Back     Home     Forums     Chat     Search     Site map     Print this page  
On Track On Line - Trip Report Menu
This Report:   Section 1   Section 2   Section 3   Section 4    

Trip Report

Toronto RailFest 2004

July 14-20, 2004
Section 4 of 4

With photos by John Corbett (JC) and Piotr Dzwonek (PD)

Click small photos to see larger; all larger photos are less than 50K

Previous section

Chapter 5.1.10: TTC 512 St. Clair Streetcar; St. Clair to Gunn's Loop

512 St. Clair streetcar lays over at Gunn's Loop This line was ridden westbound in its entirety, from the St. Clair station at Yonge Street all the way to its other end at Gunn's Loop.

Since we had not taken any rest room breaks since leaving the CN Tower and Union Station, some in our group had the need to go find a rest room. A few walked across the street into a Canadian Tire store. The rest stayed at the loop, letting the streetcar on which we had arrived depart in the eastbound direction.

Chapter 5.1.11: TTC 512 St. Clair Streetcar; Gunn's Loop to St. Clair West

512 at Gunns Loop (JC) When all twelve of us were back together, we boarded the next streetcar. The operator spotted us as railfans and chatted with us for a while until it was time to depart.

We did not ride all the way back to the St. Clair station. We were scheduled to get off at the St. Clair West station, which is located on the Spadina leg of the Yonge-University-Spadina Subway. The St. Clair West station is interesting in that all streetcars running in both directions on St. Clair use the same loop through the station. As it turned out, our car was taken out of service, so those continuing further east had to get off with us and take the next eastbound car. Our group descended into the subway to continue the next phase of our fest.

Chapter 5.1.12: TTC Yonge-University-Spadina Subway; St. Clair West to Wilson

This leg of the Yonge-University-Spadina Subway goes as far as the Downsview station at Sheppard Street. Ed had earlier informed me that the TTC was doing some weekend trackwork, and they had cut service back one stop from Downsview to Wilson. Ed was the same one who, two years earlier, bore the bad news that our Boston T Party 2002 plans would be disrupted by the closure of the Green Line B streetcar along Commonwealth Avenue. So this was our obligatory failure -- almost every Fest seems to throw at least one of them our way. Thanks once again for being the bearer of wonderful news, Ed!

We left St. Clair West at 3:19 PM, which was 23 minutes ahead of our schedule. I knew we would soon be even further ahead by virtue of our losing the Downsview leg of this line.

Ed and Piotr, it turned out, had already ridden up to Downsview on a previous evening, long after the rest of us had returned to our respective hotels. So they would not be missing the trackage the rest of us were robbed of riding.

I began to hatch yet another scheme how we might pick up the missing segment. For those who wanted to do so, there would be time on Monday morning prior to our meeting at Union Station before most of us would be leaving town, to ride up to Downsview and back.

At Wilson, today's de facto (and once regular, as Downsview was a later extension) end of the line, we remained on board as the operator changed ends.

Chapter 5.1.13: TTC Yonge-University-Spadina Subway; Wilson to Osgoode

Now we were going southbound again, headed for downtown. We passed St. Clair West where we had boarded, and continued all the way to Osgoode, which is the station for Queen Street on the western leg of the line.

We got off at the Osgoode station, which is at the corner of University Avenue and Queen Street. There, more than a few participants stated the need to take a potty break. Since we were about a block from the Hilton Toronto, and two members of our group were guests there, we chose to go to the lobby of that hotel to make our rest stop.

Once everyone felt better, we set out for our last official streetcar round trip of the weekend, the western portion of the 501 Queen streetcar. We walked back up to Queen and awaited the next westbound car.

Chapter 5.1.14: TTC 501 Queen Streetcar; Queen & University to Long Branch Loop

Articulated 501 streetcar at Long Branch Loop Our fellow passengers on 501 Queen streetcar include a dog One of Toronto's streetcar grand junctions

We departed from Queen & University at 4:06 PM, which was 42 minutes ahead of the itinerary. Even with our unscheduled rest stop at the Hilton, our quick lunch at the CN Tower and the truncation of Downsview service to Wilson were contributors to our very successful timekeeping today.

