And we’re back, with another exciting episode of — Ride that Train!
When last we met our dauntless hero, he was stuck at Union Station in downtown Dallas, complaining about the employees and waiting for the Trinity Railway Express. Now it’s almost an hour later, and he’s had to wait soda-less in a boring transit center for almost an hour. Fortunately it’s somewhat cool inside, which makes up for the lack of visual stimulation. It’s rather more exciting outside, especially if you like pigeons, but our hero has never much been into squab — and besides, it’s so hot that it’s almost as if Ming the Merciless has ignited another sun in the sky.
Okay, enough of that movie serial stuff. I’ve never pretended that these blog entries would necessarily be exciting, and our trip to Fort Worth wasn’t, particularly. It was fun, though. My purpose was to see what it was like, and how difficult it would be — and the truth is, it wasn’t difficult at all. Oh, there were some hardships, don’t get me wrong. There was no place to plug in my laptop, and the trip was mostly soda-free. How I made it I’ll never know.
Anyhow, finally we got the word that it was time to board the TRE itself, so we ventured back out to the baking outdoor station at the base of Reunion Tower.* Here was our chariot awaiting us, looking a little less gently-used than your average DART train. Note the neato-keen red-white-and-blue décor.
What I didn’t know until then and thought was way cool was that the TRE train cars have three, count ’em, three levels. Of course, we went up to the top level, where the view was better. As you can see from the picture below, the cars were less cramped and the seating was more comfortable than in a DART train. There were also the occasional tables to enjoy, if you could find one that was free (unsurprisingly, they were quite popular). What there wasn’t was a dining or vending car as I’d been promised, the bastards! Although they did have complete bathroom facilities, and a water fountain was available on each car.
Unlike DART trains, the TRE is a standard train; it uses a locomotive to move it along. The DART trains use one of those overhead electric systems, like the trolleys in New Orleans. So the ride wasn’t the smooth (if noisy) glide you get from an electric train; it was the gentle rocking typical of an ordinary train, something I’d not experienced since I took a hellish 14-hour Amtrak ride from St Louis to Dallas about ten years ago. That’s not something I want to repeat.
The ride Fort Worth, on the other hand, was uneventful and relatively short; it took only about an hour. Heck, that’s about the same time it takes to drive to Fort Worth, and you have to deal with a lot of stupid traffic and finding a parking space if you drive. As with most train rides, we got a nice tour of the local warehouse districts, highway frontages, the occasional industrial site, and a few overgrown scrublands. There are only eight stops along the TRE, including two in Dallas, two in Irving, one at DFW Airport, one in Hurst, one in Richland Hills, and two in Fort Worth. Since our intention was to travel the length of the route, we went all the way to the terminus at the old Texas and Pacific Building, where the trains use to stop in the old days. Though mostly deserted it’s an interesting old structure, but the real fascination lies in the main waiting room at the front of the building, which was lovingly restored in 1999. Even empty, it’s a beautiful place.
That’s marble on the floor, and check out those incredible chandeliers, not to mention the ceiling detail! The place is a lovely example of 1920s Zigzag Moderne architecture that I’ve going to devote a whole entry to one of these days; I got some great pictures. It’s probably a sad commentary on our times that most of the T&P Building is now being converted to expensive private loft apartments. The waiting room itself is now used for weddings and parties, for which it’s imminently suited.
Otherwise, the most noticeable thing about the T&P Building is that it’s kind of in the middle of nowhere in a warehouse district at the edge of the city. The real action is at the stop just before it, the Intermodal Transport Center. It doesn’t look like much in the below shot, but it’s where you can catch a bus to just about anywhere in Fort Worth. I’ve got plans to revisit it, one of these days when it’s cooler and I can spend a whole day or two exploring Fort Worth’s attractions.
Once we’d had all we could stand of train travel for one day, we subjected ourselves to some more of it and went on home. Our trip was nothing spectacular — just a cheap, efficient train ride that lasted from about 10 AM to 3 PM and covered about 100 miles. We could have gotten it done sooner, but we spent some time wondering around Citiplace (which I already told you about) and the West End in Dallas (which I’m mostly saving for another entry).
Here’s what I learned in the process: the Trinity Railway Express is a great way to get to from one city to another, with stops at the airport and some of the major “midcities,” as they’re called, along the way. However, unless you want to scrounge, it’s more efficient to carry along your refreshments in your backpack. You won’t be able to get anything on the train, aside from water, and the stations aren’t much better. And as for the employees at Union Station? Still butthead jerks, going and coming.
*Don’t worry, one of these days I’ll go up there and show you what it’s like.