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Trip Report

The Northeast by Commuter Rail
Section 4 of 4

December 22-31, 2002


Monday, December 30, 2002 (continued)

Part 42: In Washington, yet again

I found myself once more in Washington Union Station, needing to kill time before my next train ride. I spent it in just about the same location I had been in before I had boarded Train 871 1-1/3 hours ago, in the waiting area near Gate A. Another migraine headache came while I was sitting there, but I chose not to do anything about it because I could possibly fall asleep and miss my next train. Plus I had to be semi-awake for the walk with the suitcase to the train.

My next train, MARC Train 528 was posted on the board at about 4:00, and off I went to Track 14. This time I would be riding one of MARC's bilevels, and I did not have to walk the equivalent of several blocks to board the train. I did, however, go up near the front where I felt it would be less crowded.

Part 43: Maryland Rail Commuter (MARC) Penn Line Train #528, Washington, DC to Perryville, MD

Once aboard the train, I found a seat on the lower level that had an overhead rack big enough to hold my suitcase. Then, I had to hit my next dosage of Imitrex.

The AMTRAK trains that run on the Northeast Corridor section covered by this commuter rail line are Acela Express, Acela Regional, Silver Service, and name trains the TWILIGHT SHORELINER, the CRESCENT, and the VERMONTER.

This train makes local stops up to Odenton, then runs express to Baltimore Penn Station, and then runs local again up to Perryville. The stops it skips are covered by an earlier train, 426, which terminates in Baltimore.

By the time we had reached Odenton, it was 4:53 PM. It was just about dark outside. And I'd had enough. All that travel, plus the effects of the Imitrex, were taking a toll on me. Through the train's express jog to Baltimore, I remember nothing. When I woke up, the train was in the tunnel approaching Baltimore Penn Station.

My mind was clear enough to remember that David Warner had said he might try to join me for the remainded of my MARC and AMTRAK travels up to his hometown, Wilmington. Sure enough, as the train was departing from Baltimore, David found me.

The rest of the trip up to Perryville was uneventful. I do remember it sneaking up on me quickly; I was not prepared to detrain. We had to walk back through several cars to get off the train, as only one or two doors were opened by the crew. Before the station the train had crossed over to what normally would be the southbound local track.

I went inside and was surprised to find the ticket window open. In fact, notices on the trains said that Perryville's ticket office is closed in the mornings (when it is obviously needed the most) due to a shortage of staff. With the window open, I was able to purchase a one-way ticket to Aberdeen. The trainset on which we had arrived stayed where it was, as it would turn as a revenue southbound run back to Washington. We would ride it only one stop to Aberdeen.

David showed me the wye and the freight line that begins here. This is where many freight trains that run along AMTRAK's NEC overnight enter or leave the corridor.

Soon we boarded the same trainset for the short ride to Aberdeen.

Part 44: Maryland Rail Commuter (MARC) Penn Line Train #541, Perryville, MD to Aberdeen, MD

I had allowed a 10-minute period at Aberdeen between the southbound MARC train and the northbound AMTRAK train. I figured that since we only had to go one stop from Perryville to Aberdeen, a seven-minute trip, that we would make it with no problems. If we were running very late by some chance, we could stay on the MARC train to Baltimore and catch the next AMTRAK train (188) back to Wilmington.

Well, I began to get very nervous when we did not depart from Perryville at the advertised 6:25 PM. We were apparently waiting for an AMTRAK train to pass before we could proceed. David had talked to the conductor, and found out that our intended AMTRAK Train 196 was also running late, so we were still in luck. All too soon, we arrived in Aberdeen and detrained once more.

Having never been to Aberdeen, I was headed for an overpass at the northern end of the platform. David showed me that there is a pedestrian underpass in the middle part of the platforms. We used that to get to the northbound side. The first northbound train that came did not stop; this was most likely the PALMETTO, Train 90(29). Our Train 196 was next, running about 10 minutes late.

Part 45: AMTRAK Acela Regional Train #196, Aberdeen, MD to Wilmington, DE

This train was pretty crowded. We walked back a couple of cars before finding empty seats. It was a quick ride up to Wilmington, roughly 25 minutes.

This AMTRAK trip, which was the final AMTRAK trip of the year for both David and me, was a "gap filler" since there is no commuter service between Perryville, MD and Newark, DE.

Part 46: Wilmington, DE to Newark, DE

But because we were late, I would miss the tight connection I had in Wilmington with a DART First State bus that would take me to Newark, DE. Because I was feeling lousy, I took David up on his offer to drive me out to Newark. I did not want to wait for the next bus, which would be about 40 minutes after the one I was about to miss.

David not only drove me from Wilmington to Newark, but we also went out to the SEPTA station so I would know how far the walk would be in the morning. Back at my Sleep Inn, which is the closest hotel to the train station (about 3/4 mile), I said goodbye to David and thanked him again for joining me and for the lift, which was almost clear across the width of the state of Delaware at that point.

Once settled in my room, I left to find dinner. On the drive in from I-95, I had spotted several restaurants. I walked about a mile in order to get to a Boston Market. I had a very good, and balanced, turkey dinner. Whatever weight I gained from that meal I hopefully walked off on the way back. After that walk, the walk to the train station in the morning seemed like a piece of cake.

It was not long before I was able to fall asleep for the night. I was awakened, however, by one more migraine around midnight, and quickly took care of that problem.

