Baltimore NRHS/R&LHS Convention 2003
Photos associated with this report are on Sean's website.
For me the Baltimore Convention of the NRHS has been an event to look forward to for a little less than a year. In December the decision was made to attend the convention, and plans were to be put in place to attend the convention. I contacted Amtrak for quotes regarding rates for my mother and I to attend. I wanted to get the lowest possible fare, so I had a Conductor friend check on the prices to make sure I was going to get a good deal. As it turned out I was able to get the lowest possible sleeper fare that Amtrak had to offer. I made the reservations to take advantage of the low prices. My itinerary looked like this:
A couple of explanations on my itinerary. My family was having a gathering in St. Augustine just before the convention, so it made the most sense to leave from JAX. As for taking the Regional from Baltimore, it saved about $80 in Accommodation fare, and this way we could take advantage of ClubAcela in addition to Washington railfanning, plus it was closer to check out time from the hotel.
As January neared it became time to register for the Convention, I sent my form along with my $35 for registration. A few weeks later we received our convention packet. We were encouraged to sign up early for events as some were expected to sell out early. Many events looked good (I won't disclose how much damage I did to the wallet though), and I signed up for a good number of them. We received a confirmation from the hotel on our reservation, plus one from the convention. I got most of the events I wanted except for just one. Everything was starting to fall in place, and it was getting closer and closer to the time for the convention. At the May 2003 meeting of the Ft. Lauderdale Chapter of the NRHS I was appointed as the alternate delegate from our chapter, with Treasurer Bill Burkhardt being our lead representative (our national delegate Ron Diedrich was unable to attend the convention).
June 24, 2003
I finally left home on my much needed vacation from the hectic thing I call life. The end of the school year was rough not only because of exams and all that junk, but also because of my job as a Sound Technician for the school (I had 6 events to work in about a week and a half, including the role of Production Manager for one of them). Couple that with the fact that my Girlfriend had broken up with me last week (for reasons unbeknownst to me), and I was good and ready to get gone. We drove to my Aunt and Uncle's house on the east side of Orlando where we would stay for two nights before driving to St. Augustine for a three night stay.
June 28, 2003 -- Railfanning the FEC
Since I was already in the St. Augustine area, and I am a railfan I thought it might be nice to do a little railfanning that I don't usually get to do (I generally get CSX/Amtrak/Tri-Rail action on the Miami, Auburndale, and Sanford Subdivisions). My Mom and I drove to the northern part of St. Augustine in a more rural area. As I set up my tripod the previously dark signal at South Magnolia (Siding MP 33) lit up a clear signal on the main. On CSX this occurs just a few minutes before you have some action. Well that wasn't the case here we sat there for a good hour or so and nothing came, no sign of it from EOT signals either. Towards the beginning of that hour long period a police officer pulled off, asked what I was up to, I told him, got a cockeyed look, and was told that FEC enforced trespasser violations etc., no harm done. As time wore on the rains came, so much so that I decided that I wasn't going to sit in a hot SUV for hours on end, so we packed it in.
A stop at Wendy's was in order. As I stood there in line I heard the chirp of an EOT, our train had come. We hopped in the car, I scouted the map, found a good grade crossing and we were on our way. Well, it was a good idea in theory. As we rolled up to the crossing the double stacks were already rolling by. Back to Wendy's for food, but a call to my good friend Engineer Matt (Taco) Reinert was in store, as he is from JAX and had some FEC knowledge. He told me that there was usually an afternoon rush from JAX, but it was a little lighter today, as it was a Saturday. As we finished the conversation, I told him to call me when he left Deland with 98, as he would be the engineer that brought my train into JAX (for the record, I really hope Gary Coleman isn't our JAX-SAV engineer as it is physically impossible to understand what he is saying over the radio). Again as I stood in line I heard an EOT chirp, I wasn't indulging this time, it wasn't worth it last time, and wouldn't be again. We got our food and made our way back to the same grade crossing at Kings Estate Rd. Well nothing was coming as I could see, and it was almost time to have dinner with the family so we made our way back to the hotel.
I've been challenged to a morning swim by my Aunt Sabrina. The water was firkin cold today, and she doesn't believe I can do it again, but I shall prove her wrong. I'm not opposed to it for the waking up aspect, as I have slept til 10 or so, and need to be able to get up at 5:30 on Monday before Washington, so I can see the engine change (if mechanical allows me). It's almost here, and I can't wait for it to be here!
Sunday June 29, 2003
I woke up early to take Sabrina's challenge; she wasn't awake yet. I walked down to the beach with my Aunt Deeann and Uncle John, along with Cousin Brenna. The water was again cold on an overcast day, so I didn't spend too much time down there. I went back up to the room and started packing up before we had to leave.
