My review of my Gathering train trips - October 2021

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MARC Rider

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Well, it's time to rate my rides from the Gathering. Instead of letter grades, I'll use the star system with zero stars meaning that I'd rather take the journey strapped to the back bumper of a 50 year old bus breathing exhaust fumes, and five stars meaning that the ride was so great that E. M. Frimbo (if he were still alive) would write a piece about it in the New Yorker praising the journey. A 2 -4 star rating represents trips of intermediate quality. The rides are rated for comfort, on-time performance, condition of the rolling stock, staff performance and attitude. I'm not including the quality of the food served in the rating, as (1) some of the rides didn't include food service, and (2) all of my rides that did include food service featured flex dining, which I didn't really sample, as I had ordered kosher meals, much to my regret. However, I will comment on food service in the description of each of the rides.

NORTHEAST REGIONAL 174 - BALTIMORE TO NEW YORK
Rating: * * * * (points off for crowding and someone sitting in my assigned business class seat)
I have previously described this trip in more detail :(4) Northeast Regional Liveblog 10/13/21 | Amtrak Unlimited Discussion Forum (amtraktrains.com)
No real complaints. It left on time and arrived on time, and the equipment was in good shape. However, in the future I will always want to take a train earlier in the morning when the crowds are lighter. Also, if they're going to have assigned seating, they need to educate the traveling public not to sit in other peoples' seats. Also, the cafe car closed at Metro Park. That didn't really affect me, but it seems that they're leaving money on the table by closing that early.

LAKESHORE LIMITED 49 NEW YORK TO CHICAGO
Rating: * * * * (points off for delay in Indiana, mattress in Viewliner 1 roomette upper berth, and lack of pre boarding at NYP Moynihan Train Hall)

This was basically a pretty good ride, but it started off on the wrong foot by my having to stand in the cattle line to get down the escalator to the platform. Sure, it didn't really make a difference because I had a reserved room, but when you pay extra for a sleeper, you also like to have a little of the VIP treatment, and preboarding from the lounge seems to be a cheap and effective way to do that.

In any event, my room was in a Viewliner 1 roomette, and I was on the left (west) west side, so I got a nice view of the scenery up the Hudson River, at least until it got dark. Unfortunately, it was a dull day with a lot of haze, so the view wasn't as clear as it could be. Also, by October, some of the ride as you approach Albany is in the dark. I've made this part of the trip before on the Empire Service, so I've already seen the scenery and wasn't too upset that it wasn't at its best.

The car and my room were clean and in good repair, the door locked properly, the curtains secured easily, the sink and toilet worked fine. The only thing that didn't work was the thermostat, so I was a bit chilly at night if my blanket slipped off. I'm glad I thought to bring a T-shirt for sleeping. Maybe next time I'll bring a pair of flannel pajamas. The SCA came by for the meet and greet, as well as to take dinner orders. I let him know about my kosher food order, and he alerted the dining car attendant. He provided good service, setting up my bunk when I asked, and helping me with my bag when I detrained, but otherwise being out of the way.

I had dinner in the Viewliner 2 "Diner-Lounge." This car is great! Aside from being new, the booths have apparently been resized to reflect Americans' expanding waistlines :)

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(Note: Amtrak Blue is the one talking to the LSA ordering her meal. Because of social distancing I sat by myself in the booth behind her.)
There was no problem with our sitting in the dining car, though many people were being served in their rooms. On this train, the dining car was staffed by two people, whereas on the Capitol Limited on the way home, there was only one LSA, who not only did the dining car, but also ran the cafe. I'm not sure whether this reflects the larger combined train after Albany, or just that someone didn't show up for work on the Capitol, which was seriously delayed in any event -- more on that later.)

I'm glad I ate in the diner, as the kosher food meal had a lot of pieces, and it helped to be able to spread out. If you want to know more about the food, you can check out my Gathering Food Post.

This car is supposed to be usable as a lounge for sleeper passengers after dinner is served, but I didn't get a chance to check that out, as I had to attend a synagogue Board meeting in my roomette through the technological magic of Zoom. The Lake Shore Limited has wifi, and the wifi was good enough to support the Zoom meeting, though I did minimize my video to conserve bandwidth. By the time that was over, it was dark, and after some 100+ mph running north of Hudson, we pulled into Albany, well, actually Rensselaer, where the Boston Section, train 449, was waiting for us.

We had a pretty long wait in Albany while they removed the P-32 locomotive from the New York section and attached the 449, including the P42 engines that would run the train to Chicago. I went up into the station, where there's a newsstand and a cafe, though having eaten, there wasn't anything I needed in that department. There were also restrooms, which were useful, being that the ones on the train were out of commission until the new locomotives hooked up and electric power was restored. I went back down to the platform and walked the two trains.

