Transit Adventures

An AGR Points Run to Parkesburg and Coatsville, via MegaBus Down and Local Trains Home – A 5 Hour Journey on 5 Trains, making 64 Stops to go 143 miles

Two weeks ago (before my schedule changed and the riding the Piedmont Corridor was just a dream) today was supposed to be a Philadelphia points run and a SEPTA pre-trip before going up to Vermont to visit my cousins there. I for once bought a $5 MegaBus ticket in advance. Partially because of my North Carolina trip I ended up postponing Vermont. This left me with a $5 MegaBus ticket one-way to Philadelphia.

I was dithering about going until the morning when I wake up at 8:20 and decide “What the hell, let’s go” I need all the points runs I can get if I have any hope of Select+ for next year.

I think I’m on the 10:40 bus but double check and realize it’s the 9:40. I leave the house at 9:00 with a “If I miss it, I’ll be relieved” attitude. I have other errands to run downtown anyway. I get on the 9:10 A train and am off at 34 Street at 9:36. I speed walk the four long blocks to 12 Avenue where MegaBus has been relegated to, passing the 7th Avenue Subway extension station that’s looking nearly complete.

MegaBus often leaves late and I’m at the stop at 9:43, the bus is fully loaded but still at the curb. I go up to the door and the driver lets me on as I flash my hand-written ticket code. I thank her. The bus is quite full and I get a seat in the set of five in the back with a middle seat next to me. We’re about at the Lincoln Tunnel when the driver appoligzes that we need to go back to the bus stop. It’s at least a ten minute delay going around back to the sidewalk stop for a brief minute.

We’re finally in Jersey at 10:15 and it’s an uneventful ride with a fair amount of traffic. I want a mellow day in Philly and have two options (both of which involve taking NJT home from Trenon, no buses back. I can either do a 300 AGR points run (the most efficient one I know of) involving the Pennsylvanian in both directions and finish the River Line or I can be a tourist for a few hours and do a points run out to get Coatsville and Parkesburg returning to Paoli ($6.50 instead of $9.50) and buy an $8.50 via Center City ticket back to Trenton.
I decide on the latter and get off at the Independence Hall MegaBus stop at 12:05.

I decide to be a tourist and the main free attraction I go into is the self guided tour above the production hall of the US Mint.

I have a nice walk over from the Independence Hall Area over to 30th Street. Stopping to get the PATCO entrances outside of fare control in downtown Philadelphia so I can be ready to write-up PATCO when I get the rest of the line in Jersey.

I get to 30th Street Station around 3:00.
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The NEC is a mess. Northbound Regional 186 going to Boston is an hour late and those passengers only for New York are getting told to take the Pennsylvanian (that is on time) and that will honor their tickets.
My train is boarding from Stairway 3 that I’m told doesn’t have direct elevator across except I’m fairly sure does when I dead down to a long line all the way back to the rear wall for boarding and look up and see an elevator shaft and the Club above.
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It’s flash our unreserved tickets to the gate usher (will they honor tickets with a different train listed?) and then the conductors on the platform telling us for Paoli, Exton, and Middletown to board the first 3 cars. I get on the second car from the front that’s full with people doubling-up.
We leave on time at 3:45 for an uneventful ride up the Main Line. I’ve done this Keystone Points run at least a half-dozen times.
I’m off at Paoli at 4:08 to waste an hour for 100 extra AGR Points. I wait at the end of the platform at the entrance to the parking lot for a departure shot with an Amtrak employee in a red shirt that also waits for the train to leave, smoking a cigarette.
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I spend the layover going to the bank and visiting the SEPTA ticket window to buy my $8.50 via Center City Philadelphia through ticket that will get me all the way back to Tenton, NJ (and makes my Amtrak ticket back from Parkesburg $6.50 instead of $9.50)
Keystone Train #649 pulls in in push mode with one of those “fat” looking cab cars that has the door sealed off. The conductor scans the good dozen tickets on the platform as passengers detrain. I notice I’m the only person not with a monthly pass (most passengers are employees going home from suburban office parks that drop shuttle loads of train passengers off at the station). I tell him I’m only going to Coatsville since I know both my segments on this unreserved multi-city ticket will pop up on his scanner.

We leave at 4:12, a few minutes late.
We make intermediate stops at Exton at 4:20 and Downingtown at 4:25.
We leave Downingtown at 4:27 and I start paying attention. I’ve only gone beyond here twice before. We speed up passing trees and houses hitting switches passing some stub-tracks with SEPTA in its yard and pass Torndale at 5:30 with modern high-level platforms. This is the end of SEPTA. The ROW stays wide before coming smaller and only two tracks with room for two more.
A Keystone going the other way passes and I arrive in Coatsville at 5:31 as I notice an Amtrak cop riding in the vestibule.
I get off and do a photo essay of the decrepit station that got some new fencing. The station has no parking and I take a little walk to an extremely tired feeling Main Street.
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Keystone train 651 arrives at 6:21, two minutes late. Both conductors are stationed at their vestibules. As I struggles to get the steps down I’m expecting someone to get off but no one is. The conductor jokes: “We stopped just for you.”

