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Trip Report

OTOL Mid Atlantic RailFest 2006

August 23-25, 2006 Section 2 of 2


Photos by Don Weinstein and Alan Burden

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Chapter 4: Thursday, August 24, 2006

Today, our second one in the Baltimore area, would feature the heavy and light rail lines throughout the city. Then we would leave town and head for Philadelphia at the end of the day.

Chapter 4.1: Meeting in Baltimore

Our participants started to assemble at our designated meeting place, the eastern entrance to the Charles Center station along Baltimore Street. They came from every direction.

Skip, Michael, and I decided to take advantage of the hotel's offer to drive us to the Light Rail. I assumed that they would take us to the closest station, Pepper Road, where we had detrained the night before. I called Mike and told him that we would be given a ride to Pepper Road, so he said he would take an earlier train and meet us there. However, our shuttle driver instead drove us to the Hunt Valley endpoint station. So now we had Mike standing at Pepper Road, closer to our hotel, and were at Hunt Valley, closer to his. I called Mike back and told him what had happened, and Mike, never turning down a little extra train riding, took the next train back to Hunt Valley to meet us. The one he arrived on was the same train that would turn and become our ride south to downtown.

Now finally all together, we headed south together on the Light Rail to the University Center/Baltimore Street station. We then walked east on Baltimore Street to our meeting place.

Ted Patchell took an interesting route from the Philadelphia area. He took a SEPTA R2 train from Chester to Wilmington and then an Amtrak Regional train from Wilmington to Baltimore. After breakfast in town, he made his way over to our meeting location.

Alan made his way from the Doubletree by bus and then Light Rail downtown just as we had done. He arrived at our starting point about ten minutes after we had arrived. Jishnu walked from his Marriott Hotel to Charles Center, a little further than the Shot Tower station to the east. Rick Metcalfe, likewise, walked over from the Mount Vernon Hotel.

By 10:25 everyone expected to join us at this location had arrived, so together the eight of us headed downstairs into the Metro station.

Chapter 4.2: MTA Metro, Charles Center to Johns Hopkins Hospital

We started and remained ten minutes ahead of our itinerary between here and our arrival at Owings Mills on the Metro. Our first train departed Charles Center at 10:30, and we arrived at the Johns Hopkins Hospital endpoint four minutes later. It would be a six-minute layover before we would reverse direction and head outbound.

Chapter 4.3: MTA Metro, Johns Hopkins Hospital to Owings Mills

At 10:40, we began a start-to-finish run, going all the way from Johns Hopkins Hospital to Owings Mills. It took us 29 minutes to get to our destination.

Originally, this was intended to be our lunch stop. The Owings Mills Mall food court was once accessible by walking across the station parking lot and then the mall lot. However, there was some construction taking place in between. We saw signs in the station saying that one could no longer walk to the mall. Indeed when we got out to the parking lot, we had to walk around some parking garage construction. We could also see that it was no longer possible to walk directly from the Owings Mills station to the mall it was intended to serve. Apparently, one now needs to ride a bus between the two locations.

Since we really did not want to wait for or ride a bus, we quickly re-evaluated our lunch situation. I decided that we could head back downtown and instead have lunch at Lexington Market. Everyone agreed, so we entered the Metro system once more.

Chapter 4.4: MTA Metro, Owings Mills to Lexington Market

At 11:25, we bid farewell to the Owings Mills area as we began to roll inbound on the Metro towards the city.

Retracing our previous travels, we arrived at Lexington Market at 11:48 AM. Since we had postponed our lunch stop, we were now one hour 40 minutes ahead of our travel plans.

Chapter 4.5: Lunch at Lexington Market

After walking up to street level and crossing Eutaw Street, we entered the Lexington Market facility. After taking over two tables in the upstairs dining area, we dispersed to various food stands to get what we each wanted. Mike Hammond was very pleased with our revised plans, as he got to have authentic Maryland crabcakes!

We were expecting two more people to join us, namely Don Weinstein and his daughter Penny. They were driving up to Baltimore Penn Station and would meet us somewhere on the Light Rail. When I was able to contact Don, I let him know of our revised lunch plans. They would travel from Penn Station to University of Baltimore/Mt. Royal, and then from there to Lexington Market on the Light Rail.

After we finished eating, we sat around for a while and just chatted. We still had some time to go before we were scheduled to head north on the Light Rail to Hunt Valley, and we would be meeting Don and Penny at the Light Rail stop there upon their arrival.

