Friday, September 6, 2013

Amtrak Adventure 2013 - Labor Day Weekend

First the statistics (some of them anyway).

5 different Amtrak trains plus 1 Septa train.
7 legs of the journey (took Septa twice to and from Media)
1232 miles of rail travelled
35.5 hours from leaving our home to returning the next day

Our Route. From Philly to Pittsburgh we took the
upper route across Pennsylvania. And between
Albany and New York we were on the left hand route

Stealing an idea from my sister KT who - while we were touring PA and NY via rail was returning from an awesome trip to Alaska! She has way more excuse to 'list' her trip than I do but I'm doing it anyway. So here are the highlights of the trip.

If you'd like to see our annotated photos click here.

Leg #1 - Media, PA to Philadelphia's 30th Street Station scheduled 11:09 a.m. to 11:40 a.m.
August 31, 2013
  • Rode a 'new' Septa train
  • Joined on the ride by tons of folks heading into the city likely for the Made in America concert
  • Fond memories at the station of our cross country Amtrak trip to Seattle

Leg #2 - The Pennsylvanian from Philadelphia to Pittsburgh; scheduled 12:42 p.m. to 8:05 p.m. August 31, 2013
  • 1st time for me on the section between Philly and Paoli. I ride the section between Paoli and Harrisburg three times a year for work.
  • 1st time for both of us from Harrisburg to Pittsburgh
  • Had to sit across the aisle from one another from Philly to Lancaster (when my seatmate left the train). Dave's seat partner was a woman from New York going to visit her sister in Chambersburg, PA. Turns out her husband is an umpire too AND graduated from Manhattan College. This is significant because Dave is umpiring a game at Manhattan College in the Spring. The woman gave us her card and Dave hopes to catch up with them when he goes for the game.
  • The conductor did not announce our approach to the Horseshoe Curve. An error I find serious but chose not to tell him.
  • Got to see the famous Horseshoe Curve. :)
  • The train whistle echoes in the mountains. It's very cool!
  • Amtrak does not own the track past Harrisburg (or on most other parts of the trip). We had to slow down and allow freight trains to pass in several spots. Despite being about a fifteen minutes behind schedule at Greensburg we arrived in Pittsburgh 20 minutes early! It must be all down hill from Greensburg to Pittsburgh. :)
  • Four hour layover in Pittsburgh where we enjoyed Primanti Brothers sandwiches
Leg #3 - The Capitol Limited from Pittsburgh to Cleveland; scheduled Midnight to 2:50 a.m. September 1, 2013
  • Had upstairs seats on this train. Which would have been more impressive if it were daytime and we were going to actually see anything.
  • We slept the entire trip.
  • The conductor wakes you up when your stop comes on overnight trains.
  • Being asleep we don't know the exact reason - likely it was a freight train issue - but we arrived in Cleveland more than an hour late.
  • So our layover here was only 2 hours instead of 3
  • Cleveland is about 6 hours from Chicago and 6 hours from New York so the two trains that stop here - the Capitol Limited and the Lake Shore limited both arrive in the middle of the night. The station opens at 9:30 p.m. and closes at 6 a.m.
  • The station has a self serve ticket kiosk that was out of order. How do we know? Well there was a sign but the machine also 'told' us over and over and over and ..... "This machine is out of service".
Leg #4 - The Lake Shore Limited from Cleveland to Albany; scheduled 5:50 a.m. to 2:50 p.m. September 1, 2013
  • Train arrived on time (All our departures were on time)
  • Headed to the dining car for breakfast as soon as it opened. Seating is four to a table and since there were only 2 of us we get to share and engage in one of the neat things about train travel - meeting people.
  • Jim, and others we met on this trip, thought our labor day loop was a fun idea.
  • Jim and the couple across the aisle from us had been on the Empire Builder into Chicago on Friday. The train was 7 1/2/ hours late. They were lucky to get on this train out of Chicago to head home. Others not so lucky. Amtrak will do their best to take care of you if a connection is missed due to late trains (including putting you up in a hotel if necessary) but seats on the next train, especially in summer, are not always available.
  • At the Buffalo stop we got out to stretch our legs. We had conversation with a young woman who boarded the train wearing a front back and a back pack. I had to ask where she was going. My guess was she was going to hike a trail somewhere. But no, she was moving to Cape Cod after teaching English for a year in Andorra (Spain). She had gone home to mom and dad's to pick up her stuff and was on her way to Cape cod to start a new chapter in her life. How cool!
  • We returned to the dining car for lunch and sat with a lovely woman whose name began with "R" but I am at a loss to remember the rest. Anyway, she was returning home to Manhattan after two months away travelling and visiting her son in Seattle. She, too, had been on the seriously delayed Empire Builder. Amtrak had put her up in a nice hotel in Chicago waiting for 'our' train. She said it was nice to have a bed that didn't move for one night.
  • We arrived in Albany very late. In Albany the train splits. Part of it continues to New York and the other part continues to Boston. Typically there is a significant layover. Due to being so late there was much confusion among the passengers who had to return to the train almost immediately to continue their journeys. We were taking a different train to New York so we just sat back and watched the chaos.
Leg #5 - The Empire Service from Albany to New York Penn Station 4:20 p.m. to 6:50 p.m.
September 1, 2013
  • Not to be confused (but I'm sure it is) with the Empire Builder
  • This trip follows the Hudson River almost the entire way. Cloudy conditions made the pictures kind of dull though.
Leg #6 - The Keystone from New York Penn Station to Philadelphia 7:53 p.m. to 9:15 p.m.
September 1, 2013
  • It was dark now so not much to do but catnap and/or read.
Leg #7 - The Media-Elwyn Septa Regional train
September 1, 2013
  • Our train was early in to 30th Street. This was extremely helpful as now we had time to run to catch the 9:14 train instead of waiting an hour for the next one.
  • Arrived home at 10:00 p.m. 35.5 hours after we left.

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