NYC Trip Review
July 14-15, 2004
I recently went to New York City to see the legendary Elton John perform at Radio City Music Hall. As a railfan I obviously went down from Boston to the Big Apple by train and rode around the city on its famed subway system. It was a really long day but I got to see a lot and had a great time. This report is a look at where I went and the trains I rode.
I prepared for this trip by researching online and talking to my OTOL buddies for information that I might need to know. Also I got my commuter rail and subway tokens for Boston area trips in advance; that way I didn't have to worry about that at the end of the trip. Also I got my Amtrak tickets in advance. The plan was to take Amtrak Regional Train 173 on 7-14 and return on 7-15 on Amtrak Regional Train 66. But I thought about possibly switching to Regional Train 93 leaving Boston on 7-14 two hours earlier, which would allow me to take a spin to Coney Island and back. But I would find out on Wednesday July 14th whether I could take that train and do that side trip.
I left my house in Lynn, Massachusetts a little before 7 AM, and after breakfast with my dad, I got dropped at the commuter rail station in my city where I boarded a 7:44 AM train to Boston. It was a short 20-minute trip, but unfortunately since it was rush hour I had to stand the whole way. At least I ran into a friend on the train so it wasn't too bad. Once I arrived in North Station (the same place that was closed the following week for the Democratic National Convention), I went over to the new Superstation and boarded a Green Line trolley to Park Street. I then made a quick transfer there to the Red Line. I rode the Red Line two stops to South Station where I got off. Soon I was in the concourse of the historic South Station.
The first thing I did once I got to South Station was to go to the Amtrak ticket counter and attempt to change my ticket to Train 93. After a few minutes that mission was a success. While I waited in the station, I loaded up on newspapers and got some snacks and a bottle of water. At 9 AM, a Redcap helped me get on the train earlier because he remembered me and my somewhat limited mobility due to two recent surgeries. Well I found a nice seat on the west side of the train.
Our train left on time, but it was slowed as it traveled along the Southwest Corridor southward possibly due to a track fire. After Forest Hills our train started to pick up to normal speed but we were little late getting to the Route 128 station. Before I knew it we were in Providence and heading towards Connecticut. A little after 12:00 noon, we arrived in New Haven but we lost a few minutes due to heavy boarding here. The rest of the way we made reasonable time going to New York, considering the tracks we were on. We were in New York Penn Station by 2 PM. I detrained and this began my first ever New York experience on my own!
I went up the stairs and walked over to the concourse passing the entrance to subway that I would use in a bit. After taking care of a rest room break, I backtracked down to that entrance and got a one-day unlimited-use Metrocard. Then I picked up two subway maps (the 100th anniversary edition), and entered the subway. I wanted to take the A-C-E line downtown but accidentally took it uptown. I quickly realized my mistake and got off at Port Authority and switched directions and got on a downtown train and took that to West 4th Street station. There I went down two stairways and got onto the D line which would take me all the way to Coney Island. It's quite a long trip, but one cool thing is that it crosses the Manhattan Bridge so you get some nice views there.
I noticed that the NYC subway to me is a lot faster and rougher than the subway we have up here in Boston. But it was cool to bypass stations like they do down there. I remember a couple of times where my train would race another train for a bit, before one of the trains would stop at a station. By 3:15, I was at Coney Island. You could see all the work they have done at the station. It looks really nice but it also looks like they have more to do there.
I left the system and crossed the street and had a little snack at the original Nathan's Famous on Surf Avenue. I was in the area briefly but it was cool to be at the popular seaside amusement area. After I was done with the snack I returned to the subway station at Stillwell Avenue and decided to go back to Manhattan via the Q line. It was a good decision, since it gave me great views of the famous Wonder Wheel, as well as probably the most famous coaster in the US if not the world, the Cyclone.
