Transit Adventures

My First ACS-64 Photos and Ride: The Carolinian down the NEC (I’m finally heading to do the NC DOT Piedmont)

This Post is Part of my Finally the Piedmont Trip


I find myself with a free week. I’ve been meaning to finally head down to North Carolina and ride the only Amtrak Rolling Stock I haven’t ridden yet, the unique North Carolina State Heritage Fleet of the Piedmont Service. While I’m looking for possible trips I also consider redeeming my AGR points for a Roomette somewhere. I’m surprised to find availability on the Cardinal on Wednesday and a reasonably flight home from Albuquerque. I text my friends who live there, get them excited that I’m coming out and call Amtrak to book the Roomette. Unfortunately an empty Roomette is a “phantom” room as the agent says. I can get all the way to the payment page (for like $1,300) on to book it but as I click through the app I get a Sorry Train is sold out error message. On Saturday morning I see availability (and get through the app to the payment page) and call again (closing the App). While I’m on the phone being told no sorry the room’s been sold (I refresh the app again). Close but no cigar

I call up my friend Robert who’s a freelance graphic designer (meaning he can work on the train) and ask him if he wants to join me on a trip. I have my AGR Companion Coupons (I never got around to using mine last year) that are for 2 for 1 travel. I call up an agent and find out that a coupon can only be used for a pure one-way or round-trip ticket, no multi-city stopovers like I normally do. This ends my ideas of taking the Palmetto to Selma-Smithfield for an hour and switching to the Carolinian behind it, plus any D.C. Layovers and getting more stops on the northbound. It does mean being able to split hotel costs. The main reason I haven’t done North Carolina yet is because of the lack of Youth Hostels (except in Asheville), so it’s the perfect trip to do with a friend.

I end up booking a straight round-trip New York to Charlotte; down on the Carolinian bailing in the Raleigh-Durham Area, the actual stop will depend upon lateness of the train, for getting stations. Our Hotel is booked is downtown Raleigh. Our northbound trip home is on the Crescent with a 1:46am scheduled departure, a sleepless night, at least on the way home, and no paying for a third hotel night (the 7:00am departure of the Carolinian and longer travel time seems less good). Were scheduled to arrive in New York exactly 12 hours later we immediately notice at 1:46pm. Companion Coupons can only be booked over the phone. I first try the regular priority 1 800 number and when I have a clueless agent I look at my info again and realize calling the separate AGR reservation number is proper for the coupon. I end up reaching a friendly agent who asks me if I need a hotel, just like the website and then reminds me that Penn Station is a gate controlled station and to arrive a half-hour prior to boarding.

This Morning:

I leave the house earlier than I might to meet my fried at about 5:50 and head downtown. I wait a bit for the A train and arrive at 6:30. I try a Quik-Trak machine for a printed itinerary and just my cash payment trips pop up. I find my travel companion outside the ClubAcela and ask the agent to print us proper, paper tickets. I’m told the reason I couldn’t pull it up on QuikTrak is because it’s in the reservation system as an AGR reward redemption. He is able to print them. I’m relieved, worried Amtrak had canceled our trip because of a ‘duplicate reservation’ for booking our trip across North Carolina, the next day. Hopefully I’ll get my points for the paid travel!

We sit in the ClubAcela for coffee and a muffin. I get up a few times to look at the departure monitor (curious if the Carolinian is a long-distance train that might board up to 20 minutes early). At 6:50 Track 12 West flashes as the agent is telling us to assemble there, not beating the station announcement. So there is already a blob at the track when we head over. We head downstairs and use the exit concourse, the location of our train is confirmed on the departure sign at the platform entrance and walk down the stairs to Track 8. We board a car that has Reserved for Parties of Two signs over the first 8 rows and snag a left side, best window seat. The Carolinian (because of the state contract, and its legacy as originally just an very extended train to Washington, it’s the only long distance named train except the Vermonter that allows intermediate travel along the Northeast Corridor, albeit only in the southbound direction, northbound its discharge only) sadly is an entirely Amfleet-I train. We get all the other passengers passing us and they’re definitely a few of the regular NEC business travelers in the mix. Unfortunately a mother and her four kids/babies, all under the age of five board and sit in the seats in front of us before we leave.

