Leave No Station Unphotographed: The Blog of SubwayNut.com

 

Finishing the VTA Light Rail Stations

About 4 years ago I did an experiment with writing up the VTA Light Rail, that I think ended up failing. I typed up all my station summaries and decided which photos to use, but didn’t actually process the station. I decided to ‘save’ processing for when I wanted mindless SubwayNut work. The time came about a year ago when I got very close to finishing, but didn’t quite. Over the past month (between my other website updates), I finally found time to finish the VTA Light Rail:

Enjoy! I realize a few stations may have slipped having a blog post written about them but I assure you every station has at least a few photos for a photo essay.

Metra La Salle Street and the new White Sox Station

Here’s another Chicago Metra update, getting Chicago area stations out of my archive, that brings another Downtown Chicago terminal onto the web:

Enjoy!

 

Quiet, Sleepy Amtrak Cascades Train #518 to the Frequent Vancouver SkyTrain

This is Part 4 of my 2018 Pacific Northwest Up-to-Date Trip.

I return to King Street Station at 6:12, after getting the 3 new Link Stations, a little early by my standards. I’m feeling a quite tired (my body thinks its 9:12) and my technology is starting to die. I eat the Gyro plate I’ve purchased and wait for boarding instructions to head to Vancouver. At 6:25 they ask us to line up to get our tickets scanned and seat checks that do have seating assignments. I notice I get a window! I then relax on an old fashioned wooden bench, as my camera battery charges across from me in one of the few scarce outlets in King Street Station.

Boarding starts 15 minutes before departure at 6:45pm (my train arrived in Seattle from Portland at 6:39pm, 9 minutes late). I head outside getting some photos of a Charger attached to some Superliner cars (used temporary on Amtrak Cascades because of damage from all the recent accidents) saying “Not In Service” on its sign.

I board my car and take my assigned seat, every row in the car fills up but since it’s going to be a less than half-full train everyone has been assigned two seats to themselves.

We get a friendly announcement from the bistro car that their currently closed, restocking with lots of new food from our stop in Seattle. The bistro car needs a full round-trip of food to and from because customs regulations prohibit it from being restocked in Vancouver.

The train leaves for Vancouver at 7:02, two minutes late and we head into the railroad tunnel under downtown Seattle, were through at 7:06, and get another bistro attendant announcement that “I’m open, done restocking from the commissary.”

We have another conductor who’s very good at keeping us informed about unexpected stops as it’s slow running into Everett due to freight trains. I notice the electric fence in the dark that notifies BNSF (and issues a 48 hour moratorium on passenger trains) when a branch or rock slides down this mudslide prone portion of tracks. We stop in Edmonds at 7:31, 6 minutes late, and I notice additional Sounder platforms before the Amtrak platform area.

We continue north and pass through Mukilteo at 7:55, the only stop we bypass on Sounder North. This station has been rebuilt since I visited with more permanent platforms for the two tracks and even a pedestrian overpass, the train is running full speed. The nightime lights of Pudget sound feel calm on my nice quiet car.

The rest of the ride north is a bit of a blur. I step into the vestibule to call Louise and talk to her for awhile who’s in Honolulu at the moment presenting at a conference. She will take a red-eye to Vancouver in a few days time and meet up with us. I have my laptop and try and do some website work but am too tired.

I get the usual Canadian entry card after we stop in Bellingham and fill one out, it has a place to say your arriving by train, unlike the awkward US customs card where you simply write Amtrak (and the train number) under flight number/vessel name. I fall back asleep again around 9:50, after we cross the Peace Arch without delay into Canada.

At 11:00am, I wake up again and wonder how close we’ve gotten, I see the Millenium Line and that we’re nearly past the VCC/Clark Station and about to arrive in Vancouver. We are just a few minutes late. It’s the usual stop and go, getting switches set to enter Pacific Central.

At 11:06 I see the train wash, people have gotten up to prepare to get off, although we’re told to wait in our seats and that the crew will release us to go through Canadian customs car-by-car. There is one woman in my car who’s phone has been buzzing with a really annoying ring tone almost non-stop since we’ve entered Canada. We then pass the VIA/West Coast Express Maintenance facility.