Soon we went outside and went to the corner of Howard and Lexington, to await the arrival of the Weinsteins. Group photo at Lexington Market They got to Lexington Market at about 1:35, and then we walked up to the northbound Light Rail stop and waited together for our 1:44 PM northbound departure to Hunt Valley.

Chapter 4.6: MTA Light Rail, Lexington Market to Hunt Valley

Our group, now ten people strong, boarded the light rail car at precisely 1:44. This was the largest we would get throughout the three-day event.

This line was already old hat to Skip, Mike, Michael, and me, as we had ridden it previously to access our hotels. At least this time the light rail car came on time, operated on the correct tracks, and performed flawlessly. We arrived at the Hunt Valley endpoint at 2:31, right on the advertised. There we detrained, and began our scheduled 14-minute layover on the platform. We were allowed to reboard at about 2:40.

Chapter 4.7: MTA Light Rail, Hunt Valley to BWI Airport

By my watch, this trip left Hunt Valley one minute hot. As far as I could tell, nobody was left behind. Everyone from our group was accounted for.

For most of us, this would be another of our patented beginning-to-end rides, taking us all the way down to the BWI Airport endpoint. However, along the way, at 3:29 Don and Penny got off at University of Baltimore/Mt. Royal. They took the light rail shuttle and returned to their car parked at Penn Station to drive back to Virginia.

The other eight of us arrived at BWI Thurgood Marshall Airport at 4:06 PM, again right on time. The fourteen-minute layover here gave us ample time for a well-needed rest room break, and to purchase snacks from a vending machine.

Chapter 4.8: MTA Light Rail, BWI Airport to Linthicum

We began moving away from the airport station at exactly 4:20 PM, right on time. We would only be on this car for five minutes this time, as we would be making a transfer at Linthicum. Seven of the eight got off at Linthicum at 4:25. Alan decided to remain on board and head towards downtown and eventually his hotel to pick up his suitcase.

I had scheduled a 19-minute wait here at Linthicum, however with trains on 15-minute headways, we had ample time to cross to the opposite side and board a train after only four minutes.

Chapter 4.9: MTA Light Rail, Linthicum to Cromwell Station

At 4:29 PM we were on our way south once more. This time we took the mainline down to Glen Burnie rather than the branch line to BWI Airport.

We arrived at Cromwell Station in Glen Burnie at 4:36, two minutes ahead of the published MTA timetable and 17 minutes ahead of our own plans. Another layover took place here, about 19 minutes long. However most of it was spent aboard the light rail vehicle once the seven of us were allowed to reboard.

Chapter 4.10: MTA Light Rail, Cromwell Station to University of Baltimore/Mount Royal

It was 4:55 PM when our light rail car bound for Timonium began to roll northward from Cromwell Station. Although it had arrived two minutes early, we left two minutes late. We were still, however, about 18 minutes ahead of our own schedule.

On this journey we lost one more, as Rick got off at Lexington Market to return to his hotel. He would stay at the same Mt. Vernon Hotel for the night, and then return to Massachusetts on Friday morning.

Skip, Jishnu, Ted, Mike, Michael, and I got to University of Baltimore/Mt. Royal station at 5:32 PM. The six of us went across to the other platform to await the Penn Shuttle.

Chapter 4.11: MTA Light Rail, University of Baltimore/Mount Royal to Penn Station

We took the shuttle to Penn Station, after having waited only six minutes. It did arrive and depart on the correct platform this time. The one-minute ride put us back at Penn Station at 5:39 PM, completing our transit riding in Baltimore 19 minutes ahead of our itinerary. We therefore had a total of one hour 11 minutes before our Amtrak train was due.

We said goodbye here to Mike Hammond, who returned on the Penn Shuttle and then the main Light Rail line to BWI Airport. He would be catching a flight from there back to Cleveland.

Chapter 4.12: Dinner at Baltimore Penn Station

At Penn Station, we wandered into the Classic Cafe, the station's only restaurant. They appeared to have a decent selection of food at reasonable prices. Instead of waiting to eat aboard the Amtrak train, we opted to eat here. Alan returned from his hotel with his baggage and joined us in the restaurant.

After eating, half a dozen railfans went into the waiting room until Train 138 was called, and then we went down to the platform.

