Amtrak OTOL Roanoke Excursion CLE-WAS-RNK-NYP- Part 1

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Railroad Bill

Buckeye Train Watcher
Staff member
Jun 28, 2007
Northern Ohio
Amtrak OnTrack OnLine Blue Ridge Roanoke Excursion

July 9-12, 2021

Friday July 9

I was invited to join the OnTrack OnLIne Excursion Group for a trip to Roanoke Virginia on the weekend of July 10-12. I decided to leave a day early in order to spend a full day exploring the Virginia Transportation Museum and the Taubman Art Museum and doing some railfanning in the historic home of the Norfolk & Western Railroad.

I left CLE at 2:20am on Friday 7/9 after an hour and half drive from my home. CLE lot is free and gated and so I stayed in my van, with the windows down, avoiding mask wearing in the station. Watched several NS freights move through including an interesting 3 train unit of former GP 50s doing yard switching.

Amtrak #30 was about 30 minutes late, but rolled into CLE with Loco #201 leading the six car consist. I was in 3000 car Room #10 viewing the scenery on the left side of the train. My car attendant was Barney, a nice young man who was available when needed.

Fell asleep until PGH, then watched as we passed the old steel mills and small towns along the route. Went down to the CCC diner for breakfast at 6:30 with few people there. Ally was the LSA and I ordered the omelet , blueberry muffin and milk. OK but not like the traditional breakfasts of the past. When I returned Barney had put the bed up and so I relaxed as we made our way to Connellsville around 7:30 and Meyersdale at 8:45. Had some concerns about what time I will reach DC since yesterday’s train was four hours late and did not make #171 to Roanoke.

Hit the Sand Patch tunnels around 9. We arrived in Cumberland, Md. where we were permitted to detrain for the double spot and re-board in coach a few minutes later. We made good time to Martinsburg, some good pics of the old roundhouse and shop buildings and on to Harpers Ferry at noon only 30 minutes down. Lots of padding into WAS so no problem with making any connections.

We arrived in WAS 2 minutes early, said goodbye to Barney and took the escalator to the Metro Lounge where I stored my bag and decided to take the Circulator Bus around the mall with the intent to walk around the Jefferson & Lincoln Memorials and maybe take in a museum. But lots of traffic and the heat index was near 100 outside so walking around was not a good idea. I got off at the Washington Memorial and walked to the stop at Smithsonian waiting for a bus to return. Long wait under a shade tree and finally boarded after a 40-minute wait.

Did not feel well on return to the lounge so watched some TV and waited for my Amtrak Regional 171 that was due at 4:45. The lounge attendant and the arrival board both indicated a late train. We were called at 5:30 to the gate but then waited another half hour before we could board.

Made my way out to the Business Car at the end of the train and when I found my seat it was occupied by this young girl who was sleeping across the two seats. I asked politely if I could get to my window seat since all seats are now assigned. Her reaction was negative but she finally moved. Then she spent the remainder of the trip moving from one empty seat to another. Glad she was gone. We left WAS at 6pm and after a few minutes decided to go up to Café Car to get a Am Cheeseburger and some CranGrape.

Our train continued to lose time as we worked our way across central Virginia. We arrived in Charlottesville at 8:45 nearly 1.5 hours down. Lots of students and passengers on the platform as it was not dark yet. Anticipating a late arrival in RNK I tried to call cab companies in Roanoke but neither one offered to provide a ride??. I guess I should have arranged for an Uber or Lyft ride.

We arrived in Roanoke at 11:38 and the crowd worked their way to cars, buses, etc and I decided the only way to reach my Comfort Inn on Gainsboro Ave was to walk the mile up the hill. Found the wooden overhead bridge over the railroad tracks, past the Martin Luther King statue and after meeting a few gentlemen on the street, I made it to the hotel around midnight. Got checked in and after a phone call home to verify my end of the day’s trip, I hit the bed and slept quite well. The Comfort Inn had a friendly staff, a clean room and a security person in the lobby so all was well. A very long day but glad to be in Roanoke and anticipate a better day on Saturday.

Saturday July 10

I arose to a beautiful morning and went downstairs for breakfast. Pancake machine, cereals, pastry, toast, bagels and juices, milk etc. By 9am I was on the road as I walked down Gainsboro Ave. retracing my route from Friday night (except it was now downhill. 😁 ) and across the footbridge hoping for some railfanning opportunities, but after a few minutes it was time to walk to my first stop. The Taubman Museum of Art.

Some very impressive exhibits including 19th-20th century female artists of Virginia, African American artists, a photo exhibit of Ancel Adams' works that was excellent, a George Washington at Yorktown display of art, maps, and other artifacts from that Revolutionary War event, a display hanging from the ceiling of Broadway show costumes and dresses. Very impressive. Admission was free thanks to the local utility company and the venue and exhibits were first quality.

Next, I walked the length of the downtown to the Transportation Museum of Virginia where I spent two hours perusing the elaborate displays of N&W history, many examples of rolling stock and locomotives as well as old wagons, hearses, and then a nice display of classic cars. Another excellent place to enjoy railroad history for a mere $8 admission.

Walked back to central downtown and had lunch. Enjoyed how the downtown has been rehabbed into nice restaurants, shops, farmers market, and live bands playing in the central park area. I decided after all that walking in rather warm temps that I would take the city bus back to the hotel. Watched some golf on TV, a sub from Jimmy Johns for supper and relax the remainder of the evening. Some of my OTOL colleagues had arrived on time into Roanoke around 10pm and after some brief conversations it was time to get some sleep.
Enjoyed the extra day to explore and hope to return someday to catch other museums and maybe drive the Blue Ridge Pky, something I did in the 1950s with my parents.