Mr. MARC Rider goes to Washington (so you don't have to)

Help Support Amtrak Unlimited Discussion Forum:

MARC Rider

Conductor
Joined
Apr 5, 2011
Messages
1,984
I had to go down to DC to see the dermatologist for my quarterly "head to toe" screening. (Don't ask. I'm fine, but I'm glad I was able to have the doc look me over in person.) The dermatologist is over by 17th and Eye NW, so after some thought, I decided that taking the train wasn't so much of a risk, and anyway, I hate driving in downtown DC.

Once decided, I checked on schedules, and -- wow -- NEC and MARC service was sure been cut back. Either that or they weren't showing some trains because they're sold out. For example, neither 67 or 151 were showing as running. The optimal train for me was 89, the Palmetto, and required me to hang around in Washington for 45 minutes or so, but if I took a later train I wouldn't make the 11 AM appointment. For the trip back, I packed 94 at about 2 PM, although as it turned out, I might have been able to make the earlier one. I kind of like riding Amtrak rather than MARC, because they skip more stops and the seats are more comfortable. But I did make a mistake by buying business class seats. I sometimes do that, even on the short Baltimore-DC ride because (1) they're usually less crowded, and (2) it jacks up my AGR TQP to ensure that I reach Select Plus. However, I don't really need to do that this year, because AGR is extending status through 2021 because of Covid-19. When I booked, it was interesting that they did not assigned a business class seat on the Palmetto, while they did on 94. The assigned seat was pretty lousy, and I had a little trouble with the app interface, but I finally figured out how to switch seats to one a bit more isolated in the middle of the car. In any event, they were only assigning one seat of each seat pair, so everybody gets a seat without a seatmate. I think it's the same in coach, but you have to wander through the train to find the empty seats.

I left home at about 8 AM. and the drive into downtown Baltimore was definitely lighter in the traffic department than usual. This was only my second trip downtown since the covid thing started. The garage at Penn Station was totally empty, and I was able to park right by the stairs. I got my mask on and entered the station which had as few people inside as the time last August when I got there at 3:30 AM. The newsstand, the Dunkin Donuts, and the cafe were all closed. I'm glad I ate breakfast before I left.

20200629_081152.jpg

As you can see, there service available is a wee bit less than usual. I guess I could have taken the 9:10 MARC train and still made my appointment.

The Vermonter came in a few minutes before the Palmetto, so I got to see it on the platform as we came down to board. Looked like it was a bit shorter than usual. Then the Palmetto came in. Three Amfleet-2 coaches, cafe car, and an Amfleet 1 business class car. Also, no baggage car. Definitely shorter than usual. They didn't have the Amfleet 1 cattle cars for the NEC passengers that they usually have, so I could have gone coach and enjoyed the same legroom that I had in business class. But I did get my free coffee.

20200629_085346.jpg

No self-serve on the creamers, sugars, napkins and stirrers. The attendant got it all together. Cafe seating was closed, except for what looked like various Amtrak employees doing paper work (what's new about that?). I had to use the restroom, and it was perfectly clean, but I did spray some sanitizer on my hands when I was done. It didn't seem like the toilet or sink was spraying anything.

Soon we arrived in Washington (and we didn't stop at New Carrolton, which I think is unusual for the palmetto), it was up the escalator from the lower level, and into the concourse, with all the seats in the boarding areas removed, and over to the Club Acela, where I needed to wait for almost an hour.)

I entered and checked in with the attendant, who was ensconced behind a protective array of Plexiglas screens. He told me I had the place to myself, there was one other person, but they were "out for the day." I guess that means there was a passenger from the Meteor who was making a connection to the Capitol Limited. I was a beautiful day, and I could see why someone would prefer to be out and about, even if all the museums were closed.

20200629_100905.jpg

I really did have the whole place to myself. But, look, they've taken down the retro railway posters and replaced them with a giant blow-up photo of the city form (I believe) the Tidal Basin. A travesty! The Philly, Boston, and Chicago lounges all have classic railway pictures on the wall so you can remember that you're riding a train.

