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.