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Trip Report

Massachusett Travelogue and Boston-Miami

June 30-July 14, 2005
Section 3 of 3


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July 12, 2005

We arrived in New York right on time, and headed up to the waiting area. We went in search of a White Castle, which we found just north of the station at 8th Ave. and 37th St. From there we walked up through Times Square which was fairly empty but it was 3 in the morning. We took a 2 Local Train back down to Penn Station. We waited in the main waiting room til about 5:20 when we moved over to ClubAcela. We were both able to catch sporadic sleep before we went back out on the town at 7:30. We took a 1 Train down to South Ferry where we walked around Battery Park, took some pictures, etc. We took the 1 Train back up to Chambers St. Where we transferred to a 3 Express Train. We took the 3 up to 96th Street where I attempted to get pizza at my favorite pizza place, but apparently their Times Square location opens earlier than the 96th Street location. We got back on the 3 Train to Penn Station, and went back in ClubAcela to wait on 91.

Amtrak HHP-8 #650 in Washington Amtrak HHP-8 #650 in Washington
They started First Class boarding at 9:50, a little late since the train came down from the yard late. We got to the 11 Car, met Preston our attendant, and got settled into our room. We pulled from New York a few minutes late at 10:05. We arrived at Philly which is normally the spot for engine changes these days, but we just did station work, engine change at Washington. We were held for a few minutes because the LSA in the Lounge ordered in food, and apparently we had a nice Conductor since he held us for it to come. We cruised along from Philly to Washington, moving at a pretty normal pace, passing a ton of trains.

Amtrak AEM-7dc #907 in Washington Heritage baggage in Washington MARC HHP-8 #4912 in Washington
Amtrak P42 #200 in Washington Amtrak P42 #200 in Washington Amtrak P42 #200 in Washington
We arrived at Washington, Jon and I got down and walked up to the head end to get some pictures of the engine change. We did so, walked the train, then got back up for an on time departure. Jon went back to the Lounge where he found out they almost called the Amtrak Police in on us since we were taking pictures of the engine change. Fortunately enough people on this crew know who I am that they were able to persuade them not to call. But, it's a sad state of affairs when two normal looking white kids taking pictures of trains are considered suspicious. Here's how the consist looked:

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

Amtrak P42 #20 in Richmond VA Auto Train Auto Carrier in Richmond
I pulled down the top bed leaving Washington to try to get some shut eye, which I did between Washington and Richmond. We arrived at Richmond two hours late at 6:00. We waited for Auto Train to pass us at the station. According to Preston most of our delay was due to a signal failure and track inspection, plus the heat orders. We made our stop at Petersburg, and somewhere south of there we overtook Auto Train, since we run 10 mph faster than them. They should be able to make it to Sanford before we do tomorrow. I do have to say that the new carriers look really good, and the switching and loading process has to be 10 times easier now. We ate at the 8:00 Dinner seating, and were seated with a really nice older lady who had a terrible experience coming north, and as a result was upgraded to a Sleeper for free (especially since there were a bunch of empty rooms). I took a shower after Dinner, which was interesting, I definitely prefer the much larger shower on the Superliner. Made it to Raleigh where there was a hubub of activity, besides the 72 passengers boarding the Fire Department was on hand as someone had pulled the fire alarm prior to out arrival.

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.

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