Transcontinental by Amtrak New York to Portland and Seattle
April 12-23, 2006
It was time for another transcontinental rail trip on Amtrak. The destination was Portland Oregon with a side trip to Seattle. The trains ridden would be the Regional, Capitol Limited, Empire Builder and the Cascades. The dates were chosen to coincide with my 23rd birthday. And now on to the trip.
I woke up at around 345 am and got ready to depart. The train I would take was train 501 of the Long Island Rail Road from Glen head to Mineola and then connect with another train to Penn Station New York. Train 501 departed on time and arrived at Mineola on time but the connection was running 10 minutes late due to mechanical problems. However all the time was made up when we arrived at Penn. Station. One passenger was an Amtrak employee who thanked me for taking my trip solely on Amtrak. I waited for train 185 to be called. It was called about 5 minutes to eight and after my ticket was checked by the attendant I walked down to the train. The consist was as follows:
82599-coach (seated here)
The ride was pretty uneventful with most passengers leaving at Philadelphia and only about half were replaced by new ones. During the trip the conductor noticed I was writing things down and asked what I was doing. I told him that I was writing the consist down to record it as part of a across the country trip. He looked at the assistant conductor and whispered "We got a foamer on board". The train arrived about 10 minutes early in Washington where I checked into the club Acela and then rode the metro system to shady grove. The subway was next to a railroad line and based on the fact that I saw a station listed on the capitol limited schedule I realized I would ride that line in a few hours. I then returned to the station to await train 29 to Chicago.
The capitol Limited was called for sleeper boarding at around 330 pm. We were meet by an usher who escorted a large group to the train. The consist was as follows
PV-Ohio Central RR
* My room was room A
I had planned to ride a standard bedroom but was offered a $50 upgrade to a deluxe bedroom. The major differences was the size of the room being about twice as large as the standard room. However the toilet and shower enclosure were too small for me. So my personal opinion is that while it was worth the $50, it was not worth the usual $200 difference.
We departed on time and passed some rather bland and urban looking parts of Washington DC before arriving at Rockville after which my dinner reservation was taken for the 6 pm seating. After Rockville the scenery began to improve but the track were really rough for some reason. After leaving the MARC service limit the tracks seemed to have gotten much smoother as we traveled into the Allegheny foothills. During that time I observed an old abandoned railroad (in actuality the old Western Maryland but someone said it was the C&O). At about 605 my seating was called for dinner. I was seated with two sleeper passengers and a coach passenger. Since the new model of simplified dining service had been in place I had braised beef instead of the steak I usually have. However the meat was very tender and very delicious and the quality did not appear to be in any way inferior to full dining service. The chocolate cake was just as tasty and the service was just as good but I still feel serving the food on fine china would be more first class-ish.
By Cumberland I had gotten sleepy and called it a night. At Connelsville I was woken by a really loud rain and hail storm that sounded like it may have been damaging the train but apparently if so it was only causing minor dents.
We arrived in Pittsburgh on time and left a few minutes late as the PV was removed. I woke up just outside of Toledo and about 15 minutes before breakfast was served I entered the diner and had the Bob Evans Scramble which was very tasty but the French toast with it was little overcooked. After breakfast I went to the lounge car to await the sunrise. The Superliner lounge made the scenery of both the Alleghenies and the Lake Shore areas look much nicer then in a single level lounge. The arrival was about 90 minutes late but I still had time to do shopping in Chicago before boarding the Empire Builder.
