Transit Adventures

A Rainy Day on SEPTA before a Free Keystone Express Trip to Start an Adirondack Dome Car Spectacular

On Tuesday night I realized that the Yankees chances of making it to Game 6 of the ALCS were looking quite slim and in time for the I love NY 15% or my NARP 10% discounts, I decided it was time for my alternate and train oriented trip for the weekend. The plan, Ocean View, Amtrak’s only remaining dome car, on the Adirondack for a quick up and back over Saturday night to see fall and ride Ocean View on it’s last weekend. I also knew about the Adirondack’s various multi-city tricks and decided I might as well use Friday to try and get more of SEPTA done getting an included,same price as leaving from New York. I wanted to add on a third leg on the Maple Leaf to Hudson or Schenectady to break up the day but it was at a high bucket and much more expensive, I also thought about a 20 minute stop in Jersey on my way back from Philly for an extra 100 AGR points (in my quest for Select+ status) but I couldn’t get the multi-city section of the website to cooperate. So I settled for just 2 segments and 200 tear (400 with the fall bonus) AGR points for my outbound leg.

On Thursday (just before the 24 hour cancellation time for a refund and not a voucher) the Yankees were officially swept and as sad as I was with the sweep the Adirondack seemed exciting. At that point it was time to book the return within the three day discount window. The Adirondack was running high bucket ($71 before discounts instead of $63) and was sold out (might have gotten the last seat after a cancellation if I had booked at the right time) south of Poughkeepsie. That was fine with me, I would do a 3 hour layover and wait for the Sunday night Ethan Allen Express. I also discovered that adding an New Jersey Trip to Metropark on Monday (Trenton was more) would somehow reduce the price to $70 and the full quafecta of 400 AGR points (plus 400 bonus points since the segments are on different days) for the itinerary. I thought of taking my usual Greyhound to Philly but couldn’t find a bus ticket down for less than $15 and decided that the NJT to SEPTA rail route was only appropriate with a ticket on a Keystone evening Express train back.

Friday came dreary and rainy, normally I would cancel a trip but decided I might as well be a tourist in Philly if the weather wasn’t good. I headed to the subway at 7:15 thinking I might make the 7:52 NJT train, otherwise be cheep and do PATH to Newark. I get to the A train just arriving (running for it) and am at Penn Station by 7:44, they haven’t posted a track yet. I buy my one-way ticket all the way to Levittown-SEPTA that gives me two tickets in all, and the cheepest way to get from New Jersey with an independence pass paying $3.25 to enter Jersey instead of the $5 fee the Independence Pass requires for travel to/from Jersey. I also run into the information center to see about picking up a Trenton SEPTA timetable but they have none.

At 7:49 they finally announce the track for my Multi-Level train which is quite crowded but only because NJT is yet again leaving many of their cars closed. I end up setteling on a forward facing seat on the lower level for what is an uneventful ride to Trenton making all stops except “the Elizabeth and the Linden” as the conductor announces (as if their people’s names). I also see one of the Jersey Avenue trains pulled into that oddly angled platform that was a Push-Pull single level set, one of the reverse peak turns and not one of the trains that had spent the night in that train yard (only arrows can be stored in the yard). We get to Trenton 5 minutes early at 9:19. This means I have quite a while. I run upstairs to the NJT ticket office that also sells SEPTA tickets and ask to buy an Independence Pass, the agent tells me that I have to buy one on the train.

I go board my SEPTA train, and as we wait to leave the next NJT train arrives 5 minutes early giving those passengers a 3 minute (if lucky connection). We finally leave on time at 9:40. The conductor comes through and immediately sells me an Independence Pass collecting my ticket to Levittown that gets me across the state line. I think about doing photo stops on the NEC before Philly but it starts raining a lot. For the first few stops there are no announcements of the PA system, just the conductor announcing them verbally. At Eddington one of the conductor’s began announcing each stop at least a dozen times (The next stop is Eddington, this train will stop at Eddington…). This cracked on the conductors up and soon people where joking with the other conductor that the train wouldn’t be going to 30th Street Station at all. I end up getting off at North Philadelphia and walking to the Broad Street Subway. I enter the passes only high entrance turnstile at the northern end of the station. Technically Independence Passes never work here although they have a magnetic strip. A maintenance worker lets me in, surprised my independence pass doesn’t work. This I appreciate, not having to walk three blocks in the rain.

