Philadelphia Winter Board Meeting,
February 3-12, 2009

Don Winter


This trip was to attend the 2009 NRHS Winter Board Meeting in Philadelphia. As usual, we traveled out and back on Amtrak.

The Journey East (2/3-2/6)

Tuesday, February 3rd, 2009

With an early evening departure from Los Angeles Union Station, 120 miles to the south, we leave Tehachapi at 1 pm, to avoid the impacts of LA traffic, stopping at the usual coffee/soft-drink place in Acton and taking I-210 to Pasadena and SR 110 thence to Chinatown, arriving in the MTA parking garage at about 4:15 pm. Leaving the carry-on bags in the car, we take the suitcase we want to check to the Amtrak ticket counter, where it takes half an hour to exchange our set of tickets for the revised set. (We had originally booked to go and return through New Orleans and Atlanta, leaving on Sunday, but Norfolk Southern has closed the line between New Orleans and Atlanta on weekdays in February and March, to rebuild the track, so Amtrak called us to change the routing and timing.)

Once the tickets are correct, and the suitcase checked, we get some additional refreshments and sit in the courtyard, where the temperature appears to be around 80-degrees (F.), compared to the 60 or so at home (at 4,000 ft.). At the appointed time, we check in with the Amtrak Services counter, and then at about 5:45 pm, we head back to the car to get the carry-on bags, and then head for the train, in Track 11, where we board our sleeping car and I then walk the platform to collect the consist. Unlike the typical summer-time consist, this train has only two sleepers (plus the passenger portion of the Dorm car) and two coaches.


P42            199
P42              52
Baggage      1245
Dorm        39005
Sleeper      32106    Pennsylvania
Sleeper      32110    Washington
Diner         38062
Lounge       33021
Coach        34006
Coach        34000

Train 4, 2-3-2009



Los Angeles

 6:45 pm

6:44 pm







San Bernardino                     PT






Winslow                              MT 

7:09 am

7:28-30 am

Gallup, NM 




12:13 pm

11:20 am
12:55 pm




Las Vegas, NM






Trinidad, CO



La Junta



Lamar                                  MT






Kansas City, MO                CT


6:55 am

La Plata



Ft. Madison, IA



Galesburg, IL

12:10 pm

12:13-15 pm











3:20 pm

2:48 pm

Amtrak is no longer handing out dinner reservations at the Service desk, so the Lead Service Attendant comes around to hand them out, shortly after our on-time departure. Pauline has a broad Yorkshire accent, and is from Harrogate! This is quite unusual for an Amtrak employee, to say the least. We eat dinner with an African-American who is heading for New York City to do research for his Master's Thesis, and have an interesting conversation about various aspects of politics.

Southwest Chief Route Description

North of the Keenbrook crossovers, we stop on Track 2 (the center track of the three here), while the engineer converses with the dispatcher. A train ahead is in undesired emergency (UDE), and it will be quicker if we back up to the crossovers and then take Track 1 up the hill. The dispatcher says this will take 15 minutes, but in fact 40 minutes elapse before we're back below the crossovers and ready to head uphill again. While we're going backwards, a freight heads uphill on Track 3, passing us. On Track 1, since we can't cross over at Cajon, we take the original, steeper, line, up to the summit.

We're in bed before the stop at Victorville.

Wednesday, February 4th, 2009

Due to the delay on Cajon Pass, we're still late (about 20 minutes) in eastern Arizona and western New Mexico, in the morning. However, we're still almost an hour early into Albuquerque. This appears to be due to the reduced level of freight traffic on the former Santa Fe Transcon, reducing our needs to slow down to cross over at the various crossovers along the line. (We cross over, and back, only to make the stop at Gallup, where the platform is on the opposite side from the normal running line, heading east.)

