Amtrak Trip Report
I had the pleasure of riding Amtrak over Memorial Day weekend. Yup that’s right – it was an enjoyable and even a PUNCTUAL experience!
In this past post I’ve discouraged Amtrak’s use, because the aggregate of delays over long cross country routes renders it unreliable for getting anywhere in a timely manner. However the short routes in the northeast or in California (Surfliner,) are a few hundred miles, (rather than a few thousand,) and are often an excellent alternative to driving.
I booked a ticket on the Pere Marquette route, which travels between Chicago and Grand Rapids Michigan.
After spending a couple days in Chicago I caught the 5:20pm train, scheduled to arrive Grand rapids at 10:20pm. It’s a four hour ride, (with an hour time change,) with a few stops including Saint Joseph and Holland. I opted for the train because I was flying back to Denver from Grand Rapids, and didn’t want to deal with renting and returning a car for the 150 mile one way trip. I could have flown, however the flight is only 50 minutes, and I would have had to arrive at the airport by 4pm, do security, plus factor in 30 minutes on the El to Midway or O’Hare.
The Amtrak station is downtown Chicago – which was a six minute cab ride from the hotel. I left my friends at 4:40, grabbed a snack and drink, and was settled in my seat at 5:05. I did not know this, but apparently Amtrak has its own police force as indicated by their “mobile command center” bus parked in the garage. Since Amtrak trains run on train tracks I’m not sure how this is beneficial.
We rolled out of Union Station at 5:20 sharp, and ambled through the south side of Chicago. The train was only three cars with no dining area, but the attendant on board sold drinks and snacks. The train was only about 40% full, so most solo travelers had to seats. I purposly set on the left side as to see Lake Michigan.
Being a Sunday night I’m assuming the freight traffic was minimal, which made for an on-time arrival. Overall this was a pleasant and enjoyable ride, and I wouldn’t hesitate to take this route again.
Here’s a nice alternative to United Airlines economy. A comfortable seat with power ports! By the way that’s the HP Mini, which replaced my Asus EEE PC a few months back.
Leaving the yard.
Crossing the Dan Ryan Expressway
Trains can offer a very voyeuristic experience. Being Sunday night of Memorial Day weekend there were plenty of barbecues and block parties on Chicago’s south side.
An old factory in Gary, Indiana. More about Gary in this post…
Some neighborhoods and towns in Southwest Michigan. Notice the small community farm awaiting spring planting!
Lake Michigan and St. Joseph.
Late evening sunset…
Below: Arriving Grand Rapids. I’ve driven by this little station countless times but have never been inside. It’s quite small and looks like a life size Lionel train set piece.
Caleb Cross, Denver, Colorado