Transit Adventures

A Rainy Day In Washington Smithsonian Hopping with a Short Metro Ride & Heading Back to New York on the 7:20 Evening Northeast Regional

The DC Metro is one of the only transit systems left in the US I haven’t done at all for my website. I just never quite got down to DC in its awkward position of being close enough for a long day trip but not far enough away for a real getaway. Probably the main reason has got to be that train tickets (unless booked 14 days in advance for the $49 fare) are now only as low as $84, yes I know they’re buses but if I also just don’t have other reasons to end up in DC either.

My one day in DC begins with a leisurely breakfast with my Aunt and Uncle before I leave around 10:30 with my luggage to leave in the ClubAcela inside Union Station and head back to the Cleveland Park Metro Station. If the DC Metro had decent weekend service I’d considering buying their $12.50 day pass and getting it started for the website.

I head back to the Red Line Station and notice that service is every 20 minutes on each line (10 in the middle of the Red Line because of additional Shady Grove to Grosvenor Service). It looks like an extremely grey day as well and I decide I might as well just spend it in museums perhaps going a second Metro Ride to nowhere (getting off at a different station) later in the day. I get on the Red Line and while I’m riding decide I might as well switch to the Green/Yellow Lines and go up to Fort Totten and head back to Union Station to get at least some outdoor Metro Photos. I make the transfer and while I’m riding the Yellow Line train I notice the countdown clocks say a Green Line train is 3 minutes behind. I then make a photo stop at Georgia Avenue-Petwoth. I continue out to Fort Totten that is an extremely interesting station with the Green and Yellow Lines in an open cut and the Red Line on an Ariel guideway. I go up to the Red Line on its guideway and find out that service going downtown has some bunching. A Silver Spring-bound train comes and I decide I might as well go north to Takoma for a quick photo stop. I miss one train and another comes in right behind it. I want to stop at New York Avenue (NoMa-Gallaudet University) but the displays say the next train is in 19 minutes, not worth spending that much time there with no ability to leave the station. I continue onto Union Station.

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I enter the Club Acela at exactly noon, drop my bag in the luggage room, and ask and am told that boarding begins about 20 minutes before departure so be back about 7:00. I notice no food is out but then see an attendant in the closest getting the goldfish and pretzels put out. I guess I’m too late to see what the processed muffin selection is inside the Washington Club.


I then head out and walk up Capital Hill before descending down to the national mall to spend the afternoon Smithsonian Hopping. I decide to start at the National Gallery of Art and enter the East Building who’s atrium is open but barely any galleries since its about to close for renovation. I use the tunnel (that feels like an airport with a neat art display and moving walkways) to the older West Building and wander around that. There is a neat exhibit on historical photographs of Paris but otherwise just your standard art museum with exhibits like you’d find at the Metropolitan. I leave and am about to go to the Natural History Museum before noticing the National Archives and pay the U.S. Constitution and Declaration of Independence a visit, these documents are really neat to see in person especially after visiting Fort Sumter and the Old Slave Mart Museum in Charleston. It’s not two crowded and the normal barricades that visitors line up in at busy days are luckily not in use. Next I stop by the Natural History Museum and find it a neat gallery of award winning nature photographs that are printed extremely well and really eye dropping. The rest of it I’m not that interested in (your usual Natural History exhibits and full of Children) so I head to my final museum, the American History Museum and have a final wander there until it closes at 5:30.

I grab a meal at a Five Guys and then head back to Union Station, getting there around 6:40. I notice that the southbound Crescent and Silver Meteor are all delayed along with Southbound Regionals. I also notice that although their receive passengers only the southbound Crescent and Meteor from New York are displayed on the Arrivals monitor. These trains running Northbound (along with my Palmetto last night) that are discharge only are only on the Arrivals but not the Departure monitors.

I head into the ClubAcela  and ask what time boarding will begin for Northeast Regional Train #182 a short one that only goes from Washington to New York. The response is around 7 and to watch the departure monitors for gates since Regionals are not announced to the Club in DC (I guess just Acelas here, in New York everything is announced!). I grab a drink and some goldfish and pretzels and relax, soon this appears on the Departures monitor for Gate D in the Club. There signs on the Doors for Select+ Regional Customers to Wait until the monitors say Boarding before leaving the club. They soon announce the boarding of the Crescent and to wait for the Usher that will direct you to the train, it’s just like the boarding of the Long Distance trains from the ClubAcela in New York that I still haven’t experienced but dropped a friend off (got us in on my status) for.