This trip proved to be quite interesting. Queen Street West was the only major streetcar line we had not yet seen on this trip. And some said that we had saved the best for last. After we crossed the familiar intersection at Queen, King, and Roncesvalles that we had passed the previous day on the 504 King streetcar line, Queen Street became the Queensway, a limited access highway with the streetcar tracks in its median. Then we came upon Humber Loop, where the 501 Queen line used to end, and a 507 line had picked up from there. The two were combined to make a longer 501 line that stretches all the way from Neville Park Loop in the east to Long Branch Loop on the Toronto/Mississauga border in the west. After Humber Loop, the line ducks under a freeway and then runs in the street on Lake Shore Blvd. West for the remainder of its run.

501 on Long Branch Loop (JC) Lake Shore Blvd. resembles a street through a shore community not unlike some on the Jersey Shore or in Maryland or Delaware with its resort hotels, and small lakeside homes. The ride seems endless on this stretch. We finally came to Long Branch Loop, an off-street streetcar loop that is literally at the end of the city. Besides TTC buses, Mississauga Transit buses also connect at this loop with the streetcars.

To my surprise, the Long Branch GO TRANSIT station is adjacent to the loop as well. (In fact, to emphasize the point, a train came in and made its station stop while we were standing at the loop waiting to return downtown.) Had I realized how close the streetcar loop and rail station were when planning the fest, I would have done things differently, having us return downtown from Long Branch on Friday evening after our ride out to Burlington. That would have avoided some backtracking.

At Long Branch Loop, we had to get off and wait under a small canopy for our operator to take his break. We stood there about 15 minutes before the streetcar was brought up to the loop's boarding area.

Chapter 5.1.15: TTC 501 Queen Streetcar; Long Branch Loop to Queen & University

We retraced our westbound trip moving eastward towards downtown Toronto.

Chapter 5.1.16: Group separates at Queen & University

Coming up on dinnertime, our group began to fragment as it had the previous two nights. While we all love trains, we already learned on this trip that our tastes in dining differed. Most of us would stay together and make our now regular daily "After Fest" a trip to that area on King Street we had seen the previous evening with the three fast food places. We felt this would be best for us since it was Sunday and the shopping malls would be closing early.

When our eastbound 501 streetcar got to Queen & University (the same corner where we had boarded earlier), Alan and HaRRy got off to walk the short distance to the Hilton Toronto.

Chapter 5.1.17: TTC 501 Queen Streetcar; Queen & University to Queen & Yonge

The other ten of us decided to continue to Queen & Yonge, since we had not ridden this piece of trackage anytime in the past few days.

At Queen & Yonge, all ten of us got off. Steve left the group here to return to his hotel. He bid us goodbye since we would not be seeing him the following day. Steve's report, where he documents the rest of his trip (involving Montreal, Ottawa, the CANADIAN to Vancouver, Cascades Service, and the EMPIRE BUILDER), begins here.

Chapter 5.2: Burger King group

That left nine of us, namely Brad, Ted, John, Jishnu, Piotr, Ed, Mike, Michael, and me. We went downstairs and boarded the subway. We would ride it around the horn south to Union Station and then north again to St. Andrew, the station for King Street West.

Chapter 5.2.1: TTC Yonge-University-Spadina Subway; Queen to St. Andrew

This was a very short ride over familiar trackage; the only difference was that we were neither boarding nor detraining at Union Station. At St. Andrew we went upstairs and caught the next westbound 504 car on King Street.

Chapter 5.2.2: TTC 504 King Streetcar; King & University to King & Bathurst

Nine of us set out west on King in search of our dinner. We were so hungry that when somebody spotted a McDonald's, we all piled off, not realizing that King & Bathurst was not the same corner I had seen earlier with the McDonald's, Quizno's, and Burger King. So we simply waited for the next westbound 504 car.

