Quantcast

Trip to MKE in Coach

Help Support Amtrak Unlimited Discussion Forum:

NEPATrainTraveler

Train Attendant
Joined
Sep 12, 2018
Messages
74
A few weeks ago, I took a trip to Milwaukee using Amtrak. I rode in coach, taking the LSL from NYP to CHI to connect with the Hiawatha. Since Wilkes-Barre isn’t served by Amtrak I had to take a bus to NYC first. I had a few hours in NYC before I had to get on the LSL, so I decided to walk around the city and then go over to Jersey to visit Sears one more time. I walked through Bryant Park, which was getting set up for the holidays, and took the D train to Herald Square. I didn’t want to spend the rest of the layover lugging the suitcase around, so I had it checked at Penn Station. After that, I decided to hop over to Jersey City and browse the Sears because I was feeling nostalgic for it. I took the 33rd to JSQ line on the PATH to Newport station and it was about a 3-5 minute walk from there to the Sears. It was nice to see the store again. My Sears closed down a couple months ago. I ended up buying a couple shirts.

Instead of taking the PATH back to NYC, I took it to Hoboken instead and decided to take NJ Transit rail to get back to NYC. Hoboken station is pretty nice, I love old historic stations like this one. I took the Pascack Valley line to Secaucus, which was the first time I ever rode NJ Transit rail. I rode NJT busses back when I went to university in Teaneck for a brief time. I had always wanted to ride NJT rail, but never got around to it back then. Secaucus is a pretty nice station, I like how the departure boards above the entrances to each gate are analog. I got on the Northeast Corridor line to get back to NYC. Once I got to Penn Station, I still had some time to kill, so I decided to make a quick visit to Central Park. The C train was delayed, so I only went up as far as Columbus Circle. I wanted to see the park when the leaves changed colors. It was 3:00 at this point, so I took a quick look at Central Park before getting back on the subway. I took the 1 train to get back to Penn where I ate at McDonald’s for lunch and then boarded the LSL.

Unlike my experience on the Northeast Regional, I was able to get a window seat and nobody sat next to me either. The train felt like it was about half full, much different atmosphere than the crowded NER trains I was on back in July. The seats felt comfortable and the leg room looked really good, much better than any bus, car, or train I had been on. First thing I noticed though was how warm it was on the train. At first I thought it was just from all the walking I had done earlier in the day, but as the ride went on and other passengers complained, I knew that wasn’t the case.

We left NYP on time. I’ve always approached NYC from either Jersey or Long Island, so it was a new experience for me to be leaving the city in a northward direction. First time I ever been through the Bronx. I didn’t see much of it because of how fast we were going and because my window faced the Hudson. I got to see some good fall foliage as we went up through the Hudson Valley. Some cute towns along the river as well.

It was dusk by the time we reached Albany. We got there about 6:30 PM and we were told we had until 7 to get back on the train. Albany has a pretty nice station. Not a lot there, but I did get a couple candy bars and a soda. A small snack before the cafe car opened. Around 6:40 I heard a boarding call for the LSL. I thought maybe we were leaving early, so I rushed back to the train and returned to my seat. Turns out that was just the call for passengers originating at ALB I guess because we didn’t leave the station until our scheduled time of 7:05 PM.

It was nightfall now, but the stretch between Albany and Schenectady was well lit due to all the lights, so I could still see things. The cafe car was now open, but I decided to wait to avoid the rush. After Schenectady, the cities get further apart and it was now pitch black outside. When we got closer to Utica, I decided to make the long walk to the cafe car. I think it took about 5 coach cars to reach it. The line was very short. The Cafe car attendant was very nice. I ordered a steamed ham...I mean a cheeseburger...and a soda and walked back to my seat. It was raining at this point and a little bit of rain water began dripping into the vestibules between cars. I got a little wet, but it wasn’t bad. The burger was great. I would definitely get it again.

We experienced some freight traffic the rest of the way in upstate NY, slowing us down, sometimes to a complete stop. When it got close to 10 o’clock, an announcement came over to remind us that it was lights out. Upcoming stations would not be announced and while there would still be fresh air stops (Syracuse, Buffalo, and Cleveland) they would not be announced and would be very brief. I didn’t get off the train at these stops for fear of missing the train and being stranded. Stations wouldn’t be announced again until after 6 AM, which is also the time the cafe car opens for breakfast. The announcement ended with a farewell to those who were getting off at the middle of the night stations and a hope to see the rest of us with “smiling faces” at 6 AM. I don’t know the name of the person who made the announcement, but whoever it was was very nice. Unfortunately, I wouldn’t be smiling when 6 AM came around.