We left right at 11:00 with about an hour's drive to JAX. We found the station with no problem. 97 was in the station when I arrived. I boarded and said hey to all my boys on Crew 6. We then made our way to The Landing along the Jacksonville Riverfront. We had a good meal and made our way back to the station as my Dad had a long drive back to South Florida. I checked our bags and then made my way out to trackside to look over the trains passing by. I saw Mechanical putting together 13 RoadRailers for 92, Engine 174 was going to be added to help handle the load of cars. I saw a local with 2 UP SD40-2's leading three Tropicana Refers into Moncrief Yard. Q174 with four engines rolled through on Track 1, followed by Q456 with a junk train, and finally a nice cut of empty coal cars on an unknown train. I went back inside for a few minutes to check on my Mom then went back out to greet my friend Matt Reinert who was the inbound engineer on 98; they rolled in only one minute late.
We boarded and made our way to our room. We left on time at 4:12 and passed four trains before we reached Folkston. I chatted with the AC Brad Byrd for a little while and got the consist before going up for dinner at 6:30.
22 P-42 Locomotive JAX-WAS 651 HHP-8 Locomotive WAS-BAL 1717 Heritage Baggage 2507 Heritage Dorm 62036 Viewliner Sleeper 62037 Viewliner Sleeper (my car) 62016 Viewliner Sleeper 8505 Heritage Diner Temoinsa 28022 Amfleet II Lounge 25101 Amfleet II Coach Refurb 25006 Amfleet II Coach Refurb 25105 Amfleet II Coach Orig Equip 25120 Amfleet II Coach Orig Equip
We sat at Table 2 in the refurbished diner 8505 across from an elderly couple. My Mom had chicken, while I had steak with mashed potatoes. They were out of ice cream so I skipped dessert, but Mom had a piece of cheesecake. We went back up to the room just after we passed Green Pond. I left Mom in the room, and went back to the lounge to hang with the crew. We were getting tight on seats in Charleston; some people were asked to sit in the lounge as a matter of fact. At that point I retired to my room, but failed to fall asleep for a long, long, long time. We pulled into Florence just a few minutes late, with a little CSX switching going on over in the adjacent yard. All passengers except for five were sent to the lounge for seating. We left Florence about ten minutes late, which wouldn't last long. We came to NEDT (north end of double track) somewhere just north of Florence, where we would sit for about 25 minutes waiting for P053 with Engine 841 leading the way.
June 30, 2003
About midnight we arrived into Fayetteville with a five minute station stop there. As we started to pull, I got out of bed and walked back to the dining car where the Florence to Washington crew generally hangs out. I sat back there for about an hour talking mostly to the JAX-NYP, and then went back up to the room to try to sleep. As we sat in Rocky Mount around 1:30 I finally fell asleep. I woke up again at 4:15 about 30 miles (thanks to the Defect Detector at MP 34.2). It was semi-light outside, I could only see the outline of trees for the most part. As we got closer to Lorton I could start to see light. There was apparently something that was loose on the baggage car as the engineer repeatedly called our conductor; for about three minutes the only transmission was "Ed Riggan, Ed Riggan, Ed Riggan" etc. We stopped real quick just outside Lorton station and we were on our way again. The on board crew was just starting to get up; both the LSA's were on their way back from the dorm shortly after our departure from Lorton. It wasn't too much longer before we were in the Union Station tunnels, and finally in Washington.
I got down off the train with my Digital camera, and started doing the voodoo I do. Road power was quickly cut off, sent to the run around, and began the inspection process. A few minutes later a huge cut of electrics rolled down our track. In order of closeness to the baggage car was HHP-8 651 (our new leader), AEM-7 AC 946, AEM-7 AC 936, and finally AEM-7 DC (Phase III) 931. As the power stood there I had a nice chat with the Yard Conductor (who can be seen in one of the pictures of HHP-8 651) who made sure I had all the proper frequencies that they used in the yard (which I had thanks to On Track On Line and my NEC Employee Timetable). The three engines that were for other trains were whacked and sent to another track to wait for their train. I walked down our track and photographed what I believe to be Train 77 (it had P-42 59, a Capstone, Café, and a coach bringing up the markers). As I was photographing 77 a VRE bi-level arrived in on the track immediately next to us (Engine V03).
I went over and talked with Mechanical to see A) why we had no HEP and B) when were going to leave. As the Foreman explained there is a 27 point system that supplies the HEP to us. If there is a fault in it, it doesn't supply the 480 to the train. As for the leaving part, it would be 6:50 (65 minutes after we arrived) due to the fact that the regular engineer marked off at the last minute and the Washington North Extra board was empty. An engineer on his off day had to be called but he wasn't good til 6:50 due to the fact that he had worked the day before. So we sat, sat and ate breakfast to be specific. I had my usual French toast, bacon, and apple juice. We were in and out of the diner within 20 minutes. At 6:50 the Conductor called K Tower, got permission to leave, and we left with a nice little crunch.
