Pittsburgh circle trip

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MARC Rider

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Last call leaving HFY is the correct procedure....
OK, this was the first time I rode coach on the Capitol since 1989, and I don't recall hearing the announcement previously. It does make sense that they need some time to shut down, do inventory and close out the books, and, in actuality, by the time they actually closed down, they were halfway to Rockville, anyway.
 
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MARC Rider

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Baltimore. MD
All, right, now it's time for me to talk about the food I had on this adventure. Being that I rode coach the whole way, I was not going to be in a position to complain about flex dining, and, in any even, all the Pennsylvanian carries is a cafe car. Given that the cafe car offering are so sparse these days, I thus decided that I was going to pack lunch, although I would have to rely on the Capitol Limited cafe for breakfast.

Here's my insulated lunch box:

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That's an apple bulging out the side bottle holder compartment. I had a mini chill pack, and I was good to go.

I ate lunch on the Pennsylvanian as we were pulling out of Philadelphia:

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I had a Wegman's charcuterie pack, a single serve hummus with pretzels (I pad about $2.50 at a local supermarket; they sell it on board in the cafe car at $5.00), and some fresh cherries. The bag of pretzels and the Coke were courtesy of the Metropolitan Lounge at 30th St. (They have a refrigerator on the side of the drinks dispenser which has bottled water and a few cans of Coke and Sprite.) Later in the day on the bus, I had a Kind bar from the lounge and some candy I had packed for the trip.

I was fully checked into my hotel room in Pittsburgh by 7:30. (The bus actually got us in 10 minutes ahead of the the train's scheduled arrival time.) There are supposedly lots of good places to eat in downtown Pittsburgh, but on a Tuesday night in the tail end of a pandemic, they're either closed or will be shutting down by 10. In the end, I didn't want to mess with a fancy dinner or a night out, as I had to get up at 4 AM to catch the Capitol. Thus, I took a 10 minute walk up into the Strip district and went to Primati's. This is the original location. I once ate at one outside of Pittsburgh along the Turnpike, and it was OK, but the original one has so much more atmosphere. This is the place where they invented the concept of putting the French fries inside the sandwich.

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You pick your choice of meat (or fish, or a black bean burger for you vegetarians), and this is how they put it together. included is a slice of provolone cheese and a fried egg. Enough food to feed an army. This sandwich, plus a fountain drink, cost me $9.18, including tax. The fries were surprisingly crisp despite being jammed together with coleslaw and melted cheese, and though the Italian-style bread seemed suspiciously soft, the sandwich held together quite well while I was eating it. I certainly appreciated the 15 minute walk back through deserted streets as a chance to walk off this protein/fat/carbohydrate bomb.

A word about my hotel. AC Hotels are a Spanish chain that was taken over by Marriott and is now being introduced here in the States, among other parts of the world. The odd thing is that there's no street-level lobby, but you get buzzed in at the door and take the elevator up to the top floor where the lobby is located. The lobby had quite a nice view of the railroad bridge that carries the Capitol Limited over the Allegheny River, and when the pandemic ends, they will reopen the bar and restaurant.

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It's at 11th and Smallman St, about a 4 minute walk to the Amtrak Station. The rooms are kind of Euro-minimalist, but they have all the typical features one would expect from a quality hotel. I thought that the mattress on the bed was over-firm to my taste (and I like some firmness in my mattresses), but that could have just been the fact that I usually don't sleep well on the first night of any trip I take. Also, my room was equipped with a shower stall, not a bath, with some of the strangest shower controls I've ever seen, although maybe it was just because I was taking my shower at 4 AM, and my brain was not yet firing on all its cylinders yet.

I had no problem walking over to the station that morning, though those who don't like semi-deserted city streets might feel a little put out. But the Amshack was well lie, the AC worked, and there was an agent on duty. The train came in, surprisingly close to schedule. There were only two coaches, when I told the conductor on the platform that I was going to Washington, he sent me to the first coach. So in entered, and found an unoccupied double seat on my preferred side of the train and settled in. A few minutes later, another conductor came by to distribute the seat checks (the conductor on the platform having scanned out tickets), and he told a guy a few seats ahead of of me who has having trouble finding a seat to himself to just go to the rear car, where there were lots of open seats. Apparently, there were a lot of misconnects in Chicago from a few really late western trains the evening before, so there were lots of empty seats on this train. It made for a much more pleasant trip than if the train had been packed full.

