• Amtrak Autumn Express Thread

  • 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

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  by khecht
 
I was on the train today. What a great project. Some notes:

- We left on time at 9, and started boarding by 8:10 or so. Fortunately I had just come in by SEPTA and didn't take the later train I'd been contemplating. Thinking I had plenty of time, I wandered over to Dunkin Donuts to get some food, and heard them apologizing for not already starting to board. I made my way to the line and we boarded on Track 7; I grabbed a left side window seat in Horizon coach 54533. Shortly after departure the journey was announced at 254 miles, though I missed the number of passengers. 16 cars behind engines 145 and 822.
- There were initial problems with the PAs in several coaches, including mine. It was either too quiet or loud enough but with a loud buzz. After some troubleshooting it was mostly fixed by the time we got to Maryland, which was fortunate as the announcements were quite good with a lot of history and announcements on scenery. The issues were blamed on the mix of Horizon and Amfleet cars.
- Weather was pretty much perfect, and the Port Road from Perryville to Shocks Mill Bridge really is beautiful country.
- NS was a great host, from the employees on the train, to dispatching (they delivered us to Amtrak territory at CORK a full 40 minutes early), to coordinating a nearly 10 minute stop in the middle of Rockville Bridge for photography.
- The "box" lunch was really in a souvenir lunch bag and had an apple, cookie, small bottle of water, bag of chips and a turkey sandwich (also a vegetarian option). Quite good actually, and they were selling extras in the cafe cars for $8 along with other souvenirs. It was delivered in my car at about 10:30, so you had the choice of eating lunch pretty much whenever you wanted.
- The condition of the Port Road, Royalton Branch and Columbia Secondary seems pretty good - smooth rides all around. We crawled through Enola Yard, though that wasn't surprising, and averaged only about 15 MPH on the Columbia branch, but that might've been because we were so far ahead of schedule. However, we averaged about 45-50 on the Royalton Branch, and while curves limited speed sections of the Port Road, we got up to that or greater in several sections. Top speeds were in the high 90s on the NEC in Delaware County and around 90 east of Lancaster.
- Somewhere just west of Dillersville on the Columbia Secondary, someone (probably plural) mooned the train, California style. I was seated on the other side but apparently they made an impression.
- Being a regular rider of the NEC and Keystone lines, it was odd to blow through stations such as Wilmington at decent speed, and to divert around Harrisburg station on the freight bypass. All part of the rarity of the trip I guess.
- I must have seen north of 200 photographers and others who came out to greet and wave at the train. Pretty impressive spectator turnout.
- Upon return to 30th Street, they stopped the two Heritage liveried engines before the end of the platform to allow for photography, which plenty of people took advantage of. This caused the last three cars to not platform, but no one complained. We were about 25 min early back to 30th Street.

I really hope they do not only this route again but expand to others. Hopefully I can find time to get pictures up soon.
  by Silverliner II
 
I shot video of the train both Saturday (leaving 30th Street) and on Sunday (at Bryn Mawr).
Only 16 cars as planned after the four Amfleet I coaches and 9800 were added to the consist.

Link to my video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5wLUBHaqcKU
  by Jersey_Mike
 
If anyone finds a video of that train doing the ton on the NEC or HBG Line let me know. Train maxed out at 109 so it wasn't permanently hobbled.
  by Silverliner II
 
My video of the train, from Penn Park Saturday morning and from Bryn Mawr Sunday afternoon.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5wLUBHaqcKU
  by Jersey_Mike
 
I noticed two things that Amtrak did "very right".

First, on the Amfleets nobody had to sit in the "no window" seats in the middle. Not sure if those seats could have been sold, but it was nice that nobody wound up screwed.

Second, the original plan was to use Amtrak's line from Harrisburg to ROY, but I suspect someone in the VIP car dropped a hint and Amtrak re-routed the line to the "rare mileage" Royalton Branch for the full route. It was really cool when we made a stop at a Harrisburg Station platform on the freight track. When was the last time that happened!
  by dt_rt40
 
Thanks for the trip report...hope to see some video from inside the train.
Can someone clarify: did the prior recent versions of Port Road excursions - weren't there 2 that originated in Philly sponsored by CHRS and 1 from DC by that chapter, in the summer - all re-join the main line after Harrisburg? Sounds like this was even a unique experience beyond what they had offered. Makes me sick I couldn't get tickets, but hopefully Amtrak will see they have a winner on their hands and offer it again next year. (edit: yes indeed if you saw my prior posting, I was on the first one in 2008...or was it 09? But by the time we were in Harrisburg I was so irritated by the experience I can hardly remember it. I think we just returned along the Harrisburg-Philadelphia mainline.)
I particularly love this picture of the train, even though it isn't on the rare mileage: https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid ... 013&type=1" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false; Looks like people got their money's worth when It came to the fall foliage. Also found this sarky blog posting: http://rubincatlarge.blogspot.com/2013/ ... press.html" onclick="window.open(this.href);return false;
Last edited by dt_rt40 on Mon Nov 04, 2013 11:28 am, edited 1 time in total.
  by Patrick Boylan
 
I'm not sure what "sarky" means. The blogger definitely is teasing railfans, but unfortunately I can't see anything she wrote as fact that isn't true or anything she expressed as opinion that most normal people don't also believe.
  by ryanch
 
My rough thumbnail - 16 cars, a conservative estimate of 50 pax per car, $90/person, 2 runs adds up to a $140,000 weekend for just this train.

And this is based on announcing it in August. It certainly seems like there was untapped demand.

Could this be pulled off annually? Are there other places where it might work?

If you could do this from Boston, DC and Chicago, you're starting to talk about a noticeable contribution to the bottom line. I'm not clear on how quickly one gets to interesting scenery from New York city. I'm not even sure in Chicago, and I live here, but it seems like if the Grand Crossing project speeds departures from the city, you could reach the Michigan racetrack and get up into some fall color territory fairly quickly.

A big question, which I'm sure Amtrak is on top of, is the ratio of railfans to scenery fans.
  by CNJGeep
 
I heard a garbled announcement about cafés and the "third, ninth, and sixteenth cars." I'm very curious myself if 9800 was open to the GP.
  by khecht
 
I didn't wander back to verify since I've ridden the 9800 on a charter before but I don't think it was. The announcements I heard clearly said two cafes multiple times, though I could've been far enough forward that the story was different further back. 9800 didn't platform on the return at 30th St to allow for engine photography, so you couldn't easily walk back except inside the train.
  by Patrick Boylan
 
On the Hudson line or Empire Connection you get to gorgeous scenery within less than 10 minutes of leaving Penn Station New York, and it gets better and better pretty much nonstop to at least Albany. It is however not rare trackage, there are more than 5 Amtrak trains a day, and throngs of Metro North trains, so Amtrak might have problems marketing special trains.
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