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PATH to Newark for the Acela Express to Boston (to get a better seat). Plus the adventure for the agents processing my First Class Upgrade

The trip begins the morning before, I was up anyway finishing something and decided I might as well call at 12:30am exactly to confirm my upgrade with my Select coupon (Select coupons let you confirm an upgrade 12 hours in advance, S+ coupons are 48 hours). I call the priority Select number on my (no dealing with Julie and having to say agent) up at 12:31 and get a very friendly agent who is clearly having trouble processing the coupon as I give her my reservation number and coupon code. It takes her 7 minutes to process the coupon including putting me on hold to ask someone to double check things, after that I hear her say “$107.00” that’s what I need. She confirms my e-mail address, I hang up and a few minutes later get an “Amtrak Reservation Exchange Conformation” e-mail that looks like the ones pre-eTickets complete with a barcode to scan at a Quik-Trak machine. I then go to bed before my next days travels.

The day began when I leave the house at 10:32. I went down to 181 Street and saw an empty uptown R32 C train skipping the station, its a late morning take-out heading up to the 207th Street Yard (I assume) and will head back down for the PM Rush Hour this afternoon. My A train came in at 10:42.

At 11:05, the train stops at Penn Station.
I get to Chambers Street at 11:20 and head down to an empty PATH platform at WTC, no sign of a PATH train in the station.

I want to get some more World Trade Center PATH station photos but the platform is full of cops (PATH officially outlaws photography and I have been yelled it). So I end up with a self exploration. Just two platforms for tracks 3, 4, and 5 are currently opened.
A PATH train finally arrived and I left at 11:30. It is an eventful PATH ride. We zoom through the tunnel, stop at Exchange Place before coming to a stop outside of Grove Street. We’re on the move again at 11:39. We nearly hit the emergency break before Journal Square. There’s a PATH employee sitting across from me (with a radio, I’m tempted to ask what’s going on) that braces herself, but it’s just a sudden stop and not the emergency break. Soon we regain speed and are finally outside at Journal Journal Square. I get off at Newark at 12:02 and am walking down the ramp ‘To Connecting Western Trains’ to tracks 3 and 4. It has got to be one of the neatest ways to arrive at a railroad platform and I can’t believe I haven’t taken the ramp down from the PATH’s exit platform before.

I continue walking down and go to the Amtrak ticket windows. I had over my Upgrade Coupon, ID and AGR Select Card (don’t know if I need it). I tell the agent I called earlier to upgrade the reservation. Her response “Thank you, let’s she if they did it right.” It took the agent about 5 minutes including writing down the price I paid for the ticket of $107 on piece of scrap paper. It is very clear that Amtrak’s Reservation system isn’t designed to easily process Upgrade Coupons. The agent though clearly knew what she was doing. The I finally get my Acela First Class ticket, which disspoints me. It’s a modern Electronic Travel Document, from a printer that needs more ink. It says ‘Acela Express First Clas’ (cutting off an S, too long) I am told first class will be the last car of the train. I try a Quik-Trak Machine to get a better printed ticket but get an error message of ‘Trouble Reading Card’ from my Select card and my MasterCard brings up only my next Amtrak Reservation. QuikTrack obviously can’t do anything with upgraded reservation.

I head outside before hearing the announcements for the northbound Silver Meteor from Miami that is arriving to discharge its passengers, running an hour and a half late. I then head up to my platform to get some pictures of Viewliners stopping in Newark. I go back into the station to see how Newark handles the baggage claim. It’s unclear, there just a few people standing outside the baggage office waiting. There is not a clear claim area. I eventually head back up to the platform for track 2 and find a bunch at the rear of the train. I also watch a Keystone heading south and a Regional heading north stop in the station. An assistant conductor manning the last door of a regional (with a flashlight) says something to me, and that train closes its doors before a women getting off late gets her suitcases stuck. The doors do recycle, so the lady can get off, something I’ve never noticed on Amtrak (granted I don’t ride the Northeast Corridor very often). I notice an Amtrak cop on the platform as my Acela enters right on time, first class is the last car at 12:30.