Leave No Station Unphotographed: The Blog of SubwayNut.com

 

The Final Slog Home (for 300 AGR Points): The Bus to MTJ on Keystone Service Trains to Philly with a Lancaster Stopover. The Final Stretch Home on Regional #136 Making Every Stop in NJ

After getting off the Pennsylvanian at Elizabethtown its time to continue my points/run the Keystone (connecting to an Amtrak Regional) photo stop. I start by spending the next 20ish minutes getting photos of the modern platforms and historic station house that make up the Elizabeth Station. The restored depot with a stone building has been nicely restored. There isn’t a whole lot around in terms of a place for lunch so I’m happy I’ve decided to not to spend the over 2 hour gap in Keystone Corridor service (trains at many other hours are hourly) and have done my homework finding a bus to take me to Mount Joy.

At 1:48 bus route 18 arrives. Its a 30 foot low-floor bus with one door and two other passengers. I pay my $1.85 for the short ride to Mount Joy.The bus goes through fields between the towns as we follow the train line. I get off in Mount Joy at 2:09
I walk over to the Mount Joy Station and nearly start laughing. It’s literally two decrypted tiny platforms with wooden stairs down to each connected by an old metal overpass that has a closed sidewalk. Each platform has a tiny bus stop style shelter. The schedule on the Harrisburg-bound side is dated to 2009. The station feels like a fitting end to this trip of visits to modern stations, nearly all of which have been ADA accessible like those in California. I then find a hole in the wall Mexican place for some food that’s surprisingly good.

I return to the station to get Harrisburg-bound train #645 stopping 8 minutes late at 3:00. I then wait for my train due at 3:43. It’s a hot day with minimal shade on the simple platform. I’m happy my next stops have indoor areas. One person is clearly getting dropped off for my train. They first pull up in front of the opposite platform then get back in the car and drive around to the Philly-bound platform. I’m tracking my next train #652 and find out it arrived at Middletown 5 minutes early and Elizabethtown 3 minutes early.

Train #652 comes in at 3:43 for my one stop ride to Lancaster. I sit down. The conductor comes, scan my ticket and asks “Is that for two people?” as we go past a gain elevator of some sort. I say no, just me but I have another segment from Lancaster to Philly that I will use on the next train. He accepts my answer. I will definitely check my reservation at a Quick track machine and make sure he didn’t mark off both segments! We go by fields and houses in air conditioned comfort. We pass trees and some more I electrified tracks join us. I get off at Lancaster 3 minutes early at 3:59. Much to my surprise a red cap has come down to the platform to see if anyone needs help with their luggage.

I have a good layover at the historic Lancaster Station that is currently under restoration. To make me even more happy the two high-level island platforms that now only serve one track each (and have fencing elsewhere) are fully open to the public. There are no agents checking tickets on the station’s overpass that has an elevator and staircase down to each platform. It’s my usual walk of the station area getting way too many photos.

I return to the platform by 4:50 to get a westbound express stopping Train #654. My platform fills with those heading inbound to Philadelphia I feel like I’m the only one going somewhere with luggage. The Keystone is nearly a commuter service like the Capital Corridor. I realize on this trip I rode every unreserved Amtrak Route: The Capital Corridor, Surfliner, Hiawatha, and Keystone. There are not too many of these left!

Train 654 arrives at 5:03. A lot of people are getting off and I go and find a seat in the empty rear cab car for this ride into Philadelphia. The line becomes two tracks again with room for more as we pass warehouses and then some fields going quite fast. There is definitely some rail swaying in the loud cab car. The door keeps opening to the short vesbile and into the cab.

  • 5:11 – The view is farmhouses. This is fast stretch with no stops.
  • 5:14 – Pass a building supply warehouse while I go I bet over 100mph.
  • 5:16 – back to fields. I tell myself its amazing without fencing.
  • 5:23 – Arrive Parksburg. Two basic side platforms, shelter on the inbound. We go back to 2 tracks on a corridor designed for four tracks with just 2. The scenery is trees. There is a mix of old and new catenary towers
  • 5:29 – Coatville. The platforms and track are fenced off from everything around. No sign a conductor.
  • 5:32 – ROW gets wider, some tail tracks.
  • 5:33 – Pass SEPTA. The ROW splits through two tunnels. We’re beating traffic.
  • I miss the SEPTA Thorndale terminus but we stop at Downington at 5:35. Now I’m in a familiar place from SEPTA point runs. The conductor finally gets to me in the back.
  • 5:40 – Slow down for Exton as SEPTA is leaving.
  • 5:59 – Slow down for Rosemont as we’re on the local track since we are stopping at Ardmore. Have we caught up to a SEPTA train?
  • 6:04 – Stop at Ardmore

Entering Philly I see P42 #42, the recently repainted Amtrak Veteran’s locomotive. As special paint schemes go it looks great. We arrive at 6:30 and I get off. It’s time for a short Philly stop over for an extra 100 AGR points. It’s an excuse to get an extra 100 AGR points although I know my Regional will be more crowded than if I stayed on the Keystone.