At 11:09 I see the security guard holding an umbrella opening the gate to let us enter the gated secured paddock for us all to clear Canadian Immigration and customs. We come to a stop on the platform at 11:10 for good.

It’s a bit of a wait for my car (one of the benefits of a business class upgrade is there released to Canadian customs and immigration first, although their car is on the opposite end of the platform from the baggage car which is always at the front of the train northbound into Vancouver), but very shortly I head out to the platform. I get to the baggage car and find my backpack sitting as expected just outside of it. I ask a friendly VIA employee – who seems almost familiar from my previous trips through Pacific Central Station – if he wants to match my bag tags. He says “No it’s on the honor system.”

I head into customs, the line moving relatively briskly and have an amusing conversation with the CBSA agent:

CBSA Agent: “What Brings you to Canada?”
Me: “Skiing at Whistler.”
CBSA Agent: “Are you meeting anyone?”
Me: “Yes, my Dad.”
CBSA Agent: “Is he meeting you at the station?”
Me: “He’s asleep already at our hotel, I’m taking the Skytrain over to the hotel”
CBSA Agent: “Very good, enjoy your stay!” 

I walk out am through customs at 11:21, just 11 minutes after the train’s arrival, not to shabby.

I exit Pacific Central Station and cross Thornton Park to Main Street-Science World(6 Photos). I purchase my first ever Compass Ticket, it’s too late at night to figure out how much money to load onto a permanent compass card, although Compass Tickets I know have a single-use ticket fee. It takes me a few tries since it’s a modern chip and pin machine. My AMEX credit card doesn’t work, but my chip and pin US debit card luckily does, on the second try when I select Credit not Debit and enter my pin number.

 

I then head up to the platform admiring the new signage with the Evergreen Extension on the Millennium Line now opening. I just miss one SkyTrain but another comes within 5 minutes. Not too many cities can boast of a transit line running that frequent at 11:30 at night.

I get off at Burrard Station (I don’t get any decent photos) as I walk the few ways to the hotel. I pick up the key that my Dad’s left me at the front desk and our in our room at Midnight, with a 5:00am wake-up call, before the 6:00am bus to Whistler.

Seattle has a Crowded Subway – the new University Link and Angle Lake Extensions

This is Part 3 of my 2018 Pacific Northwest Up-to-Date Trip

I take King County transit Rapid Ride Bus Route F, the relatively short ride to Tukwila International Blvd(15 Photos). There I head up the escalators to the Angle Lake-bound platform. I notice new Got Wheels? take the elevators disks painted on the ground, and signs that there’s a discount on ubers from the station (probably trying to help solve the station’s full park & ride lot).

   

Getting on the next Angle Lake-bound train, I notice the new system maps have the link line as Red, part of the new color branding when the link finally needs two branches when the line to Bellevue opens in 2023.

I stop at Sea-Tac Airport and enter new trackage heading south to Angle Lake(37 photos), which is an elevated guideway extension, designed to serve a large over 1,000 space parking garage. While I’m at Angle Lake I notice Sound Transit has changed the format of their signs removing the teal line, so their now all one color. I’ve changed the format of the signs for the new stations.

  

I get my photo essay, and get on another Link train heading northbound. At Sea-Tack I get a photo of the now Angle Lake-bound, not for terminating trains platform, and see the Alaska Airlines Disneyland plane parked at the terminal.

I continue north on the Central link alignment I’ve photographed back in 2011, at Columbia City–(1 Photo), I get a decent photo out the window of a platform sign that has been changed.

We continue through the Beacon Hill Tunnel, and as we go through it I notice that I loose cell phone service, this tunnel hasn’t been wired yet. We continue to follow the busway towards the Downtown Seattle Transit Tunnel where the Link train gets more and more crowded. After we stop at Westlake and I enter the new “University Link” trackage and tunnel I feel like I’m on the New York City Subway. I notice that the Downtown Transit and University Link tunnels have all been rigged for cell phone coverage.

At Capitol Hill(8 Photos) I notice nice large LCD screens showing next departure signs, make it clear that my two car train is running a few minutes late and bunching so it’s crowded with another northbound train to the University of Washington 2 minutes away so I decide to get off.

