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Trip Report

Seven Amtrak Trains in Seven Days

December 11-17, 2002
Section 3 of 3


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Saturday, December 14, 2002

I missed Memphis, TN completely, along with Newburn-Dyersburg, TN, and Carbondale, IL during the night. I believe that we called at Fulton, KY around 1:50 AM, although I never actually saw the station. I also awoke for Centralia, Effingham, and Mattoon all in Illinois. They came at 4:43 AM, 5:30 AM, and 5:55 AM respectively and were each around 33 minutes off the schedule.

I woke for good at 6:45 AM when we arrived at Champaign-Urbana, IL and performed a double spot here. At that point we were running 35 minutes late. I started to get dressed and deal with the morning rituals of shaving and such. Just as I was finishing up, the dining car steward made her first announcement at 7:00 AM for breakfast in the diner. She would make one more announcement at 7:15 telling people that the diner would need to close at 8:00 AM for our arrival into Chicago. Therefore anyone wanting to eat breakfast had 45 minutes to get ready and come to the diner.

I had of course gone to the diner immediately after the first announcement. There were already several sleeping car passengers in the diner, and in fact the steward seated me on what is typically the coach side of the diner in an effort to balance the load. About 3 or 4 minutes after I was seated, a pretty young woman returning to Chicago from college, joined me. Since she was still half asleep I had to show her where to sign her guest check, so she could order her breakfast.

A young man, also from the same college and also returning to Chicago, joined her a few minutes later. It was obvious that they were friends who were simply on the train at the same time, as they were traveling in separate rooms. They had boarded the train during the night, getting on in Memphis I believe. This was also the first time that either had traveled in a bedroom, although they apparently had used the train before in the past sitting in coach.

They both agreed that this was the way to go in the future, and I suspect that their respective parent's just saw the college bills go up. The young women was quite inquisitive when she discovered my knowledge of Amtrak and trains in general. At one point she even apologized and asked me if she was driving me nuts with all of her questions. I assured her that it was no problem and that I enjoyed talking about trains. While we were still eating Kankakee came and went at 7:43 AM, leaving us still 30 minutes behind schedule.

I of course had my usual: Railroad French toast with sausage, coffee, and OJ. While I do wish that Amtrak provided more variety like it used to for lunch and dinner, I couldn't care less what they do for breakfast as long as they've got my French Toast. Of course I also should have realized that my failure to completely finish my breakfast was a sign of the troubles to come, but at the time I didn't think anything of it.

After lingering over my cup of coffee for a few more minutes, I returned to my room to find that Marcie had already made the beds up and returned the room to its daytime configuration. I proceeded to pack up my belongings and settled into my chair for the rest of the trip into Chicago. We stopped at Homewood at 8:29 AM having lost another 15 minutes and now 45 minutes behind schedule.

Secure in the knowledge that Amtrak always allows some extra time between the endpoint station and the next to last stop, I wasn't too worried about this deficit. Besides even 45 minutes late isn't too bad for Amtrak, compared to some of the horror stories I've heard. Recently, Amtrak has been doing much better though at arriving on-time or close to it.

About 25 minutes later we passed Soldier Field and the Sears Tower came into view, both on the right side of the train. As luck would have it, the building was partially surrounded by clouds. The clouds made for a very interesting picture.

Soldier Field getting its face lift Amtrak Chicago yard, with Sears Tower as backdrop Clouds hide part of the Sears Tower in Chicago

If the City of New Orleans were able to pull straight into Chicago's Union Station we probably would have arrived on time. Instead the train enters the station by passing over the main tracks into the station, on a bridge. It then proceeds to make a backup move to reach the lower tracks leading to the station. After completing the move to the lower tracks, the train then pulls forward again to actually reach the station.

Amtrak locomotives sit outside the shop in Chicago By the time we had finished those moves, it was 9:21 AM before we stopped in the station, making us 21 minutes late. Not bad for a train that had just covered 926 miles. When we finally did come to a stop, we were on the north side of the station on one of the two run-through tracks available here at Union Station. The City of New Orleans train that I arrived on would be cleaned and become this afternoon's Empire Builder heading to Seattle, Washington and Portland, Oregon.

