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Trip Report

Riding the Rails on Two Coasts

October 22-26, 2004
Section 2 of 2


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Chapter 4: Monday, October 25, 2004

Monday promised to be another very long day. We would get an early start, riding Amtrak first, and then completing all of the Metro lines we had not ridden Saturday. We also would take a round trip to Riverside over two different Metrolink routes. All of that led up to catching an overnight airline flight back to Newark.

Chapter 4.1: By car: Travelodge Hotel to Van Nuys station

While my mother stayed behind and packed, my father drove Michael and me to the Van Nuys train station. The trip took about 10 minutes. We said goodbye to him and left my luggage in their rented car.

Kevin poses at Van Nuys train station My parents planned to check out of their room, and then make their way to another Travelodge close to Los Angeles International Airport, where they would spend the night before flying home to Florida Tuesday morning. Because they would be close by, they agreed to let me leave my suitcase in their car, so I would not have to drag it around all day. Then they would pick us up at the Aviation station around 7:30 PM after our day on the rails, and drive us to the airport. We would be reunited with the luggage then.

Van Nuys Amtrak station has colorful Pacific Surfliner timetable Once at the Van Nuys station, we had about twenty minutes to wait. During that time, a Metrolink Ventura County Line train came in and picked up its passengers. The platform is very long, so long that Amtrak and Metrolink stop at different places. Amtrak stops next to its own station building adjacent to Van Nuys Blvd. The Metrolink stop is further east, more in line with a park and ride facility for daily commuters.

Metrolink train in push mode prepares to stop at Van Nuys We certainly could have taken the Metrolink train, but I wanted us to experience a short ride on an Amtrak Pacific Surfliner train. (We had Metrolink travel planned anyhow for later in the day.) When I was planning the trip, I noticed that the two of us could actually travel cheaper on Amtrak than Metrolink. The Metrolink fare between Van Nuys and Los Angeles is $5.50 per person, with no child discounts offered during rush hour. So that would have been a total of $11.00. On Amtrak, the adult fare is $7, and the child fare is half of that, $3.50. Factor in the 10% AAA discount, and our combined fare was just $9.45.

Chapter 4.2: Amtrak Train #768, PACIFIC SURFLINER: Van Nuys to Los Angeles Union Station

Amtrak's Pacific Surfliner came right on time at 8:48 AM. The consist of 768(25):

462 locomotive 6851 Surfliner Business Class "Balboa Park" 6304 Surfliner Cafe * 6402 Surfliner Coach 6453 Surfliner Coach "Pacific Beach" 6452 Surfliner Coach "Mission Beach" 6903 Surfliner Coach/baggage/cab
* (We were here)

We boarded a coach near the front of the train, and after climbing the stairs, we found ourselves on the upper level of the train's cafe car, which only has seats upstairs. We could not find two seats together until we got to the very front of this car. Since there was a sign on the door to the next car designating it as the Business Class coach, we could not walk any further. We sat down in the only two seats we could find together. I did not notice at first that there was a sign saying that the seats were reserved for children traveling alone. I could have left Michael there and found another seat for myself, but that would have defeated the purpose of traveling together on vacation. When the conductor came to collect our tickets, he commented that we really should not be sitting there. He said that these seats are for children traveling alone who can be watched by the conductor, who has his own reserved seats just across the aisle. Since there were no other children aboard, he let us stay where we were.

The ride was smooth most of the way. Since it was our first time on the route, we enjoyed seeing scenery that was new to us. We made stops at Bob Hope (formerly Burbank) Airport, downtown Burbank, Glendale, and then we came into the city alongside the famous concrete riverbed of the Los Angeles River.

The crew made an announcement that this train would be continuing to San Diego, but that it would be going in the opposite direction. Passengers were invited to change seats during the layover if they did not want to ride backwards.

Our train made a right turn at Mission Tower and came into the Los Angeles Union Station area. We came to a stop on Track 9, precisely on time.

I first recorded the consist and took some photos, and then we walked down the long ramp into the station concourse.

Chapter 4.3: At Los Angeles Union Station

We took a little bit of time to explore Los Angeles Union Station. Like many large urban rail hubs, it is obvious that many more daily trains stopped there in the past. Nevertheless, Amtrak, Metrolink, and LACMTA all have a distinct presence there. They coordinate pretty well (except for a rather long walk between the Metro Red Line and the Metro Gold Line, which necessitates walking between an underground subway station and the station tracks overhead).

