November 7-9, 2003
with portions by
Chapter 0: Introduction
This was another quickly-arranged group gathering. This trip was born out of the fact that Michael, like all school kids in New Jersey, has a Thursday and Friday off from school in the first week of November so that all teachers in the state can attend a convention in Atlantic City.
There were several reasons that we chose to spend this particular weekend in Boston. First, I wanted to ride trains in order to increase my travel-related AMTRAK Guest Rewards points for the year and move closer to the 5000-point threshold for Select membership for the year. Taking two Acela Express rides would be the best way to do it.
Secondly, Michael and I had never before tried riding in First Class on the Acela Express. Since I already had to pay full adult fare for Michael in Business Class, I was able to use two of my Select one-class upgrade coupons and get us both into First Class.
The third reason for this trip was to partake of the current offer that gives a free companion ticket to anyone who takes two Acela Express or Metroliner round trips (or four one-way trips) between the New York area and either the Boston area or the Washington area before December 22nd. This would net us two of those four trips.
And a fourth reason was that Michael had not seen a friend of his (who he had met aboard a train six years ago) in 1-1/2 years, and they both wanted to get together again.
So there were many reasons to justify the expense of this trip.
Alan Burden would be joining us, as he is never one to miss a group gathering on the rails. We looked for an affordable place to stay in a hotel in the Boston area for two nights that was close to some type of rail transit, and came up with the Hilton Dedham, which is near Route 128/I-95 and within walking distance from the MBTA's Dedham Corporate Center station on the Franklin Line.
I contacted our Boston area friends from previous Fests and smaller meets, and put together a plan to ride one round trip to Fitchburg after our arrival on Friday. Then we would fill Saturday by taking a round trip to Newburyport in the morning, Plymouth in the afternoon, and we would finish the day by riding the one Green Line branch that we were unable to ride during the 2002 Boston "T" Party, the B route to Boston College.
Meanwhile, we were invited to Michael's friend's house in Brookline for dinner on Friday evening, so that did not interfere with our train riding.
With our plans all set for a Friday and Saturday on Boston's rails, and our very first Acela Express round trip (previously we only rode the Acela in one direction, and a Regional in the other) to Boston, all we had to do was get up early on Friday and begin our travels.
Chapter 1: Friday, November 7, 2003
Chapter 1.1: NJ TRANSIT Northeast Corridor Line: Train #3792; Metropark, NJ to New York-Penn Station
Since I had to get to New York before 8 AM in order to upgrade my Acela Express tickets to First Class, I chose an NJ TRANSIT 6:57 AM express train from Metropark as our transportation to the city. We made this train with no problems, and even got seats together in the front car despite the fact that this was the core of the morning rush hour.
We made it to New York a few minutes earlier than the advertised time of 7:34 AM. I knew that if we were successful in upgrading our Acela Express tickets to First Class, we would be served breakfast aboard the train. But I did not wish to wait until the 9:03 departure, and finicky as I am, was afraid I might not find things I like on the train. So we both opted to eat at McDonald's anyway.
After breakfast our next stop was the AMTRAK ticket windows. I was successful in making the upgrade to First Class. We then went to purchase some snacks to eat aboard the train, and then used our First Class privilege to enter the Club Acela to await our train. I called Alan and advised him we were successful, so he would know to meet us in the Club Acela. He was already on his way into the city.
Chapter 1.2: Club Acela in New York-Penn Station
Alan soon joined us in the Club Acela, and we then waited for our Train 2152 to be called. Also in the lounge were passengers for the next southbound Acela Express, 2151, which was supposed to depart from New York just three minutes before ours.
Around 8:30 AM the video train monitors suddenly changed to show that Train 2151 was delayed. Then about 15 minutes later, we heard an announcement that all passengers for Train 2151 should come up to the desk. Alan knew this meant trouble, as that train was most likely canceled. Those passengers would be re-ticketed on Regional trains or the following Acela Express. Meanwhile, we wondered what had happened to poor 2151, which was coming from Boston and supposed to be heading to Washington. Its fate was of concern to us as well, since we were going to be headed north and could run into whatever held up 2151. At one point, Alan surmised, they could turn our train, 2152, and use it as a make-up 2151, catering to the more lucrative New York-Washington market instead of New York-Boston passengers.
So we were delighted when our train was called for boarding. Unfortunately, with all the confusion surrounding the annulled train, they did not call us in time to board in advance of the Business Class passengers in the main station. So we went down a different stairway in order to access the platform quicker and get our seats together in the First Class car, which we found out was at the rear of this train.