I slowly walk through the station and take the round-about walk upstairs to the ClubAcela. I flash my ticket and I’m told that unfortunately Train #136 is departing from track 3 that lacks elevator access so no special boarding today. I still help myself to Ginger Ale, Hot Cchocolate and pretzels to tide me over until I get home. I still like this nice empty club. For boarding Regionals in Philly getting to the front of the line doesn’t really matter. Since we get onto the platform before the train arrives.

Then the attendant comes over and says looks like we got your elevator fixed. Guess I will get the ride. A janitor asks me if I’m okay and reminds me that she has the TV on. I tell her I’m intentionally avoiding the TV. She laughs.

At 6:48 the attendant asks if I’m ready and let’s me down the elevator to track 3. They then start letting the masses down. For Regionals and Acelas the lounge isn’t too helpful since they let all passengers down to the platform before trains arrive since Philly is normally a quick stop.

The LED signs on the platform then change to say 136-Springfield on track 4. It comes in at 6:57. I let a bunch of people get off and basically over think finding my own set of two seat. There plenty of empty rows although the train isn’t quite as empty as my Keystone cab car. I board and we sit there.

We leave at 7:05 heading for Trenton the conductor makes a safety is important to us announcement and includes suspicious activity. My ticket scans, No ID check. I’ve gone this entire trip without one! We leave into the sunset.

I doze on and off (I didn’t sleep a whole lot last night with the early arrival) and the next thing I know we’re going across the Trenton Makes, the world takes bridge. We arrive at 7:32. I then learn that the train I’m taking is an Amtrak local and will now make every Amtrak Station in New Jersey.

  • 7:41 – get the announcement for Princeton Junction and arrive. A few people get off. It feels strange to stop there at 7:42. This trip up the NEC feels slower since we’re on the outside track. I feel like I’m riding New Jersey Transit.
  • 7:57 – Go through Jersey Avenue and I are all of the Arrows sitting in the train yard. The conductor then announces our next stop (that has even less service), New Brunswick! A northbound long distance train passes us. Its the Silver Star running about 2 hours late. I notice the normal Trenton-bound local track is OOS and their bridge plates. These only align with end doors. We stop in New Brunswick at 7:59 and I watch one passenger get off.

Our next stop of course is Metropark. This isn’t the fast trip up the NEC I was envisioning. I’m not mad about it. I had a nice visit to the lounge for the extra 100 AGR points. The conductor collects all seat checks.

  • 8:10 – We pull into Metropark. Next stop of course is the Airport.
  • 8:22 – The announcement for Newark Airport, no reminder to have your ticket available for the monorail fare gates.
  • 8:24 – Arrive the airport, were 4 minutes late. I look at the train tracker and can’t believe the 12:20AM Springfield arrival time on this Friday night only train. I wonder how the loads are north of New Haven and into Springfield.
  • 8:30 – We pull into Downtown Newark, NJ on Track A, the real local track. I didn’t quite realize just how slow this would be. We leave at 8:31.
  • 8:33 – Come to a stop over the dock bridge. I see an Acela, I bet were giving it priority. It passes us and we start moving
  • 8:36 – We go through Harrison and get a 10 minutes to New York City announcement.
  • 8:41 – Through Secaucus
  • 9:43 – Enter the North River Tunnels.

They make an announcement about a layover until 8:58 and that a new set of conductors will verify all eTicket Documents.
We arrive at 8:49 across from Train 92, the Silver Start that has just arrived. They actually make an announcement to make a cross platform transfer for any passengers going to Springfield from the Silver Star.

I get a few photos of the Silver Star stopped in Penn Station and slowly skip the first escalator I find (to the main Amtrak concourse) and take the second up to the exit concourse to walk to the A train and head up. I don’t need to blog about my trip home on the A train, its uneventful and unexciting.