North of Albuquerque, the New Mexico RailRunner commuter trains are now using the new line built to serve Santa Fe, and we're now under the control of the NMRX dispatcher on this segment (as far as Lamy), which also has a new radio frequency. We meet Train 3 at Canyoncito, so it, too, is on time today. From Las Vegas (NM) onwards, we're seven or eight minutes early into each of the stations (28 minutes at LA Junta). This can't be due to the lack of freight traffic, since there isn't normally any opposing freight traffic north of Albuquerque.

As usual, we eat dinner between Trinidad and La Junta, and go to bed around Lamar.

Thursday, February 5th, 2009

I awake during the fuel stop on the on-line fuel rack at Argentine, but don't get up until after the train has stopped in Kansas City, where we arrive a half hour early. Today, transfer to Train 314 for St. Louis (departs KC at 7:30 am) could have been made easily, even though that connection cannot be booked in advance! After the relatively warm temperatures in New Mexico and the southwest, it's clear things are much colder in Missouri, but while the streams are frozen, there's no snow laying on the ground near Kansas City. This changes as we get into Illinois, where there's still a lot of snow on the ground.

We crawl from the connection between the former Santa Fe and the former Burlington at Cameron into Galesburg, making us late at Galesburg and the next two stops (but getting closer to time at each stop). Amazingly (on past performance), Train 6 from Emeryville and Denver is right behind us from Cameron east. This is surely another indicator of the reduced number of freight trains, on the UP west of Salt Lake City and much as on the Burlington east of Denver. We meet Train 5 at Clarendon Hills, on the Chicago-area commuter line, following one of those commuter trains westward, and arrive in Chicago over a half hour early.

The weather is too cold for recreational walking, so we settle down in the Metropolitan lounge at Chicago's Union Station to wait for our onward train in early evening. When I see from the monitor that Train 8 has arrived from Minneapolis-St. Paul, I suggest to Chris that we'll have company soon, and sure enough, John Goodman and the new Northstar Chapter National Director, Bill Dredge, soon walk into the lounge and sit down next to us. Here, dinner reservations are taken while we're still in the lounge, so the four of us agree to take 7 pm dinner, with the intent of sitting together when the time comes. (The earliest reservation is for 6:30 pm, some 35 minutes before the train leaves; we're used to the reservations being taken on the train, and not starting before 8 pm, with some people getting to eat closer to 10 pm, Central Time, by which time the train is already well into the Eastern Time Zone.)

The boarding call in the lounge is just after 6:15 pm, when the first class passengers all troupe out to the train led by a staff member. I collect the consist as we walk down the train, getting the few cars and locomotives ahead of our car before boarding the train. As I do so, I note that we have a Diner-Lite for our meal service car.


P42            38
P42            25
Baggage    1733
Dorm        39021
Sleeper      32118    Wyoming
Sleeper      32055
Diner Lite   37007
Lounge       33041
Coach        34055

Train 30, 2-5-2009



Chicago                                 CT

7:05 pm

7:05 pm

South Bend                 ET










9:44 am

10:03 am




Harpers Ferry


12:22-24 pm


12:30 pm


Washington, DC

1:30 pm

1:29 pm

Capitol Limited Route Description

The 6:30 dinner reservations are called at about 6:45 pm. The train departs on time, and we're called about 7:10 pm. The dinner conversation is interesting, as we learn about the current state of things for the upcoming Convention in Duluth, and about John's career as a passenger agent/manager both prior to and with Amtrak.

We're on bed by the Waterloo, IN, stop.

Friday, February 6th, 2009

During the night I notice there's still much snow on the ground in suburban Cleveland. I don't get up until after sunrise, which puts us east of the Connellsville stop. Chris and I don't bother to go to breakfast. The train tops Sand Patch at 9:14 am. Lunch is at 11 am, and the four of us sit together once more. John had breakfast, and says it was the worst breakfast he's ever had on Amtrak. We all notice that the LSA does no serving, even though the car is crowded with diners. The Thai Chicken seems to have no spices at all, belying the expectations from its name.