Chapter 1.3: AMTRAK Acela Express Train #2152; New York-Penn Station to Boston-South Station
Our consist for Train 2152(7) looked like this:
2027 Power car 3408 Business Class end car 3552 Business Class 3318 Cafe 3529 Business Class 3537 Business Class 3213 First Class end car <- * 2033 Power car * - We all were here
We sat in facing seats at one of the conference tables on board. Michael and I faced forwards, while Alan sat facing backwards, deferring to us since we had never experienced First Class in the forward direction, much less any direction.
We departed from New York right on time at 9:03 AM, and everything appeared to be satisfactory for the first 20 minutes of the trip. We made it through the Bronx very quickly, and before we knew it we had entered Metro North territory in New Rochelle. It was very soon after that when our trip took a turn for the worse.
Metro North continues to have one track totally out of service for bridge and catenary repairs. This limits the line's capacity to move multiple Metro North local and express trains, as well as AMTRAK's Regional and Acela Express trains through the area. So we found ourselves running up the northbound local track instead of on one of the middle express tracks, which allowed Metro North to use the two remaining tracks for the tail end of its rush hour service towards Grand Central Terminal.
This might have worked out all right, except that there was a service disruption up the line which complicated matters for everyone. We began to run very slowly, and eventually we stopped. We moved again, and then stopped, just past Metro North's Harrison station. The crew told us that a train had taken a wire down, and we could not move until the problem was cleared up.
We resigned ourselves to the fact that we would have a long wait while we were either routed around the problem, or the wire was repaired. I knew then and there that our Fitchburg trip would not be happening. We only had about 47 minutes between our scheduled 12:33 PM arrival and the 1:20 PM Fitchburg departure from North Station, and that included grabbing a quick lunch.
While we were still sitting near Harrison, Jack Suslak called me and said he had heard our train had been delayed. I informed him then that this was true, and that it did not look like we would be making it to Fitchburg.
It was upsetting to us when a Metro North train was allowed to pass us, but we knew who was in charge of running this railroad. Gone are the days when everyone and everything moves to the side to let the Acela Express through.
Eventually Metro North allowed us to move, albeit slowly, to Stamford, where the problem was. We did not know at the time what train had taken the wire down, nor did we know its exact location. We did pass what appeared to be an empty Metro North MU consist in the vicinity of the Mianus River bridge near Cos Cob, but this was the train that had passed us back at Harrison.
After making our Stamford stop at 10:40 AM, 54 minutes late, we were moving once again at the maximum allowed speed, which is not much on Metro North's railroad. Just past the Stamford station we saw an Acela Express train on an adjacent track, with a Metro North FL-9 engine in New Haven RR livery just disengaging from it. It turns out that this was Train 2151, the southbound Acela Express that had never made it to New York. This was the train that had a tangle with the wires. We surmised that the Acela consist we saw was pushed to the Stamford station to offload its passengers, and then it was towed back east out of the way.
Our Train 2152 was one of the trains that had its New Haven stop removed from the timetable during the recent change, for the purpose of saving time. While we were grateful to move past New Haven without stopping, it was of little help to us since we were already so late.
Back in AMTRAK territory, we went as fast as we could, including about 150 mph in those few stretches in Rhode Island and Massachusetts. Meanwhile, I knew we would never make up the time we had lost, so I set out to call everyone and let them know we would be very late.
I got a hold of Skip Howard, who was just pulling into the parking lot of the Campello station on the Middleborough-Lakeville Line. He proceeded with his plans to board that train, but now he knew he would be waiting a little longer for us. I knew that Ed was in class and had no phone with him, so I could not contact him. I tried to call Lyle McBride at home, but he had already left for South Station. Lyle had no cell phone, so I hoped he and Ed would at least meet the others in South Station so he would know of our fate.
Thankfully I normally carry the local commuter schedules with me for the city I am going to visit. This allowed me to plot out a new trip for us to replace the Fitchburg trip we would miss. The Middleborough-Lakeville Line would work nicely for our purposes and allow us time for lunch.
I then called Skip back to advise him of our progress, and the fact that I had decided we would do the Middleborough-Lakeville Line as an alternate for our missed Fitchburg Line plans. He did not know Lyle, but I asked him if he saw the others waiting by themselves to inform them of the situation.
Jack Suslak was also in class, but he called me after 12:15 PM and I informed him we were in Rhode Island. He said he was going to go ahead and do the Fitchburg Line anyhow, and that he would catch up with us the following day. I got a call from Ed later on, saying that he had joined Jack at North Station and they would ride together to Fitchburg.
We reached Providence at 12:52 PM, just under an hour late, and I knew by then we had made the right decision not to worry about Fitchburg; we simply would not make it, even with the padding on the Boston end of the line.
Then came Route 128 at 1:13 PM (55 minutes late) and Back Bay Station at 1:23 PM (56 minutes late).