Chapter 5.2.3: TTC 504 King Streetcar; King & Bathurst to King & Dufferin

On our next ride, we were more careful to be on the lookout specifically for the Burger King. We finally came upon that corner, which was King & Dufferin. We got off there, and all nine of us headed into the Burger King. No customers for Quizno's or McDonald's.

Chapter 5.2.4: Dinner at Burger King

The last dinner in Toronto for most of our group took place in the Burger King on King. It was a good meal. Our dinner and chatter was briefly interrupted by a homeless woman who came to our table asking for money. Piotr went and got the manager and our panhandler was shown the door.

After a leisurely dinner lasting 40 minutes, we devised our plan for the rest of the evening. I wanted to arrive at Union Station via the streetcar tunnel, something we had been scheduled to do on Saturday evening but then our plans changed at the Harbourfront Centre. So we agreed to ride the 504 eastbound to Spadina, and then the 510 Spadina line into Union Station.

Chapter 5.2.5: TTC 504 King Streetcar; King & Dufferin to King & Spadina

Before we began crossing the street to the eastbound streetcar stop, a car marked 512 Roncesvalles stopped on the westbound side, its operator thinking we were waiting for that one. This was a 512 St. Clair car returning to the barn at Queen & Roncesvalles that was obviously running in revenue service on its pull-in trip.

We caught our eastbound 504 King car diagonally across the corner from the Burger King. We rode it to Spadina, and got off there to catch what would be the last streetcar ride of the weekend.

Chapter 5.2.6: TTC 510 Spadina Streetcar; King & Spadina to Union Station

Our 510 car came almost immediately, and we headed southbound on Spadina, and then eastbound on Queen's Quay, past the Harbourfront, and into the streetcar tunnel heading north for Union Station.

When we got to Union Station, we all transferred (without leaving the system) to the Yonge-University-Spadina subway on the University Avenue (left side) alignment to head for St. George.

Chapter 5.2.7: TTC Yonge-University-Spadina Subway; Union Station to St. George

A quick subway ride brought us to St. George, where we split for the night.

Chapter 5.2.8: Group separates at St. George

Mike Hammond headed west from there to Kipling for his usual run back to his hotel. We said goodbye to him, since he would not be joining us Monday morning on the MAPLE LEAF. We also said goodbye to Ted, who like Mike would be taking Greyhound out of Toronto the next day; he would walk from here to where he was staying.

Piotr and Ed decided to do some more riding. They continued on the Yonge-University-Spadina Subway up to Wilson, took the substitute shuttle bus to Downsview, and then a regularly scheduled bus route across on Sheppard to Sheppard-Yonge before returning downtown on the other leg of the Yonge-University-Spadina Subway.

Jishnu, John, Michael, and I went east from St. George on the Bloor-Danforth Subway to the Sherbourne station and walked the half block to our hotel. Some of us made our usual stop at the convenience store for snacks.

Brad started to go back to his hotel, but then felt he owed me his last subway token (I had given him my DayPass so he could travel some more after I was done for the night.). So he rode to Sherbourne and found the Clarion Selby, and called my room from the lobby. I met him downstairs and he gave me his unused token. He then headed out to ride more transit before heading back to his hotel for the night.

Chapter 5.3: End of Sunday's activities

And that wrapped up the third and final full day in Toronto. We had visited the city's signature tourist attraction, and rode countless subway and streetcar lines. It was time to rest up for our respective returns home.

Chapter 6: Monday, July 19, 2004

Monday was Getaway Day for most of us. Ten of us would be leaving Toronto today, starting out for home. The only two people who stayed in Canada were Steve, who would remain in Toronto one more day before setting out for Vancouver on the CANADIAN, and John, who would travel first to Ottawa and Montreal, then re-enter the United States aboard the ADIRONDACK. He would be making a few more stops in Upstate New York and Vermont before finally heading home to Long Island.

