We will be on the following Amtrak trains:
- Regional 95 from New York to Washington, DC on 7/14/05
- CAPITOL LIMITED 29 departing from Washington 7/14/05 to Chicago
- ANN RUTLEDGE 303 departing from Chicago 7/16/05 to St. Louis
- TEXAS EAGLE 21 departing from St. Louis 7/16/05 to Dallas
- TEXAS EAGLE 22 departing from Dallas 7/19/05 to Chicago
- LAKE SHORE LIMITED 48 departing Chicago 7/20/05 to New York
As for places to stay, please see my web pages for suggested hotels in both Chicago and Dallas. You will need one night in Chicago on Friday, 7/15, and two nights in Dallas on Sunday, 7/17 and Monday, 7/18. For Chicago, no matter what your criteria are for choosing the best hotel, please keep in mind that our train departs from Union Station at 8:25 AM.
For the record, Michael and I are now booked at the Cass Hotel in Chicago (same location where many of us stayed for OTOL Windy City RailFest 2003). In Dallas, we will be staying at the Hampton Inn-West End, which is located right downtown around the corner from the West End DART LRT station.
I have ordered online and received my Chicago Transit Authority Visitors Passes, which are $5 for one day. They were received in 6 days. Still, you should do this as soon as you can to avoid having them arrive after you've left home for the fest.
The Visitors Pass ($4 for one day) for Metro St. Louis can also be ordered online, although there is a slight "convenience fee" for ordering it over the internet. The 2 passes for Michael and me cost $10 total.
The only other item we need to take care of in advance is reserving a time for the Gateway Arch in St. Louis. As a group we can save money since the National Park Service (NPS) fee has a $6 maximum. If you purchase a ticket on your own, it will cost $13. The base charge is $7, plus a $3 NPS fee, plus a $3 internet fee. Right now we have ten people who will be with the group as we visit St. Louis. Each person would pay $7 for a total of $70. The NPS fee is capped at $6 for the group, plus one $3 internet fee. That brings the total to $79. Each person would therefore be paying $7.90, a considerable savings from $13.
We need to agree on the best time of day to reserve for our group to visit the Gateway Arch during our 7 hours in town. Tickets sold in person usually sell out quickly in the mornings, and we won't be in town in the morning. So we need to reserve online and get the tickets soon. I would not recommend a time within two hours of our 2:08 PM scheduled arrival, just in case the ANN RUTLEDGE is late. We also don't want to be atop the Arch when our 9:05 PM TEXAS EAGLE departure is imminent. Our Metrolink rides and dinner can be scheduled any time around the Arch visit. I would like suggestions from you as to the best time to do the Arch, which should take about one hour. One can reserve any multiple of 10 minutes after the hour. I would suggest we do it around 5:30 or 6 PM, and then have dinner afterwards as well as complete light rail riding if we haven't before the Arch. Once we agree on a time I will place the order for tickets online and let you know (based on the number of participants) how much you owe me.
The Gateway Arch is not ADA accessible. If you have a physical handicap, or if you are claustrophobic you might not be able to ride the tram ride to the top and back. Please let me know if you are going to be in St. Louis, but are either physically unable to go up to the top of the Arch, or you don't wish to.
Once again you should be finalizing your plans for everything soon. Summertime trains do fill up fast, and by virtue of our group being aboard trains like the TEXAS EAGLE, particularly the sleeper roomettes and bedrooms, are going to eventually be sold out. Already for one of my trips I was sold a roomette in a transition sleeper. ACT SOON!!