Howell to Lowell
August 21-23, 2003
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Chapter 0: Introduction
The goal of this trip was to ride the tourist trolley that operates in Lowell as part of the National Historic Park. To do this it required staying in the city two nights and using the trolley on our only full day there.
Chapter 1: Getting to Lowell; Thursday, August 21, 2003
Chapter 1.1: AMTRAK Regional Train #174, Metropark, NJ to Boston-Back Bay Station, MA
Train 174 was said to be running ten minutes late when I called Julie the AMTRAK Robot. The Metropark ticket agent was telling people it was 10-15 minutes late.
An NJ TRANSIT (NJT) commuter train to New York stopped there first, removing most of the crowd of passengers that was standing on the northbound platform. Our train was to follow.
I am glad we did not linger in the station downstairs, because Train 174 departed Metropark at 11:53 AM, which made it eight minutes late. That does not sound bad, although we would never fully regain that time.
The consist of Train 174(21) was:
657 HHP-8 locomotive 21212 Amfleet I coach 82022 Amfleet I Regional CoachClass 21663 Amfleet I coach 82063 Amfleet I Regional CoachClass 21123 Amfleet I coach 82042 Amfleet I Regional CoachClass 85500 Amfleet I Regional Cafe 44715 Amfleet I Metroliner as Business Class <- * 81502 Amfleet I Regional BusinessClass <- ** * Michael & I were here ** Only in use NYP-BOS
I had decided on a little splurge, a way to be able to stretch our legs, so we went in Business Class. There were two Business Class coaches on the train, however only one was open when we boarded at Metropark.
Around Elizabeth, the cafe car closed, to reopen after the train left New York. Approaching Newark Penn Station, we were riding next to the NJT train that had departed Metropark before our train.
We had lost another five minutes between Metropark and Newark. Our 12:13 departure from there should have been at noon, putting us thirteen minutes down.
In NJ TRANSIT's Harrison Yard, I observed the Epicurus, a former Santa Fe dining car now used on special trains.
Arrival in New York was at 12:25 PM. We were due to depart at 12:30, but I knew that was not going to happen since there would be plenty of people getting on and off the train there.
The Washington-New York crew detrained, and the New York-New Haven crew boarded. The new crew opened the second Business Class coach in New York.
We left New York's Penn Station at 12:38 PM, just eight minutes off the advertised. That was as close to the schedule as we would ever be.
As soon as we emerged from the East River Tunnel, and the crew had verified our destinations, we went to the cafe car for lunch. Thanks to our vantage point in the Business Class coach, I could see right through into the cafe car in front of ours. Its reopening had not yet been formally announced, but I could see that there were already several people on line, and the attendant was serving them. Off we went for our Am-lunch and complimentary soft drinks.
As we ate back at our seats, the train stopped a few times. One stop was by the lovely Orchard Beach/City Island area in the Bronx, a place that was polluted long before people knew what pollution was. We then moved very slowly through the Shell interlocking, where AMTRAK joins the Metro North line in New Rochelle. These stops and slowdowns made us 17 minutes late by the time we left the New Rochelle station.
We were just as late at Stamford, but that did not stop our female assistant conductor from having a cigarette on the platform. Although there was no time for passengers to do it, it was okay for her to make what should have been a quick stop into a four-minute smoking break. I wondered whether an AMTRAK employee smoking on a platform when they are in charge of a train constitutes smoking in the workplace, although one could argue that the platform is Metro North's property, not AMTRAK's.
Bridgeport was our train's next stop. This took more of our time, because Metro North was doing trackwork in this area, effectively closing the eastbound local track and necessitating bridge plates at the station. Our stop there took five minutes since all passengers had to enter and leave the train from one coach. Trackwork also caused us to move slowly just outside of Bridgeport. And because of one track being out of service, we ended up behind a rare freight train. This freight, with a CSX engine, finally took a siding to our left somewhere between Milford and New Haven. Also around here, the cafe car closed once more, to reopen beyond New Haven.