 

I take a much less crowded train to the University of Washington(41 Photos). I arrive and see a crowd of people (some with bicycles) from the crowded train I got off of at Capitol Hill still waiting for the elevators up to the surface at the 95 foot deep station. I get some photos of the platform and then head up to the surface to get photos of the station house before heading back down on the set of escalators that lead down to the surface in the opposite direction.

     

After spending 15 minutes there I get on the next train to depart, noticing a PSA sign that I quite like that seats are for butts, not bags.

As we leave two fare inspectors working as a team come on. My ORCA card with my overpriced day pass (which I’ve been diligently tapping on and off with at my 2 stops), passes the test. One person, the first person one fare inspector talks to isn’t so luckily and I find it interesting how the 2nd fare inspector has time to get everyone in my car (which has most seats taken) in the time it takes for the first fare inspector to write the fare jumper a summons. I get off with the fare inspectors (but not the person who has cooperated and gotten a summons) and a surprising to me number of other people at Capitol Hill(35 Photos). I get off and start my photo essay of this extremely urban 3 entrance subway station.

    

As I approach the final entrance I see the last stop on the First Hill Line of the Seattle Streetcar. This streetcar line is new and one I would like to ride at some point. I just miss a streetcar, and still want to finish the last entrances to Capitol Hill so I don’t get on.

I head back down to the Link platform and get on another link train at 5:49pm, with a little over an hour before my train up to Vancouver that leaves at 7:00pm.

I take this train to Pioneer Square(3 Photos), not the closest stop to King Street Station, but I want to pick up some dinner for my journey to continue north into Canada.

 

I start walking south and stop at a hole in the wall for a gyro plate. I approach King Street Station(14 Photos) at 6:15, a little early and wait for a First Hill Streetcar to pass me, that I think is the same streetcar, now completing its trip that I watched leave the Capitol Hill Station while I did my photo essay!

I then enter King Street Station to wait for Amtrak Cascades Train #518 that will take me into Canada.

Amtrak Cascades from Portland to the rebuilt Tukwila Station via Port Defiance

This is Part 3 of my 2018 Pacific Northwest Up-to-Date Trip

I leave the Society Hostel at 11:15 with my luggage and started walking north the few blocks to Union Station. I pass Union Station/NW 5th & Gilsan(2 Photos) and then some northbound trains curving around the curve just north of Union Station/NW 6th & Hoyt(3 Photos).

 

I get to Union Station-(14 Photos) at about 11:20 and head to the baggage office (which is separate from the regular ticket office). I’ve purchased a multi-city PDX-SEA-VAC ticket for $49. I explain to a very friendly baggage agent that I would like to check by bag to Vancouver after a stop in Seattle. He understands exactly what I’m asking and says my bag will be checked from Portland directly on Train #518, the train I’m crossing the US border on.

 

Next I’m told to head to the ticket office to ‘check-in’ for my train. Here I’m handed a seat check and am originally told for Seattle to board train cars 7, 8 or 9. I explain I think I’m going to get off at Tukwila, and she says in that case board cars 3 or 4, she writes this on the back of my seat check since only the doors near that car will open. Unlike on previous Amtrak Cascade trips they don’t hand me an exact seat assignment.

 

I wander around Union Station some more and soon they announce priority boarding, followed by boarding for parties of two or more for Amtrak Cascades Train #504. I head outside, get some rainy photos of a Charger sitting on another trainset, and notice that my train is being pulled by a charger, so no decent photo of it in Tukwila.

 

I then board the ADA car #3 that has 2 x 1 seating and select a seat in the single 1 row for the novelty. The train isn’t that crowded so I probably would have gotten two seats to myself anyway. At 11:58 we get an announcement that the bistro car is already open and serving, and instructions to line up along the wall towards the lounge car and not form the line into the vestibule of my car #3

At 12:03, 3 minutes late as it stops raining and the sun comes out, with a BNSF freight train passing in the opposite direction, we leave Portland-Union Station.

We leave Portland, and follow trees and bridges on a ride that feels oddly familiar, although I was last here back in 2013. The conductor comes and I explain I want to get off at Tukwila as he scans my ticket, saying “Getting off early, won’t be a problem.” We soon cross the Columbia River bridges.

Almost immediately we enter the Vancouver, WA station, where we arrive at 12:22pm and leave at 12:24pm, 6 minutes late. I notice that a new platform has been built for the Empire Builder across Hill Street from the main station, with a few shelters, looking at Google Earth I notice a third track has also been added along the switch the Empire Builder takes just before entering this station so their isn’t space next to the platform.