An attendant tells me to wait until about 7:05, the status doesn’t change, at about 7:07. I finally leave the Club and head into the preloading area towards track 13 where generally boarding has already occurred and there just a few stranglers going out to the platform!


In this situation I don’t really care assuming that an evening Saturday night Regional will be a rather empty affair. I walk down the platform where I board the quiet car with an obnoxious lady on her cell phone and a couple talking. This is the quiet car, not the talking car.

  • 7:16 – The usual Welcome Aboard announcement, lets see if this crew yells at the cell phone talking lady, who stops in the middle of the announcement. We are told to have all tickets out and up on our devices for scanning on this 8-car train (and every car is open! Unlike the Palmetto)

We leave on time at 7:20 and slowly switch out of Union Station,

  • 7:23 ­– Slowly pass the NoMe-Gallaudet U Metro station, an infill stop that I really needed to visit with its wonderful view of the NEC. We then pass the large Metro Yard and then Ivy City, I see a lone Superliner and we gain speed.
  • 7:28 – See a DC Metro train off in the distance.
  • 7:30 ­– A conductor scans my ticket and tells the cell phone-talking lady that there are plenty of seats in the next car.

At 7:31 we stop in New Carrolton I notice the platform sign says Quiet Car by our position, and business class at the front of the train. Were getting two conductors making each announcement. Someone ahead of me answers his phone and another woman says something to him (at least I’m not the only one)!

BWI comes at 7:49, there is a hint of snow along the edges of the platform. I know from text chatting there’s quite a lot of snow up in New York.

  • 7:54 ­– A Marc Station with a nice modern platform. I’m trying to use the wifi but its much slower than yesterday (and barely loading) with a full-length (but uncrowded) Regional train compared to the nice fast speeds on the just three wifi enabled cars on yesterday’s Palmetto
  • 8:00 – Enter the Baltimore Tunnels.

We pull into Baltimore at 8:03 across from a departing Acela. There a couple of Marc Trains I think just spending their weekends in the station. I’m positioned at a rainy part of the platform, no signs here. We leave at 8:04.

  • 8:07 – Continuing through the Baltimore Tunnels they announce Newark, Delaware and that not all doors will open there, only those at the front and rear of the cafe car.
  • 8:09 – Looking out at the lights of Baltimore it looks like the amount of snow has increased a little, although the precipitation is still just rain, with a dusting visible from lights along the railroad line.
  • 8:30 – I can tell were passing a long bridge and then I see the nice and historic Perryville Station (the terminus of Marc).
  • 8:37 – The announcement for Newark, Delaware. The conductor tells everyone getting off to walk to the café car in the center of the train since only one door will open. She doesn’t get the pronunciation right pronouncing it like Newark New Jersey instead of New-arc like how the locals say it (I only know this from talking to someone once who explained the proper way).
  • 8:43 – Start slowling down.

At 8:44 ­we arrive in Newark, Delaware very slowly because the conductor I presume is precisely spotting the train, on the second from the left of a four-track railway, two tracks away from the DelDot platform along the southern track and one track between us and the historic Newark train depot. A crowd of a good dozen passengers is waiting in the bus shelter along the southern track; they use wooden boards to walk out to our train in the middle of the line. There is also an overpass an a mini-high platform that looks retracted. I see one walk up the train after boarding. Boarding is clearly a bit slow and we leave at 8:47. By stopping here on this train I realize that I’ve now made every stop made by Amtrak on the NEC except for North Philadelphia and Cornwells Heights. My car is maybe a quarter full if that!

We arrive in Wilmington at 8:57 on the south side platform that is low-level directly outside the station (to keep the historic integrity) and high-level farther down the platform so the conductor’s announcement that all doors will open is false. I don’t hear any traps bagging for the door at the quiet car. We leave at 8:58 for the 20 minute ride to Philly. While were there a train enters that I presume is another Regional although it seems a little short before I notice a Cab Car at the end of the train. There is a bigger dusting of snow here and I can hear participation on the windows although I think its just rain.