We returned to our room and packed up on the forty minute trip to Baltimore. We passed three trains, two MARC trains and a Regional (I almost put Acela Regional in there). We arrived in Baltimore at 7:30, about thirty minutes off the card. We went upstairs, I went to go pick up the baggage, and waited a good ten minutes, due to the fact that a handicap passenger had to be unloaded from the 40 car. Once we got the baggage I was presented with the idea of staying at the station until noon because of the check in time. As good as that sounds, I only got 2:45 hours worth of sleep last night and I was dead tired. I called the hotel to see if we could check in, and they said that we could right that very instant. We got in one of the waiting cabs, and made our way downtown to the Wyndham Inner Harbor. We were checked in fairly quickly and made our way up to the room on the third floor of the South Tower. I slept for a good three hours before waking up and feeling ready to go anywhere and do anything.
We left the room and went downstairs to the Registration room where we checked into the convention, received event tickets, convention badges, and a bag filled with pamphlets and small gifts. We brought them back up to the room and began to go through them, the best gift being a card that allows us to ride any MTA bus, Subway, and Light Rail. We then walked over to Howard Street where we picked up Light Rail for a short ride to Camden Yards. Here we bought two tickets to that night's game against the Damn Yankees, as well as tickets to Friday's game against the Blue Jays of Toronto. A MARC locomotive and push-pull train were in the Camden station as we left to go to lunch. We had a fairly lengthy walk to ESPN Zone down at the Power Plant on the Harbor. We had a very good lunch in the screening room and then over to Barnes & Noble. My Mom looked at whatever books interested her. I looked through a book about the World Trade Center, a book about the New Haven Railroad, and finally a book which I would recommend. The book is called All Aboard, the book is good for any first time Amtrak traveler and is very up to date. We walked back to the hotel where we watched a movie on Showtime called Planes, Trains and Automobiles with Steve Martin and John Candy.
After the movie was over we walked down to Camden Yards for dinner and the game. We ate at Boog's BBQ which has outstanding barbecue, I had a turkey platter. We made our way up to the upper deck where we found our seats in Section 330, pretty much right behind the plate. The game started right on time and was well played by the O's, not so much by the Yankees, but somehow the Yankees won. Even a Yankees fan back at the hotel admitted they didn't deserve to win. We went back up to the room where I listened to the Loveline radio talk show until Midnight. I fell asleep pretty quickly ready for Convention activities to start tomorrow.
July 1, 2003 -- Delaware Duo
I woke at 5:30 and was able to wake fairly easily. I took a shower and put on my clothes and headed downstairs to where the buses were going to load up. The West Virginia group got on their buses before we did. I grabbed a seat towards the back of the bus. We got on the road about 20 minutes late, we were worried that we may have to drop a photo run-by due to our lateness, but things would work themselves out. We had breakfast on the bus which consisted of a breakfast bar, juice, fruit, and a Danish.
We arrived in Wilmington a half hour late due to Wilmington area traffic. We arrived at the Wilmington & Western Railroad, where steam locomotive 58 was being watered for the day's journey. 58 received its water and then backed down the shops where it picked up the two coaches and caboose. Half the group boarded the steamer, the other half the Pennsylvania Railroad Doodlebug. The Doodlebug left before the steamer, I personally was on the Doodlebug. The Trainman that we had was very knowledgeable about the route and gave a lot of insight regarding the route. We came to our first stop for a photo run by about ten minutes into the trip. Both trains detrained and we formed scattered photo lines around the road. Both the Doodlebug and steamer ran by, the steam Engineer gave us a nice puff of black smoke (514 style). We reboarded, and made our way down to an s-trestle which had barely survived the rains that came a few weeks ago. We came to our second photo stop, and formed a more organized photo line along the one side of the road. The guy who was flagging the crossing in his eyes may have done a good job, but he failed to let any of us know when a car was coming. But anyway all the photo run-by's went smoothly and we made it to Hockessin where we switched trains.
The crossing was rather interesting. There were gates on this crossing due to the fact that there were two tracks here. The warning device and gates worked fine, with one exception, the gates don't go up. So, in order for traffic to get across the tracks, the crew has to get down and manually push the gates into the up position. The steam train pulled up on the other side of the crossing as they wouldn't fit on the other side of the road. We all switched trains, I was offered the chance to ride in the caboose which would lead the way back to Greenbank. I climbed up and made a phone call to my buddy Matt Reinert and then went back in and ate the lunch provided.
It was a slow move over the 10 miles back to Greenbank, but then again we weren't exactly doing 80 MPH. It was pretty interesting to see the mileage from the leading end, but that is the best way to get to know the road after all. Both Conductors were interesting people, retired and loved railroading. One reoccurring theme occurred throughout the convention, the fact that there is very little young blood in the hobby. I learned that the average age of a railfan is something in the general area of 57. This was pointed out to me many times throughout the convention, and is in all reality very true.
We passed the Greenbank station and went down to the railroads shops just a mile or two down the road. We detrained and were shown around, the most interesting thing being a 1908 (not 100% sure on that date) steam locomotive that is being rebuilt. Also in the back shops were a couple of boxcars that looked like they hadn't been moved in years, one Conrail, the other Chessie. A SW-1 was in the back shops as well, and looked like it was in very good running condition. A photo run by occurred in the back shop area, as we had lots of time to kill before we could take the bus ride over to the Amtrak Wilmington Facility. We reboarded the trains and made our way down to Greenbank where we detrained for the last time.
