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Trip Report

JerseyFest 2002

October 5, 2002
Section 2 of 2


Photos by John Corbett except as noted
(Click small photos to see larger; all larger photos are less than 33K)

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At Newark Penn Station

We now had about half an hour back at Newark Penn Station, and we found that just about all of it would be needed. There were long lines for tickets, at both the ticket windows and the ticket vending machines. The latter dispenses the magnetically-coded tickets needed to access the AirTrain Newark at the Airport rail station; in fact all vending machine tickets come this way despite the fact that the magnetic coding is useless anywhere else.

The vending machines were longer than they had to be, simply because they are slow. They waste time asking you what language you want to use. Then they take forever to print the tickets themselves. A final question asks if you want to get a receipt, but by that time you just want to get out of there, so most people say "no". In retrospect, saying "yes" would have been more helpful to our group.

Those who went to the human ticket agents were told that the agents do not yet sell the coded tickets for the airport, so they would have to be sold tickets to Elizabeth (next stop down the line, same price minus the $5 airport surcharge) and then pay the surcharge at the airport station. AirTrain Newark, along with the rail station, has been open for almost an entire year (October 21, 2001), and the encoded tickets have been in use even longer. Time to get with the program!

NJ TRANSIT Train #7847, Newark Penn Station to Newark Liberty International Airport

This was a short ride on a commuter train, for the 3-minute, 2-mile trip to the airport station. The train was a Saturday-only express train that would stop at the airport, and then bypass Elizabeth, Linden, and Rahway on its way to Trenton. As is always the case, some passengers for those stations just jumped aboard, ignoring the timetables and the announcements, to find that their station was being bypassed.

The AirTrain Newark fiasco: No ride today

Upon arrival at the Newark Airport rail station, we went up into the station, which sits over the Northeast Corridor right-of-way and extends over the monorail as well. We had two transactions to complete before boarding the AirTrain. Those of us who did not purchase the magnetically encoded tickets for the airport had to pay their $5 surcharges in special machines that sold only these tickets. I also bought two of these $5 tickets for Michael, who travels on NJ TRANSIT for free on weekends.

Local NJ TRANSIT train #7236 from Long Branch to New York does station work at the Airport station In this view, northbound Acela Regional train #88 from Washington to Boston does not stop at the Airport station, while a NJT #7236 is just departing.

We then went through the turnstiles, which retained our tickets purchased either at that station or back at Newark Penn Station. On the airport side of the turnstiles we went to the NJ TRANSIT machines, which vend outbound tickets. Figuring this would save us time if we were running late for our train later, each of us bought a one-way ticket to Princeton, our next activity. The Airport-to-Princeton ticket includes the $5 airport surcharge for passing through the gates in the direction of the commuter rail station.

When we got to the bottom of the escalator leading to the AirTrain Newark platform, there was a barrier blocking most of the platform. A Port Authority attendant in a red jacket told us the AirTrain was not running, and said we should board a bus. We did not come to this station to ride a bus, and since this bus only went to the airline terminals, and we weren't, it was of no use to us.

Buildings in downtown Newark (with U.S. 22 in the foreground) as seen from the Airport rail station. Southbound Acela Regional train bound for Washington, DC passes nonstop under Airport station.

In short, we had all paid a total of ten dollars for the AirTrain round trip, and were not able to use it. Ellis complained to this attendant, who gave him a phone number in order to register a complaint. And we had little in the way of receipts to show, because we did not get them from the machines, not expecting this to happen. Our tickets were lifted either by the fare gates at the airport, or by the conductor on the train to Princeton.

Intending to make a train at 3:34 PM, we had time to go back to the platform and catch a 2:34 train, putting us one hour earlier for the rest of the day. We went back through the fare gates, down to the southbound platform, and soon boarded our local train to Princeton Junction. We had been at the Airport rail station just 18 minutes, but had collectively spent sixty bucks for nothing.

NJ TRANSIT Train #7849: Newark Liberty International Airport to Princeton Junction

A string of CSX engines running light passes under Airport station on the Northeast Corridor. A string of CSX engines running light passes under Airport station on the Northeast Corridor. NJT train #7849 arrives at Airport station. We took this train to Princeton Junction.

