This trip was to attend the 2009 R&LHS Annual Meeting in Portland, Maine. As usual, we traveled out and back on Amtrak, choosing this time to take the California Zephyr and Lakeshore Limited to get across the country.
Rising unusually early (for us) at 7 am, we finish the packing, with our new kitten, Gretel, trying to climb into the bags the whole time, including trying to climb into Chris purse and then trying to run into the garage as we head out of the door, we drive over to the K-Mart/Burger King parking lot, a couple of miles away, leaving Chris and the bags at the bus stop while I park the car. We then take the 8:45 am Amtrak Bus down to Bakersfield, arriving in time to check two of the bags through to New York City before boarding Train 713 for Emeryville. A large party of children, apparently connected with a local church is boarding the first two coaches (the train has one more than is often the case on a San Joaquin), so the rest of the train is much more crowded than we had expected out of Bakersfield.
Coach-Bagg. 8201 San Francisco Bay
Coach 8027 Smith River
Coach 8032 Santa Clara River
Cafe 8810 Owens Valley
Cab Car 6965 Point St. George
Train 713, 6-13-2009
|Bakersfield||10:05 am||10:15 am|
|Fresno||12:05 pm||12:12-15 pm|
San Joaquin Route Description
The part of children turns our to be going to the State Park adjacent to the Allensworth siding, where the train makes a special stop, leaving the first two coaches empty after they leave. Chris and I are quick to move up to the first of the now-empty coaches, as the train makes its special stop, and are later joined mainly by those boarding at the stations further north on the train's route.
In Emeryville, we find that both elevators on the pedestrian bridge are working, so after changing over the set of tickets for the return trip (Amtrak had changed both the sleeper on the Boston section of the Lakeshore Limited, and the San Joaquin on which we are to return, because the bus from Train 714 to Tehachapi has been canceled), we walk over to the Four Points Sheraton, and then later walk north to the Bay Street shopping mall to have dinner at PF Chang's Chinese Restaurant.
In the morning, we check out of the hotel and walk back to the Emeryville station, in plenty of time to capture the consist on the eastbound California Zephyr as it pulls into the long platform at the station. (There's also a much shorter platform, used by the San Joaquin and Capitol Corridor trains.) We then walk down the platform to our sleeper, up near the front of the train. On the way, I note that Tim Noel, with whom we had ridden on the Empire Builder a year earlier is now a coach attendant (he had previously been on the extra board).
We're downstairs, and there's a family with a noisy infant girl and two boisterous small boys in the Family Room next door.
Train 6, 6-14-2009
|Emeryville||9:10 am||9:10 am|
|Colfax||12:21 pm||12:41-42 pm|
|Truckee||2:38 pm||2:51-56 pm|
|Provo MT||5:35 am||5:29-35 am|
|Glenwood Springs||1:10 pm||1:06-12 pm|
|Creston, IA CT||8:04 am||8:15-25|
California Zephyr Route Description
Following the Martinez stop, which is late because we follow a Capitol Corridor train out of Emeryville, the train is delayed for eleven minutes at the south end of the Suisun Bay Bridge for opposing Capitol 729 (why, I don't know, since this is all double track). We meet Train 5, still arriving, just east of Colfax, so neither train has to hold out of the single platform but double track station for the other.
After a lovely afternoon crossing the Sierra Nevada in the sunshine (including lunch east of Emigrant Gap), during which I take note, for the first time, of the many former SP octagonal concrete telephone booths at the various signals along the line, the high-summer light lasts long enough that I capture some additional detailed route description on the former Western Pacific line (the eastbound side of the paired track between Weso, just east of Winnemucca, and Alazon, east of Elko) east of Winnemucca before we have to go to dinner, unfortunately while it's still light. We see, and greet, Tim in the Dining Car. He doesn't give route commentary over the Sierra, since California State Railroad Museum volunteers take care of that.
Once we're clear of the mountains, the passing in the schedule becomes clear in this time of reduced-freight volumes, notably in the over half-hour early arrival at Elko, where the smokers' delight in the extra platform time is tempered by a rain shower!.
Before breakfast, I'm able to finish the detailed route descriptions between Springville and Gilluly, on the west slope of Soldier Summit, that I had missed due to breakfast the last time we had passed this way, even though the weather is foggy as we pass through Thistle at 6:00 am. At Grand Junction, Bart Jennings is on the platform, We get off to chat, and it transpires that he's been out here riding on the Operation Lifesaver train that had just prevented us from being fifteen minutes earlier into the station, on the Montrose Branch among others. He's taking the train back to Galesburg, where Sarah is picking him up so he can lecture at his university employer on Tuesday evening!
Today, Tim is using the train's PA to regale the passengers with historical and tourist details about the places we're passing and the stations at which we're stopping. Approaching Glenwood Springs, he and we are all in the Dining Car, and I joke with him that he has not yet given us a spiel about the upcoming stop and the canyon that follows it. Sure enough, as soon as we leave the diner, we hear Tim on the PA talking about these items.