After giving Marcie a nice tip for her excellent service, I proceeded into the station. I immediately sought out the special luggage room for First Class/Sleeper passengers. This room is off of the south-side waiting area and is not in the Metropolitan lounge. It is free of charge to anyone riding in a sleeping car and is staffed by a Redcap during the day. I left behind my suitcases, while retaining the backpack with my computer.

Milwaukee via Hiawatha Service

I had booked unreserved tickets for a round trip to Milwaukee, as I knew that I would have my choice of two trains to take depending on exactly when I arrived into Chicago on the City of New Orleans. Since we hadn't been too late, I would be able to catch the earlier train #333 departing at 10:20 AM. So after checking my bags, I then proceeded over to Amtrak's north-side waiting area to wait for my Hiawatha train to Milwaukee.

It was also at this point that I was starting to notice a weird feeling in my stomach. My first thoughts were that either I'd had too much coffee for breakfast, or that maybe I was already starting to get hungry since I'd had such an early breakfast. However I had no time to go looking for food, so I figured that I would just wait and eat lunch in Milwaukee like I had originally planned.

They started boarding train #333 at about 10:05 AM and I headed out to the train. I could see my previous home sitting across the platform with crews working on it in preparation of its departure as the Empire Builder in just a few hours. Shortly after settling into my seat, we got the highball and left the station right on the advertised at 10:20 AM.

After crossing several diamonds (Chicago really is the land of diamonds) and dozens of switches, we finally started to pick up speed. We called at our first stop Glenview, IL at 10:45 AM making us 3 minutes late at this point. Due to track work we hit what is typically the southbound platform, instead of the normal northbound platform.

For this reason we were actually delayed here for a couple of extra minutes while the conductor opened both sides of the train to accommodate passengers who were stuck on the north bound platform. Apparently station personnel hadn't gotten the word out about the track change or people weren't paying attention to the announcements. The Milwaukee District North Line to Fox Lake, a division of Chicago's Metra also serves this stop.

Shortly after the Glenview stop a crew member pushing a small food cart came through the car. He was selling drinks, chips, candy, and other quickie snacks. I didn't however see anything that interested me. Since the entire trip is only an hour and a half, I guess that this makes more sense than an actual lounge car. It's certainly better than just letting the passengers fend for themselves. It must however, be very interesting trying to push that cart between the train cars.

We passed southbound Amtrak Hiawatha train #334 shortly before we called at Sturtevant, WI. We arrived here at 11:23 AM now 4 minutes off the mark. About 15 minutes later I could see the beginnings of the Milwaukee suburbs, including the Airport. The state has plans to add a stop here for Amtrak in the future.

The train rolled into the Milwaukee station 1 minute early at 11:48 AM, having made up the lost time and then some. I detrained and wandered into the station. There I found a local guidebook with a city map, so I decided to venture out looking for some food in hopes of quelling my stomach.

Train #333's CHI-MKE:

  174  P42 Engine
54542  Horizon Coach (not in use)
54524  Horizon Coach
54554  Horizon Coach (I sat here)
54518  Horizon Coach
54552  Horizon Coach
90221  Cab/Baggage    Non-powered 
        Control Unit (Former F40)

Downtown Milwaukee

I walked out of the station and wandered around downtown Milwaukee looking for some food that I felt might actually calm my stomach. Unfortunately there didn't seem to be much to be found other than a few diners. I didn't think that I had enough time to sit in a diner and eat with only a little more than an hour layover. Eventually I found a mall downtown, but even there I couldn't find much in the way of food the seemed to interest me.

Perhaps it was just as well that I didn't find anything, as I was to discover that it wasn't really hunger that was making me feel off. Apparently I had managed to pick up some stomach bug and I would continue to feel worse as the day progressed.

By the time that I had finished walking the mall it was now about 25 minutes until my train's departure at 1:00 PM. So I decided that I needed to start heading back to the station. It took me about 10 minutes to walk back to the station. While in the station I purchased a bag of Wheat Thins Crackers that I found in a vending machine and started nibbling on them.

That seemed to help settle my stomach some, although it didn't really stop the ill and weird feeling. Boarding started about 12:50 PM or so. I headed out to the train with the first call to settle into my seat. Once I boarded, I quickly selected my seat. Then I looked out the right side of the train to see two private cars sitting in the station. The first was the Silver Foot and the second was the Imperial Leaf.

