Leave No Station Unphotographed: The Blog of SubwayNut.com

 

The Research Triangle Stations: Raleigh, Cary, Durham

These are the first of 3 stations those in the Research Triangle of the 9 new ones I visited on my Recent Trip to North Carolina on the Piedmont Corridor. Don’t worry, there plenty of photos of North Carolina’s unique restored Heritage car fleet. Cary is definitely one of my starts to a photo essay yet, thank you rain! Here the first 3 new Amtrak Stations:

Enjoy!

An AGR Points Run to Parkesburg and Coatsville, via MegaBus Down and Local Trains Home – A 5 Hour Journey on 5 Trains, making 64 Stops to go 143 miles

Two weeks ago (before my schedule changed and the riding the Piedmont Corridor was just a dream) today was supposed to be a Philadelphia points run and a SEPTA pre-trip before going up to Vermont to visit my cousins there. I for once bought a $5 MegaBus ticket in advance. Partially because of my North Carolina trip I ended up postponing Vermont. This left me with a $5 MegaBus ticket one-way to Philadelphia.

I was dithering about going until the morning when I wake up at 8:20 and decide “What the hell, let’s go” I need all the points runs I can get if I have any hope of Select+ for next year.

I think I’m on the 10:40 bus but double check and realize it’s the 9:40. I leave the house at 9:00 with a “If I miss it, I’ll be relieved” attitude. I have other errands to run downtown anyway. I get on the 9:10 A train and am off at 34 Street at 9:36. I speed walk the four long blocks to 12 Avenue where MegaBus has been relegated to, passing the 7th Avenue Subway extension station that’s looking nearly complete.

MegaBus often leaves late and I’m at the stop at 9:43, the bus is fully loaded but still at the curb. I go up to the door and the driver lets me on as I flash my hand-written ticket code. I thank her. The bus is quite full and I get a seat in the set of five in the back with a middle seat next to me. We’re about at the Lincoln Tunnel when the driver appoligzes that we need to go back to the bus stop. It’s at least a ten minute delay going around back to the sidewalk stop for a brief minute.

We’re finally in Jersey at 10:15 and it’s an uneventful ride with a fair amount of traffic. I want a mellow day in Philly and have two options (both of which involve taking NJT home from Trenon, no buses back. I can either do a 300 AGR points run (the most efficient one I know of) involving the Pennsylvanian in both directions and finish the River Line or I can be a tourist for a few hours and do a points run out to get Coatsville and Parkesburg returning to Paoli ($6.50 instead of $9.50) and buy an $8.50 via Center City ticket back to Trenton.
I decide on the latter and get off at the Independence Hall MegaBus stop at 12:05.

I decide to be a tourist and the main free attraction I go into is the self guided tour above the production hall of the US Mint.

I have a nice walk over from the Independence Hall Area over to 30th Street. Stopping to get the PATCO entrances outside of fare control in downtown Philadelphia so I can be ready to write-up PATCO when I get the rest of the line in Jersey.
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I get to 30th Street Station around 3:00.
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The NEC is a mess. Northbound Regional 186 going to Boston is an hour late and those passengers only for New York are getting told to take the Pennsylvanian (that is on time) and that will honor their tickets.
My train is boarding from Stairway 3 that I’m told doesn’t have direct elevator across except I’m fairly sure does when I dead down to a long line all the way back to the rear wall for boarding and look up and see an elevator shaft and the Club above.
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It’s flash our unreserved tickets to the gate usher (will they honor tickets with a different train listed?) and then the conductors on the platform telling us for Paoli, Exton, and Middletown to board the first 3 cars. I get on the second car from the front that’s full with people doubling-up.
We leave on time at 3:45 for an uneventful ride up the Main Line. I’ve done this Keystone Points run at least a half-dozen times.
I’m off at Paoli at 4:08 to waste an hour for 100 extra AGR Points. I wait at the end of the platform at the entrance to the parking lot for a departure shot with an Amtrak employee in a red shirt that also waits for the train to leave, smoking a cigarette.
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I spend the layover going to the bank and visiting the SEPTA ticket window to buy my $8.50 via Center City Philadelphia through ticket that will get me all the way back to Tenton, NJ (and makes my Amtrak ticket back from Parkesburg $6.50 instead of $9.50)
Keystone Train #649 pulls in in push mode with one of those “fat” looking cab cars that has the door sealed off. The conductor scans the good dozen tickets on the platform as passengers detrain. I notice I’m the only person not with a monthly pass (most passengers are employees going home from suburban office parks that drop shuttle loads of train passengers off at the station). I tell him I’m only going to Coatsville since I know both my segments on this unreserved multi-city ticket will pop up on his scanner.
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We leave at 4:12, a few minutes late.
We make intermediate stops at Exton at 4:20 and Downingtown at 4:25.
We leave Downingtown at 4:27 and I start paying attention. I’ve only gone beyond here twice before. We speed up passing trees and houses hitting switches passing some stub-tracks with SEPTA in its yard and pass Torndale at 5:30 with modern high-level platforms. This is the end of SEPTA. The ROW stays wide before coming smaller and only two tracks with room for two more.
A Keystone going the other way passes and I arrive in Coatsville at 5:31 as I notice an Amtrak cop riding in the vestibule.
I get off and do a photo essay of the decrepit station that got some new fencing. The station has no parking and I take a little walk to an extremely tired feeling Main Street.
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Keystone train 651 arrives at 6:21, two minutes late. Both conductors are stationed at their vestibules. As I struggles to get the steps down I’m expecting someone to get off but no one is. The conductor jokes: “We stopped just for you.”
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We soon leave and pass a bit of Farmland as it’s eight minutes to Parkesburg, front three cars only please. This stop is more popular. I’m off at 6:28 at Parkesburg, as a Philadelphia-bound train leaves the station at the same time.
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I have an hour in Parkesburg, and spend some of it getting my photo essay and also find the nearest Restaurant ,a Jamaican Place for a jerk chicken dinner.
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Train 618 comes in on time. The crew opens up just one door. Two of us board and we leave on time at 7:30. I now start my long journey home. The other passenger is paying cash and doesn’t have a ticket. He pays $14 for a one-way ticket into Philadelphia, over 50% more compared to the $9.50 price had he paid through the app or otherwise at a station.
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  • 7:35 – Skip Coatesville
  • 7:36 – The ROW gets wide and we bypass Thorndale with low-level platforms that have mini-highs. We also pass a SEPTA train in its yard. We split with the ROW going the other direction and go through a tunnel. Dusk is settling in, I have perfect timing to start my journey.

We reach Downingtown at 7:40 and people get on and off. We speed up.

  • 7:44 – Bypass Whitford

We stop in Exton at 7:45 and quite a few people get on and off.

  • 7:49 – Pass the SEPTA yard and the NJT blown out windows comet.
  • 7:50 – Bypass Malvern, the next stop I’ll bypass on this local trip home I think will be Jersey Avenue.

I get to Paoli at 7:51, 4 minutes early. The train sits in the station until 7:55. I consult the SEPTA timetable, my first of 3 local trains home is at 8:04 and starts in Thorndale so I should have switched in Downingtown and made it the ultimate local train trip.

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The train comes in at 8:05. New Silverliner Vs. I notice the Railfan seat isn’t the usual traped off and try and sit there. The operator immediately opens her cab, says u can’t is there and tapes it off. I wonder what SEPTA’s reasoning is.

  • 8:06 – Dalesord.
  • 8:09 – Berwyn
  • 8:11 – Devon
  • 8:13 – Strafford
  • 8:14 – Wayne, we stop at the two car marker. Historic low-level platforms near the station houses, modern high-level platforms beyond.
  • 8:16 – Saint Davids
  • 8:17 – Radnor
  • 8:19 – Villanova
  • 8:21 – Rosemont
  • 8:23 – Bryn Mawr
  • 8:25 – Haverford
  • 8:27 – Ardmore, “Connections can be made for Amtrak” the automated voice says. We arrive across from a stopped Amtrak train.
  • 8:29 – Wynnewood
  • 8:31 – Narberth. Someone runs, trying to catch the train, and misses it
  • 8:32 – Merion, a couple embraces and has an intimate moment as we enter the station.
  • 8:34 – Overbrook. I hear the traps go up after the doors are closed since were approaching the high-level platforms into Center City.

We speed up and pass the SEPTA Shops. A single track on a bridge joins us, its the Cynwyd Branch.
We pass the art museum at dusk and I have confidence I’m going to make the 8:52 Trenton train with a perfect sorthish connection.
We pass some trains in the yard. Two almost in formation on the tracks and see the facade of 30th Street Station as we enter at 8:40.
I head downstairs and leisurely transfer to track 6.
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We leave at 8:53 and the conductor asks me Where to with my anywhere ticket. I tell him Trenton and zone 7 is punched. It’s Silverliner IIIs and quite dark so I decide to read as we curve out of Philadelphia.

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  • 9:03 – North Philadelphia
  • 9:08 – Bridesburg
  • 9:12 – Tacony
  • 9:15 – Holmsburg Junction
  • 9:18 – Torresdale
  • 9:21 – Cornwells Heights on the night still some cars parked it its numerous parking spaces.
  • 9:23 – Eddington
  • 9:25 – Croydon, the high platform station.
  • 9:29 – Bristol
  • 9:33 – Levittown

The conductor comes through and I ask him if I can keep my ticket. The response is I need it for my cash receipts. I guess in the world of old fashioned SEPTA tickets they actually do something with the pieces of cardboard pre-printed tickets after they are used.
We cross the Delaware at 9:40 as I enjoy the “Trenton Makes the World Takes” Bridge

We briefly stop short and arrive at 9:44 on track 5. This means it’s 15 minutes to get across the station since local trains leave from Track 2 on the opposite island platform. I buy my final and most expensive ticket of the day $15.50, all the way into Penn. It’s too late to save the $2 and deal with PATH. Regional #188 stops, 20 minutes late just before we leave at 10:03, 2 minutes late. This Regional was my Keystone’s New York Connection since it was terminating in Philadelphia. We crawl out of Trenton as my ticket is promptly collected.

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  • 10:10 – Hamilton at a temporary platform. A track is out. I’m always amazed how crowded this line is at all hours.
  • 10:18 – Princeton Junction. Exit only where you see a member of the crew. Bridgeplates to the end doors are in use. The platform is lined with platform conductors guarding their chained entrances.
  • 10:32 – Skip Jersey Avenue, the first stop I’ve bypassed since Malvern on Amtrak
  • 10:35 – Stop at New Brunswick
  • 10:40 – Eidson
  • 10:46 – Metuchen (7 minutes late)
  • 10:51 – Slow and come to a stop briefly for an unannounced reasons. I can only assume its because of late night track work on the NEC.
  • 10:53 – Stop at Metropark
  • 10:59 – Rahway
  • 11:03 – Linden

We come to a stop outside Elizabeth at 11:07, we sit for 4 minutes and then slowly switch tracks entering the station. They announce that passengers will be using low-level platforms and that only one set of doors will be open between cars 2 and 3. “Please exit only where you see a member of the train crew.” We finally arrive at 11:15 as people pour down to the low-level platform area off of the high level platforms. The stop takes a good two minutes and we finally leave at 11:17.

  • 11:18 – Bypass North Elizabeth (the only other stop I’m skipping)
  • 11:23 – Make the Newark Airport Station Stop. The train gets quite crowded (some people doubling-up) with people arriving from late night flights.
  • 11:29 – stop at Downtown Newark Penn Station
  • 11:37 – Cross the portal bridge
  • 11:39 – Secaucus Junction

We finally arrive in New York-Penn Station on Track 2 at 11:48. I walk down the platform a little bit and find a staircase that leads to a location I’m unsure of. The walkway leads up to some doors (after a second staircase from tracks 3 and 4) and up to a corridor with tons of restricted area signs to an entrance marked passenger use during rush hours only on the upper level approaching the Amtrak information booth in the middle of the area.
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I head into the main Departures Concourse and get photos of the departures board. There are trips at every hour of the night because of the Northeast Regional Night Owl 66/67. The Northeast Corridor Line has a 3 hour gab in service between 1:22 and 4:17 (at least its only 17 minutes after New York’s last call at 4:00am). I wait a minute for the 11:52 Northeast Corridor Line train to depart to get a decent photo of 66/67 on the same panel of the Departures Board.
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I head towards the subway. I know its late enough that the A is running local and as I approach the staircase directly up to the local platform I see the rear lights of a R46 leaving the station.