At 2:23 PM, we passed a southbound AMTRAK train, #173, left-handed.
By the time we arrived in New Haven, we were 24 minutes late. With the advent of Regional service in 2000, station stops are supposed to be just two minutes at New Haven, since few trains require an engine change anymore. Our stop was four minutes. The New York-New Haven crew departed, and was replaced by a New Haven-Boston crew. They once again had to check everyone's seat checks to confirm where everybody was going.
Each crew, and each member of the crew, seems to have their own system for denoting on the seat check where a passenger is going. A uniform system would save the crews a lot of time, and require them to bother the passengers less than they do now.
Directly across the platform from us was Train 474, a New Haven-Springfield shuttle train. The short consist of 474(21) was:
827 P-40 locomotive 44184 Amfleet I coach 9460 Ex-Metroliner cab control
About half an hour after New Haven, we made our stop at Old Saybrook. Here, due to the length of our train (possibly because of carrying two Business Class cars) we had to make a double spot. Following our three minutes there, we departed at 3:05 PM, now 28 minutes down.
Next was New London. As soon as we stopped, several passengers ran from the train to the nearby ferry dock. Apparently there was a 3:30 ferry departure that they just made, thanks to 174 now being half an hour late.
We remained 31 minutes late at our stops at Westerly and Kingston. Not far out of Kingston, we came to a stop for five minutes, and restarted after a southbound AMTRAK train, Regional 175, passed by. No doubt we had encountered a single-tracking area that we would have been through before 175 had we been on time.
Having lost more time, we pulled into Providence at 4:28 PM, now 33 minutes late, and left there 4:31 PM. Twenty minutes later, we stopped again, in the vicinity of the Canton Viaduct for two minutes.
From here, with discharge-only stops and schedule padding, we improved slightly from our deficit in Providence. The stop at Route 128 was at 4:56 PM, "just" 28 minutes late. We arrived at our destination, Back Bay Station, at 5:09 PM, making us officially 24 minutes late.
Chapter 1.2: MBTA Orange Line, Back Bay Station to North Station
We took an Orange Line train from Back Bay/South End Station to North Station. The wait was not too long, since this was a weekday rush hour. We did have to stand on the train, but it was not too long a trip.
While on this short subway ride, however, I had to do some mental rearranging of our plans. We had intended to eat dinner at a Burger King across the street from North Station, and then take a commuter train at 5:45 PM to Lowell. Since we arrived in town late, we would not have had enough time to eat before boarding Train 333, so I decided we would still eat and then catch Train 335 instead, a 6:25 PM departure. Since we would now be departing from North Station 40 minutes later, that gave us plenty of time for our leisurely dinner at Burger King.
Chapter 1.3: MBTA Lowell Line, Train 335, Boston-North Station, MA to Lowell, MA
At North Station I purchased tickets for our trip to Lowell, as well as our Saturday morning return. We then sat down to wait for our train. We did get to see AMTRAK's DOWNEASTER, Train 685, which loaded for its popular 6:15 PM departure for New Hampshire and Maine. Around that time, our MBTA train was called for boarding, so we did not actually see the DOWNEASTER leave.
Our trip was a familiar one up the old New Hampshire Main Line, past the string of W's: West Medford, Wedgemere, Winchester Center, Woburn (Anderson Station), and Wilmington. They should call this the "W" Line! Then it was North Billerica and finally Lowell, and we were done with our quick 47-minute journey to the city where we would be spending the next two nights.
