Episode 8: Sunset Limited

My childhood dream was to ride the Sunset Limited. Thanks to Amtrak, I did.

Welcome to Episode 8, where we take a ride on Amtrak’s Sunset Limited.

Watching Episode 8

This episode has us riding the Sunset Limited Eastbound, leaving from Los Angeles. Watch the entire episode ad-free and available for download at archive.org. Click here to see Episode 8.

Episode 8 In Segments

If you prefer seeing it in segments, click here to see Segment One. Also see Segment 2 and Segment 3.

Episode 8 Summary

In this program, we work with idioms that have to do with railroad terminology. We also begin a journey Eastward on Amtrak’s Sunset Limited. We also describe the function of passenger rail cars.

Language Objectives

Understand non-literal expressions having to do with trains.  Recognize that idioms have a meaning distinct from their literal meanings. Use the phrase “is where passengers can..” to describe the function of an object (railroad car).

Academic Content Objectives

History: Trace the route on the Second Transcontinental Railroad in the United States.  Relate the history of the second Transcontinental Railroad and the role of the “Big Four” in it’s construction. Transportation: Trace the history of the Southern Pacific Railroad. Relate the development of the Sunset Limited Route and its impact on passenger rail transportation in the United States. Geography: Describe the geography of the western section of the Sunset Limited route (California to El Paso). Name 3 cities served by the Sunset Limited.

Learning Materials Used

Here are slides that were used in Episode 8 of Ramping Up your English. They contain the idioms connected to railroads that are commonly used in English.

If a train leaves the track, it’s not going anywhere until it’s placed back on track. We use this saying for returning to a goal or a focus.
When a train takes a siding – or is side-tracked – it’s no longer going straight to its destination. The term is used for events or actions that delays reaching a goal.
A train must be on the rails to function. When a train leaves the rails, we call that being derailed. Being derailed always stops the train. The term derailed is used when an effort to reach a goal is stopped or interrupted.
A train wreck caused a great amount of damage and injury. It qualifies as a disaster. The term is often used for a process or result that had disastrous results.
Railroad companies were notorious for using strong-arm tactic to get their way, often at the expense of others. Thus, when someone is forced away from their own interest by another party, that’s known as being railroaded.
The steam locomotive heated water to produce the power to move a train.If it ran out of steam, the train stopped moving. The term is used for a person’s energy.
These are some of the cars on a passenger train.
These are examples of the functions of two passenger train cars.

My Help in This Episode

My Father-in-law on a trip back from Louisiana aboard the Sunset Limited. It looks like we turned him into an LSU Tiger fan.
My wife and traveling companion; production assistant, creative consultant, spotter, photographer, and videographer Liz Letz

Videos Used In This Episode

Videos Used in this program:

Here’s the Sunset Limited Eastbound part one.

Here’s the Sunset Limited Eastbound part two

Closed Captioning is available on the You Tube hosted videos.

The You Tube hosted video Sunset Limited Eastbound part one

Here’s the Sunset Limited Eastbound part two.

Feel free to watch these clips as often as you desire.

Another famous Southern Pacific passenger train: the Daylight. It ran from Portland, Oregon to San Fransisco. It was timed for a full-window view of Mount Shasta.

The Sunset Limited was the first train I could name. It passed right through my hometown of Crowley, Louisiana and right at the border of my great uncle’s farm. When I was working out in the fields near the railroad, I’d give the train a big wave from the tractor I was driving. When my uncle was around during the train’s passing, he would always say, “There goes the Sunset Limited.”

Awareness of the Sunset Limited

Working on the farm during my high school years, I always thought of the Sunset Limited as being part of Southern Pacific Railroad. By then, the train from Midland to Gueydan and the Missouri Pacific branch lines had disappeared and Southern Pacificwas the only railroad in my experience.  While I was on the farm during those years, Amtrak took over passenger rail service, including that of the Sunset Limited.  However, I had no knowledge of Amtrak in those days. I just knew that the passenger train I saw from that tractor was the Sunset Limited, a name that was spoken with a certain element of awe, reminding me that I was seeing something special.

The Sunset Limited WAS special, I’m happy to feature it as a way of reinforcing our theme of Trains and Railroads.


Write 5 sentences using idioms from the slides above. Example: I was going to finish the assignment last night, but I ran out of steam.

Next Episode

I’m happy to say that we continue featuring this notable train in our next episode, Episode 9!