After we left Syracuse, I tried to go to sleep because, judging by the announcement, 6 AM seems to be the usual wake up time on Amtrak. Despite the good legroom, I could not get to sleep. I couldn’t recline much either because the person behind me fell asleep with his tray down. If I had reclined back any further, he would’ve bumped his head when he woke up. I tried a bunch of different positions, but at best I would maybe get 30 minutes of sleep and then I would have to try a different position. If I pasted it all together I think I got maybe 2 hours of sleep that night. On top of this I was getting motion sick and it was still uncomfortably warm. I wished I had brought along a pair of shorts, but I didn’t expect to be overheated like this. I was awake for pretty much every station except for maybe one in Ohio. I wasn’t the only one though, I think about half the car was still awake as we crossed from NY to PA to OH. Maybe I should have gotten off at some of the fresh air stops, maybe I would’ve felt better, but instead I just sat there trying to sleep. I did stretch in the aisle whenever we stopped, but didn’t dare to detrain for fear of being stranded.

We were in Western Ohio at sunrise. I’m usually not awake when the sun rises, so it was pretty nice to see it shine over the farmlands of Ohio. Around Bryan, OH I decided to go to the cafe car for a drink because I was really thirsty. I figured I would try to eat breakfast as well. I was still sick, but I was able to keep food down so I knew I wasn’t that bad. I had a bagel with cream cheese and orange juice. Pretty good. In terms of sights, this stretch wasn’t that exciting. I did see a rail museum in Elkhart though that had an old New York Central car parked outside. I saw a similar car in the Hudson Valley, but there was no museum near that one.

We approached Chicago from the south, the street numbers counting down. We passed the White Sox stadium on our way to Union Station. We arrived in Union Station about an hour late. I picked up my suitcase from the baggage claim and walked through the station to get outside. Union Station is very nice, though I found myself going in circles trying to figure out where to go at first. I found a Walgreens on Google Maps, which is near the station. I went there to buy some essentials which now included Dramamine. I wanted to explore Chicago more, but I still wasn’t feeling that great and I needed to get to my hotel in Milwaukee anyway, so I decided to save the Chicago exploration for the way home.

Since I was able to keep food down, I figured I would try to eat lunch. I ate a couple chicken fingers at the Union Station food court and it was kind of awful. I bought a candy bar afterwards and broke off a piece to get the taste out of my mouth. I saved the rest of the candy bar for later. I saw a popcorn place called Nuts on Clark and decided to buy a bag of cheddar flavored popcorn for later. It’s really good. Highly recommend. I sat down in the main waiting area of the station for a little bit, which was under construction at the time. Still really nice though. Reminded me of Grand Central. Since the Hiawatha had checked baggage I decided to check my suitcase to MKE. Once it got close to 1 PM, I made my way to Tracks 1 and 2 and got on the Hiawatha.

The Hiawatha is more like the NER in terms of seating, yet once again I got a window seat with no one sitting next to me. This is also one of those trains that goes in reverse. Nothing really noteworthy in terms of views. Just suburbs mostly with a little bit of Wisconsin farmland. We arrived on time at MKE. I picked up my suitcase, got a drink of water and sat down as I contemplated the best way to get to the hotel. None of the busses stopped at the hotel directly, so I decided walking was the best way to go. Once I gathered up enough energy, I made the ten minute walk to the hotel. Downtown Milwaukee was under construction, so the walk took a little longer than it probably was supposed to since some streets were either completely or partially closed off. Once I got to the hotel I immediately checked in, went up to my room, took some Dramamine and fell asleep. The Dramamine I took was the non-drowsy kind, but between the lack of sleep and the bed being so comfy I fell asleep pretty quickly. Unfortunately, this meant I didn’t get to explore Milwaukee that day like I had hoped to. I woke up the next day feeling a lot better and had a fun weekend.

Once Monday came around, however, I had to decide how I was getting back home. I had three options:

Fly home from ORD. This way I would still get to see Chicago even though my trip would be cut short.

Stick with my current plan of riding the Capitol Limited in coach to WAS, NER to PHL and then Martz bus back home.

Upgrade to sleeper in the capitol limited and still take the NER to PHL and the bus home.

I had Dramamine to combat the motion sickness now, but the terrible night’s sleep in the LSL made me not want to do coach again. Though I guess if I had bought the original drowsy Dramamine that might have helped me sleep. It would have cost me $313 to upgrade to a sleeper, which was more than I wanted to pay. I was hoping it would have been cheaper since it was the day of. So I decided to fly home. I canceled the CL and NER tickets and got evoucher credit for them. I kind of regret it now, looking back. I feel like I missed out by not taking the CL.