We continue north, following the Columbia River’s wide estuary, and then I-5 (briefly running between the lanes of the freeway) before it follows alongside us.

At 1:03 we stop in Keslo-Longview that seems exactly the same, with a volunteer station attendant standing on the platform as when I visited it nearly 7 years ago.

I then head to the bistro car for a light lunch. I due love the Amtrak Cascades menu, compared to the normal AmCafe menu on most routes (the Downeaster has a similar special menu). I order what else but clam chowder, and head into the Lounge Car. As I head into the lounge car we stop for a moment “To get instructions, because some men are working on the tracks ahead” according to a detailed announcement from our conductor. We then head into Centralia where we make a one minute stop at 1:50, leaving 19 minutes late.

I return to my seat as we go through the woods of the Pacific Northwest at 80mph speed. At 2:11 we enter the Centennial Station in Olympia-Lacy where I watch the volunteer opening the electronic gate as our train enters. I also notice bus route 64 waiting to whisk any railroad passengers into Olympia waiting for us at the station, and a big banner on the station for “Champions of the Rails – Volunteers”

We leave the Centennial Station. I keep my eyes glued to the windows, at 2:23 I see a track turning north, just before we cross over I-5, this is the start of Port Defiance Bypass, out of service until PTC is certified (the current route doesn’t have PTC turned on also, after the awful accident on opening day).

Within just a few minutes the ride gets scenic as we start to follow the Southern Pudget Sound.

Next we pass Union Avenue and the Steilacoom Ferry Port where all traffic needs to cross the rail line for the ferries to Anderson, McNiel, and Kentron Islands.

The decent water views continue, as we switch tracks at 2:23 at Pioneer Siding passing the Chambers Bay Golf Course. I’m assume that this will be my last trip on Amtrak Cascades using the old route, and can’t believe all of the scenery that will be skipped when the new route enters service once PTC is enabled. It will save time and improve reliability!

We cross under the twin Tacoma Narrows Bridges continuing north at about 2:39.

We curve around into the single-track tunnel under Point Defiance at 2:41 and head south in wrong direction, continuing to follow Pudget Sound towards Tacoma.

We continue through another short tunnel and into Port Restin and additional water views.

We go around the curves and pass below downtown Tacoma, passing a large BNSF freight yard. BNSF will definitely be happy to get rid of Amtrak once the court of PTC public opinion decides the Port Defiance bypass can be opened.

We arrive into the old Tacoma AmStation at 2:51pm, and depart at 2:53.

At that point it’s the blur of passing the Sounder Stations I’ve visited:

  • 2:58pm – pass Train #504 heading southbound using one of the new ODOT-owned Talgo trainsets with the unique cab cars I still haven’t photographed
  • 3:02 – Puyallup
  • 3:04 – the blur of Sumner station
  • 3:08 – Pass the first Sounder southbound train of the PM rush hour as we go through the large yard.
  • 3:09 – Pass Auburn

I miss the Kent Sounder Station’s time as I get off at Tukwila(33 photos). There I see passengers on the opposite platform waiting for the next Southbound Sounder train.

   

I get my photo essay, staying on platform 1, including of the new bus loop and parking area. I decide to just purchase an ORCA Day Pass for $8, plus the $5 ORCA card fee since mine didn’t seem to move to Indiana.

The Sounder train I expect to arrive at 3:28pm but it’s clearly running late. At 3:34 I see my King County Transit Rapid Ride F bus and decide to get on. I want to give myself plenty of time to do the new Link Subway.

Sunrise over the Tilikum Crossing – The New MAX Orange Line to Milwaukie

This is Part 2 of my 2018 Pacific Northwest Up-to-Date Trip

With the time change I wake up at the Society Hotel early, a little before 6:00am. I have my room until 11:00am (I’m taking the Noon Amtrak Cascades Train northbound) and decide to just get dressed, eat a granola bar and go since according to my calculations I should finish the Orange Line by 10:00.

I walk west to the Transit Mall Orange Line Station at SW 5th & Crouch and immediately notice the Orange Line bullets, on the signs.

