Leave No Station Unphotographed: The Blog of SubwayNut.com

 

The Sleeper Lousianna to New Orleans for New Years

Well ideally my next post and update would be of the new Second Avenue Subway Stations. Unforchunately the timing of the subway’s opening couldn’t have been poorer, had it opened on a random weekend I may have used it as an excuse to fly east for a weekend visit. Unfortunately it opened on New Years Day and I had already made plans with my lady Louise to head down to New Orleans for the weekend. Since then I’ve spent two more weekends away (in Tucson followed by Southern California, although I didn’t do any more train riding, just lots of flying) and have been nowhere east of South Bend. The next time I’ll be in New York for a weekend is in early February and I hope to have a chance to at least ride the new Subway (don’t know if I’ll have time to do justice to the 3 new and one greatly renovated stations).

Anyway this post is a trip report and 3 new stations from our end-to-end Roomette trip aboard Superliner-II ‘Louisiana’ on Amtrak’s City of New Orleans. The trip represented new trackage from Champaign-Urbana (previously covered when I took the Illini from there to Chicago) to Memphis (I took the City of New Orleans once before, on the Tennessee to Texas trip, where sadly most of my photos were lost in a hard drive crash). I didn’t get to enjoy any of the new trackage because I was sleeping in the upper Roomette bunk (my lady trumped me) pretty much fromChampaign to Memphis.

The trip began with an extremely crowded ride on the 4:45pm South Shore Line train from South Bend with tons of people heading into Chicago for the holiday weekend.

We spent the ride listing to some extremely obnoxious college age kids who were all clearly high school friends. Louise remarked as we got off at Van Buren Street that “This is what I absolutely don’t miss about high school. They are so obnoxious.”

We walked across the loop to Union Station and checked into the new Metropolitan Lounge. Louise was extremely impressed and (as a pHD student, unlike me who’s now on the clock except for hobbies like this website) decided to get some work done really liking the atmosphere. I explored the lounge a lot, upstairs is where you’ll most likely find me on future Sleeper and Business Class trips through Chicago. These are photos from upstairs, I didn’t get any decent photos of the lounge downstairs (now if only I could still take AGR points runs to maintain Select+ Status I would be here a lot more, it was fun while it lasted):

union_station5 union_station6 union_station7 union_station8

I also went on a bit of an adventure to find the nearest ATM outside the lounge (I learned after I returned that there was one inside the lounge!) lacking any cash for tips. The Great Hall was also decorated for Polar Express excursions powered by Amtrak (I think it’s a charter arrangement) with the train’s destination listed as North Pole throughout the station.

union_station1 union_station2 union_station3 union_station4

At about 7:30pm we were called for boarding and headed out to the train, walking out through the normal platform exit, and skipping the line of coach passengers, the staff knew what we were doing, we passed the line of coach passengers lining up for seat assignments and walked out to the single full sleeper on the train.

union_station9

At the door there was a bit of confusion, we had been assigned room 8 but the attendant asked us if we would take Room 6 so a family of 4 with two roomettes could be across the hall from each other. We of course agreed. We were also told to head back to the Cross-Country Cafe car for dinner. As we walked there I found the remains of the Superliner-II nameplate (they were named after states) on the interior door. We fittingly taking ‘Louisiana’ down to New Orleans.

2016-12-31_16-54-58

We settled in and headed back to the Cross-Country Cafe as we slowly left Chicago doing the back up  move across the Chicago River (the skyline was pretty) and eventually leaving down parrallel to the very tracks we road the South Shore Line in on just a few hours ago.

In the dining car we sat down with a Mom and two little kids. The new ‘Express Dinner’ on the City of New Orleans (that has lacked a chef for the past two years) has been degraded to two types of Sandwiches, a turkey and cheese or a cuban sandwich (the cuban was served on nice Italian Focaccia bread) or a salad option. We each got a sandwich, and each ate an half of each sandwich. They were surprisingly good and filling (better than the average AmSandwhich in the cafe care) but made me wish I could expose Louise to the usual AmSteak Sleeping car dinner. Dessert was just two packaged cookie options that were okay.

We returned to our room with the packaged cookies and enjoyed watching the dark lights of Illinois before getting the room made up and heading to sleep (with me climbing up into the tight upper bunk) during the fresh air stop that I didn’t partake in in Champaign-Urbana. I was rocked to sleep on new trackage that I couldn’t see and slept okay definitely with the usual wake-ups during the night.