A little after 6, when I figured the cafe car should surely be open, I went forward to get some breakfast. While in line, a guy approached me and said he had cash. I was still not fully awake, but this was the first time I ever had a panhandler offer me cash. I wasn't sure what to make of it, but waved him off. While I was eating, I saw him interacting with another guy in line, and finally figured out that he had cash, but not a credit card and was offering to pay cash if I paid for him with my credit card. As I finally realized, now that coffee had entered my system, Amtrak was not accepting cash, so if you have cash, but no credit card, you have a problem. Maybe what they need is some sort of "reverse ATM," where you can insert cash and get a prepaid debit card in exchange. I apologized to the gentleman, but he had found someone to take his case, so he was fine with breakfast.

As for me, I made the mistake of ordering the sausage muffin, which tasted OK, but microwaving stuff inside the package turns the thing into a hot fatty mess with extra chewy bread. Also, American cheese doesn't microwave very well. I also got a cinnamon danish and a cup of coffee. They don't serve Dunkin donuts coffee on the Capitol Limited, but it was drinkable and it had caffeine. They also must have had leftovers from the flex dinners, because the comped me with a flex salad, which I had for lunch and one of the flex dinner brownies, which I'm saving for dessert tonight.

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The coffee and my lack of sleep were fighting it out, and the coffee lost. I had a very nice little train nap between Confluence and Myersdale which improved my mood greatly. Fortunately I woke up in time to go to the railfan window and film our passage over the Sand Patch Grade. Right before we got to Martinsburg, I started getting hungry, and so I finished up with my final lunch of the trip:

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As I mentioned, there was so much food, I kept the brownie for later.

I had a good hour and a half wait at the Club Acela in Washington. It started getting filled up with Silver Star passengers, and it's hard to get away from the TVs. They are starting to get serious about having enough power outlets for customers:

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I took a turn around Union Station to see what was still open. A lot is still closed, but foot traffic is definitely picking up, certainly compared to my last visit last January. Alas, some places, like the Bojangles in the downstairs food court, are closed for good.

My train to Baltimore, Northeast Regional 148 was a Washington-originating train, but for some reason, they decided to board it at track 27 in the lower level. That meant I had to leave the lounge and take my chances with the cattle line. The agent at the lounge told me that they had stopped priority pre-boarding at Washington, even for business class and senior citizens, and if I wanted to pre-board, I'd need a redcap. In the event, it didn't matter, there was no cattle line, and I made my way to track 27 with no problem. I found a seat in a nearly empty car in the front of the train. The only annoyance was having to haul my bag up the steps into the car. I'm not sure what they board Washington-originating Northeast Regionals on the lower level, anyway. They have a whole side of the station full of empty high-level platforms. Oh well. The train left on time, and got into Baltimore on time, and then it was a short drive home, and another Amtrak adventure over.

This one was a semi-failure, as I was unable to ride over the Horseshoe curve, but I had a very enjoyable coach ride on the Capitol, even if the lack of a sightseer Lounge dinged my rating of the train. I am obviously going to have to try this trip again. I think if I do it, I will go in the other direction -- taking the Capitol Limited to Pittsburgh, probably swallowing hard and getting a roomette, so I can get dinner and nap a little after dinner to make up for the midnight arrival in Pittsburgh. On the other hand the Pennsylvanian leave Pittsburgh later in the morning.

I think I did OK with my packed lunches. I'm not sure how I'll handle my LSL trip the week after next. I'm hoping to upgrade the Acela trip to Boston, so food should betaken care of on that leg, and on my way home from Albany, I'll be waiting for my connecting train over lunch hour at the Moynihan Train Hall Metropolitan Lounge. What I'm going to need to do is find some sort of food market in Back Bay where I can get some fixing for a packed lunch to have while I cross the Commonwealth on the Lakeshore Limited.
 

Trollopian

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Thanks, MARC Rider, for your trip journal and especially for the photo of the railroad bridge over the Allegheny. Pittsburgh is called "The City of Bridges" for a reason. Here's a favorite snapshot of that same bridge from my little 11th-floor apartment. Who wants to live over the train station? I do. (I never heard the trains but felt a distinctive low rumble, and always went to the window. Always. It never staled.)

My view - sunny day.jpg
 

jiml

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Thanks, MARC Rider, for your trip journal and especially for the photo of the railroad bridge over the Allegheny. Pittsburgh is called "The City of Bridges" for a reason. Here's a favorite snapshot of that same bridge from my little 11th-floor apartment. Who wants to live over the train station? I do. (I never heard the trains but felt a distinctive low rumble, and always went to the window. Always. It never staled.)

View attachment 22871
Great view!
 

