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Trip Report

Metropark, NJ - Toledo, OH

January 13-16, 2002


I began my trip from Metropark station in Iselin, NJ. I boarded Northeast Direct train #184 (now Acela Regional) and rode that to New York Penn Station. Upon arriving in New York I headed over to Club Acela. The last time I was here it had been closed for renovations so I was interested in seeing what changes were made. There weren't many. Other than moving the PC's to the same room that is used to store luggage, new furniture and maybe new carpet, that was it. It was still a comfortable room though. I waited until 4:15 when they called for boarding for Train 49, the Lake Shore Limited. I have taken this train a few times before but this was the first time that they held all the coach passengers at the top of the escalator and let all the sleeping car passengers go first.

I settled in room 2 and we left on time. However we staring rolling backwards! This has happened to me before. We were obviously on the wrong track and had to backup past a switch that would put us on the right track for heading up the Hudson line for Albany. Although we left about 10 min late because of this we made up all of the time and arrived in Albany according to schedule. During the trip to Albany I enjoyed dinner in the diner. The gentleman that waited on me was one of the best I have had. He was very attentive and I did not have to wait on anything. Every table was full but there was no wait probably because Amtrak was running their post holidays, pre-summer consist. Instead of 4 coaches and 2 sleepers, we had 3 coaches and 1 sleeper.

Once we arrived in Albany we did the usual switching of locomotives and adding the Boston section (1 sleeper and I believe 1 coach) and freight cars on the end. We then proceeded to sit. The reason I believe is I think I remember that the section of track between Albany and Schenectady is single track and we were waiting for another train to traverse that section. Sure enough, after train 286 from Buffalo came in we started to roll at 8:30, 40 minutes late. The schedule states that it takes 40 min to go from Albany to Schenectady even though it is only 18 miles. There is some padding in that as we did it in 20 minutes, picking up 20 min. We continued that pace arriving in Syracuse only 15 min late. I then retired at 11 pm. I did wake up sometime after 1 am and it looked to be snowing outside. I went back to sleep waking again at 5 am to see that we were in Cleveland. This put us back on time but shortly after pulling out of Cleveland we stopped for a while during which I drifted off to sleep. I had asked the car attendant to wake me 1 hour before Toledo and so at 6:30 I heard him knocking on the door. We must have lost 30 min as our scheduled arrival was 7 am. I showered, dressed and headed to the diner for breakfast. Arrival into Toledo was at 7:30. I picked up my rental car and headed south to my destination.

I would like to give a plug to Budget Rent-a-Car in downtown Toledo (419-241-5222). They will drop off your rental car in a designated parking space and leave the keys with the station agent and pick it up upon your return. A lot of stations have this arrangement (Florence, SC is another) but the agents at the 800 number are not aware of this. Call the station direct to see if this type of service is available.

My return started out not as smooth. I finished my 2 days of working at my company's distribution center and I had arranged to meet a vendor for dinner Tuesday night to try to use up some time as train 48 is not scheduled to depart Toledo until 12:50 am. After dinner and on the way to the station I called the 800 number to get the train status (love the new voice recognition system) but "Julie" did not have any info on 48. This was not good. I asked to speak to an agent and she told me that the Lake Shore had not left Chicago as of yet due to a problem with the end-of-train device. This was at 10:30 pm (ET). Once in the station I checked with the agent who estimated 48 would be over 2 and a half hours late. I immediately asked if there were any bedrooms on the Capitol Limited. There were so I had him switch me over. I figured if 48 didn't get into Toledo until after 3 am that would mean I would have to sit in the station for 4 more hours and would not arrive in NY until 5:30 pm (or later). That would also mean I would have to fight all of the commuters in the station and also try to fit on the next Amtrak or worse yet, a NJ Transit train. I probably would not get home until after 7. By taking train 30, which was running on time for a 12:11 arrival I would leave at 12:26 and could be asleep shortly thereafter. It arrives in DC at 1:23 pm and I could take train 186, which leaves DC at 2:10 and arrives in Metropark at 5 pm allowing me to be home by 5:30. (This was a good move as 48 arrived in NYP at 5:45, 2:45 late)

Train 30 did arrive on time in Toledo. I boarded and was soon asleep. I must have been really tired as I only woke up during our stop in Cleveland (why do I always wake up in Cleveland?) and slept right through our stop in Pittsburgh. I finally did wake up at 7:30 where we were either in Pennsylvania or Maryland. I showered, dressed and went to the diner for breakfast. The waiter greeted me with a "Good Morning" and said I could have anything to drink except for coffee. It turns out that their coffee maker was not working. I went to my sleeper and got a cup from there. Breakfast was good and I had a good conversation with a lady from Chicago who was on her way to Raleigh to visit her daughter.

We were on time and kept it up, arriving in DC at 1:25. I had a quick lunch in the station and left on train 186 at 2:10. We arrived in Metropark right on time at 5 PM.

My general comments about the trip.

  • The amount of time spent switching in Albany is a problem. Because they took a longer time than normal and train 286 was 10 min late we were in Albany for 1 hour and 25 minutes. Scheduled time is 45 minutes.

  • All of my car attendants, waiters and other Amtrak employees were helpful, polite and friendly.

  • The fact that Train 48 left Chicago over 2.5 hours late because of a problem with a end-of-train device is not acceptable. I have never been on this train when it was on time into Toledo. In fact I will most likely just reserve 29 & 30 on my next trip to Toledo in June.

  • Why did train 30 leave Chicago with a broken coffee maker? Why didn't someone get coffee from the lounge instead of making the passengers scrounge for themselves? My trip cost was $581. I would think I at least deserve a cup of coffee for breakfast at that price.

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