I just make the 6:17 Orange Line, and sit in my favorite place on the MAX Siemens Type 4 and 5 LRVs. These are S70s, used by many transit agencies, but I really like the way that MAX turned a cab onto each car into ‘domed’ seating in the middle of the two, ‘always’ married pairs of articulated trainsets. I get a really decent photo of a sign now with an Orange Bullet at SW Oak & 5th(1 Photo)

We continue down the transit mall and I enjoy ‘racing a streetcar in short section’ where they both run along 6th Street.

 

I hit new MAX trackage after PSU Urban Center (I did walk around the PSU South Station and look at the layover area when it was under construction) and then head onto the Light Rail only SW Harbor Viaduct, descending onto the streetcar line below that is the ‘local’ running in the middle of the street, making many more stops. I get my first glimpse of the sunrise over the Light Rail, Streetcar, Pedestrian, and Bus only  Tilikum Crossing.

 

I get off at South Waterfront/SW Moody-(28 Photos), with it’s unique four track design although streetcars don’t share the platforms.

 

I then start walking over the Tilikum Crossing(40 Photos) where I thoroughly enjoy the sunrise. There’s something really neat about experiencing the first modern large crossing in North America built just for people and transit vehicles at sunrise.

   

I hustle more than I might thinking I might be able to make it across in just over 15 minutes and not have a Milwaukie-bound train pass me, but this is false. The next inbound train passes me when I’m still some distance from OSMI/SE Water(60 Photos) and have 14 minutes to get plenty of photos, and discover the Oregon Rail Heritage Center across from the station, which I would be curious to visit on a future trip.

  

I realize there’s one of the rush hour ‘extras’ coming southbound. These are trains that run outside of the 15 minute clock-face Orange-Yellow Line frequency which means I take the next 2 trains just 1 stop each to spend 7 minutes at both the Clinton St/SE 12th Ave(27 Photos) and SE 17th Ave & Rhine St(24 Photos) Stations.

    

I look at the schedule and see that there’s a similar of the ‘extra’ train (the train I just got on returning north) heading northbound so I take my next train all the way to SE Tacoma/Johnson Creek(13 Photos)

 

From there I double-back to SE Bybee Blvd(14 Photos). There I realize that the Union Pacific line used by Amtrak from Eugene is the rail line the Milwaukie Line follows when a northbound Amtrak Cascades train passes.

 

I backtrack one more stop to SE 17th Ave & Holgate Blvd(24 Photos)

 

The next southbound train is another one of the rush hour extras using just one LRV, and although I technically have one intermediate stop left, I ride it all the way to the last stop SE Park Avenue(32 Photos). There I explore a bit, including of the plaza that leads to the Trolley Trail next to the platform and soon the regular every 15 minute train arrives for it’s 8 minute layover, Passengers are informed by the next MAX monitors listing the single car train as heading to City Center/PSU, and the normal frequency train as to City Center/Expo Center. The drivers also tell some passengers (particularly on the single LRV) to cross the platform for the next train out. There is a bit confusion with people transferring from the single car train to the two car train. This could all be fixed if the station had a next train here sign, something that I find legacy transit systems tend to do much better than more modern ones.

  

My next stop is Milwaukie/Main St(16 Photos), where I’m getting hungry and it’s time for breakfast.

 

Grandma’s Corner Restaurant for a large portion of eggs (including the early bird special discount since it’s not 9:00am yet) suits me well. I head back to the Light Rail Station about a half-hour later, and notice that a number of Max buses are still meeting up at what the bus map calls Milwaukie City Center, on Jackson Street and 21st Avenue and not at the Train Station since it wasn’t built with bus loops to make it a Transit Center (none of the stops on the Milwaukie Line are). I then get back on MAX to head inbound.

 

As I head back to Downtown, I realize I have time and the schedule allows me to use the doubling-back trick (so the stopover takes 15 minutes with trains in opposite directions not passing between the stations) to re-visit SE Bybee Blvd(29 Photos) where I double-back to SE Tacoma/Johnson Creek(17 Photos). I feel that my additional photos from these extra stopovers gives a much more complete photo essays of these unique stations.