Our train finally got into South Station at 1:27 PM, making us officially 54 minutes late. The Fitchburg train we had originally intended to catch had already departed from North Station, so my prediction back in Harrison, NY that we would miss it came true.
We had to exit our First Class car from the rear door, which made our walk to the station building a little longer.
Skip and Lyle had met each other by the time we arrived at South Station, and they were there to meet us just before we entered the building after our long walk from the train. First we had to walk over to the AMTRAK baggage area so I could store my suitcase for the day. After that was done, we had a little time before our Middleborough-Lakeville Line trip. Since our train would not be departing until 2:15 PM, we were able to sit down and have a leisurely late lunch at South Station before boarding our train.
Skip and Lyle were fine with our new plans, even though Skip had already ridden this line earlier to get to Boston, and even though the only other time Michael and I had met Lyle, it was that very line we had ridden together. Since we already had two members of our group on a different set of rails, that meant that this had developed into a seven-person Simul-Fest.
My report on the travels of the larger part of our Simul-Fest resumes in Chapter 1.8. In the meantime, let's hear from Jack about his trip from Swampscott, and the trip that he and Ed took to Fitchburg.
Chapter 1.4: MBTA Newburyport/Rockport Line: Train #120; Swampscott to Boston-North Station
As soon as I heard that Kevin and Company would be coming up here to ride the rails to earn more Guest Rewards points, I knew I wanted to make my return to the rails. As some of you may know I have been out of commission when it comes to Fests and riding trains due to having two surgeries over the last year. But they went well and now I am doing well enough to go on a train trip if it's in my backyard.
We decided to go on the Fitchburg Line on Friday afternoon, and on Saturday morning to Newburyport. Since these are on the North Side and thus use North Station just like my line does, I thought I could go for sure. The Fitchburg Line was new trackage for me, and so was the stretch from Beverly Jct. to Newburyport on the Newburyport-Rockport Line.
But I found out it was the same weekend as the fest for Beatle fans, so I wasn't sure if I would be able to have all this fun. It turns out that they never overlapped, so it wouldn't be too much of a factor. So on the morning of the 7th I was at Salem State having one class at 11 AM.
I was tracking the progress of the train that the Korell's and Alan Burden were on, and at 10:30 I found out some bad news on the website that said their train was 45 minutes to an hour late. I immediately called Kevin and he told me there was a wire down near Stamford, CT, which meant there would be no way for them to make the 1:20 PM train to Fitchburg.
But I was so anxious to get back on the train, that I decided that I was gonna go out there anyway, and besides I was expecting Ed Findlay to meet me at North Station so that's what I would do.
After my class got out at 12:15 my mom picked me up and brought me to the Swampscott station to await my 12:45 train to Boston. While waiting I stopped at a local sub shop and got a sub to eat on the train. I was on the platform in plenty time to make the train, which seemed to my watch to be a minute early. I had no trouble getting on the train and I was seated. In no time we were arriving on time at North Station. I had enjoyed most of my lunch by then. I got off the train, and to my relief I saw Ed waiting for my arrival. And more good news came when he told me he got my ticket for the Fitchburg round trip (for which I did pay him back).
Chapter 1.5: MBTA Fitchburg Line: Train #423; Boston-North Station to Fitchburg
We made it on the train and got our seats and at 1:20 PM our train left Boston.
The tracks for the Fitchburg Line branch off from the rest of the North Side lines just after the bridge north of the station, so quickly we were headed into Cambridge. The first stop on the line is Porter Square, which also has a station on the Red Line below the tracks here. I've been at these platforms when I was riding the Red Line, and explored the Commuter Rail platforms.
Then after that, we went into Belmont and Waltham where you can see some of the old tower as well as the Charles River. A little later we were traveling under Route 128/I-95 and heading west. Shortly later we crossed under the bridge which in its day carried the Central Mass Railroad.
We stopped at few small stations and quickly we were getting near scenic and historic Concord. The West Concord Stop was interesting to me because you got to see across the way from the station a large apartment complex, which clearly makes this station a transit-oriented development.
After that we headed further into towns such as Acton and Littleton. The latter has a station that is near Route 2 and I-495 but the station was surprisingly underwhelming; I was expecting much more of an intermodal station there.
As we got closer to Ayer, that's when things started to get interesting. I noticed off to my right another line coming into ours. This is the Stony Brook Line, a major freight line that heads over to Lowell. Soon after that, we saw on our left a car loading area with the car containers for transport. At the Ayer station you can see the yard where we noticed a freight train idling to the south. Then our tracks rose in elevation as we approached Fitchburg. At times we were paralleling Route 2 as we headed west. I also noticed a large bridge which looked like a "mini-Zakim Bridge", which I heard wasn't too cheap either. Then we entered a large train yard we stopped briefly to have a crew change and short time later we arrived in Fitchburg. We got off the train at Fitchburg for a few minutes, but we went nowhere and stayed on the platform.
