Leave No Station Unphotographed: The Blog of SubwayNut.com

 

The Needham MBTA Commuter Rail Line to Acela Express First Class – The Final 231 miles in 3 hours 35 minutes

This post is the second half of 433 Miles on 3 Coastal Trains Home From Rockland, Maine

To get home the final jaunt down the coast from Boston, the 12:10pm Acela in First Class at the low-bucket $109 price is too tempting to pass up with 4 First Class upgrade coupons I might as well use up. I might have booked a later train and tried to go on a Commuter Rail adventure but evening Yankee tickets entice me to come home in time for the game.

My Day starts with a nice walk with my cousin around Needham. I get some photos of the storage yard just south of the Needham Heights Station(2 Photos)

I return to my cousins house, grab my luggage and walk down to Needham Center(11 Photos) getting there about ten minutes early. While I walk I’m on hold with Amtrak Guest Rewards Priority Line for ten minutes until I finally reach an agent who quickly pulls one of my new electronic upgrade coupons to upgrade my Acela Journey that is in about an. I don’t even have to provide my reservation number because the agent has already pulled my ticket attached to my AGR Number! I had tried calling last night but gave up after 10 minutes on hold on the AGR priority line. In the past I’ve been able to reach an agent in a matter of minutes.

I then head up to the mini-high platform and wait my train. A short time before the display says Inbound Train has left Needham Heights. The trains in ‘push’ mode and I realize that all 4 trains I’ll have ridden by the end of this trip will be in either ‘push’ mode (the Downeaster and my MBTA Commuter Rail Ride) or have two locomotives (Acela Express’s two power cars and the Maine Easter Railroad’s Mid-Coast Limited’s two FL-9s). The two conductors open the two doors of the last two multi-level BTC-4 cars (the oldest in the MBTA’s fleet) I notice one of them is waring a Keolis lanyard, the American concession of SNCF that took over operations from MBCR (a consortium of Veolia and Bombardier) on July 1 of this year.

We stop in Needham Junction at 11:04 at a brick station house.

I pay my $6.25 fare that feels expensive as we pass a golf course with its own grade-crossing. We stop at Hersey at 11:07 that has a single modern platform with modern canopies and nothing else remarkable.

  • 11:08 – Cross 128 through the trees high up.
  • 11:09 – Then it’s a stream

We stop at West Roxbury at 11:11 at its mini-high platform. The single platform station had the remains of a building and a grade-crossing to a parking lot.

It’s a quick trip on the single track trough trees to Highland at 11:13. This is another standard mini-high platform.

We stop at 11:15 at Belleville, another mini-high with a standard low-level platform.

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The conductor (at least there are two) is collecting the fares from a large party. She can’t get down in the mini-high platform at the simple Rosendale Village at 11:18, and tries to get back  intercepting a boarding passenger who has a real attitude about her. I simply hear “The train can’t officially leave until I get downstairs” luckily the other conductor does door duty. The stations themselves on the Needham Branch are officially uninteresting.

11:20 – See the end of the Orange Line

We stop at the underground island platform at Forest Hills at 11:21. I didn’t visit this platform when I was doing my whirlwind tours if the MBTA subway. The end of the platform has Stand Behind the Yellow line displays. We stay on the left-hand track as I join the corridor I’ll be zooming down on Acela in less than an hour.

11:24 – Pass Roxbury Crossing Orange Line

We stop in Ruggles at 11:25 on the outbound platform.

It’s a quick trip to Back Bay at 11:28. It’s slow running as the Worcester Line joins us curving into south station, backtracking on this trip makes sense, I can quickly enjoy the ClubAcela.

I arrive in South Station(13 Photos) at 11:34 on track 5, next to an Acela trainset on track 6 that I think will be my train. The Commuter Train on the track across from us has a unique Massachusetts Fallen Heros in the War in Iraq Cab Car. It’s a walk into the station because I’m in the last car and all diesel MBTA trains stop so the diesel locomotive is stopped before the bus overpass.

  

I pass the Lake Shore Limited that is boarding passengers, all the stops just fit on the LED track monitor.

