Boston "T" Party
July 19-21, 2002
Our train was a little late getting to us, a rare occurrance for the "T". This one made the local stops at Quincy Center and JFK/U-Mass. We got into South Station about 5 minutes late.
South Station was our designated breakfast stop. The other scheduled activity was to have the baggage agent hold our luggage, since we would be departing for points south (and west) later on that day. This did not work out, because the baggage area was closed. We kept on checking during the hour we were there, but it remained closed. Plan B, therefore, was to carry our suitcases with us on our travels.
We also had to say goodbye to Mike Hammond at this point. Mike's travel plans were indefinite all the way until that morning. It all came from AMTRAK annulling the Boston section of the LAKE SHORE LIMITED (Train 449) starting that day on account of CSX trackwork. A substitute bus was being operated only for those who had already reserved the train before the annullment was announced; one could not just book space on the bus. Mike had to look for alternative plans, which included taking Greyhound across from Boston to Albany and getting the LAKE SHORE LIMITED there (that would have meant also having to make his way across the Hudson since the bus terminal is in downtown Albany and the train station is in Rensselaer). Instead, Mike took Acela Regional 161 to New York City, and then the New York section of the LAKE SHORE LIMITED (Train 49) from there to Cleveland. So he had to leave in the morning to ensure he would make his connection in New York.
I also found that we were short two guys. Skip did not feel well, and was unable to join us as expected on Sunday. Also, John Rice, who was to have joined us on Sunday only from his home on Cape Cod, would have been on the commuter rail train already when we boarded in Braintree, had a family emergency and could not make it. We did meet up with Owen and Isak once more, as they were also in South Station to catch AMTRAK Acela Regional 99 back to Philadelphia. (Owen later reported that train was 45 minutes late into Philly.)
So that left just Lou, Alan, Jishnu, Michael, and me to represent the Sunday, Part C portion of the Boston "T" Party.
The five of us went down to the Red Line platform to await a train to Ashmont. We were not as lucky as we had been with the connections on Saturday. We waited a cosiderable amount of time, including intentionally letting a Braintree train pass us by. We finally took our train to Ashmont, but upon arrival we were already behind my prescribed schedule.
Part C3: Red Line M, Mattapan Trolley, Ashmont-Mattapan
We had another long wait for the trolley. On all my past excursions, there was either a trolley there to meet the rapid transit train, or there was a minimal wait. We waited close to 15 minutes for a trolley.
Along the way, Jishnu was shooting some internal photos of the trolley, and some angry man complained. Maybe the man didn't want his picture on America's Most Wanted the following weekend, but he really had no reason to complain, especially since he did not appear to be an MBTA employee.
After our 2-plus mile ride was over, we got off the trolley went to the boarding area, and waited for the same PCC car as it rounded its loop to return to Ashmont.
Parts C4 & C5: Red Line M & C, Mattapan-Ashmont-Alewife (Porter Square)
Our inbound ride was a little more crowded, as we picked up people we had seen waiting for the trolley when we passed them outbound. When we got back to Ashmont station, we had our third long wait as it took seemingly forever for a rapid transit train to come.
The next person who would be departing from our group was Alan. He had to make the 11 AM Acela Express train, in order to meet his wife in New Haven and go from there on vacation. We hoped a train would come soon so he could make his connection at South Station with ease.
Finally, our group of five was inbound on the Red Line. We found that Alan would make his train at South Station with no problem, but we would have a very tight connection on the other end of the line.
We said our goodbyes to Alan, who left the Red Line at South Station. Looking at my watch, if we continued with our plans to go to Alewife, and then turn around and head back for Porter Square, we were both risking missing the last commuter rail train of the "T" Party, and also forfeiting the "downtime" I had scheduled for Porter Square. And I really needed some "downtime", as my McDonald's breakfast was catching up with me. I decided that due to the three excrutiatingly long waits we had this morning, we would forego the Porter Square-Alewife portion of the Red Line, and just get off at Porter Square. The others had no problem with that.
On one of my scouting missions, I had found that there is a small mall called One Porter Square located across the street from the station. On the lower level are rest rooms. What I did not find out then was that the rest rooms have a dispenser on the door to gain access. OK, for a quarter or two, I would do it. Well it turned out, the machine takes tokens, not coins, and those tokens are only given by stores in the mall. Being Sunday morning, those stores were all closed. Poop out of luck.
Lou and Jishnu watched my luggage near the station as Michael and I went over to a McDonald's, where we just bought milkshakes to qualify as customers to use their bathroom.
Because of this change in plans, there was no Part C6 of the "T" Party, which would have been a return trip from Alewife to Porter Square. We were aleady there.