Chapter 1.4: Thursday evening in Lowell
First order of business was to get to our hotel. The way this city is arranged, distances are a lot shorter than they appear on maps. The Charles Gallagher Transportation Center, which hosts the MBTA commuter line and some of the city's buses, as well as some intercity buses as well, is not in the downtown section of the city. Lowell is quite a walkable city; however with luggage and not knowing exactly how far we might have to walk, I had decided we would take a taxi. The local bus company, the Lowell Regional Transit Authority, does run a Downtown Shuttle (.pdf file, Adobe Acrobat required) which originates at the Charles Gallagher Transportation Center and runs right by our hotel. Unfortunately, this shuttle does not run in the evening hours, nor on Saturday morning at the time we needed to get back to the train station.
So we went outside and were soon asked if we were looking for a cab. Although it appears to be a bonafide taxi company called Lowell Taxi, they use cars that don't have an outward appearance of being a cab, with a "Lowell Taxi" sign in a side window. That sign is removed once the driver has revenue passengers.
It was worth the $5 fare (plus tip) for the two of us to get to the door of our hotel instead of walking on a very muggy evening.
Once at the Doubletree Hotel, we went to check in. This took a little longer than expected, because I was slick when making the reservation, and had placed two separate reservations (one for each night) rather than one two-night reservation, because a Friday-night stay by itself is a lot cheaper than what it is when part of a two night stay including Thursday and Friday nights. As long as we could keep the same room under the separate reservation numbers, everything would be fine. We encountered no further problems with this, although I got a different receipt under my door each night for the purpose of express checkout.
I realized when we got up to our room that we did not get our trademark Doubletree cookies upon checkin. We were entitled to them, and since some time had passed since dinner, they would have been welcome for dessert. When I inquired at the desk, they said that they did not have any, but were waiting for some to come from the kitchen of the restaurant. They told me to check back later.
Once up in our room on the 8th floor, Michael relaxed with his favorite cable television channels, while I wanted to see more.
I took a short walk, to pass the time while we were waiting for our cookies to become available. I wanted to explore the downtown district, and see where the trolley goes. I found that the city is quite walkable; in fact none of the sites downtown were more than a six-block walk from our hotel. Also at the Visitor Center stop on the trolley, I found a schedule posted on a small bulletin board. I jotted down the times, to make sure we would get to experience what we came to do. I learned that the trolley only makes about six round trips per day, so we would have to coordinate our Friday activities accordingly.
I also walked over to a point that was two blocks almost directly behind our hotel, where maps show that the trolley track comes to a point almost right behind the hotel, but across one of the canals that snake through the city. It turns out that there is no trolley service here, as we would find out the next day.
After my brief night walking tour, I returned to the hotel, where I picked up our warm cookies at the front desk. Michael and I consumed them quickly, and then we each took showers. Michael then retired for the night, which I used the hotel's internet access on the television to check my e-mail. Pretty soon, I went to sleep as well.
Chapter 2: In Lowell; Friday, August 22, 2003
Chapter 2.1: Breakfast in Lowell
Having also checked out the restaurant in our hotel and finding it very expensive, I decided we would seek out breakfast somewhere downtown. I had found a small luncheonette on Merrimack Street the night before, so we headed there for a good meal to start the day.
Our friends Ed Findlay and Jack Suslak from the Boston area had said they would try to come up to Lowell that day and meet us, perhaps ride the trolley with us. From our last conversations via e-mail and the online chat, I was unclear as to when and where they would be coming up, only that they most likely could not come to Lowell together.
We walked back to the Doubletree, figuring that Ed might be waiting for us in the hotel lobby. After a few minutes, and with the trolley's departure time approaching, I decided we would go about our business and have him join us later.
Chapter 2.2: The Visitor Center
We walked over to the Lowell National Historical Park Visitor Center, the starting point for any visit to Lowell involving the mills, museums, and other attractions. There, we saw a 20-minute orientation film and viewed a few indoor exhibits, microcosms of what is shown in the other buildings around the city.
From the window of the Visitor Center, which is in the middle of a complex known as Market Mills, we saw the trolley sitting at the station; however it was going in the other direction. We found out from the Visitor Center staff that the portion of the line south of there is only used for taking groups of people on a tour that includes a boat ride and a trip to a river island as part of a package tour. Only those on the tour are supposedly allowed to ride the trolley to the boat dock.