I arrived back at the Metropolitan Lounge to await the train but then an announcement was made that the train was delayed in the yard and that the conductor would take tickets of the passengers. About the time that train should depart the boarding call was made and I proceeded to the train with everyone else. Since the train was long, passengers in the Seattle sleepers had a very long walk but mine was significantly shorter as my car was the last on the train. The consist was as follows:
(Rebuilt but painted
in phase IV)
Mine was Room 2
I was met by the attendant who showed me to the room. I noticed one thing about the refurbished sleepers they were much nicer then anything I had ever ridden on Amtrak
Departing Chicago about 15 minutes late we arrived in Glen View and then Milwaukee. After Milwaukee I went to the diner for dinner . I had the steak which was served on the logo china which in my opinion looks worse then the maroon rimmed china used before. The steak was good but not as tasty as the braised beef the night before. I then went to sleep and woke up around Grand Forks, North Dakota.
After waking up I went to take a shower and get dressed for breakfast. I entered the diner and had the scrambled eggs with hash browns which were as good as I remembered them to be. After breakfast I settled in the lounge car until Minot when I got off to have a little bit of fresh air. After Minot the train was running only a few minutes late having made up most of the 40 minutes that we were late during the night. The train entered Montana and I noticed how desolate but beautiful in its own way the scenery was. During the day the train stopped to allow the eastbound Empire Builder to pass it.
During the day I had lunch in the diner opting for the Angus burger and settled in the lounge afterword until the wine and cheese tasting event. This event was run by the upstairs lounge attendant with the help of the sleeper attendants. The event was good and allowed for camaraderie, but the wines were not very tasty. After the tasting I settled back in the lounge to await the call for dinner which came at 6 pm. For dinner I opted for the ham steak special. While very tasty it was slightly overcooked but the potatoes were very tasty. For dessert I had the cheesecake and during dinner was when the train enter Glacier National Park and it became extremely scenic until the sunset by which time it was raining and snowing quite heavily. I settled in for the next and final night on the train. I awoke just before arriving in Pasco to await the Columbia River Gorge
Arriving in Pasco as the Sun was starting to rise I sat down at one of the tables to await the lounge car to open so I could get breakfast, When he did I went down to obtain my complimentary meal which was a ham and cheese croissant with a granola bar and boysenberry cream cheese. It was extremely tasty. As we entered the gorge I noticed that the weather was being its usual wet and dreary self but the weather did not make the ride any less scenic. At Bingen White Salmon the Lounge car lower level had closed and the upper level had closed at Vancouver, Washington. We arrived in Portland on time and I went to the Metropolitan Lounge to relax a little bit before walking to my hotel in pouring rain.
The first day in Portland was to let me rest but on Sunday I had hoped to ride the vintage trolley but could not locate it so instead I rode the western end of the Max out to Hillsboro before returning to my hotel to have dinner. While riding I observed that ridership was very high for a weekend and other passengers told me about the expansion plans getting built in a few years. I then went to sleep as I had to wake up early to catch my train to Seattle the next morning
I awoke and walked to the station but discovered it opens in an hour so I waited for it to open and then went to get my seat assignment for train 500, The Cascades to Seattle. The Consist was the Mount Baker set which had this equipment:
90340-F40 Cab Car
7801-Diner used as lounge
After boarding I sat down in my assigned seat. I noticed the ambiance looked much nicer then the older Amfleet cars used in the East. After departing I went to the Bistro Car to have breakfast and had the usual cheese pizza as I observed the scenery in Southern Washington. The train was never late at any station and we made good use of the Talgo speed limits. I noticed that around Tacoma it got scenic as we paralleled the Tacoma Narrows of Puget Sound. We arrived in Seattle on time and I then proceeded to do shopping since the monorail and streetcar were both out of service due to construction. I also observed the work occurring as part of the Link light rail line which caused the downtown tunnel to close. I then returned to the Station and observed its architectural beauty and saw displays about its restoration which was just beginning. About a half hour before departure seat assignments were made and I noticed the consist was the same one I had used coming up from Portland. We departed on time and that was when I decided that I would come back when the Link, streetcar and monorail were all working and visit the space needle when it less crowded since today had 4 hour waits due to the fantastic weather. The train arrived in Portland on time and I went ot the hotel to get some sleep.