   

I head towards downtown and over the Tilikum Crossing on a train, and get off at my one remaining Orange Line Stop, Lincoln St/SW 3rd Ave(17 Photos)

 

From there I start walking along the railroad line and to the now finished (they were under construction because of the adjacent building when I was last in Portland back in 2012) PSU South Stations. I first pas a Green line sitting in the turnaround loop, stopping at the Southbound PSU South/SW 5th & Jackson(14 Photos)

  

I then walk around to the other side of the PSU Building to Northbound PSU South/SW 6th & College-(9 Photos). Where I board an originating Green Line train and sit in my favorite seat in the middle of the car where the cab was never added.

 

I get off at NW 6th & Davis(2 Photos), as it starts raining again getting back to the Society Hotel before 10:00am, feeling happy and a little tired.

I shower and take a little rest, and although check-out time is posted at 11:00am, my first text (without an immediate response) followed by a phone call at 10:45 to request late check out for 11:15 is granted with “Let’s make it 11:30.” I leave the hotel at 11:15 to head to Union Station.

A final note, I realize I’ve neglected the Portland Streetcar. I rode the entire North-South Line and I think photographed as it existed on my visit in 2011 but am still having a hard time deciding how to organize and publish those photos, I think I’m just going to make a single webpage for the streetcar selection. If I had more time I would have liked to have ridden the new streetcar loop but the goal of this trip was getting non-streetcar transit in Portland and Seattle up to date using one single vacation day.

Flying SBN to MSP to PDX to get the Pacific Northwest up to date, and go on my annual ski trip with my Dad

This trip report is part of the series 2018 Pacific Northwest Up-to-Date.

Introduction

This past March, my Dad and I planned 4 days of skiing at Whistler in British Columbia four our annual ski trip. Louise it turned out had a paper accepted at a conference in Hawaii, just near our ski trip dates and the way flights are priced to Hawaii buying four one way tickets Chicago to San Francisco (she spent the night with a friend) to Honolulu to Vancouver to Chicago, was cheaper than buying a normal round-trip ticket from Chicago to Honolulu, so she would join us for part of our ski trip (and work in our AirBNB) and we would fly home from Vancouver together.

I still needed to get out to Vancouver alone and was planning to simply fly Chicago to Vancouver non-stop or with a connection from South Bend (my home airport SBN is my preference if all prices are the same, much easier than the South Shore Line to the ‘L’ slog), unfortunately I snoozed too long on booking my ticket out there and all of sudden there was no real South Bend/Chicago to Vancouver option that was less than $400 one-way. I evaluated flying to Seattle Thursday morning and taking the bus or train up that evening (I really wish there was a midday SEA to Vancouver train) but in the end, I found a reasonably priced ($200 one-way ticket) out of South Bend Wednesday Evening to Portland with a 3 hour layover in Minneapolis, giving me time to see an old friend who lives there (not )

This gave me the opportunity, by booking a multi-city Amtrak Cascades ticket (stopovers of less than 24 hours are still free even if you no longer earn 100 bonus AGR points for stopping)  to get Portland and Seattle ‘up to date’ (except for their streetcar expansions that I still need to figure out the best way to incorporate) with the recent MAX Milwaukie Line and Link Light Rail University of Washington and Angle Lake Extensions. Another reason to start with an evening in Portland for this strategy was to avoid lugging my heaving ski beat boot bag with me while getting stations, which would have happened with a same day plane to bus (or late evening train) connection in Seattle, assuming that Amtrak’s generous baggage policy would let me check my bag in Portland early with me just reclaiming it alongside the evening  Vancouver Amtrak Cascades train before clearing customs.

Flying SBN to MSP to PDX to bring the Pacific Northwest Up to Date

The day began and with a 3:40pm flight from SBN to MSP. I took a half hour extra of vacation time (my office has a flexible schedule so I can work 7:00am to 3:00pm sometimes), hailed a Lyft from my desk around 2:30, and for $6.00 (had a 50% promo) had an uneventful ride to the Airport. Bus Route 4 to the Airport makes a deviation that’s quite slow to the Amtrak station, so if vacation time is involved I take an uber. Security at the South Bend Airport was it’s nice easy self and I found myself at the gate with about 20 minutes to spare.

The 50 seat Regional Jet boarded on time. I asked the gate agent if I could check my ski bag all the way through to Portland instead of valet checking to MSP but was given a direct No, so there would be dealing with luggage on my layover.

