OTOL Garden State RailFest 2008
August 22-23, 2008
Photos by John Corbett, Jishnu Mukerji, and Piotr Dzwonek.
Click small photos to see larger
Chapter 0: Introduction
Since our Florida RailFest 2008 event was so much shorter than our previous summer fests, I wanted to do something else over the summer to make up for that shortfall. There were several possibilities for fests in the New York City, New Jersey, and Philadelphia areas, but this one got the nod by virtue of elimination when the Long Island Railroad decided to do major trackwork on its mainline over the intended weekend.
Hence the Garden State RailFest 2008 event was born. It would include rides on some NJ TRANSIT commuter lines that we had not ridden before, as well as the last SEPTA regional rail line that we as a group had not officially completed.
Chapter 1: Preparation
Not much preparation was required for this fest, other than the usual web pages. I have ridden the commuter lines in question quite a few times before, so the logistics in putting this small two-day event were relatively simple.
To give us an opportunity to have the steak dinner we are used to having at some point during our fests, I chose a restaurant that is about 1.5 miles from the Lindenwold PATCO/NJT station. That would require shuttling the participants by car, for which I volunteered myself. I also asked Bill Magee, who lives fairly close to the area, to help as well. The Lindenwold location also gave those headed back to Philadelphia for hotels or transportation connections home a choice of NJT or PATCO.
Chapter 2: Tuesday, August 19 through Thursday, August 21, 2008
Travel to this fest began on Tuesday evening, as Steve Weagant left Chicago on the eastbound CAPITOL LIMITED, Train #30(19). In the wee hours of Wednesday morning, Mike Hammond boarded the same train in Cleveland. Together they travelled to Pittsburgh, where they arrived late. Luckily they were able to make their connection with the PENNSYLVANIAN, Train #42(20), which they rode across its namesake state to Philadelphia.
I was happy to provide them with a very pleasant surprise. I was, at the last minute, able to get the day free, so I figured I would join them in riding trolleys in Philadelphia on Wednesday evening. Furthermore, since I had the morning available, I decided to go out to Harrisburg on a KEYSTONE train and join them on the PENNSYLVANIAN from there to Philly. I drove to Trenton, and took Amtrak train #643 to Harrisburg. My train arrived on time, and on that day the PENNSYLVANIAN came into Harrisburg a few minutes early. The result was that I literally had a cross-platform transfer. Mike and Steve were shocked to see me. They changed seats so the three of us could sit together.
After an on-time arrival into Philadelphia, I went with them to the Philadephia Marriott Downtown so they could dump their luggage. While they were upstairs, I went across the street to SEPTA headquarters to purchase Convenience Passes for the three of us to use that afternoon.
Hard as it is to believe, Mike and Steve had not been on some of our earlier fests and thus had never ridden the trolley lines we conquered in 2001, 2004, 2005, and 2006. So they were eager to get out and do as much as they could.
The three of us rode the entire 10, 34, and 36 lines. We stopped for dinner at Penrose Plaza at the far end of the 36 line. On the way inbound from that trip, I got off at 30th Street and took an Amtrak train back to Trenton, while Mike and Steve continued onward to Market East and their hotel.
On Thursday, Steve and Mike went to New York City, for the purpose of enjoying Coney Island's Cyclone roller coaster, riding the Staten Island Railway, and having pizza. They got back to Philadelphia pretty late that night, even though they decided to forego the NJT/SEPTA Trenton Shuffle and ride Amtrak NORTHEAST REGIONAL Train #177 instead.
Chapter 3: Friday, August 22, 2008
Friday was the first of our official two fest days. Some of us would meet in New York City for lunch, and then more would join us as we took a round trip to Hackettstown, NJ on NJ TRANSIT's Montclair-Boonton and Morristown Lines. Then the group would travel to the Philadelphia area in preparation for Saturday's activities.
Chapter 3.0: Getting to New York
To get to New York, Steve and Mike (who had since both moved across the street as planned from the Marriott to the Courtyard by Marriott Philadelphia Downtown) decided to take PATCO, the NJ TRANSIT RiverLINE, and a NJ TRANSIT Northeast Corridor Line train to New York. They had a minor scare as they boarded a RiverLINE train in Camden headed in the wrong direction, but they managed to correct themselves in ample time to make the intended Trenton-bound train.
Meanwhile, I drove down to South Jersey since I would be staying at the Doubletree Suites in Mt. Laurel. I decided to take the RiverLINE from Route 73/Pennsauken since that station was only a few miles from my hotel for the weekend. Since I was in voice and text communication with Mike and Steve, I was on the same RiverLINE train as the one they had taken from Camden.
In Trenton the three of us took NJ TRANSIT Train #3940, an express train with a set of multilevel equipment. We arrived in New York on time, and proceeded to our first meeting place under the Amtrak Solari board.
Chapter 3.1: In New York
We were joined by Piotr Dzwonek, Ted Patchell, Maurice Carson, and Lou Petrillo. The seven of us went to the Stage Door Deli and had a very nice lunch.
Once we were done with lunch, we returned to the station. Our second meeting place was supposed to be in the vicinity of the ticket windows in the NJ TRANSIT concourse. However, some participants needed to use the facilities, so we were not in position when Alan Burden and Jishnu Mukerji arrived. I managed to finally get everyone together in the waiting area, and soon the nine of us were boarding our NJT train on Track 1.
