Transit Adventures

A Day Trip to Philly to Finish the MFL and the Norresstown High Speed Line, Home via SEPTA to Levittown to Bus Route 127 to NJT to Newark to PATH, taking 3 hours and 45 minutes!

This is the fourt post (Post 1|Post 2|Post 3) about four trips over four days on a POH-YNY-NYP-NWK-PHL points run muli-city ticket I bought to ride VIA Cars on the Adirondack after Thanksgiving 2012 and to also get enough points for S+ status.

After PATH took so long yesterday to get me home from Newark, I was a little worried I would miss my 8:26am Amtrak trip from Newark (I wanted to take the 9:46 Keystone, giving me a 23 hours and 55 minute layover that should have been valid in Newark but Arrow, Amtrak’s reservation system wouldn’t recognize it), I had to settle for the next train and an early start.

Nervous about getting to Newark with all my PATH issues I left the house at 6:40 and got to 181 Street nervous about my connection, debating getting off and splurging on NJ Transit to Newark. First an R32 C train running light to 168th Street to begin its day in service bypassed 181st Street came through followed by my A train. I take the A train down to Canal Street where an E train is across the platform and hop on that for the slightly shorter to PATH transfer. I leave the station and go up the crowded exit staircase to the crowded pedestrian pathway to the present extremely temporary PATH station. There I go down the PATH hill, tap my SmartLink Card ($1.70 for this ride, I buy 10 ride cards for PATH) and get on a Hoboken train, the only destination presently being served. Its an uneventful and faster than expect ride to Newark and the next thing I know I’m stepping off at the upper level PATH platform in the roof of Newark Penn Station at 7:52 with over a full half-hour before my Amtrak train to Philadelphia. I get some more photos and going downstairs into the station is crowded due to long term construction, the ramp to track 5 and the escalator are closed. I can’t go up to the platform of my train because of one problem. The departure monitors hampered by the Solari flip-board can’t handle more than the next 8 departures although all have a track number listed. I go down to the main great hall and waiting room which is a sea of departures to New York with 6 of the 8 trains leaving from Newark heading to New York in the next 15 minutes. I go and buy a donut and coffee at Ducken Donuts and wait for my train to appear on the Solari flip-board. I sit down on a nice wooden waiting room bench and enjoy listening to the tracks flipping noise. At 8:16, my Regional train #185 to Washington finally appears on the Solari flip-board and I head upstairs for boarding.

Regional Train #185 (originating in New York, only heading to Washington) comes in on time with HHP-8 #650 providing head-end power. I go and sit in the Quiet car, the train is crowded and its clear I will have to double-up. I pick on a businessman sitting on an aisle seat who moves his coat and briefcase up to the overhead rack. This gives me the window seat for my relatively local ride on Amtrak to Philly stopping at EWR Airport, Metropark and Trenton. Its only an hour and ten minute ride and we arrive about 5 minutes late at 9:38am.

I get my Philly platform photos before heading upstairs. I notice their Solari board doesn’t have St. Albans on it. The destination of the Vermonter is simply ‘Vermont.’ I stop at a Regional rail ticket window to buy my SEPTA Independence Pass and then head to the Market-Frankford El Line.

My goal is the elevated stations of its western branch out to 69th Street. I do my station to station, stopping at all the elevated stops, using mostly the doubling back trick since most of these stations have underpasses, not overpass to connect the two platforms and require only one fare control area. It’s all successful except for the cashier at 63rd Street first telling me I can’t take pictures when I show him I Independence Pass to enter the station. I tell him the usual that their website has clearly posted policy allowing photography. He actually comes out of his booth to scream at me again that I can’t take pictures across the station tracks as I try and get some of the station overpass. I do the next stop of Millbourne successfully and then end at 69th Street terminal. The outdoors portion at least of the MFL is now complete.

My other main goal for the day is getting the Route 100 Norristown Line done at each of its tiny on demand stops, you halve to push a bottom that illuminates a signal for the train to even stop. It runs about every 20 minutes during middays but clearly isn’t following its schedule. I start by heading out two stops to Township Line Road where I am on the overpass when I hear an approaching train and hit the botton with enough time to catch it before doubling back to Parkview. I decide to skip the next set of stations because there relatively close to the Ardmore Regional Rail station that I know I will be at sometime soon on a Keystone Service points run.

I head out to Roberts Road-Rosemont, from there I walk back to Bryn Mawr on the Norristown Line before walking over to the excellent for photos (there is no fence on the four tracks) SEPTA/Amtrak Paoli/Thorndale Line station at Bryn Mawr. I decide that I really want to get a photo of the Pennsylvanian headed to Pittsburgh, the only Amtrak train to use a locomotive under wire and only diesel train Amtrak regularly runs with an engine change in Philadelphia. I board the next outbound Paoli/Thorndale Line train and start looking for another stop (I think I remember some from my recent Keystone trip) without a fence, the light requires me to be positioned on the Philadelphia-bound track to photograph a train on the Harrisburg side. I ride all the way to the simple Daylesford Station where I have just 8 minutes before the next inbound SEPTA train at 1:08. Luckily the Pennsylvanian zooms by just before it with a unique ex-Pepsi-can P32-8 #514 providing motive power. The photos I get through the fence aren’t that bad.