Ted and Mike would be heading home to Pennsylvania and Ohio respectively by Greyhound buses, which they caught later in the day. Eight of us would take the MAPLE LEAF from Toronto to various stations in New York State, but only four would travel all the way to New York City.

But first, I had some unfinished business to attend to....

Chapter 6.1: Morning trip to Downsview

At the Clarion Hotel Selby, we saw John at breakfast. He was headed for Ottawa today on his own, so I assumed we would not see him again. He left the hotel after we did. Jishnu did drop by when we were having our breakfast, but he left earlier to head down to Union Station.

Michael and I were to take the western leg of the Yonge-University-Spadina Subway to its northern terminus at Downsview, picking up the last segment between Wilson and Downsview that we had missed the previous day. This being Monday morning rush hour, the weekend trackwork was long gone and the trains were operating normally. So, why not take an early morning spin before meeting the group at Union Station?

Piotr had said he would meet us at St. George, the point where we would be transferring from the Bloor-Danforth Subway to the Yonge-University-Spadina Subway. However, when we got to St. George, we could not find Piotr. (We later found that he indeed had been there, but was behind a pillar down the platform so we hadn't seen him.) After letting two trains pass by, Michael and I boarded the next northbound train for Downsview.

Chapter 6.1.1: TTC Yonge-University-Spadina Subway; St. George to Downsview

Most of this trip retraced what we had seen the day before. After Wilson, we passed a shopping mall and a transit yard before going underground and stopping at the Downsview station at the end of the line.

At Downsview, we let two southbound trains depart without us. On the third train that came in, Piotr was there in the front car.

Chapter 6.1.2: TTC Yonge-University-Spadina Subway; Downsview to Union Station

Now reunited, the three of us re-boarded his train for our southbound run to Union Station. Being the tail end of the rush hour, it was crowded; but we had seats since we had boarded at the beginning of the line.

Before we knew it, our final TTC subway trip had reached Union Station. We navigated the station expertly, a far cry from our first trips through there on Thursday night and Friday morning. We went upstairs and joined the rest of our group.

Chapter 6.2: Eastbound MAPLE LEAF group

Eight of us were booked on Monday's eastbound MAPLE LEAF, to various locations along its route. They were Ed, Jishnu, HaRRy, Alan, Brad, Piotr, Michael, and me.

Chapter 6.2.1: Meeting at Toronto Union Station

We had agreed to meet this morning at the upper level VIA information counter, the same place our group had met and broken up so many times in the past four days. Ed was there, and knowing that some of us were going to ride up to Downsview and back, he was nervous that we might not make it.

When all of us were accounted for, we went down the ramp to the VIA departures area and got on line for the MAPLE LEAF, which was posted as Train 97 to New York.

Now all situated on the line, some of us left the line to get some last minute snacks from a nearby newsstand.

While we were waiting, we had a surprise visitor. John Corbett was leaving on his VIA train to Ottawa around the same time, so he was in the station's Panorama Lounge since he was riding First Class. He came over to greet us and we wished each other a good trip. For the rest of John's report, including his travels via Ottawa and Vermont to get home to New York, click here.

Although our luggage had identification on it, a VIA employee came by and put new tags on our luggage and carry-on bags with that railroad's logo on it. We assumed that this was for border crossing purposes.

Soon the call came to board our train, and the line moved swiftly and then up the stairway to Track 9.

Chapter 6.3: Leaving Canada on the MAPLE LEAF

Our group was seated together in one of the tired old Amfleet I coaches. The crew did not seem to be segregating passengers by their destinations. This surprised me since we would be crossing the border, but it also pleased us since the eight members of our group would be getting off at different locations. Only four would make it all the way to New York City.