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There was a PV, "Cimarron River" on 449.
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449 was just about to get hooked up, so I thought it might be a good idea to board, so I went into the last coach on 49, expecting to be able to walk though the diner lounge. Bad move. They had the door to the diner from the coaches locked up tight. Fortunately, I had enough time to get out and walk around the diner to my sleeping car. They must open the door between the diner and the coaches after the train leaves Albany, because the sleeper from 449 is in front of the coaches, and they have to walk through the coaches to get to the diner.

I had the SCA set me up in the upper berth of my roomette. That way I would still be able to sit for a while before I went to bed, and in the morning it would be easier to get dressed. I had my first look at the the new upgraded bedding:

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While the new sheets weren't too much different from the old ones, the new blanket was an improvement, but it was a bit thin and light and I easily kicked it off during the night, waking me up feeling a bit chilly, because no matter how much I turned the thermostat to a higher setting, the room remained pretty cool. I finally figured out that I could shut the fan vent, which helped a little.

The real problem I had with sleeping, though, was that the mattress in the upper berth seemed as hard as a rock, and I had real trouble all night getting comfortable enough to fall asleep. When I finally would doze off, then natured would call, and I'd have to climb down and use the facilities, then climb back up and be uncomfortable for a while more. I like a firm mattress, but there is a limit, and this mattress went over the line. It's funny, because I never had any problems with Viewliner upper berth mattresses on previous trips.

I probably had more sleep than I realized, though, as we rolled our way across Syracuse, Rochester, Buffalo, Erie. I was awake as we rolled out of Cleveland, more or less on time. It started getting light as we hit Toledo, and then I got up, showered, got dressed, and went and had breakfast.



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Here are a couple of pictures out the window of the New York Central Museum in Elkhart, Indiana.

We rolled across Indiana, still more or less on time, and then two drawbridge openings right before we entered Illinois delayed us a good bit. We ended up getting into Chicago about an hour late, but I guess that's not too bad. Anyone making an onward connection made their trains. As for me, I went over to the Metropolitan Lounge, but after seeing the long line to get in, I decided that I didn't really need to go there, I just went out the Adams St. entrance and walked over to my hotel, where my room was ready, even this early in the day.

On this trip, I activated my GAIA GPS app to trace my route from the time the train left the tunnel out of the West Side Connection to when it entered the enclosed part of Chicago Union Station. Here are the main stats of this particular trip:

Distance: 952 miles
Total time: 19 hours 32 minutes
Stopped time: 1 hour 1 minute
Average speed: 49 mph
Average speed while moving: 51 mph
Maximum Speed: 108 mph

That's all for now. For our next episode, a Metra ride and a train crash in Indiana.
 
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MARC Rider

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METRA -- Rock Island District -- Chicago LaSalle St. Station to Blue Island/Vermont St.
Rating * * * * dinged mainly for some slow running and insufficient frequency

The Rock Island District service is a combination of conventional commuter rail between LaSalle St. and Joliet and something more like "rapid transit" service between La Salle Street and Blue Island. The Blue Island trains could maybe go a bit faster, and there should be more than hourly frequency for this to be proper rapid transit service. But the equipment, though old, was in good repair, and the train was on schedule, which was important, because we had a connection to the Metra Electric in Blue Island. And it was a ride through some parts of Chicagoland that I had never seen beforeP1020074.JPG
LaSalle St. Station. This was the terminus of the New York Central trains back in the day, including the old Lake Shore Limited (not to mention the 20th Century Limited). Of course, nothing is left of the golden age, the station is now a basic commuter rail terminal serving only one line, the Rock Island District.

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All Aboard the classic Metra gallery cars.

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At Blue Island, a Rock Island District train from Joliet approaching the station on its way to Chicago.


METRA ELECTRIC -- Blue Island to Chicago Millennium Station

Rating * * * * Slow running, insufficient frequency

Another commuter rail ride with closely spaced stops and slow running. But it ran on schedule.

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Here's our Metra Electric ride at Blue Island.

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Here's the Pullman factory in, where else?, Pullman, the planned company town and now National Monument. Sorry about the greenish effect. We were riding in the cars with the tinted windows.

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After a lunch in Millennium Station (fka Randolph St. Station), we're off on our afternoon adventure, and it did turn out into a bit of an adventure.

SOUTH SHORE LINE -- Chicago Millennium Station to South Bend, IN Airport and return

Rating: * * * * Some slow running in places, the seats could be more comfortable for such a long ride, but five stars for how they handled us in the aftermath of the unfortunate crash during the return trip.

