Your Stories: Taking a Trip on the Train

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Photo credit: Inside the cafe car on Amtrak Cascades. The West End/Flickr.com

On Thursday Morning, June 16th, I was sitting inside Toledo (OH) Union Station. 

The EASTBOUND Cap (30) arrived about 5 hours "Tardy"... I was awaiting the 'Late Sure Ltd' (48) and the arrival had been set back to 6:04AM... making my periodic trip 

to visit my son and his family in Amherst, Massachusetts. I had made three trips (June & October of 21 and March this year).  We finally departed Toledo at 6:47 AM, 3hr.32min. late.  In the year that I have been making these trips, this is the first SERIOUS delay like this I have encountered.

  

We were told there were Mechanical Problems in Chicago, causing the initial delay for both east-bound trains, on the previous day as well as this day’s trains.

 

What was interesting and somewhat nostalgic was the fact that all FOUR trains converged within an hour and a half. It was like the early days of that station.  First 29, then 30, then 48/448 and as we were crossing East Broadway, 49/449 was heading in. No one was fussing, the Station Personnel were pleasant and everyone did what they needed to do.  Even the Michigan bus for Detroit/Ann Arbor cycled thru! Should Subway have been open; Yes. Other than that it was good... and daylight trips out of Toledo for a change!

As with my previous trips when we had been delayed from our normal departure time,  AMTRAK did keep updating their website as far anticipated arrival times along the line, indicating that were in hopes of making up some of the delay. Onn my previous trips, we were able to make up time. However, on this day, we kept falling further behind, versus schedule in spite of the ‘play’ that is built into the schedule. I can only imagine that track work, slow orders and freight traffic were the contributing factors. By the time we arrived in Springfield, Mass, we were more than 5 hrs late.

I elected to ride coach. The condition of the train, from a passenger’s point of view, was pretty good, given the delays out of Chicago.  The Café car was out of some of the breakfast menu items, but I was able to get my usual Breakfast Sandwich and coffee.  The Staff was in pretty good humor, given the aforementioned ‘tardiness’.  Also, the restrooms in the coach and café car were in fairly good shape.  The Café staff, car attendants and the train crew made the best of a bad situation and worked to keep the passengers comfortable, and informed across the line of road.

My return trip, on June 20th began with a BUS from Springfield as CSX has a curfew on the Albany-Boston segment of the trip for track work.  I had experienced this last June on my eastbound trip. It is a Charter Service, comfortable and had an AMTRAK crewmember on board as well as the driver.  We were on time leaving Springfield and arriving at Albany. At Albany, the ‘Boston section’ was in place in the station, allowing us to board early if we wished.

I have a friend who is an Amtrak Engineer based in Albany. He had been qualifying on the Vermonter, which is extending service to Burlington in late July.  We met and talked for a while about what is going on around Albany as far as AMTRAK is concerned, and the track work between Albany and Buffalo.  There were two track gangs working that day, with authority to work until late (3:30PM -3:30 AM) that night, and they each and nine miles of track that they were holding, west of Utica.

The New York Section of 49 arrived on time, the train was put together and we departed on time.  I upgraded to Business Class, for the return trip, so was entitled to free, non-alcoholic beverages on the return trip. Once we cleared the track work there were minimal delays and I was home (Toledo) very close to scheduled arrival time.

In general it was a good trip. The cars were a little cooler that I would have preferred, but I was aware that such was usually the case, and I a jacket with me. Other than that, the ride was comfortable; the cars were clean, as were the restrooms.  The train crew and attendants were courteous and welcoming. 

Full confession, I am a retired railroader.  I was the last Conrail fireman on the Toledo-Cleveland section of Lake Shore Limited. I am also a major passenger rail advocate, and as long as I am able, I will continue to utilize AMTRAK as long as I can. 

 

-Tom Galloway, AAO Member