I fully woke up as we arrived in what was clearly Memphis(33 Photos) nicely early at 6:08, 19 minutes early. I got nearly a full photo essay, including some nice photos of the locomotive being refueled. Although should have gone downstairs and outside the main entrance for a few exterior shots. Signs in the station said the main entrance to the Amtrak portion of the station would be closed effective tomorrow with all access now from the trackside parking lot (super-unfriendly for people accessing the station as pedestrians not in vehicles).

  

I re-boarded the train and found Louise awake so we soon headed for breakfast as we left Memphis a little late. The options were an omelet, a southern style breakfast sandwich, or the continental. The attendant immediately informed us they were out of omelets, I ordered the Breakfast Sandwich (which was clearly re-heated but okay) and Louise ordered the continental which looked normal, like those found on most trains.

I then decided to head back to the room for a post-breakfast nap (we asked the attendant to leave the beds down until the last possible moment) while Louise worked in the lounge. We slowly lost some time waiting for freights on sidings, as I soon rejoined Louise in the lounge. This trip is in CN-owned trackage and it was fun to spot this unpainted since CN acquired BC Rail locomotive

2016-12-31_10-17-59

We made it to the next stop of Greenwood, MS, 52 minutes late. (a conductor crew change that I remembered stepping out at on my on time previous trip) but no smoke stop was announced. A women in our sleeper with a “service/therapy” dog we watched trying to find some shrubbery beyond the chain-link fence. We left at 9:59, an hour down.

2016-12-31_10-46-59

I tried to do a little website work in the lounge as we headed through Mississippi through small towns, the next stop being Yazoo City (a fun name!)

2016-12-31_11-39-05 2016-12-31_11-39-28 2016-12-31_11-40-27

It was an un eventful ride until we were soon heading into the Jackson suburbs and two our final fresh air stop of Jackson, MS(22 Photos). We arrived at 11:47, 35 minutes late. With a super long line of coach passengers that the crew was scanning and assigning seats to on the rainy platform made me take the risk and go downstairs into the station. I also got some nice photos of the engineers changing.

  

I re-boarded the train as we left Jackson, MS at 12:01pm, 41 minutes late. We slowly left passing more freight trains.

2016-12-31_12-04-32

Soon our stomachs and the call for lunch directed us to the dining car. The choices for lunch were the same sandwiches from yesterday, salad, and two warmed TV-dinner style entrees, the pork and potatoes were surprisingly eatable that everyone at our table ordered.

2016-12-31_14-09-53

We eventually returned to our room for an afternoon nap and enjoyment of the scenery of small-town Mississippi as we nearly gained nor lost time. As we headed into Louisiana we had the worst delay of the trip, sitting on a siding in sight of Hammond, LA Station for a good 40 minutes, with a couple northbound freights and finally the northbound City of New Orleans passing us. We eventually left Hammond at 3:16pm, 1 hour and 48 minutes late.

After that the attendant said he needed to re-make the rooms and we headed into the lounge car as we went over the causeway between Lake Maurepas and Lake Pontchartrain. This is definitely the most scenic part of the trip. The lounge car felt like a party with tons of others heading to New Orleans for New Years.

2016-12-31_16-25-37 2016-12-31_16-33-11

We eventually passed Art Egg Studios and some ads we found interesting (are they authentically old) before the train began it’s back up move into the New Orleans Station, passed the New Orleans engine shop.

2016-12-31_17-13-51 2016-12-31_17-16-53 2016-12-31_17-17-15

We then backed in past the Louisiana Superdome and into the New Orleans Station, where a train of Horizon Cars (and a Viewliner baggage car with people in it) was slowly leaving. Signage on it said Polar Express so this event train was also in New Orleans.

2016-12-31_17-19-50 2016-12-31_17-20-14 2016-12-31_17-23-25 2016-12-31_17-23-43

We arrived in New Orleans(20 Photos) at 4:30pm, 58 minutes late. I got some photos of the station as we left the platform and walked through the 1950s terminal with its murals and shared with Greyhound. The Polar Express area was much less impressive (just some curtains) than in Chicago.

   

We had reserved an AirBNB in the Garden District (hotels expensive and over-booked due to New Years) and walked over to the historic St. Charles Streetcar line to get there.

2016-12-31_17-59-13

Unfortunately we were getting on a few stops beyond downtown with streetcars so crowded that 3 passed without letting us on. I had a $5 off a bunch of rides sign-up credit from Lyft so even with slight surge pricing I relented on taking the Streetcar and $4 and a pleasant Lyft driver later we arrived to our nice AirBNB hosts.