We saw the station's massive waiting room, the long corridor under the tracks, and the Amtrak and Metrolink ticketing areas. Then I purchased our Metro Day Passes from a vending machine in the corridor at the foot of the stairs leading up to Tracks 1 and 2. Then we headed up the stairway for our light rail ride to Pasadena.

Chapter 4.4: Metro Gold Line: Union Station to Sierra Madre Villa, Pasadena

The Metro Gold Line starts out from the westernmost island platform at Union Station. There is evident construction where the line will be continued beyond this point when the Gold Line is extended to East Los Angeles by 2009. The light rail tracks start out by climbing onto a flyover bridge, so that they can pass over some tracks that lead into a storage yard adjacent to the station. Those storage tracks were occupied on this day by several private rail cars.

The Gold Line, double tracked throughout the route, is an impressive operation, considering the terrain in which it was built. The landscape is quite hilly, and at times the line runs adjacent to the Pasadena Freeway (I-110). It also runs in the middle of Marmion Way, a residential street in Highland Park, stopping for traffic signals just like the cars do. The trains slow to about 25 mph to go through this area.

I noticed some signs along the right-of-way directed at the light rail operators that say "No Horns". This is the result of a neighborhood council successfully getting the blowing of train horns banned where there are crossing gates. All 30 of the line's grade crossings, many of which were the subject of continued resistance from area residents, have gates. Many have the four-quadrant variety that blocks vehicles from driving around the lowered gates, and most also sport smaller gates over the sidewalks to prevent pedestrians from crossing the tracks.

Metro Gold Line car at Pasadena's Sierra Madre Villa station The line runs through a tunnel under the business district of Pasadena, which includes Colorado Blvd of Rose Parade fame. The Memorial Park station is partially in this tunnel. Then the route curves to the right and surfaces in the median of the Foothill Freeway (I-210). The last three stations are within the freeway median, and they look very much like most of the Green Line stations in the median of the Imperial Freeway.

Foothill Freeway is very close to tracks at Sierra Madre Villa We detrained at Sierra Madre Villa, the endpoint station for now. Plans are to continue this line eastward towards Montclair. For now, there are many bus connections at this station.

Chapter 4.5: Metro Gold Line: Sierra Madre Villa, Pasadena to Union Station

We boarded the same light rail train and prepared for our trip back to Los Angeles.

We returned to Los Angeles uneventfully. Still feeling the effects of jet lag and the late end of the wedding the previous night, I closed my eyes for a little while.

Our light rail vehicle arrived back on the same Track 2 from which it had departed earlier. We went downstairs to the concourse and made our way down an escalator to the Metro Red Line.

Chapter 4.6: Metro Red Line: Union Station to Wilshire/Western

This ride on the Metro Red Line would clinch the entire Los Angeles Metro system for us. We would be riding all trackage east of where we had boarded at Metro Center on Saturday night, as well as the shorter branch to Wilshire/Western.

We departed from Union Station at 11:17 AM, which was still 17 minutes earlier than my itinerary. We saw the stations at Civic Center and Pershing Square, which basically look the same as Union Station and others along the route.

From Metro Center to Wilshire/Vermont we were on trackage that we had already ridden. The Wilshire/Vermont station itself is a multi-level affair, just like stations in other cities that are near rail junctions. Right after Wilshire/Vermont, the North Hollywood branch diverges from the Wilshire/Western branch.

Two more stations later, we arrived at Wilshire/Western. Layover here was about seven minutes, while our operator changed ends. We had "aced" the Los Angeles Metro; all subsequent heavy and light rail rides would be over trackage we had already seen.

Chapter 4.7: Metro Red Line: Wilshire/Western to Pershing Square

Our ride east took just nine minutes. We were now headed for our downtown lunch stop. My brother had recommended the Grand Central Market, and he had said that it was equidistant between the Pershing Square and Civic Center stations. So since Pershing Square came first, that is where we got off.