Chapter 3.2: NJ TRANSIT Train #6241, Montclair-Boonton Line, New York-Penn Station to Montclair State University
Our train left New York on time at 1:40 PM. When we got to Newark Broad Street, we were joined by John Wireman, making our group ten people. Our train continued on time to Montclair State University, where we arrived at 2:26 PM, four minutes early. There, we had a cross-platform transfer to the train that would take us to Hackettstown.
Chapter 3.3: NJ TRANSIT Train #1027, Montclair-Boonton Line, Montclair State University to Hackettstown
Our next conveyance was a diesel hauled train, which departed from Montclair State University on time at 2:35. Along the way our highlights were the new stations at Wayne/Route 23 and Mount Arlington. Always of interest is Port Morris, where the right of way for the Lackawanna Cutoff exists and will hopefully soon be an active rail line once more.
We arrived into the Hackettstown station at 3:50 PM, which was eight minutes ahead of schedule. That gave us plenty of time to stretch our legs on the platform. After posing for a group photo, we reboarded the train for its inbound trip.
Chapter 3.4: NJ TRANSIT Train #880, Morristown Line, Hackettstown to Newark-Broad Street
On our trip towards Newark, we retraced our previous trip as far as Denville, and then went off to the right onto the Morristown Line. We made most local stops to Summit, and then our train ran express to Newark. However, although we were supposed to run nonstop, we began moving very slowly through the Oranges. Most likely we were behind a delayed local train.
Since we were running late, and most of us would need to purchase a ticket for the Newark Light Rail, I went around the train collecting $1.35 from each person who needed a ticket so that I could make one large purchase from the ticket vending machine with a credit card. I figured this would save us some time in case we were in a hurry.
The result of our slow running, which continued into Newark, was that we arrived at Broad Street Station ten minutes late at 5:49 PM, indeed too late to catch the intended light rail trip to Penn Station.
Chapter 3.5: NJ TRANSIT Newark Light Rail Newark-Broad Street to Newark-Penn Station
John Corbett met us at Broad Street Station, making our group eleven during our short time in the city of Newark.
I did the above business transaction, purchasing nine tickets at once and dispersing them to those in the group who needed them. However, we ended up having plenty of time, since the next scheduled trip would not be until 6:05 PM. When an LRV arrived at 5:56, it discharged its passengers and then went further west into a pocket track so the operator could change ends. There was some uncertainty as to which track we would be boarding the train on. Ultimately it arrived on the same platform on which it had arrived, and we all got on.
Our trip was uneventful, other than the illusion that an NJ TRANSIT bus was going to hit us as we rounded the curve from the station onto Broad Street. The two vehicles came close but did not make contact.
We got to Penn Station at 6:13, one minute ahead of this train's schedule, but 15 minutes past our own. Originally we were going to grab a quick meal in the station. However, we elected to take the trains we had intended to take, which would mean eating dinner later. Lou, Alan, Maurice, and Jishnu remained in the station while Mike, Ted, Steve, both Johns, and I hurried upstairs to Track 4 to make our intended 6:22 PM departure.
Chapter 3.6: NJ TRANSIT Train #3971, Northeast Corridor Line, Newark-Penn Station to Trenton Transit Center
Once again we lucked out with a multilevel consist. Most express trips to and from Trenton were so equipped to provide maximum capacity on the southern portion of the line due to Amtrak trackwork and the resulting use of bridge plates at the Hamilton and Princeton Junction stations.
Our train left Newark on time at 6:22. We had a quick trip down the corridor, and arrived at Trenton Transit Center at 7:12 PM, eight minutes ahead of schedule.
In Trenton, I left the group to head for the RiverLINE. Had we arrived on schedule I would have had an eight-minute run. With the train being eight minutes early, I had 16 minutes to stroll outside and across the street to my next train.
Other than my stomach growling, I had an uneventful, on-time trip on the RiverLINE back to Pennsauken. Once there, I got in my car and went directly to a Burger King I had seen along Route 73 right not far from the station. Then it was off to my Doubletree in Mt. Laurel, where I relaxed the rest of the night.
Chapter 3.7: SEPTA Train #772, R7 Trenton Line, Trenton Transit Center to Philadelphia
Meanwhile, Ted, Steve, John Wireman, John Corbett, and Mike had a cross-platform transfer in Trenton to the SEPTA train sitting on Track 5. Their trip was on time. John Corbett got off at 30th Street Station and took a SEPTA R1 train to Eastwick for his Hampton Inn near the airport. John Wireman and Ted got off there too and went to their respective homes. Mike and Steve remained on board to Market East, where they walked to their hotel.
Chapter 3.8: Amtrak KEYSTONE, Train #655, Newark, NJ to Philadelphia, PA
The other portion of our group, consisting of Jishnu, Lou, Maurice, and Alan, took an Amtrak train from Newark to Philadelphia. Their KEYSTONE train was scheduled to leave at 6:48, but it was four minutes late. Despite its tardiness around Newark, it got into Philadelphia at 7:59 PM, three minutes early!
Maurice had parked his car at 30th Street Station. Before driving home to Valley Forge, he took Lou to the Latham Hotel in Center City.
Jishnu and Alan took the next SEPTA train into Center City. Alan got off at Suburban Station and walked to the Doubletree Hotel Philadelphia. Jishnu remained on board to Market East, and then went to the Courtyard (the same one where Mike and Steve were staying).Continued in next section