I settled into an uneventful hour and a half gate to gate flight – with enough time for a ginger ail and snack mix – and me me getting some photos from my window seat of the Frozen Landscape.

 

We taxi into a gate C13 in Minneapolis, where we arrive at 4:08pm CT, is right near the Skywalk security entrance/exit, which provides faster access to the light rail station and public bus loop than going around to the main terminal exit (if you need to visit baggage claim you have to.

I text my friend who’s driving to come meet me and am told to come to the main arrivals area because the Skyway entrance is for public transit users only and she doesn’t know how to drive up there kerbside. I could walk or use moving walkways to head up to this area of the airport, but a ride on the Concourse Tram is a lot more fun (and probably faster)! This tram I find particularly neat because the two cars run on largely a single track but have a passing siding where the trams passes, with trams going to the Baggage Claim and central area stopping a short ways north (on the passing siding) of the stop for trains going the other way to the A and B Concourses, which stop beyond this passing siding. I first pass the A and B gates stop before walking to the Baggage claim stop where my tram arrives, while I get photos of the other tram entering the passing siding using a switch.

 

It’s then uneventful short ride to the main terminal.

I leave security and find my friend. We end up going to the Mall of America because it’s the closest place to take a little walk and sit and chat (neither of us buys anything).

Our time is short and sweet catching up, before she drops me off at the airport around 6:00pm, I have preCheck now and getting back through security is a breeze so I have some extra time. Luckily the Escape Lounge provides a fabulous place to have a nearly proper free dinner courtesy of my AMEX Platinum Charge Card. I leave the lounge a little before 7:00pm to head to my nearby gate C1.

I get on early enough that my odd-shaped boot bag isn’t gate checked. The flight leaves with quite a few empty seats including a moment when I think I might have an entire row to myself but the final woman to board plops down in the aisle seat (not her assigned seat,  but the flight attendant just tells her to sit down), clearly happy she’s made the flight. I hear murmurs from other passengers about other people possibly missing this flight. This final flight of the evening with me still on Eastern Time catches up to me so I spend part of the flight sleeping and iMessaging Louise since Delta now allows free in flight messaging (we even get pictures to send and be received, although your not supposed to be able to).

We land in Portland at 9:01pm CT and I look at the MAX schedule and decide to take my time. I need a restroom and passing the SkyClub decide to stop in there, I take a moment before the final journey to my hotel for some popcorn and a cookie. I then head to the center of the concourse, where I exit through some automatic gates (definitely not here when I last was airside at this airport in 2006) and find myself at the end of the ticketing hall (the Portland Airport’s new terminal and MAX light rail opened on September 10, 2001 and has had to re-adapt ever since to post-9/11 security needs). I then follow the MAX signs down to baggage claim.

Walking the length of the baggage claim, since I arrive at the D and E gates, I laugh at this add for an airport shuttle to Downtown, the MAX from Portland is just so easy!

I head out towards the Portland MAX Station(13 Photos). I pass the familiar TVMs inside the baggage claim. I take a small detour up the escalators up to the departures level. This is right next to the other exit from the sterile area. The next time I’m in Portland and arriving at a South Gate without luggage to claim I think I’ll use the moving walkways on the Concourse connector, staying within security to have a shorter walk through the crowded ticketing or baggage claim levels.

   

I arrive to the platform to board my train to Downtown as another train is entering on the single-tracked section of the Red Line.

 

I get on the train and immediately notice, the new system map with the Orange Line extension and how the map shows the Orange and Yellow Lines interline downtown.

The ride is largely uneventful, although before Gateway Transit Center our train ‘transforms’ into a Blue Line train to SW 185th. It’s the slow ride over the Steel Bridge and into downtown where I get off at Old Town-Chinatown(5 Photos). 

From there it’s an easy walk to the Society Hostel, the ultimate hipster hostel. There I’ve booked a bunk bed for $40 but decide I’m too tired and will have a very long day tomorrow so I upgrade to a private room (there’s a shared very clean bathroom across from my room, and there even bathrobes) and spend $100 on accommodations for the night, it’s small, really just fitting a queen bed and a washbasin, but perfectly located to the light rail and Union Station, and a place I would not hesitate to stay in again.