When we got to the trolley stop, we walked around the area for a while. The track runs alongside one of the main canals through the downtown area. Right at the trolley station the canal runs through a covered arch tunnel. Although signs say otherwise, it does not appear that somebody in a boat could navigate through the tunnel due to its low clearance.
Also in this area is the Boston & Maine RR exhibit. A steam engine and a caboose sit in static display next to the trolley tracks (which run on what was once the railroad's right-of-way when it was the Boston & Lowell RR).
I looked to the south and could see the trolley at its southernmost stop by the boat dock. We had about ten minutes until the scheduled departure time. I stumbled upon a streetcar museum (which was not on many of the city maps because it just opened in June). We went inside briefly, and then I decided we would come back later because it looked like something I really wanted to spend time seeing. The admission fee would have been wasted if we entered for just a few minutes. After asking the man at the front desk when the museum closes, I told him that we would definitely be back later.
Soon I noticed the trolley moving northward along the canal, and it was getting close to our departure time, so we went to wait on the small, wooden platform for its arrival. When it got there, we had a surprise, there was Ed, already riding ! Somehow he had managed to ride on the rare part of the trackage, over the section that usually is reserved for going on the canal boat tour.
Chapter 2.3: Our first trolley ride
The crew of this trolley was an operator and two flagpersons. They had to protect some street crossings since there are no warning lights or gates.
The trolley ran right through the campus of the Lowell High School, and then curved to the right to run east parallel to the Merrimack River. We passed a connecting track leading to the west, presumably used for access to other attractions in the city. As we came around a curve, there was a large tractor-trailer truck blocking the track. The driver was making a delivery and did not think a trolley might be coming when he fouled the track. Luckily he was nearby, and he quickly maneuvered his truck so that it was out of our way. We then proceeded a little further east and came to stop at the Boott Cotton Mills Museum.
The tracks continue beyond here, and swing around the eastern side of Lowell's downtown area, to a point almost directly across the river from the Doubletree Hotel. The trolley barn is also located near here, actually taking up a part of the Boott Mills complex. So although a trolley going out of service would go past this station and then bear to the left into its depot, there is currently no service beyond here. The crew told me that there are some curves that are too tight and some tracks that are not up to par for the trolley to operate over them.
Chapter 2.4: Boott Cotton Mills Museum
This museum is one of the few within the Lowell National Historical Park where we encountered an admission fee. We had to check it out however, since the trolley crew takes a lunch break in the middle of the day. Obviously we could walk back across town easily, but walking was not what we came for! We wanted the opportunity to ride the trolley back from Boott Mills to the Visitor Center.
As we paid our admission, Ed, Michael and I were each given two earplugs. The highlight of the museum is a walk through a cotton weave room, where the equipment is so noisy that it is a threat to one's hearing. The idea was to appreciate the conditions that workers experienced when they had to come here every day.
Once through the weave room we did the rest of the museum in about 15 minutes. There were places to return the used earplugs, but we kept ours. I am still trying to figure out why I'll need them, since I am no longer married.
Chapter 2.5: Lunch in Lowell
After leaving the museum, we still had about an hour to go before the trolley resumed service. We were hungry for lunch, so we walked up Bridge Street, and in three blocks we came to Merrimack Street, passing right by the place we had breakfast. We ended up having lunch at a pizza place on Center Street that featured oversized slices.
Chapter 2.6: Mill Girls and Immigrants Exhibit
After lunch the three of us wandered back down to the riverfront area, where we went into the old Boardinghouse that now houses the park's Mill Girls and Immigrants Exhibit. We saw the conditions under which the mill workers lived.
After our walk through that attraction, we headed back to the trolley stop outside Boott Mills to await our ride back to the Visitor Center.
