Planet USA describes Las Vegas, New Mexico as “one of the loveliest towns in
New Mexico”: all I can say is, the “eminently strollable downtown (with its)
pretty Old Town Plaza and some 900 historic buildings” was not on the side of
town granted to the Southwest Chief. There were plenty of old houses, decrepit
and surrounded by yards of assorted rubbish: the sort of abject dwellings where
depression must be unavoidable.
giants 20, Green Bay Packers 10 – it’s half-time.”
train guards are almost universally chatty, humorous and entertaining, with
witticisms galore for every whistle-stop: “We will be stopping at La Plata (or
Lamar, or Trinidad) for five minutes only folks, so there will be time for a
few quick sucks on your smokes if you have any – I repeat five minutes only, or
this will be your last stop”…
stop folks, will be greater Galesburg, Illinois – greater Galesburg, a fine
railroad town – so if this is your last stop, come on down –and for all those
youngsters returning to school, remember, you are our future – Galesburg our
next stop in approximately five minutes folks.”
we’re back on track now, no pun intended”…
on-board railway staff could do with some Amtrak training: the difference is,
here it’s a respectable career – in Australia it’s often seen as a last-resort
A couple of
people behind me are lamenting the lack of snow this year: “I feel sorry for
the folks that need it”…The truth is, everyone has a different story, depending
on the part of the country: in New Mexico it’s either the mildest or the
coldest winter they can remember; in southern California, it’s unseasonably
warm…but everyone notices a change.
stop folks is Princeton, Illinois – that perfect little midwestern town –
Princeton, Illinois folks.” Titters roll through the carriages in
appreciation of the guard’s droll humour.
and rolling out of arid New Mexico, leaving behind its attractively-curved adobe homes, ruined pueblos and a
whole abandoned town with cars still sitting in driveways next to roofless
houses, we dissect the south-east corner
of Colorado and enter Kansas, crossing its vast plains and briefly flirting
with the square towns of Dodge City,
Topeka and Kansas City , passing giant
silos and endless car dumps before
finding ourselves in Missouri.
the mighty, half-frozen Mississippi at Fort Madison with the massive paddleboat
‘Catfish Queen’ iced to the riverbank, we sway from Iowa into Illinois, the air
looking immediately colder and the snow seeming more prevalent. Quiet towns of
white clapboard houses line the tracks, curls of smoke the only signs of life.
we run in a straight line north-east to Chicago, anticipating snowy blasts of
air, a slice of deep-dish pizza and a
cup of strong java in a warm bar to leaven the taste of its six-month winter.