Hiawatha Service Back To Chicago

I returned on train #336, using the same consist that had brought me to Milwaukee. This time however, we were running in push mode with engine trailing and the cab/baggage (former F40) leading. We departed right on the advertised at 1:00 PM. By this time I was quite certain that I was getting sick, as my misery was increasing. Therefore I spent a good deal of this trip simply lying down across the two seats, missing the scenery going by the window, and not paying too much attention to the ride. Since the clouds had returned today, I probably wasn't missing all that much anyhow. Plus I had seen most of the journey northbound, although it would have been nice to see out from the other side of the train.

We called at Sturtevant at 1:25 PM, one minute late. We stopped just north of Glenview waiting for both a freight train and our northbound counterpart train #335, which was apparently running late. We finally called at Glenview at 2:16 PM, now down by 15 minutes. Shortly after that we arrived back into Chicago Union Station at 2:38 PM. We had made up some of the lost time, arriving down by only 8 minutes.

Metropolitan Lounge - Chicago

Upon arrival I wandered upstairs in search of some medicine to help settle my stomach. Once I found something in the newsstand, I headed back downstairs to the Metropolitan Lounge. I checked in at the desk and found myself a couch near the bathroom on which to relax. The medicine helped to quell my stomach somewhat. Thankfully I never needed to throw up, although I did need to visit the bathroom to deal with another problem.

I continued to nibble at my crackers in an effort to put a little food in my stomach and sipped some soda. I watched passengers leave for the departures of both the California Zephyr and the Texas Eagle, after which the lounge emptied out considerably. Around 4:00 PM I was feeling a little better so I wandered over to the pay phones, setup my laptop, and proceeded to check my e-mail for the first time in almost three days.

After spending an hour or so online replying to e-mail and checking a few of my favorite train sites, I packed up and settled back into a regular chair in the lounge. By 5:00 - 5:30 the number of people checking into the lounge for the evening trains started to pick up, and the lounge started to fill up again.

I heard on my radio around 6:40 PM, a call to fumigate one of the sleepers. Apparently one of the deluxe bedrooms in car #32051 had a rather funky smell. So they came to clean the bathroom again and spray some disinfectant around in an effort to mitigate the odor.

First call in the lounge for my train, the Capitol Limited came at about 6:49 PM. This was the call for those needing Redcap service and those traveling with small children. Since my bag was locked in the separate luggage room, I needed a Redcap to retrieve it for me. Several passengers, including me, followed a Redcap over to the separate luggage room. Normally, once I get my bag out of the room, I return to the lounge and board with the rest of the passengers.

However tonight feeling like I was, I simply waited for the Redcap to retrieve all the bags for the rest of the passengers and then followed him along with 4 or 5 other passengers through the south waiting room. Just as we reached the exit from the waiting area, I heard a call on the radio saying that the train was not quite ready yet. So the gate attendant at the door held the Redcap and us at the gate for about 3 minutes.

Capitol Limited to Washington

After getting the all clear, the gate attendant checked each and everyone's tickets, even though we were all with the Redcap, before she allowed us out to the track. I walked along the train stopping every two cars to write down the consist numbers, until I reached my sleeper which was the second one in the consist.

Train 30's Consist:

   75  P42 Engine
   83  P42 Engine
 1235  Baggage
39024  Superliner II Transition 
32051  Superliner I Sleeper 
        "Capitol Reef"
32048  Superliner I Sleeper 
        "Cape Cod"
38021  Superliner I Diner
33037  Superliner II Lounge
31590  Superliner I Coach 
        ADA Super Smoker
34077  Superliner I Coach
5 MHC's and 1 Roadrailer.

There I met Edward, the attendant for my trip to DC. Edward pulled my ticket and directed me into the sleeper "Cape Cod", TSN 3001. I headed right upstairs and to my room, deluxe bedroom "C". I settled in and made myself comfortable while waiting for our departure.

Starting at around 6:58 PM I could hear everyone going thru the various radio checks to ensure that the train was ready for departure. After everyone agreed that commissary, the gate, and various other departments were cleared, we were given the go to leave. However before the engineer could actually get started, one of the conductors suddenly came over the radio saying that someone from the engineering department was still underneath the train.