I head into the station. II try a Quik-Trak Machine to print my recently upgraded ticket that of course doesn’t work because AGR has modified it to process my upgrade. I go up to ClubAcela and get my ticket printed. I grab some pretzels as a snack and a copy of the New York Times to read. At about 11:50, 20 minutes before it’s posted in the station, we are told track 6.

I leisurely board and grab a 1×1 conference table on the left side of the train (the water and passing trains). The crew tucks my ticket above my head. A bunch of people just say Penn Station as their destination (the train stops at 3) prompting the train attendant to fittingly ask “Which one?” Soon they hand out a different snack of crackers pretzels and chili cheese sticks that have some heat.

We leave on time at 12:10. I decide it’s too early in the day for a real drink, but a beer with my lunch feels appropriate so I order one.

At 12:15 I’m back in Back Bay at the same platform. We leave at 12:16.

I’m not going to keep track of skipped stops on this trip. I have work to do!

We get to Route 128 at 12:24 and the car fills up a bit more. The conductor messes up her announcement and says 20 minutes to New Haven before correcting herself. I’m ask if I want to order some lunch now or later. Layers get the menus above their seats. I decide to try the lasagna since the main meet is a pork that doesn’t sous great.

It comes as we enter Rhode Island, 2 states done, 2 more to go, its relatively simply but surprisingly decent and filling.

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We stop in Providence, Rhode Island at 12:45 and first class fills up a bit

I see T.F. Green Airport and the glimpse of Naragansett Bay.

We seem to be going slower than usual through the high speed section. An Acela zooms by us I see a truck on a third track and we regain speed.

  • 1:02 – I’m eating my dessert as we go through Kingston, the rest of my tray is collected. The desert strawberry parfait that’s surprisingly decent.
  • 1:12 – The curve of Westerly Station and the first grade-crossing as we enter Stonington Connecticut.
  • 1:15 – Stoneman’s Island grade-crossing and then another one to a marina. Our speed as dropped as I enjoy more coastal views, now of the Long Island sound.
  • 1:19 – Bypass Mystic and over the first swing bridge.
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  • 1:21 – See the historic Noank Station.
  • 1:27 – Over the Thames, slowly towards New London. I see some kids playing in a trestle near the water.
  • 1:29 – Skip New London, slowing down to do so
  • 1:35 – Sunbathers on the beach, the last view of the Long Island Sound.
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  • 1:43 – Skip Old Saybrook
  • 1:46 – Pass Shoreline East
  • 2:03 – The announcement for New Haven where we will begin our long slog down the New Haven
  • 2:07 – Passing New Haven State Street the next train displays and new information panels are finally on there.

We stop in New Haven-Union Station at 2:10 and the new signs are all still blank! We leave at 2:13.

I hear the high pitched wine of the tilt system that’s still on after Metro-North finally began allowing it stating in February 2014.

At 2:43 the attendant comes through with a tray of candies saying candy time. Don’t think these are Amtrak issued but are an attempt by my okay if not almost robotic attendants for a bigger tip. I do grab a peppermint patty.

Its a crawl down the New Haven Line. We get the announcement for Stamford to use the doors at both ends of the car that will open to a high-level platform.

We arrive in Stamford at 3:00 across from a Boston-bound Northeast Regional train with an ACS-64

  • 3:06 – We get an announcement from our train cleanliness representative to hand over any trash a she comes through the aisles. This is a unique en-route cleaner that rides only between Stamford and New York so the train is clean for those going south to Washington.
  • 3:12 – I’m not fully paying attention but we clearly cross the river and pass Port Chester. I’m back inside New York State!
  • 3:14 – I feel us switching towards the tracks for the Hell Gate Bridge.
  • 3:21 – Slowly go through New Rochelle towards the Hell Bridge Line and switch off Metro-North
  • 3:24 – It’s slow, over the Hutchinson River
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  • 3:27 – It’s through the East Bronx of industry and over the Bronx River
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  • 3:30 – A yard full of green NYC Garbage cars as we rise up for the Hell Gate.
  • 3:33 – It’s the nice scenic crossing of the Hell Gate and looking down on the sewage treatment plant
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  • 3:34 – We enter Queens on the viaduct over Astoria.
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  • 3:36 – Join the Long Island Rail Rail road, then past Sunnyside Yards.
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Were in the East River Tunnels at 3:40. I pack my computer up and put in back in my backpack.