We stop at Shoshone, in Glenwood Canyon, to meet Train 5, and then slowly regain the time as we cross the mountains to Denver. Rain is again falling as we pass through Gore and Byers Canyons. The Lead Service Attendant is expecting a full diner out of Denver, so we have to eat at 6:30 pm. We sit across from a security consultant with whom we had ridden on Silver Lariat on the AAPRCO excursion to San Diego behind 3751, last September, and have an interesting conversation.
Although the train is on time out of Denver, it runs slowly due to flash-flood warnings out on the plains, and we're asleep before Fort Morgan.
Slow running notwithstanding, we're only 20 minutes late at Creston, IA, but immediately east of the we lost another 40 minutes due to an electrical problem with one of the locomotives, and then run slowly for awhile. I capture the route details between Albia and Maxon that had been at lunchtime on the previous trip this way. We're two hours late at Ottumwa, where we nonetheless make the usual smoke stop, and I see Bart get off the train, to get some jogging in. Later, at Galesburg, he's off the train and to his truck in a hurry..
We have locomotive problems again just east of Ottumwa. Passengers transferring to Train 50 (the Cardinal) are asked to leave this train at Galesburg for a bus connection to that train. Some apparently do not, as when we arrive in Chicago, across the platform from that train which is about to depart, some passengers in our car are raising Cain because it isn't waiting for them!
In Chicago, a steady rain is falling, but we walk the five blocks each way to and from Elephant & Castle for dinner, anyway. We're back in plenty of time for the early boarding and 'wine and cheese' part for sleeping car passengers on the Lakeshore Limited, where we chat with a couple of men heading to Syracuse to bring back a new fire engine to Normal, IL.
( from Rensselaer to New York City)
Dinette 53505 [deadhead]
Sleeper 62033 Scenic View
Cafe 43367______________Boston, Train 448
Coach 25079 New York Train 48
Sleeper 62036 Skyline View
Sleeper 62022 Mystic View
Train 48, 6-16-2009
|Chicago CT||9:00 pm||9:01 pm|
|Erie ET||6:54 am||6:51-59 am|
|Utica||12:32 pm||12:42-46 pm|
|New York City (Penn.)||6:25 pm||6:17 pm|
Lakeshore Limited Route Description
While we're still up when the train departs Chicago Union Station, we're asleep long before the first station stop heading east.
I awake during the station stop at Erie, PA, where once again the train gets an inspection from the Border Patrol. On departure, I observe two new BNSF locomotives on the transfer track at the GE locomotive erection plant, and another one in the yard awaiting final tests. During breakfast, sitting on the other side of the train, I observe how closely the former Nickel Plate track follows the Water-Level Route through this segment of Pennsylvania, and in far-western New York State. We're still eating breakfast when we turn the big corner at Carroll Street, Buffalo, and then pass the derelict hulk of Buffalo Union Station. We're sitting at table with an older couple from Rochester, New York (he's a Kodak retiree), and this station was clearly very important to him, in his youth in Buffalo.
Along this line, there are long sidings on segments of the former third of fourth track (many of the signal bridges still span the width of four tracks, and the formation where the tracks used to be is quite visible in many places), that are supposedly used for faster trains to overtake slower freights, but are currently being used to store long strings of autoracks or other unused freight cars. The train stops for ten mintes at CP 373. for no discernable reason (even in the radio traffic). Most of the way, the CSX Dispatcher makes good use of the Two Main Tracks by crossing us over to pass one set of trains and then back again to meet another set of trains.
Sitting on the north side of the train, and continuing past Syracuse in the daylight, I finally grasp the relationship of the wye with the Montreal Secondary and the current passenger platform in Syracuse, which is actually just east of the wye. I also finally see the departure of the two freight tracks to Selkirk, which leave on the north side at Hoffmans, and then bridge overhead before the passenger line reaches Schenectady.
At Rennselaer, the train stops adjacent to the shops, while the diesel locomotives that are continuing to Boston take on fuel, and the separation between the Boston and New York sections of the train is made. Only then does the Boston section continue into the station platform, and only after the dual-mode locomotive has connected on does the New York section moves on into the station. This process takes eleven minutes for the former and twenty-five minutes for the latter. Nonetheless, even the New York section is in the station before the Empire Service train prior to the one shown as the connection in the timetable has departed from the track across the platform—an easy connection. Another 41 minutes elapse before the New York Section leaves the station.
South of Poughkeepsie, we run into the track reconstruction that has given rise to variants in the scheduling of the New York section of the train over the weeks and months this spring. We're delayed for eighteen minutes at this spot, thus removing any possibility of making a 7:30 pm concert at Avery Fisher Hall tonight. (I had chosen not to buy tickets in advance because I was uncertain of getting there.) At Pennsylvania Station, eight minutes early on this ridiculously lax schedule, there are no redcaps on the platform and the escalator is not working, so we have to lift the suitcases up the two flights of stairs, which causes physical distress for both of us. It takes twenty minutes for the baggage folks to make the checked bags available, ten minutes for us to walk to the Hotel Pennsylvania across Seventh Avenue from the station, and another twenty-five minutes to check-in at the hotel (there's a long line when we arrive).