I spent most of the time we had to kill in the Reading F-7's (902 and 903) that are currently owned by the Philadelphia Chapter of the NRHS. The engines had stunning paint jobs, especially considering the fact that they have been sitting outside for 10 years. The engines have been overhauled by the chapter, and are probably cleaner now then when they rolled off the assembly line. I boarded the bus at 2:15 about 15 minutes before we were due to leave. We pulled out right on time for the twenty minute bus ride to the Wilmington shops.
We arrived in Wilmington, and the first thing that caught everyone's attention was an E-60 parked alongside some former Metroliner Cab Cars. Unfortunately we would be unable to photograph these units. As we pulled up to the main part of the facility I noticed P-32-8 514 parked out in the yard (514 was the Sanford switcher for about six months and has become one of my favorite engines). One of the Amtrak tour guides boarded our bus and passed out safety glasses to those who had not brought a pair, I personally had both of my pairs of safety glasses from Uvex (shades and regular). We got off the buses, and as we were being told about what we can and can't do, a loud steam whistle went off signaling the end of Shift 1. We split up into groups, my group made its way over to the wheel shops.
The wheel shops that Amtrak has in Wilmington are rated as the best wheel shop in the country by the AAR. We saw the process of taking a wheel set apart, shaving down the wheel to fit an axle, and the reassembling of the wheel set. As we finished the wheel shop, we could start to see the locomotive shops, the best part of the tour. We walked out into the yard where many locomotives were lounging in their storage state, mostly E-60's and a few P-40's. Here is a list of every locomotive that I saw in the yard:
E-60 600 602 603 604 608 610 AEM-7 901-AC 910-DC 916-AC 921-AC 932-AC 933-DC 945-AC Acela Power Car/HHP-8 655 2014 2019 P-32-8 512 513 514 P-42 (All in NEC Scheme) 104 106 P-40 (All in Phase IV) 806 809 (electronic air brakes) 816 825 830 Switchers 531 (Gray Amtrak) 737 (Gray Amtrak) 766 (Gray Amtrak) 770 (MOW Orange)
The Acela Power cars were in the shops without their trainset and receiving a rebuild due to problems with their traction motors. A handful of the AEM-7's I have listed as AC's are in the process of undergoing the AC rebuild, among them 932 and 945. The E-60s as we all know are no longer in regular service; the few that were left in service all have now congregated in Wilmington. Now, according to our tour guide a few will be kept around because of their reliability as a prime mover. From what he said, several months back the circus train ran through on Amtrak territory, so consequently it had Amtrak engines, namely the new HHP-8's. Well let's just say the HHP-8's aren't good at freight work; both engines died before reaching Baltimore. Two E-60's were added to the cut of cars and got the job done with no problems. As for my favorite engines, the P-32-8s, their future at best is questionable. Gunn has plans to retire the engines, a stupid move many people think. It is entirely possible that once new switchers are received the engines will step into the role of a Work Engine, or possibly as second units with a P-42 leading the way.
We were allowed time to peruse the yard, take pictures, video, drool a little bit. The most interesting item in the yard in my opinion was a MARC AEM-7 that had been sent there for work of some sort (Amtrak is the operator of MARC and also their mechanics). The tour then made its way over to the Electronics shop where traction motors are rebuilt, door motors rebuilt, basically anything that's electronic is done. One of the things that shocked me is that Wilmington employs 392 people, not a single new person has been hired in over ten years. Many of the employees there are going to retire within five years, and many of the components that Amtrak currently has to machine themselves are going to be impossible to do once these craftsmen retire, as the new kids won't have any clue how to make them.
We left Wilmington right at the time when we were supposed to be kicked out, 4:45. We were given a small snack on the bus to tide us over til we got back to Baltimore, which hit the spot right in the middle of the bull's-eye. I had a nice talk with the guy sitting next to me. He's from the Redlands of California near L.A., and has a property bordered with the UP, which the Sunnyset runs on. He will return to L.A. on the rear of the Capitol Ltd., Cal Zephyr, and Coast Starlight (ironically they have a dome in their consist [Silver Lariat] which is an ex-Cal Zephyr dome car). As we came into Baltimore we passed over the NEC, where the Crescent just happened to be going by at the same time as we passed over. We arrived in Baltimore fairly early, around 6:00. With both my Mom and myself being tired we ordered in Papa John's pizza, and had a nice relaxing evening. I went downstairs at 8:00 for the movies that the convention was showing, which was a nice way to wind down the day. I went back upstairs at 9:30, and at 10 listened to Loveline until midnight, and then promptly fell asleep.
July 2, 2003
Ahh the great abyss we call sleep. I slept soundly until about 11:30 today, and had no plans to do much of anything. I finally got the motivation to wake up and take a shower, which was a very hard thing for me to do. Mom & I decided to go get some lunch, as it was noon time, and we'd have no appetite for dinner. We went to Subway, along with a couple of bags of laundry, as we had been on vacation for over a week so it was just time to do a little laundry, especially since I was out of shirts. We ate, and then went in search of a Laundromat, unfortunately our Concierge gave us bad information, so we were on our own.