I debate taking the 1 train (since I can’t remember if the A train is getting late night shuttle trains north of 168 Street) but luckily the monitor that says construction tells me Shuttle buses are replacing 1 trains north of 137 Street. I swipe in. Soon a garbage train comes through powered by two Redbirds and two R32s. The middle platform is relatively crowded even though there isn’t any service there. There are also no E trains in Manhattan until 74 Street-Broadway because of FasTrack along the Queens Blvd Line.

At Midnight there is an amusing announcement: “Ladies and Gentleman the time is now 12 Midnight. Because of FasTracks Construction there are no E trains at this station for service to Queens take the A train to 42 Street and transfer to the 7 or N trains to Queensboro Plaza of 74 Street-Broadway. To the young couples having intimate moments on the middle express platform there is no service currently there all A train service is only stopping on the local platforms.” This pretty much gets everyone to leave the express platform. I can’t believe the MTA would make an announcement like this!

At 12:09am my A train home finally arrives. I decide to write down each stop to make this local trains home from Paoli (and Parkesburg), complete

  • 12:11am – 42 Street
  • 12:14am – 50 Street
  • 12:16am – 59 Street/Columbus Circle
  • 12:18am – 72 Street
  • 12:20am – 81 Street
  • 12:21am – 86 Street
  • 12:22am – 96 Street
  • 12:24am – 103 Street
  • 12:25am – 110 Street-Cathedral Parkway
  • 12:26am – 116 Street
  • 12:28am – We arrive in 125 Street and wait to connect with a D train across the platform
  • 12:31am – 135 Street
  • 12:33am – 145 Street
  • 12:35am – 155 Street
  • 12:36am – 163 Street-Amsterdam Avenue
  • 12:38am – 168 Street
  • 12:40am – 175 Street

I’m home at 181 Street at 12:42am and home at 12:46am

It’s been just over a 5 hour trip coming home from Parkesburg (where I left at 7:30).

I’ll conclude: had I paid the $55 for an Amtrak ticket all the way to Penn Station, with connecting Northeast Regional #188 lateness I would have gotten into Penn Station at 10:54, less than an hour before my local trains, a trip that only cost me $30.50 total home.

A Tiring, 2 Hour Late Crescent Ride Home

This Post is Part of my Finally the Piedmont Trip

The trip home from Charlotte took a bit of thought. When I was planning this trip alone, my plan was to spend my last night in North Carolina in Raleigh. Then take the Silver Star to Rocky Mount to the Carolinian to Peterborough, a city express bus up to Richmond and the North Regional Night Owl from Richmond-Main Street to D.C. probably for an overnight layover. Sadly, since I was using a companion coupon we couldn’t make any stopovers and the return would have to start in Charlotte to maximize the value of the Companion Coupon. The choices were saving a hotel night and taking the 1:45am to 1:45pm (exactly 12 hours scheduled) Crescent or thirteen hours on the 7:00am Carolinian stuck on Amfleet Is. We decided to go with the Crescent for new trackage, the more comfortable ride and saving a hotel night. When I booked a week before the Crescent was also cheaper ($160 versus the anytime ticket rate of over $200 for the Carolinian).

We spent our final full day in Charlotte, doing LYNX with a points run to my final 2 stops on the Piedmont thrown in, keeping an eye on the Crescent. It was within minutes of being on time until Atlanta when things fell apart and we knew the train would be between an hour and two hours late.

Midnight came to us eating and killing time in a pizza joint. Around 12:45am we realize we’ve had enough of the pizza joint (full of midnight snacking drunks) and just head up to the station to sit and wait there. The bus does run late and perhaps we should have paid the $2.20 fare (our day passes unforchunately expired at 11:59pm) and not walked the mile and a half. The walk up through the industrial area to the station was one where we didn’t feel like we were about to get shot but did have to say no sternly to some aggressive panhandlers along the sidewalk. It’s not a walk I would really recommend late at night. We were happy to get to the bright station around 1:00am and plop ourselves down on one of the not too comfortable wooden benches and try and suppress dozing off which was extremely difficult. It unfortunately didn’t seem kosher to lie down

At 2:35am the conductors come to scan our tickets while we sit in the station. Everyone tries to form a line and they scream at us to sit down, the train isn’t hear yet.
At 3:03am we hear the woosh of an entering train and there is jostling to form a line. I assume seat assignments will be handed out and am not too worried. We end up joining the back of it out of boredom, nothing else.
A few disembarking passengers get off the train with some jubilant hugs of arrival.
At 3:15 the Southbound Crescent arrives. The station staff announce we can’t board yet because of engine trouble but want anyone going south to board. Just a few people walk up.
It’s soon our turn and we slowly head up the tunnel towards the platform. It’s another inefficient North Carolina boarding process with one door open and a ridiculous 3 crew members. The two conductors are on the platform helping everyone hoist themselves up the steps while the car attendant is in the vestibule asking “Destination and how many?” We decline help but as two experienced Amtrak long-distance coach travelers it’s very satisfying to say “Two for New York” and get assigned a row and not have a stranger to sleep next two.

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It takes half an hour to really move out of the station and I’m completely zoned out, trying to doze off, not recording the time whenever we do. The app says 3:42 is when we finally leave.

Wake up briefly in Salisbury 4:42

At 5:29 I wake up to High Point in the trench. I think for nobody. I enter new trackage as industry follows us around the triad.

  • 5:39 – See some trees in the dawn light
  • 5:40 – Some industry
  • 5:42 – An intermodal yard
  • 5:43 – The Geeensboro Freight yard. We pass the warehouses and I feel us switch off the Piedmont Corridor and onto the separate platform for the Crescent.

We arrive at 5:47 and there is a long line of boarding passengers with one door in use and the confusion of seats. We leave at 5:53. The car getting woken up by all the boarding passengers.
Leaving Greensboro takes awhile were our of town at 5:59 and in what else but trees

  • 6:00  – Civilization stays with us as we leave Greensboro.
  • 6:06 – A silhouette of a barn and cows in the dawn as we come to a grade crossing and slow down in Brown’s Summit
  • 6:13 – The foliage of the trees is dense we pass a warehouse.
  • 6:42 – In the trees

I doze off again and wake up as we pull into a historic station house with two levels in Danville, Virginia. We arrive at 6:57 pull up beyond the station and back up a little bit like we’ve overshot the platform. We leave at 7:01 to the attendant helping to walk a woman and her luggage beyond the train. We then cross a river and leave Danville, the city looks large but the railroad line through it seems well protected by trees. This “bonus” scenery for lateness isn’t all that interesting, just hills and trees.

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At 7:07 we get our first announcement saying “We have left Danville (Georgia) and the next stop will be Charlottesville, Virigina.” the lights come on. The conductor soon gets on to correct herself to Danville, Virginia

  • 7:17 – The view is just trees, they break for a tiny town, Dry Fork
  • 7:24 – Trees break for the historic depot in Chatham and back to trees
  • 7:30 – A neat old farmhouse
  • 7:34 – Some fields and Gretna, a small town
  • 7:41 – We follow a highway between the trees
  • 7:43 – We pass a stopped NS Freight
  • 7:46 – Pass a giant smoke stack in the middle of a field. The conductor pages someone. We cross the Stanton River on a high bridge and then a depot in Alta Vista
  • 8:05 – We go through trees leisurely approaching Lynchburg
  • 8:09 – Go under a highway and pass Liberty University as some other buildings. There is a campus expansion plan.
  • 8:13 – Pass Lynchburg fabrication and go over another railroad line. I’ve asked the conductor if Lynchburg or Charlottesville will be the fresh air stop. And am told neither, because were so late the next stop will be Washington, DC.

At 8:16 we arrive in Lynchburg. There is a nice historic depot at the rear of the station with a new siding track that becomes an island platform extending out to our coach. The attendant walks two people up to our seats. It’s a very quick stop, we leave at 8:18. Only a few people get on. I assume most intermediate travels now ride the Lynchburger. It has left on time nearly an hour earlier. There a few more tracks and I notice a service door for I assume plugging in the P42 of the Lynchburger Northeast Regional overnight. It’s a very slow departure from Lynchburg. Were in a trench.

  • 8:23 – Enter a genuine tunnel and into a rock cut.
  • 8:25 – We come out of the tunnel and go over the James River on a series of two high bridges, we’re in a hilly area.
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  • 8:34 – Pass trees and cows. For the first time on this trip, in rural areas, cell service comes and goes.
  • 8:46 – Over the Buffalo River on a high bridge. The terrain is more hilly through Appalachia.
  • 8:58 – Go through hilly farm fields, there is barely any cell phone reception in the remote areas
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  • 9:14 – Pass Covesville a few houses to one side of the train.
  • 9:26 – 3 to 4 minutes to Charlottesville were in the trees.
  • 9:29 – See the houses of Charlottesville as we enter. Pass a bunch of wooden railway ties.
  • 9:32 – Pass a former freight platform

At 9:33 we enter the Charlottesville Crescent/Regional Platform with a gate. We are getting a crew change here. I think we could have stepped off had we been in the front of the line of people getting off. We’re stopped way beyond the station. We leave at 9:39, a relatively quick stop. It’s my final stretch of new track. There is a new stretch of track.

  • 9:43 – Were back in the woods very quickly
  • 9:49 – See some houses on the outskirts of Charlotte. Then were back in the trees.
  • 9:53 – A wetland and more tree
  • 9:59 – A lumber mill and some old looking houses Barbarousville, my last new town of the trip. There are the remains of extra rails.
  • 10:06 – The conductor is coming through asking for people making NEC Connections that will be redirected. Some are being told to switch in DC instead.
  • 10:10 – Slow down as we approach the town of Orange to join the end of the Buckingham Branch short line used
  • 10:12 – The Buckingham Branch used by the Cardinal to get up from Charlottesville on its different route after crossing us in Charlottesville joins us. We then pass a historic depot.
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  • 10:14 – Were late enough to get snack lacks distributed. Their smaller than before. A Knotts Berry Farm Cookie, off brand goldfish and almonds. No fake cheese spread.

We arrive to Culpeper’s Historic brick depot at 10:34 for a quick stop

  • 10:46 – Cross a river with an abandoned adjacent bridge
  • 11:06 – I doze off again and am awakened by the announcement for the next stop Mannasas.

We slow down and pass a water tower for Manassas as we enter. The station house is now a visitors center. It’s a quick stop at 11:10

  • 11:11 – We slowly leave Manassas
  • 11:16 – Pass Manassas Park, a simple side platform with a quite full parking lot.
  • 11:22 – Pass a red caboose
  • 11:29 – pass Burke Center that has a large parking garage
  • 11:31 – Rolling Road, a simple VRE Platform
  • 11:33 – Over Lake Accitonake
  • 11:36 – Backlick Road, another simple single VRE platform
  • 11:39 – Pass the Cardinal, it has two Viewliner Sleepers (a rarity, normally it just runs one mostly filled with crew)
  • 11:42 – We pass the WAMTA yards and slowly approach the CSX Line to Richmond and the southbound Carolinian passes as we switch back onto the same trackage.
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We arrive in Alexandria at 11:45. I think a few people are boarding, although the timetable says the station is discharge only. We pass King Street Metro again. We leave Alexandria getting the announcement for DC. There is a couple behind us trying to go Buffalo (on the Lake Shore) I hear the conductor calling for them. His original plan is to put them on 176 (The Lynchburger) to make the Lake Shore. He’s doing a very good job helping, there going to miss it by minutes.

  • 11:58 – Cross the Potomac and the DC highways. Pass L’Efant Plaza
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  • 12:02 – Slowly go under the tunnel into Washington

We arrive into Washington, DC at 12:05 as the Lynchburger pulls out. It’s are first fresh air stop of the day, the P42 is replaced by a run of the mill AEM7. They make us reboard early at 12:25 and then I hear something about a wheelchair.
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At 12:28 we finally slowly leave and pass a patio with people having lunch on an outdoor roof deck of a building.
They announce 1:00 dinner reservations for lunch. I don’t think the crew asked the coaches if they desired to eat. It’s time to doze off up the NEC after forcing myself awake at 6:00am to enjoy the bonus late scenery which really wasn’t worth it at all. I won’t bother to wake up early the next time I ride the Crescent northbound.
12:42 – We go very slowly past the Metro Yard, clearly out of slot
1:01 – Wake up as we pass West Baltimore and enter the Penn Tunnels.
We arrive in Baltimore that is full of Marc trains at 1:08. We slowly leave at 1:10 and then stop again. A double spot for baggage? We leave at 1:12. It’s the slightly scenic ride along the Chesapeake Bay Estuary as we head north of Baltimore crossing the various bodies of water.

We arrive in Wilmington at 2:03 and with baggage finally leave. Our conductor tries to make a funny announcement about going home and relaxing, unfortunately our PA has a bad buzzing malfunction.