A bit upset but determined to complete our JerseyFest with no other letdowns, we proceeded to Princeton. Our train on the Northeast Corridor passed several AMTRAK trains, including one Acela Express. We arrived Princeton Junction on time at 3:18 PM, and then went across to the branch track to await our ride to Princeton proper.

NJ TRANSIT Train: Princeton "Dinky" Shuttle: Princeton Junction to Princeton

One-car Princeton Dinky sits on branch track at Princeton Junction next to Amtraks Northeast Corridor, preparing to make its next 4-minute journey into Princeton. This was the first time I saw the one-car train, known as the "Dinky", sitting beyond the station platform. It was practically on the mainline of the Northeast Corridor as the two-man crew (engineer and one conductor) laid over. According to the timetable, the "Dinky" can depart Princeton Junction early, if both connecting trains have arrived. I guess the northbound from Trenton, due at :25 past the hour, was a little late. We departed Princeton Junction promptly at 3:29 PM for our journey west.

The line uses a single Arrow III MU coach, running under catenary just like its much larger siblings on the other electrified lines. The trip is about two miles, and is scheduled for four minutes. The train really flies, achieving respectable speeds. About halfway through the trip, the train passes over U.S. 1. There are several grade crossings on the line, including one vehicular crossing and one pedestrian crossing that are both within the Princeton Junction parking lot complex.

At the Princeton Junction station, all passenger boarding and detraining is done from a single end door, since the curved nature of the platform makes use of the center door dangerous. At Princeton, which is on a much straighter platform, all doors are opened. The trains stop well short of a bumping post, beyond which lies evidence that this line once ran a few feet further. Today this is property of Princeton University.

We spent the expected 38 minutes in Princeton, during which time we went to the nearby Wawa and got snacks and cold drinks. Although there was a long line in there, it moved pretty quickly. Back at the Princeton station, we wanted to get a group picture, but the Princeton sign sits right over the ticket vending machines, which were quite busy.

NJ TRANSIT Train: Princeton "Dinky" Shuttle: Princeton to Princeton Junction

John Corbett elected to remain in Princeton for an extra hour, to return back to New York one hour later (on the trip we all originally would have been taking). The other five of us boarded the shuttle train once more for the "transcontinental journey" back to Princeton Junction.

At the Junction, John Sietsema walked through the tunnel with us to the station, as he had left something there when he had boarded his train to Newark earlier. We then said goodbye to him, as his car was parked there. He headed back to Maryland. While standing awaiting our northbound train, the southbound NJT Trenton-bound train came in. That was the train we would have been arriving on, had we spent the expected time at the airport.

NJ TRANSIT Train #7848: Princeton Junction to points north

Our final ride together for this Fest was our return northward. Ellis, Alan, Michael, and I sat in facing seats in the front car of this train. We chose this train because on the way south we had observed track work in the Metuchen-Metropark area necessitating bridge plates at those stations leading to Track 2. Track 1 was closed. We knew that Michael and I would only be able to get off at Metropark from one of the coaches towards the front of the train.

At Metuchen they were using a low platform (even though bridge plates were in place for high-level access). But at Metropark, Michael and I detrained using a bridge plate right to the high-level platform. Ellis and Alan continued to New York City and went their separate ways to Long Island and Queens respectively.


And another fun gathering was over. We now look forward to our next Fest in New York City in January.

Overall, JerseyFest 2002 was a success. However, we proved once again that the best laid plans don't always work out. We felt like we had been ripped off at the airport, but we're already exploring several avenues and feel confident that we will get our money back. Still, we didn't get that monorail ride.

We achieved all our other objectives. How often has anyone ridden both of NJ TRANSIT's electric light rail lines in their entirety in one day? We also got a surprisingly smooth and on-time ride on PATH, and some commuter rail travel as far as Princeton.

We had surprisingly perfect weather. Although weather reports had predicted that we would have possibly heavy rains throughout the morning, the remnants of Hurricane Lili, it was clear and sunny by the time we met in Hoboken.

Thanks to all who participated in JerseyFest 2002, and to those who wanted to come but could not, we wish you could have been there to share in the memories!

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