We soon leave and pass a bit of Farmland as it’s eight minutes to Parkesburg, front three cars only please. This stop is more popular. I’m off at 6:28 at Parkesburg, as a Philadelphia-bound train leaves the station at the same time.

I have an hour in Parkesburg, and spend some of it getting my photo essay and also find the nearest Restaurant ,a Jamaican Place for a jerk chicken dinner.
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Train 618 comes in on time. The crew opens up just one door. Two of us board and we leave on time at 7:30. I now start my long journey home. The other passenger is paying cash and doesn’t have a ticket. He pays $14 for a one-way ticket into Philadelphia, over 50% more compared to the $9.50 price had he paid through the app or otherwise at a station.

  • 7:35 – Skip Coatesville
  • 7:36 – The ROW gets wide and we bypass Thorndale with low-level platforms that have mini-highs. We also pass a SEPTA train in its yard. We split with the ROW going the other direction and go through a tunnel. Dusk is settling in, I have perfect timing to start my journey.

We reach Downingtown at 7:40 and people get on and off. We speed up.

  • 7:44 – Bypass Whitford

We stop in Exton at 7:45 and quite a few people get on and off.

  • 7:49 – Pass the SEPTA yard and the NJT blown out windows comet.
  • 7:50 – Bypass Malvern, the next stop I’ll bypass on this local trip home I think will be Jersey Avenue.

I get to Paoli at 7:51, 4 minutes early. The train sits in the station until 7:55. I consult the SEPTA timetable, my first of 3 local trains home is at 8:04 and starts in Thorndale so I should have switched in Downingtown and made it the ultimate local train trip.

The train comes in at 8:05. New Silverliner Vs. I notice the Railfan seat isn’t the usual traped off and try and sit there. The operator immediately opens her cab, says u can’t is there and tapes it off. I wonder what SEPTA’s reasoning is.

  • 8:06 – Dalesord.
  • 8:09 – Berwyn
  • 8:11 – Devon
  • 8:13 – Strafford
  • 8:14 – Wayne, we stop at the two car marker. Historic low-level platforms near the station houses, modern high-level platforms beyond.
  • 8:16 – Saint Davids
  • 8:17 – Radnor
  • 8:19 – Villanova
  • 8:21 – Rosemont
  • 8:23 – Bryn Mawr
  • 8:25 – Haverford
  • 8:27 – Ardmore, “Connections can be made for Amtrak” the automated voice says. We arrive across from a stopped Amtrak train.
  • 8:29 – Wynnewood
  • 8:31 – Narberth. Someone runs, trying to catch the train, and misses it
  • 8:32 – Merion, a couple embraces and has an intimate moment as we enter the station.
  • 8:34 – Overbrook. I hear the traps go up after the doors are closed since were approaching the high-level platforms into Center City.

We speed up and pass the SEPTA Shops. A single track on a bridge joins us, its the Cynwyd Branch.
We pass the art museum at dusk and I have confidence I’m going to make the 8:52 Trenton train with a perfect sorthish connection.
We pass some trains in the yard. Two almost in formation on the tracks and see the facade of 30th Street Station as we enter at 8:40.
I head downstairs and leisurely transfer to track 6.
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We leave at 8:53 and the conductor asks me Where to with my anywhere ticket. I tell him Trenton and zone 7 is punched. It’s Silverliner IIIs and quite dark so I decide to read as we curve out of Philadelphia.


  • 9:03 – North Philadelphia
  • 9:08 – Bridesburg
  • 9:12 – Tacony
  • 9:15 – Holmsburg Junction
  • 9:18 – Torresdale
  • 9:21 – Cornwells Heights on the night still some cars parked it its numerous parking spaces.
  • 9:23 – Eddington
  • 9:25 – Croydon, the high platform station.
  • 9:29 – Bristol
  • 9:33 – Levittown

The conductor comes through and I ask him if I can keep my ticket. The response is I need it for my cash receipts. I guess in the world of old fashioned SEPTA tickets they actually do something with the pieces of cardboard pre-printed tickets after they are used.
We cross the Delaware at 9:40 as I enjoy the “Trenton Makes the World Takes” Bridge

We briefly stop short and arrive at 9:44 on track 5. This means it’s 15 minutes to get across the station since local trains leave from Track 2 on the opposite island platform. I buy my final and most expensive ticket of the day $15.50, all the way into Penn. It’s too late to save the $2 and deal with PATH. Regional #188 stops, 20 minutes late just before we leave at 10:03, 2 minutes late. This Regional was my Keystone’s New York Connection since it was terminating in Philadelphia. We crawl out of Trenton as my ticket is promptly collected.

