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September 30, 2011

Update: Back in Fort Worth. Took Amtrak from Austin, and it was on time the whole way ...

Gordontrainpic2:18 p.m. The Texas Eagle (northbound train 22) pulled into Fort Worth exactly on schedule, at 1:58 p.m. At the moment, I'm sitting in the Amtrak lobby of the Intermodal Transportation Center, filing a story and waiting for a T bus to take me to my neighborhood. I enjoyed the journey and hope you did, too. That's it for now ... -- G.

I'm on the Amtrak Texas Eagle, heading back to Fort Worth after spending the past day and a half in Austin. This morning's train left Austin on time at 9:31 a.m. (A big 'Thank you' to the nice woman who agreed to interrupt her studying and take this picture of me with my cellphone ;-))

The Eagle pulled into Temple at 11:23 a.m., and is scheduled to depart on time at 11:25 a.m.

I'm updating as I can. Wireless isn't available on the train, and the Verizon air card for my laptop works most of the time, although it likely will be spotty as the train heads north until we get to Cleburne (at about 1 p.m., if the journey stays on time).

Today's trip is getting off to a nice start. It was a different story on Wednesday, when the train left Fort Worth at 2:42 p.m., 32 minutes late -- and it took nearly EIGHT hours to get to Austin. The Eagle should have arrived in Austin at 6:30 p.m. but arrived at 10:08 instead. More than two hours of the delay was attributed to a BNSF freight train that, according to the Amtrak staff, had "come apart" on the tracks ahead. The BNSF crew apparently had some trouble putting it back together, reconnecting brakes, etc. Unlike the trains in Europe and Asia, Amtrak runs on freight lines operated by private-sector freight companies, and freight congestion is the most common reason that Amtrak trains are delayed.

I do have to say, though, that if Amtrak could lick the reliability problem (and keep the Fort Worth to Austin journey to roughly four hours), it would be a huge hit with people making short to medium-distance trips in Texas, Oklahoma and Arkansas. The fare is only $26 each way. The food is terrific. (A couple of riders described it to me as "way better than airline food.") Also, Austin and Fort Worth are particularly convenient stops because Amtrak riders disembark in downtown areas with affordable hotels. I'm told Oklahoma City is that way, too, although I haven't yet taken the Amtrak Heartland Flyer there (hope to do that trip soon). In Austin, every place I needed to be this week was within walking distance or a short taxi ride.


Here are a few snapshots I took on the train ride to Austin Wednesday afternoon, including a woman enjoying the view of southwest Fort Worth, an old locomotive on a sidetrack in Temple and sunset from the lounge car while passing through Little River-Academy:


  Amtraksunsetpic Amtrakoldtimer


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Awesome - thank you for bringing awareness to public transit in the state of Texas !!

Jerry May

Nice work, I travel a lot to the EU and MidEast, it is good to see someone take an interest in rail travel that is from Texas. I find rail travel very helpful especially in the EU, there most of the airports are connected by rail and off you go at a great low price. There is so much of Texas to see other than what is along I35 on the way to Austin or other fine places in Texas.

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