Wednesday, February 10, 2021

A Ride on the American European Express

Once upon a time, when the world was somewhat different, there was a luxury train that made excursions around the United States using meticulously refurbished passenger cars with exacting levels of service and designed to be occupied by wealthy sightseers. Usually a ride on such a train would be out of my reach, but 30 years ago today some friends and I were able to ride it on a two day excursion from Panama City, Florida to Chicago. This was a positioning move for American European Express from its winter home to where it would begin its new season and the company sold space to some of us at greatly reduced prices. 

The routing was via the Atlanta and St. Andrews Bay Railroad (or Bay Line) from Panama City, FL to Dothan, AL, and CSX from there to Chicago (but historically this means the Atlantic Coast Line to Montgomery, AL, the Louisville and Nashville to Evansville, IN, and the Chicago and Eastern Illinois to Chicago.) Enroute we were treated to luxurious accommodations, an open bar, and gourmet meals.

I flew into Pensacola from Pittsburgh on Friday, February 8 and was picked up some friends who had rented a one way car from (I think) Mobile to Panama City where we spent the night in a motel.

The morning of the 9th was a beautiful, sunny, day. It was also the only chance we had to take pictures of the train from outside as I don't remember being able to get off anywhere enroute. (Note: that must not be true as there were crew changes, but I have no photographic evidence of that.)

The train was due into Chicago early afternoon on February 10th meaning that I could do it only taking Friday afternoon off. Note to self: if you are ever able to go back and do life again remember that its ok to spend a little more time getting too and from one of these trips...maybe with a chance to explore the local area for instance. You never know when a pandemic is going to hit and take away your ability to travel completely.

At any rate I stupidly scheduled an early evening flight back to Pittsburgh Sunday night. I say stupidly because the train was running late enough that I was unsure I'd make my flight and had to leave the train at Yard Center in Dolton, IL where a friend gave me a ride up to O'Hare.

Here are some more pictures from the trip.

Three views of the American European Express at Panama City

Back: Dave Arthur, Mark Metz, Neil Lang, Rick Moser. Front: Dave Ingles

Same as previous picture except Chuck Weinstock replaces Neil Lang

Bill Crawford and Neil Lang

Rick Moser, Neil Lang, Dave Ingles, Chuck Weinstock

Rick Moser and Neil Lang not having a good time of it

Chuck Weinstock in the lounge car

Bill Crawford and Neil Lang

Bill Crawford, Rick Moser, Neil Lang, Dave Ingles

Additional photos below are by Neil Lang.

William Spann (on the right) who was responsible for the AEE and some of the exquisite Art Deco interior of the lounge car St Moritz

Rick Moser, Neil Lang, and Chuck Weinstock toasting the new day (February 10, 1991)

Neil Lang who writes "The AEE operation was very high-end and "proper" attire was required. Not very often would one see our group of rail travelers in suits and ties. But we would make sacrifices for the mileage:-)."

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