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  • 10:10 – Hamilton at a temporary platform. A track is out. I’m always amazed how crowded this line is at all hours.
  • 10:18 – Princeton Junction. Exit only where you see a member of the crew. Bridgeplates to the end doors are in use. The platform is lined with platform conductors guarding their chained entrances.
  • 10:32 – Skip Jersey Avenue, the first stop I’ve bypassed since Malvern on Amtrak
  • 10:35 – Stop at New Brunswick
  • 10:40 – Eidson
  • 10:46 – Metuchen (7 minutes late)
  • 10:51 – Slow and come to a stop briefly for an unannounced reasons. I can only assume its because of late night track work on the NEC.
  • 10:53 – Stop at Metropark
  • 10:59 – Rahway
  • 11:03 – Linden

We come to a stop outside Elizabeth at 11:07, we sit for 4 minutes and then slowly switch tracks entering the station. They announce that passengers will be using low-level platforms and that only one set of doors will be open between cars 2 and 3. “Please exit only where you see a member of the train crew.” We finally arrive at 11:15 as people pour down to the low-level platform area off of the high level platforms. The stop takes a good two minutes and we finally leave at 11:17.

  • 11:18 – Bypass North Elizabeth (the only other stop I’m skipping)
  • 11:23 – Make the Newark Airport Station Stop. The train gets quite crowded (some people doubling-up) with people arriving from late night flights.
  • 11:29 – stop at Downtown Newark Penn Station
  • 11:37 – Cross the portal bridge
  • 11:39 – Secaucus Junction

We finally arrive in New York-Penn Station on Track 2 at 11:48. I walk down the platform a little bit and find a staircase that leads to a location I’m unsure of. The walkway leads up to some doors (after a second staircase from tracks 3 and 4) and up to a corridor with tons of restricted area signs to an entrance marked passenger use during rush hours only on the upper level approaching the Amtrak information booth in the middle of the area.
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I head into the main Departures Concourse and get photos of the departures board. There are trips at every hour of the night because of the Northeast Regional Night Owl 66/67. The Northeast Corridor Line has a 3 hour gab in service between 1:22 and 4:17 (at least its only 17 minutes after New York’s last call at 4:00am). I wait a minute for the 11:52 Northeast Corridor Line train to depart to get a decent photo of 66/67 on the same panel of the Departures Board.
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I head towards the subway. I know its late enough that the A is running local and as I approach the staircase directly up to the local platform I see the rear lights of a R46 leaving the station.

I debate taking the 1 train (since I can’t remember if the A train is getting late night shuttle trains north of 168 Street) but luckily the monitor that says construction tells me Shuttle buses are replacing 1 trains north of 137 Street. I swipe in. Soon a garbage train comes through powered by two Redbirds and two R32s. The middle platform is relatively crowded even though there isn’t any service there. There are also no E trains in Manhattan until 74 Street-Broadway because of FasTrack along the Queens Blvd Line.

At Midnight there is an amusing announcement: “Ladies and Gentleman the time is now 12 Midnight. Because of FasTracks Construction there are no E trains at this station for service to Queens take the A train to 42 Street and transfer to the 7 or N trains to Queensboro Plaza of 74 Street-Broadway. To the young couples having intimate moments on the middle express platform there is no service currently there all A train service is only stopping on the local platforms.” This pretty much gets everyone to leave the express platform. I can’t believe the MTA would make an announcement like this!

At 12:09am my A train home finally arrives. I decide to write down each stop to make this local trains home from Paoli (and Parkesburg), complete

  • 12:11am – 42 Street
  • 12:14am – 50 Street
  • 12:16am – 59 Street/Columbus Circle
  • 12:18am – 72 Street
  • 12:20am – 81 Street
  • 12:21am – 86 Street
  • 12:22am – 96 Street
  • 12:24am – 103 Street
  • 12:25am – 110 Street-Cathedral Parkway
  • 12:26am – 116 Street
  • 12:28am – We arrive in 125 Street and wait to connect with a D train across the platform
  • 12:31am – 135 Street
  • 12:33am – 145 Street
  • 12:35am – 155 Street
  • 12:36am – 163 Street-Amsterdam Avenue
  • 12:38am – 168 Street
  • 12:40am – 175 Street

I’m home at 181 Street at 12:42am and home at 12:46am

It’s been just over a 5 hour trip coming home from Parkesburg (where I left at 7:30).

I’ll conclude: had I paid the $55 for an Amtrak ticket all the way to Penn Station, with connecting Northeast Regional #188 lateness I would have gotten into Penn Station at 10:54, less than an hour before my local trains, a trip that only cost me $30.50 total home.