I see the University City SEPTA Station on the line up to the upper level of Philadelphia-30th Street Station as we enter. We arrive at 2:30 even to a platform full of people on track 3. The conductor is making too much chatter including “Where you can get the best cheesecakes in the world” The Acela is also going northbound and we let it leave first. Long Distance trains are low-priority. We finally leave at 2:38.

I sleep nearly the entire way to Trenton, where we arrive at 3:10, a baby behind us is crying (they slept the entire way from Greensboro to Washington and have been quite quiet). An NJT Trenton local is leaving. We leave at the same time at 3:12.
I read some more and take another cat nap waking up in the Elizabeth
3:43 – skipping Newark Airport there are two airport monorails stopped not in stations. Our car isn’t exactly empty, a lot of the train seems to be going all the way to New York
We arrive in Newark-Penn at 3:48 without an announcement as the southbound Silver Meteor is heading south down to Miami. We leave at 3:53 as the conductor announces New York Penn Station in 25 minutes. Normally it’s 15.
We leave, passing the reverse-peak North Jersey Coast Line train to Hoboken, it looks empty.

  • 3:59 – Stop in the Meadowlands, were the lowest priority slot.
  • 4:04 – Skip Secaucus
  • 4:06 – Zoom into the North River Tunnels
  • 4:11 – As expected we stop short of the station, waiting for a platform.

We arrive in New York-Penn on track 10 at 4:16. We make a quick ClubAcela stop for the clean restrooms. I then have a subway ride home totally exhausted. Nearly falling asleep.

Luckily its already 4:00 in the afternoon so I don’t waste an entire day tired and its the end of a trip so I can just zone out. I also have no evening obligations. I think I’m turning into an old man and really feel like I only want sleepers now on overnight journeys.

Conclusion:
I’ve now finally ridden every different type of equipment Amtrak operates! North Carolina has done a good job at building a local train route using low-cost high quality equipment. The Vending Machine Lounge Car I think is a good compromise to still have some food service but as a way to avoid paying a full time employee. When the route first started they had a dome lounge for a few years that was staffed by a catering company (that obviously didn’t make any money). I’m also down to only three Amtrak routes I haven’t ridden: The Silver Star and Meteor, plus the Blue Water.

The CATS LYNX and a Piedmont Points Run to Salisbury and Kannapolis (Delayed on the Return into Charlotte by NS Freight)

This Post is Part of my Finally the Piedmont Trip

We sleep in a bit in the Quality. Enjoy an included overly processed breakfast (there were some of the most disgusting rubbery eggs I’ve ever witnessed). We make the 9:45 bus on its circular route back to the end of the Lynx Light rail at I-475. The stop is simple, no sidewalk, we wait on the grass with a trash can but luckily a small schedule (albeit with the next time point on the post)Boarding the bus we dip the day passes we pre-purchased the day before when we got off the Charlotte Transportation Center (that can only be activated on buses not at light rail TVMs that only sell previously activated day passes) and their stamped with an 11:59pm expiration time.

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The bus gets us to the light rail at 9:55, the driver saying “See you tomorrow” to the dozen people getting off. This circular bus route provides a vital service getting workers to the low-income service sector jobs on the suburban fringe.

We spend the morning starting my station-to-station of the LYNX Light Rail, doing the southern half. It’s your basic modern light rail line with midday service every 15 minutes. We start by heading up to Arrowood, double-back to Sharon Road West, continue up to Archdale where passing trains mean we have to spend 15 minutes, go up to Woodlawn where a crew arrives to empty the TVMs of fares while were there. The destinations signs of the LRVs all say Welcome A.K.A 66, we have no idea what this means (what is also-known-as 66?) It turns out its because of the Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority Leadership Convention going on.

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Midday, I have a Piedmont points run/finishing the route trip booked up to Salisbury and back from Kannapolis. We make sure were downtown by 11:15 and get off at 7th Street to walk out to Tryon Street where we wait maybe 5 minutes for the next Route 11 Bus out to the Amtrak Station.

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It’s a quick, under 10 minute ride and we don’t have to cross the street so we get off in front of the driveways into the station. Were back at the Amtrak Station at 11:30.

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At 11:40 a line forms, their scanning in the station at the door to the tunnel out to the ramps up to the platform. We soon board go out through the tunnel. I grab some more platform photos, including our locomotive, F59PHI #1755, fittingly “The City of Salisbury.” I board towards the end of the long, slow line. The crew is only using one door and everyone seems to need help getting up the steps. We are back in the Grey Squirrel, the same car I rode yesterday morning. This is the car I rode yesterday morning with loads of legroom. We end up moving to a conference table in the former “smoking section.”

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I grab some more Lounge Car photos of the vending machines before we leave, I’m sort of fascinated by this amenity and wonder if Amtrak should take out a couple of seats in all of the Ex-Metroliner Cab Cars and install machines for the foodless Keystone and Shuttle Trains. Don’t know how to take care of the food-less Empire Service Trains. These trains still operate with a Cafe car (and trainsets are shared with the two daily extended to Niagara Falls Empire Service Trains and the Ethan Allen Express).

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We leave promptly at Noon, passing a protect engine, the City of Burlington that was on the back of #73 yesterday, sitting in a small yard north of the station. The conductor comes back for seat checks, remembering us going to Salisbury.

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  • 12:05 – I feel like we’re already in the country passing a diary, some construction.
  • 12:07 – Take that back, pass Belle Haven a new subdivision.
  • 12:09 – Going fast enough to beat the traffic on University City Blvd.
  • 12:10 – See some track workers but no delays through the trees
  • 12:14 – Pass a freight train on a siding and are back in the trees, I need to come down here in winter.
  • 12:20 – Pass the antique and auto design mall.
  • 12:23 – The announcement for Kannapolis as I see a church.

We arrive in Kannapolis at its fenced off platform at 12:25, the one intermediate stop on today’s quick out and back. We leave at 12:27, a bunch of NC Rail employees who have gotten on in Kannapolis file by to the lounge car. We pass houses and leave town following North Main Street by Brothers auto sales and churches.

  • 12:33 – It flows into China Grove. I realize we’re following a Main Street that are minibus will take back.
  • 12:41 – Get the announcement for Salisbury, were a few minutes late.
  • 12:44 – We stop just before the station, track work. The conductors don’t know why. It turns out there is protection for grade crossing and track work, we soon pass the track gang.

Were on the track opposite the platform that doesn’t platform. We slowly pull beyond the station to the grade-crossing and are let off there to avoid walking on the ballast. The crew lowers a silver (not yellow stool). We arrive at 12:41, and walk down the ballast to the fenced off platform. There is a women with a walker getting off with us. The NC Station host has luckily walked up to the train with the wheelchair that lives next to the ADA ramp. I see him help her and (I assume a son) to the station and later into a taxi.

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I do my photo essay of the historic station, unfortunately the main waiting room is now an event space. Amtrak has a small area in a former I assume Railway Express Area. Then we need to find our Rowan Express minibus to take us down to Kannapolis. The NC Station host tells me he doesn’t know where it is.

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We check the bus loop for local buses that is across the street and just south of the station and find the stop. We board our minibus 7 minutes early pay our dollar fare into a tiny fare box and leave at 1:19, on time. Each set of seats has someone in them. We pull through a quite vibrant small town Main Street and take it following the train tracks. Passing a cemetery I see my name, Cox on a gravestone.

  • 1:32 – Go over embankments up to a new overpass with just the concrete supports under construction over the railroad line.
  • 1:38 – We enter China Grove (the one town in between) and I hear on the radio that someone has called who is looking for the bus. We stop in China Grove for three more.
  • 1:43 – Pull into the Food Lion.
  • 1:47 – We flow into Landis there is a green sign along the tracks.
  • 1:50 – Leave Landis and follow the track again.
  • 1:51 – Come into Kannapolis.

We walk into the station and check in with a wizened station agent who immediately goes bask to watching Matlock re-runs on television in her little office. Her attitude is “How Dare You Disturb Me”. I head outside to get my photo essay and have a bad moment when I’m on the other side of the tracks as a freight train slowly rolls through and hope I get back to the station in time. The NC Station Host eventually goes out to unlock it as we wait for our train that has gotten delayed going through the track work.

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The agent lets us out just before the train arrives and I actually get a decent photo of it entering the station.

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We finally leave at 2:40. We’re directed to board Scotch Bonnet, the intermediate car, the same car we rode on this same train yesterday.

At 2:50 we slow down and come to a stop outside Charlotte. We’re waiting for a passing freight, 15 miles from the Charlotte Amtrak Station. The engineer has left the locomotive while we wait and passing us asks if we got his good side.

  • 3:17 – Still waiting, the NS dispatchers didn’t advise us when the freight train would actually pass. I feel like we’re waiting to come into Chicago.
  • 3:22 – We start moving again, passing the freight train culprit
  • 3:27 – Come to a stop again, so much for making it to the trolley museum. We’re then informed were waiting on a second train.
  • 3:36 – We start moving, jolting ahead again. Passing a very short freight train with lumber.
  • 3:44 – Pass more industry,
  • 3:46 – Farmland again
  • 3:47 – Pass a road as we keep entering. Then it’s over I-475, Chatolttes beltway road
  • 3:52 – Newell Crossing, a subdivision with a clock tower at the entrance. Then follow construction
  • 3:50 – We follow roads into town
  • 3:54 – Pass another freight as we enter
  • 3:58 – Keep entering, slowing down.
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  • 4:00 – Pass freight cars, see the protect locomotive and enter. We stop on the opposite track.

We arrive at 4:01, over an hour late. Getting off the train takes forever since the crew has only opened up one door and everyone seems to need help getting their luggage down the steps and off the train.
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We then head back into the tunnel and into the station. We pass this sign at the edge of the parking lot about the safest thing you can do at this point is enter Tryon Street Safely. We debate jaywalking (the bus stop across from the station is fairly crowded) but decide to walk the third of a mile back to the nearest stoplight getting the 22 bus turning the corner. It’s packed and we take it for a short ride down to 8th street.
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We get off there to walk over to 9th Street and photograph the former northern terminus of the Charlotte Trolley that ran on and off first before LYNX was concieved, was suspended during construction and resumed weekend service sharing the tracks with LYNX before being suspended for good in 2010.
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We then walk down to LYNX Light Rail at 7th Street and begin finishing the system by walking through downtown. There is a path that follows a good portion of the route and we take this down through the Charlotte Transportation Center Station and to 3rd Street Convention Center.
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We take regular streets around to Stonewall and then have an awful walk on a different bridge over I-277 to Carson, road a rush-hour crowded (standing room only, hard to board, LYNX needs more frequent rush hour service than every ten minutes) one-stop to Bland, walked to East/West, took the train back to Tyvola that we didn’t spend enough time at before. Then we went back to New Burn before doubling-back to Scalleybook to end the trip.

We went back downtown and found a Starbucks to get some work done, unforchunately it closed at 8:00.

Next we went and had a leisurely dinner, short-of killing time since we had nowhere to go before our scheduled 1:46am Crescent departure to return to New York. We soon learned it had lost an hour leaving Atlanta.

From about 10:30 to 11:30 we decided to kill another hour with a late night LYNX Ride, the ride southbound is crowded (were happy we boarded at the northbound terminus at 7th Street) with people coming back from a Charlotte Knights AAA Baseball game and Seriority sisters attending their convention. We get off at Sharon Road West and skip another visit to I-485/South Boulevard.
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We take the train back to Convention Center (I want night photos of the unique design).

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We start walking towards the Amtrak station and find a pizza shop for a midnight snack (were sitting inside at midnight) and to bide more time.

The Research Triangle via the Piedmont Triad (including the NC Amtrak Connector Bus) to Charlotte

This Post is Part of my Finally the Piedmont Trip

Introduction:

The morning I spent on the first Peidmont of the day going from Raleigh to Burlington and doubling back to Durham. The plan for the afternoon is to take the midday Piedmont to Greensboro, use buses to High Point and continue on the evening Carolinian to Charlotte for the night. While I was looking at booking options I discovered that the Winston-Salem Connector (a bus connection from Winston-Salem to High Point) that could be added on to our two other segments at no extra charge, and as a 6000 series Amtrak Throughway Connection should be eligible for Amtrak points. The throughway connection requires paper tickets and I book us together on one paid reservation. Yesterday when we arrived in Cary I printed the tickets at a Quik-Trak Machine (since I then knew I would definitely be boarding in Durham). The throughway tickets came out as this (with a $0.00 ticket value), along with regular paper value tickets for our Raleigh to Greensboro and High Point to Charlotte Segments. I like the way the receipts look but I definitely don’t miss having to worry about losing my tickets:

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The fine print saying it’s a worthless ticket:
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We still decided to take the bus out to Winston-Salem and see what the bus driver would say (and made sure we had a $5 bill to pay the cash fare, worth it to not deal with dimes and nickels for the awkward 40¢ of the uneven fare)

I go back to the Durham Station about 5 minutes before the afternoon Charlotte-bound Piedmont Train #75 is due. It arrives on time.

