I spend my last 4 hours in Union Station observing the boarding of 48/448 the "Lake Shore Limited" and #30 the "Capital Limited". It appears that the boarding is a lot more organized than it was yesterday. Still, I'm glad I'm going back on "The Pennsylvanian" one last time. It is worth sitting around for a much more civilized boarding process. Time passes rather quickly, and by 11:00 PM CST, the South boarding lounge is almost empty.
I say almost, because two apparently homeless fellows have taken up a seat near the TV which is droning on with the CNN programming. I don't mind this, except I and one elderly lady appear to be the only passengers waiting for #44. One of these guys keeps looking my way in a manner that makes me feel quite uneasy. After the Chicago bus terminal experience, I seem to have acquired a 'feel' for when I'm being sized up as a crime victim. It is a disturbing feeling that usually sets off my fight/flight alarm system.
I am hoping at this point that the Amtrak Police, who hitherto for have been VERY visible all evening will again re-appear, and question these guys as to whether they are boarding trains, and either remove them from here, or let them be. I'd feel a lot better if the Amtrak police would at least find out what they were up to. But, they never appear. I decide to go to passenger services and request they come down to the South boarding lounge and check these guys out. When the officer arrives at passenger services, he begins giving ME the third degree "What seems to be the trouble?" "Why do you think these guys don't have a reason to be here?" Do YOU have a ticket????" I was quite irritated at this point. But since I need his help, I showed him my ticket, rather than argue with him. He took down my name, and requested I show him the two guys I was referring to. After leaving for another call that came up, he returned and questioned the two men. It turns out both of them had no tickets and were just hanging out. He had to call for a backup, since one of the two gave him a hard time, but finally left when backup arrived.
My point in telling this little story is twofold.
The purpose of the Amtrak Police is supposedly "To protect a nation in transit" Not harass them. I was a fare-paying passenger, and this officer seemed more than indifferent to my needs. Secondly, he acted as if he were doing me a favor by checking these two guys out. I thought that was his JOB.
I recognized him as one who chased me out of this same station almost 3 years ago, saying that EVEN THOUGH I HAD A TICKET, I could not wait there 5 hours for a train to Milwaukee. This, after arriving at 2:00 AM on the Pennsylvanian. His performance in this particular case will be the subject of a letter of complaint to the Amtrak Chief of police, as well as Amtrak passenger services.
After the two guys depart, there appears to be some action on track 14. Could this be the "Pennsylvanian"?
Usually, eastward long-haul trains leave from the tracks at the far end of the station. The usual practice is to shove the whole train, roadrailers, express trak's and all into the station. This is done to expedite the train, since if the freight equipment is not attached prior to departure; trains have to do that work at Lumber St. Although the schedules are padded to allow for this, it still is a time waster. I keep my eyes fixed on track 14, and notice some people who appear to be car inspectors giving the train the usual pre-departure going over. I also see what appears to be a conductor in that area.
I continue my vigil near gate 'D' in the South boarding lounge, and before too long, it is 12:35 AM, and the train is ready to board. I ask our Conductor where the 'rest' of our train is. He explains it will be attached at Lumber St.
I ask where Business class is, and the conductor says it's back in the rear of the Café car, which ironically is the very same car I rode out to Cleveland on last Sunday. The conductor says I can sit there if I want, but that the lights stay on all night there, while, in coach, the lights will be dimmed after we leave Chicago. So, I opt for the coach for now, since the conductor says I can go back later if I choose.