The train uses up all of its cushion, but is nonetheless on time into Washington. Chris and I have Business Class reservations for a train at 4:05 pm (showing Amtrak's expectations on the timeliness of Train 30's arrival), but John and Bill have Unreserved Coach and thus board the 2 pm Northeast Regional train to Philadelphia. I try to move to an earlier train, but changing the tickets would cost over $100 above what we've already paid, so we decide not to do this. The Amtrak Guest Rewards "Upgrade" cards are of no value in this endeavor. Chris collects the checked suitcase and brings it to Club Acela with the rest of the bags.

At 3:30 pm, we leave Club Acela and go to Gate K and are allowed onto the low-level platform (for a train originating here!) at 3:50 pm. I get the consist as I walk down the platform. The use of the low-level platform means that we must hoist the bags up the steps onto the train. Both Business Class and Coach Class on this train are full.


AEM-7              905
Business/Cafe  48197
Coach              21118
Coach               82033
Coach               82509
Coach               44234
Coach              82689
Coach              44706

Train 178, 2-6-2009



Washington, DC

4:05 pm

4:05 pm

New Carrolton












Philadelphia (Arr.)



Northeast Corridor Route Description

Philadelphia Area Route Descriptions

At Newark, DE, we're delayed by trackwork, making the train four minutes late at Wilmington and two minutes late at Philadelphia. We take the bags up the elevator and around to the SEPTA concourse, buy round-trip tickets to the airport, and get up the escalator just in time to board the 6:04 pm R1 train out to the airport, getting to the hotel at 6:30 pm. After check in and going to our room, we head for the restaurant, where we see Helen & Smoke Shaak, Bob & Dian Heavenrich, and Don Bishop & Nina Lawford-Juviler. The restaurant prices are atrocious, taking full advantage of its monopoly position (none of the airport eateries are outside the security barriers).

At the Board Meeting (2/7-2/8)

Saturday, February 7th, 2009

Today's NRHS discussion meeting is supposed to start at 8:30 am, but doesn't, because somehow, Jeff Smith and Jim Lilly have the idea that it starts at 9 am, and are driving in together with the computer-projector to be used for the meeting. Dianne and Braley Pastorino are manning the desk where the director's packets are handed out. We chat with Bill Chapman before the meeting starts.

Today's meeting is a "Committee-of-the-whole", which discusses the status of the NRHS Libraries Project, the NRHS Website Upgrade Project, Fernley & Fernley Support of NRHS, the need for an NRHS Dues Adjustment for 2010, and the work of the Governance Study Committee. Much of the discussion is either disappointing or seemingly unnecessary. The Libraries Project has recently passed from Joe Maloney to Doug White, who reports on its status but can't tell us what the various proposals contain because he hasn't had time to read them, yet (and Joe isn't here to do so). Jeff Smith's discussion on the website upgrade is about the need for re-branding the website (and what this can do to attract more members), and for a more modern logo for the society, and doesn't cover the business functions of the website enhancement project at all.

The lunch "buffet" amounts to an assemble-it-yourself salad and sandwich plate, and is grossly overpriced for its content. The At-Large Directors sit together (Braley is the alternate for Charles Bogart, this time), so we finally get to chat with Jack Hilborn, and Dave Flinn also sits at this table, along with a couple from Iowa.

After lunch, the Fernley & Fernley employees who work on the NRHS contract are introduced, and give us what amounts to a sales pitch on what F&F does for us. During the break, Bill Chapman tells me Larry Eastwood is here, and asks me to point him out, but I don't see him in the room at this moment. Greg Molloy presents the need for an inflationary dues adjustment, and then Bill Chapman presents the work of the Governance Committee so far. Bill's is the only presentation that elicits any real discussion, followed by a straw vote saying the committee should proceed, and so that day is over earlier than expected.