When we made it up to street level, we were standing on Hill Street, diagonally across the street from our lunch destination. But a few things caught the eye on this side of the street. First, Los Angeles is no slouch in the pigeon department. I saw the largest flock of pigeons I had ever seen assembled in one place, practically covering the entire Pershing Square. The square was a sea of gray, and in those few areas where there were no birds, you could clearly see what they left behind.

Kevin gets as close as possible to the closed incline ride The other point of interest here is the lower station of the Angels Flight Railway. This downtown incline ride reopened in 1996 after a 27-year absence, only to close again in early 2001 when a New Jersey resident was killed in a freak collision between the ride's two cars. There are rumors that the cars have been repaired, and the ride has been modified, allowing it to reopen sometime in 2005.

Angles Flight incline as seen from across the street After taking some photos of Angels Flight, we crossed the street to Grand Central Market.

Chapter 4.8: Lunch at Grand Central Market

Grand Central Market is a downtown collection of food vendors. If you think Quincy Market in Boston, Lexington Market in Baltimore, or Reading Terminal Market in Philadelphia, this is very close. A majority of the vendors at this one, however, sell Mexican and Asian foods.

We walked up and down the market's three main aisles, looking for something to suit our fancy. Michael ended up with a burger and fries meal, and I found a Japanese place that had chicken teriyaki. However, our walking around put us perilously close to our scheduled Metrolink departure from Union Station. That, plus the fact that there were no seats available in the several small eating areas, caused me to decide to order our lunches to go, and carry it with us to Union Station.

Chapter 4.9: Metro Red Line: Civic Center to Union Station

My brother had made a mistake about the Civic Center station. We walked several blocks east on Hill, when we could have retraced our steps half a block west past the pigeons and used the Pershing Square station again. Then again, maybe the food we were carrying was safer at Civic Center!

When we finally boarded a Metro Red Line train for Union Station, it was 12:35 PM, just ten minutes before our scheduled Metrolink departure for Riverside. The one stop ride luckily took just three minutes. We had just enough time to go up into the station, purchase our Metrolink tickets, and go up to our designated track, where the train was already boarding.

Chapter 4.10: Metrolink 91 Line, Train #704: Los Angeles Union Station to Riverside, CA

Well that was certainly a close call, but we made this train within minutes. Metrolink uses the same bilevel coaches that are found in Southeast Florida, Toronto, and other carriers in California. We went upstairs so we could better enjoy the scenery on this trip, all new to us. We took a seat in the middle of the coach that had a table. We spread out our lunches and began consuming them. So little time had passed since we had left the Grand Central Market that our food was still hot.

Just like the Metro rapid transit lines, Metrolink uses the proof-of-purchase fare payment method. Our trip tickets were inspected once during each trip.

After we left Union Station and came out to Mission Tower, we made a hard right and ran southbound along the west side of the empty Los Angeles River basin. On our right, we passed a couple of yards. One was Amtrak's yard, and the other was Metro's yard for its subway trains. Beyond the revenue portion of the Metro Red Line beyond Union Station, the trains do see the light of day.

Metrolink's 91 Line follows the same route as their Orange County Line down to Fullerton. Then it goes west, joining with the Inland Empire-Orange County (IEOC) Line for the run to Riverside (some trains on the latter line continue to San Bernardino). Our particular trip was not scheduled to stop at Commerce, which meant a nice quick 21-minute express jaunt down to Norwalk/Santa Fe Springs. Fourteen minutes after that station, we were in Fullerton. Since we would be making a left turn to go east from there, our train stationed on the left side. At the same time, delayed northbound Amtrak Pacific Surfliner 573 also made a left side stop at the other platform.

After we turned east we enjoyed a long run between stations, this time 24 minutes. Along the way we passed through Yorba Linda, a city made famous as the birthplace and home of the presidential library of Richard Nixon. Amtrak's SOUTHWEST CHIEF also uses this route.

We made two stops at either end of the city of Corona. One was in West Corona, the other six minutes later at North Main Street. Another eight minutes and we were in Riverside. Our first stop was at La Sierra, a station only served by this trackage and not the Riverside Line.

We then had to wait about ten minutes for a freight train at the junction with Metrolink's Riverside Line just west of the downtown station. Since the timetable is padded for trains terminating in Riverside, we did not arrive late.