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I board the Scotch Bonnet and sit down next to my travel companion. He tells me tickets were scanned in the Raleigh Station before boarding, I came up on the eTicket when scanned and sure enough soon the conductor comes and says “You must be the friend who got on in Durham.” The seat pitch is normal narrow, Regional-like pitch. The Black Squirrel must be an anomaly. There is also the normal band of outlets beneath the windows that are more normal. They’re not the sets of 4 in the floor. The train leaves on time. We soon head back to the Core Sound Baggage/Lounge/Vending Machine Car. Notice how the Piedmont Vending Machines serve both Coke and Pepsi (it’s the only place on Amtrak other than the VIA-operated cafe car of the Maple Leaf when its in Canada that offers Coke, the cans are also only a dollar instead of $2.25 the cafe cars charge.

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  • 12:27 – Pass an NS Locomotive waiting on a siding to pass us. We hit a few trees. We get welcomed aboard (Robert tells me for the third time) on the track to Burlington.
  • 12:43 –  Zoom through Mebrane, why isn’t there a station there?
  • 12:50 – Go over the Haw River, the one real scenic site and I’ve forgotten to photograph it both times I’ve passed over today.

I arrive in Burlington again at 12:53 and I use the stop to photograph the vending machines. We leave at 12:55. The one woman boarding walks back with the conductor to do a cash on board.

  • 12:59 – Pass a fire department and are in Elon, quite a large town that could use a station with plenty of houses. We sit at a two person table in the baggage/vending machines car.
  • 1:03 – Pass a red caboose in Gibsonville. We’re surprised at what good speed were making on the freight line.
  • 1:06 – Past some woods with logging.
  • 1:11 – Under a highway and past some fields.
  • 1:14 – Get the announcement for Greensboro as we enter passing East Lake Park. We see downtown.

We arrive in Greensboro at 1:16 to a restricted access island platform on a bit of an embankment with a separate platform just north and at a different angle of ours for the Crescent. I go up and get a photo of the locomotive. My hope is to loiter on the platform to get the Eastbound Piedmont #74 due at 1:34 but its running 25 minutes late and realize that much time is definitely pressing my luck. I get a fairly comprehensive photo essay of the restricted access platform.

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Then I head into the pedestrian tunnel that leads into the station,

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Then into the historic main waiting room with restored mural of the Southern Railway System, another spectacular North Carolina’s Amtrak Station. I’m a fan (of the two sets) of phone booths with Cell Phone booths. I assume the waiting room previously had a wall down the middle of it, since their two sets of restored phone booths and space for two separate sets of restrooms at each end of the waiting room.

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Heading outside:

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We’ve find a nearby grade-crossing, just beyond the station.

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There is also a bridge farther beyond and we decide to check that out, I assume this Piedmont is still running with two locomotives since its the same consist that brought us over. We get to the bridge (that isn’t a great shot) and the train comes immediately. We wish we had stayed at the grade crossing.

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We both need some internet time and find a nice nearby cafe. Greensboro feels like a real happening place with plenty of people out in downtown. We head back to the Greensboro Station and head upstairs to the GTA bus hub, I think in former freight buildings for the bus to Winston-Salem. I assume the buses have taken over former sidings.

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PART Bus Route 2 arrives at 2:55. We pay the awkward $2.40 fare and take our transfers from the operator that have been pre-printed for faster boarding. It’s a Suburban Orien V Next Generation, the Greensboro Express from here to the PART Hub where the triad buses all connect (basically everyone makes one transfer) we head out of town past houses. Were on I-40 at 3:08. Were on the freeway for one exit to the Four Seasons mall. The only intermediate stop. Then were back on I-40. Were the first bus to arrive ten minutes early to the PART Hub. A few minibuses on shuttle routes are already there. The PART Hub is a modern transit center with a central loop canopy and small waiting room with an office in the middle of nowhere.

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PART Route 1 to Winston-Salem shows up a few minutes before 3:30 and we board swiping our transfers (not dipping), the driver has a bag at the ready to throw them away. We get on I-40 and switch to Buissiness 40 that is an enter throughway freeway spur that goes via downtown instead of around it. The ride is through trees.  We eventually get off the highway and stay on Business 40. We arrive in Winston-Salem to its large transit hub a little before 4 o’clock and immediately notice the fact WSTA (the Winston-Salem Transit Authority) is using RTSs with and older blue livery along with new

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We go and find a good crab shack for a late lunch/early dinner, I have a disgustingly delicious Fried Oyster Sandwich. We then head back to the bus hub. I stop and show our Amtrak tickets to a WSTA agent in the station who simply says Bus Bay 3, nothing about having $2.40 ready to pay our bus fare.

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The Winston-Salem Connector comes in, a normal PART Suburban Transit bus, a Gilling. around 5:05 and we board. I make a point of flashing my ticket, (pretending to think this ticket will cover my trip) to the driver. He simply says “The ticket only exists so you can read the fine print, the fare is $2.40″ We end up paying our fare with a five dollar bill. $2.40 is such an awkward amount.

The bus leaves and its non-stop trip via the freeways to the edge of High Point. The schedule lists the empty North High Point Park & Ride Lot as a stop but we don’t bother pulling in. One women gets off at the High Point Regional Medical Center, the other people are like us, connecting to trains (since the 3 daily trains, the 2 Piedmonts and the Carolinian are scheduled to meet each other between High Point and Greensboro one NC Connector Bus can serve trains in both directions).

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We get to High Point and are immediately greeted by an NC Station Host, barking at us that he needs to see our tickets. We dig them out of our bags and show them to him. The High Point Station is located in a trench below grade. The host is in charge of unlocking the gate and elevator down to the island platform below with only ticketed passengers allowed down to the platform. He also warns us that the Carolinian is running an hour late, we of course already know this.

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We photograph the Evening northeast-bound Piedmont from a nearby overpass

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We also take a walk through downtown High Point. This is the deadest downtown I’ve been to in a long time. There is nearly no traffic and absolutely nothing going on. We only notice one open restaurant and way too many furniture stores. There is also bunting for worldwide countries all around. We also walk by a huge convention center and figure out the city is dead except for two weeks a year, each week of the semi-annual Furnature Exposition and Market.

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Around 7:45 the gate is unlocked and I head down to the platform. Soon the station attendant announces that the Carolinian will soon arrive and for ticket passengers only to proceed down to the platform.

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The Carolinian pulls in at 7:50. Unloading takes awhile because of a women with a walker needing help getting of the train and the crew of course only opening a few doors so we can’t get on while she gets off. The people picking her up have clearly ignored the “Ticketed passengers on the platform only” announcement. They are providing vital help to her and her travel companion with their luggage. She’s clearly a frequent traveler in High Point and I also hear her say “Oh good, they let you down onto the platform.” It feels like the times I’ve snuck down to the platforms in Penn Station to put my grandmother on her Empire Service Trains back to Syracuse. The last time the conductor saw me and winked.

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The Carolinian Leaves at 7:53 from High Point. We immediately pass a freight train into the evening light. The trench soon ends and we reach another grade-crossing making good speed. Then it’s off into the trees. We have a headphone leaker ahead of us.

  • 8:00 – Go through the next town. There is a caboose and depot turned visitors center we pass yet another freight train making good speed on fast track.
  • 8:03 – Reach another forest of trees.
  • 8:05 – Pass some earthmoved dirt. Then a nice farmhouse.
  • 8:07 – Switch into a left hand track.
  • 8:11 – Go through Lexington quickly, then back to trees.
  • 8:16 – See a stream veer off slog the line.
  • 8:19 – We follow a road as the sun sets on the trees.
  • 8:22 – Start seeing houses as we come into Spencer. I see the spur that leads into North Carolina Railway Museum. We then reach a large freight yard.
  • 8:24 – We get the announcement for Salisbury as we take some switches hard. I see a former freight platform, a cemetery and some diverging tracks.

We Arrive in Salisbury at 8:25 to a fenced off access controlled platform. Everyone is waiting beyond the fence. I’m happy I’ve planned this trip getting on and off a train at each stop. Tomorrow will be a quick round-trip. There is a grade crossing just south of the station’s platform. The sun continues setting. We get the cafe will be closing in 10 minutes after leaving Kannapolis.

  • 8:34 – The trees in dusk and towns simply seem to flow into each other
  • 8:35 – China Grove with a water tower and buildings flowing into each other.
  • 8:39 – Landis and mounts of dirt and removed trees. I think his is where a new track is getting added.
  • 8:41 – Make good speed past modular homes and over bridges. See a former freight house and slow down. another fenced off platform. I see bus stops. Another neat brick depot.

We stop at 8:41 in Kannapolis for a bunch of discharging passengers. There a few teenagers and the conductor says “You all have people to pick you up. We leave at 8:44 from the fenced off platform with potted plants at each end. I see the fence controlling agent.

  • 8:48 – A wide double-laned freeway.
  • 8:50 – See some refrigerator cars in the dusk.
  • 8:52 – Slow down in the dusk. We take a track that feels like jointed rail.
  • 8:58 – Pass warehouses
  • 9:05 – Follow a road with houses clearly off in the distance; were in the suburbs.
  • 9:09 – We see cars and approach Charlotte

We arrive in Charlotte at 9:12, exactly an hour late. I stop to take a photo of the Charlotte skyline south of the 1960s train station in an industrial area on the edge of a train yard and get a beep from a baggage cart. She says “Your Fine [Taking Photos] Just didn’t want  to run you over”

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Then its down a ramp and into a tunnel to leave the platform

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We need the city bus to take us downtown. It stops just beyond the station parking lot, along the access road at Tyron Street. Unforchunately, the busy Amtrak station has no traffic light and running across busy Tyron Street doesn’t feel safe. This means we walk to a third of a mile down to the nearest traffic light at Dalton Avenue. We at least catch Bus Route 22 as it turns the corner instead of waiting for route 11 (even at this hour there is good, frequent service every 15 minutes).

We head downtown to the min Transit Center a large covered bus loop in downtown. The hotel were staying in is a Quality Suites out in the suburbs beyond the southern end of the LYNX Light Rail. There was nothing reasonable available downtown, it turns out a sorority convention is going on, with the light rail car destination signs welcoming the group.

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We get on the LYNX Light Rail which is your standard light rail line except entirely along its own ROW with no street running (or median running) and all grade-crossings have gates. Portions of the line through downtown are also grade-separated. The frequency is every 20 minutes at this hour. The train leaves on time at 10:02, two couples (both women extremely drunk) start trying to talk to us, their suburbanites who discuss how they rarely ride the light rail. We reach the southern terminus at 10:25.

Were a bit hungry and although we can catch the 10:30 Route 58 bus to our hotel we realize its best to head across the parking lots by the station to the nearby 24 hour Steak-n-Skake for a late night snack. We have a moment when the service is slowly and think we might be walking the 1.8 miles to our hotel. Luckily our food comes at 10:55, we quickly eat.

We make the last Route 58 bus at 11:10 on the freeway for one exit. The route is basically a giant loop and were at near the end of it. We finally arrive at the much less nice Quality Suites with No Vacancy  signs on the doors at 11:30 and promptly pass out in our large (with a mini-fridge, microwave, and couch) room after an extremely long day.

My First Piedmont Ride to Burlington – Delayed due to signal trouble – to the small windowed Carolinian back to Durham – Delayed due to a Suspicious Package

This Post is Part of my Finally the Piedmont Trip

The fact the Carolinian was over an hour late and yesterday’s thunderstorm means I’m up early for another early start. The reason is to get Burlington, the one station on the Piedmont Line without any public transportation access that doesn’t seem worth spending a full four hour layover in. I also need to double back and get Durham (midday Triangle Transit bus service makes it impossible to get back to Cary during my layover). Last night, as I booked by ticket I’m in for a bit of a shock (I would have gone out to Burlington yesterday for an hour had the Carolinian been on time). I don’t realize that North Carolina has a raising prices for last minute tickets policy. My ticket from Raleigh to Burlington costs $12.50 instead of $9 if I had booked it the day before. My return to get Durham is $7.50 instead of $5.50. That’s over a $5 difference for such a short trip.

Its another early wake-up call of 5:20. I yet again wake myself up just before my alarm. I’m in the breakfast area of the Hampton Inn at 5:50 waiting for them to open the doors into breakfast. They do, 5 minutes late (6:05) and I’m eating my waffle.