In the food line at a cafeteria-style restaurant on 34th Street, where we choose to eat, a woman in the line behind us starts screaming into her cell phone about the ingratitude her daughter has been showing her regarding some dress purchase. When I complain about the noise, she says its her 'right' to yell obscenities into her 'phone, and looks uncomprehending when I tell her that her rights end where other people's begin. Chris has left her propelling eraser (the 'wrong stick') at home, so after dinner we go to Borders Books, at the corner of Penn Station, to look for another. We don't find one, but I do buy my next replacement blank journals for note-taking. Border recommends a Staples in the station, which is closed, but we do buy some erasers in an adjacent drug store before returning to the hotel, in weather that is dry but cloudy.
After sleeping in a little this morning, we check-out and make our way back across the street in a steady downpour, to the Club Acela in Penn. Station (where we use the Amtrak Guest Rewards Select Plus card to get in). I sit down, and after Chris leaves to go to Staples, Bill Howes walks up and hands me some photocopies he's made of material covering the issue we've been discussing by e-mail, of changes in the approach trackage to Chicago's Grand Central Station in the late 1920s and early 1930s. Bill leaves to take the 10 am Acela, before Chris returns. He's supposed to be on the same Downeaster that we're booked on, but in the event we don't manage to make that train!
Our Northeast Regional is a little late, but the same Redcap that had taken us to the train for Stamford back in April eventually comes to take us to this one, and takes us and all of our baggage (thankfully, we hadn't had the checked bags to drag up the stairs yesterday) to the Business Class car on Train 172.
Business Class 81515
Train 172, 6-18-2009
|New York City (Penn.)||11:00 am||11:02 am|
|Bridgeport||12:12 pm||12;25-27 pm|
Northeast Corridor Route Description
We eat lunch (from the cafe car) on the train, and after Old Saybrook (furthers point east we had reached in April), I start taking down detailed route descriptions. A couple of times, the engineer says on the radio that he's had to 'recycle' the locomotive, and just after leaving Westerly, Rhode Island, he has to do it again. This time, however, it doesn't work, and we sit there for an hour, with an Acela overtaking us, before he eventually tries the process again with the Head-End Power switched out. This works, so we travel the rest of the way to Boston with the HEP switched off (and thus no main lights on the train, no power to the outlets for laptops, etc., in the Business Class car, and no power for the appliances in the cafe car). (I'm amused by various passengers around us talking about "difficulty in restarting the engine" on an electric locomotive!) We arrive in Boston 90 minutes late, with no chance of catching our 5 pm train from North Station. I had been reading of troubles with the AEM-7 locomotives, but this is the first we have experienced of those troubles.
Although the Amtrak website sells tickets for travelers connecting to the Downeaster as if they're going to get off at Back Bay station to take the MBTA Orange Line subway to North Station, we elect to go through to South Station and take a cab, with all of our luggage. It's raining, and the cab driver is most unhelpful, but does get us to North Station as fast as the 5 pm traffic will allow. We exchange our Business Class tickets for those on the 5:40 pm train, and board that train with about 20 minutes to spare—enough time to walk the platform to collect the consist. (In the event, Chris does this.) Some of the same folks who had been in Business Class on Train 172 are also in the Business Class car here, having taken the Orange Line over. They're heading for a wedding in Freeport, Maine (north of Portland), and we will see them again on Monday morning.
Train 687, 6-18-2009
|Boston North||5:40 pm||5:40 pm|
|Old Orchard Beach||7:48||8:00-01|
|Portland, ME||8:10 pm||8:17 pm|
Downeaster Route Description
I take detailed route descriptions as the train heads north, but find that I miss many of the MBTA stations that we pass through without stopping. (I see a few more of them on the way back, but clearly this is going to take traveling on the actual stopping MBTA trains to do, just as Philadelphia required doing it on SEPTA stopping trains, not on Northeast Corridor speedsters.) I'm quite interested by the pronunciation I hear on both the PA and the radio of 'Haverhill' and 'Saco'. Rain continues to fall all the way to Portland, where we arrive as the light is beginning to fail. By the time we get to the meeting hotel (by taxi), the R&LHS Registration Table is closed for the night, but fortunately we do run into a couple of R&LHS people (Paul Barnes and Cliff Vanderyacht) who tell us that the Friday excursion is departing an hour earlier than had been listed in the meeting announcement, so we can plan accordingly.
The hotel is under reconstruction, and dinner is served in what would normally be the lounge area, but the food is good and we get to bed in plenty of time for an early morning to find the registration folks before departing.
We're downstairs in the hotel lobby at 7:20 am, but Jerry Angier doesn't show up until precisely on the advertised (in the material we now receive) 7:30 am. He hands us one copy of a binder of photocopies on Maine Railroads assembled by Tom Taber, and two copies of the "goody bag' that includes the schedule for the next three days. Apparently only a couple of us had not shown up by the time the desk closed, the previous evening. Among them was Russ Davies, who still is not here!