Immediately our train's engineer was on the radio to the "Glass House", as the tower in Chicago is called. He was trying to figure out what happened and how they could have given him the highball if someone was still under the train. The engineer was quite upset, telling the Glass House that this is how people get badly hurt. The Glass House was of course on the radio also trying to figure out how they had gotten a go from the engineering department, if one of their guys was still under the train.

The fellow under the train piped up on his radio. While he was clearly upset that someone had taken down the blue flags with him still under the train, he stated that he was never in danger. He went on to say that he had opened the air line, so the engineer would never have been able to release the brakes and start moving with him still under the train.

All in all there was quite a bit of flack and questions flying around because of this incident. I wouldn't be surprised if someone got at least a write-up, if not something more severe for this incident. While most passengers never even knew what had almost happened, a incident like this does serve to underscore the danger of working around trains, especially if someone doesn't do their job properly.

With the worker finally clear from our train and the air line now charged up, we finally got underway at 7:07 PM, having missed our scheduled 7:00 PM departure. As we pulled out, I noticed one of the Vermonter's former baggage cars (#1800) sitting at Union Station. About two minutes later we stopped again so that the MHC's and the roadrailer could be tacked onto the rear of our train.

Thankfully this went quite smoothly and we were on our way for real by 7:22 PM. During that time Edward came by to check on me and see if I needed any help with the room. He also informed me that the call for dinner would come in about 1 hour; it was the one mistake that Edward would make.

Otherwise Edward did a very good job as a sleeping car attendant. I realize that it's not Edward's fault, it was quite obviously the crew in the diner. As you will come to see, this was the worst dining car crew I've ever encountered on an Amtrak train. While starting to serve meals in the diner one hour after departure is normal for most Amtrak trains, the crew here was sadly not inclined to try and work hard enough to open on time.

In fact I noticed all of the various dining car crewmembers walk by my bedroom several times, the chef went by at least four times in both directions. One of the waiters went by twice, the other at least once. One of the other members of the kitchen crew also walked by several times. I don't know what they were doing or why they were dragging their feet, but they certainly were in no hurry to serve their passengers.

I hadn't eaten anything since early this morning, other than those crackers. Therefore I really wanted to try to go and eat something as I felt that I needed to put something into my stomach. I still wasn't feeling all that well and the interminable delay wasn't helping. Finally at about 8:50 PM CST, I walked back to the diner to see what was going on. They still weren't serving, so I went and sat in the Sightseer Lounge to wait for the diner to open. From there I would be able to see when they opened the diner.

We stopped at South Bend, IN at 9:58 PM EST running 5 minutes down. Since the crew had not made any announcements that I had heard, South Bend also served as my notice to switch back to Eastern Standard Time.

At 10:05 PM EST or 9:05 CST fully two hours after leaving Chicago, they finally made the call for the diner's opening. I quickly walked in and sat down at a table on the sleeper end of the car. I was seated with a gentleman and a woman, both traveling alone like I was. While the waiter didn't seriously drag his feet getting to us, he was also not in any big hurry. It took about 10 minutes before we were served our dinner rolls and salads.

The waiter returned right after serving our salads to take our orders. Figuring that it was the safest thing for me to eat under the circumstances, I ordered the filet mignon and a baked potato. Well that turned out to be a big mistake. The woman ordered the fish dinner, still Catfish, although they had changed the Cajun sauce. My seatmate also ordered the filet mignon. Tonight's vegetable was once again...waxed beans.

About 15 minutes later or so, the waiter returned with our food. Despite two hours of prep time, our food was served on Styrofoam plates, instead of glass. As I normally do, I had ordered my filet to be cooked medium. My first bite quickly revealed that my meat was well done. Note that I said my meat, as not only was it not cooked to order, it wasn't a filet mignon. It was a piece of pork, which was the other choice on the menu.

I called the waiter over and told him that not only was my filet not cooked medium, but that it was also not a filet mignon. The waiter looked at it and agreed that it didn't really look medium, but he seemed confused as to how it could be pork. I then asked him to look at the gentleman sitting next to me who had also ordered the filet mignon. I said my dish doesn't look anything like what he has, it's a different texture and there is a huge difference in the thickness between the two pieces.

Both of my tablemates agreed that my piece of meat looked nothing like the other gentleman's filet. So the waiter returned to the kitchen with my food. About 5 minutes later, he came back to tell me that the chef insisted that my meat was indeed a filet mignon and that it had been cooked medium.