The South Shore Line is one of the last of America's interurban railways, and one of the few commuter lines where the two terminals are in different time zones. While there's a lot of high speed 70 mph running, there's also street running in Michigan City, IN, though that will be eliminated soon. It also has one of the best multimodal connections between rail and an airport that I've seen short of Washington National Airport.

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Just take the Nippon-Sharyo single-level cars built for MARC in the 1980s and convert them to EMUs, and you get the South Shore's main rolling stock. (They do have some more recent gallery cars, too.) As a long time MARC rider, these were very familiar to me, especially on the inside, where the seats are almost identical to the ones in the single level MARC cars. That 3x2 seating was marginally OK for a one hour run between Baltimore and Washington, but a little tight for the 2+ hour run to South Bend.

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Here's the street running in Michigan City. As you can see, it was raining pretty hard.

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A nose cone from a DC-3 preserved outside the Bar Fly at the South Bend airport, where some of us had a beer while waiting for our return train.

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Right out the door at one end of the airport terminal, and here's the train station and train waiting to take us back to Chicago.

The train was 6 cars long, but it rapidly filled with lots and lots of Notre Dame students (with luggage) heading home for fall break. The train was packed, but we were riding a long very nicely until a bit after the Gary stop, we felt a bang, and the train rumbled and shook as though we were driving on a rough gravel road. Some people on the other side of the car from me exclaimed that we had sit something, and debris was flying. We bumped along for a bit more, and then gently came to a stop.

Oh, yes, we had hit something all right. A car had driven around the closed gates at a grade crossing, trying to beat the train. Obviously, they didn't make it. This was announced to us pretty soon after we stopped, and, I must say, that the crew of the train kept us informed during the entire delay. The train was stopped on an embankment, with no real good way for us to exit, so we were pretty much stuck there. We heard the sirens pretty quickly, and first responders were soon there. A conductor came by and asked if any of us wanted to make a statement about the timing of the train horn with respect to the grade crossing. Frankly, in that area there were so many grade crossings, that the train's horn was being sounded almost continuously. If I were a commuter on that line, I don't think I'd be able to get any sleep during the run. A conductor came by, and told us we needed to wait for the coroner to come, which was confirmation that this was a fatal accident. Nobody on the train was hurt, but the train crew sure looked shaken up.

Finally, they told us that a rescue train was coming out from Chicago, and that they would transfer us from our train to the other one across the tracks. When this happened, there were no bridge plates to allow us to easily pass from train to train. We had to climb down off of the first train on to the ballast and then climb up into the rescue train. That last step off the train on to the ballast was a long one, but there were conductors to help us and hold on to us if needed. Two people in our Gathering group are mobility challenged, and apparently they were hand carried between the two trains.

The only problem was that the rescue train was only three cars long, and out original train was six cars and packed with passengers. So as we rode on, many of us were standing. I think I finally got a seat after people got off in Hammond. As we pulled out and passed the front of the original train, we could see the stairs under the front end were pretty smashed up, but most of the train was intact, and, more importantly, we didn't derail.

I got off the train at Van Buren St., as it was closer to my hotel than Millennium Station. All in all, the accident delayed us about 2 and a half hours. I gather that in many cases of trains being involved in fatal accidents, the delays are often much longer, so we didn't really have too much to complain about. But it was a bit of a shock, and a grim reminder not to mess around with grade crossings.
 

Cal

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Here's the street running in Michigan City. As you can see, it was raining pretty hard.
I'm sad I'll never be able to witness it. How is it being done? Re-routed or is there just no longer going to be pavement above the track(s)?
 

willem

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Nice write-up. Thanks.
This was basically a pretty good ride, but it started off on the wrong foot by my having to stand in the cattle line to get down the escalator to the platform. Sure, it didn't really make a difference because I had a reserved room, but when you pay extra for a sleeper, you also like to have a little of the VIP treatment, and preboarding from the lounge seems to be a cheap and effective way to do that.
[...]
While the new sheets weren't too much different from the old ones, the new blanket was an improvement, but it was a bit thin and light and I easily kicked it off during the night, waking me up feeling a bit chilly, because no matter how much I turned the thermostat to a higher setting, the room remained pretty cool.
I thoroughly agree on the "little of the VIP treatment," and I'll share what I experienced in New Orleans on the (circuitous) trip home. The sleeping car passengers were called from the Magnolia Lounge for boarding ahead of the coach passengers, but the sleeping car attendant had come to work late and wasn't ready. The sleeping car passengers left the air conditioned station to stand for 15 minutes on the New Orleans platform. It all could have been avoided with a bit of communication between Amtrak employees.