Chapter 4.13: Amtrak Train #138, REGIONAL, Baltimore to Philadelphia

Regional 138 left Baltimore on time at 6:50 PM. Our train consisted of:

914 AEM-7 locomotive 20174 Amfleet I Club/Dinette (Cafe & Business Class) 21122 Amfleet I Coach &l;- * 82005 Amfleet I Regional CoachClass 82084 Amfleet I Regional CoachClass 82012 Amfleet I Regional CoachClass 82579 Amfleet I Regional CoachClass (Quiet Car)

* Our group sat here

Our trip was very uneventful and exactly on time. At exactly 7:54 PM, we arrived on Track 3 at Philadelphia's 30th Street Station.

Ted split from us here and made his way home to Drexel Hill. Alan, Skip, Jishnu, Michael, and I went up the ramp to the SEPTA area of the station, and went upstairs to await the next train that would be running towards Center City.

Chapter 4.14: SEPTA R3 Train #392, 30th Street Station to Market East

The train we caught happened to be one marked R3 West Trenton. We did not spend much time on our final conveyance of this very long day.

Alan, who was staying at the Doubletree Hotel, got off at Suburban Station and walked down Broad Street to his hotel.

Jishnu was at the Hilton Garden Inn-Center City, so he remained on board the train to Market East Station. He only had half a block to walk once he was at street level.

Skip, and also Michael and I were staying at the Hampton Inn-Center City, so we also remained on this train to Market East, then walked several blocks to our hotel on the corner of 13th & Race Streets.

Chapter 4.15: End of Thursday's activities

Now situated in the second city of our fest, we rested up in anticipation of one more exciting day on the rails.

Chapter 5: Friday, August 25, 2006

Friday was our one and only day of rail activities in Philadelphia. We made full use of it, riding three Regional Rail lines, one heavy rail line, and two light rail lines.

Chapter 5.0: Meeting at Suburban Station

Skip, Michael, and I walked from our Hampton Inn to Suburban Station. Our trip would have to begin there rather than Market East, since R6 Cynwyd trains do not serve the latter. At Suburban Station, we were met by Jishnu, Alan, and Ted. Together the six of us went down to Track 7 and boarded the one-car "train".

Chapter 5.1: SEPTA R6 Train #7661, Suburban Station to Cynwyd

As expected, there was very little other business on this outbound train to nowhere. The crew knew right away that we were railfans since they never get this many people on that run. We left Suburban Station on time at 8:33 AM, and operated on time all the way to Cynwyd. Arrival at Cynwyd was 8:51 AM. We detrained and waited near the small station building. The 19-minute layover was one minute longer than the entire trip we had just taken.

Chapter 5.2: SEPTA R6 Train #7662, Cynwyd to 30th Street Station

Back on board for the return trip, the single car departed Cynwyd at 9:10 AM and arrived at 30th Street Station at 9:25. We had a scheduled 10-minute layover at 30th Street.

We would transfer here to our next train, an R6 Norristown train on the other, and much busier side of the line. The designation needs to be changed, because no R6 trains run through from one end to the other. The single car used on the Cynwyd part of the system could never support the ridership on the Norristown side.

Chapter 5.3: SEPTA R6 Train #4630, 30th Street Station to Elm Street, Norristown

The reason we were taking this train was because we had never as a group been beyond the Norristown Transportation Center to the last two stops at Main Street and Elm Street.

We spent a little time making sure we were on the correct platform. Most R6 Norristown trains depart from the middle platform since the come from Marcus Hook, Wilmington, or Newark as an R2. However, this particular trip was coming from Chestnut Hill West, so it would have to be on the south platform where R8 Fox Chase-bound trains usually stop. One would not normally know this from the timetable, except that the train number starts with a "4" indicating it goes from one route on the ex-Pennsylvania side of the system to another on the ex-Reading side.

Our train arrived ten minutes late. We left 30th Street Station at 9:45 AM, and continued operating behind schedule throughout the trip. Thanks to probable padding at the end, we arrived at Norristown's Elm Street station at 10:30 AM, just five minutes late. This gave us a 20-minute layover.

On the platform as planned was Maurice Carson, who would be joining us for the rest of the day. The seven of us chatted about trains as we stood on the platform awaiting the okay to reboard the train.

Chapter 5.4: SEPTA R6 Train #6629, Elm Street, Norristown to Suburban Station

The doors opened at 10:45, and we boarded. It was an uneventful trip as we returned to Center City. This train would be terminating at 30th Street Station, as it had no route pairing on the ex-Pennsylvania side of the SEPTA system. We however got off at Suburban Station, right on time at 11:38 AM.

