Transit Adventures

A Long Day Wending My Way to R.I. via a Shuttle Points run to WFD, Shore Line East, and a final Northeast Regional OSB-NLC-KIN Trip

My one railfan friend Robert’s family has a house near Westerly in Rhode Island. Were both off this week and were planning to do some train riding in New York until I realize that this is as good a time as any to finally take the train up to Rhode Island where his parents already are and his family has a house and why not wend our way up there doing Shore Line East a system we’ve never ridden. I also figure out an easy way to turn the day into an AGR points quadfecta for just under $9 extra each (in addition to the $15 tickets we already need from New London to Rhode Island). This is the first post in a mini-trip: Local Trains to Boston and Vermont

I leave the house at 7:19. I’m not getting my hopes up about making the 7:56 Local to Stamford to connect to an express to New Haven. Metro-North is currently performing major track work in the Bronx causing fewer trains to stop at Fordham (Tremont and Melrose are closed with shuttle buses) and slower trip times. The last time I connected to the 10:30 Shuttle to Springfield over a year ago it was a perfect connection from the 8:24 Metro-North express that  (scheduled to arrived in New Haven at 10:02, we were 5 minutes early, getting there at 9:57 due to recovery time). For my connection today I have to change at Stamford and can take the 7:56 train and get to New Haven at 10:05. The other option is the 8:27 to connect with the 10:25, that’s cutting it a bit close, especially since I’ll meet a friend (and don’t want to cut it close with him).

The elevator at 181 Street is right there and I’m sitting on the A train at 7:21, and very slowly pull into 207 Street at 7:29.

I get off and just miss the next Bx12 SBS. I stop at the MetroCard reader for my receipt and get a MetroCard not valid message before trying again and getting insufficient fare. I should have just gotten on the next Bx12SBS and if I got a summons experienced the appeals process of sending in my MetroCard. I’m so frustrated by the whole thing I decide to walk.

I briskly walk over the University Heights bridge getting past on it by the next Bx12 SBS. I continuing walking and get to the Grand Concourse at 7:51. I see a regular local Bx12 and get the 50¢ insert coins message I tell the driver I just get off the subway and get the don’t worry about it wave. We pass the Fordham Station at 7:55 (my trains normal time) and I don’t realize that there doing construction and buses are stopping a block beyond the station. I get in an even worse mood because we’re stuck waiting for an SBS bus to pull out before we get to our stop beyond the SBS area.

I dash back to the station go down the last staircase to a crowded platform and the LED screen saying ‘arriving’ for our train. I dash back up to the ticket office side, luckily find no one at the nearest TVM and buy my always $12 ticket to New Haven (125th would have been $20.50 since this is now a peak train, since the AM peak on Metro-North is in both directions since ). My train is then just arriving and I hear one conductor telling the other, “Hold on, I’ve got a bike” I board up there and hear him asking a Hispanic man (I assume using his bike for the last mile issue to a job) if his bike folds? The response is a blank and the conductor then tells him he needs to take the next train. He gets off. I do check the timetable and this reverse peak train has the No Bikes logo for it.

We leave at 7:59 and the conductor walks by I show him my ticket (that he doesn’t bother to punch it)
I don’t bother to keep track of all the local stops but at 8:14 we stop at New Rochelle on track 5.
At 8:30 I see the conductor collecting our seat checks as we come into Greenwich. This seems early.
I look up and notice a women with bike in my car, where was the conductor to kick her off? As she gets off at Old Greenwich at 8:40 I realize it might be collapsible.

We get to Stamford at 8:46 on track 2 as an arriving Shore Line east direct train is pulling in discharging. I have a good layover in Stamford with a Boston-bound Acela stopping and I’m surprised the Shore Line east train leaves the station while Acela is still stopped. In Amtrak territory Acela would leave first.

There’s the live station voice and the automated one (at every Metro-North Station) interrupting it announcing my train to New Haven and the next train (a through train) to New Canaan are operating 5-10 minutes late. The New Haven local arrives at 9:20 and I find my friend Robert who I went on the cross-country trip with in the first open car, its all M8s today.

The conductor is really slow on this train and I finally get my ticket collected at Southport.

9:55–We stop at West Haven for the first time, it opened on Sunday. There isn’t any grand opening bunting or anything but a police dog walking the platform and a crew fixing a TVM. There bridge plates to the New York-bound platform, I guess the restored forth track isn’t in service yet! We then pass some ballast work equipment..

At 10:00 we pass a nearly empty train yard except for some SLE train sets and enter New Haven. Metro-North has tons of recovery time and we arrive at 10:02 even though we’re late. We stop but haven’t quite arrived, theres chatter about waiting for a signal I would have been fine on the 10:25 arrival. I think we stop at 10:03 but the door doesn’t open. A train employee keys open the door for us.