Columbus Day Evening in Michigan City

Happy Holidays everyone! I actually stayed in South Bend with my Louise instead of traveling back to New York City.I’ve finally found time for another website update, this one about an adventure to Michigan City to spend the evening rush hour as the sunset photographing South Shore Line trains running down the middle of the street, and two Amtrak Trains.

This trip I tried to do on a couple of Friday afternoons after work back in June when I had just moved to South Bend, but to bike to the Airport I really need to leave work at 4:20 (which requires using my 15 minutes of flexibility rule, which is much easier to tell colleagues about when your going somewhere far into Chicago or catching a flight and not just a quick evening trip for fun-zees) so with Columbus Day as a random day off (and not going anywhere because of a non-blogged about trip to Colorado the following weekend) and Louise busy with an evening activity it was a much better fit for a train adventure.

I left my apartment at about 4:15 for a leisurely bike ride down Lincolnway to the Airport. I get there, lock my bike up for the evening and board the 4:45 South Shore Line train-bound for Chicago. The ride is uneventful, except as we pass the yard and enter Carroll Avenue(27 Photos) I notice little white ‘W’ pennants hanging off the sides of the train cars. There to cheer on the soon to be World Champion Chicago Cubs (at that point tied in the Division Series, with a long way to go) When I get off in Michigan City its 4:20pm. I’ve gained an hour entering Central Time.

I start getting my photo essay, knowing the ticket window is open for another 10 minutes. When I try the ticket office door I realize it’s not worth it, the ticket office here is receptionist for the Accounting and Transportation Back offices that are located on the edge of the train yard (the rest of the South Shore Line offices are at the Dune Park Station), there just a few chairs like an office waiting room.

  

I then start walking towards downtown Michigan City, across freight tracks, first passing the overflow gravel parking lot.I can’t walk parallel to the tracks at first, there on a private ROW through vegetation but head back towards the tracks when I hear a train, it’s a lone South Shore Freight Locomotive.

 

I keep walking and soon get to the intersection of Michigan Blvd and 11th Street where the reason to spend 2 and a half hours in Michigan City begins, street running!

michigan_city_post1

Soon the first train to pass through comes, the evening Express Train to South Bend (that runs non-stop through Michigan City)

  

I keep walking knowing there won’t be a train for another 20 minutes, and pass the 11th Street(73 Photos) ‘Stop’ in the middle of the street!

I continue walking west, towards the grade-crossing (where I once sat on a South Shore Line train for 10 minutes) where the Amtrak High-Speed Line to Michigan and the South Shore Line cross each other. I get the next westbound train, curving from 10th Street to 11th Street on a brief section of private ROW as I happily notice the Blue Water is running about 45 minutes late, meaning it and the first evening Wolverine (under a construction schedule) will run within 10 minutes of each other), and I’ll have perfect opportunities to photograph both of them.

  

I keep walking past the transition of the tracks from 11th Street to 10th Street and soon reach the level-crossing where Amtrak Michigan Service Trains pass under the South Shore Line’s wires.

michigan_city_post3 michigan_city_post2

Soon I’m at the Amtrak line. Michigan City Amtrak Station(14 Photos added), gets the new Amtrak photos since the stop is close enough (I don’t have a chance to walk down there on this trip). First I get the Blue Water, going under the South Shore Line wires. It’s a long Pull-Pull train, and it and the Silver Service are the only Amtrak routes I haven’t ridden (if points runs were still a thing, you bet I would have ridden it from Niles by now).

   

I then walk south a little to get the Wolverine, now with just a single locomotive, and not running in push-pull anymore.

  

At this point I’m in a poor position for the next South Shore Line Eastbound Train (there aren’t any westbound trains except for the final one at 8:45). I end up getting it transitioning from 10th Street to 11th Street just like the previous train.

   

I head back towards the station, as dusk descends, getting the 6:37 train stopping in the station.

   

It’s then just a short wait for the 6:51 train back to South Bend.

I get on in the middle of the street (that just feels bizarre) and it’s an uneventful 45 minute ride to South Bend where I arrive basically on time at 8:39.

I put my lights on my bike and ride home.

I finally need to mention as part of this update, the first 20 photos of 11th Street are from my first visit there in 2011 (before the station had been improved by Michigan City under a streetscape improvement project) on my way to Detroit. These photos I hadn’t released before so enjoy!