We arrive on track 11 at 3:45, on time. I get off, tip my attendant at the door. I grab a few platform photos near the NJT 7th Avenue Concourse end of the station.
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I go up the staircase to the exit concourse guarded by a cop. I head up to the Main Gate where boarding has just started and see that TSA has invaded Penn Station with random security inspections at the gate. No exit concourse trick for passengers today (although no one’s stopping you from using the NJT concourse).

I head up to the A Train and head home. I leave the house a little earlier than I might so I get on the bus to Yankee Stadium (generally I walk there) with my free transfer from the subway.

I’ll conclude with a the view from my Upper Deck Saturday Seats (with an occasional night game thrown in so the Yankees can charge more for the package)
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By Slow Train 202 miles in just over 6 hours – from Rockland, Maine to Boston: the Maine Eastern Railroad to the Downeaster

This post is part 1 of 2 of 433 Miles on 3 Coastal Trains Home From Rockland, Maine

We leave our house at about 10:10, so I can drive the first 48 miles down Route 1 to Searsport to start my long coastal journey. As we near Searsport we we pass a railroad track and what looks like a small railroad museum.

We get to Searsport at about 11:15 and I nearly drive past the gas station on the edge of town were the bus stops. What was a Mobile Station last year (and is still listed on the Concord Coach Lines and Amtrak’s website, Amtrak Station Code SRT – the bus I’m catching is also a throughway bus connecting to the Downeaster in Portland) – has switched to a Sunoco Station. I stopped here last year when I took the Coastal Bus from Banger to Brunswick (my grandmother was also doing a Bangor pick-up). There is luckily a small sign for Concord Coach Lines under the window of the gas station, blocked by the gas pumps.

I head inside and am happy I’m early as it takes the agent a few tries to issue me my $13 ticket in the most unusual of ways. It’s via a knuckle jammer making 3 carbon copies, with little cards to imprint for all the Coastal Destinations. I actually had to call to get the fare quote. I couldn’t find a fare table for intermediate stops along the Maine Coastal Bus on-line.
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After a quick Donut at Duckin Donuts (attached to the Seamboat Convenience Store) I say goodbye to my grandmother. The bus comes in at 11:41, about 4 minutes early. I hand over my ticket and am the only one boarding with two others already aboard. We leave on time at 11:45. The bus unfortunately doesn’t have any water or pretzels in the front seats like last year. I guess there only in the Portland and Bangor stations now.

It’s a quick trip down to Belfast where we stop at 11:56 for 2 at the Circle K, leaving at 11:59. It’s really nice not driving. I’ve done far too much driving over the past week.

The next stop is Lincolnville where a couple with Mom, the one dropping the them off waves furiously and flags down the bus in front of the post office at 12:16. This is required because Lincolnville is a flag stop and the timetable says you must physically wave for the bus to stops. They definitely do! I hear IDs being given for ticketing in Portland I assume (the post office isn’t a ticket agent).

We enter Camden, reaching our first traffic jam of the day. It’s through downtown (no stop) before we stop outside another gas station on the opposite side of town at 12:33. It’s not even in walking distance of downtown. It has a tiny sign. We pick up one passenger and leave at 12:36. Finding a gap in traffic to leave the parking lot takes a while.

The next thing I know I see the Brunswick golf course and signs for the ferry as the first part of my journey down the coast by road comes to an end.

There is a crowd waiting at the ferry terminal of a dozen people, a real intermodal stop. I arrive at 12:50. I notice a sign in the window that interline tickets with Greyhound are no longer being sold to New York because of Greyhound’s new reservation-based ticketing system.
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I walk into town; the ferry dock is just on the edge of the main strip. I see my bus passing at 1:05. I walk the five blocks to the train station, the door to the ticket office is locked with no posted hours. I only have my ticket (that says print me all over it) on my iPhone and need to try and get it reprinted. I assume it will open before the train departs. I’m also hoping to leave my backpack there but that’s clearly going to be a no go.
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I head back into town with my backpack and go for a walk. There is the annual lobster festival going on that’s free today but I decide not to go in with my backpack. I instead just grab a soup and sandwich lunch.