We depart promptly at 1:00 AM CST, and stop just outside the station at Lumber St. to attach the express and roadrailers. I'm not sure that the -2 degree temperature has anything to do with it, but our rear-end device just refuses to 'arm' and we are delayed for 10 minutes or so while the yard crew finds a working replacement. Below is our consist:
25058 Coach Amfleet II
25025 Coach Amfleet II
(I was here CHI-PGH)
20254 Amfleet I Concept II
(I was here PGH-HAR)
71193 AMTK (Express)
460025 AMTZ (Roadrailer)
2 couplermates, 0 bogies
Total Axles 36
We depart Lumber St. and head east, one of the last "Pennsylvanians". This is a sad time for me. I have participated in so many 'LAST TRIPS'. Many more than I care to count. Such a shame that this train is being chopped between here and Pittsburgh. I'm sure that if Amtrak and Norfolk Southern sat down together, a better time slot could be agreed upon for this train, and I'm sure that if it left, at say, 1:00 PM it would carry a lot more people than it does now. There only 3 other passengers on board as we leave Chicago. Me, a lady headed for Toledo, and another guy who will be getting off in Elkhart, IN.
Once we depart Lumber St. Our conductor lifts our tickets, and off go the lights. Although it is at least -2 outside and blowing it is nice and warm here on the train. It is still clear outside. Since I'm tired, I stretch out and fall asleep. I awake an hour or so later, and take a peek out the window. There is a blizzard raging just outside the double-insulated glass! Lake-effect snow off Lake Michigan, no doubt. What a sight. Here I am, nestled in my comfortable coach seat, safe and warm, while #44 races eastward at 79 MPH through the howling winter weather just outside.
I make a brief rest stop before lying down to sleep again, and observe that there is a blizzard raging in the vestibules between the first and second coach! What a sight. The trains' passage creates a vacuum in between the cars, sucking snow off the roadbed, and the air between the diaphragms causing a spray of powder between the cars. Around an inch of the white stuff is on the floor in both vestibules. I lie down once again, and as I close my eyes, the hum of the wheels on the cold steel rails lulls me into dreamland, to the accompaniment of the train's chime horn, blowing a warning to the crossings in eastern Indiana: The Pennsylvanian is coming; let no one delay her swift passage! For a brief moment before sleep engulfs me, I thought I had died, and gone to heaven!
Thursday morning aboard the "Pennsylvanian":
I awake as we leave Sandusky. It was a short, but refreshing 6 hour sleep, with only one interruption. The snow is still falling, but much lighter than last night's. This is still probably Lake-effect, only this time, from Lake Erie. At Elyria a small family boards, and the lady explains she is taking her kids on a train trip to Cleveland. By now, we are slightly less than half full. Going over 'Drawbridge' I snap a picture of the passage to Lake Erie. At Cleveland, we drop off the family that boarded in Elyria, and pick up another 10 or 12 people.
Among those boarding was a fellow named Fred who was a railfan. Sorry, I forgot the name of the guy who was with him. We had a lengthy discussion about Amtrak, and railroading in general. Before he and his friend left the train at Pittsburgh, he had explained how the Pennsylvania's Panhandle division entered the station, something I had previously not understood.
At Pittsburgh, we got a new engine and train crew, as well as a new Café car attendant. What a nice bunch of people. John replaced Jim as Café attendant, While our conductor was Harold and his A/C was Diane.
Our Pittsburgh stop also was interesting, in that only a few people got off, while a WHOLE lot got on! Seeing a couple in need of a double seat, I decided it was time to move back to my digs in the back of the café car. That too was filling up, but at least I had two double seats all to myself the rest of the way to Harrisburg.
I lamented to John how disgusted I was that Amtrak was taking off this train. I explained that it was a favorite of mine. Both of us agreed that too much time had elapsed before people complained to their elected officials and it was now too late to save this train. Since Amtrak plans to schedule a replacement New York Pittsburgh train, he may be going to that job, or perhaps #41. Besides the fact we are losing this train, I feel really bad for guys like John. Hardworking and good hearted people who serve the traveling public day in and day out. They are entitled to at least a modicum of job stability, but instead are treated like pawns in the annual government budget game.