We leave at 7:06, maybe one minute late as our car attendant makes an announcement “Welcoming ladies and gents aboard the Carolinian en-route to Charlotte North Carolina. Including her name.” We pass daylight and the protect locomotives before heading into the North River Tunnel. New Jersey comes at 7:12.

  • 7:15 – Secaucus

We arrive in Newark at 7:22, 2 minutes early (for the baggage car). There already handing out seat numbers. As were stopped I see my first ACS-64 pulling a northbound Regional. They announce only 3 designated smoke stops. Washington, Richmond, Raleigh. We leave at 7:26.

  • 7:29 – Zoom through Newark Airport, now re-opened.

I’m distracted for the Elizabeth’s, next is Linden (7:34) as we zoom down the NEC at a slightly slower speed, hampered by the Heritage Baggage car at the front of the train.

  • 7:35 – Rahway. We slow down, clearly low priority.
  • 7:38 – Skip Metropark on the express track
  • 7:40 – Metuchin
  • 7:42 – Crowded Edison, there is something fun about zooming by rush hour crowds heading to work to start the day, a local train of Arrows passes us to pick up those riders.
  • 7:44 – We nearly stop passing New Brunswick, and go very slowly, nearly stopping just south. Maybe a train leaving Jersey Avenue? Soon a train of Arrows passes us, we assume it was switching out of the siding at Jersey Avenue.
  • 7:48 – Pass Jersey Avenue, and regain track speed
  • 7:50 – Interrupted by a Keystone in push mode. We pass a local train. Then we slow down again and switch to the local track. Before regaining rack speed.
  • 8:01 – Skip Hamilton, right as I wonder where Princeton Junction is, clearly wasn’t paying close enough attention.
  • 8:03 – We get a verbal café car is open announcement as we get the announcement for Trenton and to only “exit where you see a uniformed member of the train crew”.
  • 8:05 – Pass a SEPTA train and arrive in Trenton.
  • We arrive in Trenton at 8:07, for a quick stop, leaving at 8:09. 25 minutes to Philadelphia.
  • 8:10 – Go over the dreary Delaware and into Pennsylvania at full speed.
  • 8:16 – SEPTA platforms are easier to miss, I look up at Croydon., with its high-level platforms.
  • 8:19 – Pass Toressdale, the platforms are less crowded, viewed out the left side of the train since were going ‘against’ the peak rush hour
  • 8:21 – Homesburg
  • 8:22 – Bridesburg and pass a construction project as we approach struggling North Philadelphia.
  • 8:23 – Scrapyard of the day and go over the poverty of North Philadelphia and under the Market-Frankfort El.
  • 8:26 – We slow down again passing abandoned cars, past abandoned industry.
  • 8:30 – Pass the North Philadelphia Station
  • 8:33 – I see Trolley Wires as we pass Girard, way over on the right-hand local track.
  • 8:34 – We get the announcement for Philadelphia with the conductor reminding us to only exit where we see a member of the train crew and thanking us for riding the Regional!! This morning. I see the art museum. Entering Philly, there just a few Amfleets and a Dash-8.

We enter Philadelphia to a crowded platform, arriving at 8:37 on track 6. We leave at 8:41, 6 minutes late as Acela 2154 enters the station.

  • 8:45– I notice a branch line with wooden cantenary pols leaving us as we continue south out of Philadelphia.
  • 8:46 – Pass the streetcar yard.
  • 8:47 – Cirtus Park
  • 8:47 – Sharon Hill
  • 8:48 – Folcroft
  • 8:48 – Glenolden
  • 8:48 – Norwood
  • 8:49 – Prospect Park
  • 8:49 – Ridley Park
  • 8:50 – Crum Lynne
  • 8:51 – Eddystone
  • 8:51 – Chester
  • 8:53 – Highland Avenue
  • 8:54 – Marcus Hook, PA and past a chemical plant
  • 8:55 – Claymont, Delaware, Pennsylvania, that was quick!

We pass some Norfolk Southern Locomotives and pass the nice park along the Delaware River’s Estuary. Then some coal.

8:59 – Pass the Bear, Delaware shops and see a few ACS-64s in the yard. We get the announcement for Wilmington and slow down.