Chapter 6.3.1: VIA Train #97/Amtrak Train #64, MAPLE LEAF; Toronto, ON to Niagara Falls, ON

The consist of this train was:

823 P-40 locomotive TWO-ALB ** 48159 Amfleet I cafe 44658 Amfleet I coach 21033 Amfleet I coach * 21251 Amfleet I coach 82025 Regional coachclass
* (We were here)
** In Albany-Rensselaer, P-40 823 was removed, replaced with 707 P-32DM locomotive ALB-NYP.

This trip retraced our Toronto-bound trip on Thursday, and also used the same trackage as far as Burlington on the GO TRANSIT Lakeshore West Line run we did on Friday. Of course the intercity trains make far fewer stops than the commuter trains do. Our stops at Oakville and Aldershot seemed to take a long time, so we were thrown off schedule, never to make up that lost time. In fact, things would only go from bad to worse to worst.

We also were delayed at the Grimsby station. There was a Coach Canada bus adjacent to the station, so perhaps we had some connecting passengers from someplace. Our stop at St. Catherines was relatively quick. But we were in for trouble between there and Niagara Falls.

On our Thursday trip we had seen where the rail line crosses on a bridge over a shipping canal with some locks. Little did we think that we would be adversely affected by this four days later. We slowed and then stopped. The crew said that the bridge ahead of us was open, and a ship was passing through the locks. This is a long process, as the water traffic has to move slowly and wait for the water to rise or lower to the correct level. Had we gotten through GO TRANSIT territory on time, we might have beaten the ship. We lost another half hour there.After the bridge was closed and we were able to proceed, it was a short run into Niagara Falls, Ontario. We spent a lot less time there than we had Thursday, although the crews changed here. The VIA engineer, conductors and lounge attendant detrained, and Amtrak personnel boarded in their respective places.

Chapter 6.3.2: Amtrak Train #64, MAPLE LEAF; Niagara Falls, ON to Niagara Falls, NY

Now under Amtrak control, we headed over the Whirlpool Bridge and into the United States. The crew told us we would be at the Niagara Falls, NY station for a while for US Customs to do their work, and to remain in our seats.

Chapter 6.3.3: At the border

After we stopped, a group of Customs agents nonchalantly walked over to the train and boarded. They seemed quite disorganized, as if they did not know what their roles were. Two younger female officers appeared to be joking with one another; they had little, if any, interaction with the passengers for the entire time we were there. One agent went from seat to seat and interviewed each passenger. All but five people were cleared. A family of four and an individual were detained in Niagara Falls; none of them reboarded the train. The process took much longer than it had to, since some agents were milling around while others were trying to get through the four coaches to clear the passengers into the country.

In all, we were there over two hours. The process could have taken a lot less time than it did. When some passengers who had already been cleared became antsy and began walking around, the conductor announced that the train was still in the control of the border patrol, so everyone had to return to their seats.

Finally, the train was turned back over to the Amtrak crew, and we were on our way.

Chapter 6.3.4: Amtrak Train #64, MAPLE LEAF, Niagara Falls, NY to Rochester, NY

Our troubles were far from over. Just before we arrived at the Buffalo-Depew station, we stopped, and sat there for about half an hour. We were told that we had to wait for traffic in the other direction. Two freight trains passed us, as did the Toronto-bound MAPLE LEAF.

After making our Depew stop, we ran into more problems. A thunder storm had knocked out power to the signals, causing us to travel very slowly through the dark area. It seems that everything that could go wrong for this train did go wrong. It was at this point that HaRRy and Brad decided that they were not going to chance making their connection with the LAKE SHORE LIMITED in Syracuse. Instead, they would get off in Rochester. Although there was still a chance they could make it to Syracuse on time, they felt it was not worth the gamble, given how poorly our timekeeping had been thus far. A member of the crew agreed that they would be better off detraining in Rochester.

When we finally got into Rochester, HaRRy and Brad left the group to await the LAKE SHORE LIMITED and proceed to Chicago.