The Full North Jersey Coast Line is here!

I think I’ve reached another accomplishment on the New Jersey Transit side of my website. Finally fully photographed and finished uploading the North Jersey Coast Line. Jersey Shore, here you come!

Here are the final 3 missing stops:

Enjoy!

Update: Elberon, Allenhurst and Asbury Park

Thanksgiving’s roadtrip didn’t turn in any new Amtrak stations, plans changed (we still drove, ending up in a rental car when the car broke down in Toledo, Ohio, all fixed now, but there was no use in finding a mechanic on Thanksgiving Day) but were in a rush to get through and I didn’t get to make the couple of stops for Amtrak stations I was hoping to make. Hopefully I’ll get some more remote Amtrak Stations on a future road trips.

Anyway, back to my regularly planned updates, 3 more down the Jersey Shore:

Enjoy (and 3 to go)!

Update: Two Historic Depots and a Racetrack, Continuing down the Jersey Shore

Well, after revisiting the Jersey Shore earlier this month. I finally got inspiration to finally write the stations from my station-to-station bike ride over 3 years ago, and get every station on this 65 mile long line.

This update is most northern 3 that are under electricity, as a bonus I also did a write up for Long Branch that was a station I wrote originally long ago and didn’t have one:

Enjoy! Stay tuned for hopefully some random Amtrak station stop additions from our Thanksgiving Day Road-Trip to Syracuse.

A Four Day Pre-Election Day Trip to New York to Drive to a Wedding on the Jersey Shore

Two weeks ago Louise and I flew back to New York City (her first visit with me) to head down to a weeding on the Jersey Shore in downtown Lakewood New Jersey. When I thought I might be heading down to this Saturday evening wedding alone I thought I might save the money on a hotel room and just take the 24-hour Route 139 bus down for the evening. I thought the middle of the night bus right might be sort of fun (at least to blog about). With Louise joining me booking a room in the Ramada in Toms River sounded like a much better idea good idea. Also realizing that the Ramada doesn’t have one seat ride bus service and wanting to enjoy some time exploring the Jersey Shore (and visiting friends on Staten Island one direction) borrowing my parents car felt like the right call.

This didn’t mean our weekend wasn’t transit heavy, on Friday I put Louise on the 6:00am non-stop flight to Newark (she wanted some time to explore New York on her own – as a student her work is also mobile – something I really miss, now with an 8 to 4:30 desk job), waking up at 5:00am to drive her to the airport and then leave her car at her house. I took the 5:25 flight and was going to take an Uber after work at 4:30 but 4x surge pricing meant it was nearly $40.00 so I after leaving work a little early I took the 4:20pm Route 4 Bus which was running a few minutes late with its long deviation to the Excel Center and the Amtrak Station didn’t get me to the airport until about 4:50. For once there was a line at security, due to an Allegiant Air flight at 5:50, I got through at 5:07 (3 minutes before the 15 minute boarding cut-off) and walked to the gate without putting my shoes back on. I panicked for a moment when I saw a closed boarding door but luckily (after talking to another passenger) I found out boarding hadn’t started yet. The flight ended up boarding shortly after I arrived and sat on the tarmac at the runway for 20 minutes because of “evening congestion at Newark”, waiting for a slot time, they luckily let us use our phones briefly. The flight there was uneventful. I arrived, decided not to deal with the AirTrain and took a crush-loaded  NJ Transit Route 62 to Newark Penn Station, where I hopped on the next NJ Transit Train into Penn Station. I found my Louise in the Starbucks at 35th and 8th, and we hopped on the A train uptown to my parents, getting up there at about 9:10pm (not all that long a commute, less than 5 hours after leaving work in South Bend).

Saturday we drove down to the wedding via side trip to Staten Island where I wanted to see friends. Driving by I got a decent picture of the New Dorp Station house before construction began on Monday, closing this entrance.

img_5812

On Sunday after a fabulous wedding we decided to go out to a nice brunch and the internet directed us to the town center of Manasquan(13 Photos) and the Committed Pig. While we waited for our table I got some more photos of the train station that hasn’t gotten a platform in the more 3 years since my other visit.