High skybridge over tracks at Downtown Riverside station Our train stopped at an island platform on the opposite side of the mainline from the station parking lot. Some passengers were already on the platform, waiting to take this equipment back to Fullerton or Los Angeles along the same route, as Train 705.

Riverside platform area as seen from skyrbridge An overhead walkway leads from this platform to the other side. We used it along with our fellow passengers from Train 704.

Chapter 4.11: In Riverside

We had about 45 minutes to kill before our return train to Los Angeles. I decided to search for a post office. I wanted to mail back any paper goods in my bag that were not needed for the remainder of our trip, such as stuff from Philadelphia or the brochures we had picked up thus far. We walked around the area, but did not find a post office. When we got back to the station, we then found a city map that showed the post office several blocks west of the station. We would have had to walk out of our way to get under the Riverside Freeway. So I decided that with our remaining time dwindling we would instead look for a post office upon our return to Los Angeles.

We waited with other people who were also catching this train. A couple of shuttle vans from University of California at Riverside also came in and discharged their passengers who would be taking the train.

At 2:43 PM, a train arrived at the closer island platform. This was Riverside Line Train 402, the first eastbound of the day. It turns there to become Train 411, the last westbound of the day on this line. There is one later westbound train, but only on the 91 Line.

Chapter 4.12: Metrolink Riverside Line, Train #411: Riverside, CA to Los Angeles Union Station

Boarding Metrolink train in Riverside Once all the arriving passengers had dispersed, we were able to board the train. Once again we took upper level seats, although this time we did not need a table.

Metrolink's Riverside Line takes a more direct routing than the 91 Line, but it runs through less scenic, more suburban and industrialized areas. We made stops at Pedley, East Ontario, downtown Pomona, City of Industry, and a station at the border of Montebello and Commerce, before moving back into the city of Los Angeles.

This time we rode on tracks that traversed the east side of the Los Angeles River. We could see the tracks we had been on earlier on the 91 Line across the way, as well as the Metro and Amtrak yards. We crossed the river on a bridge that led us right to Mission Tower, where we once again approached Union Station.

Although we had stuck to the schedule so far, we had a slight delay coming into the station. For some reason, we had to pass by our platform, and then back a few car lengths to our location. This being the beginning of the evening rush, a train was already on the outbound end of the platform we were supposed to be using, so we had to go around it. Our equipment would probably be returning to Riverside as Train 406 in about twenty minutes, after the train in front of it departed for another destination.

Now a change of plans came into play. My original plan before we had left for California was to have dinner at a shopping complex in downtown Los Angeles known as 7th & Fig. It is located at the corner of Seventh and Figueroa Streets, just a block from the Metro Center station. However, I had already gotten my share of Italian and Japanese food in the past couple of days, and we had been unable to get to a buffet place the day of the wedding. So I thought it would be nice to substitute the mall food court with a visit to the Hometown Buffet that we had seen from the Metro Blue Line in Long Beach on our Saturday run. There was some excess time built into our dinnertime break at 7th & Fig, so I figured we would have time to make the longer trip on the Metro Blue Line and have time to enjoy the buffet. But things unfortunately would not work out that way, since I still had this post office thing on my mind.

I asked a policeman in Union Station if there was a post office nearby, and he directed me to one across the street on the corner of Alameda Street and Caesar Chavez Blvd. We found an exit to a driveway that is used by Amtrak Thruway buses that serve the station. Around the driveway there was major construction going on, so we had no sidewalk to use. We made it out to Caesar Chavez Blvd and could see the post office building across the street, but instead of jaywalking we had to walk over to Alameda to cross the street. This cost us some more time, but at the time I didn't know we would also be inside the building for a longer time than anticipated.

Chapter 4.13: At Post Office in Los Angeles

When we got inside the post office, there was a long line. Had I realized the line would move slowly, I probably would not have waited. But since I was fixated with mailing my extra stuff home rather than carrying it with us on the plane, I decided that since we had some extra time in our schedule, we would wait. We were in there a good half hour before I was able to conduct my business.

After leaving the post office, we headed back along Alameda Street to the front of Union Station, and entered it from that side. We went directly to the Red Line. We could take either a North Hollywood or a Wilshire/Western train since we would only be traveling on the portion of the route common to both lines.

