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The Caboose

by Forrest Whitman

Ed Quillen, Yellow Slime, and our own Southwest Chief

Ed Quillen is no longer with us, but in late spring he had sent me a train report on his trip to the Pacific Northwest. He reported that the trainsets built by train manufacturer Talgo are great, and more are on order from the big shops in Wisconsin. Their tilting wheels make for a super ride around curves. He pointed out an irony in those new car orders since Wisconsin had just retained one of the most rabid anti-union governors in the country and the Milwaukee train shops are unionized.

Ed also reported that those darned yellow slow order boards (a signal designed to slow down the train) are up trackside on the good old Burlington (BNSF). “Yellow slime,” as we called it back in my railroad days, is thick from Portland to Olympia. On the bright side, the Eugene to Portland run is quite the opposite with great track there. That’s the very railroad so many in our region hate for having abandoned us – the Union Pacific (UP). Those Talgos can cruise along with nary a jolt over a well-maintained UP rail.

I haven’t ridden AMTRAK’s Southwest Chief over Raton pass in awhile, but will for a future issue. I did do some scouting around in Santa Fe recently. Rail news from there is dismal. The governor of the “land of enchantment” is not enchanted with the BNSF and has nixed the idea of helping AMTRAK keep that line open through Colorado to Santa Fe (Lamy stop) and Albuquerque.

Despite the tourist draw of the train and great rider numbers she seems to care not if the Chief gets moved east to Texas. Even more disappointing was the news that the AMTRAK funding bill just eked out in Washington contains no money to keep the Colorado-New Mexico Chief’s line open. On the bright side, the coalition fighting to save the Raton Pass route is gaining steam. Renewed your $10 membership in COLORAIL lately?

Got Gout?

Gout and steaks were the subject of one of those bar-car conversations on the CZ (California Zephyr). These conversations always start out the same. (Since 8.2 million of us have gout that’s not surprising) “Got to drink only one beer.” “The steak is great in that dining car, but I should only eat the salad.” What really happens is that you and your new gout buddies enter the dining car after about two drinks and eat the steak (AMTRAK has a really great steak on the CZ). There is a new ending to the old conversation though. Now I say, “Google ‘The Gout Killer.’” Bert Middleton of Poncha Springs is the web guru called “The Gout Killer.” He serves around 700 people on his website and it’s full of great ideas about how to avoid gout. He’ll even let you eat a steak now and again if it’s grass fed. That website makes lounge car conversations go a little better. Visit Bert here: