Florida Trip 2006: The Lost Episode
April 8-17, 2006
Chapter 0: Introduction
Michael and I took our trip to Florida in April of 2006. We had been unable to do so in 2005 for several reasons. Therefore, aside from the summer railfest excursions to Toronto and Chicago/St. Louis/Dallas, this was our first long trip in a couple of years. Our purpose was to visit my parents. While Michael had seen the new home they had purchased the previous year while he was down there in December of 2005, I would be seeing it for the first time.
Chapter 1: Preparation
Our ability to take this trip was clouded by developments where I work. In January, when I normally would reserve a trip for the spring, I was not certain that vacation time would be approved. I therefore had to wait until it was safer to commit to my plans. I wanted to book sleepers for us in both directions this time as well, since I could handle it financially.
I was finally able to make my Philadelphia-Tampa and Tampa-Philadelphia reservations in late February. However, by that time, the prices for sleepers had risen. Being a holiday period, demand had driven the prices higher. I decided to pay for one direction and redeem some Amtrak Guest Rewards points for the other. There was a blackout period around Easter for our return trip, but I would be able to use the points for our southbound trip, which would occur before the blackout period began.
After the initial reservations were made, I then decided to plan a side trip for myself. I wanted to go to the Miami area, doing so while minimizing trips my parents would have to take to the train station. I would extend my own trip on the SILVER STAR from Tampa to Miami, while Michael would get off in Tampa with his grandparents. I would then travel back from Miami to Tampa two days later. I reserved a Tampa-Miami round trip in coach, remaining on the same train from Philadelphia all the way to Miami. I would return to Tampa on Train 92 of Tuesday, April 11th.
I also did research on hotels in the Miami area, and found a Hampton Inn that was just 1-1/2 blocks from a Metro station just south of downtown Miami.
Chapter 2: Saturday, April 8, 2006
First day of our travels saw us getting to and boarding our train to Florida.
Chapter 2.1: Driving to Cherry Hill, NJ
We went for the straight route this time instead of the faster route. We took NJ Route 70 right across the Pine Barrens, from Lakehurst all the way to Cherry Hill. The latter part of our trip featured some very heavy rain.
When we got to the NJ TRANSIT Cherry Hill station, the rain was quite heavy, and it showed no signs of letting up. This resulted in our needing to worry about extra items throughout the trip: two umbrellas.
Chapter 2.2: NJ TRANSIT Atlantic City Line, Train #4610, Cherry Hill, NJ to Philadelphia, PA (30th Street Station)
We kept relatively dry under the station's small shelter. After our train had its usual meet with an Atlantic City-bound run just south of the station, it arrived a couple of minutes late.
An uneventful trip to Philadelphia followed. The conductor had no problem accepting our Amtrak-issued "Thruway Train" tickets instead of traditional NJ TRANSIT tickets. We eventually did get 100 points apiece consequently.
We got into Philadelphia a little before the advertised 10:30 AM, arriving on Track 4. This gave us two hours 15 minutes before our scheduled departure on the SILVER STAR.
We were unsure whether we would be entitled to lunch on the SILVER STAR out of Philadelphia, and since we did not wish to wait to find out, we decided to have lunch in the station at Subway.
Once we had eaten, we made our way to the Club Acela to check-in.
Chapter 2.3: Club Acela
At the Club Acela we were greeted and admitted by a friendly attendant. He told us that our train had already departed from New York on time. He asked if we had been to Club Acela before, and I responded in the affirmative. We therefore knew we could get complimentary refreshments.
There were two personal computers available, but they had limited Internet access. There were selected sites blocked, including access to my e-mail.
Our time in the lounge went quickly. We had our cold drinks, but were unpleasantly surprised that we did not get any bags of pretzels. They were giving away cinnamon rolls instead. Michael took one for himself, and then went back and got two more to give to his grandparents upon his arrival in Tampa.
I did call Julie and found out that our train had lost a little time, and at one point was running 20 minutes late. About 10 minutes before our scheduled departure, the attendant for the lounge used a key to call the appropriate elevator, and then told us to go directly to the platform level. We were the only passengers for this train using the lounge. The station however had appeared to be fairly crowded with families with suitcases obviously destined for locations served by long distance trains. The elevator let us out where the rear of the train would be, so I knew we had to walk up to the other end of the platform where the sleepers would stop.
We did not have to wait long, as an AEM-7 engine soon led the long consist into the station's Track 6.
Chapter 2.4: Amtrak Train #91(8), SILVER STAR, Philadelphia, PA to Miami, FL
We departed Philadelphia at 12:47 PM, only two minutes late. We met our sleeper attendant, Richard, who offered his services throughout the trip, and told us where we could find refreshments in our car at any time. He also encouraged us to go to lunch, which was in fact still being served in the dining car. However, I told him that we had eaten in the station and thus we were not hungry. I told him that we would however be the first on line for dinner!
The STAR left Wilmington at 1:13 PM, three minutes down. By the time we got to Baltimore, however, we had made up some time. Our 2:06 PM departure from there was just a minute off the advertised. So far, so good!
We arrived into Washington, DC at 2:40 PM on Union Station's Track 25. There, I got off and was able to walk the train and record our entire consist:
* (We were here)919 AEM-7 locomotive NYP-WAS ** 1701 Baggage 62033 Viewliner sleeper "Scenic View" as crew dorm 62035 Viewliner sleeper "Shore View" * 62038 Viewliner sleeper "Spring View" 62008 Viewliner sleeper "Eagle View" 8502 Heritage Diner 28021 Amfleet II lounge 25107 Amfleet II coach 25038 Amfleet II coach 25046 Amfleet II coach 25014 Amfleet II coach 25086 Amfleet II coach
** In Washington, AEM-7 919 was removed, replaced with 64 P-42 locomotive WAS-MIA
After getting all the car numbers at the rear of the train, I went to the front to watch the engine change. I was not able to get all the way up to the engine due to limited space on the platform where the baggage crew was working. However I went up on a stairway with a landing that overlooks the platform, and I was able to get a good view of the engine change process.
I was questioned by one Amtrak employee who was on a nearby moving escalator. She said, "Can I help you?" which I interpreted to mean, "Why are you standing there?" I flashed her my Amtrak stub (not that she could read it at her distance and while on a moving escalator), and all was well.
Once the diesel engine was attached to the train, I boarded and returned to our compartment. Our departure from Washington, DC came at 3:06 PM, just a minute late. We were three minutes late out of Alexandria.
Now I looked forward to our passing of the northern AUTO TRAIN terminal. I figured that there would be plenty of activity there as the train would be preparing for its 4:00 PM departure.
However, as we passed by at 3:42 PM, the AUTO TRAIN should have had its auto racks and the passenger section of the train ready to go. Instead, cars were still lined up on the station's driveway. The train's previous northbound trip must have come in late.
CSX handled us very well. Around Woodbridge, we actually passed a freight train that was running in the same direction! Of course being the weekend we did not have to worry about Virginia Railway Express trains.
At 3:57 PM, we went over the Quantico Bridge. A new, wider bridge was well under construction just west of the existing one-track structure.
The lead dining car attendant came through our sleeper at 4:05 PM taking reservations for dinner. She had 5:00, 6:30, or 8:30 seatings. Naturally, we grabbed the earliest one, which would mean we had less than an hour until we would be eating, and we had the least chance of them being out of anything. We were told just to show up at 5:00, and not to wait for an announcement since the public address systems typically do not work in many cars of the train. We were also advised to bring our ticket stubs along.
We passed Regional Train 195 at 4:39 PM. This train was running in the same direction but was making all Amtrak stops through Virginia down to Richmond. It had been next to us in Washington, but it left several minutes before we did.
At 4:51 we slowed for a signal, and ran that way for about five minutes. After the train returned to its maximum allowed speed, we got up and went to the dining car. We had to walk through our sleeping car and two others to get to the diner.
We were seated at 4:58, facing backwards. Our tablemates, at first glance, appeared to be a couple. Actually, they were an unrelated man and woman who had been traveling alone. The woman was a grandmother headed for Florida, while the man we going to Southern Pines, NC.
All four at our table were given checks to sign. At the same time, our ticket stubs were inspected, to ensure that we were in fact sleeper passengers. But our orders were not taken until 5:19, which meant that Michael and I had already been sitting there 21 minutes and the other two people even longer.
After the waitress took our order, we slowed and then stopped at the Richmond, VA station. Arrival there was 5:23. Salads and rolls were delivered to our table at that time.
Our 5:33 PM departure from Richmond was 14 minutes late. After running slowly for a bit through Acca Yard, we rounded the curve onto the segment that runs in the median of I-195. Right there, we passed not one but two Amtrak trains one behind the other. Although there is no way to know which was which, they were Trains 80(8) (the northbound CAROLINIAN) and 90(8) (the northbound PALMETTO).
Meanwhile, back to dinner. Our food was served at 5:41 PM. Our Delmonico steaks were delicious. We both enjoyed our respective sides as well.
Our plates were taken away at 5:58, and our dessert orders were taken. We both opted for the chocolate cake. No, it was not the Chocolate Bomb we had enjoyed so much on the TEXAS EAGLE in 2005, but they were still respectable portions of chocolate cake.
Our cakes came at 6:02 PM. Five minutes later, our train made its last stop in the state of Virginia, Petersburg. We had made up some time and were now 10 minutes late.
Michael and I left the diner at 6:11, but we first went the other way to the lounge car. We took turns using the facilities there, since we are not in the habit of doing toilet functions where we sleep. We were back at our room by 6:21.
One of the privileges (or so I thought) of riding in first class is to avoid the other families traveling with kids. Those kids, when bored tend to run up and down the aisles of the coaches. Well here in our sleeper we had one such bored young girl, who began to run back and forth in the hallway. Soon she was joined by a second girl, and after a while, a third one joined them. Where were the parents? Why, they were right there in their comfortable seats in their respective compartments. The behavior was going unchecked. I surmised that our attendant Richard was on his break because no good crewmember would have allowed such unsafe and annoying behavior to continue. Even with our door closed, we could hear the heavy footsteps out in the hall.
The only time I could remember our being affected by a freight train happened somewhere in northern North Carolina. We pulled into a siding to allow this freight to pass. Surprising to me was that a dead end siding still exists. We had to back out of this siding to return to the mainline. This dance cost us sixteen minutes before we were moving forward once more at 7:48.
Meanwhile, the cattle call continued out in the hallway. Now you are a father, your daughter is running back and forth in a narrow hallway on a train moving at 79 mph. What are you going to do? You tell the girl that she is going to Disney World, of course! That is great positive reinforcement for the behavior. I told Michael (in loud earshot of the offending parent) that if he went out in the hallway and did the same thing, I would take him not only to Disney World, but Sea World and Busch Gardens as well. Michael declined.
At 7:55, we received permission from a CSX dispatcher to work the Rocky Mount station on Track 2. Track 1 is the one closest to the station. Protection would be provided on Track 1, making it safe for passengers to cross to and from the train.
Due to our encounter with the dead end siding, we arrived in Rocky Mount 28 minutes off the advertised, at 8:07 PM. Our stop, during which a double spot was made, took nine minutes. We therefore were 37 minutes late when we left town.
Our next big event was at Selma, NC at 8:56 PM. Not a station stop for this train, it makes a high speed right turn over a connection that takes it from CSX's "A" line to Norfolk Southern's "H" line. We were now headed west towards the state capitol.
At 9:10 PM, we got Richard to set up our beds for us. After that, we got ready, and Michael climbed up to the top bunk and went to sleep.
Arrival in Raleigh was at 9:35 PM, 22 minutes late. Now I am unclear as to why we spent as much time as we did in Raleigh. I did not hear anything on my scanner to indicate why our station work took so long. I heard two toots of the horn to go at 9:44, and again a minute later. Nevertheless, we did not depart Raleigh despite those signals. We finally pulled away at 9:56.
I soon decided it was time for me to turn in as well. The last thing I recall was our turning from the Norfolk Southern "H" line onto the CSX "S" Line. Under the covers, and knowing we were again headed south, I had no problem falling asleep for the night.
Chapter 3: Sunday, April 9, 2006
Sunday was the day we would enter Florida, and then separate. Michael would remain on the state's west coast with his grandparents while I would go onward to the Gold Coast.
Chapter 3.0: Amtrak Train #91(8), SILVER STAR, Philadelphia, PA to Miami, FL (continued)
I cannot report on things that I missed, which was a lot. Who says you can't sleep on a train? In the nine hours I was out, our train passed through the rest of North Carolina, all of South Carolina and Georgia, and even part of Florida. It was 7:18 AM when I awakened. I asked Michael if he knew where we were. When he said we were on a curve and that he could see the back of the train, I knew exactly what he was talking about, but I could not believe it. We were in Jacksonville, FL already! Not only that, but we were exactly on time!
Our train had already made its long stop there. We were on the horseshoe curve in the city proper that takes all Amtrak trains around the west side of town instead of through the city on the Florida East Coast Railroad. This is the first time I can ever recall missing Jacksonville, where I customarily get out and walk around.
We got dressed and prepared to go to breakfast. At 7:45 AM we left our compartment and began our walk towards the dining car.
When we got there, we were told that there would be a wait of about twenty minutes. We were given a number (#25), and told to go to the lounge car and wait to be called.
In the lounge car, the place was already overcrowded with others awaiting the call for breakfast. The time was 7:50 AM. They were only up to #8, so I knew right away that we had longer than the promised twenty minutes. There was nowhere to sit, as there were other people sitting in the lounge car's booths and the "penalty box" (the former smoking lounge section). The train's conductor and his assistant were sitting in there as well, taking up two more valuable seats.
At 8:04, they called Numbers 9, 10, 11, and 12. I thought, if they call the parties this quickly and four tables at a time, we should move quickly. I was wrong.
At 8:17, they called 12, 14, and 16. Apparently, #12 did not show up the first time they were called. The person making the announcements said that they might skip numbers in order to fill the tables with four people apiece.
Meanwhile, we arrived at Palatka, FL at 8:27 AM. During our two-minute stop, Numbers 15, 16, 17, and 18 were summoned to the diner. Hmmm, no 13? Anyhow, seated or not, we were eleven minutes late, which was still not too bad.
It was 8:35 AM when the next four parties were called, namely 20, 21, 22, and 23. So apparently, #19 had given up as well. Two minutes later, they called #24. We were finally the next ones to be called.
8:51 AM, just over an hour since our wait began, Numbers 25 & 26 were called to the diner. Michael and I were seated at a table by ourselves, at least for the time being. Four minutes later, our juice was being served, and we were informed when being given menus that they were out of pancakes and French toast.
Our order (which was the old reliable scrambled eggs and sausage) was taken at 8:57, and it arrived at 9:10. As we were eating, two people (a mother and son) were seated across from us. By this time the diner was winding down its service, so they were hurried through their ordering process to give them a chance to catch up with Michael and me.
A three-minute stop at Deland came next. When we left at 9:19 AM, we were ten minutes down. Michael and I left the diner at 9:25 AM and headed back to our compartment. We had Richard make up our room for daytime mode.
At 9:36 AM, we passed the southern AUTO TRAIN terminal. The train should have arrived, but of course, it hadn't yet. Remember, when we had passed it in Virginia it was quite apparent that it would be departing very late. We then passed by the former Sanford stop on the mainline, headed directly for our next stop at Winter Park.
Around the town of Maitland, we had to slow to 10 mph as there was some grade crossing construction taking place. Yes, even on Sunday morning!
I heard our crew saying that the food service car had run out of a lot of items, and that Train 98 had been contacted to leave off some food for us at Winter Haven. The crew also mentioned that there were 175 people getting on the train in Tampa. We arrived in Winter Park at 10:04 AM, and departed 10:06, twelve minutes late.
Orlando's arrival time is padded, and some time is allowed for heavy detraining and boarding there. We were just four minutes late when we arrived there at 10:21. We took a little extra delay there due to human error. Our engineer had pulled the train too far west, and that made it difficult for the baggage crew to do its job. The baggage car was spotted beyond the end of the platform, so the luggage had to be carried some distance between the baggage car and the cart that hauls it to the station. It was 10:44 when we left Orlando, now thirteen minutes late.
After Orlando, I talked with Richard about our plans. I told him that Michael was getting off in Tampa, but I would be remaining on the train as I was continuing to Miami. I told him that I only had a ticket for coach, and that I would be moving back to the coach section of the train in Tampa. He told me I could remain where I was, citing dirty rest rooms shared by 60 people as a reason I would not want to go back there. I thanked him for his generosity.
Kissimmee came next at 11:01. We had a five-minute stop there, putting us eleven minutes down upon departure. We had some slow signals after Kissimmee, but we never came to a complete stop. I was beginning to think we would arrive in Tampa within 15 minutes of the schedule, which would not be too shabby at all.
We came into the big junction at Auburndale at 11:43. We did not slow down, as we were going right through it from east to west. Our crew contacted Train 98(9), the northbound SILVER METEOR to let them know our train was out of food, and to request that they leave some provisions for us at the Winter Haven station. They were just about approaching that point now as we passed through Auburndale, so this was as close as we would be to them.
Lakeland came next at 11:51 AM. This is one of two Lakeland stops that both the southbound and northbound SILVER STARS make as they dogleg between Auburndale and Tampa. The first Lakeland stop made by each train is a discharge stop only. We were only 11 minutes late there. I was beginning to envision schedule padding bringing us into Tampa exactly on time.
Unfortunately, things did not turn out that well. Although we had another delay due to a freight train, I was pleased that we were again passing a freight train that was in the hole waiting for us, rather than the other way around.
At 12:13, we came through Plant City, FL. There is a diamond there with a pair of perpendicular tracks crossing the mainline on which we were riding. There is a "Union Station" right at the junction that could have served trains on either line at some time in the past.
We came to a stop at 12:30 PM in the outskirts of downtown Tampa. I figured we had arrived at the place where the train is wyed to back into Tampa Union Station. We sat for six minutes, and then rolled slowly forward. We stopped again at 12:40, and then two minutes later rolled forward again and entered the wye. At 12:48, the train had cleared the switch on the wye track. We had come to a stop with our sleeper car directly underneath I-4.
I began to learn that we had signal problems, which caused our long stop on the mainline. We had to wait a while at our present location while our crew got their orders from CSX, which included getting permission to bypass some red signals.
We started our reverse move at 12:59 PM, and had to stop for safety reasons as we traversed a grade crossing. By 1:06 PM, we were back on the mainline, running backwards for the last mile or two into Tampa Union Station. This included crossing another diamond, as well as crossing the trolley tracks used by Tampa's TECO Streetcar. As if it was planned that way, a streetcar was stopped near this crossing awaiting our passing.
After one more safety stop approaching the station, we finally came to a stop at the station platform at 1:23 PM. After a near-perfect run, we ended up 57 minutes late.
My mother was on the platform to greet us. I stood there talking with her during the layover. She said that the reason they were not waiting inside the station is that it was full of college age kids -- namely those 175 passengers that I had heard would be boarding there.
When the call was made to reboard the train, I said goodbye to Mom and Michael and they went together to meet my father, who was sitting on a bench near the station building.
As soon as I was back on board, Richard told me to go get lunch, as the diner was still serving. I was seated alone, and I remained that way throughout my meal. The diner surprisingly still had all of the lunch entrees on the menu, but they were out of all drinks except juice and bottled water. I ordered a chicken and cheddar sandwich, and downed it with an orange juice. My waiter apologized for being out of soda. I told him that they would be probably be putting more of it on in Winter Haven.
Thankfully none of the 175 Spring Breakers was a sleeper passenger, and very few of them could afford food in the dining car. I enjoyed the quiet of the diner as well as the sleeper, which had already reached its peak use for this trip before Orlando. Although Amtrak does advertise "day rooms" for travel within Florida, relatively few people make use of them.
The STAR departed Tampa at 1:40 PM, still 57 minutes late. We got a little past where we had earlier experienced the signal problems, and then at 1:56, we came to a stop on a siding to the left of the mainline. The assistant conductor was off the train and in the woods, so I figured we would be there for a while. From calls to Julie, I figured out that we were awaiting the northbound SILVER STAR, Train 92(9). It finally passed us at 2:10.
At 2:12 PM, we began rolling east once more. After we made our second Lakeland stop at 2:45 PM, we were now one hour 26 minutes late. A few people boarded here.
Then I began to think that we would have a conflict with the southbound SILVER METEOR, Train 97(8). I checked with Julie and found out that just about the time we were departing from Lakeland, the METEOR was leaving Winter Haven. Because the other train does not do the Auburndale-Lakeland-Tampa segment, it had now gotten ahead of us. We would be following that train by about half an hour down to Miami.
At 2:54, we entered the industrial track that serves as the eastbound to southbound connector at Auburndale. It only took a minute to negotiate this track before we were on the southbound mainline headed for southern Florida.
Winter Haven was just a two-minute stop. It was so quick that I began to wonder if maybe they put our food onto the METEOR instead of holding it for us. With our 3:06 departure from Winter Haven, we were one hour 25 minutes late. Sebring came 41 minutes later, and we maintained the same deficit.
Our next stop was at Okeechobee, which we departed at 4:27 PM, almost one and a half hours late.
Then we came into TriRail territory, passing its northernmost station at Mangonia Park at 5:22 PM. Between Mangonia Park and West Palm Beach, we had to stop to let a northbound TriRail train come up what is normally the northbound track and then cross over to the other side for Mangonia Park, which has a platform only on the west side of the right-of-way.
Our train arrived in West Palm Beach at 5:35 PM, one hour 24 minutes down. From here, stops are discharge only, so I felt we could possibly gain back some of our lost time.
At 5:58, the SILVER STAR passed an old railroad depot on the left side, marked Delray Beach. It was not in good shape, having obviously not been in use for a number of years. Amtrak trains do stop in Delray Beach, but they do so at the TriRail platforms about half a mile to the south. We had one party detraining from the sleepers, and one party from the coaches. However, because this platform is only long enough for a four-car commuter train, we had to make a double spot.
We had made up a little time by the time we came to the Deerfield Beach stop. It was now 6:11 PM, and we were one hour 19 minutes late. Had we been on time, this run to Miami would have already been completed. Thankfully with Daylight Savings Time, I most likely would still have some daylight for my walk to the Metro once we got into Miami. Nevertheless, I was still a bit nervous. We spent eight minutes at Deerfield Beach, while the crew got some new orders due to malfunctioning grade crossing protection down the line.
Fort Lauderdale was the next Amtrak stop. Unfortunately with the slow orders, we lost a little more time. The time was 6:41 PM, so we were now back to one and a half hours late. Hollywood came next, and we had lost yet another minute as we made our stop there at 6:57 PM. Most of the crowd that had boarded in Tampa detrained here, as one might expect during Spring Break.
Our train passed a couple more TriRail stations, and then we moved over to the left side to enter the yards at Hialeah, at the end of which Amtrak's "Miami" station lies. We finally came to a stop at around 7:30 PM. We were one hour 26 minutes late.
My ordeal of almost 31 hours was over. On my way out, I took care of Richard generously for his excellent service and the favor of letting me remain in my compartment. I know he was working en route to get all of the vacated rooms ready for the next trip, and my presence prevented him from doing the same with my room.
Now off the train, I began to make the walk to the TriRail/Metrorail Transfer station, which is roughly a four-block walk. It was in fact still light outside, but the sun was in the process of setting.
Once at the transfer station, I paid my fare and made my way to the southbound Metro platform. (Technically, the Metro runs east and west here, so I would be starting my Metro trip going eastbound.)
Chapter 3.1: MDT Metrorail, TriRail/Metrorail Transfer to Coconut Grove
I did not have long to wait for my train. Metrorail runs on 15-minute intervals most of the day on weekends. My train came at 7:38 PM, and I went aboard.
My first impression was that these trains are in poor shape. The windows are full of graffiti (paint, not scratched windows), the wheels squeal on curves, and the brakes make a lot of noise too as the trains stop in each station. The lighting within the cars is not as bright as it could be, causing an unsafe feeling when traveling at off hours.
I arrived at my destination, Coconut Grove, at 8:06 PM and detrained. I could see my Hampton Inn just a little over a block away on the left side of the train.
I was pleased to find some familiar fast food places in the area as well. It was beyond 8 PM, and I had not eaten a meal since my late lunch just out of Tampa.
After I checked in and dumped my luggage in my room, I went out and had a nice Burger King dinner. Then I returned to the Hampton Inn and checked out the their Business Center. I was able to join our OTOL Trains Chat that evening.
After that, I had no trouble falling asleep in the comfort of a bed that was not moving at 79 mph.
Chapter 4: Monday, April 10, 2006
Monday was my full day of riding the rails on the Gold Coast. I would take in Miami Dade Transit's Metrorail and Metromover, and Southern Florida Regional Transit Authority's TriRail, riding all three in their entirety.
After a small hot breakfast at my hotel, I went to the Metrorail station to begin my day's travels.
Chapter 4.1: MDT Metrorail, Coconut Grove to Dadeland South
First order of business was to ride the southernmost portion of the Metrorail. From Coconut Grove, I would head south to the end of the line and then return north on the same equipment.
From the Metrorail timetable, I had figured on catching a train at 8:22 AM. I found out that besides the defects I had found in this system the evening before, they also do not adhere to the published timetable. They were, in fact, running hot... that is, two minutes ahead of schedule. So my train departed from my origin station at 8:20, and got to Dadeland South at 8:31 PM. I noticed that the area around Dadeland Mall is being developed, so one has to walk through a construction zone to get between the station and the mall.
The layover at Dadeland South was just two minutes. Given all the negatives, I was pleasantly surprised how quickly they turned the train. Later during this day, I would discover the secret to their success.
Chapter 4.2: MDT Metrorail, Dadeland South to Brickell
I originally thought I would go up to Palmetto and get my new trackage in the morning, before catching TriRail. Instead, I decided to do a little Metromover first, and then finish Metrorail in the evening after getting back from the TriRail excursion.
So I got off at Brickell and caught Metromover, the free driverless people mover that circulates on three loops around downtown Miami. The Brickell Metrorail station is served only by the Metromover Brickell Loop.
Chapter 4.3: MDT Metromover, Brickell Loop, Brickell to Financial District
They used to charge a quarter to ride Metromover, except that it was free when transferring to it from Metrorail. Now it is totally free for everyone.
The ride from Brickell to Financial District is between one and two minutes. Just before the last station, the line goes down to one track. However, the cars change directions quickly so there is never a problem with two cars being in the single track area at the same time.
Chapter 4.4: MDT Metromover, Brickell Loop, Financial District to Bayside/College
In the same car, I rode to Bayside/College, where I got off and waited for the next car on the same track. It would take me over the Omni Loop.
Chapter 4.5: MDT Metromover, Omni Loop, Bayside/College to School Board
The Omni Loop is a little longer than the Brickell Loop, though not by much. The Omni itself was a downtown shopping mall that closed a few years ago after many of its stores went out of business and were not replaced. Probably the only reasons the Metromover still stops at the Omni station are the number of major chain hotels around the area, and a MDT satellite bus terminal for routes going to the east and northeast.
Just west of the Omni station, the Metromover goes down to just one track. A School Board-bound car will have to wait if there is another car between the last two stations. At School Board, the car spends no more than a minute before its doors close and it begins returning towards downtown in the opposite direction.
Chapter 4.6: MDT Metromover, Omni Loop, School Board to Government Center
Finally, I was going to see Government Center, after having taken a much longer route from Brickell over several Metromover trains. The trip back was seemingly shorter than my previous ones because we rode counter clockwise directly to Government Center rather than going around downtown.
Government Center provides a good place to take a short rest room break, or grab a snack at its small food court. Also as hub of Miami-Dade Transit's operations, there are racks of Metrobus and Metrorail timetables, and an office where one can purchase multi-ride tickets.
Chapter 4.7: MDT Metrorail, Government Center to TriRail/Metrorail Transfer
It was now time to hustle up to the Transfer Station, in order to catch my first TriRail train of the day. Originally, I had planned to take the Palmetto segment of the line this morning. That would now have to wait until the evening. Although there was substantial time until my TriRail train would be departing, I did not want to risk going out on Metrorail to Palmetto and back and possibly missing the commuter train.
A quick ride brought me to the TriRail/Metrorail Transfer, at which I arrived at 10:10 AM. I found the automatic ticket machines in order to purchase my first ticket, a one-way to Deerfield Beach.
I had strategically mapped out where I would be detraining throughout the day, where I could get lunch at the right time and where there would be bountiful restaurants and hotels to make note of for a future Fest gathering in the area.
After buying the ticket, I took the pedestrian sky bridge over the tracks to what would be the northbound side. Before my train arrived, I saw Train #P613 come in on the southbound side, headed for Miami International Airport. I would do the segment south of here later in the day.
Train P613 802 Locomotive 1009 Coach 1014 Coach 505 Cab car
I should note here that for all TriRail trains, the 800-series equipment is the locomotive, which is usually on the Miami end of the train. The 1000-series cars are coaches. 500-series cars are cab cars, which have full coach capabilities in addition to a place for the engineer to control the train when it is in "push" mode.
Chapter 4.8: TriRail Train #P614, TriRail/Metrorail Transfer to Deerfield Beach
Train P614, also later spotted as P621 510 Cab car (I was here on P614) 1005 Coach 1007 Coach 805 Locomotive
In Deerfield Beach, with exactly one hour in between trains, I scouted around the area. I had been here twice before, but things had changed. The hotel that is adjacent to the station had once been a Days Inn, then a Ramada Inn, and now it was a Holiday Park Hotel. At least the Denny's in front of it was a mainstay from the past.
I walked roughly one mile east, which meant passing underneath I-95 and crossing its interchange ramps. I finally came to a small shopping center that had a small pizza/sandwich shop called Jersey Shore Subs & Pizza. I wondered if this was a copycat to our Jersey Mike's, which is headquartered at the real Jersey Shore 1000 miles up the coast. No way. This was just a mom and pop operation whose name was probably influenced by visitors from New Jersey.
After having pizza that burnt my mouth and left an unpleasant taste, I began to head west once more, in order to get back to the train station in time. I had no problem getting there well before my 12:30 PM train, which would be bringing me to the northern end of the line in Mangonia Park.
Around the same time as my northbound train, another arrived in the southbound direction. With the new hourly memory schedule, Deerfield Beach just happens to get two simultaneous visits from TriRail each hour. The consist of the southbound train:
Train P619 808 Locomotive 1008 Coach 1010 Coach 511 Cab car
Chapter 4.9: TriRail Train #P616, Deerfield Beach to Mangonia Park
My train, which I would be taking up to Mangonia Park, and then returning on the same equipment to Cypress Creek, was #P616 going northbound:
Train P616, also later ridden as P623 507 Cab car 1001 Coach (I was here on P616) 1006 Coach (I was here on P623) 811 Locomotive
Mangonia Park is a station that was added on later to extend the line a couple of miles north of West Palm Beach (a more logical place to end the service). However, with a Jai Alai fronton adjacent to the station site, as well as some housing, I guess TriRail felt there was a market for service here.
The problem is that the Jai Alai venue is out of business. The station's parking occupies a very tiny fraction of the large parking lot, with the rest of it cordoned off. While some PalmTran buses do come right to the station, one otherwise has to walk quite a distance to get to a street with any businesses. My conclusion (after another very long bout of exercise) is that this is not a railfan-friendly location. The only thing to do here is to hang around for the 29-minute layover and then return via the same train.
Chapter 4.10: TriRail Train #P623, Mangonia Park to Cypress Creek
Train #P623 provided my southbound travel from Mangonia Park to my next stop, Cypress Creek. Originally I was going to get off at Boca Raton, but I realized when passing it on Amtrak the day before and on TriRail that morning that there wasn't anything close to the station, save for a few expensive hotels.
As was the norm with my TriRail trains thus far, the train operated like clockwork, departing from Mangonia Park at precisely 1:47 PM. My arrival in Cypress Creek was at 2:40 PM. Like Deerfield, I had exactly one hour to walk around and return before my next train in the same direction.
Unfortunately, the weather deteriorated not long after I stepped off that train. A rainstorm came in, making it difficult to walk around and write things down at the same time. I was able to go from building to building, stopping under shelter to take my notes. In short, Cypress Creek is excellent when it comes to the selection of restaurants and hotels within a couple of blocks of the train station. My third long walk of the day ended when I cut across an office park back to the southbound TriRail platform.
Chapter 4.11: TriRail Train #P625, Cypress Creek to Miami International Airport
When it came in, I quickly noted that this consist was an oddball. Instead of an engine, two coaches, and a cab car, it instead had an engine and three cab cars:
Train P625 807 Locomotive 502 Cab car (as trailer coach) 501 Cab car (as trailer coach; I was here) 504 Cab car (as real cab car)
This trip was going to take me down through Fort Lauderdale and Hollywood, past the TriRail/Metrorail Transfer Station, to the end of the line at Miami International Airport. It was cleverly picked to allow for a minimal dwell at the airport station, because the northbound trains run on 20-minute (instead of hourly) headways during the rush hour.
I noticed though, that as we passed through Hialeah and the last three stations (starting with the Transfer station), we were running left handed. This is done only during the evening rush. Since the Metrorail connection at the Transfer station only accesses what is normally the southbound TriRail platform, instead of having the majority of the outbound passengers climb up to the bridge and descend to the normal northbound platform, they just switch the operations so that northbound trains serve the platform connected to Metrorail. Southbound trains use the additional platform, and run on the left side down to the airport station.
When my train arrived at the airport at 4:37 PM, I had just aced the system once more. I walked around briefly in the light rain before returning to find out which train would be headed north to take me back to the Transfer station. It turned out to be a consist that I had not seen nor ridden earlier today.
Chapter 4.12: TriRail Train #P628, Miami International Airport to TriRail/Metrorail Transfer
Train #P628 would be my host for this very short trip. I rode in its cab car so that I could make use of its facilities. In fact, when we started out from the station at 4:48 PM I was still inside!
Train P628 801 Locomotive 1013 Coach 1004 Coach 506 Cab car (I was here)
As before, we rode left-handed. This was beneficial to me, since I would be let off on the platform closest to the connection with Metrorail. After my brief 8-minute journey on this train, I bid TriRail goodbye for this trip. My round trip had taken me 8 hours and 20 minutes. It was fun!
I was able to use my coded TriRail ticket from the Airport station in the faregate for Metrorail at no extra charge.
Chapter 4.13: MDT Metrorail, TriRail/Metrorail Transfer to Palmetto
Now it was time to go get the last bit of trackage in the area. In fact it was trackage that I had come here to ride because it was new to me, having been added to the Metrorail system only a couple of years ago.
I took a train in the westbound direction marked Palmetto. The line remains scenic, as it passes over different parts of Hialeah, including many freight yards. After the former end of the line at Okeechobee, the line splits. The line to the left goes into Metrorail's yard, enabling some trains to still terminate and originate at Okeechobee. The others go off to the right and come down to ground level in order to pass underneath the Palmetto Expressway. The last station on the line, Palmetto, is at ground level. There is access to a large park & ride fed by the expressway of the same name.
I only walked to where the faregates were, but did not pass through them. I did not wish to do any more exploring to see what else was in this area. It appears to be primarily a park & ride so there probably is not much in the way of food or lodging.
While I walked briefly away from the train, it departed. I wondered how it had been turned so fast! Then as I reboarded the next train, I learned how it is done so efficiently. The operator of the inbound train, upon arriving at Palmetto, detrains. At the other end is the next operator, all ready to go. The second operator is already at the correct end of the train, so he can get it out within a minute or two of its arrival. Meanwhile, the first operator by the time he has walked to where the other end of the train would be, the next train has arrived, so he boards that one and takes it south to Dadeland. Therefore, no operator stays with any one train. He or she always takes the next one. This allows the trains to operate more efficiently with minimal dwell time at the endpoint stations. Other cities could learn from this!
Chapter 4.14: MDT Metrorail, Palmetto to Government Center
Nine minutes after I had arrived at Palmetto, I was aboard a different train, but with the same operator I had before, headed for downtown. I decided that while I was in the area, I would try to time the runs on the MetroMover since I hadn't done it that morning, and since there is no true timetable for that aspect of the operation. At 5:44 PM I arrived at Government Center and began to play on the MetroMover system, with pen and pad in hand.
Chapter 4.15: MDT Metromover, Inner Loop, Government Center to Arena/State Plaza
Things did not start out so well. I had decided to do the Inner Loop first, and then when I returned here, I would do Omni and then Brickell, both on the Outer Loop. My Inner Loop car was a single unit.
Unfortunately, we sat still for a few minutes, and then moved up the hill and stopped again between stations. Eventually a human announcement came to our car stating that the car ahead of ours had some door problems and was unable to move, and that technicians were on the way. Those who were standing up holding poles instead sat on the floor, as they figured they would be there for a long time.
Around the curve, I saw the vehicle that was in trouble. It was stopped at the Arena/State Plaza station. Like several other vehicles in the fleet, it was wrapped in Verizon Wireless motif as a rolling commercial. So what was wrong with the car's doors? Must be "The Network."
Soon we did move into the Arena/State Plaza station as the Verizon car had moved on as well. However, it became disabled again at the next station, which left us sitting at Arena/State Plaza with the doors open. I aborted ship here. No need being delayed in going around in a circle to get back to where I had just left. I bounded across the platform and caught a train on the Omni Loop back to Government Center.
Chapter 4.16: MDT Metromover, Omni Loop, Arena/State Plaza to Government Center
My "rescue" train took just about one minute to get back to Government Center, as the Outer Loop track was not affected by the problems on the Inner Loop. I decided to remain on this train, since I would now do the Omni Loop first.
Chapter 4.17: MDT Metromover, Omni Loop, Government Center to School Board
I now rode back from Government Center to School Board, a trip that took me 18 minutes. During this trip, it began to rain heavily once more, but it had no effect on the vehicles as they ran on the elevated tracks.
Chapter 4.18: MDT Metromover, Omni Loop, School Board to Government Center
Conversely, the inbound trip from School Board to Government Center took only 11 minutes, since the trip along the Outer Loop is shorter in this direction. It was now 6:33 PM, and yes I was quite hungry. First, I had to finish what I had started! I detrained at Government Center, and in three minutes, my next conveyance to the Brickell Loop showed up on the same track.
Chapter 4.19: MDT Metromover, Brickell Loop, Government Center to Financial District
I expected this trip to be the converse of the Omni run. The outbound trip to Financial District would be shorter than the inbound run back to Government Center, since the Brickell Loop branches off early along the Outer Loop. The timing was 10 minutes from Government Center to Financial District.
Chapter 4.20: MDT Metromover, Brickell Loop, Financial District to Government Center
After the car began to move back inbound towards Government Center once more, we passed Brickell after just one minute. This is an important reading because I could have transferred here back to Metrorail and saved some time. Again, I wanted to finish what I had gotten myself into.
The total time from Financial District to Government Center was 18 minutes. Now, over an hour had passed since I had been stuck in the Inner Loop. It appeared that they had resolved their problems, so I tried it once more.
Chapter 4.21: MDT Metromover, Inner Loop, Government Center to Government Center
My trip to nowhere began the second time around at 7:07 PM. I was still very hungry, but I saw an end to this madness. With a flawless trip around the Inner Loop, I arrived back where I had started from at 7:18, eleven minutes later.
Now it was time to return to Metrorail for the final trip of the day, back to my hotel. I paid my fare and went upstairs to the higher platform, an island affair that serves both directions of Metrorail.
Chapter 4.22: MDT Metrorail, Government Center to Coconut Grove
My train came at 7:27 PM. By 7:34, three stops later, I was at Coconut Grove and within sight of my hotel.
Once dinner was done, I retired to my hotel room for the night. I also packed my suitcase since I would be traveling back to Tampa in the morning.
Chapter 5: Tuesday, April 11, 2006
Tuesday was the day I would make a cross-state trip on Amtrak, and then be reunited with my family.
Chapter 5.1: MDT Metrorail, Coconut Grove to TriRail/Metrorail Transfer
My final trip on Metrorail was now mundane, as I had ridden this stretch of the system a few times in the past couple of days. When I arrived at the TriRail/Metrorail Transfer station, it was raining lightly. I had to make use of my umbrella once more as I walked several blocks to the Amtrak station.
I had about 40 minutes before my train's 8:50 AM departure. Thankfully, the rain had let up by now. So rather than sitting in the station, I decided to stand along a sidewalk adjacent to the building, so I could watch the train being backed to the platform from the yard. I listened on my scanner and knew when this would be taking place.
From my vantage point I was able to jot down most of the train's consist, although the baggage car and crew dorm were too far towards the front of the train and would forever elude me since I would be a coach passenger on this trip.
Once the train had completed its reverse move into the station, I heard a boarding call for first class passengers. I made my way back into the building just in time for the general boarding call.
Chapter 5.2: Amtrak Train #92(11), SILVER STAR, Miami, FL to Tampa, FL
I was seated in a coach that was only taking passengers headed for points within Florida and Georgia. Those going to places further north were put in other coaches. For the entire trip, I had a seat mate about 20 years my senior. We did not communicate other than when I excused myself to leave my seat a few times.
The consist of Train 92(11):
* (I was here)156 P-42 locomotive MIA-WAS XXXX Baggage ** XXXX Heritage Crew Dorm ** 62009 Viewliner sleeper "Evening View" 62025 Viewliner sleeper "Northern View" 8509 Heritage Diner 28005 Amfleet II lounge 25052 Amfleet II coach * 25121 Amfleet II coach 25110 Amfleet II coach 25069 Amfleet II coach 25059 Amfleet II coach 3 NY Central "Empire State Express" ***
** Did not get these numbers; did not get to front of the train.
*** Private car
At 8:53 AM, the STAR departed Miami three minutes late. This was not surprising since the train was not backed to the station until 8:40, ten minutes before the scheduled departure time. As we moved through the Hialeah yard, I spotted the Jet Train engine, 2200 sitting there.
By 9:01 AM, we were on the mainline heading north at track speed. We passed the Opa Locka and Golden Glades TriRail stations. By Hollywood, we were down seven minutes. After leaving Hollywood, a bridge tender notified the crew that one marker light was out. Apparently, the crew got out in Fort Lauderdale to check this out, because we were 13 minutes in the hole as we departed that station at 9:43 AM. Things were going downhill quickly for this train's timekeeping.
At 9:48, we had a stop signal at "Manatee". We had to await a passing TriRail train. We lost about ten more minutes there. Then a few more unscheduled stops were made. Deerfield Beach was a 12-minute station stop, so by the time we left there, we were 40 minutes off schedule at 10:38 AM.
The station stop in Delray Beach was a little quicker than the others before it. West Palm Beach must have some padding built in, because once we left there at 11:08 we were 23 minutes late. That was despite West Palm Beach having been announced as a "smoking stop".
Now leaving the Gold Coast, we went up the CSX mainline staying a track speed. At our stops at Okeechobee, Sebring, and Winter Haven, we were 32, 35, and 36 minutes down respectively. Nine minutes after leaving Winter Haven, we came into the junction at Auburndale. By 1:48 PM, we were headed west towards Tampa.
I called Julie to find out how Train 91(10) was doing. It was running about 42 minutes down, and it had left Tampa at 1:25 PM. I therefore knew we would be meeting it somewhere before we got to Tampa.
Our Lakeland stop came at 1:58 PM. We were still 36 minutes late. Four minutes out of Lakeland, we did in fact pass Train 91(10). They were sitting on a siding.
At 2:35, we came to the wye. This time the process went quickly, and it only took seven minutes to reverse back onto the mainline track. After another nine minutes, we came to a stop at Tampa Union Station. The time was 2:51 PM, so officially we were 34 minutes late.
When I detrained, I had a notion to go to the forward end of the train to get the numbers I had missed in Miami. However it was too far of a walk, it was hot outside, and my family was waiting for me. I walked to the terminal and reunited with Michael and my parents.
Chapter 6: Wednesday, April 12 through Saturday, April 15, 2006
These four days were spent with family, enjoying leisure activities and Florida's abundance of buffet restaurants.
Chapter 7: Sunday, April 16, 2006
Today we would be starting our trip home aboard the SILVER STAR.
Chapter 7.1: Amtrak Train #92(11), SILVER STAR, Tampa, FL to Philadelphia, PA
My parents took us to the station, which we got to at about 1:30. They waited there with us to see us off. I checked with the ticket agent, who told me that the train was running on time.
The train arrived in Tampa from the south early. Soon we got the call to board, and said goodbye to my parents. We walked to the front of the train and boarded our sleeping car.
The consist of Train 92(16):
* (We were here)5 P-42 locomotive MIA-WAS 23 P-42 locomotive MIA-WAS 1206 Baggage 2524 Heritage Crew Dorm 62036 Viewliner sleeper "Skyline View" * 62027 Viewliner sleeper "Orchard View" 8553 Heritage Diner 28017 Amfleet II Lounge 25028 Amfleet II coach 25021 Amfleet II coach 25029 Amfleet II coach 25083 Amfleet II coach
Our SILVER STAR departed from Tampa exactly on time at 2:27 PM. Five minutes later, we passed the wye track that trains arriving in Tampa use to back into the station. I saw the rear of Train 91(15) sitting on that track waiting for us to pass.
At 2:51 PM, we crossed the diamond at Plant City. Eight minutes later we came to a stop in Lakeland to pick up some passengers. The platform was full of confused passengers, some of whom were waiting for the delayed southbound STAR. That train was the one I had seen earlier in our journey. A call to Julie confirmed that it had left Tampa at 2:59, the same time we arrived in Lakeland.
Our train passed through Auburndale at 3:15. We arrived in Kissimmee at 3:52 PM and departed from there at 3:56. We were now eight minutes off the advertised.
Just after we left the Kissimmee station, the dining car attendant visited us to take our reservation for dinner. Simplified Dining Service had just begun while we were on vacation, so a new method was being used. The attendant asked me to write our last name on a 15-minute block of time on his sheet. I chose 5:00 PM.
At 4:08 we passed by the siding where they used to turn the SUNSET LIMITED when it ran to Orlando. Just past there, we saw some trackside carnival going on, complete with its own rail cars on a siding.
Our train arrived in Orlando at 4:20, about a minute early. We spent 17 minutes doing station work there. By my watch, we also departed from Orlando a minute ahead of schedule. I had us a little early at Winter Park, too.
At 4:56, we began walking to the dining car. We were seated at 4:58. Our order was taken at 5:01, and our food came at 5:09. So far, I was impressed with the service.
We passed by the former Sanford station, and then the AUTO TRAIN terminal at 5:19. The station had only extra coaches, as the AUTO TRAIN had left on time.
Our plates were removed at 5:24, and our desert orders were taken. The desert arrived two minutes later. I had a Mississippi Mud Cake, another variation of the chocolate cake. By 5:33, we had finished desert and we were leaving the dining car. Not bad, a total of 35 minutes and we were well fed!
Apparently during dinner, we lost some time, as we were a little late at the Deland and Palatka stations. At around 7 PM about 15 minutes after Palatka, we had a rolling meet with one freight train, and passed a second one on the same siding. Around 7:30 we encountered more slow orders of 30 mph. With all that, we got to Jacksonville at 7:55 PM, just two minutes late.
At Jacksonville, the usual watering and crew changes took place. Our departure was right on time, so things were still looking good for this trip. However, that feeling did not last much longer.
At 8:51 PM, we came to an emergency stop. The problem was a late red signal. The brake was released and we were moving five minutes after we had stopped.
During our run through Georgia, we had our roomette made up for nighttime mode, and then we prepared for bed. Michael went to sleep, while I remained awake for a while longer.
We got into Savannah at 10:39 PM, eight minutes late. There was another slight delay at this station while a technician was called aboard to fix a freezer in the dining car. Departure was at 10:48 PM, eleven minutes down.
At this point, I also went to sleep, so we missed all of South Carolina and much of North Carolina.
Chapter 8: Monday, April 17, 2006
Our final day of travel was Monday. We would complete our last Amtrak trip, detrain in Philadelphia, and then take a short trip on NJ TRANSIT to our car in Cherry Hill, NJ.
Chapter 8.0: Amtrak Train #92(11), SILVER STAR, Tampa, FL to Philadelphia, PA (continued)
I awoke as our train came to a stop in Raleigh, NC. The time was 5:47 AM. Our stop there was seven minutes. When we departed that station stop, we were running 14 minutes late. Things still looked promising for an arrival in Philadelphia on or close to schedule.
At 6:36 we came around the curve at Selma, returning to the CSX "A" Line. Nine minutes later we came to a stop. The crew was talking about a bridge that might be closed to rail traffic.
This bridge had been inspected during our time in Florida and was deemed unsafe. CSX had to make emergency repairs, and Amtrak's Silver Service and AUTO TRAIN were canceled for a few days. Luckily service had been restored a couple of days before our scheduled northbound trip. There were, however, 10 mph speed restrictions over the bridge.
It turned out that a freight train was going southbound over the bridge, so we had to wait for it to pass us before our train could go into single track territory and cross the bridge. The freight train finally passed us at 7:06, and then we proceeded northbound. We came to the bridge at 7:25, and rolled very slowly over it. Once the entire train had crossed, we gradually returned to track speed. However, we had lost about 40 minutes in this area.
At 7:28, we walked to the dining car for breakfast. I expected the car to be packed, however there was an abundance of available tables. During our entire meal, nobody was seated with us.
Our order was taken at 7:37 AM. This time we were both able to have the French Toast. The food came just four minutes later.
Meanwhile, we made our stop in Rocky Mount between 7:53 and 7:56 PM. When we left that station, we were running 55 minutes late.
We were finished with breakfast by 8:05 AM, so the crew had gotten us in and out of the diner in 37 minutes. We had our attendant convert the room to daytime mode upon our return.
The train lost more time with another unscheduled stop at 9:08, to let freight traffic by. When we left Petersburg, VA at 9:46 AM, we were now one hour 17 minutes off the schedule. Things would get even worse for us before we got to Richmond.
At 10:06 AM, we came to a stop. Ahead of us was a freight train that had made an emergency stop after a defect detector had found some problem with that train. Because this train was carrying hazardous materials (sulfuric acid), we were not allowed to pass it on an adjacent track until it had been inspected. We finally received clearance from CSX at 10:40 to pass this train at a restricted speed until the rear of our train had passed the rear of the freight train.
Finally, we returned to track speed, only to soon come upon the speed restrictions related to passage through Acca Yard. When we finally coasted into the Richmond station, it was 11:20 AM, and we were over two hours late.
We had no further delays going northbound, but our timekeeping did not improve even with padding. We got to Washington, DC about one hour 45 minutes late. The two diesels were exchanged for an electric, and then Amtrak had us on our way.
We had an uneventful and quick trip up the Northeast Corridor. Our train arrived in Philadelphia at 4:40 PM on Track 4. We tipped our attendant and ran off the SILVER STAR quickly. We had a very tight connection to make with the next NJ TRANSIT train to Cherry Hill.
When we arrived on the concourse level of 30th Street Station, we went directly from the Track 3/4 escalator to Stairway 2, as our train was getting ready for departure on Track 2. I was thankful we had no checked baggage. Otherwise, we would not have been able to make such a seamless connection. I was also happy I had purchased our tickets online through Amtrak, since we did not have to use the slow ticket vending machine in the station.
Chapter 8.1: NJ TRANSIT Atlantic City Line, Train #4619, Philadelphia, PA (30th Street Station) to Cherry Hill, NJ
Our final rail trip of the journey took us about 25 minutes to complete. Soon we were detraining at the train's first station stop, Cherry Hill, and we walked over to my car.
Chapter 8.2: Driving home
We had an uneventful trip from Cherry Hill home to Howell. After a stop for dinner on the way, we were home around 7 PM.
Chapter 9: Conclusion
All in all, it was a fun trip. It was nice riding in first class in both directions, not enduring the dirty rest rooms, crying babies, and snoring neighbors found in coach class.
We plan another Florida trip in April of 2007, this time by AUTO TRAIN.