We take the book and bags back up to our room, packing only the stuff we need for the day (such as the schedules) into our day bags. Then we head back downstairs, seeing, meeting and greeting Jacki Pryor, Charles Stats, Ed Graham, Jim Smith, Bob Holzweiss (and family), Howard Brown, Dave Ackerman, Jim and Peggy Caballero, Parker Lamb and David Pfeiffer. Jim Caballero is using a cane as a result of a recent hip replacement.
The bus, which can carry 55 people, arrives about 8 am. Jerry has also arranged for an eleven passenger van, for today's total of 66 people. It seems like almost half of the riders are at the other hotel, across the street in this office park in which the hotels are located, and the bus stops over there to pick them up before departing for points east. Among the people we see for the first time here are Ken and Ann Miller and Adrian and Carol Ettlinger. The bus takes I-95, I-295, and US 1, to get us to Brunswick, where there is a wye on the railroad at which our Maine Eastern train is to meet us. The schedule says "photo opportunity", but the continuing downpour puts that out of court.
The train arrives and turns on the wye before pulling up to a set of stairs with a small platform at the top that matches exactly one door. The bus pulls up to the door, and we scramble on board the train as well as we can in the circumstances.
Round-end Obs Alexander Hamilton
Maine Eastern Route Description
The locomotive was built for the New Haven in the mid-1950s. Coaches Ash and Elm were built for the New York Central in 1953, and were later used by Amtrak. Coach Magnolia was built for the Florida East Coast in 1946. Parlor Car Alexander Hamilton was built for the Pennsylvania Railroad in 1951.
The train leaves Brunswick at 9:38 am, stopping at Bath from 10:04 to 10:06 and Wiscasset from 10:27 to 10:28, running through the woods along alongside many tidal inlets on this former Maine Central branch line, getting us to Rockland, 55 miles from Brunswick, at 11:45 am. Conversation during this time shows that there are quite a number of people from the Southeastern Chapter here at this meeting. At the depot in Rockland, we get a little sticker for the badge, use the facilities, and pick up a box lunch each before boarding the bus for the short trip through the city street to the Lighthouse Museum on the shore of Penobscot Bay.
Rain is still coming down copiously, so we scurry inside the museum, where we learn about the many lighthouses of the Main Coast, with its many inlets, and about the six orders of Fresnel lenses uses to collimate the beams of these lighthouses. While a Fresnel lens is an arrangements that can collimate the beam (make its light parallel) using much less glass than would be required by a simple Newtonian lens, the "orders" seem mainly to provide the same functions at very different overall sizes of lens. There are examples of the orders of Fresnel lenses from 2 to 6, from many lighthouses, in the museum (first order would be too big for the museum building). The museum also celebrates the lifeboats and the people who operate them, used along the Maine coast.
There is a gift shop at which Chris decides to buy us waterproof jackets that will serve to keep us dry from the elements without making us wet from perspiration. These will prove very useful for the next three days, but I'm not sure about after that! While we're here, I take the opportunity to have a short chat with Parker Lamb.
From the museum, we reboard the bus for the drive back down US 1 to Wiscasset, where we turn inland to Sheepscot to go to the Wiscasset, Waterville & Farmington Railway Museum, a replica segment of 2 ft. gauge line which has some of the original Maine two-footer steam locomotives, one of which is operation. There is also an original, restored, wooden coach (#3) and an original, restored, wooden boxcar (#309), as well as a replica wooden coach (#8) on our train behind former Edaville 0-4-4T #10. This museum is located on part of the original WW&F right-of-way, dating back to original construction in 1894, and abandoned in 1933.
There is a replica of the passenger station that once was located here, and a replica of the freight shed from Week's Mills, which now houses the museum's gift shop and photo displays, both on the east side of the relayed 2 ft. gauge line. The museum's shops are to the west of the track, which has a runaround loop at this point, a water tank to the east, north of the gift shop, a dirt road grade crossing, an embankment in the woods, a dirt road grade crossing, a dirt track grade crossing, a bridge over a stream (Humason Brook Trestle), a cutting, a dirt road grade crossing, Yard Limits, the Alma Center Station, with a replica wooden depot to the east of the line and a runaround track, 1.6 miles from Sheepscot, and some more track (to the extent of more than half a mile) north of the runaround, in the marshland among the woods. We back to the end of the track after the locomotive has run around, and then return to the starting point, with the Holzweiss boys and their father riding in the cab.
There is now a choice between riding the round-trip again and visiting the museum's shops. Although rain is still coming down incessantly, Chris and I opt to visit the shops, with their brand new extension to the building, where former Kennebec Central Forney 0-4-4T #4, now the WW&F #9, is being reconstructed, with a new boiler and new frames. There are four tracks serving the shops, all of which come together to join into the main track just south of the water tank.