I like the new blanket, too, and agree that it slides more easily.
Here's the Pullman factory in, where else?, Pullman, the planned company town and now National Monument.
That site is much, much larger than the pictured building, which is now the visitor center. I'm glad I went, and I only walked a small portion of the site, but I wish there had been more signage and I do not consider it a priority to return (at least until the Park Service puts up more signs and the Florence Hotel restoration is completed). There was no admission fee.
 

MARC Rider

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I'm sad I'll never be able to witness it. How is it being done? Re-routed or is there just no longer going to be pavement above the track(s)?
Here's a description of the project:
Doubling Down – $491M South Shore Line Rail Project is RollingDoubling Down - $491M South Shore Line Rail Project is Rolling (buildingindiana.com)
There's still time for a visit to the Chicago area to experience this. It's going to be some years before the project is finished. They've closed the downtown station in Michigan City (really little more than a trolley stop), but I didn't see much other construction work currently being done.
 

MikefromCrete

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NICTD's contractor has been knocking down dozens of old homes in the path of the project. As I see it, the end result will be two tracks along the present right of way with a one (or maybe two) lane street to the south of the tracks. A bunch of grade crossings will be closed and a new station and parking garage will be built on the site of the old station. The end result will be trains traveling down a route separated from the street with a vast difference in the look of the street.
 

neroden

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NICTD's contractor has been knocking down dozens of old homes in the path of the project. As I see it, the end result will be two tracks along the present right of way with a one (or maybe two) lane street to the south of the tracks. A bunch of grade crossings will be closed and a new station and parking garage will be built on the site of the old station. The end result will be trains traveling down a route separated from the street with a vast difference in the look of the street.
The whole thing is so odd. There was a proposal to reroute the trains through the Amtrak station to minimize home demolition, but after much local objection to that and requests to keep the train on the same route, the plan which maximized home demolitions was approved. This is... not the normal NIMBY construction-project dynamic ?!?
 

Cal

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Here's a description of the project:
Doubling Down – $491M South Shore Line Rail Project is RollingDoubling Down - $491M South Shore Line Rail Project is Rolling (buildingindiana.com)
There's still time for a visit to the Chicago area to experience this. It's going to be some years before the project is finished. They've closed the downtown station in Michigan City (really little more than a trolley stop), but I didn't see much other construction work currently being done.
"Some of the most significant work will be happening in Michigan City where major safety improvements are planned. Today, the rails are set in the roadway as a street-running track. This is going to be changed. The tracks will be separated from the roadway and 21 at-grade crossings will be closed. The old system will be replaced with two new, separated ballasted tracks. "

What will happen to the street? I've never been there, but from videos it seems that having a double track that is ballasted would mean that there is no room for the street. Am I understanding correctly?

And I really have no major reason to go out to Chicago, but I will definitely try and go if possible.
 

neroden

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Along the 10th street segment on the west side of town, there will be double track south of the current street location -- they're demolishing an entire line of houses.

Along the 11th street segment, the street will become a one-lane, one-way street on the south side of the right of way, with the eastbound track occupying the current track location and the westbound track occupying the current northern (westbound) car lane. Many of the cross streets are being closed with cul-de-sacs on the north side.


At the 11th street station location, they have to swing the westbound track to the north to make room for a center platform, so they're demolishing two blocks of houses and a block of commercial; they will also have to relocate the facade of the historic 11th street station, which will be added to the new station building.

Where 11th street does its "joggle" between Cedar and Lafayette, they're straightening the route and have already demolished the large brick church which was in the way, along with a bunch of houses along the south side of 11th street.

After all that, the tracks will suddenly revert to single-track just before crossing Michigan Blvd (which is the east end of the current work), so I expect there will be another round of double-tracking work in the future, between there and Carroll Avenue shops.

I think I figured out why the locals preferred this option, perhaps. Normally people don't like having their houses demolished. But there are an awful lot of vacant lots very near the 11th St. station. Perhaps everyone who's being bought out figures they can just buy a vacant lot and build a better house. In most places, that's not an option.

The "joggle" between 10th and 11th street trackage, across Chicago St., is also being straightened; the buildings there are mostly vacant already. The diamond with Amtrak will be relocated to be several feet further away from the crossing of Amtrak with 10th Street (it is currently absurdly close to the street; take a look at it on Google Street View).
 

Cal

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Along the 10th street segment on the west side of town, there will be double track south of the current street location -- they're demolishing an entire line of houses.

Along the 11th street segment, the street will become a one-lane, one-way street on the south side of the right of way, with the eastbound track occupying the current track location and the westbound track occupying the current northern (westbound) car lane. Many of the cross streets are being closed with cul-de-sacs on the north side.


