Travel Reference
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so on all the way to Emeryville, California. Usually, a crew com-
ing off duty will overnight at one of those points, then the next
day take the eastbound train back to where they started. Under
no circumstances is an engineer permitted to continue operat-
ing a train after she reaches the 12-hour limit. If a train has an
unexpected delay en route, and it appears that an operating crew
will “go dead” before reaching its scheduled crew-change stop,
Amtrak must anticipate the problem and arrange for a fresh crew
to meet the train somewhere along the route before that happens.
Engineers are intimately familiar with the track in their ter-
ritories—that is, with the stretch of track over which they oper-
ate their trains. They know that track the same way a commuter
knows the roads between home and work. They have to, and they
must take regular tests to prove it. In many cases, they also get
to know some of the people who live along their regular routes.
These folks sit in their windows or step out into their backyards
to wave as the trains go by. They frequently get a wave and a
friendly whistle toot in response.
One more little tidbit that I found interesting: unlike the air-
lines, where meals are provided for the cockpit crews, head-end
crews on Amtrak trains bring their own food in lunch pails. The
only thing they're permitted to get from the dining car is coffee.
On occasion, however, a chef will bend the rules and send up food
that would otherwise spoil and be thrown out. But the steak or half
chicken that can be used another day stays in the diner's freezer.
As with almost any job, there is a downside to being a rail-
road engineer. The first thing a visitor to the head end discov-
ers is that it's noisy up there. That fact shouldn't be surprising,
because you're sitting just a few feet from the equivalent of 4,000
horses. All that power makes quite a racket, and it's magnified
several times whenever the train enters a tunnel. Another cul-
prit is the whistle. It's blown constantly, and while the volume
can be controlled to a degree, it still ranges from loud to damn
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