We finally hear the train whistle and see the train itself as it rounds the bend just before the station. The Southwest Chief slowly pulls into the station as activity on the platform starts to pick up. Conductors emerge from the trains placing down yellow stools in front of the doors. I present my ticket to the conductor of a coach class car, while he checks the passenger manifest.
"LA? Okay, head on upstairs to the front of the car. There's an open reserved seat for LA right across from two young ladies on the other side of the aisle. I believe that you'll be sitting with an older gentleman to your left."
I soon learn that the conductors know virtually everyone in their designated cars... where they're going, when they want to eat, and even where they usually hang out on the train...