At the 11th street station location, they have to swing the westbound track to the north to make room for a center platform, so they're demolishing two blocks of houses and a block of commercial; they will also have to relocate the facade of the historic 11th street station, which will be added to the new station building.

Where 11th street does its "joggle" between Cedar and Lafayette, they're straightening the route and have already demolished the large brick church which was in the way, along with a bunch of houses along the south side of 11th street.

After all that, the tracks will suddenly revert to single-track just before crossing Michigan Blvd (which is the east end of the current work), so I expect there will be another round of double-tracking work in the future, between there and Carroll Avenue shops.

I think I figured out why the locals preferred this option, perhaps. Normally people don't like having their houses demolished. But there are an awful lot of vacant lots very near the 11th St. station. Perhaps everyone who's being bought out figures they can just buy a vacant lot and build a better house. In most places, that's not an option.

The "joggle" between 10th and 11th street trackage, across Chicago St., is also being straightened; the buildings there are mostly vacant already. The diamond with Amtrak will be relocated to be several feet further away from the crossing of Amtrak with 10th Street (it is currently absurdly close to the street; take a look at it on Google Street View).
Thanks, this really helped. Surprised that the locals are okay with all the buildings being demolished.
 

MARC Rider

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CTA Elevated Pink Line -- Loop to 54th/Cermak and return

Unrated, it's an L ride, not a train.

This wasn't the only CTA ride I took while in Chicago. On the day of my arrival, I took an L around the Loop from Quincy to Clark/Lake and transferred to the Blue Line Subway. I wanted to see how the transfer worked and found that there's a transfer within the paid-fare zone from the Elevated to the Subway that has both functioning escalators and elevators. It might be an alternative for those with heavy luggage to travel from Union Station to O'Hare on the Blue Line. The easiest way is to walk from Union Station to the Clinton station on the Blue Line, but there's no elevators or escalators, so you'd have to bump your bags up or down the stairs into the subway, something I've done many times. However, my research shows that one could walk from Union Station down Jackson Blvd. to the Quincy L stop (where there's an elevator), take the Orange or Green Line to Lake/Clark, and then transfer to the Blue Line with full elevator or escalator service. Of course, it will probably take longer, and maybe one day they'll install and elevator or escalator to the street at Clinton. I took another subway ride (Red Line) Thursday Evening to River North (Grand Ave.) to get to dinner.

The Pink Line is the CTA's newest route, which began operation in 2006. It's actually a former branch of the Blue Line that was connected to the Green Line elevated route by a connector that had been used previously only for non-revenue service. It was in pleasant morning jaunt with some nice views of the Chicago skyline. It's also one of the few rapid transit lines I know of that's no completely grade separated. Must be a drag in some of those neighborhoods with the crossing gates coming down every 5 or 10 minutes.

When we assembled at the Quincy station, the monitors were showing some sort of mechanical issues causing delays on the Pink Line. Fortunately by the time our train came, the issue had resolved and the delays had worked themselves out.

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The Quincy station was restored to its original 1897 appearance (with the exception of the faregates and elevators and such), and they also put up these vintage-looking ad posters. I wonder if the South Shore Line pays CTA for the ad placement.
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The western terminus of the Pink Line at 54th/Cermak.

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Grade crossings on a rapid transit line.

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Chicago skyline.

We returned to the Loop, and I got off at Adams St. to pick up something from my hotel room and look for lunch. I returned with my lunch to the Metropolitan Lounge at Union Station, where I was able to wait, being that I am Select Plus and had a ticket for the Hiawatha for our afternoon jaunt to Milwaukee. By the way, they do check your ticket or reservation to make sure you are riding or have ridden a train that day. The Lounge was pleasant as ever, and it's nice to report that the upper level has reopened, but the free food offerings are kind of skimpy, even in relation to what the have in the Northeast outside of New York. I did get a free soda to have with lunch, though.

HIAWATHA SERVICE -- Chicago to Milwaukee and Return
plus
The Hop Streetcar


Rating * * * * * A nice no-drama train ride, on schedule in both directions with nice comfortable seats.

As we got closer to train time, we left the lounge and headed over to the north gates, which have a pretty crowded waiting area. They finally let us loose on to the platform, and we boarded our Hiawatha train to Milwaukee. This train had 4 or 5 Horizon coaches and an Amfleet 1 cafe car, which was not in use. (There's no food service on the 90 minute Hiawatha ride.) There were Charger locomotives at each end and half the seats were facing forward and half facing to the rear. The train simply reverses direction on its return to Chicago. The interior of the Horizon coaches is pretty similar to that of the Amfleet 1 coaches in the Northeast, with the exception of the restrooms, which seem a little less finished on the Horizons. After we ran slowly through the terminal trackage and reached the junction with the line to Milwaukee at Western Ave., the train speeded up greatly, and we had a pretty fast ride into Milwaukee. Although the terrain is flat as a pancake, it does pass through some interesting oak-prairie savannah once you pass Glenview and get out into the country.