Chapter 2.7: Our second trolley ride
Right on time the trolley came up to the stop where we had previously alighted. The crew allowed us to stand in the operator's position and take some photos while they were reversing the trolley's direction. The woman who had served as one of the flag people on our previous trip was now the operator.
We left on time for our trip back to the Visitor Center. Once again we passed by the connection to the trolley spur line that goes over to Wannalancit Mills (formerly Suffolk Mills), but we did not ride over it. That's more rail trackage that we did not get!!
When we got back to the Visitor Center stop, all passengers were told to get off. The crew said that beyond this point, the trolley was reserved for paying passengers headed for the canal boat tour. Ed was very lucky to have ridden that mile-long stretch earlier in the day!
Chapter 2.8: National Trolley Museum
Once we were back at the Visitor Center stop, we walked over to the National Trolley Museum. There was a small entrance fee here. We found it very interesting. It covers not only the Boston area, but systems all over the country. It is a satellite of the Seashore Trolley Museum in Kennebunkport, ME. If you can't make it up to Maine, this little museum comes highly recommended.
After we left the trolley museum, it was about 2:15 PM. Ed and I talked a little further on the street, and then we decided that we had done everything we had come to do in Lowell, and besides, it was too hot to do much else. It was apparent that Jack would not make it up there to join us. Ed left us, walking back to the Gallagher Terminal for a 3:00 MBTA train to Boston. Michael and I walked back to our hotel and decided to do some swimming in the pool.
Chapter 2.9: Swimming, the storm, and dinner in Lowell
We swam for about an hour, using mainly the indoor pool and adjacent whirlpool. What the hotel billed as an outdoor pool was nothing more than a small wading pool, so we did not spend too much time there despite how comfortable the water was in the 90-degree heat.
Towards the end of our swimming time, we began to hear some thunder in the distance, so that was our cue to get back to our room and get dressed once more before going to dinner.
When we got back to our room, the thunder was coming more frequently. We looked out of our eighth-story window and saw a purple sky, not unlike the very dark conditions we saw on the first day of the Chicago fest. Heavy lightning now accompanied the thunder, and it was clear we were in for a rather large storm. Since we had planned to walk back downtown in search of a place to eat, and since our hotel's restaurant was too expensive, we were basically stranded until the storm passed. A torrential downpour lasted about 20 minutes. We just watched television and waited patiently for the sky to begin to clear.
The rain finally stopped, and the sky amazingly turned blue quickly, with the storm clouds now located safely to the south (like right over Boston!). We walked downtown, and looked for someplace to eat. In my literature I had found something that interested me, an Italian steakhouse. But after we read the menu in the restaurant's lobby, the prices were way too high and the menu did not have a decent selection. What's more, there was no children's menu one would expect from such a place. So we walked out, and ended up at the local Subway about a block away.
We filled our bellies, and then returned to our hotel to watch television before heading to bed in preparation for our day of travel home. I also called Lowell Taxi to reserve a ride for us at 8:15 the next morning to take us to the train station.
Chapter 3: Getting home; Saturday, August 23, 2003
Although the hotel's express checkout meant we did not have to visit the front desk, I went anyhow to ask for a couple of Doubletree cookies for the road. They had run out of them the night before, so I was there to claim what was due.
We were down in the lobby at 8 AM, and our cab was there already. Another very friendly driver kept us entertained during our five-minute trip to the train station. Once there, we had plenty of time to wait for our 9 AM departure to Boston. We noticed a lot of kids, and their adult chaperones, all with camping gear on their backs.
Chapter 3.1: MBTA Lowell Line, Train 1302, Lowell, MA to Boston-North Station, MA
Like many Saturday morning inbound commuter trains around the country, this one was crowded. Having that group aboard with the large backpacks and tents did not help matters. I learned that they were headed for some island in the middle of Boston Harbor, where they would spend some time "roughing it". The train's crew did not have all of the coaches open when we left Lowell, but they had to open another one down the line as they realized that they were not going to be able to seat everyone.
