Charlottesville-Washington daytrip

Help Support Amtrak Unlimited Discussion Forum:

City of Miami

Jan 29, 2004
Charlottesville VA
Yesterday I made a r/t day trip, Charlottesville to Washington. I have done this many times, most recently last October when the trains were empty, Union Station ghost-like and the streets of the city deserted. Yesterday was a different story.

There seemed to be the normal pre-covid crowd on the CVS platform waiting for NER176 which was on time. I was among the people assembled at the rear for boarding business class and the quiet car. This time, to my surprise, almost everyone went into the BC car and the quiet car remained about 75% empty. Everything was fine and the trip uneventful.

Upon arrival I checked out Union Station. The food situation has improved quite a bit but there are still many empty shuttered spaces that were formerly eateries. Even Subway is gone! However there were enough open that I felt OK if I returned to the station in need of food before the homeward trip. There were a lot more people about, everyone masked up. There was still practically no seating available for passengers and very little for restaurant customers.

I took the Metro Red Line to Vaness stop. At noon there were few passengers (all masked) and plenty of seats. The train was clean and well kept. I walked about a mile along the lovely well-shaded Upton St. to get to Hillwood Estate Museum & Gardens which was my excuse for making the trip. They had an outdoor restaurant under an open tent where I had a lunch sandwich. While in the gardens (unmasked) and in the house (masked) it became even more apparent to me that others have ceased making any effort whatsoever toward social distancing. I still put great store by it, perhaps even more so with the distinct possibility of even greater clouds of virus emanating from infected strangers whom I regard as everybody since I know no one.

On the way back I walked a mile or so along Connecticut Avenue, downhill, past the zoo, before boarding the Metro. There were some shops and eateries open but many more still closed and/or shuttered permanently. Nothing looked inviting to me so Cava in Union Station was elected for dinner. I didn’t even see a place to get liquid refreshment, not even Starbucks, lo, so I think I got a little dehydrated. The Metro ride back to the station at 3:30pm had become crowded, no seats available. Social distancing was a joke and I felt distinctly uncomfortable.

I got my dinner to eat on the train and waited. Totally inadequate seating for passengers even without the crowds and lines of yesteryear. I boarded NER171 and passenger load in the QC was heavier than in the a.m. but still not near full. Nevertheless the conductors made announcements about occupying only one seat as this is a “busy train”, a “full train”, a “sold out train” and there are “people walking the train looking for a seat”. Do they think we’re blind? We departed on time and the trip was uneventful. Everything was shipshape except for the wifi which did not reach back to the QC. The wifi did work in the Cafe Car but there were no seats as it was busy plus the conductors occupied 3 tables even though there was no one there.

My main takeaway from this trip was how exhausted I was when I got home. Wiped out. And I’d only been gone for 9 hours, without any particular stress. It wasn’t even that hot walking around. I had a seat to myself the entire journey, as did most others except for people obviously traveling together. So I dunno, makes me wonder about many more trips. Pre covid I made at least half a dozen train trips a year, some of them long and complicated. Probably what I resented most about covid is that it was shortening the limited time that remains for me to travel as I like. Perhaps I’ll make a jaunt over to Hinton WV for RR Days weekend in October. I could take the Cardinal 51 over on Fri (~2-6pm) and 50 back home on Sunday (~11-3pm). 2 nights in an airbnb (there don’t appear to be any hotels in town) and not much to do except look at the mountains. That shouldn’t stress me out should it?


Last edited:


Jan 23, 2021
Nevertheless the conductors made announcements about occupying only one seat as this is a “busy train”, a “full train”, a “sold out train” and there are “people walking the train looking for a seat”. Do they think we’re blind?
Maybe the main coaches were full and people just didn't want to go into the quiet car?