Chapter 6.4: HaRRy and Brad

HaRRy salutes us after he & Brad detrained in Rochester For details of HaRRy and Brad's time in Rochester, as well as HaRRy's trip back to San Diego via the LAKE SHORE LIMITED and Southwest Airlines, see HaRRy's report here.

Brad reported to me that the consist of the LAKE SHORE LIMITED, Train 49/449(19) was as follows:

157 P-42 locomotive 162 P-42 locomotive 1756 Baggage (Boston) 62037 Viewliner sleeper "Southern View" 25066 Amfleet II coach (Boston) 25087 Amfleet II coach (Boston) 28365 Amfleet lounge (New York) 25005 Amfleet II coach (New York) 25107 Amfleet II coach (New York) 8505 Heritage diner (New York) 62028 Viewliner sleeper "Palisades View" 62000 Viewliner sleeper "American View" 2522 Heritage crew dorm "Pine Creek" 1721 Baggage (New York)

Chapter 6.5: Kevin, Michael, Ed, Piotr, Alan, and Jishnu

We saw HaRRy and Brad standing on the platform until our train departed Rochester. Then the six remaining Fest participants still aboard settled in for the rest of our trip.

Chapter 6.5.1: Amtrak Train #64, MAPLE LEAF; Rochester, NY to Syracuse, NY

We were three hours late due to all the problems we had encountered thus far. We had one more delay around Syracuse, as we paused before the station to wait for Empire Service Train 283, which was running on time, to complete its station work. By this time, our train should have already been in Albany.

It was a good thing that 283 got to use the station first. That train was carrying a replacement conductor for us, since one of our conductors was going to outlaw before the MAPLE LEAF reached Albany.

Chapter 6.5.2: Syracuse, aborted visit #2

Although the players were different, this was the second time in six days that Syracuse was unable to enjoy the presence of members of our group, since HaRRy and Brad never made it there. Other than six of us passing through Syracuse on the MAPLE LEAF towards Albany and New York, the city was snubbed once more.

Chapter 6.5.3: Syracuse, NY to Albany-Rensselaer, NY

After Syracuse, we did not encounter any more delays. As it turned out, had HaRRy and Brad gambled and gone for Syracuse, they would have made it. When the eastbound MAPLE LEAF got into Utica, the westbound LAKE SHORE LIMITED was next to us. We were on the newer, left side platform shared with the Adirondack Scenic Railway, and the LAKE SHORE was at the platform on the station side.

After Utica came Amsterdam and Schenectady. By this time all of us were exhausted. I called my hotel from the train around Amsterdam to let them know we were still coming. After Schenectady we rolled through single-track territory with no problems. As we approached Albany, Michael and I prepared to detrain. We said goodbye to the four people who would continue on this train into New York City, obviously destined for a post-midnight arrival there.

Chapter 6.6: Michael and Kevin

We had spent a lot of time on the train, but we were grateful that I had previously decided to get off earlier than the others and stay in the Albany area overnight.

We followed "taxi" signs in the station to its lower level, which I had never previously explored. There, a dispatcher asked where we were going and sent us to a cab.

Chapter 6.6.1: Taxi; Albany-Rensselaer Station to Rensselaer Econo Lodge

The woman who drove our cab asked if we had come up from New York City, since she had heard that one of the northbound trains had been canceled. I told her that we had come from Toronto, and that we were three hours late. She was courteous and talkative, and she got us to our destination quickly -- even before the MAPLE LEAF departed from Albany after its engine change.

The Rensselaer Econo Lodge was waiting for us, and we quickly checked into one of many available rooms for the night. Judging from the small number of cars in the lot, a reservation probably would not have been necessary. We walked back to our room, which was in another building from the front desk, but which had an indoor corridor.

It was late, time enough for the evening news on television. We learned that the Albany area was under a severe thunderstorm warning, and we indeed saw warnings that were coming over the crawlers on each television station. We did hear a serious storm come through, and felt lucky that we had taken our taxi ride when we did. The storm did not last long, allowing us to fall asleep quickly after our long day that included the ordeal on the MAPLE LEAF.