I said "well it sure didn't taste like a filet and since I had just had another filet on Amtrak three nights ago, I know what to expect." Additionally I said that "I consider medium to still be at least a little pink in the middle." The piece of meat that I had been served certainly did not have even the slightest hint of pink in the middle.

In fact, my so-called filet wasn't even same the brownish color of the filet the gentleman sitting next to me was eating. There is a reason that the "National Pork Board" has all those commercials billing pork as, "the other white meat." Regardless of whether you're a good cook, a bad cook, or a mediocre cook, no one can cook a filet mignon from the normal brown color to the lighter color of pork.

About 15 minutes later the waiter returned again with a new plate of food. This time the chef had at least found me a filet mignon. That however is about the only good thing at all that I can say about what I was served. My filet was now almost completely rare, with only a little brown around the edges and pure red in the center. Additionally my baked potato had now miraculously transformed itself into mashed potatoes.

At this point I was so hungry and still not feeling all that well, plus I wasn't sure what I would get if I complained again. Nor did I want to wait another 15 minutes to eat dinner. So instead I nibbled around the edges of my steak, while eating some of my potatoes and beans. By that point I was reasonably full anyhow, so it didn't really matter that the cook couldn't get anything right. I passed on dessert, in part because of how I felt and in part because they only had chocolate sauce for the cheesecake tonight. I'm not a huge fan of chocolate, even when I'm feeling good.

The gentleman left right after he finished his dinner and his dessert, I did however continue to linger at the table, talking with the lady dining with me. We talked about Amtrak and the fact that she was taking Amtrak to Florida, where she was catching a cruise ship to South America.

As it was now a little past 11:00 PM, I decided that I should return to my room and get some sleep. When I entered my room, I discovered that thankfully Edward had already made up my bed. So I brushed my teeth and settled in for the night. We called at Waterloo, IN at 11:16 now 15 minutes late.

Sunday, December 15, 2002

I woke up when we reached Toledo, OH where we left at 12:49 AM having made up a little time as we were now off the schedule by 6 minutes. I completely missed Elyria, and while I didn't record the time I awoke briefly at Cleveland. After that I was out again until we hit Pittsburgh, PA. We left Pittsburgh at 6:11 AM, now running only 1 minute behind schedule.

I then drifted back off to sleep and still feeling rather sick, would continue that pattern for most of the morning. This would be the first time in all my journeys on Amtrak that I missed breakfast while on a train. I alternated between sleep and looking out the window all morning long.

We called on Connellsville, PA at 7:59 AM down 10 minutes again. Next was Cumberland, MD at 10:30 AM, 14 minutes off the advertised. At 11:45 AM they made an announcement for lunch, telling all the passengers that since we were running almost on time, that last seating for lunch would be at 12:30 PM so they could clean for our arrival. So I got up and started getting dressed, determined to go and try to eat a little something again, simply for the sake of energy and putting something in my stomach.

Just before I left my room we pulled into Martinsburg, WV at 11:59 AM still running 14 minutes down. Less than 5 minutes out of Martinsburg, a defect detector stated that we were dragging something. So we stopped for 5 minutes while a conductor walked the train looking for it. It turned out that one of the air hoses on MHC 1450 was dragging. He did his best to re-secure it and we were on our way.

Upon entering the diner, I was seated with a couple in their 50's. They basically kept to themselves and didn't converse too much with me. Since I was still somewhat out of it, I didn't really pursue conversation too much either.

For lunch I decided that the safest thing would be the Turkey BLT. I had the same waiter from the night before, although he didn't act as though he remembered me at all. My sandwich was actually quite tasty, although I could only finish half of it. So I had the waiter wrap up the rest of the sandwich for later.

The gentleman sitting across from me however had his own run-in with the cook. His cheeseburger which he had ordered well done, was served to him quite rare. So back it went to be redone. He also mentioned that he had been disappointed the night before, when his filet was undercooked although he hadn't sent it back the night before. Oddly enough he had also ordered a baked potato with his filet the night before, and just like me when I received my second plate of food, he got mashed.

I don't know what was on this cook's mind, but he definitely wasn't cutting the mustard for Amtrak. He certainly won't be wining any awards for his cooking and service. Harpers Ferry, WV came at 12:32 PM 22 minutes behind schedule and just before I finished eating what I could of my lunch.

