Thinking Back to My First Amtrak Trip

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Train Attendant
Sep 12, 2018
I had intended to post this a long time ago, but never got around to it. I felt like sharing my first ever ride on Amtrak when I rode the NER round trip from NYP to BAL in the summer of 2018. I don't have Amtrak service where I live and if I want to ride the rails I have to take a bus to either PHL or NYC for most routes (HAR and SYR are options too, but the choice of destinations is more limited at those stations). Last year I finally got the chance to ride Amtrak. I chose NYP as my departure station for two reasons:

1) The bus schedules are more frequent to NYC

2) I've always wanted to ride Amtrak to/from New York City.

I left Wilkes-Barre via a Martz Trailways bus and arrived at Port Authority a little before 1 PM, a half-hour behind schedule, but that was okay since 93 NER doesn't leave until 2. I exited the bus terminal and made my way across Times Square to Bryant Park where I had planned to take a leisurely stroll through before going to Penn Station. No walking through the park that day, however, because an event called "Broadway in Bryant Park" was going on and a crowd of people were gathered in the park waiting for the show to start. I would've stayed and watched, but I didn’t know when the show was going to start and I still hadn't had lunch yet, so I got on the F train at the Bryant Park station. I love New York City and I love riding the subway. I decided to ride the F to 14th street and then transfer to the 2 or 3 to get to Penn Station. This routing isn't the most logical, but sometimes I like to do more convoluted routings like this so I can end up at a specific station. I thought the transfer from the F to the 2/3 would be easy and quick. It wasn't. The 14th St at 6th Ave station isn't one I visit often. A couple long corridors and about three flights of stairs later I finally got to the uptown 2/3 platform and arrived at Penn Station about 1:15 PM.

I then decided to pick up some dental floss at the Kmart attached to Penn Station. I find it funny that a Kmart, a store I associate with the suburbs, is not only in midtown Manhattan, but attached to Penn Station. Unfortunately, the check out line was so long that I ended up putting the floss back and not buying anything. It was 1:30 by this point, so I decided I would just buy some floss in Baltimore and start looking for the Amtrak part of the station. I've been to Penn Station quite a few times times before, but only in the LIRR section of the station. I got turned around a couple times, but finally I found the Amtrak section of the station. I grabbed a pretzel and a soda for lunch at Auntie Anne's and looked at the departure board to find out that my train wouldn't arrive until 2:15. Knowing that I had extra time, I walked around the Amtrak area and saw a Hudson News where I decided to buy floss. By this time the train had been delayed to 2:30. I, like many others were doing, stood around one of the departure boards waiting for my train to arrive. Finally, at 2:30, we got the boarding call and we descended down the escalator to 93. I tried for a window seat, but no luck and we were only allowed to sit in two of the coaches towards the back of the train or the Quiet Car. I opted for the Quiet Car.

The ride wasn’t the most scenic, but I thought it was okay and the seats were pretty comfortable. Even better than the ones on the bus I had rode in on that morning. One thing I noticed about this ride was that there was no announcement about the Café car, despite the train having one. As we crossed the Delaware, I noticed that one of the bridges had a saying on it, “Trenton Makes the World Takes.” Another highlight was the Philly skyline. I could see the famous Rocky steps in the distance as we made our way into 30th Street station. It was at this point that one of the conductors made an announcement that this was a sold-out train. The Quiet Car lived up to its name most of the way. One person got caught talking on their phone, but that was about it. The most scenic part of the trip was crossing the Chesapeake. I could see the Susquehanna flowing into the Chesapeake. We arrived in Baltimore half-an-hour late. As I rode the escalator upwards into Baltimore Penn, I noticed they had a “Welcome to Baltimore” sign by the door. I thought that was a nice touch. Baltimore Penn is a very nice station, I love the older stations like this one, that still have the vintage decor. They even had wooden pews for seating. To get to my hotel, I rode the Penn-Camden shuttle light rail. One thing I noticed was that the price of a day pass in Baltimore is about the same as a day pass in Wilkes-Barre. I was quite surprised since Baltimore is a much bigger city than Wilkes-Barre.

After waiting for about five minutes the light rail arrived. I’ve only ridden a light rail train once before and that was the Hudson-Bergen Light Rail in New Jersey. No light rails in Wilkes-Barre. I like riding the light rail, you still have city traffic to deal with, but less so than the bus. I got off at the Baltimore Street stop and made my way to my hotel. I ended up staying at three different hotels during this trip because I couldn’t get the room rate I wanted at the hotel I wanted for all of the days I was staying.

I spent a few fun days in Baltimore and then I made my way back home. I rode the light rail once again and had breakfast at the Dunkin’ Donuts inside the station. My train, the 86 NER, was an hour late. When it finally arrived, I rode in regular coach, no quiet car this time. Once again, I did not get a window seat and no announcements for the Café car. The vibe of an NER is very much like a commuter train, which is a different vibe from an LD train like the LSL, which I rode later that year. I could see the Manhattan skyline as we approached New York. I've seen the skyline many times before, going to/from the Lincoln Tunnel, but it was interesting to see the skyline from a different angle. Once I arrived in New York, I went to Union Square to walk around and then I had lunch at a nearby Wendy’s. After that, I rode the Subway to Port Authority, taking the L train from 6th Ave to 8th Ave and then the A train from there to Port Authority where I took the bus back to Northeast PA.

Overall, my first experience was a good one. It inspired me to ride Amtrak again, which I did, and ultimately led me to join this forum.