 

After a nice brunch we spent the afternoon driving up following the shore as much as possible. We stopped for a great hour walk in Asbury Park on it’s historic boardwalk, and stopped following the shore when we got to Sandy Hook. I had one required more required stop on the Jersey Shore, getting the Middletown, NJ(72 Photos) train station. The only stop I hadn’t previously photographed. I left Louise (who was doing the driving, a Californian her major preference to being a passenger) who had a nice nap as I spent longer than I thought I would photographing the original low-level and new high-level platforms, walking the length of both to check out the pedestrian tunnel at the other end of the platforms.

   

We then drove back to my parents in New York City.

With Election Day off I rearranged my work schedule to take Monday off and make it a 4 day weekend and a real genuine trip. Monday was our one tourist day. I saw the evidence of the W train on signs in the Fulton Center. I need to spend the time doing the busy work of getting the BMT Broadway Line correct again with the new routing changes, I might be lazy and just wait until the Second Avenue subway is actually open and I have a chance to visit it to make the major changes.

img_5870

Tuesday we went on a real transit adventure when I discovered that we could take the Delta Shuttle for $60 Each to O’Hare, I realized the timing was also perfect and booked us on the Capital Limited back to South Bend (about $7 more total, not bad) for the more pleasant and nearly double the speed faster trip back. We decided that having lunch in Jackson Heights would be a fun adventure and took the A train to the 7 train (slightly slower but so much much scenic than the E train).

After a nice Tibetan Lunch at a hole in the wall restaurant, I realized that the one downside to leaving from the Marine Air Terminal was transit access. The Q47 direct bus route runs every 20 minutes, and I wasn’t going to take my chances on Port Authority Shuttle Buses from the Main terminal area if we had taken the Q70 SBS with the fact the main terminal area is a mess from construction. We ended up in an Uber for $12.18 (only $7 more than the bus since it had been more than two hours since we got on the Subway). There I was blown away by the historic architecture of the original terminal.

img_5904 img_5900 img_5897 img_5893 img_5889

There was virtually no line for security (the line-up was actually across an active path), with just Shuttle flights to Chicago and Washington leaving from this small historic terminal. We were through within 10 minutes (felt like South Bend, even with an Allegiant Flight) and into the lounge-light boarding area. There was shelving in the small modern addition of a boarding lounge of free newspapers and magazines that we took reading material from for the flight.

img_5909

Taking off we saw the planes of both Hillary, and Trump. While we taxied the less well logoed Trump plane had a logo on the outside of it. Now Vice President-elect Pence, coming to New York from my new home state of Indiana for what became Trumps victory party (at that point I was thinking a nice final trip as a soon to be unknown VP candidate before Pence returns to Indiana). We voted in Indiana a week ago!

img_5933 img_5929 img_5912

The Delta Shuttle flight was uneventful with the added benefit of a free beer (a can of a nice local ale from Long Island) for each of us and the downside of just peanuts and premium nut mix (that the flight attendant handed out each interchangeably) and no Biscoff cookies.

We got to O’Hare at 4:30pm Central Time and had a very long (non premium experience feeling) walk from the end of the E pier to the CTA. There I bought two $5 premium Airport Ventra one time use tickets that were specially marked for the marathon. It wasn’t the most pleasant CTA ride, the Blue Line lurching and a bit overheated. We were happy to get off at Clinton.

From there we had a nice outside walk to Union Station. We stopped at the ribs place for some pulled pork and a spare rib sandwich and got on the Capital Limited, heading out passed the Veterans Cabbage unit on the Pere Marquette.

 

Boarding for the Capital Limited was a bit of an Amtrak crew being lazy cluster****. We were told along with a large Amish family and a few others to wait by the conductor who soon opened the then empty last coach for us. We boarded, chose seats and ate our nice good dinner.

As the train prepared to leave the conductor announced they were closing the last car. There was quite a bit of scrambling. I asked if it was because of a group and was simply told they did a count and realized that they only needed two Coach cars to accommodate all the passengers tonight. The Coach attendants clearly wanted to be lazy and not provide the most comfort to all customers instead packing everyone in. Luckily they had been good about saving sets of seats so Louise and I were able to still sit together. If I had been alone in Coach, told to double up because the crew wanted to have a car to themselves (I looked back and witnessed the crew hanging out in it) I would have been very annoyed at what I would know would be a night sleeping much less. We enjoyed an Amish couple and their tiny baby in a nice tiny Amish bonnet sitting across from us. We also spent a lot of the ride in Sightseer Lounge Car enjoying the nice darkness (compared to the South Shore Line), on the non-stop ride to South Bend. We arrived in South Bend basically on time if not a little early just before 9:00pm. There were a good dozen of us getting off too. I called an Uber from the platform, it came from downtown in about 5 minutes and it was a straight shot down Orange Street that becomes Colfax Avenue, a 5 minute and 27 second ride, that took us 1.76 miles and cost just $4.69 (probably offsetting the small price of Amtrak tickets by requiring us not to pay for an Uber, and the $1 airport fee home from the Airport Train Station).