Chapter 1.6: MBTA Fitchburg Line: Train #424; Fitchburg to Boston-North Station
A little before 3:00 PM we boarded again and headed east. This train was fairly heavily patronized with a fair amount of students from Fitchburg State heading home for the weekend. The trip back was fairly uneventful, but for the first few miles we had a freight train following us in the rear until the Willows where that train went on to the Stony Brook line.
In no time we were arriving back into Boston and by this time it was starting to get dark. We arrived back in Boston at 4:29 on Track 10 at North Station. I really had to use the facilities and it was a long wait but I was all set to go, but I already had missed the 4:45 train to get home. We knew there was a 5:10 PM train we could take, and besides I wanted to get an Ice Coffee at Dunkin Donuts.
Chapter 1.7: MBTA Newburyport/Rockport Line: Train #181; Boston-North Station to Swampscott
So we took care of all the business and boarded the train. We promptly walked through all the cars to get to the one that I would need to get off at Swampscott and use the Mini High Platform. Ed had to leave shortly after the train departed because he was getting off at Chelsea.
So at that time I was finally alone again. Not before long I arrived in Swampscott and got of the train and met my mother. I went home and had a break for supper but I did go out to the fest for Beatles fans that night and had a great time.
Chapter 1.8: MBTA Middleborough-Lakeville Line: Train #015; Boston-South Station to Middleborough-Lakeville
Skip, Lyle, Alan, Michael, and I boarded the Middleborough-Lakeville Line train for our half of this Friday Simul-Fest. We left on time and had a good run down to the end of the line. For a mid-afternoon run the ridership was impressive.
Meanwhile, Ed and Jack were on their way to Fitchburg. When they reached Fitchburg, we were around the Campello station. Jack called me to say they had made it, and I told him where we were. We were communicating between trains almost at complete opposite ends of the system! Just as we were approaching Middleborough-Lakeville, Ed and Jack were starting back east towards Boston on their train.
When we got to Middleborough-Lakeville, we all got off, and just stood around for our 17-minute layover. There is no place to go since this is primarily a park & ride station. Just north of the station is a small rail yard where some MBTA equipment lays over. There is also a freight track that runs to Attleboro, joining with the Northeast Corridor there. It is over this track that AMTRAK's former CAPE CODDER ran on summer weekends in the mid-1990's. It then proceeded to Hyannis by continuing southeast beyond where this station now is down to the Cape.
Chapter 1.9: MBTA Middleborough-Lakeville Line: Train #018; Middleborough-Lakeville to Boston-South Station
Our trip back went well. This train did a decent reverse peak business, especially at the Bridgewater station, which is adjacent to a college.
Skip got off at the Campello station, where he had left his car, and he drove home to Easton. That left Lyle, Alan, Michael, and me to return to Boston.
When we got to South Station, it was 4:21 PM. After chatting briefly with Alan and Lyle, Michael and I headed off for our dinner date with his friend's family, while Lyle waited for an Attleboro/Stoughton Line train back to Attleboro, and Alan took a Franklin Line train to Dedham Corporate Center to get to our hotel.
Chapter 1.10: Evening activities
Michael and I took the Red Line from South Station to Park Street, and then waited a little while for a Green Line D trolley. I had underestimated both the rush hour wait and the time the trolleys have to take at each stop for passengers to get on and off the cars when there are crush loads aboard. So I could see that we would not make our 5 PM dinner date. When we came out of the portal after the Kenmore station, I called our friends and told them we would be about ten minutes late.
We got off at the Brookline Hills station, walked several blocks to their house, and had a very nice evening of conversation and Chinese food.
Then as it got to be close to 7:30, I got nervous about us making an 8:50 PM Franklin Line train from South Station, knowing we had to stop and pick up the luggage first. So we left our friends and headed back to the Green Line.
Luckily, a car came almost right away, so we did not have to wait a long time. However this car was already overcrowded with passengers, something I had not expected for an evening inbound trolley past the rush hour. We had literally inches in which to stand, and at each station the crowd just got worse. The operator kept telling passengers to move towards the rear to allow people to board, but nobody had anywhere to go. Still, all those lined up to board somehow got on the car.
Things got a little better as we came to the downtown underground stations. Much of the crowd got off with us at Park Street, so we did not have to fight much to get off.
We went downstairs to transfer to the Red Line. In the station, a musician was belting out his own tunes, oblivious to the fact that he did not sound too great, and also ignoring the nearby police and fire department activity on the center island platform.
