Massachusett Travelogue and Boston-Miami
June 30-July 14, 2005
HHP-8 Locomotive 650 NYP-WAS P-42 Locomotive 200 WAS-MIA Heritage Baggage 1711 Heritage Crew Dorm 2510 Viewliner Sleeper 62032 Viewliner Sleeper 62048 Viewliner Sleeper 62024 Heritage Diner 8528 Amfleet II Lounge 28020 Amfleet II Coach 25063 Amfleet II Coach 25115 Amfleet II Coach 25106 Amfleet II Coach 25091
July 13, 2005
We arrived into Hamlet around Midnight for another crew change where the best Conductor out of JAX boarded. I stayed up pretty much the entire way to JAX (I did fall asleep for about 45 minutes out of Savannah). We made fairly good time but got held at Ulmer for 92, which wasn't too bad, it was a fairly good meet based on physical characteristics. He showed me some of the interesting little points along the way to Savannah, reroutes from original routing, Railroad Crossings at grade, places of interest, etc. What really annoyed us both was that as we were pulling from Savannah we had a Stop Signal at the South End of the station. We both anticipated it being a hot UPS Northbound from JAX. Instead 53 comes roaring by. He headed down West Route, we were hoping to take East Route to get by him before Ogeechee, but that didn't happen. He was "short on time" and was given priority. Now that's B.S., he's picking up a re-crew at JAX, he's not going to make it to Sanford with his current crew, what the heck difference does it make. We could've gotten out ahead of him and run track speed into JAX, but instead we had to follow him all the way in.
After I woke up from my nap I grabbed breakfast to go from the Diner and ate it in the Lounge. We made it into JAX around 8:20, right on 97's schedule (or the old Star schedule). We went from the best Conductor in JAX to the two worst, sounds like a good time to sleep to me. I crawled into the upper bunk, fully expecting us to bypass Tampa due to our lateness. I woke up at Orlando, found Preston and he said we'd be continuing to Tampa as scheduled. This worked for Jon since he hadn't covered the territory yet, but it was two hours of my life gone to waste. We pulled into the wye at Neve, did the brake test and started backing into Tampa, as we came down to a stop it started to absolutely pour. Jon and I got down to get some fresh air while we had time since this was a big stop. There was a huge crack of lightning Preston got back on (him being the little schoolgirl he is); after the next one Willie told us all to get back on; he'd had enough too.
I crawled back in bed and slept until Winter Haven. I woke up in the station. Around West Lake Wales Jon came back from the Lounge and said they'd be having a quick dinner for sleeping car passengers, and we had a choice of Chicken or Fish. I took the chicken, and we headed back around Avon Park for Dinner. It was definitely a no frills meal, plastic silverware and foam plates, but its understandable since this is the part of the trip when they are normally packing up the dishes and glassware, to me it was the thought that counted. Preston came in to make up the beds after West Palm, had a good chat about working with Amtrak, and how much less stressful it is compared to other lines of work. I found out he had previously been a stock broker before coming to Amtrak in 2001. He's happier, he's less stressed, and that's all that really matters in the end. We hit the bumper in Miami at 9:40 (5:20 late, 97 was still sitting on 2 rail when we pulled in), we tipped Preston, took our carry-ons out to my car, and then went back into claim my checked bags. We made it back to my house around 10:30, not a bad trip all in all.
July 14, 2005
I took Jon out to lunch at a local restaurant before he had to catch his flight out. We had a good meal, drove down to Ft. Lauderdale International where he caught his flight to Charlotte to connect with a flight to Boston on his airline, US Air. I dropped him off, and drove off from the airport, officially ending my trip, right where it began.
All in all I have to say this is quite possibly the best trip I've ever been on. I spent time doing things I wanted to do, with my friends, on my schedule, not someone else's. Also traveling into other parts of the country and getting some real insight into their operation, rules, and procedures solidified my conviction that the railroad is where I belong. Hopefully this time four years from now, with a college diploma in hand I'll be heading towards a career with Amtrak (should they still exist) or another passenger road.