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Trip Report

OTOL Florida RailFest 2008

July 19-24, 2008

Section 2 of 6


Photos by Eric Minton, Jishnu Mukerji, and Piotr Dzwonek.

Click small photos to see larger

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Chapter 3.1: Amtrak SILVER STAR, Train #91, New York, NY to Tampa, FL

The Silver Star left New York on time at 10:52 AM, with Grace, Alan, Jishnu, and Piotr aboard. The train however ran into its first difficulty getting through Newark, since one of the normal two westbound tracks was out of service for maintenance. Although #91 left Newark two minutes down, they were back on time upon departure from Trenton.

In Philadelphia, Bill, Michael, and I were sent down to the platform at 12:20. The train had already arrived on Track 6. Because the sleeper section in front of the train was at the opposite end of the train from the elevator that brought us down from the lounge, we had to walk quite a way, past coach passengers headed in the opposite direction.

Now there were seven of us aboard the train as it left Philadelphia on time at 12:32 PM. We took up four roomettes and one bedroom in the two sleeper cars. Bill opted to skip lunch on the train as he had picked up something to eat before coming into the Club Acela. The other six of us headed for the diner for our first meal aboard the train. Lunchtime kept us busy through Wilmington and almost to Baltimore. While at lunch, we made a dinner reservation for eight people, as we would have the six of us plus Bill and Eric. We agreed on the 7:15 seating.

Coming into Washington, DC, we prepared to stretch our legs off the train for the first time, and watch the engine change. Although we had decided we could do it at Jacksonville, Piotr and I had time to walk to train here and get its consist:

921 AEM-7 locomotive NYP-WAS 75 P-42 locomotive WAS-MIA 59 P-42 locomotive WAS-MIA 1241 Baggage 62049 Viewliner sleeper "Winter View" *** 62022 Viewliner sleeper "Mountain View" ** 8524 Heritage Diner 28007 Lounge "New York Club" 25045 Amfleet II coach 25016 Amfleet II coach 25117 Amfleet II coach 25027 Amfleet II coach *
* Eric (WAS-TPA) was here
** Grace, Alan (NYP-TPA), Michael, and Kevin (PHL-TPA) were here
*** Bill (PHL-TPA), Jishnu, and Piotr (NYP-TPA) were here

We watched the one electric engine swapped for two diesels. While standing on the platform, we met Eric. He had been dropped off at the station and would be riding in coach. We let him go get settled in his coach seat as we had plenty of time to chat later.

Being railfans we knew that Northeast Regional #195 connects with the Silver Star, and having made some calls we knew it had not yet arrived. As the attendants told us to board the train for the STAR's scheduled 3:00 PM departure, we told them that we would most likely be waiting for #195 to arrive and transfer its passengers. They later came back and told us that we were correct. This wait was good news for Jack, who would be making the 195-to-91 transfer here the next day. I called him to ease his mind that #91 would wait for #195.

#195 came into the station across the platform at about 3:15. After waiting for the connecting passengers to board, we were on our way at 3:28 PM, 28 minutes off the advertised. That was not too shabby, and certainly surmountable given the padding in the schedule coming into a few major stops en route.

However, things quickly deteriorated. The CSX freight train that delayed us in Washington. Just after our train cleared the tunnel under Capitol Hill, we came to a stop. We could see on the CSX mainline a freight train that was stopped. We soon found out that this train had gone into an emergency stop, and because the train contained some hazmat cars, it had to be inspected thoroughly from the outside. We therefore were not allowed to pass the train until its crew completed the inspection.

We sat at this location for over half an hour. Finally, we were moving again. By the time we left the Alexandria station, we were one hour two minutes late. We knew at this point that we were not going to be arriving in Tampa the next day on time. The only good thing about it was that we would be getting another meal (Sunday's lunch) aboard the train.

Since Piotr and Eric were not as experienced at riding this line as the rest of us, I pointed out when we were approaching the Lorton Auto Train terminal. The Auto Train had departed from Lorton at 3:33 PM that day, so it was long gone and well ahead of us by the time we went past the terminal.

Piotr and Eric enjoy soft drinks in the lounge car as we travel through Virginia. By the time we pulled into Richmond at 6:35 PM, we were one hour 26 minutes down. We then spent 13 minutes in the station, three more than the schedule calls for, so when we left at 6:48 we were one hour 29 minutes down.

Jishnu and Bill at dinner on our first evening of travel. At 7:10 we began to assemble and walked together to the dining car. We found the menu to be quite different than those we had experienced on the trains to and from California last year, but everyone still found something to their liking. Alan and Grace await their dinner aboard the Silver Star. The featured dessert, other than ice cream, was a cake called "Red Velvet". We could not figure out what we were eating, but my guess is that it was simply chocolate with red food dye. While some handled it well, for some reason it did not agree with Michael or me.

Michael and Kevin have dinner in the Silver Star‘s diner. After dinner, Eric went back to his seat and the rest of us eventually had our beds made up for sleeping. I recall our stop in Rocky Mount, and I felt us go around the turn in Selma to head northwest towards Raleigh. I do recall our double spot in Raleigh, but it was experienced from a horizontal position. We departed that station at 10:25 PM, now one hour twelve minutes down. Therefore, we had gained back a small portion of our time due to schedule padding.

As far as Saturday's station stops go, that is as much as I remember. I fell asleep just after we departed from Raleigh. Would I have a good night's sleep? Read on...

Chapter 4: Sunday, July 20, 2008

Sunday was the day eight participants of our fest would complete our trip to Tampa, and then meet up with the four who were already in town. Our day would end with our official ride on the TECO Line Streetcar and then dinner at Spaghetti Warehouse.

Continued in next section

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