We were on the station's side platform, so we watched the activity while waiting for our train. A man was lying on his back, muttering curses and reminding everyone that he was drunk. He had to be escorted off the platform and up the stairs to the street.
Our Red Line train finally came, and we rode two stops to South Station without further incident.
Once at South Station, I retrieved our luggage from the AMTRAK baggage area, and then we sat down and awaited our Franklin Line train. We had made it with about 20 minutes to spare, so I am glad we left Brookline when we did.
Chapter 1.11: MBTA Franklin Line: Train #727; Boston-South Station to Dedham Corporate Center
This train left South Station on time. However, we ran into a delay at Back Bay Station. After passengers had boarded there, we sat at the platform for about five extra minutes. The crew told us that a drunken person was on the platform and the train could not move until he was removed. I wondered if this was our same friend from Park Street, but it would have taken him a lot of effort to be released by the police at Park Street, take two subway trains to get to Back Bay, go upstairs into the station, and then go downstairs and collapse on the commuter rail platform. So I deduced that this was a different drunk.
The rest of our ride was smooth, and we got to Dedham Corporate Center about 5 minutes late. Although I had been to both the hotel and this station before, Alan had left me a message on my phone with helpful instructions on how to walk across the parking lot and up one street to the hotel. I had pictured the hotel a little closer to the station than it was.
We checked in, got comfortable, and then soon went to sleep after a very busy day, with one more to follow.
Chapter 2: Saturday, November 8, 2003
In order to make our planned 9:30 AM train out of North Station for Newburyport, it meant we had to rise early and catch a 7:10 AM train from Dedham Corporate Center. Besides the early hour, we also had to endure unseasonably cold weather during our walk from the hotel and subsequent wait for the train. The weather forecasters got this one right. The upside to our Saturday travels was that we got to leave our luggage behind in our hotel rooms.
Chapter 2.1: MBTA Franklin Line: Train #1702; Dedham Corporate Center to Boston-Back Bay Station
Our first train of the day was the Franklin Line train, which came right on time. We were in Back Bay Station right at the advertised 7:30 AM.
From this station we could enjoy a one-seat ride to the North Station area on the Orange Line.
Chapter 2.2: MBTA Orange Line; Back Bay Station to North Station
Our good luck continued as a train came in just after we had paid our fares. We walked downstairs and immediately boarded the northbound train. Less than ten minutes later, we arrived at North Station.
A rude surprise however awaited us on Causeway Street, as we found that the full-service McDonald's had closed. We decided we would later try the smaller McDonald's inside the station. Meanwhile, we went into a nearby 7-11 store and stocked up on snacks for our train trips.
We then crossed the street and entered North Station. At the McDonald's inside, we got items we were not used to ordering, but they did satisfy our hunger. We had to eat while standing over trash cans, since there is no place to sit at this small stand, and very little room for one to eat while standing.
North Station suffers in the colder months from the same problem that plagues South Station. Each time the sliding doors leading to the tracks open, a rush of cold air fills the station. We went over and stood by a parking garage payment machine on the eastern end of the station, as far away as we could get from the constantly opening doors and the cold.
At about 9 AM, Alan, Michael, and I were joined by Ed Findlay, who had come by bus from Chelsea into Haymarket, and then walked up to North Station.
We then had a surprise, as we were unexpectedly joined by another OTOL member. We welcomed Rick Metcalf to our little group and enjoyed having him along on our Newburyport run.
Around 9:20 AM, our Newburyport train was posted on the monitors, so off we went to board. We sat as close to the front of the train as we could, so that Jack Suslak would be able to join us easily in Swampscott via that station's mini-high platform.
Chapter 2.3: MBTA Newburyport/Rockport Line: Train #1153; Boston-North Station to Newburyport
Rick, Ed, Alan, Michael, and I set out from North Station on this train, heading for Newburyport. After passing through Chelsea, which is Ed's hometown, we stopped at Lynn. Jack was to join us at Swampscott, the next station. We knew he was already waiting there because he had called me to verify we were on the train. My nature being what it is, I found some humor in our failed plans of the previous day. So I told Jack we had missed the train. After he said "WHAAAT?", I had mercy on him and told him where we were. I'll let Jack pick up the commentary from here.
The next morning around 9:30 AM, I returned to Swampscott to wait for the train that would reunite me with Ed, the Korell's, and Alan. It was supposed to arrive at 9:52 AM. I decided to call Kevin to check and make sure they were on the right train, and he told me that they had missed the train and were still at North Station. Thankfully he was kidding and they were, in fact, on the train. I waited for the train on the mini-high platform, and it came a minute late! I got on with no problems and got to meet up with the gang again.