Chapter 4.14: Metro Red Line: Union Station to 7th St./Metro Center/Julian Dixon

We boarded a Wilshire/Western train at 5:11 PM. It was a five minute ride to Metro Center, where we would be transferring to the Blue Line. At 5:16, we joined the cattle call that was headed up the stairways and escalators from one level of the station to the next.

Chapter 4.15: Metro Blue Line: 7th St./Metro Center/Julian Dixon, Los Angeles to Pacific Coast Highway, Long Beach

The train that was at the Blue Line platform as we got to that level was marked "Willow", and it represented the 5:14 departure, delayed two minutes. The yard for this line is located between the Wardlow and Willow stations. During the rush hours, every other train terminates in Willow, and then either goes back to Los Angeles in revenue service, or deadheads north to the yard. Since I knew that the Hometown Buffet was beyond Willow, we waited a few minutes for the next train.

We left Metro Center on the following train, marked "Long Beach Transit Mall", at 5:21 PM (this train was also two minutes down) and soon emerged to the surface in darkness. It was dark too on Saturday when we were on this portion of the line, but at least I had ridden this line once before in daylight many years ago.

I checked the timetable again to make sure we would be able to have time to eat at the Hometown Buffet, meet my parents, and get to the airport at a reasonable time. I discovered that by the time we would have gotten to the 5th Street station in Long Beach, we would have only about twenty minutes before we would need to board a train northbound in order to get to the Aviation station by 7:30. So we had to give up on the Hometown Buffet and devise yet another alternate plan.

On our Saturday trip we had also seen a corner near one of the stations with several fast food restaurants. I knew we had seen it on the street running portion of the line on Long Beach Blvd, but I was not sure which station this was near.

After we had stopped at Willow, we then saw the restaurants as our light rail train crossed Willow Street itself. So we had to go to the next stop, Pacific Coast Highway, where we detrained at exactly 6:00 PM on the station's island platform and waited for the next northbound.

Chapter 4.16: Metro Blue Line: Pacific Coast Highway, Long Beach to Willow, Long Beach

It was roughly an eight minute wait for the next northbound train. We returned one stop to Willow, arriving there at 6:12 PM. Then we walked south one block to the Burger King, which was the closest of the fast food places to the rail line.

Chapter 4.17: Dinner in Long Beach

So for the second time in three days, albeit on the opposite coast, we ate dinner at Burger King. Only this instance, we were trying to save time, not to kill it. Still, we hurried through dinner in order to make a northbound train at 7:00. That would hopefully allow us enough time to get to the Aviation station by 7:30 to meet up with my parents.

After dinner we walked briskly back to the light rail station and awaited the next train.

Chapter 4.18: Metro Blue Line: Willow to Imperial/Wilmington/Rosa Parks

While on the platform, we got to see one of the short-turn trains come in from the north and terminate at Willow. After all passengers had detrained, the train was moved north out of the station, where it soon changed to the regular northbound track to proceed to the yard about a mile away.

Right at 7:00, a northbound train came to a stop at the Willow station. It would be a 15-minute ride to the transfer station at Rosa Parks. The problem was that a westbound Green Line train was scheduled to stop at the station at 7:15 also. So I was hoping we would be a little early, to allow time to make that connection. Otherwise we would have to wait twelve minutes for the next train.

We ended up being right on time at Rosa Parks, but to our chagrin, so was the Green Line train we intended to catch. This is poor scheduling on the MTA's part. By the time we got to the Green Line platform, the 7:15 train was long gone. We had to wait with plenty of other "misconnects" on the island platform.

Chapter 4.19: Metro Green Line: Imperial/Wilmington/Rosa Parks to Aviation/I-105

Our final transit conveyance on the west coast happened to be running late. To add insult to the injury of having to wait so long, our westbound Green Line train did not come at 7:27 as advertised. We kept thinking we saw the train coming, but the headlights we saw each time turned out to be a vehicle in the left lane of the adjacent Imperial Freeway.

It was roughly three minutes late. Once aboard, it was a 14-minute ride to Aviation/I-105, where we had begun our rail travels on Saturday afternoon. At Aviation we detrained at 7:44 PM (still three minutes late) and watched as our train continued on its route to El Segundo and Redondo Beach.

