• Fifty Years of Amtrak: Your best memories

  • Discussion related to Amtrak also known as the National Railroad Passenger Corp.
Discussion related to Amtrak also known as the National Railroad Passenger Corp.

Moderators: GirlOnTheTrain, mtuandrew, Tadman

  by John_Perkowski
I’ll lead this off with an article by Kevin Keefe of Trains...

Amtrak’s Rainbow Connection

We can focus on the problems in all the other threads. Please look back to the good.
JP: Let me start replies off by adding this 22 post topic I created back on March 11, 2021

Amtrak 50th Anniversary Memories - The First Five Years (May 1,1971 - May 1,1976)
I now think that I should have made this about Amtrak's first decade (May 1,1981) which arguably is the most
interesting 10 years in Amtrak's history - with all the changes to US intercity passenger railroading back then.

www.railroad.net/amtrak-50th-anniversar ... 72755.html

My first Amtrak trip was on Train #41 "Broadway Limited" NYP-CHI in late June 1973 as a early teenager.
I will post about that trip - and some other interesting memories - at a later time.

Yes-we should reminiss about the good memories of Amtrak over the last 50 years...MACTRAXX
  by Jeff Smith
My first Amtrak ride took place on 24 APRIL 1979 aboard the recently assumed Crescent, formerly the Southern Crescent. The Southern Railway was the last (I believe) railroad to "opt-in" to Amtrak. I was reporting for Basic Training from the MEPS (Military Entrance Processing Station) in Newark NJ. When they handed me my ticket I was taken aback; my thought was "they still do troop trains?" Operated by Amtrak from Newark to Washington Union Station, I'm sure that it was operated south of there by old Southern Railway crews who had moved over to Amtrak via the seniority list. It was quite an experience; dinner in the dining car, breakfast the next morning around Atlanta, and met in Anniston AL by Army Reception. I wonder where we stopped in Atlanta? Peachtree or was one of the terminals still being used?
  by Arborwayfan
Being a little kid around 1978, watching the Needham Line trains from the Arboretum in Boston, but also being able to see the NEC trains half a mile away.

DRGW was last to join, in 1983, and one of my earliest memories of Amtrak was knowing that the DRGW was not part of it, I think from seeing it on Great Railway Journeys.

First Amtrak trip, Boston South Station to Washington, about 8 years old, about 1982, with my mother. The Amcoaches and Amcafes (still marked that way on the outside) were newish and exciting; I remember my mother saying, as we went to get lunch, "Next time we'll know that we can sit in the Amcafe!"

As it turned out, next time was Boston-Chicago-Glacier, with a whole new set of excitement in the old sleepers (Parents in a double bedroom, me in a roomette with the sort of murphy-bed arrangement and the toilet underneath, then superliners west. On the way back, a long detour around a freight derailment that I think took us through Madison, with railfans all along the way taking pictures of us and a missed connection giving us a free day in Chicago. And then no room in the sleeper for us on the LSL, so we rode in one of the refurbished Santa Fe coaches with the thunderbirds on the walls between the windows.

Watching trains from a bridge over the NEC near my girlfriend's house, c. 1991, before electrification brought those big walls that block the view. Watching Amtrak trains from the commuter rail platform at Forest Hills, Mass.

Some NEC train to Providence with a friend in the pouring driving rain to visit Brown on, I think, Evacuation Day 1991, the furthest I'd ever traveled without an adult. Night Owl with the same friend and another friend to Wilmington for a Boy Scout thing, again, the furthest I'd ever travelled without an adult. Night Owl to Washington all alone to meet up with my Close Up group because I'd missed the deadline for the group plane ticket; swear I didn't do it on purpose! Public transportation = independence for teenagers!

Going to grad school in Champaign-Urbana, IL, 1996-2003: Lots of Illini and CONO rides to Chicago. One particular Thanksgiving morning catching the CONO and getting a decent breakfast in the diner as we rolled along past mowed corn and snow and fields. Being in the library and realizing that I should really go home and make supper because the second Illini had just whistled off and it was almost 7 pm. Handing out homemade Save the City of New Orleans fliers to the detraining passengers, and getting permission to leave a stack on the station counter, and recruiting another grade student to help keep the stack full.

