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June 2021: Travels with Kev & Amtrak News

June 2021 passed by quickly, but within those 30 days, many significant events happened. Amtrak returned many services, announced upgrades, and in my own life, I took my niece on her first cross country train.

Amtrak’s June 2021 highlights

May 1st started Amtrak’s celebration of its 50th Anniversary. There is new optimism towards Amtrak’s future and growth possibilities, including new routes!

Amtrak is painting some of its locomotives to celebrate its 50 years of moving America. These new paint jobs honor the past, those working for Amtrak, and those who continue to keep America’s Railroad running throughout the night.

Daily service has returned to all of Amtrak’s long-distance trains. The Sunset Limited and Cardinal remain three days a week as they were before the pandemic.

Many Amtrak regional trains are starting to see pre-pandemic schedules. The Hiawatha has returned to seven daily trains in each direction.

Amtrak gets new equipment

Amtrak’s new ALC-42 locomotive at night. Photo courtesy of Amtrak

I reported in August 2020 that Amtrak was in the process of order in new locomotives for its long-distance trains. In June 2021, Amtrak received the first of these locomotives, locomotive number 300.

These new Siemens ALC-42 locomotives will replace the iconic GE Genesis locomotives. The locomotives are similar to the Siemens Chargers used on many regional routes. ALC-42 stands for Amtrak Long-distance Charger 4,200 hp.

Amtrak 301
Amtrak ACL-42 Locomotive 301 in the Day One Livery. Photo courtesy of Amtrak

Rumor has it, and the second ACL-42 locomotive number 301 is built and soon will be in Amtrak’s hands. Amtrak painted locomotive 301 black to recreate Amtrak’s “Day One” locomotive.

Amtrak also announced new equipment is on the horizon; there is still equipment today from the Penn Central days. Not only will the new equipment give Amtrak a new look, but ut it will also benefit passengers, especially those with mobility issues.

Amtrak Food!

Amtrak's french toast
Amtrak’s french toast from the dining car. Photo Courtesy of Amtrak

On June 23, 2021, Amtrak brought back traditional dining on trains traveling west of the Mississippi, except for the section of the Texas Eagle between Chicago and San Antonio.

Along with onboard chef-prepared meals, Amtrak is bringing back ceramic dishes, glasses, and table cloths. Amtrak is currently using up the plastic ones until the new table wear arrives. Flowers have also been appearing on tables as well.

As of right now, traditional dining is only for sleeper car passengers. Amtrak is in the process of bringing this option back for coach passengers.

There are rumors from reliable sources that Amtrak is updating the long-distance cafe car menus soon with more “fresh” foods. This change will be a welcome change.

Changes to the Texas Eagle dining

Texas Eagle between Chicago and San Antonio will continue to use flex dining. But if you travel between San Antonio and LA, you will enjoy traditional dining from the Sunset Limited dining car.

Superliners are getting a makeover

Refreshed Sightseer Car
A view at a refreshed Amtrak Superliner Sightseer Car; this photo is courtesy of Amtrak.

Amtrak is updating the interiors of the current Superliner fleet. The updates include updated seats, updated bedding and pillows in the sleepers, and more.

The Superliner cars to be updated include the coaches, sleepers, Sightseer/cafe, and I believe the dining cars.

These cosmetic updates will take a few years to complete, so it may take a little while for you to see one on your next adventure.

Over the past few years, Amtrak has been updating and experimenting with different LED lighting to see what is the best for passengers’ experience. All of this should lead to a better travel experience.

Kev’s Personal June 2021 Updates

Aging and shots

June 2021 means I completed another journey around the sun for the (age redacted) time. The older I get, birthdays seem to come faster but are less exciting.

Besides the body getting older, it was time for my second vaccine shot. Surprisingly, taking off the bandaid hurt more than getting the vaccine. I had almost no side effects; just feeling out of it for a day.

My Travels for June 2021

Riding Omaha zoo train
Paula, Mackenzie, and I on the Omaha Zoo Train

Recently I took a short trip, my first train trip past Chicago all year. This trip had a particular reason.

Those who know me well will not be surprised to find that I returned to the great Omaha area to visit my sister and family. What made this trip memorable is I went there to bring Paula and Mackenzi home with me on the train.