The next day I rode the Eastern end of MAX to the Airport and Gresham where I noticed again how popular the line was. I also rode the Portland Streetcar loop which had more laid back passengers except for one guy who sat in the aisle and got mad when he was asked to move. I also noticed that my car had a very noticeable flat wheel which was making the ride kinda bumpy. After the streetcar ride I visited Washington Park where I photographed mount Saint Helens and did some hiking around the Zoo. I then returned to my hotel to again get some sleep and watch some television and prepare for my last full day in Portland on Wednesday. Wednesday had some more riding Max on the West end out to Elmonica and Hillsboro as well as another ride on the Expo Center Line. I visited the downtown tourist office to get some information should I decide to visit again. Thursday was more of the same Max riding until about 300 pm when I walked to the train station to await the Eastbound Empire Builder I would ride to Chicago. At about 415 the coach boarding was called and I was able to record the consist of the train which was almost the same as when I was heading to Portland. The consist was as follows
(EX baggage coach with
lower level seating)
We Departed on Time and raced through the Columbia River Gorge which looked beautiful in the excellent weather we encountered. The train was on time until losing a few minutes as it picked up a freight train crew. After the sun set I sprawled over two seats to sleep but was unable to due to a crying baby that was finally quieted down by the arrival in Spokane and I managed to observe that addition of the Seattle section which was also almost the same as when I had left Chicago over a week earlier. After departing and the quieting of the baby I went to sleep and awoke around 530 am.
Around 615 I went to the lounge to await the breakfast call and at 630 went to the diner as none was made. However I learned the 630 call is not made to allow passengers to sleep. I had the usual eggs and then settled into the lounge car as we traveled through Glacier Park. After Glacier Park we had a fresh air stop At Havre. We continued to make the usual good time and arrived at all stops roughly on time (give or take 5 min). For lunch I had the Angus burger and then went back for sightseeing but the scenery had become dull after Glacier Park. For dinner I had the usual steak with cheesecake and then went to sleep
I awoke around 600 am and went to have the usual breakfast at 630 and awaited the stop into my Patron City, Saint Paul. The ride into the Depot was quite slow but as we left got faster. The ride along the Mississippi was very scenic. At Milwaukee the Lounge Lower level had closed and at Glen View the entire lounge had closed. We arrived on time in Chicago where I had a two hour wait for the Capital Limited.
The Capitol Limited was called for boarding. My ticket was inspected and I proceeded to the train.
The consist was as follows:
p42-# not written down
PV-number not written down
We departed on time and I went to the lounge which had the same layout as the Empire Builder's lounge and at 615 pm Eastern time I went to have dinner. I was seated with two passengers who were having a good time as they did appear to have a mild alcoholic odor on their breaths but they were acting normally unlike some passengers on Amtrak. My dinner was the cheese tortellini with mashed potatoes and a dessert of cheesecake. It was delicious.
After dinner I headed to the lounge and watched the movie until I began to fall asleep. I woke up at Pittsburgh and went to the lounge to await the diner for breakfast,
At 615 am I went for breakfast and had the French toast which for the first time on Amtrak did not taste overcooked. During breakfast we suffered delays as the weather had affected signals but we were about to get one nasty delay due to a track problem.
We arrived in Cumberland about a half hour late but we sat there for a while until we were informed that the train would be terminating here and buses would take us to Washington (I had just a few minutes earlier mumbled about this sounding like bustitution. However after sitting for over two hours we got a surprise. The tracks ahead were good for 10 mph and we would test them after another train passed. We pulled out and sat for 45 minutes until a freight passed us and we began slowly moving. I looked out of the lounge and saw only some mud until we came to the problem: A 40 foot long washout on the track nearest to the river.
We arrived in Washington 3 hours late and the New York Passengers were put on the next train causing it to be slightly over booked. That train arrived in New York on time and I took an LIRR train to Mineola where I was picked up. It was a long and enjoyable trip