The stretch from the Swampscott Station to Beverly Jct. was familiar to me, until the line went to the left and separated from the Rockport line. Soon we crossed under Route 128 and headed north and then we made our first stop at North Beverly. This is a location I've seen many times by car, but never before on train.
Our next stop was in Hamilton/Wenham, which is where the line starts to get more scenic. Then we arrived into Ipswich, which until 1996 was the terminus of the line. But nowadays the trains continue north into Rowley which has a nice little station off of Route 1A.
Continuing north, this is the most scenic part of the line where the tracks go through marshes, swamps, and other bodies of water, showing you clearly that you are in a coastal area. But soon we got near the Newburyport station and saw the train yard just south of the station. Then we crossed under U.S. 1 (which is the second time the train did that on the trip; the first was in Chelsea), and arrived at Newburyport.
The station in Newburyport is a very modern one as you might expect, with high platforms and a large parking lot. Although it has decent ridership, the station has a few problems. A large station building that was erected there has very poor access to the platforms and has unfortunately closed. There has been recent activity to build a ramp to improve access but time will tell if that will put the building to use again. Another problem there is that the station is about a mile or two away from the downtown, so the ridership isn't as good as it could be.
Chapter 2.4: MBTA Newburyport/Rockport Line: Train #1160; Newburyport to Boston-North Station
We stayed on the platform, and then took the same train back towards Ipswich and points south. In no time we arrived at Swampscott, where unfortunately I had to get off at since my ride was meeting me there and besides I had more events that day at the fest for Beatles fans. But I had a great time finally getting back on to a train. And thanks to Kevin for setting this all up and coming up to Boston and showing us a great time. This was a great opportunity to wet my feet again, hopefully setting up a chance for me to finally get to travel to a Fest by train of course to Philly Fest in January.
Jack detrained at Swampscott, and the rest of us continued into Boston's North Station. We arrived there on time at 11:49 AM.
We all had to get to South Station, so we rode the rapid transit together. We decided to take the Green Line rather than the Orange Line, since the elevated portion of the former will be closed permanently next year -- so this might have been our last opportunity to ride on it. When we got upstairs to the southbound platform, we had just missed one car, but luckily another soon rounded the bend and approached the station.
Chapter 2.5: MBTA Green and Red Lines: North Station to Park Street to South Station
We rode this trolley to Park Street, and then changed there for the Red Line. Thankfully our wait was not too long. This time there were no drunks to entertain us.
Two stops later, we had arrived at South Station. We walked into the train station. Rick then left us, as he had to catch a Middleborough-Lakeville Line train home. The rest of us got lunch to go at the food court. Alan, Ed, Michael, and I then went to board our 12:40 PM train to Plymouth, which was already loading.
Chapter 2.6: MBTA Plymouth/Kingston Line: Train #1053; Boston-South Station to Plymouth
We had a nice uneventful trip out to Plymouth. We rode the same Old Colony Lines trunk route as yesterday out to Braintree, and then took the left fork to run closer to the ocean. On the way, we consumed the lunch we had brought aboard.
We arrived in Plymouth on time at 1:35 PM. Ed and Alan stayed on the station platform. Michael and I took a walk around the WalMart building and back along the track to the station once more. Our train laid over a few feet beyond a grade crossing leading to a marina.
Chapter 2.7: MBTA Plymouth/Kingston Line: Train #1056; Plymouth to Boston-South Station
A little before the 2 PM departure time, the same equipment (now in push mode) began to roll north towards the Plymouth station. Alan noticed that the engineer did not sound the horn when the train crossed the grade crossing.
Our inbound trip was as smooth as the outbound one, with a decent but not heavy crowd heading into the city on a Saturday afternoon. We got back into Boston's South Station right on time at 2:57 PM.
After a quick bathroom break, we then headed for the Red Line to begin the only "official" transit portion of our "unofficial" Fest.
Chapter 2.8: MBTA Red Line: South Station to Park Street
Our luck with short waits continued as we got on a Red Line train very soon after arriving on the platform. This was a quick two-stop trip to Park Street, where we would transfer to the Green Line B trolley to Boston College.
Chapter 2.9: MBTA Green Line B: Park Street to Boston College
The first B car to show up happened to be, to our luck, a Type 8 Breda car. The Type 8's have had some problems with derailments, and only recently have they started being phased back into service after having been pulled from the fleet for a while.
We had a nice smooth ride, with moderate patronage. Ed showed us the location (near Boston University) where the Braves used to play baseball when they were in Boston; I did not know that part of the old stadium still remains in place.
Ed had also warned us that we might run into crowds since a football game was being played at Boston College (BC). Our timing was such that we were headed for BC at about the time he expected the game to let out. So we expected some crowding on our return trip, but we would deal with it.
