The rest of my trip earlier today on Train #280 was largely uneventful. I get so annoyed with a woman on her cell phone that by Rome I change to some other empty seats. We stopped for the usual freight traffic on the busy CSX Water Level route, loosing a bit of time so we were about 15 late into Amsterdam (one of the minor stops Amtrak.com doesn’t track and I wasn’t writing down times) and 25 minutes late into Schenectady, NY. We get to Albany-Rensselaer, NY only 12 minutes late and I get off for my standard fresh air, where the crew have taken advantage of the Amfleet-Is ability (each Amfleet-II door have to be manually operated) to automatically open all the doors. I have been sitting in the frontmost open coach, the second from the front of the four on the train (plus the Café/Buisiness Class last car). As is typical the very first car has been saved to provide seating for those boarding in Albany. When we arrive in Albany I notice the frontmost empty coach has opened to the platform but the inside door hasn’t been open yet. The more dangerous feature though is the frontmost door behind our P32AC-DM locomotive isn’t even platforming on the high level platform. It is about ten feet from the end of the platform, opened to track level below along the crew only ramp (with railings) that leads down to track level. The new conductors almost immediately opened the inside door. I also noticed for the first time the raising and lowering of the P32AC-DMs third rail shoes being tested by the crew in Albany, turns out there are two shoes on each side about two feet apart, not just one
I watch the mob of people rush down the escalator from the overpass to get on at Albany and the first car isn’t nearly enough. The train becomes almost if not actually sold out. I am joined by a seatmate and am immediately reminded about how impersonal (as in rare chats with random strangers) train travel usually is on the short distance northeast trains. She asks me “May I sit here?” I say “Yes.” The only other exchange of words is “Excuse Me” when I get up out of my window seat once briefly during the two hour and twenty minute trip along the Hudson that is its usual scenic self. Part of me was hoping we might strike up a small conversation so I could say, “I got on in Vancouver.” I am though too good a New Yorker and know when it is appropriate and when it is not to strike up a random conversation with a stranger on a train. This moment of not chatting reminds me again of one reason that I travel and it is not just to experience new places or get ten more railroad stations into my massive archive but it is also to meet interesting people. These people I almost never stay in touch with but they do effect me and I remember them. The people on this trip range from the odd guy in Corcoran who saw me in the station and asked if he could sit down next to me and chat, which was fine until I learned of his real agenda preaching to me about Christ and trying to get me to accept his bible which I refused (responding truthfully I am Jewish). We did end cordially before he got off in Merced and I basically understood why he decided he had to talk to me: he was sitting doing his bible study and was thinking about me and just had to ask. Other random people from this trip include the Aussie in the youth hostel in San Luis Obispo that I gave my CalTrain schedule too (she was on her way north), the little group that formed of twenty something’s like myself on the Coast Starlight plus the crazy unprepared ‘Into the Wild’ Indian guy. Next would be Jeff of the Seattle Subway on my infamous 3 hour late 2:00am arrival Cascades trip up to Vancouver. How can I forget the guys from Ragina on my first Canadian leg, plus the VIA employees with their families, the knitting lady, Bob and Nico, and everyone else on the Canadian (Rachel, my section mate from Winnipeg, I hope dealing with your parents divorce went as well as it could). Finally I guess is a moment I’ll try and cherish while I am free and working on this website were the two slightly drunk women (on two completely different occasions) who said “Your Such a Baby” when I said my young twenty-two year old age. My last trip ended completely the opposite: it was my extremely chatty dome car on the Cardinal. On that trip, even though the dome had be dropped off in Washington, DC, I still played musical chairs in my Amfleet-II the entire fast way up the Northeast Corridor.
Other moments to note on this journey was our one non-scheduled brief stop along the fast (and probably soon to get faster, Amtrak has signed a lease from CSX for the entire line between Poughkeepsie and Albany) Hudson Line with half the train inside the Yonkers Station (a stop #280 now bypasses) before we sped up again. At 12:18 we crossed the Supyten Duyvil Swing Bridge and entered my home island. At 12:28 I saw the Lower Third Rail Shoe sign (at about 40th Street I think) and we made the switching in darkness entrance (gaps in the third rail) into Penn Station. I packed up and leisurely got off entering the hustle and bustle. I noticed that there is now a United sign at the ClubAcela but a smaller sign still says Continental Presidents Club members (now just called the United Club) may use the lounge. The signage at the Continental, now United ticket office in the station has also been changed with the new merger logo. As I was walking to the subway on the LIRR concourse I also noticed for the first time NJT trains using LIRR tracks (many are communal but the station has three different signage systems) get there stops displayed on the same signs for individual tracks used by the LIRR. The top area where the branch name and color is written displays the NJT logo (beneath the station stops the LIRR’s display If You See Something Say Something, NJT’s are blank). I walk up to the A train noticing the huge posters for FastTracks (tonight is the final night of it) refill my nearly empty MetroCard with an even amount, and backtrack up to 181 Street back to my parents apartment.