I then head back and decide I might as well try for the New York-bound Pennsylvanian in a few hours. I head back to Radnor to get the rest of the Norristown High Speed Line stations near the Paoli Regional Rail Line. From there after getting a photo essay including a Keystone going by on the express track and I walk by suburban office parks to the Radnor station. I take the NHS (ex-Route 100) t o Stadium and walk back to the Villanova station. I then walk across Villanova’s campus to the SEPTA station and take an inbound SEPTA train one stop to Rosemont. At Rosemont I wait for New York-bound Pennsylvanian Train #42 to come through and it does at 2:28 lead by an normal P42, but unit #42. I think this is my first photo of an Amtrak train where the P42 number matched the train number!

I walk back to the Norristown Line and have a very slow time doing a station to station out to Norristown (I save the stops from Bryn Mawr South for another time) of now rush hour service. The main problem is that the trains run so close together that I am on the street getting entrance photos and don’t notice them approaching until it is too late to run back down/up to the platform to push the button to call the train. I end up going over the single track bridge and just arrive at the Norristown Transportation Center at 4:33. I have 8 minutes before the next Norristown Regional Rail Line train back into Center City and get some photos before riding that. The next train comes in at 4:41 and I decide in the dusk I might as well make one photo stop and chose the simple Spring Mill station that results in a photo essay basically in the dark. I get there at 4:49 and realize that it is an unnecessary stop since it really is now dark out. I end up doubling back to Conhohocken and take the next inbound train at 5:17. I realize this is the actual train I need to make the last bus on route 127 from Levittown to Trenton and avoid paying the $3.25-$5 New Jersey with an independence pass fee.

It is unfortunately and older Silverliner-IV so now front window. The crew changes at Suburban Station and we leave 30th Street station at 6:00pm as the train makes a full loop between downtown and North Philadelphia (crossing over itself just south of that station). Its an uneventful local ride to Levittown where I arrive at 6:44 a few minutes late. I have a little time before my bus on route 127 and walk into a nearby shopping center to buy a Quesadila at Taco Bell. The Taco Bell is crowded enough I almost give up on my little order (I’ve been munching on sandwiches I brought for my food for the rest of the day) worried about missing the bus. I find the bus stop in the middle of the shopping mall access road (there is also a stop in front of the train station) and bus 127 pulls up on time at 7:05. I flash my Independence Ride for a relatively fast ride on a quite empty bus with the bus taking highways in places before we cross the Delaware on a toll bridge. We take a slighlty round about route into Trenton before I get off at the last stop in front of the Trenton Transit Center at 7:37.

At Trenton I have just 7 minutes before the 7:45pm local NJ Transit train to New York and at the ticket machine decide I’ll have to get off in Newark and save the $2.30 to make this the most frugal trip back from Philadelphia via transit (with an independence pass just $11.50 + $1.70 ($2.25 full PATH fare) = $13.30 total, still only slightly less and longer than the $15 that is the normal bus fare). A train isn’t in the station yet but to my happiness NJT’s BiLevels come in. Its a much more quiet and less crowded ride back up the corridor. We make every local stop except Jersey Avenue and North Elizabeth trip to Newark. It’s a much more relaxing ride, with windows that actually have visibility compared to my ride on the 5:55pm train of Arrows a few weeks ago. We get to Newark at 8:58pm and to my dismay watch a PATH train leave the station as we enter. I tap my SmartLink card and almost freeze sitting on PATH waiting for the train to leave with all of its doors open (on both sides), they don’t have economy mode like the subway (just one door leaf open per car). The train finally leaves at 9:10pm and at Journal Square I decide to switch for the 33rd Street train to make this ride as close as possible to Amtrak’s trip to Penn Station. It is an extremely slow, stop and go ride and I finally am stepping off onto the exit platform at 33rd Street at 9:45. There people jogging into the PATH station, worried they will miss the system’s shut-down starting at 10:00pm overnight for the continued post-Sandy fixing of the PATH system.

My total travel time home from 30th Street Station-Philadelphia to 33rd Street and 6th Avenue (close enough to Penn Station) is three hours and 45 minutes, nearly triple the time my Amtrak train is scheduled to take from NYP to PHL (had I gotten on there) at 1 hour and 22 minutes. Near Rahway an Acela Express Train zoomed by us. This makes the trip in 1 hour and 15 minutes (7:30 to 8:45). My trip home is never worth it since the buses (Greyhound, MegaBus, BoltBus) max out at about a $15 fare and take 2 to 2 and a half hours in no traffic. It was still a good adventure for the subwaynut.

To get home I hop on a D train to an A Express Train for an uneventful ride except for some R160s (no photos) bypassing 125th Street on the express track.