I checked out of the hotel and walked back to the station. The line was out the door to get on the Hiawatha, but surprisingly I still got a window seat once again with no one sitting next to me. Once I was back in Union Station I had about 2 hours before I had to get to ORD. I walked along Jackson Blvd towards Grant Park. I stopped at a place called Beatrix Market for some deep dish pizza. It was pretty good. Unfortunately, the only seating on the ground floor was at a counter by the window, which was all taken when I first got there. The rest of the seating was down the stairs in the basement. This wouldn’t have been a problem, except I had my luggage with me. Thankfully, someone left the counter and i got a seat after my pizza came out of the oven. The pizza was pretty good. Afterwards, I made my way to Grant Park. The foliage here was the best I had seen the whole trip. I walked around the park for a bit, passing by the Buckingham fountain and getting a good look at Lake Michigan before I decided to head back to Union Station. I really liked Chicago, and definitely want to see more of it.

I chose Metra’s North Central Service instead of the blue line to get to ORD. When I got on the train, I expected to see overhead luggage racks on both sides. This particular car only had it on one side. It was a bi-level car, but the upper level only had seats on the one side and if you looked up from inside the lower level, you could see the people in the upper level. I was unsure if the luggage rack was for the lower level or the upper level since it was located in between the two where you would usually see a ceiling between the two levels. Since the car wasn’t crowded, I put my suitcase in the space between the seat next to me and the seat in front of that one. The ride took about 30 minutes and this was also one of those trains that goes in reverse. It was a nice ride though.

On this forum, I have seen the word “Amshack” used to describe certain Amtrak stations. Well I think the O’Hare Transfer station could best be described as a “Metrashack”. It’s literally just one small building with nothing in it but a waiting room. A shuttle van took us to the terminals we needed to go to. The flight was good, not much to say about that, except this was the first time I flew by myself. I was a little nervous I admit, but I’m not afraid of flying. I just find it inconvenient in some ways.

Overall, the trip was good. I wouldn’t recommend overnight coach after my experience. I think I would just get a sleeper next time. Would recommend Dramamine if you are prone to motion sickness. I never thought I would get motion sick on a train, but it was a bumpy ride in parts and my train rides before this were all short distance. I still like Amtrak and would choose them again in the future.
 

cpotisch

Conductor
Joined
Sep 2, 2017
Messages
7,511
Location
Brooklyn, NY
Great report and thank you so much for taking the time to share this! I am surprised to hear that you had motion sickness, since I have never felt nauseous on a train in my life - even when I've been in the upper bunk of upper level roomettes while traveling over rough track. If you can afford it, DEFINITELY get a sleeper next time, since it is completely superior to coach in every single way.
 

PVD

Conductor
Joined
Jul 8, 2015
Messages
4,901
Location
NYC/Queens
Thank you for taking the time to report. just out of curiosity, would W-B to Syracuse to pick up the L/S yield appreciable savings over NYC either in timing or dollars?
 

NEPATrainTraveler

Train Attendant
Joined
Sep 12, 2018
Messages
74
Thank you for taking the time to report. just out of curiosity, would W-B to Syracuse to pick up the L/S yield appreciable savings over NYC either in timing or dollars?
Sleepers on The LSL were cheaper by about $100-200 leaving from SYR instead of NYP. $400-500 instead of $660 on the day I was traveling.

To get to Syracuse you would have to take a bus (either LCTA or Martz) to Scranton and then a $33 Greyhound from there. The bus would get you to SYR by 7:10 PM. It would be about a three hour wait for the LSL to arrive if it’s on time.

In contrast, The bus to NYC was $49.

I considered Syracuse, but decided against it due to the long wait time with no place within walking distance to kill time. Also wasn’t sure how the station would be at night.
 

PVD

Conductor
Joined
Jul 8, 2015
Messages
4,901
Location
NYC/Queens
Thanks, I was wondering how it played out since I get to SYR a couple of times a year. I've always thought the station was decent, it gets decent traffic since the regional buses use it also. Minor league ballpark (not relevant this time of year) and big mall are minutes away. Certainly can't argue with NYC being a much better place to kill time....
 

Misty.

OBS Chief
Joined
Jan 28, 2010
Messages
652
Location
St. Louis
Did you like the popcorn?  NoC is one of my go tos when I'm passing through or spending a day or three in Chicago and I have spare money. :D
 

jebr

Conductor
Staff member
Administator
Moderator
Joined
Jan 23, 2012
Messages
3,952
Location
"The Last Great City of the East," St. Paul, MN
Sorry to hear about your issues sleeping in coach. :(

As for getting left at stations, I wouldn't worry about it, even in the middle of the night, as long as you stay trainside near the doors (or walk alongside the train.) Keep an eye out for the staff telling you to get back on, or simply just walk in a little circle near the door (within 10-20 feet of the door.)