Home for Christmas or a summer visit on the LSL a few times, enough to recognize one particular conductor who worked west of Albany but talked pure Brooklyn, and enough to really get to like the Heritage diners. Riding the Pioneer, Starlight, and Desert Wind alone for fun in spring 1997, with visits in Chicago, Portland, LA, San Diego, and a long list of fun conversations in the diner, and getting to watch an interesting late-night debate in the lounge between a Lakota guy with traditional beliefs and a Christian guy -- and then getting to know a Lakota Baptist minister who had driven 3 hours from SD to catch the CZ in Nebraska, as we rode on to Portland. Getting out at Wyoming stations to tape Save the Pioneer signs from NARP onto the plexiglass of the Amshacks. Hearing all the details of the scenery from a railfan Amtrak executive of some kind who was on the trip and grabbed the mic to show us something every five minutes from Denver to Portland and gave us a tour of the locomotive collection in Ogden because we got there a little early, and getting to eat lunch with him along the Columbia river, because the dining car staff could maybe recognize a railfan when they saw one.... Seeing Ogden Union Station when it was still barely a station. Upgrading to a sleeper on the starlight with a total stranger who happened to be in the next seat when I asked the conductor -- $120 total, and he took the top bunk; that night there was an eclipse of the moon AND the Hale-Bopp comet, but as we passed Mt. Shasta the moon was back and shining bright on the mountain. First time through Glennwood Canyon.

Jan 3 or so 1998, visiting at my parents' house and realizing that where I really wanted to be was with my future wife in Salt Lake City, and calling up to change my ticket to C-U in two weeks into a ticket to SLC the day after tomorrow, please. There was a huge snowstorm as I went west on the LSL; and eastbound passed us that was, IIRC, 18 hours late -- almost right on time but yesterday's train. The yard at Chicago Union Station was hard to see in the flying snow, but the portable kerosene switch heaters helped light it up. Snow on the plains, snow in the mountains, so late I upgraded to a sleeper after Denver (or was that the next year? They run together.). Getting off at the old DRGW station, quite the little palace.

And on and on.

Texas Eagle from Bloomington-Normal to Dallas for a conference with a friend from Argentina in 2003; waking up in the middle of the night and peering out the window just as we passed the station in Hope, which looked just like it did in one of Bill Clinton's campaign ads.

West with the kids, and having what we thought was the good luck to get detoured through Wyoming twice, once for a fire near Glennwood Springs and once for a derailed coal train -- whining passengers all over the place and yet we got to SLC early after eating supper as we passed Devil's Slide. Still regretting that neither time did I remember to look out and see the rest area at Evanston, WY, where we almost always stop when we're driving; being really disappointed that I fell asleep and missed Weber Canyon, and then really happy that we got detoured again in the summer so I could actually see Weber Canyon and the Ogden yards and whatnot.

Discovering the utter convenience of Effingham as a remote parking lot for Chicago! Getting a whole lounge car to myself on one trip, when the conductors let me sit in the extra cafe-lounge that was on for axle count, and I wanted a quiet table to grade papers.

Father-daughter trip from Utah to Effingham, in coach, as she'd wanted to do for years, including a couple really pleasant lunches all alone in the little sort of separate seating area of the lower level of the sightseer lounge, where you can eat your burger and play cards and sometimes no one else wants to sit there and you have both sides' huge windows to yourselves.

So you can see that Sam Martland doesn't just write way too much: he's also easy to please! My list of best experiences has come pretty close to a list of all my experiences, I guess.
  by STrRedWolf
I think my best memory has to be the first time I went "long distance" to a convention, which was my first furry convention I attended. This was Anthrocon 1998, when it was held up in Albany, NY at the Omni Albany Hotel (now a Hilton hotel). Took a Regional from BWI up to NY Penn Station and transferred to another train to head on up. Albany-Rensselaer was a low-platform Amshack station back then. Had to carry a large painting of John Talbain of the "DarkStalkers" franchise onto the train back then.