20200629_092852.jpg

As you can see, they went to a lot of effort to install those high-tech side tables with outlets and USB ports so you can charge your devices. Then they shut down the one seat in which said outlets are useful. I did finally find a chair with an outlet within range, so I was able to top off my phone. A good thing, too, as my phone's batteries do not seem to like holding electrical power.

20200629_092748.jpg
One advantage of the light ridership is that the snack tray the the Club Acela hasn't been picked over. The soda fountain appeared to be operational, the coffee machine was not. But I had enough coffee, so that didn't bother me.

Finally, it was time to hit the Metro. As I walked through the concourse, it looked like Hudson News and Pret were open, Sbarro and Au Bon Pain were closed. When I go into the Metro itself, it looked like the trains were running on 15 minute headways, and I had just missed one. I started getting a little nervous, as I had to Change to the Blue/Orange at Metro Center. It turned out that that it all worked fine. Metro was by no means empty, but the passenger load was light enough that I had not problem finding seat to myself or social distancing. I even figured out how to get up a steady myself on a moving train by wrapping the crook of my elbow around the pole rather than grabbing it.

I got to the doctor on time, had my examination, and found that now I only need to see him every six months, which pleases me to no end. It was lunch time, so why not a pastrami sandwich at Loeb's the best NY deli in downtown DC (well, the only NY deli in downtown DC, but it is good). While it was allegedly takeout only, they had their tables out on the sidewalk, so I was able to enjoy my pastrami on pumpernickel with coleslaw and Russian dressing plus a pickle plus a Dr. Brown's Cel-Ray tonic while seated at a table, not a park bench in Farragut Square. By the way, no food trucks in Farragut Square, a real unusual situation for the lunch hour on a weekday.

Finally, I realized that I had lots of time to get back to Union Station, so I decided to walk back to Metro Center and avoid having to change trains. Plus I wanted to see the site of the excitement that happened in early June, which was right around the corner from where I was. I walked over to 16th and Eye, and saw the AFL-CIO building, with the broken glass boarded up. They closed off 16th St., and you could walk down to H St. and see the fence erected around Lafayette Park

20200629_115542.jpg

Also, here's St John's Church, now fenced off so that no one can pose in front of it. The certainly can't hold services there, even if the Covid-19 pandemic weren't preventing it.

20200629_115454.jpg

I walked back to 13th st. and then down to Pennsylvania Ave to take a look at my former workplace and also noticed that there were a lot of boarded up windows, presumably from the demonstrations earlier in the month. Then I walked back up 12th. St to the Metro entrance. Downtown DC was strangely quiet, especially for a weekday. Not like eerie freaky Omega Man/I Am Legend kind of deserted, but still a bit weird. Metro back to Union Station, where I took a quick your and estimated that about half of the places were closed, and then wend back to the Club Acela. The attendant recognized me and didn't require me to re-scan my card, as I had only been gone a couple of hours, really. Then I waited, and it seemed like 94 was a bit late in getting into Washington. Then they didn't post the track until right before it left, so the Club Acela attendant escorted me the back way to the stairs, which allowed me to avoid the line. No problem getting on board and finding my assigned seat either. We left about 5 minutes late.

20200629_135910.jpg

I posted elsewhere about my adventures getting home. How, right after we left New Carrolton, they decided that the horn wasn't working, so after sitting around for a while, they backed us up all the way to Washington. Then we had to wait for them to change motors. Then we were on our way and got to Baltimore without any further delay, other than that from the track work between Halethorpe and the tunnel. We got into Baltimore at about 5 pm. We were supposed to arrive at 2:43. I pity anybody who had to go all the way to Boston on that train. It must have gotten in really late. In any event, I went back to the car, and drove home during what is usually the height of the rush hour on an virtually empty Jones Falls Expressway.

Well, that's it for my Amtrak Covid-19 adventure. I'm not sure when my next ride will be. Maybe if the infection rates in our quandrant of the country continue to be low, I might try a day trip to Philly or New York. It would basically be to walk around, as I'm not sure what else is open, but a change of scenery is always welcome. Other than that, it's drives in the country, hikes, and fishing trips for me.

