically in the middle of a freight yard. We go through trees a highway and swampland. The fauna is so different than up north. We pass trees and go over water features.
  • 11:30 – slowly go under highways as the dining car steward describes the menu. Lunch is first come first served, its a very slow ride. The speed is due to signal trouble with the BNSF railroad
  • 11:43 – West Gibson water tower

I am sitting in the lounge car and a familiar man, Wyming the Feng Shui master I met having dinner on the Coast Starlight. He lives in New Orleans and is going to Houston for a client traveling in the family bedroom, (the only bedroom left) paid for by the client. At noon is the first call for Lunch and I realize we’re late enough to go to lunch before the fresh air stop in Lafayette, LA. I enjoy the clam chowder and salad. Wyming let’s me have half his cheesecake (included in his sleeper fare) which is quite good and a bite of his fried chicken cutlet which I regret not ordering. We’re sitting with a mother and daughter who are quite non commutative. Its a ride through trees and sugar cane fields and we stop in New Iberia, a tiny shack of a station. I hear the announcement about the upcoming fresh air stop of Lafayette and pay my lunch bill determined to get a photo essay. We arrive at a quite crowded platform at about 1:26. I step off and go straight to the renovated into a transit center’s small waiting room in an historic depot (local buses stop at bays across from the train platform). The platform has also been renovated but is too short. The rear of the two Sleepers have stopped on grass just beyond the end of it, the front transition sleeper not even open. I watch them close the door of the front coach while the last coach is being loaded, its a long line of people with a pile of luggage. The conductors deciding its easier to load luggage last. There is a woman in a wheelchair boarding. The crew doesn’t go and grab the mobile lift out of the standard brown enclosure but just uses a little bridge plate metal ramp which is stored on the train. I re-board using the ramp because it hasn’t been removed yet. The conductors are screaming at the boarding passengers to please board the train, they will load the luggage for everyone, “We need to leave”. 
We finally leave Lafayette at 1:38. The last call for lunch in the diner is made followed by an announcement for the passengers who boarded in Lafayette to stay upstairs while they load and organize their luggage before they come downstairs to claim it.

  • 1:57 – pass Wayne 
  • 2:08 – See quite a few Crawfish ponds off to one side of the train, the view goes back to trees.
  • 2:13 – Midland, a few houses
  • 2:36 – pass Welsh with a water tower, community center and then pass its little downtown.
  • 2:46 – the conductor walks through trying to figure out who is going to Lake Charles and not in their seat, were ten minutes away. We start seeing more houses as we enter the community of Iowa home of the Yellow Jackets gaining speed. I overhear a guy coming from somewhere who had an overnight layover and ended up spending it in the Union Terminal in New Orleans

At 3:15 we stop in the middle of Lake Charles briefly and slowly go over the bridge across the lake and then slowly go over a drawbridge. We stop again at 3:20 after the bridge. We stop again because of a manually operated switch the conductor must align. We Keep moving slowly over the switch and through this town.
At 3:32 we are moving again through trees. There is a man with long hair combing it in the lounge car. Is that appropriate?

  • 3:47 – go through the small town of Sulphur. This is the second to last one in Louisiana. We regain track speed in the trees and swamps of this flat land. Is a blur of green shapes out the windows with partly cloudy skies.  
  • 3:50 – go through Vinton, the last town in Louisiana and continue through trees. Then some trackwork.
  • 3:54 – get to the swamps of Sabine Island Wildlife Management Area, the last part of Louisiana we go through. Its a swampland.
  • 3:57 – cross a bridge and according to my iPhone map of the boarder we have entered texas. Then we pass some towers that look like they are under construction. We keep crossing more swampland.
  • 4:02 – come to a stop on the outskirts of Orange, our first town in Texas. It is brief and soon we are moving again very slowly through some houses on large grassy lots of this town.   
  • 4:07 – the houses become more numerous and see Louisiana across the river we crossed earlier. 
  • 4:10 – go through the center of town. Pass some houses along the right of way as we go through down very slowly.
  • 4:14 – pass the boarded up Orange Depot and then some abandoned passenger cars. Then we go over swampland and enter West Orange as a water tower says with an empty train yard. There are some Union Pacific Track crews, we are clearly in there territory.
  • 4:23 – leave that town and regain track speed
  • 4:42 – We slowly cross another river and enter Beaumont Texas.

We arrive at Beumont, a modern shelter station at 4:46. I get off for this quick crew change stop to get a photo essay of the modern platform with green fences and just a shelter. This platform is too short. The last coach is stopped just beyond the end of the platform and a stool is awkwardly on the ballast. In that coach a wheelchair passenger wants to get off an have a smoke but the all aboard comes before he can.
As we leave Beumont, Texas at 4:59, the conductor makes far too long an announcement about attractions in Houston as a way to tell people not to leave train side. This new crew is on only until San Antonio, just one stop. He also mentions an all night Denny’s and that the train will depart on time at 2:45am. The diner than thanks the conductor for his speech and announces they are open for dinner.
We leave Beumont and reach rice and other fields.

  • 5:17 – Pass lots of little houses on the side of the railroad line
  • 5:23 – Start seeing trees again around the railroad line
  • 5:36 – Pass the historic Liberty depot as we go through this town. It’s full of trailers we cross a river and continue through. We slowly enter the suburbs of Houston as I chat with a retired railfan on a nice square trip from Tacoma, Washington mainly to Atlantaredeeming his AGR points riding in roomettes. I give out my first website card of the trip.
  • 6:25 – Come to a stop outside in front of a large container port within the Houston suburbs. The conductor makes the same announcement in brief not to miss the train leaving Houston.

We’re 15 minutes away once we get moving. Some hopper cars pass us by going the other way. I decide to return to my car as we pass small houses and I see the skyline off in the distance as we slowly approach and curve into downtown. I chat some more with the family sitting around me. We slowly enter downtown and we go under the Metrorail Streetcar and passing through downtown to the Amtrak station on the outskirts of downtown.

We arrive into Houston at 6:54pm and I get off the train and get myself a really decent photo essay of the 1960 built simple Southern Pacific Station. It is surrounded by parking lots and I am still figuring out the best way to walk there when the family I was sitting around offer me a ride in the back of their truck for the two and a half miles which I accept. Its maybe a ten minute ride to near the Museum District where the hostel is and the mother won’t stop talking about how I am in the museum district which is an extremely safe area. I finally go and check into my bed for what should be the next three nights. I have a quiet evening going to Kroger to buy a Q-Card (the Smart Card for Houston’s buses and the only way to get a free transfer) and decide to buy groceries there and cook as well. I plan to spend the evening writing but the hostel is quite social and I have a nice evening staying up late chatting with other travelers.