 

The Hammond SLE Station

I don’t particularly like doing single station updates (without it being a one day transit adventure), but there’s no other good place for this update. The last not-uploaded South Shore Line Photo essay is of Hammond(47 Photos), which I visited the same day I biked to the Hammond-Whiting Amtrak Station, did the South Chicago Branch of Metra Electric, and took Metra to Manhattan (before my, this year goal, of doing updates in order)

  

Enjoy! I’m working on posts of a major trip I recently got back from, my new system will make posts be less in real time, but overall help put some continuity to my station pages so I think it’s worth it.

I’m also uploading this station to help have all my South Shore Station’s ready when I have a chance to get more rides to other stops on my local commuter rail line.

Metra Down in Blue Island

I’m trying to get all the photos I’ve ever taken in Chicagoland up on the web (I’m getting very close), this update is from a trip I took down to Blue Island about 6 years ago, Metra Electric Down, Rock Island District back north:

Enjoy!

A Good Friday Day-Trip to Kalamazoo (by Car)

Louise and I have formed a little tradition of trying to go and work somewhere like a coffee shop together when I have a holiday off from work for a long weekend when we have no other plans. Good Friday (March 30, 2018) was one of these days and we decided to take a day trip to Kalamazoo to check out this city and what looked like it’s decent coffee shops.

We got a bit of a late start and after stopping at Trader Joe’s and a Starbucks on the edge of Kalamazoo so I could do a time sensitive thing for work, followed by an excellent lunch at the Crow’s Nest, we got settled with a pot of tea inside Black Owl Cafe at about 3:45pm,

As we settled into work in the cafe, I start looking at the Amtrak timetable to decide when I’m going to leave Louise and go for my getting the Kalamazoo station walk. I see Wolverine Train #352 should be arriving right now, but a quick check of the Amtrak app show’s it’s running 10 minutes late. Perfect.

I head outside and there’s a railroad junction nearby so I need to figure out which line is used by Amtrak. Luckily, since this ex-Norfolk Southern line is now owned by Michigan DOT and now operated by Amtrak, I only need to look for the Amtrak logo on the grade-crossing signs to figure out what track the Wolverine will pass through town on, luckily this track is just north of the cafe.

I keep walking along the tracks and notice a neat tower off in the distance, which I approach and walk by getting closer to the Kalamazoo Train Station. This tower is at neat railroad junction and is completely boarded up with Norfolk Southern No Tresspassing signs, although Norfolk Southern no longer owns any railroads in the area (all the other railroads are CN or short line railroads).

 

As I continue approaching the station I see a number of homeless people rummaging around and tresspassing across the Amtrak line. I then pass a mission which I assume is also a food pantry/homeless shelter and understand why there is the crowd around me. I start hearing the whistle of Wolverine #352 approaching in the distance. I then pass this unique sign, which seems irrelevant now with Michigan DOT now leasing the line all the way to Dearborn.

Woverine Train #352 arrives in the station at 4:07pm, 18 minutes late. The lights eventually go up and then I get to watch Amtrak do it’s station work, including trespassers walking around the stopped locomotive, not wanting to wait.

The train leaves after at 4:12, after taking 5 minutes (instead of the scheduled 2) to due its station work, now 21 minutes late.

   

I then walk the final block to the historic 1887 station that has been turned into the Kalamazoo Transportation Center(70 Photos). I’m quite impressed by the facility with 20 bus bays for Kalamazoo Metro Transit and how the modern bus bays were designed in a style that respects the historic integrity of the station. I spend a good 40 minutes doing my photo essay of the facility, witnessing 2 bus pulses on the 30-minute (other routes run 60 minute headways) Metro Transit buses.

      

I also notice the main headquarters and garage for Metro Transit is across the tracks from the station and enjoy the signs saying to go to the transportation center to purchase tokens and passes.

As I finally walk back to the cafe to return to Louise. I notice some other railroad themed buildings, and get a different view of the tower from the grade-crossing.

I spend the rest of the afternoon (until the cafe closes at 7:00pm) working in the Black Owl Cafe, including writing this blog post for the Manhattan and New Lenox Metra Stations.

Louise and I go out for a nice and delicious dinner in Kalamazoo and then hit the road to drive home to South Bend, happy to have had a good adventure to a new nearby city.