At home it was a hard evening and night due to the election that put a bit of a damper on a really nice four day trip!

A Drive the Closed Bangor Station (Cafe) via Dowagiac

A newly formed weekend routine between me and my lady Louise is going to find a cafe/coffee house work in. Me on this website, her on philosophy (she’s a grad student).

We also love driving to random places nearby South Bend and this led me to see if any of the farther flung smaller towns (we’ve already done New Buffalo, Holland and St. Joesph, which I still need to write up). This led me to searching if places like Waterloo – a website that’s two years old said a coffee house is coming soon – and Bangor which much to my surprise had would sounded like a decent coffee house in the station open Monday through Saturday. This past weekend we decided it would be a fun little road trip up to Bangor. Google gave me an option of going via Dowagaic so we added that in too (Niles I’ve been too by bike but my camera was dead so I need to revisit it).

We set off on a nice late autumn afternoon, some leafs still in the trees. It’s maybe a half-hour drive up to Dowagaic(46 Photos) where we head and park at the train station. It’s a beauty and has been restored by the city and is even open a Saturday afternoon. I get my photo essay.

  

I notice there is an express train scheduled to pass through soon but it hasn’t left Kalamazoo yet. We’ve noticed a historic Main Street a block away and head over there to explore. Dowagaic is a neat town and we gravitate into a super neat used bookstore. After 15 minutes inside I realize that it’s time to head back and try and catch the midday Wolverine. I leave Louise inside and walk over to the station, meeting another railfan also from elsewhere getting out of his car for some photos of Train #353 screaming by.

 

I return to the bookstore and find Louise where I’ve left her. We then walk Main Street some more and find an authentic historic soda fountain where we stop for a milkshake right at closing time (4:00pm). We vow to return to Dowagiac and try some of the interesting restaurants in town.

We get back in the car and drive literally straight north for 23 miles up to Bangor (well we have to make one left turn when the state highway turns to stay on the county road north).

bangor-map

Once we get to Bangor(33 Photos), which has a much less cute downtown, we drive to the train station and before getting out of the car, notice the Railroad Cafe is clearly closed. Signs on the doors list it’s new much more limited hours, 6:00am to 4:00pm on Weekdays, 6:00am to 2:00pm on Saturdays. I leave Louise in the car as I get my photo essay of the station with a decaying platform. Unhappy I can’t enter the depot.

  

We then need to salvage some work time before heading home to South Bend. Wefind a place courtesy of Google – we hope, in the midwest the internet has served us wrong so many times compared to the coasts where were from – open until 8:00pm (after the milkshake we know a late dinner will be fine) in St. Joesph. We arrive there right before sunset and take a little walk onto the bluff that overlooks the Amtrak Station.

st_joe_tease2

The cafe in St. Joe is open till 8:00pm and is perfectly adequate. We go to our favorite brewery in Silver Harbor, happy about the days adventures even though they didn’t go really as planned.

Enjoy the new stations! (Next up will be finishing up the North Jersey Coast Line!)

Re-starting the Jersey Coast Line: the final 3 stops from Bay Head

This weekend I’m flying back to New York primarily to go to a wedding of some friends on the Jersey Shore. I was looking through my archive for my two primary trips down the shore line 3 years ago: Riding the North Jersey Coast Line all the way to Bay Head, and a North Jersey Coast Line Shore Express Bike Ride to remember if I’d forgotten any stations. I realized it’s just Middletown that’s un-photographed although were driving down, I’ll definitely make the stop. I realized I typed summaries of the final 3 stops but new made the pages (since I was going for continuity), so to start here they are:

Enjoy! The rest of the line will require more work, typing station summaries, so don’t expect it too soon!