We asked a couple of cops where we could find a Laundromat. They directed us, and we were on our way. Well bad luck there too. We walked two blocks past where they said, and decided to go back to the hotel as it looked like it was about ready to rain. Fortunately we only got a couple of sprinkles. We went to a pay phone in the lobby in search of yellow pages (the room did not have a phone book). We wrote down a couple of places that looked promising, and called them on a cell phone. We found a place south of the Inner Harbor, but decided to take a cab, as it was a long walk, not to mention the fact that it was raining. We got a cab at the entrance to the hotel, and sat in traffic for a good ten minutes before we really got rolling. We arrived at the Laundromat, but cringed as soon as we did due to the fact that four young children (ages 6-11) were playing inside, what an experience this would be.
We got two washers, as that would easily meet the needs of our load, put the quarters in and let it run. We walked next door to the 7-11, got snacks and of course a Double Gulp. We walked back to the Laundromat, and sat in two incredibly uncomfortable chairs, and listened to those kids scream, I was ready to scream the way they were going. Our clothes finished in the washer, so we moved them to a dryer right across the way from us. Fortunately about that time the kids left, and we were able to fold our clothes in peace. We called a cab to come pick us up to go back to the hotel, but it never came, we ended up in another company's cab, but that was OK. since the driver listened to NPR, one of the better choices on the radio dial. We returned to our room, hung up our clothes, and decided it was high time for dinner.
We walked downstairs (it was actually quicker to take the stairs then to wait on an elevator). We ate at Shula's 2 (which is right in the lobby of the hotel), which is one of the best Steakhouses in the country. We had eaten at a Shula's 2 in Miami Lakes, but this version was much smaller than the Miami Lakes location. I ordered a Rib Eye, medium, while my Mom ordered chicken of some sort. We received our food in good time, but my steak was charbroiled, which it shouldn't be for being medium. Me being the consumer that I am (picky) I sent it back so they could get it right. When I got my new steak I asked if they were training a new cook, and as it turns out they were, which makes me feel even better about sending it back. We finished, and made our way back up to the room.
Not too long after getting back to the room I went back down to the Ballroom and watched the movies again, and also had a nice conversation with Bill Burkhardt, the other rep from our chapter. They started us with a Betty Boop cartoon, followed by a movie about the American Freedom Train. At the end of the movie they had the engineer Ross Rowland Jr. He ran the train over the eastern part of the journey in Freedom 1. It was really interesting to hear the stories of an old time engineer, who was an integral part in not only the operation of the Freedom Train, but also in the lives of many Americans. After engineer Rowland Jr. finished his speech I headed back upstairs as it was almost time for Loveline (are you noticing a trend here?). I listened to Adam, Drew, and the Osbournes (that night's guest), which was a fairly serious show all things considered, but Ozzy wasn't in the studio, so I'm sure that played a large role. After Midnight I drifted off to sleep, wondering how the next day would be.
July 3, 2003
When I woke up I knew I didn't want to go to the seminar I signed up for, but I was forced by my Mother to go, in spite of how I felt. Well my gut is never wrong, the seminar was lackluster at best. The seminar was about how railroad abandonment affects small towns, and I'm sure it affects them, but you would never know by the speech we were given. We were shown many examples, but were never given any hard evidence to support it. I would compare the seminar to trying to build a brick wall without mortar. I went through the menu on my cell phone to make it seem like it was ringing when it really wasn't and left halfway through the thing. I went back to the room and hung out until it was time to go on the lunch cruise. We walked downstairs at 11:00 and caught the second round of buses to the cruise.
It was only a short bus ride til we were at the Harbor, we boarded the boat, recognized no one, so just sat at a table in the middle of the boat. A nice couple from Tampa Bay Chapter sat across from us, I was able to have a nice conversation with the guy, his wife was fairly quiet though. The cruise itself wasn't that bad, the food is another story though. We were all given chicken with gravy, which I'm sure made the vegetarians on the boat fairly unhappy. The chicken wasn't all that good, others seemed to think otherwise though. We arrived back in downtown right on time, getting off the boat though is another story. I went straight to the Frederick bus which was going to Penn Station, and then back to the hotel.
We arrived at Penn Station well ahead of our scheduled departure time on MARC, so I naturally went down trackside for shots of the incoming trains. Unfortunately I was only able to catch a single Acela (Trainset 1 with Power Car 2004 leading) before we were ushered down to Track 4 for our SB MARC train to Washington Union. I sat upstairs with Charlie Dunn, Sir Lancelot Erickson, and a couple of other guys from around the country. Throughout the trip we would argue about various topics from preservation to high speed rail. We arrived in Washington on a high platform track and went immediately to our WB train to Frederick. I again sat upstairs, this time just with Charlie and Lance. Our trip out to Frederick was a lot of fun, at one point we were neck and neck with a CSX manifest on Double Track, it was a lot of fun to see the battle back and forth between the two trains for a good ten miles or so. We arrived in Frederick, got some pictures of the train before we were ushered back to the bus for the return trip to Baltimore by road.
