The Sunset Limited – New Orleans to San Antonio

Distance travelled: 573 miles

Journey Duration: 15 hours

States travelled through: Louisiana, Texas


This journey is one of the longest in the US, taking 45 hours to travel between Los Angeles and New Orleans. It is also one of the least frequent long-distance trains, running just three times a week, compared to daily for most other routes. I travelled to San Antonio to visit friends and the journey time was half that of the Crescent, prompting a big ‘WOO-HOO ONLY 16 HOURS ON THE TRAIN’ reaction.

New Orleans Union station was a darling little retro building that clearly hadn’t been refurbished inside since the 1960s, but that just made it all the more attractive, to me anyway.
Having survived 30 hours on the Crescent, I thought a mere 15 hours would be a breeze. I wasn’t far wrong – after reclining back in my seat, listening to music and doing some viewing in the observation car, 8 hours passed in the blink of an eye. It was an almost fully daytime journey starting at 9am and arriving in San Antonio just past midnight the next day, so not really worth trying to sleep.
There were two cute dogs and their owners travelling in my carriage, and they used the longer station stops to get off and give them a walk around the platform and do their business. I wish I’d got pictures of them and their owners but it felt somewhat intrusive, even though I’m sure they would have obliged.
There is not a huge amount to say about this journey except that it involved large amounts of WEATHER. Having witnessed the moment a bolt of lightning took out the power in a New Orleans street, the Sunset train journey turned out to be a movie trailer for the kind of weather to come over the central plains. British people love talking about the weather and are also never happy with it. It is either too hot or too cold, there is too much snow or too much wind or something else. I have seen many a thunderstorm in the UK but it wasn’t until this trip that I realised just how ‘polite’ British weather is compared to the US. American thunderstorms are so huge and light up the whole sky – you can feel like it is about to fall down any moment. And I have never seen rain like it. If  you get caught in a torrential burst, you look like you have dived head first into a swimming pool wearing your clothes.

All I saw of Houston


Yes, those are tracks under that water


The foreboding


Sunset over the Texas countryside

The train ended up being perfectly on time into San Antonio – slightly early, in fact. As I got off the train and met my friend, I noted the high humidity of the Texan atmosphere and remember feeling surprised. Texas was all scorching hot desert and dead animal skulls, right? Apparently not – that is only a small part of the huge state. I was relieved to discover I am not the only person who has this misconception – it is part of the Wikipedia entry for Texas.

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