Chapter 6.7: Jishnu, Alan, Piotr, and Ed

Our tired foursome continued southward towards New York City.

Chapter 6.7.1: Amtrak Train #64, MAPLE LEAF; Albany-Rensselaer, NY to New York-Penn Station, NY

The MAPLE LEAF did not lose any more time between Albany and New York City. Jishnu reported that his GPS showed that the train hit 100 mph for a short time between Albany and Hudson.

When the train finally got into Penn Station, Alan made his way home to Queens on the subway. Jishnu, having missed the last NJ TRANSIT Midtown Direct train of the night, was able to catch a Trenton-bound Northeast Corridor Line train to Newark Penn Station where he then took a long taxi ride home to Short Hills. Piotr just missed a North Jersey Coast Line train, but he caught the next one almost an hour later.

And Ed had to cut back on his plans to ride the New York subways at night. He still had enough time to take a round trip on the E subway to the World Trade Center site and back before catching AMTRAK Train 66 back to Boston, which departed at 3:15 AM.

Chapter 6.8: End of Monday's activities

Monday ended with Michael and me safely in a hotel room in Rensselaer. The four travelers on what had become a multi-day trip on the MAPLE LEAF, actually got home early Tuesday morning. And our two people on the westbound LAKE SHORE LIMITED were on their way towards a not-so-late arrival in Chicago.

Chapter 7: Tuesday, July 20, 2004

Come Tuesday morning, Michael and I were still in Albany, but most of the others had found their way home while we slept.

Chapter 7.1: Michael and Kevin

Despite our late arrival the previous evening, we were able to rise at 7 AM. We got up and out in 45 minutes.

Chapter 7.1.1: Taxi; Rensselaer Econo Lodge to Albany-Rensselaer Station

Before leaving our room, I called for a taxi at about 7:45 AM, figuring we would be picked up in about 15 minutes for our trip back to the Amtrak station in order to catch our 9:00 train. We then went to check out and grab a small continental breakfast in the building where the hotel desk is. We had enough time to finish eating before a taxi arrived to pick us up.

We had an interesting ride to the station. Apparently the driver had never done a pickup in Rensselaer before, so he was unsure how to get to the station. He first drove to the station's lower level, where we had been picked up the night before. He got out and tried the door, finding it locked. Then he drove us back to the station's main upper level entrance, which involved a very circuitous trip around several blocks. I was not going to pay him for his errors, but luckily he charged me the same amount as the previous night's driver, so I had no issue.

When we finally got inside the station, we went into the waiting area situated over the tracks, and sat down on one of the round benches to await our boarding call.

Chapter 7.1.2: Amtrak Train #250, Empire Service; Albany-Rensselaer, NY to New York-Penn Station, NY

There was no Turbo train at the platforms beneath us. As feared, Train 250 was not a Turbo train. It was protected with regular Amfleet I equipment. (We later found out that Amtrak had pulled its Turbo fleet in June and a few months later shipped them out of state.)

Our consist on 250(20) this morning:

714 P-32DM locomotive 20908 Amfleet I Metroliner cafe 21195 Amfleet I coach 21022 Amfleet I coach 21193 Amfleet I coach * 21659 Amfleet I coach
* (We were here)

When the call for boarding was made, I grabbed my suitcase and we walked down the stairway to track level. We were on the train a few minutes before I realized that something was missing. I had left my blue bag upstairs in the seating area. Not only did it have my scanner and camera in it, but it also contained my car and house keys. Without the bag we would have no way of getting to our home or into it.

The timing of my discovery was such that the train had already been given a signal to proceed. I told the assistant conductor (AC) that I left a bag upstairs. He radioed the front end to wait. I ran upstairs, only to find that my bag had already been removed as a security risk and taken to the ticket office. I ran across the station to the ticket office, and my bag was sitting in one of the ticket windows, in between the man who had handled the boarding at the stairs and the ticket agent. I grabbed my bag from them. They asked me if I was off Train 250 and I said yes, and that I was getting back on it. I heard a comment about leaving bags around public places, but I was already on my way back to the train. As soon as I had boarded again, the AC said on his radio that the train could proceed. I thanked him for holding, but he for some reason asked me if I had any animals in my bag. Huh?