Heh, I'll have to go back some time.
  by rcthompson04
My favorite moments involve bumping into famous people (aka political people) on Northeast Regionals and Keystones.
  by Pensyfan19
rcthompson04 wrote: Fri Apr 30, 2021 7:18 pm My favorite moments involve bumping into famous people (aka political people) on Northeast Regionals and Keystones.
Would one of them involve Joe Biden by any chance?
  by photobug56
Pre Epcot, I took one of the Silvers to somewhere near Orlando for a Disney visit, from NYP, then somehow got to Miami to visit my grandmother, then the other silver home to NYP (and this one actually arrived on time). Just coach. Dining car food was good enough to remember how much I enjoyed it, plus the company. I'm guessing around 1980.
  by RRspatch
My best memories of Amtrak are the 19 years I worked for them on the North East Corridor. After pestering them for over a year they finally called me on May 20th, 1977 (which just happened to be my 20th birthday) and offered me a job as a Tower Operator on the Baltimore Division. My start date was May 25th. I spent 5 years in the towers qualifying at Landover, Bowie, Grove, Gwynn, B&P Jct, Union Jct, Bay and Edgewood. As a young railfan I couldn't believe I was getting paid to watch trains go by. In 1982 I became a dispatcher at Baltimore "B" office followed by Philadelphia "S" office in 1985 and finally CETC on the 8th floor of 30th street station in 1987. In 1996 I left Amtrak after 19 years jumping to the freight side with BNSF here in Fort Worth. Once at BNSF I always made it a point to give A3 and A4 (Southwest Division), A5 and A6 (Nebraska Division) the best move possible.

As for the trains I rode I pretty much got the entire system with just a few short pieces missing here and there. Of course it helps when you have an employee pass. In 1979 I made it a point to ride all the trains that were threatened by the proposed Carter Cuts. They were The Hilltopper, The National Limited, The Lone Star, The Interamerican (a three hour layover in Laredo in the middle of the night as they turned the train) and the North Coast Hiawatha.

So yes, lots of great memories for the start of my 40 year railroad career.
  by rcthompson04
Pensyfan19 wrote: Fri Apr 30, 2021 7:22 pm
rcthompson04 wrote: Fri Apr 30, 2021 7:18 pm My favorite moments involve bumping into famous people (aka political people) on Northeast Regionals and Keystones.
Would one of them involve Joe Biden by any chance?
Biden using Amtrak regularly was before my time.
  by Gilbert B Norman
First: MILW #7 Empire Builder CHI-MKE A-Day
Most Recent: #52 SFA-LOR Jan 26-20
  by dowlingm
Can't offer any personal experiences of Amtrak, just here to share birthday wishes offered by its Canadian cousin:

(For those without Facebook, VIA offers Amtrak their wish for 50 more years of success, accompanied by a picture of F40PH 6402, P42DC 89 side by side in Montreal.)
  by blizzard
I'd like to say going from Lancaster to Chicago on the Broadway Limited as a kid with my grandparents in the 80's, but I was too young to remember it, unfortunately. My uncle would often take me on the Keystone from Elizabethtown to Lancaster and back, just cause I wanted to ride the train.

Most recent best Amtrak memory would be Christmas Day, 2017, took the Keystone from Mount Joy to PHL with my uncle for the Eagles / Raiders game where we had endzone seats in the first row. The plan was for him to return to Malvern via Septa's late night "Eagles special" train where my aunt would pick him up, but of course they didn't hold the train long enough for fans to get there from the BSL after the game, so we had to scramble to get him on the train to Conshohocken. Aunt wasn't happy that she had to drive the extra distance to Conshy to pick him up after midnight, but oh well, they won. :-D
  by photobug56
Pre pandemic my wife and I took Acela to DC from NYP. Ignoring the food that makes McD look good (after a long wait) and the worn out seats, it was a nice ride both ways. We had a meal in Union Station that was cheap yet good. Hard to get in and out of the Metro heading out west, though.

Back late 70's, took a Turboliner to Boston - that was amazing. Side trip to Springfield - I think on an Amtrak SPV train. That trip was out of Grand Central, of course.
  by west point
RR with your experience how many dispatchers would you say were competent enough to keep trains running fluid ? Did you find some dispatching districts were too long to keep things running smoothly ?
I have been wondering if that is one problem that is causing NS's D- rating ? .