When the train returns from its second trip, we all return to the bus, some more bedraggled than others, for the rainy drive back down US 1 to Portland. On the way, the permanently open bridge on the former Grand Trunk line crossing Portland Harbor is pointed out, stuck in this position since vandals burned the trestle surrounding it back in 1984. Back at the hotel in South Portland, dinner is on our own, and since we have no transportation (and the rain is still falling), we eat in the hotel restaurant again.
There's some sunshine this morning, which is good since our visit to the Seashore Trolley Museum at Kennebunkport will necessarily be out-of-doors. There's also a Russ Davies sighting, since Russ had finally made it here during the day, yesterday, and is with us on today's trip. Today's bus drive is Tom Santorelli, one of one of the founders of the Seashore Trolley Museum, and one of the current members of tis Board of Trustees. Jerry Angier is driving the separate van, today, and Tom delights in taking routings that are somewhat different from what Jerry expects! After picking people up at the other hotel, the bus heads south on I-95, taking an exit to go through Kennebunk to the trolley museum in Kennebunkport.
The museum is located so that it can use a portion of the right-of-way of the erstwhile Atlantic Shore Line interurban as its "demonstration" trolley line, and has its Visitors Center, restoration shop, and various trolley barns at the south end of that segment of line. On arrival, we all board a former New York City subway car (7460) and take a ride up the line, while our guides from the museum (including tis current General Manager, Roger Tobin) introduce themselves and the museum. On our return, there's plenty of time to visit the Visitors Center, including its bookstore, and the various open trolley barns, in this morning's welcome sunshine. Parked at the reconstructed turning loop is a former New York Third Avenue railway car from the group that had been sent to Vienna after WWII, that is identical to the one we saw in the Vienna Tramway Museum in 2005.
Chris and I get a chance to chat with Russ Davies, while in the bookstore, and later I chat with Roger Tobin for awhile about the operations at the museum. Then, quite a number of us take a ride in former New Haven car 303, while others ride in Manchester & Nashua interurban car 38, the second oldest car at the museum. By the time these rides end, our bus has pulled out to the entrance and Jerry is pacing back and forth impatiently, but the bus can't leave because more than half of its riders are out on the line!
On leaving the museum, we go for a tourist ride through the coastal areas of Kennebunk and Kennebunkport (this is one of the places where Tom's route displeases Jerry, but is required for bus clearance purposes), including passing the Bush compound at Walker's Point, where the Holzweiss family is having lunch with the former President (41) today. (Bob Holzweiss is the archivist at Bush 41's Presidential Library, and will be working closely with the former President in the coming months, so this was a convenient occasion for them to meet.) The rest of us travel north on the coastal road (which is behind trees from the coast itself) to lunch at the Old Mill in Saco, where Chris and I share a table with Ken and Ann Miller.
By the time everyone has been served and has eaten lunch, the group is about half an hour behind Jerry's schedule. This matters only because we have a specific time to be on board the excursion train at the Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad Museum, later this afternoon. For now, the bus heads on up the coast, going a different way from Jerry's recommendation, to the Portland Head Light(house) at Fort Williams State Park in Cape Elizabeth (which in this sense is a town, not a geographical feature, although there is one by that name that is within the town). Here, there is time to photograph the lighthouse and the beautiful nearby coastal coves, but not really to go up the lighthouse (which dates from the 1790s, with the current configuration dating to 1855) or tour the museum.
We then head across the lifting bridge across Portland Harbor to the Maine Narrow Gauge Railroad Museum, which is in downtown Portland, on the shore of Casco Bay, using part of the erstwhile route of the Grand Trunk Railroad (the same one that once crossed that movable bridge we saw the day before), with a segment of right-of-way rebuilt with 2ft. gauge track. We board a train of modern replica cars (as far as I can tell), hauled by a small steam locomotive, which then heads southward just far enough for the locomotive on the south end to run around the train, and then northward, past the line's small yard to the west (and the footpath along Portland Harborfront and Casco Bay to the east), and head north to the end of track, not far south of the disused bridge (which is quite visible from this loication).
Here, we waste some time with a Civil War Re-enactment of some train capture hundreds of miles to the south, before the locomotive runs around the rain again and we head back to the museum. There are some real 2-ft. gauge artifacts in the museum, including a small railbus, a Combination Car from 1903, two coaches from 1882, a Parlor Car from 1901, and a caboose from 1882, from different railroads from the era of the Maine Two-footers. However, the main attraction among our group seems to be the two toilets in the museum!
We then head back to the hotel(s), and later most members of the party gather at our hotel for the cocktail hour and banquet that follows, at which many of us make terrible messes eating whole Maine Lobsters. Chris and I share a table with Ken and Ann, Jim and Ann Smith, and Jacki and Dick Pryor. After the meal, we have a talk from Ed Burkhardt, formerly the CEO of the independent Wisconsin Central (and its investments in Great Britain and New Zealand), and now head of the group that owns the Montreal, Main and Atlantic, which runs the former Canadian Pacific line east of Montreal to the Atlantic Provinces (through Maine), and the former Bangor & Aroostook. Ed gives us all some good insights into his railroad management style, which works well on lines of a particular size and revenue range. At the end, Jerry presents Ed with a copy of Jerry's newly published book on the Bangor & Aroostook. After dinner, I have a short chart with Jim Smith about whether there are railroad freight timetables in the R&LHS Archives he has been processing; the conclusion is that there are not.