More Harlem Line: Mount Kisco, Chappaqua, and Pleasantville

Last Monday when I was on the train to Milwaukee I felt like doing something mindless on my computer that would help the website. I remembered I had done the writing for some more Harlem Line Stations (I do have a gap, I don’t have photos – I visited the stations once but photos were lost in hard drive crash – of Mount Pleasant and Hawthorne), so I decided to do the easy work of completing the station update:

The Rebuilt Milwaukee Station Platform Area – Getting their via the South Shore Line to the Hiawatha

This past week I spent at a training for work in Milwaukee with a colleague. At my job the assumption is that we’d drive to the training but my boss was willing to let us take the train when I showed him that with the Indiana and Chicago area Toll Road Tolls and and parking we’d break even on price. My colleague was also game not to deal with the Chicago area traffic. The extra travel time was just an hour to 2 (not accounting for what would have probably been terrible traffic) by train, Google estimating the drive at 3.5 hours.

I didn’t really take any pictures of the journey (and didn’t take detailed notes), just pictures of the impressively rebuilt Milwaukee Station but might as well summarize this comparison for a trip that was almost equal Amtrak, equal Commuter Rail for distance travel, must time wise much longer on the slow Interurban South Shore Line.

Monday evening up: We get a ride (I actually drove, and with a colleague in the car to drive the company car back to the office) to the Airport South Shore Line Station for the 4:45pm ET South Shore Line Train. We might have taken a Transpo bus but the timing is terrible, we’d need to leave the office at 3:50 and wait 28 minutes at the airport. The headway is half an hour. We deal with getting a poorly itemized receipt for our round-trip tickets ($13.25 each way) from the TVM with our company credit card. We end up saving our ticket stubs to make sure the state board of accounts is satisfied. The 4:45pm train has begun many trips for me on Friday afternoons and I’m used to it being fairly crowded. On a Monday night it’s nearly empty, and much shorter with just 3 cars instead of 5 to 6, as we make all of the stops into Chicago. Unlike on a Friday night when I’ve had to double up, there just a handful of passengers even when we leave Hegewisch for the run up Metra Electric (where the track always feels smoother).

We get off at Van Buren Street at 6:05 pm, the train running 5 minutes early not really facing any delays. We have a two hour layover in Chicago and start walking the mile crosstown. At this point I’ve examined our Amtrak ticket for the Unreserved Hiawatha and notice that our return date is for Friday so I make a note to stop by the ticket office (it’s a rare Amtrak ticket not booked by me). We stop at Giordano’s Pizza we ask how long for a deep-dish pie, we get the reply of 45 minutes and decide we should have enough time. We order a pizza to share and I decided to walk to Union Station while we wait to ask at the ticket office. They tell me I don’t need to change the ticket, Hiawatha trains are unreserved and the ticket will be accepted on Thursday instead of Friday. I’m slightly surprised, somewhere I thought the travel date was the first day of validity and then the ticket would be valid for a year, I guess I’m wrong. I also add my AGR number for the measly points on the $25 ticket (half the number of points, just 5o base instead of the old 100, No more points runs). We return and the pizza arrives just as I’m getting nervous.

We head over to the station for Hiawatha Train #341 scheduled to leave at 8:05 (really 8:00 to me because of the 5 minute boarding gates closing rule). Boarding is a bit confusing at 7:50. Were in the boarding gate area towards the front of the line (no ones being all that pushy), there is a second priority line outside the boarding area that I believe is just for 10 trip and monthly pass holders. It’s unclear to me if anyone is enforcing it this second line. An Amtrak policeman announces “Now Boarding!” before an agent runs up and says 10 trip and monthly pass holders first, holding us back, it’s not long before we board and walk out towards the front of the train where I think it will be less crowded.

The Amtrak Hiawatha is basically just a commuter train. The legroom of the Horizon Cars is much appreciated for the quick and dark 85 minute, 86 mile trip up to Milwaukee. After two and half hours on the South Shore Line, Amtrak’s generous legroom is night and day. The evening train is quite empty on a Monday night. I end up doing some website work for the first time in awhile (update soon) with an outlet, generous legroom and feeling too tired to read after the time change.

As we arrive in Milwaukee(6 photos) at 9:25, and I’m blown away by the lights of the new station, grabbing my camera.

 

We use the nice blue overpass structure that fits within the roof (I’m quite impressed by it) to get over to Track 0 and the exit before walking 10 minutes to our hotel.

Tuesday Photo Walk: On Tuesday as soon as our training’s over around 5:00 with evening fast approaching (something I’m less used to happening at 6:00pm in late October now that I live in the extreme western side of the Eastern Time Zone, right now it’s barely twilight when I go to work at 8:00am) I head out to get some photos of the station from public areas(22 photos). I start by walking by the station and then head up (there’s barely a staircase) to get some photos from the cable-stained overpass of North 6th Street that crosses over the exposed extreme ends of the overpass.

