Monster Mile Express
September 21, 2003
I go to Dover every September for the NASCAR race there and decided this year I would take Amtrak instead of driving and getting home anywhere from 11pm to Midnight after sitting in hours of traffic.
I arrived at Newark Penn Station around 5:45 am Sunday morning (Sept 21) and didn't see train 835 on the board. I wasn't too worried as there was already 20 people or more attired in various NASCAR and their favorite driver garb. Finally about 6:00 "Special Train" appeared on the board for track 3 at 6:20 am. We all filed upstairs and I would say there was at least 50 or more on the platform when it arrived. The consist was an AEM7, 2 coaches, lounge, 2 coaches, lounge and 2 coaches. All were Amfleet I's and all of the cars were refurbished with the blue seats and the one lounge I was in almost looked like an Acela Bistro car. I asked the attendant and she said this car usually ran on the Richmond service and also on the Metroliners. The car number was 85500.
We left Newark on time, made a stop in Trenton and then stopped in 30th St Station in Philadelphia. There the AEM7 was taken off and a P42 added at each end. We lost at least 15 minutes here while the engine change took place. It took quite some time.
We then left PHL, stopped in Wilmington and then stayed on the NEC for a few more miles. We then changed from the far right track to the far left one (4 tracks wide at this point). We held there while the engineers went to the other locomotive and then we reversed direction to take the Delmarva line (according to the conductor). This was about 40-45 mph running the whole way. Saw something interesting shortly after leaving the NEC. A whole line of old Metroliner cab cars, some F40's and a bunch of P40's. At least I think they were P40's. They were numbered in the low 800's (815 for one). This must be where they are storing them.
We arrived in Dover about 20 minutes late. We then piled into 7 busses and with a 2 car State Police escort made it to the raceway in about 10 minutes.
We were told that we had 60 minutes from the end of the race to make it back to the bus. It took me 17 and it wasn't hard. We ended up leaving one guy. We made it back to the train quickly (without an escort this time) and within 10 minutes we left. We did stop about 100 yards after leaving to let the guy on that we left back at the track. It seems he took a cab to the station. Lucky guy, long walk from Dover.
One thing that impressed me was that the lounge car attendant was open and serving when we got on the train. No waiting or shutting down early on either arrival point. Not only that but she had hamburgers and hot dogs that she cooked in the oven, not microwaved. She didn't know that Corona should be served with a lime but I'll give her that one. I want to add that she was one of the most polite attendants I have ever experienced.
We then made it back to the NEC stopping only briefly. Obviously the engineer was already in the rear loco (now the lead) as we no sooner stopped, that we started again only in a different direction. After a quick stop in Wilmington we then made a longer stop in PHL. It took over 40 minutes to take off the two diesels and add a AEM7. They seemed to be having a problem removing the rear P42. Anyway we ended up arriving in Newark about 30 minutes early.
I have to say I was impressed with the organization and the planning. We were given an info sheet shortly after leaving Newark which detailed the reverse move and why the seats were 50-50. It also mentioned that due to various laws they could not sell liquor until the return trip. I am guessing certain areas had laws outlawing liquor sales before noon. Then on the bus they took our names so we could be checked off on the return and gave us another info sheet with a map of the bus parking areas and the cell phone number of the Amtrak person in charge so we could call if we could not find the bus. In addition to the one guy that didn't make it, another one called for directions and he made it on time.
It was a long day but Amtrak beat driving big time. I hope they continue to offer this trip as I plan to take it again. Currently it runs twice a year, June and September.