The game at BC worked to our favor, however, as our operator made an announcement at the Harvard Avenue station that our car was going to run express to Boston College. Everyone going to intermediate stops had to get off there and switch to the next local. An express ride on a trolley seemed to us to be a rare treat, however we still had to stop at signals and take the curves slowly, so we did not save too much time. We figured that they did this because they wanted to get more revenue cars quicker to the BC station to handle the expected influx of passengers.
Chapter 2.10: MBTA Green Line B: Boston College to Copley
There was a special fare collection method in effect to handle the potential crowds from the football game. A farebox was set up on the inbound platform, taking the payment process off the car itself. We hit it just right, however, and we got right on a waiting trolley that was about to leave. The ball game had in fact ended, but there was no crowd at the trolley station.
The car we boarded this time was a Type 7 by Kinki-Sharyo, by far still the workhorse of the fleet. Ed later found out that some of the inbound cars on the B line ran express like our outbound one did. Ours was dispatched as a local because it was not carrying a heavy crowd out of BC. This one ran local all the way, and got quite crowded, not by BC football fans, but by people boarding at intermediate stops along Commonwealth Avenue.
We decided while on board to cut the ride short and get off at Copley, where we could walk just two blocks to Back Bay Station. Since we were not traveling with luggage today, we did not have to go through South Station.
It was a cold two-block walk up Dartmouth Street to Back Bay station. Once we got inside, Ed left us to go home, taking the Orange Line north to Haymarket and then a bus home from there.
Meanwhile, we had about 40 minutes before our 5:25 PM train was due to leave. While Alan wanted to wait until we returned to the hotel to have dinner, Michael and I were hungry and figured we had enough time to get dinner while in the city. I knew that Copley Square, a shopping mall, was across the street. Within the station we found the entrance to an underpass that runs under Dartmouth Street into the Copley Square complex, which also includes two hotels.
We found the mall to have no central food court, just a poor selection of eateries scattered around the complex. The stores themselves were pricey. We gave up and returned to Back Bay Station. Then we noticed a food stand in the station's waiting room that had chicken & rice dishes, so we decided to eat there. We were glad we found it, as it saved us time later at the hotel. Luckily there was still enough time to eat before our train was due.
At about 5:20 PM our Franklin Line train was posted for Track 1, so we went downstairs to board our final train of the day.
Chapter 2.11: MBTA Franklin Line: Train #1713; Boston-Back Bay Station to Dedham Corporate Center
This was a quick run after dark on a line we had already used to "commute" once in each direction between Boston and our hotel in Dedham. This time there were no drunks on the Back Bay Station platform to delay us, so our ride was smooth and on time. We detrained at Dedham Corporate Center and walked the now-familiar several blocks to the Hilton.
Upon arrival, we saw that there was some type of black-tie affair going on in one of the large rooms, with guests spilling out into the lobby. We found out they were local UPS employees, who for one evening had traded their brown uniforms for formal black attire.
Because of all the activity on the main floor of the hotel, the restaurant was closed. What "Brown" did for Alan was that he had to get his dinner another way. The hotel's bar was serving both the bar menu and the restaurant menu, so he still got his full meal - albeit in a different location.
Michael and I stayed up late watching television, as we knew our Fest was over and that we could sleep much later the following morning than we had that day.
Chapter 3: Sunday, November 9, 2003
I had originally booked the 11 AM Acela Express departure out of South Station, but later changed it to the 1 PM departure. This was thanks to the MBTA not starting service until much later on Sundays. The earliest Franklin Line train leaves Dedham Corporate Center at 11:14 AM, well after the earlier Acela has already departed from Boston.
Thanks to the later departure, we did indeed sleep later, and then we had breakfast at our hotel. We then went back to our rooms to pack and relax for a while, and I even grabbed another half hour of sleep. We met downstairs in the lobby, but did not need to check out because everything was already taken care of on our credit cards with the express check-out. We left the hotel at 11:00 to begin our walk towards the train station. It was cold, but not as cold as it had been the day before.
Chapter 3.1: MBTA Franklin Line: Train #2706; Dedham Corporate Center to Boston-South Station
This train was running only about a minute or so late, and that was probably because of the time it took to board so many passengers. This train had nearly every seat filled. The MBTA is losing a decent market by not running its trains earlier on Sundays. To run the same schedule on Sundays as it does on Saturdays would make things less confusing and provide better mobility to the region.
Our final MBTA commuter trip of the weekend ended at South Station a couple of minutes later than the 11:38 AM advertised, but we still had plenty of time before our 1 PM departure.
