28 July 2014

The Southwest Chief

When I'm old and gray and settled down
If I ever get a chance to sneak away from town
Then I'll spend my busman's holiday
On the Atchison, Topeka and the Santa Fe

The lyrics are by Johnny Mercer and the tune by Harry Warren (who also wrote "Chattanooga Choo-choo"). Here's a film version featuring Judy Garland. There's no more Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe, alas, the closest thing we have today is Amtrak's Southwest Chief. And the AT&SF never did go to Santa Fe--directly. The terrain was too rugged and the line went through Lamy, New Mexico instead, and a spur had to be built later to accommodate the capital.

Our fall trip to Philadelphia for NoirCon 2014 will start in Los Angeles with the 2265 mile journey via rail to Chicago. Here's the route map (from Wikipedia):

Yes, that's Kansas. Hence the "Topeka" part. And the "Atchison" as well, although the Southwest Chief doesn't stop there. It crosses the Missouri River and the state line at Kansas City instead, going from KC, KS to KC, MO. The rails nick the southeast corner of Iowa and cross the Mississippi River near Fort Madison on the way to Illinois. Chicago is Amtrak's rail hub, with the Empire Builder, California Zephyr, City of New Orleans, Cardinal/Hoosier State, and Capitol Limited runs all originating or terminating in the Windy City. The Chief passes through Galesburg, Carl Sandburg's birthplace, the one who gave us:
HOG Butcher for the World,
      Tool Maker, Stacker of Wheat,
      Player with Railroads and the Nation’s Freight Handler;
      Stormy, husky, brawling,
      City of the Big Shoulders:
We'll find out. Los Angeles and Chicago are the third- and second-most populous cities in the United States. In between are desert, mountains, more desert, more mountains, and plains, lots of plains. There are scheduled stops in Flagstaff about five a.m., Albuquerque about noon, and La Junta, Colorado, about eight p.m. so the mountainous portions of the trip will be in daylight. Freight trains no longer use Raton Pass through the Sangre de Cristos and it is a National Historic Landmark. The scenery should be spectacular. I had intended to take the Zephyr, which crosses the Sierras and the Rockies, but got a better deal on the Chief. I'm looking forward to seeing the Southwest again.

p.s. WordMan™ wanted to know about "busman's holiday." The best I've come up with is from Word Detective. Taking a holiday doing what you do for a living is the basic notion of the phrase and it can be applied to someone who can't seem to put his tools down even on vacation.

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