  • 9:04 – As I picture the scenic part of the ride south of Claymont the conductor comes through collecting a number of Philadelphia 15 minutes seat checks.
  • 9:05 – Storm through Claymont, Delaware, about to cross the Pennsylvania Line, 3rd out of 5th State of the day, yesterday I only went through 3 in total! (South Carolina, North Carolina, and Virginia)
  • 9:06 – I recognize the overpass of Marcus Hook, its nice to be somewhere familiar. It’s a winter wonderland, I also see some blue flashes I assume caused by the pantograph making contact with the catenary wire in the rain. It makes it look like theirs lightning.
  • 9:08 – Zoom through Chester, I’m not going to try and keep track. The light show continues, lighting up the snowy landscape! I would not want to be waiting for a train at the various tiny SEPTA stops with few amenities that I visited a couple months ago.
  • 9:16 ­– See Penn Medicine and go down separating form the upper level SEPTA Line that heads up to the upper level. We get the announcement in view of the University City Station as we take a completely separate route to the through tracks on the Lower Level of 30 Street Station, not the Upper Level tracks that go around to the upper level stop.

We pull into Philly at 9:18, 2 minutes late (trains have both arrivals and depature times in Philly with 2 to 3 minute layovers, some longer) with a bit of a crowd waiting to board. It’s the first time the front vestibule is opened at a stop. Their some ladies getting off who wait until the train stops, not to sensible. The Quiet car gets more crowded than it was leaving DC (at least around me). They’re a bunch of people who walk up to the Quiet Car, including some foreigners that I have a feeling don’t understand what it means. A incoming Keystone train covered in snow arrives directly across from us at 9:23. We sit in the station until 9:26, when I hear the door buzzer and we slowly leave.

Leaving Philly there is clearly snow everywhere. I notice that NJT has issued an All Trains Running with 10-15 minute delays due to inclement weather advisory. The conductor makes a threatening move your tuff or I’m charging you for a second seat announcement. It seems like a rude way to threaten but I guess most seats are taken in my car. It seases to amaze me how popular the New York to Philadelphia route is. I check the Keystone timetable and learn that we’ve connected with a Keystone Train #610 that probably have dumped some of these passengers. I also learn that the reason we were delayed in Philly was for the cross-platform connecting with Keystone Service Train #610 that arrived directly across from us 33 minutes late (it left Harrisburg 29 minutes late).

  • 9:32 – The conductor starts her sweep, collecting seat checks as we go. Guess they assume no Trenton to New York traffic. They don’t make another Quiet Car announcement. I check and learn that were the connecting train for Keystone Train #610 that terminates in Phillidelphia, I guess that might explain some of the crowding. The light show continues along the snowy line
  • 9:52 – I see the nice, I’m almost home, “Trenton Makes, The World Takes Sign” as I cross the Delaware and we get the Trenton announcement

We arrive at the Trenton Station at 9:54 for a quick stop. We leave at 9:56 as I see a SEPTA Push-Pull Train waiting in the station.

  • 10:05 – I look up at Princeton Junction, the gated switched off enclosure used by the extra Dinky Trainset is empty.
  • 10:15 – New Brunswick, NJ the sister station to Chester, PA
  • 10:21 – The announcement that this is Metropark and to please watch the small gap between the train and the platform and the ice that is on the platform. I feel us take the switch onto the side platform just after the announcement. There is some snow but not tons of it.

We arrive in Metropark at 10:22, 11 minutes late for our brief stop. We slowly leave at 10:24 and switch back onto the middle express track going slower than is comfortable for a super elevated curve. The internet is so much slower on this train compared to the Palmetto!

  • 10:30 – Through Linden
  • 10:36 – I see the Raritan Valley Line tracks coming in with a train We get the announcement for Newark, New Jersey as I see the PATH tracks.

We stop in Newark at 10:39, 13 minutes late, on track 2, and its nice and quick as I hear the door chime. No dealing with PATH on this trip! If I was farther away from Select+ I would have turned it into one of my usual 4 segment points runs but on this trip there was not any reason to bother.

  • 10:41 ­– Go through snowy Harrison as I prepare to pack up. The tracks through the Meadowlands look like a winter wonderland and I can’t believe this train has been nearly on time with the one delay from waiting for the Keystone train that was running a half-hour late.
  • 10:46 – Secaucus where supposedly a few Amtrak trains will stop on Super Bowl Sunday
  • 10:48 – Ears popping, zoom into the North River Tunnels. Time to get ready to get off!

The train arrives into Penn Station at 10:54, just 5 minutes late because of the recovery time. I am towards the front of the train by a staircase up to New Jersey Transit and walk down the platform a bit. I head up into the main concourse and find it nearly as crowded as during the day with late night suburbanites heading home from nights out in New York City.