Because the alternative is to take SEPTA to Center City, we again eat at the hotel's overpriced restaurant, and have an interesting after-dinner discussion with Don & Nina, along with Dave Flinn.

Sunday, February 8th, 2009

Sunday's meeting is the normal, on-the-record, Board Meeting, where the main business is the approval of the auditors, withdrawal of charters, convention reports and future board of directors meetings, with the meeting concluding before noon. Larry Eastwood does put in an appearance at this meeting, Chris recognizes him, and I am thus able to point him out to Bill Chapman.

As we wait for the SEPTA train into Center City (we're going to Verizon Hall for a Symphony Concert, while others are heading for trains to leave town), Larry Eastwood uses the Center City map on the platform as a vehicle for a discussion on where Broad Street Station was, and the changes in commuter rails in the area over the last several decades. John Goodman and Bill Dredge are heading for today's Capitol Limited out of DC, to get home to the Twin Cities, while others are heading for various east coast destinations.

We stop at 30th Street Station, because we know the food court there will provide lunch, and chat with, among others, Tony White and Peggy & John Swigart (who are on their way home) while we're eating. We then take the train onward to Suburban Station, walking (the temperature is in the 50s) south on 15th Street as far as Locust, and then passing the Academy of Music on our way to the Kimmel Center, in which Verizon Hall is located. We peruse the shelves at the gift shop before taking our seats on Tier 3.

The Philadelphia Orchestra is making a tour in Europe, so today's concert is by the visiting Cleveland Orchestra, conducted by its Music Director, Franz Welser-Möst, performing Mozart's 'Little G minor' Symphony and Shostakovich' Seventh Symphony. The acoustics are wonderful, at least in the third tier, the Mozart is quite good, but the Shostakovich is excellent, a stunning near-perfect performance of full orchestral majesty in the first and fourth movements, and many shades of tone color in an almost Mahlerian style (small groups of instruments at any one time) in the second and third movements, with every orchestral voice able to be heard, and there are many to be heard.

The performance is over by 5 pm, so we head back to the hotel for dinner (it being much too early for us to eat in Center City). We eat at a table adjacent to that occupied by Greg and his wife, and have a short conversation with them afterwards.

The Journey West (2/9-2/12)

Monday, February 9th, 2009

As we're leaving the hotel in late morning, we run into Don Bishop, also checking out, and then accompany Don and Nina on the SEPTA train to 30th Street Station, where we all go to Club Acela to await our trains. (They're taking the Silver Star, Train 91, back to Florida, while we're taking Northeast Regional Train 95 to Washington, DC, to connect to the Capitol Limited for Chicago.) We have another interesting discussion, during which Don asks me to make sure that the new NRHS website has provision for (scanning-in and) storing document images for the society's history/archives, before it's time to depart for our respective late trains (theirs is 20 minutes late, ours 40, which puts them at about the same time out of the station), which occupy adjacent tracks across the same platform on the lowest level of the station.


HH-8            654
Business Class 81533
Coach            82698
Cafe               43362
Coach            44698
Coach            82523
Coach            82628
Coach            82636

Train 95, 2-9-2009




11:59 am

12:38 pm


12:21 pm








New Carrolton



Washington, DC


2:40 pm

Train 91 departs first, but Train 95 catches it up just south of Wilmington, passing it on the slower track, just before the section that is being operated as single track due to the trackwork we had encountered on the way up, and remaining ahead all the way to Washington. (Train 91 is allowed ten minutes longer for that segment than is train 95.) The conductor tells us that Train 95 had some sort of problem at New London, CT, before he was on it, that made it nine minutes late at NYP, and then set-off the detector south of Newark, costing another 20+ minutes (during which times three trains passed it while it was stopped).

While we're on this train, in the Business Class section (a complete coach on this train), Chris picks up a copy of today's New York Times, which has an article reviewing the three concerts that the Cleveland orchestra gave in Carnegie Hall last week, including performances of the two pieces we heard the same forces play in Philadelphia on Sunday. This makes very interesting reading, particularly the several paragraphs on the Shostakovich 7th.

