Getting In and Out of Dodge.
Westbound out of Chicago on the Southwest Chief about a dozen years ago, I awoke on the first morning and peered out my roomette’s window to find that we had just stopped in Dodge City, Kansas. Three or four minutes later, as the train pulled out of the station, we passed a hand-painted wooden sign that said “BOOT HILL” and there it was!
As I jotted something about it in my notebook, it struck me that I could get off the Chief on a Tuesday, spend the day seeing whatever Dodge City has to offer, then get back on the train the next morning and continue on my way.
A few years later, after a Rail Passengers Association meeting, that’s exactly what I did: I stepped off Amtrak’s Train #3, the Southwest Chief and was greeted by the owner of the bed and breakfast where I had reserved a room for that night.
After a nice breakfast, the rest of the day was spent with a visit to the Boot Hill cemetery, followed by a tour of the town’s interesting museum and a reproduction of Dodge’s old Front Street.
(The hit TV show, Gunsmoke, with Sheriff Matt Dillon, was supposedly filmed in Dodge City. In fact, the show was entirely shot on a Hollywood set and, as far as I know, actor James Arness never set foot in the real Dodge City. )
Early the next morning, I was driven the short distance to the railway station by the owner of the B&B. An hour later, I was having breakfast in the Chief’s dining car and feeling very pleased with how it had all worked out.
My total rail fare had increased somewhat by splitting the overall trip into two segments, but it turned out to be the perfect way to see a small slice of authentic Americana.
Of course there must be many other, interesting small towns served by one of Amtrak’s long-distance trains where a 24-hour “power visit” would make sense. Glenwood Springs in Colorado is a stop for the California Zephyr and I could get off the Empire Builder to spend a night in Essex, Montana at the Izaak Walton Inn. If the Sunset Limited ever becomes a daly train, Alpine, Texas, is a good idea.
Other suggestions? Email me.