We arrived back at the hotel about 15 minutes before the banquet was set to begin, I ran up the stairs to our room where I quickly changed into my Amtrak uniform before my Mom and I walked downstairs for the banquet. We sat at table 8 with the Regional VP from the Empire District, Dr. Allen Jelks from the Suncoast Chapter, and Bill Burkhardt from our chapter. The dinner was outstanding, I had prime rib with mashed potatoes, my Mom had vegetable lasagna. There was a presentation to the B&O Railroad Museum for a grant to help repair to their facility that was damaged in a snow storm in February. The Guest Speaker for the night was one of the Vice Presidents from Amtrak (I didn't catch his name or position). After the Banquet concluded, you went back up to the room to listen to Loveline, and eventually sleep.
July 4, 2003
Woke up around 11:00 or so this morning, very well rested and ready for another of the relaxing days on the trip. I was hungry as you might expect, but there was nothing open. All of the local restaurants had closed since it was the 4th and none of their usual business customers were going to be around. We ended up at a McDonalds a couple of blocks down, which was, well, dirty (at best). Back to the hotel before it was time for the business side of the convention.
I walked downstairs to the Conference room, I was once again joined by Bill, as we were the two representatives from our Chapter. The meeting lasted about three hours, with various topics discussed from the new Vice President of the Chapter to upcoming meetings and conventions. I left promptly at 4:00 as I was headed down to Camden Yards again for another Orioles game.
My Mom and I walked down to the stadium and were there in plenty of time for first pitch (unfortunately though the escalator to the Upper Deck was broken). The Orioles had an absolute slugfest with the Blue Jays with hit, after hit, after hit. The O's won 8-5 as it started to rain. Since I was way beyond tired we just went back to the hotel room, and didn't even bother with the fireworks on the Harbor. Unfortunately since it was Friday I was unable to listen to Loveline, as they are only on Sunday-Thursday. I drifted to sleep anticipating the excitement of the next day.
July 5, 2003 -- Harrisburg Circle
Woke up nice and early at 6:00 to get downstairs to be on the first bus to Penn Station, although in the end it made no difference in where you sat on the train. We arrived at Penn Station right at 7:00, and ended up waiting for an hour before P942 came in. We were told not to go down to any of the platforms until instructed to do so, otherwise you would be arrested by Amtrak Police. So we waited, and waited, I ended up at a small deli in the station getting something to eat, as it would be a couple of hours before the Box Lunches were available. They announced that our train would be coming into the station shortly, so we were all allowed down to the platform (Track 7) before the train arrived.
As the train arrived I set up to get a shot of the road power (former PRR E-8's 5711 and 5809 and Amtrak P-42 11 providing HEP), but some lunkhead in front of me put his hand up to wave just as I snapped the shot, I would end up with no good shot of the engines. There were 5 Amfleet I's up front, so naturally I sat in one of them, the second car of the train, and it ended up being a Business Class car with more leg room too. We left at about 8:30 and headed north on the Northeast Corridor to Perryville, MD. As we approached the Susquehanna River we began to slow as our turnout to get on the Norfolk Southern (NS) Port Road was just after the bridge.
We came out on the Port Road where they changed radio channels from 5454 to 6464 (I had to do the calculations for the right frequency for my scanner on my cell phone). I got the right frequency and we started up the Port Road at 60 MPH, normal freight speed (because this is generally freight only track we were restricted to freight speeds). The scenery on the Fireman's side was outstanding as we paralleled the Susquehanna for most of the trip. We came up on a small town where a truck was waiting with our box lunches. I was surprised at how much was in the bag, there was a sandwich, chips, three bean salad, a Twinkie, a Pepsi, and a bottle of water. The lunches were distributed, but it took multiple spots for them to load all the lunches onto the train.
As we ate lunch we entered the Susquehanna Branch and crossed the Susquehanna again this time on the Shock's Mill Bridge. As we continued northward the cooling towers of Three Mile Island were visible to our right. As we entered the famous Enola Yard we began to copy Form D's as the trackage through there obviously is not CTC like the rest of the railroad. As we prepared to recross the Susquehanna we were forced to sit while a couple of other trains got across the "Iron Bridge." We finally got across, and as soon as we did we entered the Harrisburg Intermodal Yard and gassed up at the Fuel Pad. Three miles after fuel we came to a stop at the Harrisburg Amtrak Station where everyone detrained.
The entire train emptied out, and most went upstairs to explore the station. I got a ticket to visit Harris tower, a retired interlocking now owned by the Harrisburg Chapter of the NRHS. It was pretty cool to see the interlocking, but I only stayed a few minutes since it was pretty crowded. I headed back over to the track that our train was sitting on to get some shots of the train and all the unusual cars in it. As I walked the length of the 18 car train, I heard a NS manifest train call a slow clear signal as it entered the area near the Harrisburg station. Since I very rarely see NS equipment I took the opportunity to video tape the first part of the train, and take pictures of its four engines as they passed by me. After the front part of the train cleared by me I returned to taking pictures of the equipment when I noticed an Amtrak "Lavatory Service Vehicle," otherwise known as the Honeywagon, I couldn't resist so I took a picture of that too.