I leave the hotel and start walking towards the train station. I see my Piedmont train leaving the yard and slowly crossing a grade crossing ahead. It has locomotives at both ends so I assume it’s in pull-pull mode. I get some photos and all of a sudden the train stops. The back blocking the crossing gates still down. (I’ll admit I go around them, not wanting to miss it).

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I walk down to the Raleigh Station, getting there at 6:40, 5 minutes before departure. No sign of the train. They announce that it’s delayed coming out of the yard because NS is having trouble with its signals and no further information.

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I go and print out a paper copy of my ticket. The Raleigh Station has a tiny first class lounge I’m eligible for access to. I decide I might as well check it out as were late. I show my Select+ Plus card. The agent knows what one is and writes the code down on the edge of my ticket. She says she’ll make announcements and I’ll hear them inside the lounge. I let myself into the small room with a few chairs, a water cooler (both cold and hot water) but no tea to make or cups to make tea in. There are a few generic and small Amtrak ‘emergency’ no name water bottles, a coat rack and some wheelchairs in the corner. The only problem with the room is the television. It’s a modern flatscreen TV that’s on and blaring the CBS morning news. I can’t find a way to turn it off!

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At about 7:05, I hear a toot outside and leave the lounge to my train entering. There maybe a dozen boarding passengers. There wasn’t an announcement. The train has four cars between two locomotives with 3 coaches and the baggage/vending machine car. Only the first two cars are open.

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I board the Grey Squirrel the front coach for intermediate passengers. I’m immediately a fan of the Heritage NCDOT cars. The windows are nice and big and there is oodles of legroom. The modern green seats match the retro look well. The glass of the former smoking section closes off a “conference area” with a table between two sets of seats. Each set of seats has a ridiculous 4 outlets!

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The train finally leaves at 7:12, leaving past the prison.  The conductor welcomes us aboard, mentions the restrooms and to go forward for the lounge car with vending machines only. The coaches are wonderfully restored. Water on the windows makes picture taking

  • 7:18 – Pass NC Department of highways storage yard.
  • 7:20 – Following a road I see a sign for Cary town limits and soon the announcement for Cary

We arrive in Cary at 7:23 and there two station staff members who look nearly identical on the platform. The platform has two shelters and two gates for access. We leave through trees and its 18 minutes to Durham.

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  • 7:29 – Pass through a town and back to dense trees.
  • 7:32 – We diverge from another rail line and suburban sprawl returns.
  • 7:34 – What I think is a new highways overpass user construction I immediately realize is a grade-separation project. Then it’s over I-40 with houses and office parks never far from view between the trees.
  • 7:39 – See cows off in the distance, passing Dave’s Tow-away.
  • 7:40 – Pass some NS Locomotives and a few freight cars on a siding. We pass an old warehouse.
  • 7:41 – we get the announcement for Durham, my window is nearly clear. We start passing large office park buildings and some restored warehouses. I see a central bus station. It’s across the street from the rail station in a former brick factory. I think it has a restricted access platform.

We arrive at 7:42 and leave at 7:44. My car gets more crowded. The seat checks are single letters. We pass some Duke Athletics buses and more warehouses. I finally make my first visit to the lounge car as we leave Durham. It’s two crowded for photos. There are vending machines along with bottled water and coffee “paid for by your Piedmont ticket purchase.”

  • 7:52 – We pass a freight train and are back in the woods. He conductor apologizes that were 30 minutes late due to Norfolk Southern having computer problems and that we can’t make up that much time. There is also a schedule in the seat back pocket and to just add 30 minutes to those times for our new departure times.
  • 7:55 – Pass a few houses and hit a branch of some sort
  • 8:00 – A regular grade crossing over a dirt road. About six kids armed with vending machines treats (and there two Moms) sit down in my car to move to the facing each other seats that have reserved for parties of four or more signs.
  • 8:04 – Over another two lane highway.
  • 8:09 – The tiny community of Elfland, a bunch of small houses.
  • 8:10 – Mebane, a bigger town with a fire department and public library.
  • 8:11 – The stripped car lot of the day.
  • 8:17 – Cross a river on a near bridge with some hills of construction netting.
  • 8:19 – According to my phone were coming into Burlington with houses. I see a roadsign for Amtrak  and get ready to get off.

We arrive in Burlington at 8:21, 29 minutes late. The name of the town originally was Company Shops and were the shops for the state subsidized during construction North Carolina Railroad. Today the shops are gone but I have an excellent 40 minutes photographing the station platform along a former shop building that has been converted to a station and some offices, complete with an exhibit about the history of the North Carolina Rail Road in the foyer. There is also a small waiting area staffed by a NC Station attendant, a retiree who might be volunteering.

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I also go across the street to visit the former passenger depot with a boxcar nearby that’s now a park.

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I head back to the station a little before 9:00 since our train is due at 9:01. Everyone is waiting out on the platform. There is a sign to Check in with the Station Attendant. I check the app and find out the Carolinian has  left the last stop of Greensboro on time but keeps getting later and later somewhere in between here and there. I assume because of the off-meet with my 30 minute late Piedmont. I sit on the platform waiting tracking the train and go back inside for the restroom. The station attendant tells me were delayed because of a suspicious package on the tracks that the bomb squad is investigates He sort of makes a joke about maybe not taking any pictures. Great!

The Carolinian pulls in at 9:41 as I position myself by a platform sign to get an entrance photo.

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I board the front coach. I think the same one as yesterday and we leave by 9:42. We leave Burlington passing construction. The only seats are awkwardly positioned with the windows  windows and I realize the Amfleets have about half the legroom of the Grey Squirrel I just rode in..

  • 9:55 – Pass White Furnace Company (1891) making good speed through Haw River.
  • 9:56 – The next small town Mabane then back to trees.
  • 10:12 – On this track for the second of 3 times just dozing off. We reach King, the start of a siding.
  • 10:16 – They announce there picking up over a hundred people in Durham, Cary and Raleigh and to take you stuff off the seat next to you. We clearly pass a college campus, Duke, as we enter.

We arrive in Durham at 10:19. Groups of passengers are already positioned at the different boarding positions on the platform waiting for the Carolinain. I get off the train and although the platform has a single fenced off entrance (plus a second road to a garage door for the baggage cart) the station staff isn’t in the business of unlocking and re-locking the gate.

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I head into the station and am a huge fan of the converted 1897 Tabbaco Warehouse the station is inside. I also get photos of the entrance to the station near a grade crossing.

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I decide to spend my two-hour layover walking towards Duke and find out that I can do a one-way walk and take the Bull City Connector back to the station. I can’t believe how wooded Duke’s Campus is. I cross under an intentional graffitied underpass. I really enjoy my brief time exploring the Botanical Gardens.

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Then its time for the 11:45 Bull City Connector I take this back, past the Amtrak Station to Durham Central Station, the main bus hub that has at least a dozen buses stopped in the bus station, waiting for the noon pulse of Durham Region Transit.

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I get my final photos of the train platform across from the station, on top of an embankment and I think I see where the original Durham Station was (it wasn’t a stop in the Amtrak era until the Carolinian began 1990, since no other service ran between Greensboro and Raleigh before then) in a modular building.

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I return to the platform and wait for the midday Piedmont with my travel companion Robert already aboard (he got on in Raleigh) to take me to Greensboro for the second half of today’s adventures.

The Track Work Tardy Carolinian to Cary to Thunderstorms

This Post is Part of my Finally the Piedmont Trip

After enjoying photographing my first ACS-64 that has powered my southbound Carolinian to Washington, D.C. We leave Union Station at 10:55 and directly enter the long, slow tunnel beneath Washington, DC.

  • 11:00 – re-emerge, as a joking conductor. We pass the National Botanic Garden as our tickets get scanned for the second time, and passing office buildings. As the conductor continues to radio. Then we pass a construction project.
  • 11:03 – Pass L’Efant Plaza for VRE, it only has a single platform
  • 11:04 – Its into another tunnel, leaving D.C. As we slowly start heading over the Potomac over islands, go over East Potomac Park.
  • 11:06 – Go over the main body of the Potomac and enter Virginia, the Metro is visible. We head through Alexandria.
  • 11:09 – A northbound Amtrak train passes. The Metro joins us. Our speed has clearly decreased from the NEC. I see new transit oriented development with dense houses this part of Alexandria is known for.
  • 11:12 – Pass the Braddock Road Metro Station.

See the King Street Metro Station. and arrive in Alexandria at 11:14, with a sort of island platform with an extra  freight track beyond it. A bunch of people head out to the platform, maybe waiting for a different train? We pass the new development. We leave at 11:16, there doesn’t appear to be any baggage for our train. Already 4 minutes down. Then we pass a freight train.

  • 11:21 – Metro passes over us and takes the opposite side of the ROW. Pass Eisenhower Avenue and keep following Metro. Metro is beating us. The kids in front of us haven’t stopped talking, we should have moved in Washington DC. I think we could have gotten away with it!
  • 11:26 – Pass Franconia/Springfield VRE Station. Pass a new car lot (not intermodal)
  • 11:31 – The Lorton VRE Station
  • 11:32 – Then the Amtrak Lorton Auto-Train Terminal, were sitting on the wrong side of the train to get a decent view. Were just in trees, this is pretty much what the whole ride is going to be like.  Then its over the Occoquan River.
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  • 11:35 – Woodbridge also served by Amtrak we skip. A modern station with a pedestrian overpass. We enter another community.
  • 11:38 – Rippon
  • 11:39 – Two quick bodies of water as we follow the Potomac Estuary getting some quick views of it.
  • 11:44 – Pass Possom Point Power Station

It’s over Quantico Creek and we arrive in the Quantico Station at 11:46 for our quick stop. 7 minutes late. It’s a neat little station in the middle of a town in the middle of a military base. There is no military presence on the platform. I think I can get away with making a photo stop here.
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  • 11:49 – See the Potomac and pass the marine base of Quantico. We rejoin the turns. They make another announcement that electronic devices must be used with headphones or in mute.
  • 11:55 – Pass more water, the Aquia Creek
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  • 11:57 – Brooke, a simple platform with access to a parking lot.
  • 12:01 – Pass Leeland Road, a simple side platform station

We get the announcement for Fredericksburg, cross the Rappahannock River and arrive in the station at 12:05. A bunch of people are waiting for a northbound train. The daytime regional that starts in Newport News, the station has two platforms on an elevated viaduct with the station house along the Richmond-bound platform.
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  • 12:16 – The Northbound Newport News train passes the line. The view is just trees that will take us all the way into North Carolina, much better in winter.
  • 12:29 – Pass a unit train full of green boxes.
  • 12:41 – Pass the junction of the Buckingham Branch
  • 12:47 – Slow down, approaching the town of Ashland. We pretty much go right down the middle of Railroad Avenue. I don’t see the station. It’s on the otherside of the trains.
  • 1:01 – Entering Richmond very slowly, just before the platform. We pull up short. We then get a first freight train delay. We’re waiting for it to come through the station. Were officially late. The train comes going Southbound PASSING US. Seriously CSX. Why is a freight train going in front of us?

We get the double-toot at 1:15 from the siding to switch tracks and being entering the station. At 1:15. It’s a ten minute stop. I get a daytime photo of the station building from the platform and walk up towards business class. The attendant at the door isn’t friendly even though her door is closer to our seats (via the cafe car, where not even passing through the Business Class seating, just the compartment) than the rear door. She says she’ll let us on as a one
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We slowly leave at 1:25 and come to a stop at the end of the platform. We sit at the edge of the station platform, clearly waiting for signal indication. We finally start moving at 1:30, passing Location Q. The last one on the platform is S. We’re really on the move 20 minutes late.

In the yard the babies keep crying and we discretely move to the last car. The train feels empty Near the back of the car to get away from the screaming babies. We don’t bother to tell our attendant but have a feeling that if we did she would completely understand, I can’t believe we lasted until Richmond.

  • 1:53 – The James River.
  • 2:03 – An abandoned military base as we speed fast, past it.
  • 2:05 – Pass Mile 12 and slow down. Going slowly as they announce track work.
  • 2:14 – A northbound freight passes us
  • 2:22 – We stop again in the woods. Just the hum of the ventilation fan in our new quiet car. Were 8 miles from Petersburg. We’re waiting for permission from the CSX road foreman that his equipment is out of the way.
  • 2:29 – The northbound Carolinian Train #80 Passes, it has a heritage locomotive on it. P42 #184, the phase IV Paint.
  • We finally get the double-toot at 2:34 and leave the siding behind.
  • 2:41 – each the track work zone. There a bunch of cars with extra ties on them and crews enjoying their breaks because of us.
  • 2:45 – Go over a closed grade crossing. The track work keeps coming.
  • 2:50 – Come up to a building

We arrive in Petersburg at 2:52. The concrete northern end of the platform where no trains every stop is getting jackhammered up. Were now over an hour late, on the platform on the outside track. It’s a very quick stop. The conductor comes back and says we will only get later. I guess I’m waking up early tomorrow to head out to Burlington.
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The train leaves Petersburg, crossing the Appomattox River.
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We reach mostly trees of southern Virginia. The cafe attendant announces her lunch break.