When the same AC came to collect my tickets, he again seriously asked me if I was carrying any animals inside my bag. I don't know where that rumor was started; maybe the guys in the station suspected something and conveyed that to the train crew. I think it's highly unlikely that I would have been able to cross the international border the previous day with animals in my bag. At any rate, I caused a four minute delay to our train's departure.

The rest of our trip went smoothly. Ridership was moderate, and we incurred no further delays. I noted that we arrived in New York City's Penn Station exactly four minutes late, so I was entirely responsible for this train's late arrival. Although obviously my actions were purely accidental, the silver lining in this was that I could consider it minor payback for not providing me with a Turbo train.

In Penn Station we walked right upstairs and out to Eighth Avenue. We found the bus stop on 34th Street for the free bus to the ferry that would take us back to New Jersey.

Chapter 7.1.3: NY Waterway Shuttle Bus, New York-Penn Station, NY to New York-38th Street ferry terminal, NY

We had about a ten minute wait for our shuttle to the ferry. The trip itself to the ferry terminal was roughly five minutes.

Chapter 7.1.4: NY Waterway Ferry, New York-38th Street ferry terminal, NY to Weehawken-Lincoln Harbor, NJ

NY Waterway does have a ticket office at its New York dock, so I was able to get a ticket for Michael, and I'd be able to ride the Lincoln Harbor ferry for free myself with my work ID.

We only had to wait a few minutes before boarding our ferry for the seven minute trip across the river. It was a beautiful day, making our ride by water a peaceful end to our long journey on public transportation.

In Lincoln Harbor we walked back over to the parking garage, and found my car right where I had left it five days ago. Our drive home took about 1-1/2 hours, and we were home by about 3:30 PM.

Chapter 8: Conclusion

I was very pleased to have thirteen people involved. It's nice to be able to explore new rail lines in the company of fellow railfans. Unlike the previous gathering in Philadelphia, the group stayed pretty much intact for most of our three full days in Toronto. While we didn't have a set of route guides or a quiz at this gathering, it was still a lot of fun to ride all of the streetcars, subways, and the Scarborough Rapid Transit. We left very little trackage unexplored. All of us involved had to travel to Buffalo and Toronto, so everyone is responsible for making this event the huge success that it was.

I have a few regrets:

  • Weather and delays forced cancellation of the Syracuse segment of our Pre-fest.
  • I wish the whole group could have taken the subway up to Downsview, but Sunday trackwork thwarted us.
  • We missed the best part of one streetcar line that was diverted due to street and track construction.
  • We could have saved some time and unnecessary backtracking on Sunday by getting off our Friday GO TRANSIT train from Burlington at Long Branch, and then taking the 501 Queen streetcar back into downtown Toronto.
All in all, things did work out and everyone seemed to have enjoyed themselves despite those setbacks.

Thanks to Alan Burden for his help in planning this fest and proofreading this report. Also I am grateful to John Corbett, who wrote down all of our arrival and departure times at various stations and then sent them to me.

What does the future hold? There was no organized fest this fall since I had to make a trip to California in October for a wedding. We will try to make up for that by holding two events in the first quarter of 2005, when I will next have my weekends free. Although subject to change, we most likely will be meeting once more in New York/New Jersey in January, and either Philadelphia or Washington/Baltimore in March. We expect our next summer event to be in St. Louis and Dallas, and we will return to Canada to visit Montreal (as well as Ottawa and a brief return to Toronto to pick up the 506 Carlton streetcar line on its regular route) in the summer of 2006.

On Track On Line - Copyright © 2003-2017 David Warner, Harry Sutton, & Alan Burden Back     Home     Top