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On arrival into Milwaukee, we got to see the wheelchair lift in action. Given that the only train requiring a low platform that uses this station is the Empire Builder, it might make sense for them to build at least one high platform here. (Just my opinion.)

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Milwaukee intermodal is a pretty nice station. Hope they can start increasing the frequency of the Hiawatha Service at some point in the future.

Our main objective in Milwaukee was to ride The Hop streetcar. Here it is approaching the st
op across the street from the Intermodal Station.

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This line went into service in 2020. About a third of the route has no overhead wires, so the streetcars also have batteries to power them in those places. It has level boarding at the stops and goes to Burns Commons on a bluff overlooking Lake Michigan.

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More to come ---
 

neroden

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Comments..>

Heresy, heresy to refer to an L (Elevated Railroad) train as not a train! As someone whose first train ride was on Boston's Red Line, and whose second train ride was on Boston's Green Line, I insist that metros and streetcars are trains! :)

The low platforms at all platforms in Milwaukee were apparently partly due to trouble getting agreement from CP, who still has rights to run through the station tracks. This is incredibly stupid but there we are. This is apparently why the platforms are mostly not even at Superliner level boarding height. I think there's some project to build some tracks elsewhere for CP to get them to void their rights to run freight through the station, and we might get a high platform after that's done.
 

MARC Rider

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Back on the streetcar, and a quick ride down the hill, stopping at the Historic Third Ward. First, a look at the Milwaukee Public Market. This was supposedly inspired by Seattle's Pike Place Market, but to my East Coast-centric eyes it looked to me like a miniaturized version of Philly's Reading Terminal Market. It was pretty crowded, and I was a little put off by the glaring lack of mask compliance, as compared to Chicago. I, of course, was wearing my mask, and I've been well vaccinated, so I wasn't too paranoid about actually catching anything, but if these folks want the pandemic to end, they really ought to consider masking up in a crowd like that.

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I walked a bit through the Historic Third, and found the riverwalk along the Milwaukee River.

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Then, back to the market to get a carry on dinner to eat during my ride back on the Hiawatha. While I was tempted by the idea of a traditional Wisconsin treat of brats and beer, I though that carrying a cooked bratwurst sandwich on the train would be messy, and the conductor had already informed us on the trip up that drinking beer on the train was verboten in Wisconsin. That sort of surprised me, as I went to college in the state, and I thought that drinking beer was the state pastime. It was certainly the state where I learned to drink beer.

I settled for a middle east cold pack tray of hummus, tabouli salad, and a spinach pie washed down with sparkling water. It sure beat trying to make a reservation at a crowded restaurant in Chicago on a Saturday night. (Actually, I had tried making some reservations sitting down by the river, and I couldn't get any, which is why I went back to the market.) I enjoyed my dinner as the countryside rolled by, and we were soon back in Chicago by the advertised time.

As we walked back to the station, we did find out that even on this smooth no-drama ride, our train did hit something. We think it was some kind of hawk.

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That's it for Saturday at the Gathering. Back to the motel, and a good night's sleep before our final ride.
 

Cal

Foamer
Joined
Jan 23, 2021
Messages
3,161
Location
Socal
As we walked back to the station, we did find out that even on this smooth no-drama ride, our train did hit something. We think it was some kind of hawk.
Back in 2018 when I was taking the Eagle (and then the Heartland Flyer) to Oklahoma City I saw some of the remains of a bird, very similar to your picture, on the engine. interestingly enough, it was the trailing engine, not the lead.
 

Deni

Lead Service Attendant
Joined
May 11, 2008
Messages
303
CTA Elevated Pink Line -- Loop to 54th/Cermak and return

Unrated, it's an L ride, not a train.

This wasn't the only CTA ride I took while in Chicago. On the day of my arrival, I took an L around the Loop from Quincy to Clark/Lake and transferred to the Blue Line Subway. I wanted to see how the transfer worked and found that there's a transfer within the paid-fare zone from the Elevated to the Subway that has both functioning escalators and elevators. It might be an alternative for those with heavy luggage to travel from Union Station to O'Hare on the Blue Line. The easiest way is to walk from Union Station to the Clinton station on the Blue Line, but there's no elevators or escalators, so you'd have to bump your bags up or down the stairs into the subway, something I've done many times. However, my research shows that one could walk from Union Station down Jackson Blvd. to the Quincy L stop (where there's an elevator), take the Orange or Green Line to Lake/Clark, and then transfer to the Blue Line with full elevator or escalator service. Of course, it will probably take longer, and maybe one day they'll install and elevator or escalator to the street at Clinton. I took another subway ride (Red Line) Thursday Evening to River North (Grand Ave.) to get to dinner.
Some pointers for next time or for anyone else reading this. From Union Station take either the #7 or #126 bus on Jackson to Dearborn. (There are a couple of other ones that run during rush hours only) The Jackson Blue Line stop has an elevator mid-block between Jackson and Adams. As it was you walked to Quincy and you were only three more blocks away from just getting right on the Blue Line.