Chapter 4.20: By car: Aviation/I-105 station to Los Angeles International Airport-Terminal 6

My parents were there to meet us when we got off the escalator from the station at street level. Although we would be riding to the airport together, we said our good-byes there at the rail station, because we knew that we could not linger in front of the airport terminal.

At Terminal 6 we quickly got out of the car and said another quick goodbye to my parents. They went on from there to return their rental car before retiring for the night at their hotel.

Chapter 4.21: At Los Angeles International Airport

Upon entering the airport I put our suitcase on a bench and began moving items around. Anything that was unnecessary for the flight I put into the suitcase. Likewise, I removed some things from the suitcase that we did not need during the day but wanted to have on our flight, such as toiletries. Then we went to check in for our flight.

At check-in I again had trouble with the automated process. The fact that a train connection was part of our itinerary surely was to blame. An agent had to manually key something in for the system to accept my reservation number. Unlike Newark Liberty, here we just gave our luggage to the attendant behind the desk and we were on our way to the gate.

I found the security at LAX to be, well, lax. Most of the security people seemed to be closer in age to Michael than me. One girl who spoke very little English stopped Michael at the top of an escalator and asked for a picture ID, something he has never had. I tried to explain that he is too young to drive, and that his school does not provide him with any picture identification. They let us pass. Then we came to the security checkpoint, which had no line whatsoever. So we got personal attention as we went through. Although we did have to remove our sneakers once more, we were both through the checkpoint in about a minute. I had forgotten to remove watch, yet it did not set off the detector's alarm as it has in the past at other airports.

We went to our gate and sat down to await our flight.

Chapter 4.22: Continental Airlines Flight #1803: Los Angeles, CA to Newark, NJ

This time we had reserved seats together towards the rear of the plane. I figured with less foot traffic we would have an easier time sleeping. Although it was not totally full, there were a lot more seats occupied than the diagram showed on Continental's website before I left home. Michael and I did get a row of seats to ourselves, so Michael moved over from the middle to the aisle seat, giving us slightly more room to move around.

The movie this time was Dodgeball. They started showing it about one hour into the flight, at a time when most people wanted to get some sleep. The crew also made a few passes with refreshments, but few wanted anything.

Despite taking a sleeping pill, I had trouble sleeping. Although we had a little extra room thanks to the empty seat between us, neither one of us was comfortable enough to get more than a couple hours of sleep.

Chapter 4.23: End of Monday's activities

Monday ended with us someplace over the western United States, after a very long day of riding trains throughout the greater Los Angeles area.

Chapter 5: Tuesday, October 26, 2004

We would be arriving home today, after an early morning arrival in Newark.

Chapter 5.1: Continental Airlines Flight #1803: Los Angeles, CA to Newark, NJ (continued)

Our flight time was padded, just like we know that train schedules are. Although our arrival time was supposed to be 5:55 AM in Newark, we landed at 35 minutes early at 5:20. That gave us even more time to kill at Newark Liberty before our connecting "flight" to 30th Street Station.

Chapter 5.2: At Newark Liberty International Airport

When we came off the plane we went right to the food court and had breakfast at McDonald's. I figured we would have time for a quick meal while our luggage was being transported to the baggage carousel.

After breakfast we made our way down to the arrivals level, and were reunited with our luggage. Once again, nobody verified that I had taken the correct luggage.

Now it was time to leave the terminal building and head for the rail station for our final "flight". But our "flight plan" would be changing, thanks to my knowledge of the rail system. There was no way that we were going to wait two hours in order to catch the first Amtrak train that stops at the airport rail station, Regional 185 at 8:32 AM.

Chapter 5.3: AirTrain Newark: Terminal C to Rail Link Station

An uneventful and almost empty monorail ride brought us from Terminal C to the Rail Link Station. I am glad I had so much extra time, because I did not know what to expect when attempting to purchase the Amtrak ticket for the connecting "flight". At the Rail Link station I went to the lone Quick-Trak machine and inserted my debit card. After entering the "flight number", I was issued two Amtrak tickets, one for each of us, for the trip from Newark Airport Rail Station to 30th Street Station in Philadelphia. I wondered what would have happened if somebody else making the same trip had gotten there first and put the same "flight number" in. Would they have been issued our tickets, leaving us stranded?

