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Home / News & Reviews / News Wire / Getting the most from the ‘Texas Eagle’ detour NEWSWIRE

Getting the most from the ‘Texas Eagle’ detour NEWSWIRE

By Bob Johnston | June 6, 2017

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Amtrak passengers enjoy a leisurely afternoon in the Sightseer Lounge while rolling through Hearne and Palestine once home to the Texas & Pacific’s ‘Texas Eagle’ Longview-Laredo section.
Three photos, Bob Johnston
LONGVIEW, Texas – “Rare mileage” aficionados have been flocking to Texas since the last week in May to find out if that magic “tingle” occurs when an Amtrak train diverges from its regular route to roll on tracks that haven’t seen a passenger train in years.

What makes the current Texas Eagle detour unique is not only the number of days that the reroute takes place – departures from Chicago and San Antonio through June 22 will be affected – but that the westbound and eastbound trains utilize directional running along different Union Pacific lines.

The westbound Eagle runs its regular route past Longview to Big Sandy where it backs onto the former Cotton Belt, then heads west to Corsicana on tracks that last saw a passenger train in the mid-1950s.

Amtrak ‘Texas Eagle’ Revenue Manager Griff Hubbard (left) assists Longview station agent Pat Calton in unloading bags from train No. 21 on June 1. Buses board passengers for missed intermediate stops from Mineola to Temple in the distance.
At Corsicana, the train connects to what was once the Southern Pacific Texas subsidiary Texas and New Orleans’s main Dallas-Houston artery, home of the Sunbeam and Hustler, but by 1957 only the coach-only Owl operated overnight. Amtrak ran a Houston section of the Texas Eagle (through cars connecting at Dallas) between Nov. 15, 1988, and Sept. 10, 1995, on this section as far south as Hearne.

That’s where the westbound train switches to a route once used by the Laredo section of the original Texas and Pacific/Missouri Pacific Texas Eagle west to Taylor, which is on the current Amtrak route.

Eastbound, the detouring train backtracks from Taylor through Hearne directly east to Longview.

Trains News Wire planned a last-minute Chicago-San Antonio round-trip the week of May 29; here are some factors to keep in mind if you are planning to travel:

  • Bus substitution Ft. Worth-Longview on June 8. On that day only, Nos. 21 and 22 operate round-trip from San Antonio to Ft. Worth so there is no detour; a bus bridge carries passengers between Ft. Worth and Longview.
  • Sleeping car space may be difficult to book on through-car Sunset Limited connection days. Because the detour was announced long after most passengers traveling to and from points west of San Antonio ticketed their trips – mainly to the Dallas-Fort Worth area, space may appear to be sold out for various segments. For instance, heading to Chicago on June 2, no roomettes were available between Hope, Ark., and Arkadelphia, Ark. Only by piecing together three different roomettes was it possible to reserve sleeper space for the entire eastbound trip, but this is not a cost-effective option. However, there was through-roomette inventory heading west on a “San Antonio only” day.
  • Watch the schedule and be prepared to wait. After significant delays when the detour was first initiated, trains have more recently arrived at Taylor and Longview early and have had to wait for busses carrying passengers to and from stations including Ft. Worth and Dallas. Auto traffic has been congested, especially on Interstate 35 between Austin and Temple. So beginning June 6, the westbound train’s schedule has been adjusted one hour later at Taylor for all stops into San Antonio.

Although Trains News Wire readers reported significant freight interference on earlier detour trips, the only problem encountered westbound on last week’s journey was waiting for two eastbound UP freight trains west of Hearne at Gause and stopping for 30 minutes eastbound outside of Longview after the UP dispatcher chose to block the platform with a westbound Kansas City Southern freight.

No matter. In each instance the respective Eagles had to wait for buses anyway and would arrive into San Antonio and St. Louis ahead of schedule.

Baggage is unloaded at Austin, but the ‘Eagle ‘waits briefly for a connecting bus that got stuck in traffic. Train schedules were adjusted beginning June 6 to keep the train on-time into San Antonio.

6 thoughts on “Getting the most from the ‘Texas Eagle’ detour NEWSWIRE

  1. From the picture at the top of the Sightseer Lounge, the train doesn’t appear to be very well patronized.

  2. Robert McGuire, not everyone who rides a train is going to make a beeline for a lounge car …

  3. I rode the detour southbound June 5-6. We were 1-1/2 hours late into Longview, but a half hour early into Taylor (after the 1 hour-later schedule adjustment mentioned). We left Taylor on time (actually a few minutes early by my reckoning!) and were into Austin, my detraining point, early. The photo in the lounge car seems appropriate, as I hung out there on my trip with other railfans who were riding the detour as well. Mr. McGuire, there weren’t many people in the lounge on my train, either, and there is a logical reason for this: passengers terminating and boarding at six stops, including Dallas and Fort Worth, were not on the train during the detour segment but on busses. And, four days a week the train terminates at San Antonio so does not carry through passengers for points west on the “Sunset Limited.”

  4. I was going to ride the detour as I had time off. But followed the first days on the Train Tracker and never saw speeds over 25mph and a lot of 0mph’s, where they were just sitting. About 5 days later I started to see speeds of 50mph which I might have tolerated. We sure miss the train on the TRE between Dal and Ftw. And I’m just wondering how old Robert McGuire is, for the purpose of determining how many more years we will have to put up with his nonsensical comments on a forum like this. I now read NOTHING that he posts.

  5. My experience is that it’s difficult to book a bedroom of any sort on the through car from Fort Worth to Los Angeles. Amtrak needs to consider adding at least one sleeper.

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