Mo & Terry Smedley


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Heartland USA by Rail
June, 2005

Part VII:  Oklahoma City to Saint Louis

Tuesday morning, we returned to Fort Worth from Oklahoma City on The Heartland Flyer.  As on our trip to OKC, the train was quite full.  We had a couple of hours in Fort Worth to explore and have lunch before boarding The Texas Eagle for our overnight trip to Saint Louis.

The Texas Eagle train did not disappoint.  Its on-time performance was excellent, arriving into Saint Louis about 45 minutes ahead of schedule.  The dining car crew was superb on this train, providing a dining experience bearing no resemblance to the one we had on The Eagle from San Antonio to Fort Worth on Sunday.  Our sleeping car attendant was also top-notch, providing excellent communications and service.  This segment of our train trip exemplified why we keep riding the rails.

We arrived in Saint Louis shortly after 7 AM, walked a couple of short blocks to our hotel, and were checked in and ready to go exploring by about 8:30 AM.  We first headed to The Arch, where we took the obligatory tram trip to the top, toured the Museum of Westward Expansion (think Lewis & Clark), and watched a couple of films about the Lewis & Clark Expedition, and the building of the arch itself.  I found the construction film to be fascinating, and the theatre provided a nice air-conditioned place for Mo to have a quick nap.

It's hot here - very hot!  I don't know precisely what the maximum temperature was today, but I do know that at 7 PM tonight, it was 93 degrees.  I'm assuming it was close to 100.  it felt that hot - and sticky, too.

We walked to Laclede's Landing (a Bricktown-like area of town) for lunch, then walked through the old courthouse, and from there walked through the stifling heat to the beautifully restored Union Station for shopping and dinner.  Union Station is no longer used for railroad purposes, having been replaced by the far more utilitarian "Amshack" that I will document upon our departure tomorrow.  It has instead been turned into a multi-level shopping, dining, and entertainment complex.   The structure is enormous, and walking through it underscores the huge shift in travel patterns between the early 20th century and today.

I'm glad we finally visited Saint Louis and The Arch.  I'd guess, though, that we won't be returning to the city anytime soon.  Saint Louis has a very tough, gritty, urban feel to it that I find quite unpleasant.  It is definitely not a pedestrian-friendly town - if you're walking about, you better stay on your toes at all times!

Tomorrow, we're likely to stay sequestered in the hotel room to keep cool, then we'll walk to the train station for a mid-afternoon departure on a regional train (the Ann Rutledge), due into Chicago about 9PM tomorrow night.  We'll spend Saturday exploring Chicago, then Sunday we board the Empire Builder for our trip home to Seattle.  We learned that the Bombardier-built Superliner I cars on the Empire Builder are being refurbished, and Amtrak is attempting to put first class lounge cars into service on this train (similar to the Pacific Parlor cars on the Coast Starlight).  This seems a suitable reward for the attention that BNSF has given the on-time performance of this train.  Hopefully, we'll see the rebuilt Superliner cars on this trip.

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This shows how close our OKC hotel was to the train station.  When we got up on Tuesday, we could see our train (The Heartland Flyer) stabled at the station from our hotel room.  That's the Bricktown water tower in the distance. I thought this was an unusual way to get ready to go. In Forth Worth, we walked uptown to Sundance Square for lunch.  On the way back to the Amtrak station, we walked past the Bass Performance Hall, with these interesting sculptures.  In Sundance Square, we passed a restaurant named "Etta's Place" - remember Butch & Sundance? On our way through Dallas on The Texas Eagle, we passed Reunion Tower, which was described to us as "just like the Space Needle".  Hmmph.  The glass-walled building is the Hyatt Regency hotel - there was so much reflective glass on this building that my GPS got very confused about its location because of reflected signals.
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The Arch A telephoto view of the top of The Arch, showing the viewing windows. You can't easily tell from this picture how small the tram elevators are.  They're extremely small, and you have to duck to get in, and stay hunched over for the 4 minute trip to the top.  What you can tell from this picture is that Mo didn't enjoy the tram experience. It was a hazy day in Saint Louis today.  You can recognize Busch Stadium.  This is looking West from The Arch.  The view East across the Mississippi was almost completely obscured in haze.
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The old courthouse is shown here, along with the Arch's shadow. 630 feet from top to bottom. The viewing area at the top of the Arch. This is taken looking more or less straight down, to the docks where the tour sternwheelers are moored.
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This picture is for Dad:  This is Chief Red Cloud and his son - remember Indian Guides?  In the Museum of Westward Expansion. Barge traffic on the Mississippi River is incredibly busy - I watched an unending string of barges go by.  The river continues to be hugely important for transportation even today. It looked just like this picture shows ... The Arch seems to just disappear into the sky. Another picture for Dad - who made the stainless steel plate for The Arch?  It was all domestic steel, I know that much from the movie.
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This picture is for my brother - mmm, mmm, good. Lunch in Laclede's Landing, another funky Bricktown-like area. A sand sculpture being prepared for Fair Saint Louis this July 4th weekend. The dome of the old courthouse.  The courthouse was built over a period of years beginning in 1839.  The dome itself was built in 1860.
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This is the courthouse where the Dred Scott lawsuit was heard.  If you remember your US history, you will recall that the court decision denying this slave's right to freedom was one of the catalysts to the Civil War.  Mo is reading displays describing the Scott case. This unfortunately documents my anal retentivity - all things must be geometrically centered and balanced.  The old courthouse framed by the Arch. The interior of Saint Louis Union Station. The magnificent Grand Hall of the station is now the lobby of the Hyatt Hotel.
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Stained glass in the Grand Hall. This picture mostly exists to document that Mo was not traveling alone on this trip. Mo asked to be a kid again.  We'll see what happens tomorrow.  (Think of Tom Hanks in the movie "Big").