• Amtrak 2014 Autumn Express on Reading lines!

  • Discussion Related to the Reading Company 1833-1976 and it's predecessors Philadelphia and Reading Rail Road and then the Philadelphia and Reading Railway.
Discussion Related to the Reading Company 1833-1976 and it's predecessors Philadelphia and Reading Rail Road and then the Philadelphia and Reading Railway.

Moderator: Franklin Gowen

  by Franklin Gowen
( The ongoing discussion thread for the 2014 trips can be found here on the Amtrak Forum. )

Amtrak's "Autumn Express" excursions commenced in 2013 with a Philadelphia-Perryville, MD.-Harrisburg-Philadelphia circle trip over former PRR lines. This was originally planned as a single day-trip on a Saturday as a rather speculative venture on Amtrak's part. Here is the complete discussion thread on our Amtrak forum concerning the 2013 excursion; an interesting read.

However, public response to the announcement for last year's trip was so overwhelmingly positive that not only did tickets for the trip sell out completely (and quickly!), but the railroad also operated a Sunday excursion in order to accommodate the overflow demand. Extra coaches even had to be made available in order to cater to the demand on both days, which reportedly was over 800 passengers. Really fortunate that Amtrak was able to make extra coaches available. It was amazing how each time another batch of tickets was put up for sale, they typically vanished that very same day (sometimes within a half-hour and less!).

This autumn, Amtrak Autumn Express will roll once again - Saturday and Sunday, November 8 and 9, 2014!

This year's special surprise? It's time to "take a ride on the Reading"! :-D

The itinerary is Philadelphia-Harrisburg-Philadelphia, with at least the return leg of the trip being made over the full length of Reading's Lebanon Valley Branch via Hershey, switching to the Main Line at Reading itself and rolling along the Schuylkill through Pottstown, Valley Forge and Gladwyne.

At present, the linked webpage is not fully clear whether both halves of the trip are ex-RDG, or whether the outbound portion will be over the electrified ex-PRR main line via Paoli and Lancaster. Hopefully Amtrak will soon correct the ambiguity seen on their excursion website - as of today, we still don't know if this is a round trip or a circle trip. My personal belief is that it will most likely be out and back on the Reading both ways, *BUT* it's best to be sure before purchasing tickets.

Quoted from the excursion's reservations webpage:
The 2014 Autumn Express is Here

Saturday and Sunday, November 8 and 9, 2014

Tickets go on sale Thursday, October 9 at 10:00 am ET, and are sure to go fast.
Reserve your seats quickly.

Due to popular demand, the Autumn Express is back. Come along for a historic train ride, departing from and returning to Philadelphia 30th Street Station on Saturday and Sunday, November 8 and 9, 2014. Travel through small towns, historic tunnels, see key landmarks and experience rare mileage along a route that hasn't seen regular passenger service in decades.

$129 per Adult. Many Benefits.

See fall scenery on a rare trip beginning with the Philadelphia Highline above and across the Penn Coach Yards and mainline. Travel along the Schuykill River and through the countryside that only freight trains travel now. You'll pass through the Flat Rock Tunnel, constructed in 1836 - 1840 (one of the oldest in the country) and the Black Rock Tunnel, constructed in 1838, the third oldest tunnel still in use in this country. After a brief stop in Harrisburg, PA, the Autumn Express will take you back to Philadelphia via Hershey and Reading, PA, while travelling through scenic Montgomery, Chester, Berks, Lebanon and Dauphin Counties.

The train departs Philadelphia at 9:45 am and returns at 6:00 pm.
Tickets are $129 for adults and include a boxed lunch (turkey sandwich, chips, water and cookie) and souvenir tote bag.
Children 2 - 12 ride for half price and receive a boxed lunch and tote bag.
Wi-Fi will be available.
Seating is limited for this unique opportunity.

Last year's Amtrak Autumn Excursion sold out VERY QUICKLY. These trips are being marketed well outside of railfan social circles; non-railfans eager to enjoy a day-long fall foliage tour across the heart of the former "Reading Lines" are going to be purchasing these starting on day 1 of sales! Tickets will begin being sold at 10:00 AM next Thursday, October 9. That's only a wee bit more than four weeks before the weekend of the trips themselves, so don't delay.