Once we're in Washington, we take the carry-on bags to Club Acela, and Chris then goes to check the other suitcase. We then go to get some lunch at a pizza place in the station, before our train is called at 3:25 pm. As we head out onto the platform, I collect the consist before boarding the train. We have the same two locomotives that brought us from Chicago on Train 30, last week.


P42            38
P42            25
Baggage    1260
Dorm        39036
Sleeper     32053
Sleeper     32103    Ohio
Diner Lite  37013
Lounge      33048
Coach-Bagg. 31038
Coach        34107

Train 29, 2-9-2009



Washington, DC

4:05 pm

4:05 pm




Harpers Ferry












South Bend                ET

7:36 am

7:36 am

Chicago                     CT

8:40 am

11:50 am

The train is delayed at Martinsburg, because a departing passenger cannot find her luggage. We note that there is now no snow on Sand Patch, but during the night, there is now visible from Cleveland, west, including after we arise in the morning.

Tuesday, February 10th, 2009

The train is stopped for over three hours, from after 8 am to after 11 am, EST, at MP 466, between New Carlisle and Porter, IN, because a Norfolk Southern freight in front of us has lost a hose, and one that stopped to help has stalled alongside it! Both are facing east, and have both tracks blocked. While we're stopped, Train 49 catches us up from behind, and follows us on into Chicago when we get started again. Before reaching Union Station, both trains reverse on the wye at 16th Street, for no obtainable reason.

In Chicago, we drop the carry-on bags in the Metropolitan Lounge, walk east on Adams St. to Elephant & Castle for lunch, and then continue east to Michigan Avenue, where we patronize the Symphony Shop before returning west on Jackson Street, heading into the stiff (but not bitingly cold, since the temperature is 61 degrees) wind. Our train is ready for boarding at 2:45 pm, and I collect the consist while riding out to the train with the Redcaps.


P42            66
P42            65
Baggage    1736
Dorm        39012
Sleeper     32075    Connecticut
Sleeper     32072    Arkansas
Diner        38030
Coach       34084
Lounge     33044
Coach-Bagg. 31019

Train 3, 2-10-2009




3:15 pm

3:15 pm













Fort Madison



La Plata                     CT






Lamar                        MT

7:06 am

7:08 am

La Junta









Las Vegas (NM)

12:38 pm

12:37 pm










Winslow                     MT






San Bernardino           PT

5:32 am

5:35 am







Los Angeles

8:15 am

7:30 am

Fred, our sleeping car attendant (who is about to retire) and Moses, Lead Service Attendant in the Dining Car, both recognize us from previous trips, as this train journey starts. At Earlville, we see crushed hopper cars with a pile of coal from them, on the north side of the track. We eat dinner west of La Plata, MO, and are in bed before Kansas City. Rain is falling in KC, and throughout the night, with thunder and lightning.

Wednesday, February 11th, 2009

There is no snow alongside the track, except for the copious quantities across Raton Pass. We eat lunch south of Las Vegas, and meet Train 4, on time, at Canyoncito (delaying us a few minutes at Lamy). We eat dinner west of Gallup, as the train stops for several minutes near Holbrook and is thus late at Winslow. We're asleep before Flagstaff.

Thursday, February 12th, 2009

I awake, in the pre-dawn darkness, at San Bernardino, as does Chris. The sun is rising as we reach the junction with the San Diego line in Fullerton, where we wait for a train to clear before entering the station. We stop again at San Diego Junction (just south of Mission Tower) for an empty Pacific Surfliner heading back to 8th Street, and a northbound Metrolink train heading to its maintenance shops in Taylor Yard, to clear before we continue. Nonetheless, we're 45 minutes early into Los Angeles. Rain has fallen this morning, but has cleared before we get on the road to head home. However, snow is falling in Tehachapi, as we arrive home.