It bears mentioning again here, that Amtrak, as it currently exists is a SKELETAL system. It doesn't serve enough cities, and those that it does in most cases need more instead of fewer trains. The United States is the only country that expects its national passenger rail system to turn a profit. Other countries recognize the importance of a safe, reliable, and comfortable passenger rail system, and subsidize their passenger trains accordingly, while every year Amtrak finds itself a political football, freely kicked around in the halls of Congress. I, for one cannot comprehend how the airlines come begging with their tin cups, and walk away with billions of ADDITIONAL GOVERNMENT MONIES, go bankrupt (e.g., United Airlines) and get MORE money, while Amtrak has to beg for a lousy crumb of $1.2 billion dollars just to stay alive. When will our legislators wake up and support Amtrak? It's time that Amtrak get a secure source of funding, not only to continue what is here today, but to expand service to other cities that could benefit from rail service.
Does this make you angry? If so, why not pick up the phone and call your senators and congressmen, and TELL them that YOU INSIST THEY SUPPORT AMTRAK, otherwise there will be no trains for any of us to ride.
Sorry for the diversion, but I take my trains seriously.
We traverse the former Pennsylvania railroad mainline through the beautiful Juniata river valley as darkness begins to descend. We make our stops at Altoona, Johnstown & Latrobe on time, and arrive in Harrisburg 20 minutes up.
I bid farewell to John, Harold & Diane, and hope to ride with them again soon.
At Harrisburg, I linger on the platform, watching the station switcher removing some express cars from the rear of #44. I stay, in spite of the cold. This is probably the last Pennsylvanian I'll see. So long, dear friend, I'll miss you!
Saturday, January 25, 2003 Train #662: Harrisburg, PA to Newark, NJ:
After a restful couple of days with my brother and his family, it's time to go home. It's been an emotionally draining trip though, seeing the Pennsylvanian off. I only wish this were not the case.
Tom & Sue drop me off at the Harrisburg station about 4:05 PM. Since #662 doesn't leave until 4:35, I go to the gift shop in the station to get a coke and a chocolate bar for the ride home. Since the Keystone trains have no food service, I'll have to wait until Philadelphia to get anything else to eat or drink. It is a shame that they took the Café cars off this route, since a 4 hour trip is too long to go without at least a snack or drink. Most of these trains change engines at Philadelphia, so, in theory you have 20 minutes to run up to the food court and buy something, but that 20 minutes goes awfully fast!
I walk down the concourse to 1B, where #662 will leave from, and glance down to see if the train is in the station. Not yet, but WAIT! What do I see? AN AEM-7 ELECTRIC on the head end of what I believe is #662!!!! Wow! I haven't ridden behind an electric engine west of Philadelphia in at least 8 years!
Here was the consist:
939 AEM-7 (HAR-NYP)
82083 Coach, Amfleet I (HAR-NYP)
21065 Coach, Amfleet I (HAR-NYP)
82011 Coach, Amfleet I (HAR-NYP)
I know they were running an occasional electric west to Harrisburg, but never, in my wildest dreams did I expect to see this! (Perhaps Amtrak is trying to make up for that bus trip last Sunday!!!) When the station attendant lets us down to board, I quickly stow my baggage and get a picture.
We leave on time and make all the local Amtrak stops to Philadelphia. I fall asleep for most of the trip, since I got up early this morning and this trip is so relaxing. Arriving in Philadelphia on time, we have a dwell of almost 35 minutes here. I go upstairs, and get an Auntie Anne's pretzel and a soda. This will hold me until I get back home. While upstairs, Our AEM-7 cuts off and runs around the train, and re-couples to haul us the remainder of the way to Penn Station.
We leave Philadelphia on time and make only Trenton, Princeton Jct. and Newark airport, before arriving on time into Newark Penn Station.
I have just enough time here to go downstairs, and buy a ticket for my return trip to Cranford on NJ Transit's Raritan Valley line. Never did I dream that one day, I'd be using this line as a connector to Newark and Amtrak trains that would take me to those far away places, with strange sounding and romantic names. Time sure flies when you're having fun.
Well, another trip comes to an end, as my train arrives and I am once again re-united with my family. After a brief ride home, all the animals are waiting to greet me, and Denise welcomes me home as she does every time I've been away. Although I love to travel and be out riding the rails, it's a blessing to come home. And, best of all I can lie down to sleep tonight, and dream once again, of riding westward on a night train to Chicago in the bitter cold.