I plan on writing more about this adventure soon, but here is an abridged version.

Little Mack and the Omaha Zoo

Feeding giraffes at the Omaha Zoo
Paula and Mackenzie are feeding the giraffes at the Omaha Zoo.

A visit with Little Mack is not complete without a visit to the Omaha Zoo. While I was in the greater Omaha area for two full days, one of those days included a visit to the zoo.

She had two reasons for going this time. The first being the obvious one of seeing her favorite animals and playing in the recently re-opened children’s area.

The second reason was, she wanted a new stuffed critter for her pending trip with Uncle Kevy and her mom, not just any animal but an alligator!

Mackenzi gets her “support alligator”

Mack and her alligator
Mackenzie wanted an alligator from the Omaha Zoo. Not the little alligator but the big one!

Before my visit, I would talk to Mackenzi and my sister on the phone while going for my morning walk. I would ask her what stuffed critter she wanted to bring with her on this train trip. For a couple of weeks in a row, she said an alligator.

Now she didn’t have one, so I asked her about it, and she said in a polite two-year-old way that she needed one. I let grandma know her plan, and she said that we should take her to the zoo when I visit and get her one.

Paula found the alligators and showed her a smaller gator, but Mackenzi had another idea. One quick text to grandma sealed the deal; she could get the big “gator.” How could you say no when she was that excited. Mack left the zoo with her support alligator, which was essential for her first Amtrak adventure.

Back to the rest of the zoo visit

Omaha Zoo Carousel
Mackenzie’s first time riding a critter on the Omaha Zoo Carousel

While at the zoo, Mack and I had a deal; if she rode the zoo train, I would take her on the carousel. We both held up our end of this agreement, and both had a good time. It was the first time she rode on an animal on this carousel, and she was proud of herself.

She loved the train because zoo trains are fun. The other reason was she could see a few areas were only visible from the train, like the lions that were not on display.

Mackenzie and Amtrak

As I said before, I plan on writing about Mack’s trip later, but it went well. She had a few meltdowns, mainly because she wanted to see Grandma and Papa so bad, and she still didn’t understand how traveling works.

My niece is waiting in the Omaha Amtrak Station, holding her support alligator.

The advantage of taking the train is Mackenzie could get up and walk around. If we drove, she would be in her car seat for eight or more hours.

She liked being able to walk around the train. We made a few visits to the Sightseer lounge, and on her last visit to that car, she found a friend. They played together for a while as my sister, and I watched Illinois go by.

We took Amtrak from Omaha to Chicago and Metra from Chicago to Fox Lake. This trip was not her first ride on Metra, but the first time she was old enough to enjoy it.

A week before the train, Grandma sent Mack some activities for the trip. I don’t know if the excitement of the journey was too much or they were not what she wanted, but they didn’t last as long as we thought.

Mackenzie running to Papa

She was a trooper, albeit impatient at times. But I get that way, too, at times.

Three were a few cute times, like when she pulled her suitcase to the train while wearing her backpack.

One precious moment was when she got off Metra in Fox Lake, IL, and ran to Papa. Once she was in his arms, she waved to the engineer, who tooted the horn and waved back at her.

More Zoo Visits to come!

If you follow me on the Travels with Kev Instagram or Facebook page, you know that my niece LOVES animals and trips to zoos.

While she is here, we went to the Racine and Milwaukee County Zoos. While both are smaller than her home zoo, they each offer different experiences and critters that she has not seen before.

One thing that she enjoyed at the Racine Zoo was petting the sheep; she usually pets goats. She wants to go again, and so that is always a good thing.

Thanks from Kev

Racine Zoo Mack and sheep
Mackenzie at eh Racine Zoo was excited when the sheep came out for her to pet.

I want to say thank you for following me, also to those who have asked me questions or told me about their trip that I helped.

Not every trip will be perfect, but often our attitude will reflect your memories of the trip.

Over the next few months, I plan on adding to the Riding Amtrak section of the site. I hope you will come back to find out about my adventures. If you want to keep up with my travels, join my email list below, or join the Facebook page.

Safe Travels!

Kev

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Kev

Kev has traveled over 125,000 miles on over 660 trains all around the United States aboard Amtrak. When he is not on the move, Kev enjoys making music as an organist.

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