I returned to my room to find that Edward was still on the ball. He had apparently noticed me at lunch and therefore had proceeded to make up my room. The Capitol had certainly presented me with a very mixed crew. Edward from my somewhat limited observations, worked very hard, he was quite pleasant, and seemed to be very much on the ball. The waiter for my two meals performed adequately, but didn't really go out of his way to impress people. The kitchen crew was an absolute disaster. They couldn't seem to get anything right.

We next called at Rockville, MD at 1:18 PM having lost another minute, leaving us running 23 minutes behind the schedule. For a short period of time we ran in the same Right Of Way as the DC Metro's Red Line trains. It was also at this point I started to pack up my belongings, not that I had unpacked all that much anyhow.

Shortly after that we slowed down for our approach through the Ivy City yards, just outside Washington DC's Union Station. Thanks to padding in the schedule, we coasted to a stop in Union Station at 1:42 PM having arrived 13 minutes early. After giving Edward a nice tip, I headed for the station while stopping to record the head end of the consist that I hadn't recorded last night. Sitting at the bumper block at the end of the track we had stopped on, was Amtrak's Corridor Clipper car #10002 a track inspection car.

Washington DC

From Union Station I caught a Red Line train to Dupont Circle, where I checked into my hotel the Jurys which sits right on Dupont Circle. After resting for about a «-hour, I then headed off to work at one of my clients located on Massachusetts Avenue a block and a half away. While I won't bore you with the details, I spent about 5 hours working before returning to my room. Dinner was a can of soda and the other half of my sandwich left over from lunch.

Monday, December 16, 2002

Come Monday, I was finally feeling much better than I had for the last two days. Again this was another workday, but at least I was now eating normally again. Therefore I had a wonderful dinner in my hotel that night, even though I didn't get to ride any trains today.

Tuesday, December 17, 2002

Tuesday was also another workday, however I was scheduled to return home to NY tonight. So at 4:00 PM I started packing up my stuff in preparation to head back home. I had already checked out of the hotel that morning, so around 4:30 PM I walked back to the Red Line station at Dupont Circle for the ride back to Union Station.

It was an uneventful ride on the subway and I arrived at Union Station at 4:55 PM. I picked up my ticket from an Amtrak Quik-Trak machine and headed for the Club Acela Lounge in Union Station. After checking in, I settled into a nice chair with a glass of soda to await my train.

Acela Express 2114 to NY

They called for boarding at 5:47 PM, and since I first heard them tell the lounge over my scanner that they were ready, I was already waiting at the door. Therefore I was out the door, before he had even finished making the announcement. Acela Express trainset #17, sitting on track #18, was covering our run today.

Acela Express #2114's Consist WAS-NYP:

2022  Power Car - Head end
3412  Business Class - End car
       (Quiet car)
3551  Business Class
3312  Cafe
3518  Business Class
3539  Business Class
3212  First Class - End car
2011  Power Car - Trailing

The first class car was on the rear of the train, which thankfully made it a short walk. I quickly grabbed one of the single seats and placed my luggage in the overhead compartment. Then I settled in for the final 226 miles of my long journey.

The conductor closed the doors right at 6:00 PM, and we started to roll at 6:01 PM, one minute late. Things would only get worse from there and we would never make up that minute, much less arrive on time.˙We called at BWI at 6:23 PM, now running three minutes down. We lost two minutes here thanks to construction shortening the platform, which only allowed three cars to open. Already nursing my wine, I was served my dinner (a chicken & pasta dish) just after we left BWI.

We lost another minute in Baltimore thanks to a mistake by a Redcap. He had positioned himself at the head of the train, with a handicapped person in his golf cart. He thought that the first class (FC) car would be at the head end of the train, so we had to wait while he ran the cart down the length of the platform to the rear where the FC car was located.˙Then he still had to board the passenger and get himself off the train.

That misplaced Redcap meant that we didn't leave Baltimore until 6:38 PM, now four minutes behind schedule.˙Our ride from Baltimore to Wilmington was uneventful, however we lost another two minutes somewhere along the way, leaving there at 7:21 PM. Philadelphia was next and we would loose even more time there.