Last Tuesday I passed through here on my Acela trip back from Boston and found the new platform display system is now on but still with the generic Welcome to Union Station sings. We hear the boarding call for train #476 as we walk into the tunnel but knowing the shuttle doesn’t leave until 10:30 we decide to walk into the station and check out the Solari board. The Solari board is clearly on its last legs. One digit is clearly having issues turning. In the tunnel all the new signs are set to generic ones for each track.

10:25–A bunch of people board as the conductor starts for tickets. I think we would have made the Metro-North connection.

At 10:30 our little Shuttle Train #476 slowly leaves the station for the short points run to Wallingford. I booked ahead using a companion discount and got the 100 points for $3.82. The ride is spent chatting with another railfan (going up to Springfield to take the Lake Shore) that we know, he’s Select Executive! (Double my TQP points, something I find the extra perks of not necessary to aim for)

There doing track work, We arrive in Wallingford at 10:45, losing a couple minutes because of track work.
We get off at Wallingford for our 45 minute layover and realize there doing work on the grade crossing north of the station. It’s a bit of a dull layover with the grade crossing work and no station house.

We end up sitting on the steps of the gazebo the lacks a bench in the shade. I track our southbound Shuttle train #493 and notice its running 10 minutes late with 6 minutes spent in Hartford, that station needs high-level platforms!

Shuttle Train #493 finally pulls in at 11:40 and were told seats to the left and board a crowded cab car where the crew has moved the don’t pass me flag to only block the last row. We sit backwards directly behind the crew area, we arrive back in New Haven at 11:58 arrive. The Engineer sees us all lining up to get off and beckons us forward letting us exit through the cab, I notice an amusing sign on the door to the outside that says it is permanently sealed.

We walk into the station and buy Shoreline east tickets at the Amtrak ticket window (Amtrak operates Shoreline East) from the station codes of NHV-GUI for $4 in cash. They look like old paper Amtrak ARROW tickets. We don’t need to show ID’s and the names on the tickets are Shoreline/East, a reservation number for our trip was established. We walk into New Haven and find lunch at a Chipolte and walk over to the New Haven-State Street Station to await my first ride on Shore Line East.

Shore Line East comes in with two open cars out of 4 at 1:11 pushed by a GP38 in the nice New Haven line Colors. We board the ex-Virginia Railway Express Mafersa Cars (now the ) I’ve never ridden before and feel like I’m back in the 90s with the wood paneling and blue and red seats. There is an odd black fold down box by each window seat, I later learn a cup holder. What’s most nice about them is the nice large windows! The cab car is empty, the middle coach decently crowded. The conductor comes for our tickets, not bothering with seat checks. He is in an Amtrak uniform but its the old collect and punch! We go along the NEC slower than Acela of course but its nice good track.

  • 1:21–stop at Branford two people are boarding.
  • 1:24–Another SLE train passes the other way also with a GP38
  • 1:25–See the sound. Then a Regional passes us.
  • 1:27–Slow down, thinking were getting somewhere but not quite.

We arrive at 1:33 to the station with 3 tracks on a siding. Guilford is the one Shore Line East Station with an overpass and two platforms. I notice the platform for Track 1 that reverse peak trains stop at (they bypass the other intermediate stops between Old Saybrook and New Haven because of only single platforms) can only accommodate one car and has a retractable platform to allow freight trains to pass. This is confirmed by the fact an Acela passed (one did in each direction) and the platform didn’t retract.

We spend about an hour at Guilford until 2:16 train stops on track 1 and then walk north to the town green. Were there for CT Transit Bus Route S that finally arrives at 2:45, 5 minutes late. We pay our each $1.30 fare It takes us 20 minutes to get to the gazebo at 3:05 in the center of Madison. Here there is the awaiting connecting 9 Towns Transit Mini-Bus to Old Saybrook but we walk out to the Shore Line East Station with a single entrance through a Park & Ride Lot.

We get one southbound Regional to photograph led by an HHP-8 before our next Shore Line East train comes in at 3:52. We wait for everyone to get off before getting on. 3 cars are open. A woman screaming that’s my stop as we pull away and just stop again. Then the conductor comes and we pay our $3 fare each for the one stop to Clinton. We get a ticket receipt that looks like those issued by Amtrak on pads for on-board ticket sales that I’ve gotten a very few of. The only difference is the fact it says Connecticut Commuter Rail instead of Amtrak. There are from and two destinations with station codes and in addition to every SLE station it includes a route from OSB (Old Saybrook) to ESX (Essex), CHT (Chester) MDT (Middletown), to HFD (Hartford). This line would follow the Connecticut River from Old Saybrook to Hartford but is the first time I’ve heard of it. There is an express bus route along this route that makes 4 trips per day. How strange!
We arrive into CLN (Clinton) at 4:02 and have a quite quick stop at this simple station, right behind our Shore Line East Train what looks like a normal consist of Amfleets pulled by an AEM7 approaches. It zooms through and the next thing we realize is that it isn’t an ordinary train but the last car is #10001 Beach Grove!

