Trip PHOTO Report: On the Heartland Flyer: Nothing to complain about! November 8th, 2009
Comments and PHOTOS By Russ Jackson, website editor
Round trip from Ft. Worth to Oklahoma City on the Heartland Flyer September 30 and October 2, 2009. The Ft. Worth, Texas Intermodal station is a busy place, what with Amtrak’s Texas Eagles and Heartland Flyer, the TRE commuter line between Ft. Worth and Dallas, and it’s a local bus hub. It’s also where a Subway Sandwich place has opened, and that’s where we ate before boarding the train.
. . . Northbound the departure was on the minute, with a small crowd boarding on that Wednesday night. Most of the travelers, just over 40 total for the trip, were mostly destined for OKC, but there was activity at each intermediate station. Locomotives 119 and 11 were with us along with three coaches. A friendly, efficient crew including “Miss Carol” who was working the cafe which was downstairs in the baggage section of center coach 35002. All passengers except a few boarding later were in that car. Our arrival at the classic OKC station was early! Because we didn’t know exactly how far our hotel was from the station we asked the conductor if taxis were available at the station and he offered to call to make sure. One was waiting for us.
Oklahoma City downtown is a good place to visit.
The “Bricktown Entertainment District” is within walking distance of the train station and several hotels. Many fine restaurants and places to see are there, including the Myriad Gardens botanical displays, the Ford Center where the NBA Thunder plays, and the minor league baseball park. A wheeled trolley can take you to everything.
. . . Southbound, the train with the same consist as our Northbound train two days earlier, was waiting for an on-time departure. The crowd boarding was so large departure was delayed, but through the efforts of an efficient on board crew not for long.
Baggage was stored in the compartments built into the Superliner car body next to the wheels with outside access, for passengers going the entire distance. Two large groups of ladies traveling to weekend meetings in Ft. Worth occupied one car, and the rest of us nearly filled the other two cars.
The conductor, Mr. M. Doty, (shown here on the Ardmore, OK, station platform) told this writer he had 150 on board with capacity for 210. He said in summers it runs sold out many days. Two passengers told this writer they were connecting to the eastbound Texas Eagle that afternoon.
The on time southbound Heartland Flyer roars through Justin, Texas just 30 minutes from its destination at the Ft. Worth Intermodal Center on November 3, 2009.
Again, there were several “offs” and “ons” at all intermediate stations. In daylight it was possible to see the attractive re-built stations on this route, (more photos at the end of this report).
Amtrak’s newly designed station signs (right)were at each station giving it a modern feel as well as historical.
As for food service, “Miss Carol,” was with us again. She said she had been an original employee when this train began serving the route eleven years ago. She works four days on, four days off. We ordered a turkey and swiss sandwich, with drinks and chips. Carol offered to heat the sandwich, and when we ate it we found it to be excellent despite being a “packaged” item. This return crew was very efficient, and the train arrived back in Ft. Worth timetable early. BNSF dispatching had all opposing freight trains waiting in sidings both directions.
Comment: The condition of the three coaches assigned to this train was better than we expected; it was clean! It’s unfortunate that the train consist had to be double ended, as there is no convenient wye to turn it in OKC. It seems ripe for a “cabbage” control car rather than a full powered locomotive at each end.
(Former F-40 locomotive, now “cabbage car” 229, which was the model for the locomotive on Amtrak’s coffee cups, was at the Ft. Worth station on 11/4, perhaps for use on the Heartland Flyer).
Comment: What is disappointing is despite good ridership, the important financial aspects of revenue passenger miles will haunt this train and the two states, Oklahoma and Texas, who cough up money to Amtrak to keep it running. When it is extended north to connect with the Southwest Chief at Newton, picking up Wichita as a stop, and/or south to Austin and San Antonio or to Houston to connect with the Sunset-Eagle, the financial health of the train will improve.
Below, restored Norman, OK, station which has a “volunteer host” at train times, and a restored AT&SF steam locomotive in the park adjacent to the classic AT&SF Pauls Valley, OK. station.