Chapter 5.5: Lunch at Suburban Station

It was time for lunch. This lunch break would take place at Suburban Station for a change. Most of us congregated at either Church's Fried Chicken or Subway.

After we ate, we just walked around for a while. Eventually we made our way to the 15th Street station on the Market-Frankford Line to begin the transit portion of our day in Philadelphia.

Chapter 5.6: SEPTA Market-Frankford Line, 15th Street to Girard

We left 15th Street at 12:31 PM, two minutes later than planned. Our trip must have been going slower than it should have, because we arrived at our destination, Girard Avenue, five minutes late at 12:43.

This put us precariously close to our planned eastbound 15 streetcar departure at 12:46. Luckily, we moved quickly. We got downstairs from the elevated and across Front Street to the eastbound trolley platform located in the middle of Girard Avenue's eastbound lanes.

Chapter 5.7 SEPTA #15 Streetcar, Front/Girard to Port Richmond

Our group of seven was in place when the eastbound 15 car showed up on time. It was a thirteen-minute ride along Girard Avenue and then Richmond Street alongside the elevated I-95 freeway to the trolley line's final destination, Westmoreland Loop in the Port Richmond neighborhood.

As we arrived right on time at 12:59 PM at Westmoreland Loop, another car in front of us was preparing to depart. Group photo at Westmoreland trolley loop We got off the the car we arrived on and boarded the one preparing to depart, but not before quickly snapping a few photos. This move would put us ahead of our itinerary for the next 2-1/2 hours until we got back to 30th Street Station.

Chapter 5.8 SEPTA #15 Streetcar, Port Richmond to Haddington

Now with a different car and driver, we left Westmoreland Loop at 1:03, three minutes late on SEPTA's schedule but 12 minutes ahead of our itinerary. This would be an end-to-end trip, which normally takes about 55 minutes. The 15 line goes through many different neighborhoods. Being a crosstown route it intersects with many bus lines, as well as the Market-Frankford Line (which we had just taken earlier), the Broad Street Subway, and the 10 Subway-Surface Trolley along Lancaster Avenue.

The 15 line also passes by Philadelphia Zoo, although surprisingly our car did not do too much business there. The 15 and 10 lines interline for half a block where Girard and Lancaster Avenues meet.

When we got to 60th Street in Haddington, near the end of the line, we had a driver change. The Callowhill Depot where the 15 cars are based is just up a side street. Here the line begins to follow parallel one-way streets. Our westbound car went on Haverford Avenue to 63rd Street, and then turned east on Girard. A two-track area on Girard just east of 63rd serves as a layover point. We arrived at this location at 1:53 PM. Our ride had taken just 50 minutes, so we were three minutes early by SEPTA's schedule and 17 minutes ahead of our itinerary.

The layover lasted seven minutes. During this time, the operator allowed us to remain on board, although she did not check to verify that we had DayPasses.

Chapter 5.9 SEPTA #15 Streetcar, Haddington to Girard/Lancaster

At exactly 2:00 PM, we began rolling eastbound on Girard. We arrived at the corner of Girard and Lancaster at 2:11, and we all disembarked there and crossed Girard to await our next conveyance on the same side of Lancaster.

Chapter 5.10 SEPTA #10 Trolley, Lancaster/Girard to 30th Street

We have ridden this line before. It was chosen because it is the first contact the eastbound 15 line has with any rail transit. It was chosen over the Broad Street Subway because the latter does not serve 30th Street Station.

After a six-minute wait, a 10 car arrived. Our trolley traversed Lancaster Avenue and then 36th Street, before we entered the tunnel portion of the line. We arrived at 30th Street at 2:31 PM, 17 minutes ahead of our schedule. After coming up to the surface, we then walked across 30th Street itself and into the rail station.

We had quite a while to rest from our transit riding, as our next conveyance was not due to depart until 3:21. We also had a one-for-one swap of participants. Skip left us in order to await Acela Express 2170, the 4:35 departure back to Massachusetts. In his place, we got Bill Magee, who would be joining us for the Newark round trip on SEPTA. At about 3:15, we headed up the ramp to the SEPTA concourse, and then went upstairs to the middle platform, which handles trains to and from points south and southwest of Center City.