20200629_140102.jpg
 

Dakota 400

Conductor
Joined
Mar 5, 2014
Messages
1,911
I enjoyed reading your report and seeing the pictures. From what I remember of Club Acela, they have changed the arrangement of the furniture as well. I recall seats of two facing seats of two with a table between them. I do recall the old posters as well. Thanks for posting!
 

AmtrakBlue

Conductor
Gathering Team Member
Joined
May 6, 2011
Messages
11,724
Great report. I thought I had read that some of the museums had opened w/restrictions.
 

anumberone

Conductor
AU Supporter
Joined
Aug 8, 2015
Messages
1,502
Nice, and glad things are all good. Wish I could drum up that much excitement going to see my dermatologist, all I get is a freeze dried nose and once in awhile a divot of hide removed in some barbaric method.
 

MARC Rider

Conductor
Joined
Apr 5, 2011
Messages
1,984
Nice, and glad things are all good. Wish I could drum up that much excitement going to see my dermatologist, all I get is a freeze dried nose and once in awhile a divot of hide removed in some barbaric method.
Yeah, well this year was a pretty exciting year dermatologically for me. I went in September for my annual "head to toe," and lo and behold, he found a mole on the bottom of my foot, of all place, that turned out to be melanoma. I needed to have a surgeon at Johns Hopkins take it out, which I did a couple of weeks after the Gathering. You wouldn't believe the amount of flesh she scooped out. I needed general anesthesia, the whole 9 yards, but it was outpatient at least. One thing about the bottom of your foot is that there's not any extra skin you can use to stitch it up afterward, so I had an open wound down there for about 8 weeks. For about 5 weeks, I had a "vacuum dressing," which involved me walking around with a small vacuum pump slung over my shoulder. A nurse had to come in 3 days a week to change the dressing. What was amazing was that I could walk pretty well, despite everything, and I only needed the high-octane painkillers for the first 3-4 days at night, and I didn't even need the NSAID painkillers after a couple of weeks. The worst thing was that I couldn't take showers and had to rely on sponge baths.

Of course, you don't mess around with melanoma, and the protocol seems to be that, once diagnosed, you need to be checked every 3 months. I went down to see him in February (my first Amtrak ride in 2020), then he saw me via telemedicine in April, and now I was able to go down and see him in person. However, now with three clear exams, I'm down to getting checked every 6 months, so I don't have to see him until December. I'm sure as heck grateful that they found this in September and I got it taken care of before all this coronavirus stuff hit the fan.

As you can imagine, this took a real hit on my Amtrak joyriding for 2020. In fact, other than the trips to DC, the only other trip I took was up to Maine for my ski trip. I wonder if I'll be able to take any other Amtrak trips at all this year. Might have to wait until the vaccine comes out.
 

anumberone

Conductor
AU Supporter
Joined
Aug 8, 2015
Messages
1,502
Glad to hear you got through the foot battle. That is far more than exciting. As for your last check up, like I previously stated, happy to hear you got a clean bill of health. The exciting part I was referring to, was the trip to and fro, along with the great tour you took us on.
 

daybeers

OBS Chief
Joined
Jan 6, 2016
Messages
708
How crowded were the trains in BC and coach? I've heard they may have stopped 50% bookings in coach.

Are some NERs going with Amfleet IIs for extra space or just the longer trains?
 

MARC Rider

Conductor
Joined
Apr 5, 2011
Messages
1,984
How crowded were the trains in BC and coach? I've heard they may have stopped 50% bookings in coach.

Are some NERs going with Amfleet IIs for extra space or just the longer trains?
On June 29, BC was pretty empty, maybe only half of the seat pairs had a person in them. The little bit of coach I saw on 94 seemed like everybody had a seat to themselves, and there were plenty of empty seat pairs, too. The coaches on 94 were Amfleet-1s.
 
Top