First of all, I have scrapped (for now), the Canadian West Fest 201X. The reasons include:
- The cost of first class on the Canadian
- Calgary is not served by anything intercity except infrequent, expensive bus service.
So I decided to move Vancouver back to the Pacific Northwest (PNW) RailFest 2010. After hearing input that one day would be too rushed, I scheduled two days there, with one night's hotel stay. The Amtrak Cascades train goes up from Seattle in the morning and we would go back to Seattle the following evening.
A visit to Vancouver would be post-Olympics, which takes place in the winter 5 months before this Fest. The plus side is that improvements made for the Olympics will be in place and already in regular service. For SkyTrain Automated Light Rail, besides the existing Expo Line and Millennium Line (both primarily east of downtown), by 2010 there will also be the Canada Line which will run south to Vancouver International Airport and Richmond. Unfortunately, unless things change, the West Coast Express commuter rail line between Vancouver and Mission would be impossible due to the line's rush hour orientation to and from the city. Another project, the Evergreen Line (.pdf file), a light rail (not Automated Light Rail like the other lines) line that will connect with the West Coast Express at an intermediate station... but unfortunately it is not scheduled to open until 2011.
To make room for two days in Vancouver, I had to cut Minneapolis from the PNW Fest. We would be away too many days. The cut means that we would just ride through to Chicago the same day. However, if enough people feel that it's still worthwhile to make our 24-hour stopover off the Empire Builder as part of the return trip from Seattle, I am still open to putting it back. As it is now, for those from the east coast, this would be a 12-day span of time. With Minneapolis it would be 13 days.
The new itinerary for the PNW Fest is here.
But don't fret, we can still do Minneapolis another time. Read on.....
Now regarding Chicago.... My thought in the past was to have another Windy City RailFest 200X like we had in 2003, at least on paper. The feeling was that while we were on our way to California, the Pacific Northwest, or elsewhere, we would try to ride some lines during our layover, and then I would cut them off the potential Chicago event. Well that hasn't been happening because we have had a few tight Amtrak connections there. So what I've done is to make Chicago a destination again, but I added two side trips to other cities. Note that spending a full Sunday in Chicagoland is crucial because it is the only day of the week that allows for a reasonable layover on the UP North Line in Kenosha, WI to ride the streetcars there.
And here is where Minneapolis comes in. What I have done is to maintain all of the activities we have not yet done in the Chicago area, but I also worked in a round trip to Minneapolis on the Empire Builder, and an overnight round trip to Memphis on the City of New Orleans. Minneapolis, when approached this way, would require a two-night stay since the westbound EB gets there in the late evening and the eastbound EB leaves in the morning. But one gets a full day to do the Hiawatha LRT line, and perhaps by then there could be a Northstar commuter line and a Central LRT line to St. Paul. Ample time would be available to explore Mall of America (which is the largest mall you will ever see since we won't be laying eyes on the West Edmonton Mall for reasons already stated).
Memphis, on the other hand, would require zero nights in a hotel. The CONO gets there southbound in the early morning, and it leaves northbound late at night. Two nights would be spent aboard the train, but a very long day can be spent in town and still ride all the trolley lines. There might be time for Mud Island (or visiting Elvis if time, available transporation, and funds allow).
So the former Windy City RailFest 200X has been renamed Midwest RailFest 2012, and it will be 10 days long for those who come from the east coast. The itinerary is located here.
Therefore, where we stand now, our tentative schedule for the next 5 summers trips is as follows:
2008 - Florida (Tampa, Miami, Jacksonville)
2009 - SoCal (Los Angeles & San Diego definitely, and maybe an Albuquerque stopover, and maybe riding out to San Pedro to do the Red Cars)
2010 - Pacific Northwest (now Portland, Seattle/Tacoma, Vancouver)
2011 - Rockies (Salt Lake City, Denver)
2012 - Midwest (Minneapolis, Chicago, Memphis)
I also have in the wings the Crescent Fest (Atlanta, New Orleans, Houston), which I removed following the damage that came from Hurricane Katrina. That damage will have been rectified (save for the necessary rebuilding of the red streetcars) when the St. Charles Avenue streetcar line reopens for its entire length. Also, there is a North Carolina fest that can be returned to rotation once the CAT Lynx Blue Line opens up and the historic trolleys are restored over the same route. Before we get to all these Fests, I will qualify to live in certain retirement villages. So many trains, so little time!