Chapter 5.11: SEPTA R2 Train #9241, 30th Street Station to Newark, DE

Train 9241 departed from 30th Street Station two minutes late at 3:23 PM. Slow running and a few unexplained stops caused us to lose more time en route.

Along the way, Bill Magee showed us the electrical infrastructure along the right of way that his employer owns.

Just before Wilmington, we were told to move up to the front of the train. This train routinely splits in Wilmington. Only the first two cars continue onward to Newark, while the rest of the MU consist returns northward as an earlier inbound train. Unfortunately, the announcements were not made enough in advance of our arrival in Wilmington, so some passengers did not begin the long walk until after the train had already stopped in the station. This contributed further to our deficit.

We finally arrived in Newark at 4:45 PM, which was 15 minutes late and just one minute before the train was scheduled to begin its inbound journey. Everyone detrained at Newark while the crew went through its changing of ends and its brake check.

In a sense, in visiting Newark and having been to Perryville two days ago, we were exploiting that annoying 12-mile gap in commuter service between the two locations.

Chapter 5.12: SEPTA R2 Train #4760, Newark, DE to Market East

Although this train was originating as an R2, its final destination after leaving Center City was Chestnut Hill East. It was strange seeing an R7 sign this far south.

The train was late right out of the box, as it left Newark at 4:51 PM, five minutes late. The crew had turned the train in just six minutes, compared to the 16 minutes they are given in the timetable. The same seven of us were on 4760 back towards Philadelphia.

Upon arrival at the major stations, we again began to break up. Bill, Maurice, and Ted got off at 30th Street Station to return to their respective suburban homes. Alan remained on to Suburban Station, where he would return to the Doubletree Hotel. He would be staying there one more night and going home to New York on Saturday. Jishnu, Michael, and I went one more stop, detraining at Market East. We said goodbye to Jishnu before we walked back to our respective hotels to retrieve our luggage.

When Michael and I returned to Market East after coming back from the Hampton Inn, there was Jishnu also waiting for a train to get back to 30th Street Station.

Chapter 5.13: SEPTA R1 Train #4155, Market East to 30th Street Station

With three of us still involved, the fest refused to end. The train we caught from Market East to 30th Street was an R1 Airport train. Together we rode the five minutes or so and then detrained at 30th Street Station.

Chapter 5.14: Dinner at 30th Street Station

Jishnu, Michael, and I ate together at a round table just outside of the KFC Express store.

From there, Jishnu went to wait for his train in the Club Acela, using a Guest Rewards voucher that I had given him. Michael and I waited in the waiting room for our NJ TRANSIT Atlantic City train.

Chapter 5.15: Amtrak Train #138, REGIONAL, Philadelphia to Metropark

Jishnu took Regional 138, effectively a continuation of the run on 138 he had taken with the group on the same train 24 hours ago. He reported a decent trip back to Metropark.

Chapter 5.16: NJ TRANSIT Atlantic City Line, Train #4623, Philadelphia to Cherry Hill

Michael and I took our usual NJ TRANSIT Philly-Cherry Hill trip. We departed at 7:14 PM, and we got to the train's first stop and our destination at 7:40 PM. A drive directly home from there put us on our driveway at approximately 9:00 PM.

Chapter 5.17: End of Friday's activities

After all we had done on SEPTA, and in the Baltimore area the days before, we were ready to call it quits on our very successful gathering. As each participant made his way home, he took along memories of three impressive weekdays on the rails with friends.

Chapter 6: Conclusion

I had the occasion to return to Baltimore on October 2, 2006. In five weeks, Baltimore's MTA had not changed. Again the shuttle back to Penn Station arrived on the wrong platform. This time I was able to get across the tracks and make that train, as there was no other light rail traffic in the area.

I am quite pleased that despite the limitations of holding this fest on three weekdays, we had a total of thirteen people attending at one time or another. That almost doubled our total for the previous event in Canada. We had a great time on the rails and for many it was their first time on the various lines we rode.

Of course, we shall return to Philadelphia, as there is some unfinished business there since I had to cut out a second day of activities there. When we ride the R3 line out to Elwyn, we will have officially completed as a group every possible portion of SEPTA's Regional Rail system. Moreover, for many, riding out to Atlantic City will be a first.

This fest was followed in November 2006 by a one-day excursion to Harrisburg, PA, dubbed the Keystone Excursion. Then in January of 2007, our annual New York City area gathering took place, in Big Apple RailFest 2007.

Following that, we will have other gatherings around the United States. Stay tuned!

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