Since it was fairly hot out I returned to the interior of the station where a friend of mine Jim (his last name will remain anonymous, you'll see why) was hanging out. Jim took me and another guy into the back rooms of the station (Jim is an Amtrak Employee) to see State Interlocking, which is a real manned Interlocking still used by Amtrak today. We chatted with the person manning the tower as he came on shift, and left after just a few minutes. Following that I went outside and got some detail shots of the station, as it will probably be a while before I get back there. Back down trackside where I reboarded the train for the return trip back to Baltimore.
As we began to back out of the station to reenter the Norfolk Southern trackage, the Three Rivers from Chicago pulled up along side us. The train had three engines (200 and 71 stick out in my mind as the trailing units), two baggage cars, a single Viewliner sleeper, Amfleet I Lounge, Amfleet II Coach, two Horizon Coaches, a Horizon Dinette (likely a Deadhead), eight Express Trak Refrigerator cars, and ten RoadRailers. We continued to back down, and an hour later we were on NS territory (lightning had caused signal failures on the Amtrak territory we were on). We paralleled the Amtrak Harrisburg line for a ways before making a right turn at Roy Interlocking to head southeast to Baltimore. Upon entering Roy our Engineer did not like the Restricting signal he was getting so he attempted to call State Interlocking (which controls Roy), but we were out of radio range from State. We ended up taking the Restricting signal after a half hour delay, and continued down back towards Baltimore. We approached the NEC once again, and came out with a beautiful shot of the entire train as we rounded the connection track. After the train was out of the turnout the engines revved up and started pouring out thick black smoke. We cruised along back into Baltimore 15 minutes ahead of schedule.
Upon entering Penn Station were given a choice, we could either take a Convention Bus back to the hotel, or take Light Rail back and avoid the lines. I opted for Light Rail, and while it may have taken a little longer, there was a lot less frustration. I walked a couple of blocks back to the hotel with a group of Conventioneers and was in my room by 8:45. I began to pack up my stuff as the next day we would begin the trip back to Ft. Lauderdale.
July 6, 2003 -- Going home
We woke up at 10:00, finished packing our stuff and took the elevator downstairs to catch a cab over to Penn Station around 11:30. We arrived at Penn Station in plenty of time for our 12:55 departure on Regional 195 to Washington. (A little explanation on why I would take a Regional to Washington to catch a train that was also going through Baltimore. Well here's the reason, a little under 10 months ago I traveled to New York on vacation. While we were up there we rode Metro North to New Haven, and then caught Acela Express back to New York, just for the Acela Experience. Well, while I was in New Haven Acela Regional 195 came through the station, and it just so happens that 195 is the train to take to connect to the SB Silver Star. So this year to save a little money on the accommodation fee, and so we could fool around in Union Station we decided to take 195 to Washington and connect from there.) I checked our bags, they would be placed directly onto 91 instead of the Regional (Regionals do not carry checked baggage). My friend Tom was in the station when we arrived, he was taking an earlier Unreserved Regional to Washington to connect to the Capitol Limited. I walked down to the platform with Tom, and said that I'd meet up with him in Washington and have lunch with him before we left. They had AEM-7DC 949 in the lead, I quickly went back upstairs before Amtrak Police questioned me. I went back upstairs and quickly went back downstairs as Regional 140 for Boston via Springfield arrived with HHP-8 664 in the lead, again back upstairs before Amtrak police caught up with me. Then finally the time came for our train to arrive, so back trackside we went. Acela Express 2255 with Power Car 2009 in the lead just a few minutes before our Regional arrived. Our train finally arrived on Track 7, with AEM-7DC 909 leading the southbound move.
We board the train in the first car, which was another Business Class car in Coach service. I walked the train to get consist info, but found it much harder for me to walk at 125 MPH than 80 MPH, but that's to be expected. I walked the train, but found some people in the second coach that had gotten on in Baltimore that had no seats. I directed them to the first coach where some seats were available. I walked the length of the train and then got back to my seat, where a Conductor lifted my ticket and my Mom's, he did not cut seat checks though since we were getting off in Washington. We arrived on Track 24, the HEP was shut down and the train placed into Emergency so the electric could be whacked in favor of a Diesel (Engine 7) for the trip south to Richmond. We got off the train after a few minutes; it was a slow process as we were on a low platform track.