We slowly enter Wilmington arriving at 9:02 to the crowded high-level island platform. Northeast Regional 172 arrives, across the platform with two AEM7s. The sign is correct, Carolinian No. 79 to Charlotte, with the status of Last Call. The Regional switches to Charlotte before it says departed. Our train soon changes to Departed before the sign switches. There a few more people on the platform that aren’t boarding any train. As soon as we start moving at 9:06 the sign switches to an Acela. I then notice it switches back to a Northeast Regional before we leave the station. We leave 8 minutes late.


  • 9:12 – Fairplay Station at Churchman’s Crossing with only the south platform.
  • 9:14 – See what is probably the first field of the day as we pass Newark, Delaware a freight yard of tanker cars and see a water tower for the University of Delaware.
  • 9:18 – Pass an abandoned Station, Elkton, Maryland. Delaware was even faster!
  • 9:22 – We catch our first glimpse of the Chesapeake River, then a northbound train.
  • 9:26 – Pass the Perry tower and Perryville, then its over the Susquehanna River.
  • 9:30 – Aberdeen Station, simple
  • 9:33 – The Bush River Estuary
  • 9:35 – Edgewood, simple and short low-level platforms.
  • 9:37 – The next river estuary
  • 9:40 – See another Marc Trainset in the yard and then pass the Martin State Airport Station and the yard. We also pass our first Marc Train, diesel powered, four bi-levels with a single-level car inbetween.
  • 9:43 – Pass an ACS delivery train or some other sort of equipment move, about three yard switchers with an ACS Locomotive in between.
  • 9:47 – Announcement for Baltimore, as we pass an abandoned station and approach the first set of tunnels. I see a line of incandescent light bulbs.
  • 9:48 – Out of the tunnels as the northbound Silver Meteor passes, it has its 3 Viewliner sleepers and Baggage Car at the very the back of the train.

We arrive in Baltimore at 9:50. I see a member of the station staff walking the train; some businessmen get off (clearly from the front Business class car). A few Amtrak employees rush through the car, saying we could have opened the door (they clearly weren’t looking for “A uniformed member of the train crew” to exit). We leave at 9:54, the sign switching to the Northeast Regional #183 to Baltimore. We don’t see any light rail cars. As we curve through the next tunnels I see our Motive Power for the first time, We’re powered by an ACS-64! We get the last call for the cafe at 9:57 to reopen after Alexanderia, we get the announcement about the power change and there will be no more restrooms as we leave downtown Baltimore.


  • 9:58 – Out of the tunnel with a northbound passing.
  • 10:00 – We pass a single-level Marc train powered by a diesel locomotive.
  • 10:00 – Pass the tiny West Baltimore Station
  • 10:03 – Pass ??, Marc has the tiniest signs Halethorpe
  • 10:05 – Bypass BWI Airport. Another Northbound Marc with single-level cars powered by a diesel locomotive passes.
  • 10:10 – Pass Odenton, I only know because I’ve pulled up a Marc Map using the Wifi, the new high-platform stations have worse signs that the older high platformed stations.
  • 10:12 – Pass the northbound Acela
  • 10:13 – Bowie State again I only know because I’ve pulled up a Marc Map. Then pass a former tower with a Norfolk and Western Caboose.
  • 10:16 – Seabrook, Marc
  • 10:17  -See the Metro as we zoom by the high-level platform at New Carrolton, the Washington Metro soon curves away from us.
  • 10:18 – Pass Landover Metro
  • 10:19 – Pass Cheverly
  • 10:22 – Pass the Virginia Railway Express Yard. A few old Metra Cars, mostly new locomotives.

We arrive in Washington, DC, passing the Noma Station on the Red Line and pass 3 Marc Locomotives attached to each other. I notice the Federal Reserve Federal Credit Union as we slowly enter Washington, DC and arrive at 10:27.

I head up to the front of the train and notice the train stop sign is directly before the elevator at the end of the public platform so I can get my first photos of a Sprinter ACS-64, actually pulling the train I’m riding! I also get photos of the Sprinter ACS-64 getting detached and walk down the platform a bit hoping to get photos of the Sprinter ACS-64 passing down the platform. Our new locomotive is visible besides us. Unfortunately our Sprinter ACS-64 doesn’t pass us deadheading back to the yard and soon our train has its new locomotive.

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There are only two doors open and we soon re-board. There isn’t a really clear ‘All Aboard’ Call. For the diesel portion of the trip Continue Reading to a Thunderstorm in Cary.