We leave at about 4:12 and walk down and see 9 Towns Transit Shoreline minibus before its loop to an outlet center. Not knowing this we run for it board and I pay our $1.50 each fare (putting $3 in the fare box to avoid change).  It’s a circuitous ride full of clearly regular riders that are unable to drive due to medical issues. At 4:23 we pass post office square, just where we started this trip. We make another silly loop to a stop and at 4:26 we finally pick up speed down route 1. This bus seems to turn off route 1 and stop in the parking lots of each possible destination just off the road, not simply stopping normally along route 1. I’m happy I didn’t plan a longer ride aboard Estuary Transit. Arrive at the smaller town gazebo in Westbrook, our last Shore Line East only town at 4:40.

We walk over to the Westbrook station that still has its modern high-level platforms (its getting a pair with an overpass meaning trains will stop here in both directions) under construction. Trains are currently stopping at a set of tiny wooden low-level platforms. At 5:10 Our Shore Line East Train arrives, we say Old Saybrook and the conductor says you can just ride! Can’t argue with that. People behind us have gotten on to go to New London. It’s a quick 8 minute ride and we arrive in Old Saybrook at 5:18.

I get my photos of Old Saybrook, a side and island platform with the remains of a low-level platform and we start the first of two Amtrak rides on a OSB-NLC-KIN points run for $18 tickets before a 15% companion fare discount I found that I couldn’t resist using. At 5:38 Northeast Regional Train 176 arrives 7 minutes early. We board the one car that platforms just in front of the cafe. The conductor comes as we stopped in the station iPhone not in its scanner dock I flash my paper ticket and say we’re on both. He says he needs to see the other. We mention our names and he says he got you, it’s not the nice dreamless eTicket scan. We keep sitting in OSB waiting for something.

5:51-Here the voice for train approaching please stand behind yellow line and an Acela zooms by us.

We finally leave at 5:53 to New London. We cross the Connecticut River slowly and enter Lyme passing marshland. We leave and learn they are single tracking, passing a work zone. We follow the scenic part of the shore going quite slowly. I find the click, click of a tourist that I think is foreign taking pictures really refreshing. We switch onto the other track along the shore and fenced off beach to pass some other MOW equipment. We learn we’re going slowly to let another Acela pass us finally at 6:09.

6:15 – slow down since were approaching New London where only 3 doors will open. We arrive in New London at 6:19 and step off to the high-level platform. They also open a door to the low-level platform and the train is delayed by a ton of people getting off. It finally pulls out at 6:24.

During our visit there is enough train action as I get a photo essay of the extremely impressive train station. First a New Haven-bound shore line east train stops on track 6 that lacks a platform now with the building of the two small high-level platforms so the couple of Acela trains can stop in the station. We get another Shore Line East coming in (on Track 6), 6 southbound Regional stopping in the twilight and then a southbound regional. A Couple of Acela’s slow down for the grade crossings without stopping on their 90 minute trips between New Haven and Providence.

At 8:20 Announcement for our train 94 arriving on the Riverside platform and that you must be there to board the train. It arrived OSB early but left 7 minutes late. They then announce southbound train 179 on the station side platform. This train is only going to Penn.

We keep waiting our train is late for no apparent reason, at 8:29 southbound 178 arrives led by another HHP8.

  • 8:31 – Our train is waiting for what else but a northbound Acel that zooms by. Perhaps the track work in Niantic.
  • 8:33 – Southbound Regional #178 leaves
  • 8:37 – We finally hear the horn of our train led by an AEM7.
  • 8:39 – The train arrives, the conductor grabs a bridge plate that barely works, it keeps moving. They announce Kingston our next stop in half an hour.,
  • We leave crossing the Thames as all the lights go off (apparently this is usual, I haven’t ridden a Northeast Regional north of New Haven in years.
  • 8:52 – Mystic, the first station I’ve bypassed today.
  • 8:59 – Bypass Westerly. Closer to our destination tonight, but it and Mystic have some of the worst service on the northern part of the NEC (New Rochelle is similar but shared with Commuter Rail)
  • 9:05 – We start gaining speed losing lights and HEP again

At 9:12 our train arrives in Kingston., Robbie’s Mom picks us up commenting about the Acela that zoomed by just ahead of our train. It ends another long day of train riding but I can now cross Shore Line East off the list and realize that only two Commuter Rail Systems I haven’t ridden in the US are Washington-based Marc and Virginia Railway Express. I really need to get down to Washington (since I still haven’t ridden the Metro yet for this website, have when I was little either)!