Wayfinding info in Chicago is terrible, we could do a lot better with signage for out-of-towners. We could also use better connections to the L system from our two West Loop stations.
 

AmtrakBlue

Engineer
Gathering Team Member
Joined
May 6, 2011
Messages
13,168
Location
Delaware
Wayfinding info in Chicago is terrible, we could do a lot better with signage for out-of-towners. We could also use better connections to the L system from our two West Loop stations.
Yeah like putting cross street names where you can see them from either direction, not just where the one-way traffic can see them. I found that annoying when I would be walking on a one-way street in the opposing direction.
 

Bob Dylan

50+ Year Amtrak Rider
Joined
May 31, 2009
Messages
23,647
Location
Austin Texas
Some pointers for next time or for anyone else reading this. From Union Station take either the #7 or #126 bus on Jackson to Dearborn. (There are a couple of other ones that run during rush hours only) The Jackson Blue Line stop has an elevator mid-block between Jackson and Adams. As it was you walked to Quincy and you were only three more blocks away from just getting right on the Blue Line.

Wayfinding info in Chicago is terrible, we could do a lot better with signage for out-of-towners. We could also use better connections to the L system from our two West Loop stations.
Austin has the same problem, Signage and Street Lighting are lacking, and with all the Construction going on since we're growing ao fast,Google Maps can't keep up with all the changes and New Stuff. I

The Airport Highway ( Toll and Free Roads) is especially bad @ this.

And if you ask someone for directions they're liable to not know since they've only been here 2 weeks! LoL
 

Deni

Lead Service Attendant
Joined
May 11, 2008
Messages
303
And if you ask someone for directions they're liable to not know since they've only been here 2 weeks! LoL
That's like Seattle when I lived there in the 90s, everyone was new to town. 😄 Of course, I was one of those as well...
 

MARC Rider

Engineer
AU Supporter
Joined
Apr 5, 2011
Messages
3,823
Location
Baltimore. MD
METRA - UP-NW Line Chicago-Ogilvie to Fox River Grove and return

Rating: * * * * * A nice no-drama commuter run. It might be nice if they could increase their frequency of service, but it was Sunday morning, and the infrequent trains appear to be similar to those run by commuter railroads in many cities these days.

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Ogilvie Transportation Center, formerly known as Northwestern Station.

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The outbound train leaving Fox River Grove after dropping us off. The train is run for Metra by UP, but it was originally run by the Chicago and Northwestern Railway, which was known for it's unique (for the US) left-hand running. We crossed the tracks and waited on the other side for the train to return and take us back to Chicago.

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Back in Chicago, I took a stroll down the Chicago River along the Riverwalk, had lunch, then went by the "bean" at Millennium Park, and back to my hotel to pick up my luggage and then off the Union Station to wait for the Capitol Limited.

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Every time I come here, there are new skyscrapers. The city skyline from this trip looks different from pictures of my previous trips to Chicago.

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Where's Waldo,... er, I mean where's MARC_rider?
 

Attachments

Michigan Mom

OBS Chief
Joined
Jan 28, 2012
Messages
926
Location
MI
Great report! Did you look around the Ogilvie complex at all? Adjacent to a "French Market" and also had spacious fast food concession area (not sure what survived the pandemic though) and other shops, was always a pleasant place to hang out for a couple hours when the weather was bad. Walkway connection takes you to the CVS on the next block. Speaking of bad weather, right across the street and down the stairs takes you to the tracks that you can follow all the way to Union station. I LOVE exploring Chicago's underground connections.
 

MARC Rider

Engineer
AU Supporter
Joined
Apr 5, 2011
Messages
3,823
Location
Baltimore. MD
Finally, the voyage home. Sunday, October 17 in the afternoon.

CAPITOL LIMITED Train 30 Chicago to Washington.
* * * Points taken for late departure and very late arrival and lack of sightseer lounge. Otherwise not a bad trip, good OBS, and Customer relations did give me a $120 voucher in consideration of my late arrival.