The Annual Meeting concludes with, well, the actual Annual Meeting, which follows immediately on an included breakfast in the same place as the banquet had been the previous night. Among others, we sit with Dave Ackerman, who is looking forward to this trip report. Ed Graham is retiring as a director from the Pacific Coast Chapter, and will be replaced by Jacki Pryor in that role. Dan Cupper will no longer be a director, because in his reading of the conflict-of-interest policy newly introduced to the board, he can't both do that and receive remuneration for his role in editing part of Railroad History. Among others, former director Mac Dow has died. Parker Lamb will serve only one more year as President, because, he says, he no longer has the vigor and vitality needed for such a job, but day-to-day operations are passing to a much younger group led by Executive VP Bob Holzweiss, with some others he has recruited. Bob will then become President a year from now.
At the banquet, Ken had asked if Chris and I were interested in joining him and Ann to visit a Victorian House Museum in downtown Portland before they head off back to New Jersey. He made it sound like he wanted to be on the road by 2 pm at the latest. After the Annual Meeting, and about an hour of packing on both of our parts, We join them in their car and head off into Portland. When we find the house, Ann says "but it doesn't open until 1 pm", to groans from Ken as it's now only 11 am, so we go into the center of Portland, walk around down by the harbor, and have lunch at a seafood restaurant, before returning to the museum, which is now open.
The gift shop and ticket sales are in the old carriage house, where Chris buys a guide book and we meet up with our local guide for the 1:15 pm tour. The house was built in 1858 as a "summer retreat" by a Maine who originated in Maine, but made his fortune as a hotelier in New Orleans (where the season is over the winter). The architect designed the house like an Italian Villa, with a tower and unbalanced sides, and the interior decorator had many of the flat plaster walls painted in trompe l'oeil style, looking as if they had depth that was not, in fact, present, as well as designing all of the furniture within the rooms, much of which is present today. This is (one of) the earliest of the 'gilded age' mansions, and certainly the oldest that has been fully-preserved.
The guide adopts as his premise that the eight or so, visitors had been invited to dinner in the late 19th-century. We go in through the front door, and visit in turn the Hall, Reception Room, Dining Room, Library and Parlor before climbing the stairs to visit the Sitting Room, Turkish Smoking Room (in the tower, above the entry-way), and the two main bedrooms, one with indoor plumbing. Finally, the we return downstairs and visit the kitchen and pantry area before leaving by the rear door. (There's another exterior door, in the library, that would once have had stairs up to it (there are none at present), and was used in the 19th-century by the owner's business visitors, without them entering the rest of the house.)
Once the tour is over, Ken and Ann drop us off back at the hotel, and begin their drive back to western New Jersey. We spend the rest of this rainy day at the hotel, including making our preparations for an early morning (for us) departure.
We arise at 6 am, and have the hotel's van take us over to Amtrak at 7 am, getting us there by 7:15, even though the driver has never been there before (he usually goes either to the local mall or the airport). The station is also the local bus terminal, and the driver takes a turn through the bus bays before delivering us to the front door. The station is full of people, but that's because there's a bus departing at 7:30 am and another at 8:30 am, as well as our train (the second of the morning) to Boston. The buses serve Boston's Logan Airport as welll as South Station, directly.
The conductor collects the Business Class passengers first, and escorts us to the train, well before departure time. This train has two P42s, not a cabbage car on one end, and we have to collect the consist after departure, since the crew won't allow us to walk the platform before departure. As expected, some of the passengers are ones we had seen on Thursday, while others are a group of four women who take an annual outing to Boston together.
Train 682, 6-22-2009
|Portland||8:00 am||8:00 am|
|Old Orchard Beach||8:15||8;16-17|
In Boston, the cabs are in the street that once would have been out at the front of the old North Station, but we have to walk three sides of a block to get there. The cabbie slips up (admitting it immediately), and takes us through the tunnels to the outskirts of the airport and back, but still gets us to South Station in plenty of time. We check two of the bags through to Bakersfield, and then repair to Club Acela (leaving our other bags with a redcaps) to wait for our boarding announcement, which comes some 25 minutes before departure. This time, I get to collect the consist as we walk down the platform, before boarding our sleeper. Our attendant, Mark Parker from the Chicago pool, had been expecting us to board in Back Bay, but I explain this is an artifact of the Amtrak reservations system for people coming from Portland (it assumes they're using the Orange Line subway, not taking a cab).