  • 3:08 – Historic Carson Depot.
  • We head into a Forest and pass wetlands. It’s definitely a rougher ride in the rear car over the trucks.
  • 3:20 – pass the town of Jarratt
  • 3:23 – Go under I-95.
  • 3:28 – Emporia
  • 3:33 – Tiny Skippers, VA
  • 3:36 – According to Google we’ve entered our final state of today, North Carolina.
  • 3:40 – Small Garrysburg
  • 3:44 – We slow down, approaching the rail junction in Renoake Rapids. We pass junction B, go over the Renoake River via an island pass the abandoned Renoake Rapids train station, and a track curves around to meet us.
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  • We slow past on jointed rail some boxcars. The sky turns dark, a storms a coming!
  • 4:03 – Pass the Northbound Palmetto in the trees. The skies are dark but no rain.
  • 4:07 – Enfield with an abandoned depot. It’sd a big enough town to have Parks and Recreation department as we pass its ball fields.

I doze off and soon were going down the grade crossing into Rocky Mount. We pass Bottoms insurance and stop at 4:24. We leave at 4:27, 75 minutes down.
We leave passing a freight yard. At 4:33 were back in the fields.

  • 4:36 – We pass Elm City and the announcement for Wilson, our next stop. It’s back to trees.

We arrive in Wilson at 4:42, stopping over a grade-crossing. There more people getting on than off. We leave at 4:44, 72 minutes late. The car gets more crowded.

  • 4:54 – Lukecama
  • 5:05 – Selma-Smithfield’s announcement, where I would have spent an hour had we not been using a companion coupon.
  • 5:07 – Go over a switch after Lizzy Mill Road in the fields.

At 5:09 Curve off the Palmetto’s route into Selma-Smithfield and stop on the curve (at the one real platform, the platform for the Palmetto is almost fenced off). I’m finally on new trackage today, after my ride on the Palmetto last December
We cross some murky water continuing south. The cafe car reopens as we get the cafe menu.

  • 5:22 – pass a town, Clayton, as a North Carolina volunteer train host walks the train.
  • 5:25 – Pass a warehouse with refrigerator cars coming out of it and over a freeway. Trees protect industry.
  • 5:32 – Zoom by Garner.
  • 5:33 – Pass Johnny’s precast and explosives inc.
  • 5:39 – Pass a fence in paddock without any trains inside, it must be the ND dot train yard.

We arrive in Raleigh at 5:41 for a fresh air stop. The last car is stopped directly over a grade crossing. A thunderstorm pouring rain is so hard I decide to stay on board before our 12 minute ride to Cary. I just assume get off here and walk to our hotel but it is impossible for me to get both Durham and Cary during my morning layover tomorrow after going out to Burlington. I see a trespasser walking around the train. We can hear the thunder.
We get the double-toot at 5:51 and the conductor (I think waring an orange jacket walks up asking for passengers going to Cary). We say yes and are told to walk up two cars.

We arrive in Cary at 5:55 after the split of the Silver Star. The Cary Station in between two platforms and two tracks with a nice modern depot in between. It’s raining too hard to take pictures out in the open and the platform at Cary just has two tiny bus shelters, we dash through the parking lot to the depot. My photo essay consists of depot interiors and a couple looking out from the entrances inside. Oh well, at least I got something.

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I head out the other side of the station, which is where Triangle Transit (the Regional Bus Provider) connects with C-Tran, the local bus provider and see a 301 heading for downtown Raleigh approaching. I tell Robert, the friend I’m traveling with, the bus is here, a little late from the rain. I’ve gotten really all the photos I can take in the pouring rain. We pay our $2 fares, struggling to get the GFI farebox to accept our dollar bills. It’s a slow ride downtown because of the rain and flooding. We arrive at the Moore Square Station at 6:45 and the rain has let up enough that we decide to walk to our hotel a short ways away, the Hampton Inn and not wait for the R-Line Free Downtown Circulator Loop to take us there.

After a brief rest in the hotel we head out again for dinner to go to a really good barbecue place. The Pit Barbecue restaurant that’s right across the tracks from the train station. It’s full and we have a twenty minute wait for our table. I take advantage of the time to start my photo essay, knowing I’ll probably be cutting it close before my 6:45am train tomorrow.

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My First ACS-64 Photos and Ride: The Carolinian down the NEC (I’m finally heading to do the NC DOT Piedmont)

This Post is Part of my Finally the Piedmont Trip

Introduction: 

I find myself with a free week. I’ve been meaning to finally head down to North Carolina and ride the only Amtrak Rolling Stock I haven’t ridden yet, the unique North Carolina State Heritage Fleet of the Piedmont Service. While I’m looking for possible trips I also consider redeeming my AGR points for a Roomette somewhere. I’m surprised to find availability on the Cardinal on Wednesday and a reasonably flight home from Albuquerque. I text my friends who live there, get them excited that I’m coming out and call Amtrak to book the Roomette. Unfortunately an empty Roomette is a “phantom” room as the agent says. I can get all the way to the payment page (for like $1,300) on Amtrak.com to book it but as I click through the app I get a Sorry Train is sold out error message. On Saturday morning I see availability (and get through the app to the payment page) and call again (closing the App). While I’m on the phone being told no sorry the room’s been sold (I refresh the app again). Close but no cigar

I call up my friend Robert who’s a freelance graphic designer (meaning he can work on the train) and ask him if he wants to join me on a trip. I have my AGR Companion Coupons (I never got around to using mine last year) that are for 2 for 1 travel. I call up an agent and find out that a coupon can only be used for a pure one-way or round-trip ticket, no multi-city stopovers like I normally do. This ends my ideas of taking the Palmetto to Selma-Smithfield for an hour and switching to the Carolinian behind it, plus any D.C. Layovers and getting more stops on the northbound. It does mean being able to split hotel costs. The main reason I haven’t done North Carolina yet is because of the lack of Youth Hostels (except in Asheville), so it’s the perfect trip to do with a friend.

I end up booking a straight round-trip New York to Charlotte; down on the Carolinian bailing in the Raleigh-Durham Area, the actual stop will depend upon lateness of the train, for getting stations. Our Hotel is booked is downtown Raleigh. Our northbound trip home is on the Crescent with a 1:46am scheduled departure, a sleepless night, at least on the way home, and no paying for a third hotel night (the 7:00am departure of the Carolinian and longer travel time seems less good). Were scheduled to arrive in New York exactly 12 hours later we immediately notice at 1:46pm. Companion Coupons can only be booked over the phone. I first try the regular priority 1 800 number and when I have a clueless agent I look at my info again and realize calling the separate AGR reservation number is proper for the coupon. I end up reaching a friendly agent who asks me if I need a hotel, just like the website and then reminds me that Penn Station is a gate controlled station and to arrive a half-hour prior to boarding.

This Morning:

I leave the house earlier than I might to meet my fried at about 5:50 and head downtown. I wait a bit for the A train and arrive at 6:30. I try a Quik-Trak machine for a printed itinerary and just my cash payment trips pop up. I find my travel companion outside the ClubAcela and ask the agent to print us proper, paper tickets. I’m told the reason I couldn’t pull it up on QuikTrak is because it’s in the reservation system as an AGR reward redemption. He is able to print them. I’m relieved, worried Amtrak had canceled our trip because of a ‘duplicate reservation’ for booking our trip across North Carolina, the next day. Hopefully I’ll get my points for the paid travel!

We sit in the ClubAcela for coffee and a muffin. I get up a few times to look at the departure monitor (curious if the Carolinian is a long-distance train that might board up to 20 minutes early). At 6:50 Track 12 West flashes as the agent is telling us to assemble there, not beating the station announcement. So there is already a blob at the track when we head over. We head downstairs and use the exit concourse, the location of our train is confirmed on the departure sign at the platform entrance and walk down the stairs to Track 8. We board a car that has Reserved for Parties of Two signs over the first 8 rows and snag a left side, best window seat. The Carolinian (because of the state contract, and its legacy as originally just an very extended train to Washington, it’s the only long distance named train except the Vermonter that allows intermediate travel along the Northeast Corridor, albeit only in the southbound direction, northbound its discharge only) sadly is an entirely Amfleet-I train. We get all the other passengers passing us and they’re definitely a few of the regular NEC business travelers in the mix. Unfortunately a mother and her four kids/babies, all under the age of five board and sit in the seats in front of us before we leave.

We leave at 7:06, maybe one minute late as our car attendant makes an announcement “Welcoming ladies and gents aboard the Carolinian en-route to Charlotte North Carolina. Including her name.” We pass daylight and the protect locomotives before heading into the North River Tunnel. New Jersey comes at 7:12.

  • 7:15 – Secaucus

We arrive in Newark at 7:22, 2 minutes early (for the baggage car). There already handing out seat numbers. As were stopped I see my first ACS-64 pulling a northbound Regional. They announce only 3 designated smoke stops. Washington, Richmond, Raleigh. We leave at 7:26.

  • 7:29 – Zoom through Newark Airport, now re-opened.

I’m distracted for the Elizabeth’s, next is Linden (7:34) as we zoom down the NEC at a slightly slower speed, hampered by the Heritage Baggage car at the front of the train.

  • 7:35 – Rahway. We slow down, clearly low priority.
  • 7:38 – Skip Metropark on the express track
  • 7:40 – Metuchin
  • 7:42 – Crowded Edison, there is something fun about zooming by rush hour crowds heading to work to start the day, a local train of Arrows passes us to pick up those riders.
  • 7:44 – We nearly stop passing New Brunswick, and go very slowly, nearly stopping just south. Maybe a train leaving Jersey Avenue? Soon a train of Arrows passes us, we assume it was switching out of the siding at Jersey Avenue.
  • 7:48 – Pass Jersey Avenue, and regain track speed
  • 7:50 – Interrupted by a Keystone in push mode. We pass a local train. Then we slow down again and switch to the local track. Before regaining rack speed.
  • 8:01 – Skip Hamilton, right as I wonder where Princeton Junction is, clearly wasn’t paying close enough attention.
  • 8:03 – We get a verbal café car is open announcement as we get the announcement for Trenton and to only “exit where you see a uniformed member of the train crew”.
  • 8:05 – Pass a SEPTA train and arrive in Trenton.
  • We arrive in Trenton at 8:07, for a quick stop, leaving at 8:09. 25 minutes to Philadelphia.
  • 8:10 – Go over the dreary Delaware and into Pennsylvania at full speed.
  • 8:16 – SEPTA platforms are easier to miss, I look up at Croydon., with its high-level platforms.
  • 8:19 – Pass Toressdale, the platforms are less crowded, viewed out the left side of the train since were going ‘against’ the peak rush hour
  • 8:21 – Homesburg
  • 8:22 – Bridesburg and pass a construction project as we approach struggling North Philadelphia.
  • 8:23 – Scrapyard of the day and go over the poverty of North Philadelphia and under the Market-Frankfort El.
  • 8:26 – We slow down again passing abandoned cars, past abandoned industry.
  • 8:30 – Pass the North Philadelphia Station
  • 8:33 – I see Trolley Wires as we pass Girard, way over on the right-hand local track.
  • 8:34 – We get the announcement for Philadelphia with the conductor reminding us to only exit where we see a member of the train crew and thanking us for riding the Regional!! This morning. I see the art museum. Entering Philly, there just a few Amfleets and a Dash-8.

We enter Philadelphia to a crowded platform, arriving at 8:37 on track 6. We leave at 8:41, 6 minutes late as Acela 2154 enters the station.

  • 8:45– I notice a branch line with wooden cantenary pols leaving us as we continue south out of Philadelphia.
  • 8:46 – Pass the streetcar yard.
  • 8:47 – Cirtus Park
  • 8:47 – Sharon Hill
  • 8:48 – Folcroft
  • 8:48 – Glenolden
  • 8:48 – Norwood
  • 8:49 – Prospect Park
  • 8:49 – Ridley Park
  • 8:50 – Crum Lynne
  • 8:51 – Eddystone
  • 8:51 – Chester
  • 8:53 – Highland Avenue
  • 8:54 – Marcus Hook, PA and past a chemical plant
  • 8:55 – Claymont, Delaware, Pennsylvania, that was quick!