Part C7: Fitchburg Line Commuter Rail, Porter Square-North Station
We went down to the commuter rail platform, which is by far not as deep underground as the Red Line is. There were a few others also waiting for this inbound train.
The train was operating right on time, picking us up at 11:15 AM for our short, 11-minute run into North Station. On the way, we saw the connecting track that AMTRAK and MBTA use to get trains between the Northern Division and Southampton Yards, south of South Station.
Our time in North Station was brief, as the four of us just walked out the east doorway and across the street to the Orange Line.
Parts C8 & C9: Orange & Red Lines, North Station-Downtown Crossing-South Station
After just missing a southbound Orange Line train, we had to wait almost 15 minutes for the next one. Once aboard, Jishnu and Lou decided they would go to Harvard Square to do a little shopping before heading home. Lou was scheduled to take a later Acela Express train anyhow, so we would be saying farewell to him as well. Jishnu would return from Harvard Square in time to make the same train that Michael and I were taking, the 1:00 PM Acela Express, Train 2255.
So once we got to Downtown Crossing, Jishnu and Lou went to the westbound Red Line platform, while Michael and I went to the eastbound side. After being 14 strong just 24 hours ago, Part C9, the last little segment of this "T" Party was down to just Michael and me. We had to wait a long time for a train to take us just one stop, and probably could have walked the distance faster. But we had our luggage with us, so I did not wish to walk.
Once back at South Station, we found the up escalator was out of service, so we followed a winding hallway to find the elevator. Eventually, we were in the South Station waiting room.
Farewell and Conclusion
The Farewell Luncheon
Well, as part of our Fest, I had planned one more meal together, a "farewell luncheon" in, (guess where), South Station's food court. Perhaps we could have varied the dining locations a bit more, because even I was starting to grow sick of Sbarro's (both the ziti and the pizza), and fast food cheesburgers. Michael even opted to have his lunch on the train instead. So that left just me, myself, and I to partake of this final feast of Boston "T" Party 2002.
I wanted something different. The free samples of sweet & sour chicken I had tried in the Galleria the previous night did click with me, so I went to the Chinese stand at the food court and ordered a portion of that. What I got was a heaping helping of white rice, and much more sweet & sour chicken than I expected.
I figured, what the heck? Nobody's left dining with me, so I'll just eat on behalf of all 14 participants. And I cleaned my plate.
Jishnu came back from Harvard a while later, a few minutes before they began First Class boarding for our Acela Express. We went outside and waited on the short line until general boarding for Business Class was announced.
Our trip south on the Acela Express was right on time, including the annoying dwell in New Haven where they always seem to arrive 18 minutes early on weekends. We had Set 15, which included:
2028 Power car 3211 First Class end car 3522 Business Class 3524 Business Class we were here) 3314 Cafe 3545 Business Class 3411 Business Class end car 2007 Power car
Jishnu got off at New York's Penn Station, and easily made his 5:21 PM NJ TRANSIT Midtown Direct train home. By 5:26 PM, we had already arrived in Metropark, and were on our way back to my car for the 40-minute drive home.
Thanks to all of you who joined us to enjoy riding the rails in Boston. It was nice to see the familiar faces as well as make new friends while in town. I know that more important obligations prevented many people who would have liked to participate from doing so, but I hope you were able to virtually travel along with us through this report.
I have to say that I remain critical of the use of cellular phones in public places, particularly on trains. However, this particular weekend, they proved their worth. With people coming and going constantly, travelling there from many different places, staying in different hotels, plus the missed trains and people not able to attend, the cell phone became a critical link. It was my first rail fest with one, and it definitely won't be my last.
Putting Boston "T" Party 2002 together took a lot of work, as you might appreciate. I am happy with how things turned out. But its success would not have been possible without all of the assistance I had from Alan Burden, who helped with the printing of the route guides and putting them into the blue folders that were handed out to the adult participants. A big thank you to Alan for all of his help!!
One of the requirements at all of our rail fests is to discuss where we will meet next. July seems to be a time we can have multi-day full weekend get-togethers like this one, without the worries of kids missing school. So we decided that we would meet in Chicago in exactly one year, the third weekend of July in 2003.
In the meantime, we will be able to have that long-delayed JerseyFest, now that all elements are in place. By waiting until after the Newport-Hoboken segment of the Hudson-Bergen light rail line opens, we can include that in our day as well. So a date of Saturday, October 5, 2002 has been set.
We also might have a third AppleFest in New York City, sometime in the winter months. We had a very successful gathering this past January in the snow!
So a rail fest planner's work is never done. Once the ink dries on this report, I'll already be thinking of our next fests.