Amtrak Dallas to Austin
Our journey across the USA continues with a trip from Dallas to Austin by train. We usually drive when we travel in America but on this trip, we used Amtrak instead. So far, all our trains had been overnight sleepers. However, for the journey from Dallas to Austin, we took a daytime train
There was only 1 train per day. So we made out way back to the station for 11.30am, the scheduled arrival time. You will remember that the Texas Eagle arrived some 3 hours late when we traveled on it from Chicago. So we were well prepared for another delay today.
Dallas Union Station
Union Station in Dallas has no 1st class lounge so when we arrived at the station around 11 am. So we settled down in the main lounge area to await news of our train. Just as I had got my kindle out and started reading, Paul noticed a large sign saying ‘Amtrak trains this way’. So we decided we were supposed to wait somewhere else. We packed up all our stuff again and headed through the doorway and into a long passageway. However, rather than taking us to another waiting area this simply took us under the tracks and to platform 5 where the train would depart from. This is a far more relaxed approach to boarding the train than in Chicago or NY. There, passengers are rounded up and escorted about.
Platform 5 wasn’t very exciting and it had no chairs to sit on. We considered returning to the waiting lounge until nearer the scheduled arrival time of the train. However, Paul noticed a large Amtrak train approaching. Since, as I have already mentioned, there is only 1 train per day there was a very high chance that this was our train – 20 minutes early. Quite a difference to when we arrived then.
As soon as the train stopped a swarm of people exited the train. Some of these were getting off at Dallas but the majority were law-abiding smokers desperate for their fix. As we were travelling Coach this time we did not have seats assigned in advance. Amtrak has a weird system whereby they sell you a reserved seat coach ticket but they don’t tell you which seat until you are boarding the train.
The conductor scanned our tickets. Then we boarded our allocated carriage. The car attendant also gave us our seating slip. This is a small piece of paper which you put above your seat to show where you are sitting. He told us to sit anywhere we liked as the car was half empty. We found seats just behind the stairs. These have extra foot space so plenty of room for our bags. Then we settled in for the journey from Dallas to Austin by train. It’s a long trip, we left Dallas at 11.50 am and were scheduled to arrive in Austin at 6.22 pm.
Although the train was early it was not scheduled to leave Dallas until 11.50 am. So we then sat at the station and waited before departing right on time. Then, at the next stop was Fort Worth the schedule allows for an hour stop. As far as we could work out this was for refuelling. Since we were early into Fort Worth we had a long stop here. Paul had time to wander through the station and pick up some drinks and cookies at the local Subway.
So far we’re on time and looking forward to getting into Austin early like all the other stations but the Amtrak system doesn’t work like that. Amtrak doesn’t own the rails their trains uses so they are constantly at the mercy of the freight companies and lo and behold, just before our next stop we encounter 2 freight trains. These were huge great long things that take 20 minutes to go across us and put us behind schedule. From there the journey was a tale of annoying freight trains and various short delays and we rolled into Austin at 7 pm. That’s around 40 minutes late.
Still, the journey from Dallas to Austin by train in coach class was not at all bad. There is actually more foot space than the sleeper car roomettes and there is a friendly atmosphere amongst the passengers. The young girl opposite us was a keen super bowl fan and was keen to make sure we all knew we could get it on the radio.
The Super Bowl is a big deal in the USA so perhaps that’s why the train was half empty. Everyone else was watching it. The super bowl seems to go on for ages as it was still on when we got to our hotel in Austin.
Our trip from Dallas to Austin by train was complete. On arrival in Austin, I wanted to catch a bus to the hotel but Paul looked at the maps and decided it would be easier to walk. However, due to the delay, it was dark when we arrived and we only had maps to get us to the bus stop. So we had no idea which way to go first.
Of the few passengers who got off in Austin, most headed to cars in the parking lot but a couple of people were walking down a path alongside the car park so we followed them. One of them actually started to walk down the tracks so we followed the other person but very soon he nipped across the tracks and through a hole in the fence. As the path was now at an end we looked around and decided that was our only choice. We didn’t want to go back. So we crossed the tracks and through the fence.
A bit lost
Fortunately, at this point, there was only one way to go so we started walking towards what looked like the city centre. There were hardly any people about and the only street names we could see didn’t appear on our maps. As we walked along we were convinced we needed to turn right but were unable to do so because the whole area was under construction so we were forced to keep moving along in the same direction. This turned out to be a blessing because we didn’t need to go right at all.
Eventually, we came across one of those banks of bikes for hire (Boris bikes as I always call them) and they had a map. We were quite relieved to discover that we were quite near one of the roads on my map. However it was blocked by construction work so we hatched a plan to walk a bit further to the next road and turn right there.
Walking in Austin
On we went but when we came to the next junction it wasn’t the road we expected, but the one we were looking for originally. This meant that our bearings were completely wrong and so we needed to turn left not right. We were fairly sure of this but it was a bit worrying that we were so wrong that we weren’t sure whether to head that way or not. At his moment a young chap cycled up to the traffic lights. I called over to him to ask if he knew which way to the University of Texas. The hotel is on the corner of the campus Fortunately he did know and confirmed that it was left. He was surprised that we wanted to walk. It would take us 25 minutes he said but at least we knew we were going the right way.
So off we went, Austin is hilly it turns out and warm but it is generally quiet and not too scary looking at night. We kept on going until finally, we got to Martin Luther King Boulevard from where we should have been able to see the hotel. We could not. This threw me a bit but a quick look at the map showed that we were one street too far to the left so now we really did need to turn right and then we should be able to see the hotel.
At this point, we are standing at a 5 road intersection with cars whizzing by from every direction but fortunately, they do stop for a red light in Austin and we were able to scoot across. And then finally, I spotted it – a sign for the hotel. Just another couple of traffic lights to cross and we had arrived.
The AT&T hotel is huge. It’s a conference center/hotel and is all new and shiny and a very welcome sight indeed when we arrived. Our room is on the 8th floor and is very modern – the type where they give you a ‘room ipad’ for information. One thing I’ve noticed with the hotels this trip is that all the TVs are huge and this is no exception.
We had a quick look around the hotel. We found the swimming pool. This is our first hotel with a pool this trip. Although it is outside it seemed quite warm so I may give it a go. Then we headed to the Sports bar to see if we could get some food. We were a bit wary as we knew the super bowl was still on. I told you it goes on for hours – but there were only a handful of people in there watching and the rest of the bar was empty. We got a table with an uninterrupted view of the huge tv showing the game and relaxed with a few local Austin beers.
Tomorrow we have the whole day in Austin because we will board the Texas Eagle again. Hopefully on time at 6.22 pm for the slightly longer trip to Los Angeles. We have 2 nights onboard so we are in a sleeper roomette again.