We pass some Norfolk Southern Locomotives and pass the nice park along the Delaware River’s Estuary. Then some coal.

8:59 – Pass the Bear, Delaware shops and see a few ACS-64s in the yard. We get the announcement for Wilmington and slow down.

We slowly enter Wilmington arriving at 9:02 to the crowded high-level island platform. Northeast Regional 172 arrives, across the platform with two AEM7s. The sign is correct, Carolinian No. 79 to Charlotte, with the status of Last Call. The Regional switches to Charlotte before it says departed. Our train soon changes to Departed before the sign switches. There a few more people on the platform that aren’t boarding any train. As soon as we start moving at 9:06 the sign switches to an Acela. I then notice it switches back to a Northeast Regional before we leave the station. We leave 8 minutes late.

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  • 9:12 – Fairplay Station at Churchman’s Crossing with only the south platform.
  • 9:14 – See what is probably the first field of the day as we pass Newark, Delaware a freight yard of tanker cars and see a water tower for the University of Delaware.
  • 9:18 – Pass an abandoned Station, Elkton, Maryland. Delaware was even faster!
  • 9:22 – We catch our first glimpse of the Chesapeake River, then a northbound train.
  • 9:26 – Pass the Perry tower and Perryville, then its over the Susquehanna River.
  • 9:30 – Aberdeen Station, simple
  • 9:33 – The Bush River Estuary
  • 9:35 – Edgewood, simple and short low-level platforms.
  • 9:37 – The next river estuary
  • 9:40 – See another Marc Trainset in the yard and then pass the Martin State Airport Station and the yard. We also pass our first Marc Train, diesel powered, four bi-levels with a single-level car inbetween.
  • 9:43 – Pass an ACS delivery train or some other sort of equipment move, about three yard switchers with an ACS Locomotive in between.
  • 9:47 – Announcement for Baltimore, as we pass an abandoned station and approach the first set of tunnels. I see a line of incandescent light bulbs.
  • 9:48 – Out of the tunnels as the northbound Silver Meteor passes, it has its 3 Viewliner sleepers and Baggage Car at the very the back of the train.

We arrive in Baltimore at 9:50. I see a member of the station staff walking the train; some businessmen get off (clearly from the front Business class car). A few Amtrak employees rush through the car, saying we could have opened the door (they clearly weren’t looking for “A uniformed member of the train crew” to exit). We leave at 9:54, the sign switching to the Northeast Regional #183 to Baltimore. We don’t see any light rail cars. As we curve through the next tunnels I see our Motive Power for the first time, We’re powered by an ACS-64! We get the last call for the cafe at 9:57 to reopen after Alexanderia, we get the announcement about the power change and there will be no more restrooms as we leave downtown Baltimore.

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  • 9:58 – Out of the tunnel with a northbound passing.
  • 10:00 – We pass a single-level Marc train powered by a diesel locomotive.
  • 10:00 – Pass the tiny West Baltimore Station
  • 10:03 – Pass ??, Marc has the tiniest signs Halethorpe
  • 10:05 – Bypass BWI Airport. Another Northbound Marc with single-level cars powered by a diesel locomotive passes.
  • 10:10 – Pass Odenton, I only know because I’ve pulled up a Marc Map using the Wifi, the new high-platform stations have worse signs that the older high platformed stations.
  • 10:12 – Pass the northbound Acela
  • 10:13 – Bowie State again I only know because I’ve pulled up a Marc Map. Then pass a former tower with a Norfolk and Western Caboose.
  • 10:16 – Seabrook, Marc
  • 10:17  -See the Metro as we zoom by the high-level platform at New Carrolton, the Washington Metro soon curves away from us.
  • 10:18 – Pass Landover Metro
  • 10:19 – Pass Cheverly
  • 10:22 – Pass the Virginia Railway Express Yard. A few old Metra Cars, mostly new locomotives.

We arrive in Washington, DC, passing the Noma Station on the Red Line and pass 3 Marc Locomotives attached to each other. I notice the Federal Reserve Federal Credit Union as we slowly enter Washington, DC and arrive at 10:27.

I head up to the front of the train and notice the train stop sign is directly before the elevator at the end of the public platform so I can get my first photos of a Sprinter ACS-64, actually pulling the train I’m riding! I also get photos of the Sprinter ACS-64 getting detached and walk down the platform a bit hoping to get photos of the Sprinter ACS-64 passing down the platform. Our new locomotive is visible besides us. Unfortunately our Sprinter ACS-64 doesn’t pass us deadheading back to the yard and soon our train has its new locomotive.

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There are only two doors open and we soon re-board. There isn’t a really clear ‘All Aboard’ Call. For the diesel portion of the trip Continue Reading to a Thunderstorm in Cary.

“Up the River” – A Weekend Day Trip, 3 Buses all the way to Peekskill (Mile 41) to Finish the Hudson Line (including Manitou!)

Introduction:

I still have a couple days left on 30 day Unlimited I’ve purchased for a summer course I’m taking. Afterwards I have enough travel planned that I won’t buy a 30 day one and 7 day cards I have a harder time justifying. Anyway, it was time for a trip to try and finish the Hudson Line (to finish the first goal is at least a few photos of every station, The Hudson Line is one of my favorite places to photograph trains so having stops I need more photos of or a full essay is a good thing). I like to play a game with myself about not riding a Commuter Train a single stop, $3 to go just a few miles feels like a rip-off. The original plan to finish the Hudson Line was going to do Garrison and Cold Spring stops going in each direction to Beacon (with the bus from there to New Hamburg). When I discovered that buy buying a round-trip ticket to Beacon from the Bronx would basically cover DIA:Beacon Museum Admission I did that as a separate trip last November.

Luckily PART (Puntnum Area Regional Transit) the Cold Spring Trolley (a tiny mini-trolley) connects Cold Spring and Garrison with a fare of only $1, but only runs during the summer and fall. As of 2014 it only runs on Saturday’s and Sundays. On Thursday I’m thinking of juts doing Peekskill and Cold Spring and saving Putnam County for another trip. Then I start looking at Bus Schedules and realize the two buses I need north of Tarrytown, the 13 and 14 both have the same hourly service on Saturday as they basically have during the week so there is no reason not to head north on Saturday. The only problem is Route 1 to get me up to Tarrytown. Route 1′s Saturday service is abysmal, the 1T and 1C branches don’t operate and only the 1W hourly with supplemental plain 1 service to the Yonkers County Line. The 1W I realize does stop a mile from the Tarrytown Station although, I do realize I will have to through in the ticketing towel and pay for a train ticket ($4.25 to Yonkers, $5 to the Bronx) back from Croton-Harmon or Ossining. A lot better than Jamaica to Nassau County on the LIRR! I do some more internet mapping and realize that the MTA has added a midday stop in each direction for Hiker servicer to Maniou and Breakneck Ridge. I decide to include a 4 mile hike with the first part through a nature preserve to get Manitou and walk up to Garrison. Breakneck Ridge I got a few photos off when I got there by car to go hiking that will tide the website over until I go up there for a proper hiking (and train spotting) expedition.

I leave the house a little late at 8:35, knowing I’m cutting it really close for the 9:00 Route 1 Bus that would give me a nice early start. I just make a 1 train at 8:47 and am a bit optimistic until we crawl into 207 Street, leaving I see why. There is a garbage train on the middle track with Redbrids at one end and a lone R62 at the other. I now officially know I’m going to miss the 9:00 bus, leaving me with the 9:30 bus. There is just hourly service on Saturdays on Route 1w (none on Sundays) north of Yonkers and the next bus is only going to the Yonkers Town line. This means I can take the 9:30 bus and get Greystone, a secondary goal for the day. I get off at 215th to photograph the garbage train and leave the station. I also enjoy seeing the museum trains in the yards and shops.

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As I walk along the 207th Street Yards I walk back to 207 I hear the switch set and I’m not on the platform where I’d like to be to photograph this train curving into the yard.

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I run up to the platform and get the tail end with the sun in a bad place.

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I get up to 242 Street at 9:16 with 15 minutes to wait. One per peeve of the Bee-Line stop at 242 Street is the lack of a park bench, the city can’t even install a shelter for this transit hub, just a park railing to lean against.

Route 1 only going to the Hastings Town Line pulls up for us to board at 9:28 for the usual prompt on time departure. On my last Bee-Line trip I just made the bus, only because it was leaving a minute late due to a wheelchair. I’m in Yonkers within 6 minutes. I put my music on and doze off. I get off at the one road down to the Greystone Station at 10:00 and have a good 25 minute stop, just getting two passing diesels. The morning light reflecting off the palisades.

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I walk up a streetstair back to Worburton Avenue. I hear 4 trains as I wait for the 1W bus. It’s definitely a stop I will return to some afternoon. Someone else is waiting for the bus with me. It comes 10 minutes late at 10:41, a full articulated bus! Perhaps this route should run every half hour on Saturday to run another branch. It’s moderately crowded but everyone would still get a seat on a regular bus. In Hastings, the Worburton Avenue Bridge out detour takes up even more time. The bus ends up detouring around downtown Hastings entirely. A couple of people get off in Dobbs Ferry, but no one in Irvington. This bus turns at White Plains Road and I get off around 11:10 (about 20 minutes late) for what turns out to be about a 30 minute walk down Main Street.

I do enough of a photo essay of Tarrytown to write a summery but basically skip the platforms, assuming I will be at least transferring trains in Tarrytown at some point.

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The 13 Bus to Ossining pulls in on time at 11:57. I soon see signs for the Philipse Manor Station, that stop will have to wait for another trip. 3 of us are on the bus through Sleepy Hallow. I have an awkward connection in Ossening. My 13 arrives at 12:20, the 14 I need to continue north to Peekskill leaves at 12:19. I would like to spend an hour in Ossening to get the station but need to try and make this connection to get Manitou. As we enter Ossining I see the 14 is a few cars ahead I go to the front of the bus and the driver says “If there weren’t those cars ahead of me.” When we get to large-ish bus stop in the center of town we box the 14 in (the 13 terminates) as its passengers and me and someone else make the transfer. Both buses are slightly early, they clearly wait for each other.

We leave Ossining and soon I see the Croton-Harmon Station off in the distance across a wetland. We don’t go over there for a stop. I notice most of the bus stops have Indian Point Evacuation Bus Stop signs below the usual Bee-Line logo. We go trough the sleepy town of Croton. This bus is more crowded, someone even sits next to me. The people getting on and off all seem to pay with coins. Hard to buy a MetroCard up here. We pass the two entrances to Cortland, a modern park and ride station that combined Crugers and Montrose, villages in the town of Cortland that this bus ride is going through.  I’m staying on this bus all the way to Peekskill, just over an hour at Cortlandt seems excessive. We head into the Veterans Hospital making a diversion. I should have gotten off and then back on the bus to get the Cortlandt Station entrances! I’m returning on the train to Cortlandt and will transfer back to the bus. I’m quite happy with this northbound ride, planning my walk to get the two entrance roadways.

I get off the bus in Peekskill by a sign for the station around 1:00. I get my photo essay having bad luck with a southbound Metro-North and then Amtrak after my train has a track change to the northbound track, and is 8 minutes late waiting for two northbound trains to pass it.

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My train finally arrives 10 minutes late, the announcement is just “Next Stop Manitou”. A poor showing for announcements of what door to open. I walk towards the back. There a good dozen of us getting off. A conductor come out of the cab as we approach. He says because we’re wrong railing he can’t open up the cab door. We switch back to the proper track and the engineer is radioed “I’m just going to spot you, I have all my Manitou’s at the front of the last car. It’s Amtrak style and he spots us to the grade-crossing, not the tiny platform just beyond.

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My plan is to spend some time train spotting here, and then walking the nearly 4 miles to Garrison that I also need to get for the trolley to Cold Spring. I get the next Southbound Metro-North followed by an Empire Service train in each direction. Most of the possible combinations of trains that pass through Manitou.

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Then it’s time for my hike of the day. I head down the narrow station road that leads to the couple of houses. I find a dirt road with a gate at the entrance to a nature preserve. I check my phone and see this is a road Google wants me to use, great a walk in the woods not all on roads! I start walking and am soon by a stone bridge over the tracks near a couple houses. I hear a train and photograph the next hour’s northbound and getting it from this little bridge.