I head back to the station at about 2:30 to have enough time to photograph my train arriving at 2:50. I stop in the ticket office and ask if my iPhone ticket is enough and get it reprinted, the friendly ticket agent who called me on Monday when the buggy Maine Eastern Website didn’t bill me just prints a ticket out on her color printer. She tells me to feel free to wait in the bar and restaurant also in the station, it’s part of the restaurants agreement (lease I presume).
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I head outside and photograph this unique mini-high platform who’s base is a flatbed trailer chassis and is complete with a license plate.
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I go and photograph the Lobster City Express, a special train of two cars operating this weekend only that is laying over on the siding at the station. I run into a man who’s looking for the Amtrak Exhibit train that at one time was scheduled to come up to Rockland for the Lobster Festival but was removed from the website and didn’t come at some point.
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I then head inside to the restaurant and bar that definitely resembles a railroad station.
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I get the inbound Mid-Coast Limited coming in at 3:00 (10 minutes late) and they come up and open one door at the trailer (complete with a license plate) on wheels mini-high platform that’s attached to a ramp.
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The consist is three stainless steel Budd Cars with FL-9s on each end so no wyeing required during the quick Rockland layover:

  • FL-9 #489 (originally delivered in 1957 to the New Haven R.R, later Amtrak’s used for dual-mode purposes into Grand Central)
  • ME #1002 “Magnolia” Coach (built in 1946 originally for the Florida East Coast Railroad), has old fasioned cloth seats with footrests but no traytables. Windows have both blinds and curtains.
  • “Penobscot Bay” Buffet-Lounge (lacks real doors), this lounge car has a mix of booth seats and some swivel seats with a cafe counter selling drinks and simple refresments at one end of the car
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  • ME #1001 “Pine” Coach (built in 1953 for the Santa Fe, purchased from Amtrak). It has Amtrak-style seats with tray tables and tons of legroom, I think this is because it was one of the special Adirondack Heritage cars in the later years.
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  • FL-9 #488 (originally delivered in 1957 to the New Haven R.R. Amtrak’s used last on trains along the Hudson)

I hear all aboard at 3:19 and we leave at 3:20, on time.
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3:22 – Broad Street, first grade-crossing of the trip.
At Broadway Street the spur to the concrete plant joins us. We then pass a small train yard with some chemical cars and ex-NJT Comet I with just low-level cars. The Maine Eastern isn’t an open Dutch-door railroad so I’m stuck in a passenger car, no fresh air or out the window photos.
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  • 3:25 – Pass City Hall and Route 1.
  • 3:27 – A chemical plant and a recycling plant.
  • 3:29 – Another spur joins us as we run past fields.
  • 3:31 – First bridge of the trip over Mill Creek Trestle. We then pass Thomaston Station and go through dense trees and through a rock cut.
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  • 3:38 – The George’s River Bridge along route 1. Then were in the woods. I keep track of locations with a well-designed route guide. We get tickets please from the conductor who makes an X with a sharpie on my print out. Other passengers have more traditional tickets.
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  • 3:43 – Pass fields and then enter trees.
  • 3:44 – See water through the trees briefly, we see water again and pass the Warren Station in disrepair
  • 3:47 – Over a stream with a trickle of water, South Pond.
  • 3:52 – See Sidensparker Pond and were in trees.
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  • 3:56 – Waldoboro over a grade crossing and back to trees. We go under route 1 and it’s back go trees with some houses.ku
  • 3:59 – Pass the MOW area for the Maine Eastern in Waldoboro
  • 4:01 – A burned out house and a short trestle.
  • 4:06 – Were told 20 minutes to Newcastle and see the Muscongus Bay
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  • 4:08 – East Neck Road
  • 4:12 – See the Salt Bay as we get the second call for Newcastle
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  • 4:15 – See the start of the Newcastle siding and slow down. Their some overgrown tracks.