Tuesday, December 31, 2002

Luckily I had three ways to wake up, and none of them let me down: the hotel wake-up call, an alarm clock, and my cell phone alarm. Once again I had a 5:30 AM wake-up call, as I was determined to set out for the train station by 6:15 for my 6:52 AM SEPTA train.

I was able to have a complimentary continental breakfast in the hotel lobby before setting out for the station, exactly at the time I had planned.

The walk was not bad at all. I got there in time to see the trainset that represented my 6:52 arrive outbound at 6:25 AM.

Part 47: SEPTA R2 Wilmington-Newark Line Train #9212, Newark, DE to Philadelphia-30th Street Station, PA

I was a little surprised to find a ticket agent in the little booth near the platform; I had expected to pay on the train. I purchased from her a through ticket to Thorndale, of course via 30th Street Station. This is considerably less than buying one-way tickets for each segment.

The train on which I would be riding was not going through to another line; the "9" indicates that it runs through the three major downtown stations and then terminates at Temple University.

I was able to board the train long before departure time. It was cold outside, so the crew was nice enough to leave the train open.

This trip would cover part of AMTRAK's Northeast Corridor, from the Perryville-Newark gap to Philadelphia's 30th Street Station. The same trains listed above out of Washington also use this portion of the Northeast Corridor.

Once rolling, this train made three more stops in Delaware at Churchman's Crossing, Wilmington, and Claymont. Once into Pennsylvania, 9212 made most local stops up to Ridley Park, and then ran express to University City, followed by 30th Street Station, my final stop.

I was back at 30th Street Station, where I had originated both of the trips I had taken in these two weeks. But wait, there was one more trip to take! I had about an hour to wait before my next train, and just sat relaxing in the AMTRAK waiting room during that time. I also purchased some snacks in the book store, before walking back up the ramp to the SEPTA part of the station to continue my journey.

Part 48: SEPTA R5 Thorndale-Paoli Line Train #515, Philadelphia-30th Street Station, PA to Thorndale, PA

This run was to cover commuter service over AMTRAK's Keystone Corridor. The line also hosts the PENNSYLVANIAN and the THREE RIVERS.

I already had a fare to Thorndale from the ticket I had purchased back in Newark, Delaware. But I bought a one-way ticket from the machine at 30th Street anyhow to cover my trip back, since Thorndale has no ticket sales.

My westbound SEPTA train departed from 30th Street Station a few minutes late, but it made up all the time along the way. The many stops along the ex-Pennsylvania RR Main Line seem tedious, but all do good business in these appropriately-named Main Line suburbs. Arrival in Thorndale was on time.

The train crosses over to what is the eastbound local track before it terminates in Thorndale. Although there is a station platform on the westbound side as well, I have never seen it in use, since SEPTA does not run beyond here anymore. (Coatesville and Parkesburg had been SEPTA stations for a while.)

Thorndale's station is relatively new, having been added to SEPTA's map just a few years ago. There are many ramps for the mobility impaired, both to the parking lot and another leading under the railroad overpass (but well above the level of the street passing under the same overpass) to the other side. U.S. 30 is on the other side, with a limited number of businesses along the road. Fourteen minutes is not enough dwell time to venture beyond the station area if one wishes to catch the same train back. Soon I returned to the platform level, just as the crew was opening the train's doors for the inbound trip.

Part 49: SEPTA R5 Thorndale-Paoli Line Train #550, Thorndale, PA to Philadelphia-30th Street Station, PA

This train was now returning east to Philadelphia, and onward to Doylestown on the ex-Reading side of the system. Having achieved all of my goals with the outbound trip, a return trip by commuter rail would have been duplicative. However, I would be unable to take AMTRAK back to Philadelphia as desired, since AMTRAK's Keystone trains don't stop in Thorndale. I could take this SEPTA train one stop to Downingtown, which is an AMTRAK stop, but the wait for an AMTRAK train would have been too long. It was best that I simply return to 30th Street on the SEPTA train.

There was nothing new on this trip. The train gained passengers at each station unlike my last trip in which it lost them. We operated perfectly on time, and arrived back at Philadelphia's 30th Street Station at 11:15 AM.

Part 50: NJ TRANSIT Atlantic City Line Train #4613, Philadelphia-30th Street Station, PA to Cherry Hill, NJ

Finally, I was almost home. A quick ride on NJ TRANSIT once more brought me to Cherry Hill, NJ. I was now hungry for lunch, but waited until I could stop while I was on the way home. I had a late lunch at a KFC near the closed-for-the-season Six Flags Great Adventure, and then drove the remaining 15 minutes home.


My mission was accomplished. Over a two-week period I had ridden:

  • 6 AMTRAK trains
  • 5 MBTA commuter trains
  • 3 MBTA buses
  • 2 MBTA heavy rail lines
  • 1 Shore Line East commuter train
  • 2 Metro North commuter trains
  • 2 Long Island Railroad commuter trains
  • 5 NJ TRANSIT commuter trains
  • 4 SEPTA commuter trains
  • 3 MARC commuter trains
  • 1 WMATA Metro heavy rail line
  • 3 VRE commuter trains
  • 1 DASH bus
  • 5 taxicab rides and one ride in a private vehicle
I think I did a lot, don't you?

My 2002 end-of-year travels are complete, but of course I look forward to many more rail trips in the years to come!

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