It's been a while since my last update to you, and I apologize. There has been plenty to do on my plate with getting previous fest reports behind us and planning for not only Eagle RailFest but also one in Washington, DC just 5 weeks later.
Here is what has been going on as of late with the planning of our Fest:
Guest list changes
Two participants from the East Coast have had to drop out due to scheduling conflicts. We will miss having Bill A. and Skip along. We still have a good sized group making the trip. One Chicago person will join us on the St. Louis leg of the journey.
Itinerary; Sunday dinner in Dallas
No further alterations have been made to the itinerary since my last communication. The biggest uncertainty for me is Sunday, July 17th, the day we are to arrive in Dallas. The trip to the Age of Steam Museum, which necessitates a 20-minute bus trip in each direction, is very tentative, hinging on an on-time arrival on the TEXAS EAGLE, and the feelings of the group after our just-completed train journey. If the consensus is to just go to our respective hotels and rest up for our busy Monday on the rails, then that is what we will do.
Sunday's dinner, which I last slated for Fair Park near the museum, probably would be elsewhere as well, whether we get to the museum or not. After carefully studying the options at Fair Park, there really is not much around there except for a restaurant within a nearby science museum that would require us paying admission to that museum.
Despite the number of Dallas restaurants I listed on my Food page, a lot of those downtown are open only for lunch and a smaller handful for dinner. For Sunday's dinner we could go to West End Historic District, where I had also said we would eat on Monday evening. There are many restaurants there, an island of nightlife in a city where some downtown restaurants pull in their sidewalks at 2 PM. It is my intent to visit the Spaghetti Warehouse (and eat in or near the trolley car) for one of our visits to West End Historic District. Another option for Sunday could be to eat at your respective hotels.
As for the Gateway Arch, we lost two participants but then gained one. Therefore, I still have one ticket out of the ten I reserved that is not spoken for. Remember, I had to reserve this up front to ensure we would be able to visit the Arch during our brief stay in St. Louis. Ten tickets will be picked up upon our arrival at the attraction between 5:20 and 5:30 PM on Saturday, July 16th. As of Wednesday, I have received $10 from just one person.
Some of you have asked about luggage, how it can be held for us in the cities we are stopping in. Mike Hammond made some phone calls to the Amtrak stations in St. Louis and Dallas to determine what their policies are with regard to storing luggage.
St. Louis will not be a problem. They will hold our luggage for $2 a piece from our arrival on #303 to our departure on #21 that evening.
Dallas has a similar policy, however their hours are limited. For our Sunday arrival, if we decide to go to the museum we may have a problem storing our luggage at the station, since the ticket office hours end before we would be getting back to the station. If we were to just go to our hotels upon arrival, this would be a moot point. On Tuesday, the 10 AM opening time of the ticket office could set us back just one LRT departure, but we do have some leeway time built in around lunchtime and for our visit to the Reunion Tower so that the time would be made up without risking missing our TEXAS EAGLE departure.
I want to thank Mike Hammond for this very helpful information!!
Chicago Union Station does not hold luggage for non-First Class passengers, but there are lockers available (bring quarters!) that you can use after our arrivals on Friday, July 15th and Wednesday, July 20th.
Another option here is to check your luggage through. We might be able to check our luggage from Chicago to Dallas on #21, even though we are taking #303 first and then joining #21 that evening. That would save you the $2 for storage in St. Louis. Checking luggage Dallas to Chicago on #22 would save you $2 in Dallas for Tuesday 7/19, plus locker charges in Chicago on Wednesday 7/20. If you do check your luggage, the downside is that you would need to bring your toiletries and change of clothes in a smaller carry-on bag aboard the train. This bag most likely would have to be carried around with you unless you choose to store it as well.
It is conceivable that one could check luggage from Washington, DC to Dallas, however that might be too much to bring aboard two overnight trains and carry around Chicago and St. Louis. The luggage also could get to Dallas one full day before we do, on account of our overnight stopover in Chicago and daytime stopover in St. Louis.
Consider doing laundry!
One consideration in choosing a Dallas hotel, if you have not already done so or are free to change, is whether they have onsite laundry facilities. You could pack a lot lighter, and use Sunday or Monday evenings to do your laundry.
Amtrak train performance
Piotr Dzwonek has, for about a month, been tracking the performance of the long-distance trains we will be using for this journey. This has taken a lot of research and the work in plotting and color-coding each piece of data. Only time will tell whether "our" trains stick to the trends or behave differently. Thanks to Piotr for doing this! If you would like to be included on Piotr's mailing list for this information, send him a note.
Chicago activities remain very tentative
Amtrak has been having another rough summer, with seemingly everything going wrong that possibly could. Please keep in mind that the entire Chicago portion of our itinerary is based on us getting to Chicago on time or a reasonable amount of time late. If we arrive too late, then all or part of our CTA and METRA travels are subject to change or cancellation. This is especially true on Wednesday, 7/20, when we have an outbound train to catch that evening.
If anyone has any questions, suggestions, or concerns, or wants to help out in the planning of this journey, please let me know. Further updates will be forthcoming as the trip draws closer.
TWO WEEKS TO GO!
Eagle RailFest Update June 30
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