We stop at 4:17 in Newcastle (Damariscotta) 3 minutes early. The door only at the very front of the train is opened. I don’t try and run off. We leave on time at 4:20, passing another platform trailer with a tactile warning strip identical to the one in Rockland. I think we stopped at the trailer (or used the trap for a low-level platform stop). Soon we’re back in trees.
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  • 4:26 – Over some more water.
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  • 4:27 – Another short bridge. 5 minutes from the Wiscasset Station, the car empties out as everyone heads to the front coach where the door will open. We go through a rock cut.
  • 4:30 – More water and then we cross the Sheepscot River Bridge followed by the Long Bridge (with Route 1 visible) and curve into Wiscasset.
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We arrive at the boxcar station in Wiscasset at 4:34, on time, across from the famous lobster roll joint.
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We leave extremely slowly, crossing Route 1 at a grade, causing even more of a massive traffic jam than is already found in Wiscasset on summer weekends because of yield to pedestrian crossing since Route 1 passes between the famous lobster joint and the parking lot.
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  • 4:40 – Leaving town is scenic, as we follow water
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  • 4:52 – Another River and I hear the Conductor radioing to stop at the low-level platform in Bath
  • 4:53 – Another meadow.
  • 4:45 – Chewonki on a sign. The conductor announces Bath and marks the one Wiscasset ticket who asks about the Boston connection. The answer is “As of now yes, I’ll have a better idea as we get closer.” I see a 44 sign.
  • 4:48 – Pass a meadow.
  • 4:55 – Under Route 1 and a siding, along more water.
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We rise up onto a tresstle, passing some train yards as we go beside the Route 1 bridge across the Kennebec River Bridge into Bath.
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We stop in Bath at 5:00, discharging two passengers who step off not on the trailer mini-high platform.
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The conductor finishes the station work warns us that since were 5 minutes late we might miss the connection, this doesn’t make sense since we have half-an-hour. At least one other person is doing the same thing, connecting to the Downeaster. I grab my luggage and the conductor says Pan Am is getting called by the Maine Eastern’s dispatcher to try and hold Amtrak for us, what an adventure. It seems a little silly drastic measures need to be taken when this train is only 5 minutes late and its a 35 minute connection between the trains

  • 5:15 – “I hear roger good to go” over the conductors walkie-talkie, we’re going to make it!
  • 5:20 – Come to a stop, just outside the Brunswick Station as we switch from the Maine Eastern’s Native Railroad.

I head to the back and we slowly enter the high-level platform at the Brunswick Station(28 Photos added) arriving at 5:25, 5 minutes late.

 

I get off the train and head towards the front of the platform (towards Boston) where my Downester trainset is idling. The Mid-Coast Limited has other ideas to leave the platform and heads in the other direction (towards Rockland) to a section of single track before switching and reentering the station parallel to platform on the siding track.
 

This provides some decent photo opportunities as my Downeaster trainset with 3 Amfleet-I Coaches and a Cafe/Club Car with a P42 on the rear and a Cabbage on the front pulls into the station, we will be in push mode for the trip down to Boston.

The Downeaster leaves on time at 5:55 for what will be my forth trip to Freeport (after last years rides on the short-lived weekends Brunswick to Freeport Shuttle). We slowly leave, passing an old van with the markings for the Maine Eastern Railroad, I think it’s the van to pick up the crew. We pass some spur tracks with some freight cars as we leave. I can finally relax my connection made supposedly by a hair (even with 25 minutes in Brunswick, I guess Amtrak has the upmost of priority to leave on time). Had I missed the connection it would have probably been finding a motel in Burnswick and taking the morning train down tomorrow to Boston.

The track definitely feels smoother. We slow down and come into Freeport at 6:08 for its long bridge plate and a crowd of a good 30 people. If this train should ever be crowded, it should be a Sunday evening in Summer, a family gets on with tons of shopping bags. We leave at 6:10, on time. I see the same two railfans I saw in Brunswick photographing the train as we leave.