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After this first mile I end up on Route 9D that doesn’t have a great shoulder and in some places I’m basically walking in the highway. The walk gets old as I pass the final golf course and make the turn for the final half-mile down Lower Station Road to the Garrison Train Station at about 3:55. The timetable for the Cold Spring Trolley simply says Garrison Landing/Train Station and the trolley is due at 4:10. I enter a parking lot that is complete with dirt around the spaces and start my photo essay with the attitude of I can always return here. I find the modern station configuration with the high level platforms and the old station, including the historic depot, complete with the pedestrian tunnel still open to the public and the canopy (better than the platform today) on the northbound platform. I’m by the historic depot near Garrison Landing at 4:03 when I see a little trolley arrive in the parking lot of the station. The next northbound train soon cuts it off. I finish my photo essay and use the neat original pedestrian subway to the remains of the northbound platform and the next time I see the parking lot its 4:05 and the Trolley is gone. I’m observant for the next 5 minutes wondering if the trolley has looped around to the Landing by the depot theater but its officially left, 5 minutes early!

The next northbound train isn’t for another hour so I can get up to Cold Spring. I get more photos of the station, including of a couple Amtrak trains. I’m unfortunately on the bad sun angle northbound platform when the Lake Shore Limited passes, just before my northbound train arrives a few minutes late. One very strange part of this consist is there is a Viewliner Sleeper deadheading in the back, behind the baggage car. This is a stupid move on Amtrak’s part, their is revenue to be made by operating that car in service. The conductors can’t be bothered to walk to the middle of the train for my ticket (that’s a Cortlandt to Cold Spring ticket) and I have no shame about that, there should be a cheaper way than $3 to go one stop.

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I get off this train in Cold Spring at 5:03. The next southbound is at 5:20, followed by 6:20 and I still have Cortlandt to get from with a bus connection, so spending an hour here seems out of the question. I get off to the modern 6 car high-level platforms with an overpass with elevators and notice the platforms continuing southward. The New York-bound platform is already crowded with day-trippers. I skip the overpass and walk south. I see two brick enclosures that are the sign of a New York Central track underpass and yes, the underpass at Cold Spring is still in use at the Foot of Main Street. A second brick enclosure is used a Visitor’s Center window and public restrooms. Farther down I find the historic station, its now a resturant that’s hopping on a Saturday night. My photos look terrible (although I do like the historic New York Central sign). I walk back to the current platforms and the next southbound train arrives. I photograph the locomotive at back and jog up, making the train, getting an extremely poor photo essay but enough to tide me over until I make it up to Cold Spring again (hopefully on a weekday or in winter when the town is less bustling)! This was the primary goal of the day.

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I take this train and enjoy the evening sun, glaring over the Hudson. We slow down just before Manitou and I have a fun time spotting the little station were skipping. As we approach Peekskill there is still no sign of the conductor and I wonder if there being lazy and are just going to do one ticket sweep on the express jaunt. She then comes just before we arrive in Peekskill and I get a crumpled version of my ticket as my seat check. I get off at the modern Cortlandt station across from a northbound train on the narrow island platform. It’s not a great platform and station for photos. I do enjoy getting the infrastructure of the area with the modern overpass that at first only led to the parking lot on the east side of the tracks until a west parking lot opened in 2012. Each has its own access road. I do my plan getting the entrances to both parking lots and walking the west entrance first that is across from the entrance to the VA Hospital before walking down 9A (with a sidewalk) nearly a half mile over neat old bridge above the tracks (with a separated sidewalk) to get the Cortlandt Station East Entrance sign with the Cortlandt Recreation Center visible, not any station parking.

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I cross to a bus stop on a sign with no real stopping area. The schedule on the post (I’ve yet to find a Bee-Line Bus stop without a bus schedule on it! Unlike in Long Island where that’s extremely rare) only gives three minutes for the bus after the timepoint of 6:24 at the Hospital. Needless to say, I’m not surprised when the bus shows up at 6:29, 5 minutes late. Perfect, fares are $2.25 more from Cortlandt and I don’t feel like walking back into the station. The bus meanders its way through the town of Croton-on-Hudson and I dither again about getting off at Croton-Harmon to switch for the train there when where on the approach road but don’t ring the bell in time and the next thing I know I’m getting off in Ossining.

I get off the bus in town and from there its a couple of blocks down to the station, just north of Sing-Sing Prison! I’ve just missed the 7:04 local. Luckily service is now every half-hour so I get a photo essay and buy my ticket home to Marble Hill for $5.00. I get the southbound Lake Shore Limited, running 2 hours late.

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A southbound diesel train comes in at 7:35 when my train is supposed to leave. This is something I find strange.

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Turns out it’s the semi-express originating in Croton-Harmon. I nearly don’t board and nothing about the train’s station stops are announced. There is no Poughkeepsie train this hour. The conductor comes immediately and I ask if this train stops at Marble Hill. I’m told yes, it’s a diesel covering an electric’s schedule! When we stop in Tarrytown the conductor does better announcing the semi-express stops (the electric Hudson Line’s off peak schedule is now regular, two trains per hour, one local, one semi-express, with all semi-expresses making the same stops) “Irvington, Dobbs Ferry, Hastings, Yonkers, Riverdale, Sputyen Duyvil, and Grand Central.”

At that point there is confusion, some foreigners flash a MetroCard thinking its fare payment. The response “That’s only valid for the bus” and they buy their tickets on board $32 for two passengers. Someone is solded for having a ticket originating in Phillipse Manor The conductor gives them the remember to buy your tickets at the machine next time. When we slowly pass Greystone there some people fishing in the waterfront access park by the river. Coming to a stop in Riverdale I see someone sitting on a rock outside of the public waterfront access and then that the gate is open at the grade-crossing across the gated freight siding with some other people hanging out in the tiny park by the river.

As we approach Marble Hill I’m waiting for the first four cars only announcement. It doesn’t happen. I haven’t heard the announcement in a while come to a matter of fact (I’ve had unblogged about trips up the Hudson Line recently for non-website business), running trains with just four open cars off-peak is pretty much the norm although I’ve never seen just two M7s attached to each other.  I know I’m in the back of the open portion of the train and as we go around the curve I realize I’m in the forth car.  I get off at Marble Hill at 8:13, making a point of using the rear door of the Shoreliner II. I get photos of a northbound diesel train skipping the stop.

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Then its up the steps to the street and more steps to the 1 train (I really should count the number of steps required here). Then I’m off to the 1 train for the short ride home. A ride short enough that I’m now in the habit of walking when I don’t have an Unlimited Ride MetroCard in my pocket.

Chipping away at Suffolk County: The train to Northport, a long bus ride down to Islip

7This trip I took a month ago on 27 May, 2014. I thought I would provide a narrative update:

I find myself with an-odd gap of time. I get a student rush ticket a little after 10:00am for a show a Lincoln Center that issn’t until 7:30pm. Armed with an about to expire 30-day Unlimited ride MetroCard and no work to do, I decided it was time to get some more on on the Long Island Railroad. A trip out on the Port Jefferson Branch (I’ve never ridden the track the last stop from Sony Brook to Port Jefferson) and had been high on my list for quite some time. The first goal through is a photo stop to finally get Syosset. I think I might be able to catch the E train and just make the 10:58 until I look at the schedule and realize that connects with a Port Jefferson-bound diesel. This would give my a layover of 90 minutes at Syosset that feels unnecessary. I decide I might as well take the bus out to edge of Nassau County and save $3.25. I end up walking to 57 Street and getting on the F train.

I get to Jamaica-179 Street a bit before 11:00 and have to deal with the confusion of figuring out where up on the sidewalk the N22 or the N24 stop to take me out to the island. The N22 comes first (the N24 is only every half-hour) and I take it and get off at Lakeville Road for a perfectly pleasant walk down to the New Hyde Park Station–(9 Photos), where I arrive about 20 minutes before my 12:10 train.

It’s a rather eventful ride. The conductor sees me get get and comes immediately to punch my ticket even though their aren’t any seat checks for this eastbound ride that seems to be standard LIRR policy. There is a group of teenagers with tons of luggage planning to get off at Merrillon Avenue but their still getting there stuff together and are not even in the vestibule before the doors close after a very quick, local stop. I hear them frantically calling “Mom” to pick them up in Mineola, a conductor doesn’t pass in this short time. At Hicksville were held for a few minutes to led a Penn Station-bound train pass. I get off at Syosset(77 Photos) at 12:37 and am happy with my midday timing because I’m between the hours when a Platform conductor is stationed to help passengers cross the wide gap between the train and the platform. The scoot train I’m getting on here soon passes in the Hicksville direction (where passengers connect with a Ronkonkoma Branch train). The small depot is only open during the mornings when its staffed so I take advantage of this to buy my second $3.00 ticket of the day to Greenlawn (the fare zones mean stopping here and at Northport is only an extra 75¢) direct from the agent. This makes taking pictures inside feel less awkward.

   

My diesel scoot train comes in on time at 1:13 and its an uneventful 4 stop ride to Greenlawn(60 Photos). 

I then start walking to Northport, the plan is to take the next train to finally get Port Jefferson, as I walk I realize that I don’t quite have time for this, first I get a train going towards Hempstead at a grade-crossing near Greenlawn.

I look at my timetable as a I walk, realizing I could make it out to Port Jeff but I would have less than half an hour. I would need to catch the 4:06 through train to Jamaica to get back into NYC in time for my evening engagement.

As I walk I remember there is a Suffolk Transit north-south route to Northport and look up the schedule, the next S41 bus is at 2:40, perfect! I can take it and get Bay Shore and maybe another stop on the Montauk Branch. I do my photo essay of Northport(46 Photos).

 

The S41 bus pulls into the turnaround loop at the station, about 5 minutes late. I pay my $2.00 plus 25¢ for a transfer fair. There is something wrong with the bus. The A/C isn’t working so its a little warm. The bus is crowded with a quite a few complaining riders. I’ve forgotten to charge my phone and it dies after I check and find out Montauk Branch service is basically hourly so I have plenty of time. It is a memorable bus ride, without A/C taking a series of long deviations. The first is to Suffolk Community College (Brentwood campus) where the driver restarts the engine. The next deviation must have taken us 15 minutes. It leads us on some narrow overgrown roads past oldish looking buildings some rather tall. We eventually pass a sign with a map that says Pilgrim State Hospital (now Pilgrim Psychiatric Center) and stop in front of what looks like a main entrance. Someone who’s clearly a patient gets on the stifling crowded bus. Once we leave the Hospital it finally empties out when we stop at Brentwood (I’ve gotten that stop on a previous trip) and its finally a quick 15 minutes down to Bay Shore(59 Photos) (passing the Entenmann’s plant in Bay Shore that is about to close). Where I get off after a ride I’m happy is over. Total travel time is about an hour and 15 minutes.

   

 

I do my photo essay and decide I might as well see if I can get put my transfer to use. My phone is dead so I can’t check the schedule of the S42 but decide to try and find a nearby bus stop and hope a schedule is posted. I find the stop at a corner across from the station at Union Blvd. There isn’t a timetable posted but an S42 bus (that only runs once an hour) is approaching. For once I’ve had perfect luck at showing up and catching an only hourly bus. My transfer is accepted and its a longish ride, mostly on a deviation north to the South Shore Mall (can you tell yet I hate inefficient deviations that Suffolk Transit is full of) and soon I’m getting off at Islip.

I do my photo essay at Islip(59 Photos) and am impressed by a pedestrian grade crossing at one end of the station. I realize to be on time I just need to take the next train straight back to Jamaica at 5:02 that is a through train from Montauk. I buy my $9.75 ticket.

  

The 5:02 train comes and its packed. There are only 4 C3s and its full of people who decided to extend there Memorial Day weekends an extra day. I immediately wish I had time to transfer to a local at Babylon and avoid the crowds. I walk both levels and eventually find the one set of seats that is free, yet occupied by a suitcase that’s too big to fit in the luggage rack. BiLevels do have smaller luggage racks but if you have oversized luggage it goes in the area by the doors, not down or upstairs. I ask them to move it telling them I would like to sit down and luggage doesn’t deserve its own seat. They sort of protest and eventually simply put it in the aisle awkwardly. I get a seat mate in Babylon who blabbers into his phone for most of the ride about a business deal that’s going bad because he’s running so late after Southwest Airlines messed up his luggage and he took an extra day of vacation telling his Boss. We go via the Babylon Branch, no Central Branch ride today.

Arriving in Jamaica a little early at 5:50 is nice. Were on track 1 right across from the historic Jamaica Station and I have a nice time getting some photos of this historic building, from this platform and from the street

  

 

Then its off on the E train into Manhattan, we stop briefly before 36 Street and because of a stalled train they announce that were being rerouted via the F, this means I get off where I got on at 57 Street (6 Avenue) instead of 7 Avenue-53 Street where this trip started and I grab a quick bite before heading up to Lincoln Center.