Sleeper 62044 Summit View
Dinette 53510_______________Train 449, from Boston
P32AC 710 (off at Rensselaer) Train 49, from New York City
Sleeper 62020 Moonlight View
Sleeper 62016 Lake View
Train 449/49, 6-22-2009
|Boston South||11:55 am||11:55 am|
|Back Bay||12:00N||12:00-03 pm|
|Elyria||4:18 am||5:35 am|
|South Bend ET||8:49||10:25|
|Chicago CT||9:45 am||10:25 am|
Mark is quite interesting to talk to, and is quite surprised when I make a comment about wrecked cars being stored at Beech Grove, and now being repaired for specific train assignments under stimulus funding. This tells him we're quite knowledgeable about Amtrak operations. Mark takes the role of 'barrack-room lawyer' with some of the other staff, and tells us he has been asked to be the union representative for the Chicago crew base, but has turned it down because he doesn't want responsibility for the workers at the 14th Street Maintenance Shops (the ones who seem to be surprised when winter comes, each year)!
I take detailed route notes all the way from Boston to Albany-Rensselaer, since this is the first time we've ridden this segment since I started doing that (and the third time, overall, at approximately ten-year intervals). Mark serves lunch in each of the occupied rooms, since there's no dining car till we meet the New York section at Rensselaer, just before dinner.
After leaving Pittsfield, we sit from 4:00 to 4:50 pm at CP 150, first for CSX Q 136, and eastbound freight, and then for Amtrak 448, to clear the single track. The latter passes at 4:48 pm. At Rensselaer, where we arrive only 20 minutes late in spite of being 70 minutes late after the delay at CP 150, Train 449 drops of its alighting passengers, and people who want to go into the depot, and then pulls forward at 6:13 pm, to refuel the locomotives next to the maintenance shops north of the station. Meanwhile, Train 49 pulls into the same track we had just left, and its locomotive cuts off and pulls forward, alongside us. At 6:22 pm, our section reverses onto the cars of that train, and couples up at 6:28 pm, with coupling and HEP reconnection complete by 6:33 pm.
Before the combined train departs, 37 minutes later, the passengers from the Boston sleeper walk back to the Diner ("Cafe") for dinner at 7:00 pm, where we have dinner with a man who can't remember for ten minutes what he's asked us already!. Chris and I are in bed before Syracuse.
During the night, the train was delayed, first by a defective switch east of Buffalo dePew, and then by a coach passenger having a heart attack just after leaving Erie. This means that when I awake, in full daylight, we're just leaving Elyria, OH, only a half hour west of Cleveland, and I get a lot of route description details from there almost into Indiana (where previous trains have been in full daylight, even in the February time frame).
In Chicago, we walk east to Elephant & Castle for an early lunch. While we're there, a stylishly-dressed young woman at and adjacent table is greeted by everyone who works there (apparently, she used to do so), commenting on her new hairstyle, etc. Back at Union Station, the Metropolitan Lounge is quite full with passengers for the three western departures surrounding 2 pm: the Texas Eagle, the California Zephyr, and the Empire Builder. In a different sequence, each train's conductor comes in and collects sleeping car tickets. As a result, the people sitting near us with three generations (two women and two children) discover, apparently for the first time, that they only have one standard bedroom (roomette) for all four of them!
When the time comes to board the Zephyr, we have the redcaps take us out to the sleeper, which helps me to collect the consist as we travel down the platform. Once again, we're downstairs, and this time the Family Bedroom is occupied by a mother in her thirties and her toddler (yes, only the two of them for the whole Family Room), who is apparently not yet verbal and thus screams alot. This doesn't deter the woman from keeping her room door wide open, so she can chat with the stranger in the adjacent room, regardless of the expressed opinions of people in the other nearby rooms. Thankfully, she's only going to Denver.
Train 5, 6-23-2009
|Chicago||2:00 pm||2:03 pm|
|McCook CT||3:43 am||6:59 am|
|Fort Morgan MT||5:05||8:22-24|
|Elko||3:28 am||4:56-57 am|
|Colfax||12:48 pm||1:37-38 pm|
The Dispatcher crosses Train 5 back and forth to meet and pass opposing traffic, mainly coal trains (loaded or empty), but including Train 6 near Mendota. This keeps us going, but the speed reductions needed to cross over on this line are sufficient that we lose ten minutes by Princeton. The process of meeting Train 4 at Kewanee is more time-consuming, and we're a half hour late out of Galesburg. Then the delays really start: The train sits for over twenty minutes east of the Mississippi River Bridge at Burlington, waiting for barge traffic to clear and the bridge to close for our passage, making us an hour late out of Burlington.
Then there are high wind warnings for the line west of Mount Pleasant, where the sky gets very dark (much too early for sunset, in high summer) and rain starts lashing at the sides of the train. This is the kind of rain that leads to signal problems (due to the electrical equipment getting saturated with water), and the high winds can lead to speed restrictions or even requirements to stop and wait, for trains with high slab-sided equipment, such as double-stacks, autoracks, or Superliners. The train is over 100 minutes late out of Ottumwa, where we make a 25-minute stop (including letting the smokers off in the rain).
We're in bed before the Osceola stop, anticipating where we might be when dawn breaks in the morning.