  • 6:18 – Cross another railroad.
  • 6:22 – Make good speedpast houses and in trees.
  • 6:25 – Another small river
  • 6:26 – Pass tractors and a few buildings through
  • 6:28 – Reach the exurbs of Portland as we slowly go around it.
  • 6:31 – Go through a real Portland neighborhood as we approach the Concord Trailways Station unfortunately on the edge of town.
  • 6:32 ­– The Portland Water district in the evening light
  • 6:34 – ­See downtown Portland and pass the County Jail
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  • 6:35 – I see the track join us that requires us to back into the Portland Station.

We come to a stop at 6:36 and slowly back up almost immediately, passing the wide estuary that downtown Portland is located on a peninsula along. It starts to rain; at least it stayed dry until now. I see the three sidings for laying over trains and the Portland Platform(10 Photos) where we arrive at 6:40.

I step-out for a few photos, every one boards our four car train through two doors with bridge plates between the front and middle coaches with one more open at the cafe for business class at the front. Unlike last year there clearly isn’t a crew change and the cafe car isn’t restocked. I notice a trainset is sitting up the tracks a bit beyond us, the three sidings along the station platform are empty.
 

We leave on time at 6:50. Passing the inlet along the station. We curve out.

  • 6:54 – Cross the bridge over the estuary
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  • 6:56 – The Pan Am freight yard on the edge of Portland, we pick up speed.

I go up to the café car to buy some dinner. They have clam chowder, which I purchase and Point of Sale touchscreens. Point of Sale is something Amtrak’s been trying for years on other routes (its also in California and on Amtrak Cascades). We arrive in Old Orchard Beach on time at 7:05 for a good dozen people and leave about a minute late at 7:06. We pass houses leaving town.
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  • 7:11 – A mobile home park, I wait for our meet with #695.
  • 7:17 – We come to the end of the siding waiting for our meet with Train #695, running about ten minutes late.
  • 7:20 ­– It passes us and we slowly move.

We arrive in Saco at 7:24, 12 minutes late to a nice large station with like 12 passengers getting on. I realize I need to de-spread. It’s quick we leave almost immediately, gathering speed.

  • 7:28 – A siding track joins us.
  • 7:34 – The former Kennebunk Station
  • 7:40 – The announcement for Wells.

We stop in Wells at 7:41 for another decent crowd boarding. They spot the train for the rear two cars at the mini-high platform. We leave at 7:42, 13 minutes late. I decide its time for desert and go back to the cafe car. I buy the ultimate Downeaster product, a Gingerbread whoopee pie that is disgustingly delicious.

7:54 – Cross the Piscataqua River into New Hampshire, finally one of four intermediate states on my journey back to New York.

We get the announcement for Dover with a good have dozen passengers getting off and a similar number getting on. The party of 3 split up around me go up to a four seater. We leave at 8:00, 13 minutes late.

It’s a quick ride to Durham-UNH where we stop at 8:07, letting one passenger off and a few more on, with its underpass mini-high platform, and ads opposite it. I get a seat mate

We stop in Exeter at 8:21, 12 minutes late, it’s totally dark. We drop-off a few, pick up 6. I hear the crashing bridge plate.

8:35 – See the lights of Train #697. I see the crescent moon.

We arrive in Haverhill, stopping at the mini-high at 8:42, 13 minutes late on the left hand track, the right track has a barricade at the end of the platform and another one at the other end of the platform. That track is clearly closed. I notice pink siren type lights going off. We cross the river out of Haverhill.

  • 8:44 – Pass the Haverhill Depot Laundrymat in the former depot
  • 8:45 – First bypassed station of the trip! It’s through the Bradford Station that is along the MBTA Commuter Rail storage yard (and is walking distance from Haverhill). Since it’s a Sunday night the yard is crowded with at least five train sets idling in the station.
  • 8:53 – The modern parking garage and high-level platform of the modern Lawrence Station (all at the same level). I try and spot the original Lawrence Station that still has a few signs.
  • 8:58 – Another MBTA Station, Andover
  • 9:03 – We switch onto the Wildcat Branch (I only know because I’m using my iPhone’s GPS)
  • 9:08 – Along one of the platforms for the Wilmington Station (where I see people waiting at the mini-high) we curve onto the Lowell Line off the Wildcat Branch.