We arrived in Boston a few minutes late, thanks to heavy boardings at most of the intermediate stations.
Chapter 3.2: MBTA Orange Line, North Station to Downtown Crossing
Since I had the heavy suitcase, we rode the elevator down from the street level to the mezzanine level of the North Station Superstation. Once there, we went to the southbound Orange Line platform and waited for our train. And waited, and waited. If the trains run every 13 or 14 minutes, then we surely waited the maximum amount of time, and must have just missed another train.
We got on the last car of the train, knowing this would put us closest to the transfer for the Red Line at Downtown Crossing. Once aboard, it was a quick run several stops to Downtown Crossing, where we went downstairs and through the tunnel to the Red Line station.
Chapter 3.3: MBTA Red Line, Downtown Crossing to South Station
Now we had yet another wait. I thought from the size of the crowd that we should be seeing a train soon, but we stood there at least five minutes before there was any action at that station. I always say we could have walked to South Station in less time, but heck, we had a suitcase, and the ride would cost no more for us since we had transferred from another line.
The MBTA needs to come into the 21st Century, and realize that they need to decrease headways during supposed off-peak hours. Certain shoulder periods before and after the rush hours, and most of the day on weekends now draw larger numbers of people needing to travel. Try running trains every ten minutes, or even better, and I am sure the trains will still operate at capacity.
Once a train showed up, we did not bother sitting down because the ride lasts about a minute between Downtown Crossing and South Station. When we got off, we negotiated the usual maze of passageways around the Silver Line construction, and eventually came up in the waiting room of South Station.
It had been my intention to use my Select coupons to admit us into the Club Acela. However, by the time we arrived at the station there was only half an hour until our departure, and we would probably be boarded in ten minutes. So I opted to hold onto my coupons for future use when we could relax for a longer period of time.
Chapter 3.4: AMTRAK Acela Express Train #2253, Boston-South Station, MA to New York-Penn Station, NY
The call soon came for First Class passengers to board the train. Most of the rest of the passengers assembled outside at the beginning of the platform, waiting for the general boarding call. When that came, we had to walk single file past a crew member and an AMTRAK policeman, and show our tickets.
We walked up to near the front of the train, where there were plenty of available seats. These seats are usually the ones taken by those who board at Back Bay Station, since those passengers approach the train from the front due to the nature of the layout of that station.
The consist of our Acela Express fixed trainset for Train #2253(23) was:
2009 Power car 3409 Business Class end car 3546 Business Class <- * 3305 Cafe Acela 3543 Business Class 3541 Business Class 3207 First Class end car 2020 Power car * Michael & I were here
This happened to be Set #5, the first Acela Express trainset to enter into revenue service in late 2000.
By my watch we departed from South Station one minute early at 10:59 AM. After we rounded the first curve approaching Back Bay Station, the train's tilt mechanism was activated.
We were right on time departing from Back Bay and Route 128 stations. It was a quiet, uneventful ride south, although our conductor enjoyed being a tour guide, pointing out sites along the way. He of course let us know when we had achieved our maximum speed of 150 mph; by that time we were in the Attleboro, MA area.
At Providence we were just one minute late. We had more humor as we went back up to 150 mph. The conductor happened to be chatting on his microphone when we were approaching the Kingston, RI station (where some Regional trains stop). He said, in one breath, "Now entering Kingston, RI...Now departing Kingston, RI."
We continued to make excellent time down to the New Haven area. About three minutes before our on-time arrival there, the train's tilt was shut off to comply with Metro North's wishes. The conductor explained to us that an 18-minute layover is built into the timetable here on weekends, to allow for bridge openings for pleasure boats.
Once we resumed our travel, we soon came to Bridgeport. We had a speed restriction through there on account of construction. Just past the Bridgeport station, we passed another Acela Express, 2250, which was stopped and waiting for us to clear one of the center tracks. This slowdown meant that we made our Stamford, CT stop three minutes late.