One thing I noticed from the Q : a track enters from the north there but we didn't use it. I wondered if that is the trackage that the N would use to get back to Coney Island when it gets extended again. Well our train traveled uptown and headed back over the Manhattan Bridge and went back underground. Before I knew it we were at 42nd Street/Times Square, where I got off. I found the signs for the 42nd St./Sixth Ave. exit. It was clear that this wasn't a major exit just because how small the stairwell was, but it worked out well for me, as it put me right across from the ESPN Zone where I would be eating dinner.
After dinner and making sure the thunderstorm that passed through was done, I decided to walk over to 6th Avenue along 42nd St., where I would take either a subway or bus to get me to Radio City. I decided to take the bus, so I could see some of the sights. It was free with my Metrocard. I later I noticed that the subway would have worked out just as well since there are exits very convenient to the venue. Well I made it to Radio City and went to the Elton John concert and it was a great time but you don't need to hear about that here.
Once the show ended. I walked back over to 7th Avenue, then in the direction of Times Square. I was a little hungry, so I had a little snack at TGI Friday's, so I wouldn't have to worry about finding a snack at Penn Station at 1 AM. (As I later found out as I got to Penn Station, there are some places open in the LIRR concourse. Better to be safe than sorry!)
I decided that I wanted one more spin on the subway, so I took the 1 train to South Ferry. There were people on the train when I boarded, but by the end of the line it was just me and a guy sleeping. That was not exactly what I wanted, so I moved up to a car with a more friendly looking person on it, and we looped around and headed back uptown. I got off at 34th St./Penn Station, and had one more experience trying to find an exit for Penn Station. I had to go upstairs and cross the street and enter Penn Station by the entrance to Madison Square Garden. It wasn't too big of a deal but it was not as easy as my entrance to the subway the previous day.
My train wasn't supposed to leave until 3:15 AM, so I had some time to explore the complex. I went down to the LIRR concourse and noticed that they basically have their own station, and NJT has its own area for its passengers waiting to board. Then I went over to the Amtrak section and noticed an obvious increase in security in this area. I went into the Amtrak waiting area, and just took it easy. I met Ed Findlay before he went on his own way on the subways and then to Toronto. I got to board my train a bit earlier again at 3 AM due to the mobility problem.
I got to my Business Class seat on Train 66 and got to see a surprising amount of movements in the station including an obvious non-revenue Acela Express, which was cool to see especially at that hour. I also saw several NJT and LIRR trains go by. This made me wonder: Since Amtrak, NJT, and LIRR each have own sections of the station, do all three use the same general tracks? We left New York at about 3:30 AM. It was nice to have Business Class here since it meant more room and it also meant free drinks!
Even though I was really tired I couldn't sleep much on the train. We got to New Haven about 5 AM. We were so early into Providence (7:15 AM) that we sat there to pick up the passengers boarding here. There had to be significant amount of new boardings here since I heard there were people standing and the seat next to me became filled for the first time during the ride. One guy was moved out of the seat when he found out that he had to pay the $13 Business Class surcharge, but they had no problem finding another guy to fill the seat. Besides the sodas and water on the train the only train food I got was a Swiss Omelet Bagel Sandwich which wasn't too bad. We arrived into South Station on time and that completed my Amtrak experience. I know I was just going to NYC but I enjoyed the rides on the system.
But my trip wasn't completely over. I still had to get to Swampscott, MA where my parents would pick me up. I thought about rushing over to catch the 8:30 AM train by getting off at Back Bay, but I was too tired to do that so I would wait for the 9:45 AM train. I used the token that I previously bought and got on the Red Line but got off at the next inbound stop (Downtown Crossing), where I took the Orange Line up one stop to State Street. Since I had a little time to spare I went to the Borders Book Store and got a cool book on Streetcar Trolleys of Boston during the 1940's. I then went back on the Orange Line and went northbound two more stops, getting off at North Station. I made it to the commuter rail station in time to make my 9:45 AM train home! I got off at Swampscott and my father was there to take me home. I had a really long day, but it was a lot of fun and I would do this again in a heartbeat!