We get the announcement for Woburn where we a large crowd is waiting to get off, we stop at 9:12, 14 minutes late. There is a slight delay as people make their ways to the one set of open doors. I don’t understand why they don’t just MU the doors, these are Amfleet Is. We get jostled on what I think is jointed rail as we head towards Boston.

The train slowly enters North Station as I see the MBTA storage yard and we eventually cross the bridge into Boston-North Station(3 Photos). We arrive at 9:32, 12 minutes late. We’re on track 9 on the far island platform (shared with track 10). My previous Downeaster Trips were on track 8
 

I follow the crowd of people getting off the Downeaster, walking the length of the cramped concourse of North Station under the Boston Garden, towards the MBTA Subway Station. I’ve remembered my CharlieCard and try it at a turnstile. It doesn’t work. I stop at the vending machine and realize its empty. I tap at it, get options to add $5 or $10 and realize I don’t actually know how much a ride costs. It turns out it’s $2.10 on a Carlie Card (a sign informs riders to buy $2.65 Charlie Tickets for one ride). I hit the other amounts and add $4.20 to get two rides (don’t think I’m going to use the other one on this trip but I’ll be back in Boston in a week and might as well have a ride on my CharlieCard)

I think I’ve just missed my D Riverside train that is starting at North Station(2 Photos) because Government Center is closed for a long term reconstruction. The signs though tell me to change at Park Street (clearly covering up what used to be for Government Center), the D extension is off-peak only.

I follow the signs that say to change at Park Street for B and D branches. I take a C and decide to change at Kenmore–(2 Photos). I’m near Fenway Park where the Red Sox are playing the Yankees during an ESPN Game. Signs now say the destinations of the next green line trains to stop but no countdown clocks like the three regular subway lines now have.

This is a mistake, not waiting or switching at Park Street as instructed by the signs because after an 8 minute wait the next D, a single LRV is packed. It waits 2 minutes from 10:00pm to 10:02pm before we leave.

At Fenway even more board. A bunch I think fare evade, boarding through the low-level middle doors, not at the driver position. Does this station now have pre-boarding fare collection?

The train empties out little by little as I call my ride to Needham at Resivor as instructed and my cousin has just arrived at Eliot for a quick 10 minute drive down to Needham where I’m spending the night (and not attempting to take the Night Owl for a 2:00am New York arrival which isn’t even possible from the evening Downeaster since it leaves Boston-South Station at an early hour of 9:30pm).

Driving to Maine via Machester by the Sea – Tomorrow I return via Rail from Rockland, Maine

Greetings from my extended family’s house in Downeast Maine, on the mainland near Acadia National Park.

I’m here because I drove my Brooklyn grandmother up from New York and we stopped to visit my Great Uncle in Manchester by the Sea–(43 Photos) where I did a photo essay of the commuter rail station. Yes I did get there using the means of travel I don’t really enjoy, by car. Yes, your webmaster has a license (from the State of Colorado, I wouldn’t pass a New York State road test).

 

Introduction to my (Nearly All) Train Trip Home Starting Tomorrow:

Tomorrow, I return from Maine (on a two day jaunt). I will be starting my train journey on the rails from Rockland, 56 miles west of where I started my train trip last year after driving my grandmother on the Downeaster’s then-new extension in Brunswick. Yes, I’m finally taking a tourist railway, the Maine Easter Railroads, Mid-Coast Limited. I am though riding it on a one-way ticket for a real transportation related ride. As of this season it now connects in Brunswick directly with the Downeaster (with only a half-hour layover) and that’s the ride I will do. I will continue to Boston tomorrow evening, spend the night with my relatives in Needham and have a fast trip back to New York on the Noon-ish Acela Express using one of my upgrade coupons to enjoy a first class lunch and end the trip on that high note. Right now I’m dithering about spending the $9 to upgrade to business class on the Downeaster (I’d get at a soda out of it).

Stay tuned for my 433 miles of intercity rail travel (plus 34 Concord Coach Lines and 48 Car miles) home from way Downeast Maine starting tomorrow

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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