That said, I certainly don't blame you for flying home. Given the options, that was probably your best choice.
 

NEPATrainTraveler

Train Attendant
Joined
Sep 12, 2018
Messages
74
Thanks, I was wondering how it played out since I get to SYR a couple of times a year. I've always thought the station was decent, it gets decent traffic since the regional buses use it also. Minor league ballpark (not relevant this time of year) and big mall are minutes away. Certainly can't argue with NYC being a much better place to kill time....
I've been meaning to reply to this post you made, but I forgot. The mall would've been fine, but the problem is that I don't drive and the CENTRO bus schedules between the mall and SYR didn't work out unless the LSL is running late. We were running late when the train reached SYR, so I probably could've made it to the mall and back that night had I got on at SYR instead of NYP. I might try leaving from SYR on a future trip.
 

anumberone

Conductor
AU Supporter
Joined
Aug 8, 2015
Messages
1,885
Location
Los Angeles
Excellent trip report, I'm thinking not so good choice of food on unsettled stomach. The heat didn't help also, but I'm not a Dr. So what do I know. I just layed low with the chicken fingers, candy and enjoyed your trip.
 

junebug

Lead Service Attendant
Joined
Jun 14, 2011
Messages
299
I live in Chicago, and I think the places you went to were spot on. I love Grant Park and Buckingham Fountain. Walking towards the lake if you go down Monroe I think, you'll see the Frank Gehry bandshell http://www.architecture.org/learn/resources/buildings-of-chicago/building/millennium-park/ and Millenium Park on Michigan Avenue. If you're ever in town on the weekends, there is Summerdance in Grant Park near Balbo. Beautiful flowers, a wine and beer booth, live bands, often Salsa music, lots of fun. Another fun place to go is Mario's Italian Lemonade in Little Italy. It never changes! https://www.facebook.com/MariosItalianLemonade/?rf=158971930837075.
 
Last edited:

NEPATrainTraveler

Train Attendant
Joined
Sep 12, 2018
Messages
74
So one thing I never did with this trip report is post pictures. I've never been that happy with how they turned out, so I didn't bother posting them. I've gotten nostalgic for my journeys on Amtrak, so I decided to say what the heck and post some of them.


IMG_0179.JPG

Hoboken Terminal. I love old stations like this one.

IMG_0181.JPG

An attempt at getting some Hudson river scenery. On my phone, this is a "live" photo, so every time I view it on there I can see the scenery fly by and for a brief moment I feel like I'm on the train again.

IMG_0182.JPG

Another attempt at a scenic pic of the Hudson. I wanted to get some fall foilage. One thing I do like about this pic is that you can see a little bit of track in the bottom right corner.

IMG_0183.JPG

I found this lighthouse in the middle of the Hudson fascinating, so I tried to get a picture of it.

IMG_0184.JPG

View of the platform at ALB station from inside the train. I think I took this picture before going into the station. More photos to come.
 

NEPATrainTraveler

Train Attendant
Joined
Sep 12, 2018
Messages
74
IMG_0185.JPG

Elkhart, IN. Thought it was cool seeing this old New York Central train parked outside the station. It must be part of the museum in town. I saw another New York Central train over in the Hudson valley, but unfortunately I didn't take a picture of that one.

IMG_0197.JPG
IMG_0195.JPG

View of Milwaukee from the Vue (formerly Polaris) room on the top floor of the Hyatt Regency Milwaukee.

IMG_0199.JPG

A slice of the deep dish pizza I had in Chicago.
 

NEPATrainTraveler

Train Attendant
Joined
Sep 12, 2018
Messages
74
IMG_0200.JPG


IMG_0201.JPG
Fall foilage in Chicago's Grant Park. Best fall foilage I saw on the whole trip.

IMG_0204.JPG

Buckingham fountain.

IMG_0206.JPG

View of Lake Michigan from Grant Park.
 

NEPATrainTraveler

Train Attendant
Joined
Sep 12, 2018
Messages
74
IMG_0207.JPG

Took another picture of the lake and thought this building in the background looked interesting. I didn't know what it was at the time, but I found out that it is part of the Navy Pier.

IMG_0208.JPG
IMG_0209.JPG
More pictures of Grant Park.


IMG_0210.JPG

The building formerly known as the Sears Tower. It's been called the Willis Tower for years, yet I still want to call it the Sears Tower.

Well, that's it for the photos. They weren't as bad as I remembered.
 
Top