The Thanksgiving travel rush is underway, and it's time to think about trains under the Christmas tree.
That's the Great Hall at Chicago Union Station. Look closely, the ornaments on the tree are emblems of the "fallen flag" railroads. You'll find Amtrak and Metra and the contemporary carriers as well.
It's Polar Express season. The full-sized Polar Express does not have a steam locomotive. Amtrak, however, are getting some additional miles out of their SPV2000 diesel multiple unit cars, which never quite lived up to expectations. They're now set up as entertainment cars.
Polar Express operations bring modifications to Amtrak's operating practices. The Hiawathas use tracks 1 or 3, on the west side of the north train shed, perhaps to hide the Polar Express boarding area from prying eyes. Passengers for Polar Express trips use a passageway provided for mail and express to the loading platform at right. The passengers walking to the concourse have just gotten off an eastbound Hiawatha on track 3.
The Sunday immediately past was not a good day for the California Zephyr. The final regional trains of the evening have not yet been reported as delayed, and some children will be getting a late night on the final Polar Express of the evening. The trains will operate until December 29.