My Mom and I took the escalator up to the station, where we easily found Tom near ClubAcela. We ate at a small pub on the south side of the station, I had a pork sandwich. John Barry Jr. (Amtrak Engineer out of Albany) called in the middle of lunch, I shouldn't have taken the call though. We finished lunch and made our way back towards the tracks, a member of Tom's group said their train was ready and they were allowed to board their private cars. Tom invited me to check them out, so I dropped Mom in ClubAcela to wait, while Tom and I went trackside. I got shots of a few trains in the station, the east bound Capitol Limited, an Acela Express, and the Business Car always in the station. We made it over to Track 25 where the west bound Capitol Limited was waiting with their three private on the bottom. I climbed up and walked through a former UP Sleeper to the car Tom was staying in, Colonial Crafts a former Pennsey sleeper. We climbed down, I ran up the platform got some shots of other cars in the consist, including 909 again which was on Track 26 with another Regional. I came back down the platform, Tom and I climbed back up and toured Silver Lariat and ex-Cal Zephyr Coach Dome. As we were in the car, my train the south bound Silver Star pulled in on Track 24. I said goodbye to Tom and headed over there.
I was the first on the platform as they had not announced the train's arrival yet. I got a shot of 925 an AEM-7AC electric before they whacked it off for a diesel. I went back upstairs, got my Mom, and we got trackside before they had even announced it in ClubAcela. We came to our attendant, James (who I'd known for about a year before this trip) who lifted our tickets, but didn't bother explaining us to the room since I knew just about everything there was to know about it. I went back on the ground, got some more pictures of our train, was well as some wider shots of the Capitol Limited. The Conductor approached me confused about my ticket. I had only purchased transportation for myself from Washington-JAX, and then stapled an On Board record with my Rail Pass record, she had never seen this before, but accepted my explanation. We departed Washington right on time, our consist looked like this:
5 P-42 Locomotive 1253 Heritage Baggage 2517 Heritage Crew Dorm 62022 Viewliner Sleeper 62048 Viewliner Sleeper (my car) 8524 Heritage Diner Refurbished 28009 Amfleet II Lounge 25051 Amfleet II Coach Refurbished 25102 Amfleet II Coach Refurbished 25000 Amfleet II Coach Refurbished 25021 Amfleet II Coach Orig Equip
Upon our departure I got permission from James to take my Mom up to Room H so we could see the capital city as we left, as she hadn't seen it well on the trip north. Once we crossed the Potomac we returned to our room, (2 in the 9110) and watched How To Lose a Guy in 10 Days. While it was chick flickish, I enjoyed it. The movie was over by the time we arrived in Richmond. One of my goals for the trip was to hit the ground in every state we traveled through on the trip. I had touched the ground in Georgia and South Carolina on the trip north, so I just needed Virginia and North Carolina going south. I hit the ground in Richmond, and the equipment for 195 was on the track next to us, so I got some shots of it while we made our rather lengthy stop. We changed Engineers, and were on our way again.
We had an 8:30 Dinner reservation in the Dining Car, and we were seated right before 8:30. We sat with a retired couple from Delray Beach, who we were able to carry on a great conversation with. The lady was a retired teacher, the man a retired businessman, both from Baltimore. We discussed a variety of topics from train travel to education to real estate. I had Steak with Mashed Potatoes again (I know what I like and I like what I know), while my Mom had the fish this time. As we finished dinner we arrived in Rocky Mount; time to hit the ground briefly. I hit and climbed back up and went back to the Dining Car for dessert.
Our table ended up being the last one out of the car. My Mom went back to the room, I went to the lounge to talk with the LSA John (who was the Dining Car LSA on our trip north). The Assistant Conductor, Jimmy Landalina Jr. also jumped in on the conversation. I ended up busting the chops of the AC because he was a rookie three months out of school and called his signals like this "Roger P091 has a clear signal at the South End of Rocky Mount, out." Now I personally would call that signal like this "Clear 91," but since he's a rookie he's still a little wary of those sorts of things, since he can still be fired for even the smallest slip up. We arrived in Raleigh pretty close to on time, the crew changed, and I fell asleep shortly afterwards.
July 7, 2003 -- Remainder of the trip home
I woke up a little before 7:00, turned on my scanner and figured out we were just a few miles out of Jessup. I walked back to the lounge while my Mom got dressed, and man were the Conductors (Tracie and Reggie Grogan) surprised to see me. I told them what was going on, but left shortly thereafter, as Reggie is not one of my favorites in the Conductor department. I walked up to the dining car where we were seated for breakfast, I had my usual French toast and bacon with a glass of apple juice, Mom had the same except with orange juice and milk. We got our breakfasts quickly and were back in the room about the time we rolled through Folkston. We arrived in JAX pretty close to on time, fueled the engine, changed crews and were on the road again. I would spend most of the day in the room organizing pictures on the laptop and watching DVDs. I stepped down at Orlando and got some good shots of our engine, since I hadn't gotten any good ones the day before. When we arrived in West Palm Beach I went up to the vestibule to get some shots of P616 (Tri-Rail) as they passed us in the station (they were in siding). We packed up our stuff, called my Dad when we left West Palm, and he was there to meet us when we arrived in Deerfield Beach. We tipped James, got our checked bags and went home.
I have to say this is one of the best vacations I went on. I learned a lot, met a bunch of new people, and saw lots of new territory. I only hope that the next major trip I take will be as adventurous as this one. To see pictures that go with this travelogue, check out my website.