I get off at City Hall and decide that a good rainy day Philly Activity is to photograph the underground trolley stations. I do this visiting each of the simple side platforms where you pay on board, including finding the replica Peter-Witt trolley at the University of Pennsylvania donated by an alumni class. Next I decide its time to get more of the Market-Frakford Line finished and head out towards the Frankford Transit Center. I take it towards that end of the line, realizing it has stopped raining (but stations have left their lights on), and do every stop from Berks to the Frankford Transit Center heading in the outbound direction because the stops have all been rebuilt in the 1990s with two overpasses each, high exit only turnstile exits from the outbound platforms and the only regular fare control areas on the inbound platforms. I end at the 1960s middle of the freeway island platform at Spring Garden before realizing it was 2:30, stopping for lunch at the Redding Terminal Market (doesn’t feel much like an old rail station but still really neat).

I decided with the sun coming out a bit for the evening it was time to try and get another Regional Rail line done. I wanted one of the three ex-Pennsy lines to avoid having to double back through Center City before my Amtrak train and the Media-Elwyn Line seemed like a relative good fit. I started by taking the train out to Angora and then see that I’m near the end of a trolley line, and take the 34 a few blocks to its endpoint before walking another ½ mile to the next Regional Rail stop of Fernwood-Yeadon. Looking at the schedule there I formulate a quite complicated doubling back strategy (the line in rush hour has express trains that alternate skipping different sets of stops) and manage to visit, getting photo essays of every stop, 11 in total out to Moylan-Rose Valley (that stop is the only one I’ll have to revisit due to darkness). This means the branch is done except for Media, Elwyn which I’ll visit when I finally venture down the 101 trolley (haven’t decided what I’ll do for all the little named stops on the suburban trolleys). I took a train back in and returned to 30th Street station around 7:15 for my 7:40 Amtrak train to New York.

I grab some food in 30th Street Station before getting on the end of a relatively long line for Keystone train #656. We board with the push-pull train set that reverses direction already inside 30th Street Station. I go and sit towards the back of the Cab Car, the last car of the train. I don’t sit at the very back next to the cab due to some very loud Women heading to New York for a weekend getaway. The cab car’s door is open and emits a high-pitched beeping sound for most of the ride.
We leave at 7:42 getting an announcement that there are five cars on the train and no food and beverages. I think an Amtrak bar cart would be doing brisk business if one existed.
At 8:07 cross the Delaware River as we enter Trenton. Its announced that all doors wont open and exits are only where you see a member of the crew, this is surprising since they can MU the doors except for the cab car. I assume there doing this for crowd control for the few boarding passengers. It’s a quick stop at 8:10 and we leave into the night for a nonstop 125mph run to Newark.
At 8:39 we slowly enter Newark,At 8:40 we leave.
It’s a quick roll through Secaucus at 8:47 and we arrive in Penn Station at 8:52pm, 10 minutes early. My trip up the NEC on a Keystone Service train making two stops taking just 70 minutes, compared to 154 minutes for my trip down (had I stayed on until 30th Street Station), less than half the time. The average speeds were There is a reason why people pay double ($36 14 days in advance, about $50 low bucket) or more to speed down on Amtrak instead of NJT to SEPTA.

The train arrives into Penn Station in my favorite situation. We are directly at the end of one of the long platforms. This requires us to walk the length of the train and by the first few cars of an Acela parked directly in front of us (I get some neat pictures) to finally reach the first escalator up into Penn Station. I stop at a ticket window (their no lines) to see about getting my passport checked tonight but am told that will halve to be in the morning. I then hop on the A train and am home by 9:40 about two hours after leaving 30th Street station.