You don't have to be "anthracite-friendly" in order to have an wonderfully fun day with these excursions. Still... the more history-minded you happen to be, the sweeter the experience. :-D
  by njtmnrrbuff
Will the excursion pass by the Harrisburg Station both ways? I'm going to photograph it in that vicinity. I will photograph it on the in Philadelphia on the High Line in the morning.
  by rwk
I would love to ride this, how often does the public get to ride the ex-Reading main lines through Reading? Almost never. In the 80's the BM&R operated multiple steam excursions to Philly and Harrisburg and other places when the mainlines were Conrail. Even NKP 765 ran two trips from NJ to Reading in late July, 1988 one a circle trip via Philly, Reading, and Allentown, and the other out and back via Allentown. This is a very rare trip, even though it's Amtrak P diesels and Amtrak coaches. I heard things about 765 returning to PA next year when NS resumes the 21st Century Steam program and running on the NS ex-Reading lines but nothing confirmed yet. I was on the 765 Curve trip last year from Lewistown.
  by Franklin Gowen
rwk wrote:I would love to ride this, how often does the public get to ride the ex-Reading main lines through Reading? Almost never.
Knowing your interest, I highly suggest buying your ticket on-line this coming Thursday morning, October 9 when they first go on sale. Don't wait until lunchtime; even late-morning might be too late! Demand for seating aboard last year's trips was incredibly strong, and based upon those repeated sell-outs (as additional Amtrak cars sporadically became available) this year I expect tickets may likely sell-out within the very first hour they can be bought. There's no guarantee that this year Amtrak can conjure up extra cars to meet extra demand like they did last year.

For history-minded persons, the fact that this year's trips will cover one major line segment that's been freight-only since 1981 (RDG Main Line) and another major one that's been freight-only since 1963 (RDG Lebanon Valley Branch) is another reason that competition for getting seats is going to be intense.
  by Franklin Gowen
njt/mnrrbuff wrote:Will the excursion pass by the Harrisburg Station both ways? I'm going to photograph it in that vicinity. I will photograph it on the in Philadelphia on the High Line in the morning.
The latest informed speculation I have heard from others is that the excursion consist might be wyed for return to Philly at a wye track somewhere in the vicinity of the Harrisburg Amtrak station, but not necessarily AT the station (i.e., with platform access). If you're hoping to photograph it there, don't be too quick to make any plans that cannot be changed later once more facts become confirmed. After all, they may very well just be planning to continue north from the station and wye at Rockville instead. [-shrug-]
  by rwk
Yes, some of the NS steam trips sold out quickly because of the rare opportunity. But I never rode the ex-Reading mains before, yes I missed all previous excursions on those routes. I'm from just west of Allentown, too bad the train is not going on the line through my area. It would be neat to have an excursion through Allentown to Newark, NJ then back down the NEC to Philly. Also if 765 could run these routes in the future that would be awesome. But there would be complications with boarding a 765 NS excursion in Philly because of dealing with Amtrak for rights to board an NS steam excursion there. Unless they would board somewhere on NS. It's easier with Amtrak themselves for an excursion like this. Wish the PRR E8's were pulling it, though. And with the RBMN Pottsville-Reading RDC excursion Nov 15 that makes the entire Pottsville to Philly route covered by public excursions next month. I wonder why the commuter trains pulled out of Berks, Lehigh and Northampton counties in 1981. Funding cuts and poor ridership were two things. The entire Lehigh Valley region has no rail transit, just bus. Closest rail stations to me are Colmar on SEPTA and Annandale on NJT Raritan Valley in NJ.
  by njtmnrrbuff
Something tells me that they might use the wye where the junction is with the Lurgan Line. If they were to do that, at least I hope that Amtrak can do a reverse move onto the bridge itself so that way, passengers can enjoy the breathtaking views of the Susquehanna River.
  by mbaker1979
I just got this from Amtrak:

Dear Amtrak Passenger

We apologize but Norfolk Southern has informed Amtrak that due to conditions on the railroad that the Autumn Express will be using, the trip will take longer than originally expected. We expect an arrival time back into 30th Street Station, Philadelphia at approximately 7:00PM. We apologize for any inconvenience this may cause.


Amtrak Customer Service