Memories of Amtrak: Part 3

Phoenix to Massachusetts 1999
For my third Amtrak trip, we were headed from Phoenix to Massachusetts for a summer vacation to visit family. Mom and my brother chose to go by airplane while dad and I took the train.

Boarding the Amtrak Southwest Chief in Flagstaff, July 1999

Amtrak ended train service to Phoenix in May 1996. As a result, we had to take a thruway bus to the Amtrak station in Flagstaff. The bus picked us up in a hotel parking lot off the I-17. Our train was scheduled to depart before sunrise the next morning, so dad found us a hotel in Flagstaff. We took a taxi to the station early the next morning and hopped aboard.

The route from Flagstaff to Chicago was aboard the Southwest Chief. We had a sleeper car for the first part of our journey once again. The room was nice and I enjoyed the peace and quiet of a private room versus riding in coach.

The train took us across the great plains of the midwest from Flagstaff to Chicago. I remember lots of farmland, lots of small towns, and spending lots of time in the observation car.

A couple of days later we arrived in Chicago. Amtrak has a major hub in Chicago and routes many of their trains to Chicago’s Union Station. We had a few hours’ layover so dad took me to see the Sears Tower. From the observation deck, I felt like I could see the whole world, if it hadn’t been so hazy and overcast that day.

I remember we had to rush to get back to the train in time. Chicago Union Station was a chaotic mass of people, and we made it to our train by a hair. From here we boarded the Lake Shore Limited which would take us the rest of the way to Massachusetts.

We had a stop over in Schenectady, NY where I hopped out on to the platform and took some pictures. I can’t remember where exactly we de-boaded, Boston perhaps?

Standing on the platform at the Amtrak station in Schenectady, NY

It was one of our longer stays in Massachusetts. We went to the beach in York, Maine and Mt. Washington, New Hampshire and a bunch of other places.

Coming back, dad and I stopped in my dad’s hometown of Cleveland, Ohio. We saw the house he grew up in and some of the sights around town. We saw the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame but didn’t go inside.

The train took us through Albuquerque on the way home. I remember lots of people selling Indian jewelry at the train station. I took a cool picture of downtown Albuquerque from the platform.

The high cost, the long delays, and the lengthy travel times weren’t enough to deter my dad. He took one more Amtrak trip after that by himself, and hasn’t been on one in years. Since then, he has stuck with scenic railroads and shorter trips.

Still, I have great memories of seeing America in a way that most people never get to. You don’t get to see anything aboard an airplane or even following the Interstate Highway from coast to coast. The train gives you a real sense of scale of just how big and beautiful America really is.

About the author

Trevor Freeman

Trevor Freeman is a writer, photographer, and maker who loves learning new things. His favorite food is pizza. He received a Bachelor's Degree in Business Management from Grand Canyon University. He lives and works in Phoenix.

You can follow Trevor on Twitter @TrevorFreemanAZ, on Instagram at @arizona.dreamin, and on YouTube: TheRealTrevorland.

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