The whole sorry tale of the late Amtrak Train 30 10/17 - 10/18 2021 (click here)

I got to the Metropolitan Lounge and the out was out that the Cap #30 was going to be delayed because #29 came into Chicago very late that day, and they needed the extra time to prepare the train for the return trip east. Not only that, after we boarded, they held us for a short time to allow connections from a very late California Zephyr, which I saw pulling into the station while sitting in my roomette. In the end, we left Chicago 1 hr. 9 minutes behind schedule. Then we lost some more time on the way to South Bend, but after that we kept time through the night, running only 1 hr. 30-40 minutes behind schedule. I ended up having my kosher dinner in the dine-lounge, and then found Penny and Bill in the other end, so I hung out with them for a bit until I decided it was time to turn in for the night. The lower berth matteress in the Superliner roomette was not as hard as the upper berth Viewliner mattress I had on the Lake Shore Limited on the way out, and I slept a lot better that night.

When I woke up, the sun was up, and we were right outside of Pittsburgh. Then, all of a sudden, the train stopped. I mean it stopped before we got to the station. Uh-oh. At least I was able to take a shower without the train rocking about. Then I got dressed, went to the diner and had breakfast, then checked y scanner, and heard a little radio chatter about engine problems, but it wasn't clear what it was. A little later, they announced that the engine was kaput, and that Norfolk Southern was going to provide a loaner to get us to Washington. Which is what happened, but it took them a while to get the engine spun up and travel from the yard, and then a little more for them to hook everything up. We were stuck waiting less than a mile from the Pittsburgh station for a little over 3 hours. We arrived at the Pittsburgh station 4 hours and 46 minutes behind schedule. I don't remember what they did with the passengers who were supposed to connect to the Pennsylvanian. I think they may have had a bus for them, at least to Harrisburg. The only other alternative would be to connect through Washington, and I didn't see anybody else connecting with me when we got there.

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Here's Pittsburgh. You usually don't get a daytime view like this, as the Capitol usually passes through in the dark, in both directions.
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Crossing the Allegheny River into the station.

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Here's our Norfolk Southern loaner engine in the Pittsburgh station. I suppose Norfolk Southern charged Amtrak a rental fee to use it, so maybe it's not really a "loaner." Of course, for nearly all of its route it ran on CSX, so I wonder about the identity of the engineer, as I don't think any Norfolk Southern engineers would be qualified on 30's route via CSX. Did they use the Amtrak engineer, or did they get a pilot from CSX?

We left Pittsburgh 4 hours and 48 minutes behind schedule at 10:08 AM. Somehow we managed to lose another 45 minutes or so between Connellsville and Cumberland, and more beyond that, so that by the time we hit Martinsburg, we were close to 6 hours late. By the time we left Connellsville, we got the announcement that there was no lunch (as lunch usually isn't served as the Capitol Ltd. is scheduled to arrive in DC at 1 PM. Thus, all that was available was whatever was left in the cafe car, which wasn't much. By some stroke of luck, they packed an extra kosher meal for me, so my SCA told me, there was lunch for me. I had the lunch served in my room. Then I went back to the diner lounge and hung out with Penny, going to the back of the train to film the crossing over the Sand Patch Grade.

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This is the Salisbury Viaduct outside of Meyersdale, PA. It was built for the Western Maryland Railway in 1912, but now is used the the Great Allegheny Passage, a hiker-biker trail. I once hiked across it back in 2009.

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Just beyond Meyersdale, we passed under the Keystone Viaduct, another former Western Maryland Bridge now used by the Great Allegehny passage.

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Here's a little farther up the grade, showing some wind turbines common to Somerset County and the start of some fall colors on the hillsides. A little beyond here, we get to the summit at about 2200 ft. altitude, enter a tunnel and pass from the Ohio River Watershed into the Potomac River watershed, also known as the Eastern Continental Divide.

By this point, Penny had missed her connection in Washington to the Silver Star to Florida, but she managed to get space on the Silver Meteor, which left Washington at about 7:20 PM. As we continued to lose time, (though I'm not sure why, as they train was always moving, and I don't think that the freight locomotive slowed things down that much, as the normal speed through this section isn't much over 45 mph anyway), she was expressing some concern about her connection. I was also starting to get a wee bit worried, as the Northeast Regionals north also start getting sparse after 7 PM. In any event, we got into Washington at 7:02 PM, 5 hours and 57 minutes behind schedule. Penny was in luck, because the Meteor was sitting right across the platform, so she made her connection. As for me, Northeast Regional 186 was scheduled to leave at 7:05, but I think that by the time I stepped off 30, the gates would have been closed anyway. Well, I went upstairs and went to the Club Acela to see what they could do for me, though I did know I would get home that night, as there were still 2 trains heading north.
..
--To be concluded
 
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