We split off Metro North at New Rochelle, back onto AMTRAK trackage. It was another four minutes, at which time we had already entered the Bronx, when the tilt mechanism was reactivated.
Before we knew it, we were looking down on the Queens rooftops from the Hell Gate Bridge, and being told we would be in Penn Station in a few minutes. As his final act before his crew gave way to a new one in New York, our conductor made sure he pointed out that we had arrived at Penn Station one minute early, despite the delays in Connecticut.
Chapter 1.1: AMTRAK Regional Train #199, New York-Penn Station, NY to Metropark, NJ
As I always do, I split our tickets so that we would get the 500 points for taking the Acela Express between two qualifying stations. (Metropark somehow does not qualify.) I felt that the New York-Metropark portion of our trip, had we remained on the Acela Express, would have been too expensive, so since there was a Regional train within a short amount of time, we would take that instead.
Regional Train 199 is a Saturday-only train that originates in New York and runs to Washington. To avoid the crowds that were awaiting this train in the AMTRAK concourse, we went a hallway between the lower level NJ TRANSIT and LIRR concourses instead and watched a monitor, also listening to the announcements. This guaranteed us a seat near the rear of the train when it was announced, to be departing from Track 5. By boarding through the NJ TRANSIT area, we were the only ones accessing the train from this direction. I realized too that we probably were also bypassing anyone who might be looking at passengers' tickets at the top of the escalator in the main AMTRAK waiting area. Did I expose a potential security risk here?
Because we sat near the rear of the train and never saw the front of it, I was unable to record the number of the engine or the cafe car right behind it. Our consist on Train #199(23) was as follows:
9XX AEM-7 locomotive <- ** XXXXX ? <- ** 20047 Amfleet I cafe 21263 Amfleet I coach 82088 Amfleet I Regional CoachClass <- * 21022 Amfleet I coach 21238 Amfleet I Regional CoachClass * Michael & I were here ** Unable to record number
We pulled forward from the platform at 3:06 PM. But I also noticed that the southbound Acela Express, the one we had arrived on that should have left at 3:00, was also moving forward. It seemed like it was unclear to the dispatchers which train should have been allowed to leave the station first. Obviously I would have expected an express train, and one that is already late, to leave first. We stopped in the interlocking area just west of the station to allow 2253 to pass, and I figured that justice was served. Then 199 went in front again, and entered the tunnel first.
We of course got to Newark first, and made our stop on Track 4. I figured the Acela was right behind us, and would make its stop on Track 3, and then leave Newark ahead of us. Wrong again! Somehow we were already departing from Newark as the Acela Express arrived next to us.
When we got to the vicinity of the S-curve in Elizabeth, the Acela Express caught up to us. For a while we were moving together at the same speed on adjacent tracks. Michael waved to people on the Acela Express, some of them former coach mates when we had been on that train.
Our unplanned race ended real quickly when we made an unscheduled stop at a commuter station. I wondered why we were stopped in Rahway, since AMTRAK never stops there. Putting my scanner on, I learned that there was a problem with a loose mirror on the engine. There was some concern that a train on another track could sideswipe the mirror causing damage. Presumably Rahway's high level platform was deemed a good location to make this repair, although since it was on our right side, I wondered why they could not just wait until they got to the scheduled stop at Metropark to do it. This delay caused the train to be ten minutes late when we got to Metropark.
Off the train in Metropark, I had Michael sit on a bench while I tried in vain to get the car numbers for the engine and the cafe car behind it. Unfortunately, I had walked around enough this weekend, and my 43-year-old legs just were not up to the task or racing a train that was already picking up speed.
Chapter 4: Conclusion
It was a nice, restful three-day trip. I am glad we got to ride the heritage streetcar in Lowell, despite the very short journey it takes through the city. We also had a nice round trip to and from Boston, despite the slight delays.