We were now free to get lunch, and then we intended to take it to the Club Acela with us. I was still stuffed from the buffet breakfast at the hotel, but Michael, growing boy that he is, was hungry. We took his lunch to go, and I decided I would eat lunch aboard the train later on.
Chapter 3.2: Club Acela in Boston-South Station
Alan was once again going in First Class, but this time I was making use of the available weekend AAA and child discounts, so Michael and I would be in Business Class. I however had a Select membership Club Acela coupon, so that gained us admittance into the lounge.
Once in there, Alan and I both logged onto the computers to check out our favorite rail forum, and I also went through my e-mail quickly. We all got our complimentary soft drinks and took some bags of pretzels to snack on during our upcoming train ride.
When our pre-boarding time came near, the attendant was nowhere to be found. We had seen out the window that First Class passengers were already being allowed to board from the station, so we left the Club Acela on our own and went outside. Alan proceeded right to his First Class car, while we waited with the masses for the general boarding announcement for Business Class. Soon Michael and I were seated in a car just in front of the Cafe Acela, which would prove convenient for me since I had not yet eaten lunch.
Chapter 3.3: AMTRAK Acela Express Train #2255; Boston-South Station to New York-Penn Station
The consist for Train 2255(9) was:
2036 Power car 3414 Business Class end car 3530 Business Class <- * 3316 Cafe 3531 Business Class 3532 Business Class 3210 First Class end car <- ** 2017 Power car * - Kevin & Michael were here ** - Alan was here
Our train, well-patronized as it was a busy Sunday run, departed from Boston South Station at 12:59 PM, one minute early. But when we pulled away from Back Bay Station, it was 1:06 PM so we had lost two minutes there.
At Route 128, our crew had some equipment trouble. When station work was completed, the engineer was not getting an indication that the doors were closed properly in car #3532, one of the Business Class coaches. After the crew checked that the doors were indeed closed, the train was able to proceed. Although we were ready to leave one minute ahead of the advertised, the door problem caused us to depart Route 128 right at 1:14 PM, which is on-time.
Figuring the train would get even more crowded and likewise so would the line for food, soon after the train left Route 128 I went to the cafe car. There was in fact a line, which took me about 15 minutes to negotiate. I eventually got my Black Angus cheeseburger and a Diet Coke. Then I returned to my seat next to Michael just after we had left Providence and had begun to accelerate to our maximum 150 mph speed.
The same door indicator problem on car #3532 happened again in Providence, delaying us three minutes, so we left there at 1:38 PM. While moving, the various phase breaks caused further problems with false indications that the doors in the same coach were open, and on a few occasions the cab lost its signals.
We got into New Haven at 3:00, and as usual on weekend Acela Express trains, there was a layover here. I got off and ran down into the station to pick up an extra copy of the new Shore Line East schedule, but they were out of them. I did find a schedule for a bus transfer to Mohegan Sun Casino, so I grabbed that and then returned to the platform. With time still remaining, I walked the length of the train. Then with a few minutes to go before the scheduled 3:18 PM departure, I re-boarded. I am glad I did, because we apparently departed two minutes early. We saw one passenger running on the platform trying to get the train to stop with no luck. Alan called me in my coach to make sure I was aboard, since he had heard on his scanner that the crew was discussing the one passenger who did not make the train.
We now had to run through Metro North territory, the place where we had gotten into trouble on our way up to Boston two days earlier. Luckily we had no major delays, but we were obviously running slower than normal. Despite the fact we left New Haven two minutes hot, our call at Stamford was five minutes late, which means a total of seven minutes was lost so far.
We did not encounter any further problems en route, and we pulled into New York's Penn Station at 4:43 PM, just one minute down. Michael and I detrained and went upstairs to the departure level of the station.
Alan soon came up and joined us for a short while before heading home. Before he left us the NJ TRANSIT train Michael and I planned to take was called for boarding at Gate 13 West.
Chapter 3.4: NJ TRANSIT Northeast Corridor Line: Train #7859; New York-Penn Station to Metropark, NJ
We caught the 5:01 PM NJ TRANSIT express train to Metropark. Naturally, the train got crowded, but we were lucky enough to get seats together by ignoring the cattle call in Penn Station for Gate 13 West and instead going down the main stairway to the arrivals level, and then taking another stairway for 13 East.
There were no incidents during our run to Metropark. After a stop for dinner on the way, we were home by around 7 PM.
Chapter 4: Conclusion
Obviously I am quite pleased that what should have been a smaller, low-key event drew so many people. Thanks to all who made our weekend in Boston so memorable! Our only letdown was getting into the Hub City too late to do our Fitchburg run together, but at least that situation set up our group's very first Simul-Fest on Friday afternoon.
We'll definitely be back in Boston someday for a larger, better-planned event!