Bad dreams and late trains

Posted by Fred Frailey
on Wednesday, May 21, 2014

I had That Dream again last night. In That Dream, it is late in the school semester and I have not bothered attending the biology/geometry/chemistry class I had enrolled in. Now the final examination is coming up and I will not be able to answer a single question. Disaster looms. Panic and depression set in.

Then the Lake Shore Limited goes over a rough turnout, I briefly awaken, and come back to reality. I will never have to take another school test as long as I live, I tell myself. I go back to sleep.

I have a lot of these dreams. They must reveal some basic insecurity that lurks deep within me. If you know what it is, I'd just as soon you not tell me. It can remain your little psychological secret. That Dream may arise from a real experience I had in college. I had cheated my way through German I, sitting beside a fraternity brother during exams. It never occurred to me that in German II my fraternity brother would be in a different section. Before you condemn me, I want to say in my defense that the second time I took German II I worked my ass off and got an honest C. But my punishment has been to live my life with That Dream.

The real news from last night is that whilst Fred slept, the Lake Shore lost a lot of time. I didn't know this, of course, because I was busy flunking out of school. But here is how it went: 34 minutes late out of Utica (a border patrol walk-through, I suspect), 59 minutes late out of Rochester (I was flunking out of school by then), 128 minutes late out of Buffalo, and 168 minutes late out of Erie. I wake up at first light to see we are stopped in what looks like a big city, which I assume to be Toledo until I see a huge sports stadium beside the tracks and realize it must be Cleveland. My first thought is that it doesn't look good for lunch at Blackbird before I catch the Texas Eagle.

We do get to Toledo, eventually, and leave 129 minutes down. The good news is that I'm getting a good long look at northern Ohio. Northern Ohio is flat. There's not even a tiny bump. Plus it is wet, as if a heavenly water bomb has just been dropped on it. I suppose this is why we lost so much time. Someone had emailed me in New York City that we would pass a weather system.

As we skip across Ohio and enter Indiana I consult the timetable. It appears my train has about half an hour of rubber (makeup time) between South Bend and Chicago. If nothing untoward happens, that means we may get to Chicago at 11:30 a.m., which means it's party time at Blackbird before my 1:45 p.m. departure on the Texas Eagle. Of course, for that to happen means we have to run the gauntlet of Norfolk Southern freights and other Amtrak trains between Elkhart and Chicago, and never has a westbound Lake Shore Limited or Capitol Limited I was aboard managed to do that. So I go to the online Amtrak Status Map archives and do some research: How many days this month has the Lake Shore made up lost time between South Bend and Chicago, swimming against all those other trains? Did it ever miss its connection with the Texas Eagle? Will Fred have time to hustle to West Randolph Street and belly up to the bar at Blackbird? Which is flatter: northern Ohio or northern Indiana? Finally, is it true that Fred's enabler in German I was future Ford Motor Company CEO Alan Mulally? For the answers to all these questions, read my next installment. - Fred W. Frailey

To leave a comment you must be a member of our community.
Login to your account now, or register for an account to start participating.
No one has commented yet.

Join our Community!

Our community is FREE to join. To participate you must either login or register for an account.

Search the Community

Newsletter Sign-Up

By signing up you may also receive occasional reader surveys and special offers from Trains magazine.Please view our privacy policy