Since BWI, the conductor had been trying to get the heat back on-line in the second car (#3551). As the conductor was having no luck and a fair amount of passengers were expected to board at Philly, they arranged for a technician to board the train when we arrived at Philly. The technician spent five minutes working on the car's heating system to no avail, before he detrained.

By the time we finally departed Philadelphia at 7:48 PM, we were now 12 minutes behind schedule. We moved rapidly from Philly to just before Morrisville, PA. Morrisville is near the border of Pennsylvania and New Jersey, right across the Delaware River from Trenton. We slowed to a crawl about three miles or so out of Morrisville and even came to a brief stop for a minute.

Our engineer called in to CETC (Centralized Electrification and Traffic Control, the fancy name for the dispatch center) to find out what was going on. He was informed by CETC that a SEPTA train was having trouble with its alerter system. The alerter is part of the Positive Train Control that governs train speeds on the Northeast Corridor. This meant that he was moving at a crawl right ahead of us on the local track. We were running on the express track.

The SEPTA train however, needed to cross over from the northbound local track to the southbound local track prior to entering the station at Trenton, NJ. With the switches already set for the SEPTA train to cross over all four tracks, this prevented us from proceeding until the SEPTA train cleared all the switches. Thanks to that problem, we now doubled our lateness.

We called next at Metropark, NJ at 8:42, now 24 minutes behind the schedule. Now thanks to our being so far behind schedule, we ended up behind a NJT train, which caused us to lose another four minutes on our way to Newark, NJ. We arrived in Newark on track #1 at 8:58 PM, now down 28 minutes.

After Newark, I figured that we would have a straight shot to New York's Penn station. Wrong! For the crowning achievement on tonight's ride, they had opened the Portal Bridge over the Hackensack River for a passing boat. After closing the bridge, they failed to achieve a rail lock. Since the bridge operator couldn't confirm that the rails were properly aligned, he had to open the bridge and then close it again.

I could hear the chatter on the radio about this problem as we left the station and were crossing the Passaic River, which is right beyond Newark's Penn Station. The open bridge of course meant that we moved at a slow speed from Newark to the bridge. We finally came to a stop just shy of the bridge at 9:05 PM and sat here for another 4 minutes.

We had jumped around the NJT train at Newark and were first in line at the bridge, with the NJT train behind us. Southbound service however, was suffering far more severely than northbound service. By the time they finally achieved rail lock on the bridge and the signals had cleared, there were five southbound trains stuck behind the bridge coming from New York. This included Acela Express #2175 (the 9:00 PM departure to DC), plus four NJT trains.

After finally clearing the bridge, we had a straight shot into Penn Station with no further stops or delays. However all the fun and games along the way had cost us dearly, as we slowed to a stop at the platform on Track #12 it was 9:19 and we were fully 34 minutes behind schedule.

After quickly jotting down our arrival time, I grabbed my luggage and detrained. I slipped one of the attendants a tip for the entire crew's service, then I headed for the up escalator and the station. Despite the delays the first class crew had done a good job, and I wanted for nothing.


After reaching the concourse, I headed for the 7th Avenue Subway at 34th Street. A short one-stop ride on a #3 train deposited me at Times Square, where I transferred to a Flushing-bound #7 train. Twenty-five minutes later, I was back home and my journey was over.

I had always hoped for the best, all the while expecting that some of my trains would arrive late. However I never expected that the train that would arrive latest would be an Acela Express train. The Acela Express was one of my shorter trips and one that was completely under Amtrak's control, unlike all the rest where I was at the mercy of the freight RR's. Yet it was here on the Acela where I encountered the worst delay of all. Even then it was only a little more than half an hour late, which was not bad by comparison to some of the Amtrak horror stories that we've all heard.

After a whirlwind tour covering 3,687 miles and seven trains in seven days, I arrived early four times and was late three of the times. That's not a bad track record, especially since none of the trains was more than an hour late. The average delay for the three late arrivals was 21 minutes late, not bad at all for Amtrak. For the other four trains, I arrived an average of 15-« minutes early. Considering that three of those four early arrivals were long distance trains, I was suitably impressed.

Overall, with the exception of the dining car crew on the Capitol Limited, most of the Amtrak employees that I encountered performed their jobs admirably if not exceptionally. This speaks well for Amtrak as it hopes to increase ridership and profits.

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