When I awake in the morning twilight and look out of the window, it's immediately obvious that we're still in Nebraska, not in the dry-farming country of eastern Colorado, so I turn on the scanner to find out where, and start taking notes. It transpires that we're still east of the McCook stop, so I take detailed route descriptions until we clear the location from which I'd previously been able to do that, before getting dressed. We've lost time overnight, being three-and-a-quarter hours late at McCook, 3 hrs and 20 minutes at Fort Morgan, and 2 hrs, 37 minutes into Denver, after the effect of the schedule padding is felt. Of course, the noisy child is up based on the scheduled time of arrival, and the mother hasn't learned yet not to impose his noises on other passengers so has their room door wide open once they're up and dressed.
We save twenty minutes on the duration of the stop in Denver, but manage to lose that again waiting for the Moffat Tunnel to clear of the fumes from a preceding freight, after we've made the climb up through the Tunnel District to the waiting location at East Portal. We maintain this approximately two-and-a-half hour lateness all the way across the rest of Colorado and eastern Utah, even with a very slow passage of Glenwood Canyon due to the presence of a rail-grinding train ahead of us in the canyon, and a five-minute stop to meet an eastbound UP coal train at Silt. The intervening traversal of Fraser Canyon, Byers Canyon, Gore Canyon and Glenwood Canyon, viewed from the opposite side of the train from the eastward journey, is a lovely way to spend an afternoon.
We have dinner with an optician named Bob Spivey, from Decatur, GA, who is a railfan (he knows where Tehachapi is), but isn't a member of the NRHS because the local Atlanta Chapter 'does all of its stuff on Saturdays' , and always has to work on Saturdays. He doesn't see the point of joining NRHS if he can't participate in the local meetings and activities. As dinner progresses, we're also joined by another man (late because he had been smoking at Ottumwa, or maybe just boarded there), who clearly isn't interested in railroads, and protests that he had hoped to have a 'conversation' over dinner. He refuses to start one, and he refuses to say what happens when he's seated with three people who already know each other. (On Thursday he grumps at me because I'm willing to take coffee from a pot on which the red light has not yet lit, even through I know how long the pot has been perking. In that case, I think he's overdue for a smoke break!)
We go to bed as the train starts its traversal of Soldier Summit, again anticipating where it might be when dawn breaks.
The train has picked up about an hour on the schedule padding into Salt Lake City, but is still just east of Elko when I awake in the morning twilight. So, I scramble to get dressed during the Elko stop, to take detailed route notes on the westbound track all the way to the west end of the paired-track at Weso (about two-and-a half hours, but still in plenty of time for breakfast). We're only seventy minutes late out of Winnemucca.
After the usual uninteresting traversal of the western part of Nevada, crossing the Humboldt and Carson Sinks, the traversal of Donner Pass east of Reno and Truckee seems even more wonderful that maybe it deserves. Once again, I observe former SP telephone booths that I hadn't known about before, this time on the south side of the line at what seems like every signal (most of them signal bridges) between Truckee and Emigrant Gap. At lunch during the descent, a fellow passenger comments on the absence of bears, and I suggest, in jest, that they've been laid-off due to California's budget crisis. That same passenger does not believe the crew's assertions that we'll be on time by Sacramento (as we are, if one compares our arrival time to the scheduled departure), not understanding the almost one hour's schedule padding between Colfax and Sacramento.
West of Sacramento, we have some unexplained stops for opposing traffic on the double-track, with no obvious maintenance crews (visible or radio traffic), between Davis and Martinez. Nonetheless, there's enough padding in the schedule in the final stretch that we're early into Emeryville. Once again, we walk over to the hotel in Emeryville, and later have dinner at PF Chang's, this time (it's the first time we've been on a weekday) without having to wait for a table. We then go to bed as darkness is falling, because the bus cancellation has required that we take the first San Joaquin of the day.
The Berkeley Hills are shrouded in fog as I arise, this morning. By 7 am, we're walking over to the Emeryville station, where people are gathering for the morning's Capitols, the southbound Coast Starlight, and our San Joaquin, Train 712. The latter is the second train to arrive and depart after we get to the station, and we don't see the southbound Starlight even before we leave its route at Martinez. We check two more bags to Bakersfield, to avoid carrying them onto the train.
Cab Car 8309
Mount San Jacinto
Cafe 8814 Mission Valley
Coach 8021 Kings River
Coach 8022 Pit River
Train 712, 6-26-2009
|Emeryville||7:40 am||7:40 am|
|Hanford||12:09 pm||12:19-22 pm|
South of Stockton, we're delayed by taking siding at Duffy for a northbound BNSF double stack, already stopped on the main, by overtaking a southbound UPS trailers at Riverbank, by an Amtrak rules test just south of Modesto, by following a BNSF freight from Bowles to Shirley, by meeting a northbound BNSF manifest at the south end of Wasco, and by Amtrak Train 715 at Lopez. Nonetheless, we're into Bakersfield on time. With a bit of prodding on Chris' part, all four checked bags are transferred onto our bus, and we make it up to Tehachapi and drive the two miles home by mid afternoon.