Now that we had the two Amtrak tickets, we were not going to use them just yet. I figured that we would take an NJ TRANSIT train to Newark Penn Station, where we would be able to get an earlier train to Philadelphia. A glance at the timetable showed that there was an Amtrak train departing Newark Penn Station at 7:22 AM, arriving there at 8:25 AM. This would get us to Philadelphia in time for the 9:30 AM Atlantic City Line train back to Cherry Hill. Under the original plan we would have had to wait until 11:48 AM for the next train. So this move would get us home 2 hour 20 minutes earlier than expected, even though I probably paid the $5 AirTrain fee twice for each of us.

By the time we got downstairs to the northbound platform, we had about a twenty minute wait for the next NJ TRANSIT train. This time passed quickly as I watched other NJ TRANSIT and Amtrak trains roll by the station at the early part of a weekday rush hour.

Chapter 5.4: NJ TRANSIT North Jersey Coast Line, Train #3500: Newark Airport Station to Newark Penn Station

NJ TRANSIT North Jersey Coast Line Train 3500 was a local from South Amboy to New York City. As I expected, the train was packed, so we had to stand in the vestibule. But it would only be for one stop, a scheduled seven minute ride to downtown Newark. We were off this train in Newark at 6:55 AM, in plenty of time for our Amtrak trip to Philadelphia.

Chapter 5.5: At Newark Penn Station

We sat in the station's waiting room, watching the dashing commuters move through the station, some coming from buses, others from one train to another. I went to the Amtrak window to see if they had any new timetables yet, but they had not yet been delivered. At 7:15 AM our train was announced, so we went upstairs to the island platform between Tracks 3 and 4.

Chapter 5.6: Amtrak Train #43, PENNSYLVANIAN: Newark Penn Station to 30th Street Station, Philadelphia

The 7:22 AM Amtrak departure from Newark just happened to be the PENNSYLVANIAN. It was making its last Tuesday run to Pittsburgh before the new general timetable change took place on November 1st, having been cut because Amtrak got out of the mail business. (This time slot, however, is still filled by a New York-Harrisburg Keystone train.)

We boarded Amtrak Train 43 right on time, and we had a quick run down to Philadelphia. Our tickets, although they said Newark Airport instead of Newark, were accepted by the crew. After all, with the monorail surcharge we had paid $5 more than those originating at Newark Penn.

Arrival in Philadelphia was on time at 8:25 AM. Our last "flight", although it was not the one that Continental had designated for us, was a success. We had a little over an hour in Philadelphia before the next train that would get us back to Cherry Hill and my car.

Chapter 5.7: At 30th Street Station

We sat on the wooden benches in the station, now feeling a bit tired from our long day Monday, the overnight flight with little sleep, and now our travels today. We held onto our luggage but took turns closing our eyes. I knew I would still have to drive us home from Cherry Hill.

Chapter 5.8: NJ TRANSIT Atlantic City Line, Train #4611: 30th Street Station, Philadelphia to Cherry Hill, NJ

Our very last train ride on this transcontinental journey was a 26 minute trip aboard NJ TRANSIT's Atlantic City Line. We were back at my car before 10 AM. Had we followed Continental's intended plan, we would not have gotten there until about 12:15 PM.

Chapter 5.9: Drive home

That left just our drive home to complete this five day journey. In the late morning hours, there was no worry about traffic problems. We arrived home a little before 11:30 AM.

Chapter 5.10: End of Tuesday's activities

Another successful trip was completed Tuesday morning as we arrived home. We spent the rest of the day relaxing, including taking naps to ward off the jet lag.

Chapter 6: Conclusion

It was a great trip, albeit an unexpected one before the summer. I managed to make the most out of a whirlwind weekend in Los Angeles, a place that I had not been for a long time, and that Michael had never been in his life. I am pleased that we utilized our time wisely to get all that rail riding under our belts in such a confined period of time.

The end result of our trip, including the itinerary we actually followed, is here. Compare it with the tentative itinerary mentioned in the Introduction above.

Los Angeles awaits us once more, since I've been saving up my Amtrak Guest Rewards points for a transcontinental rail trip, and since a product of the marriage we witnessed in October is already on the way by next summer!

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