JontyMort

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Thanks, MARC Rider, for your trip journal and especially for the photo of the railroad bridge over the Allegheny. Pittsburgh is called "The City of Bridges" for a reason. Here's a favorite snapshot of that same bridge from my little 11th-floor apartment. Who wants to live over the train station? I do. (I never heard the trains but felt a distinctive low rumble, and always went to the window. Always. It never staled.)

View attachment 22871
Quite right! Living near a railway is non-intrusive and reassuring in a way that is totally opposite to a busy road. Nice pic.
 

MARC Rider

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Baltimore. MD
Quite right! Living near a railway is non-intrusive and reassuring in a way that is totally opposite to a busy road. Nice pic.
We live about a mile from the CSX (former Western Maryland) tracks in northwest Baltimore. It is kind of nice to hear the horns blowing as the train goes through the grade crossings. Of course, we live a mile away, so the sound is pretty muted.
 

jiml

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We live about a mile from the CSX (former Western Maryland) tracks in northwest Baltimore. It is kind of nice to hear the horns blowing as the train goes through the grade crossings. Of course, we live a mile away, so the sound is pretty muted.
I live very close to the CN mainline between Toronto and Montreal. Unfortunately I can't actually see it from my house, but it's 2 minutes away on the golf cart.;) They've been lobbying to discontinue the horns at our level crossing, so for those of us who find them a signal that "all's well" will be missing the sound in the near future.
 

Bob Dylan

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I live very close to the CN mainline between Toronto and Montreal. Unfortunately I can't actually see it from my house, but it's 2 minutes away on the golf cart.;) They've been lobbying to discontinue the horns at our level crossing, so for those of us who find them a signal that "all's well" will be missing the sound in the near future.
I live about 5 miles from the Various Tracks that run through Austin ( Austin is served by Amtrak,UP Freights, The Red Line Light Rail and a Shortline Hill Country Freight Operation ( Austin Western RR)that also hosts the Tourist Train The Hill Country Flyer that operates on Weekends between Cedar Park and Burnet/ it used to run downtown but when the Redline was built it started originating in Cedar Park )

I live on a Fairly High Hill so I can hear the Various Horns and the Train Sounds @ Night since Sound carries so well then.( I also hear lots of Urban Sounds like Sirens,Traffic,Gun Shots,Fireworks,Accidents etc).

I don't hear the Trains in the daytime except on Sunday mornings when Traffic is light, which is becoming a rare thing here in Austin.
 
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railiner

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When I lived in Arvada, Co., I chose my apartment specifically because it was just north of the Lamar Street crossings of both the D&RGW main line, and the diverging, but still parallel, BN (C&S) "Beer Line", (which now also has an RTD light rail line). If home, I would always come to my window for a view of the RGZ, or the Ski Train going by. For the eastbounds, during the dark period, if I knew friends were aboard, I would blink my room lights to 'wave' at them....

When I briefly lived 4 miles west of Okeechobee, our home was about 4 miles south of the CSX Auburndale Sub, used by the "Silver's". There weren't any crossings near us, but sometimes, late at night, when traffic on our road, FL-70 was light, I could hear the nightly freight train blowing for the crossings closer to town.

Now I am too far west of both railroads to hear anything...
 

jis

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I live about 4.5 miles from both the US192 and Palm Bay Road crossings on the currently only FECR, soo to be both FECR and BTF (Brightline Trains Florida - standard name and acronym used by the FRA now) with hourly passenger trains each way. I can hear the whistle at night, and sometimes during the day too. Fortunately or unfortunately these two crossings are slated to get quad gates with intrusion detection integrated with the PTC system, and become quiet zones as a result of the BTF related upgrades.

Apparently once the BTF Orlando service starts, this are will see 20-25 trains (passenger + freight) passing by each day.
 
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Trollopian

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MARC Rider's great shot of the railroad bridge in Pittsburgh whetted my homesickness. (I'm currently in DC not the 'burgh.) It's the "Fort Wayne Railroad Bridge," built in 1901-04 and the fifth bridge at that location. And it's a beauty. See Fort Wayne Railroad Bridge - Bridges and Tunnels of Allegheny County and Pittsburgh, PA. As I said, I felt rather than heard trains (mostly freight; Amtrak's Capitol Limited is the only passenger service, the Pennsylvanian terminates before it) cross the bridge and enter the station 11 floors below me. I assume that city noise ordinances barred them from blowing the whistle, a sound that many of us obviously love.

Sorry that you missed the famous Horseshoe Curve, MARC; but you got the dawn ride along the Monongahela ("The Mon") which has its own post-industrial beauty and then meets the Youghiogheny ("The Yough") at McKeesport to travel through the unspoiled Laurel Highlands. I'm biased but I think it's one of Amtrak's prettiest stretches.
 
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