   

I quickly get that photo set. I then want to finally get photos of a Hiawatha Train going over its first grade crossing of 2nd Street basically leaving the station, going through the post office building that surrounds it’s former mail car platform. It’s a spot I remember thinking about on my first Hiawatha trip 5 years ago. Hiawatha Train #340 is due to leave at 5:45 (there no arrivals in the short time frame I have before it gets dark). I get to the crossing just in time for some photos:

  

Thursday Afternoon, coming back: Our training finishes before Noon, so we grab a leisurely lunch and head to the station at 12:40 for the 1:00pm Hiawatha Train #336. We get to the station and I show our ticket (well a print out) again to the ticket office to be sure (no one is in line), they confirm that yes that ticket will be accepted. I enjoy the advertising of the new Saturday late night 11:00pm-ish trains in each direction (it’s replaced the 6:00am early morning train in each direction) with ads saying “Take your bride to dinner and a show without the hotel room.” The schedule change was a pilot just over the summer and will now be made permanent. I wish we had a later South Shore Line train back to South Bend, the last leaves at 9:15pm CT (arriving at 12:40am due to the time change). I finally took the Lake Shore Limited home at 9:30pm a few weeks ago and that will become the new late night routine.

Boarding in Milwaukee(9 Photos) is a line up also except strangely two lines are formed. We stand in what becomes the much shorter line, with one line forming back into the terminal from the cordoned off area. I’m out with my camera as the line of people heads out to the overpass.

 

The final call is at 12:55 (Milwaukee now having the gates close 5 minutes prior to departure rule, I wish Amtrak would become Metro-North at Grand Central and publish this time, not the actual departure time (at Grand Central always 1 minutes after to give passengers time to board.

It’s another nice pleasant ride on a relatively empty train down to Chicago with the usual ticket check between Sturetvant and Glenview when most riders our on-board, no seat checks. In Chicago, where we arrive four minutes early 2:25 the crew is a bit annoying, were sitting in the second car from the front of the train, the first car is open for passengers, but no crew member comes to open the doors in that vestibule forcing us to double-back as we leave the station. I spend the ride getting my new Milwaukee Station photos processed to update the website.

The next train home to South Bend is the 3:57 evening Express Train, I’ve contacted a friend who works across from Millennium Park and has flexibility so we grab a quick coffee after he shows me his impressive 12 floor office (in a coworking space) with nice views of Lake Michigan. Chatting he walks me to Millennium Station where I reach the platform to the conductors saying East Chicago, Dune Park and South Bend only. The train is extremely long. I get on a car towards the rear and the doors soon close, knowing I’ll have to walk up for the short 3 car platform in South Bend. We make the usual stops to pick up passengers at Van Buren Street, 11 Street-Museum Campus before the final Metra Stop at 57th Street for almost no one.

When the conductor comes (most seats are taken in my car but no one has to double-up) the conductor warns that all of us going to South Bend will have to move up after Dune Park. The train is extra long because it’s transporting 150 school children home to Dune Park and were going to have to drop some cars in Michigan City. I text my lady who’s picking me up that I’m going to be a little late because of this. I spend the first part of the trip trying to do other website stuff on my computer (I’m also sitting at the one outlet in the car) but the tightness of the seats on the South Shore Line makes this hard. I won’t try again and will normally just read a book.

In Dune Park the stop takes a good five minutes and I see 3 school buses followed by loads of school children. The conductor at this point is ushering all of us to walk 3 cars towards the front of the train which I do, finding plenty of seats, and eventually my colleague who’s sitting at the very front (the most crowded car) where she was directed to board when she got on in Chicago).

At Carroll Avenue-Michigan City where the yard is I see two yard men in florescent vests waiting on the platform, we pull up slightly into the yard, I hear the break pressure dropping. We’re on our way within 3 minutes. The South Shore Line really has mastered dropping cars in Michigan City, something many late night runs that deadhead back due as part of the schedule, trains will become just 1 or 2 cars when they leave.

It’s then the past trip through the woods (past a lake, we skip Hudson Lake even, not the usual flag stop) before the slow ride along Bendix Avenue, down the marry-go-round curving around into the airport station at 7:05, 10 minutes late, the express train not breaking that scheduled less than 2 hours mark this evening.