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Twenty-three different trains!

July 5, 2006, 6:14 PM

I chose to go to Washington on July 4 to do a little railfanning, since Metro runs a special service pattern on that day, which means that some of the lines go to different places.

In the final accounting, I rode twenty-three different trains. That breaks down to four Rohrs, four Breda 2000s, three classic Breda 3000s, four rehabbed Breda 3000s, three Breda 4000s, and five CAFs. That also breaks down to ten Orange Line trains, seven Blue Line trains, four Yellow Line trains, one Red Line train, and one Green Line train.

One Metro employee tried to give me a map of the July 4 service, and I did not take it, because I admitted I had the whole thing committed to memory. I really impressed them when I then rattled off the entire service change, including no service to Smithsonian, and shuttle bus service from L’Enfant Plaza to the Pentagon.

All in all, it was a lot of fun railfanning Metro’s July 4 service. It’s all a matter of remembering that one cannot catch a Blue Line train before Rosslyn, and that every westbound train from Washington to Virginia goes to Vienna.

And I figured out the logic behind how the service change is run. The idea is to get the most trains to the areas with the most parking. Thus why the Blue Line starts at Huntington, and only goes as far as Rosslyn. The Blue Line doesn’t go into downtown Washington, and Huntington has two small parking garages. This routing makes way for the Yellow Line to go from Franconia-Springfield, a station with a HUGE parking garage, to Mt. Vernon Square, just north of downtown DC. This gets people from a big parking facility to downtown DC at 7th Street NW. Additionally, cutting Blue at Rosslyn, and converting the Blue Line east of Stadium-Armory to Orange, allows more trains to get to Vienna, where there are several large lots, and two even larger parking garages (the north of which is where I like to park). Then Red and Green just short-turn, because they run independently from the other three for the most part.

The system, for the most part, wasn’t all that crowded. And parking at Vienna was great. I got right next to the elevator in the North Garage, which to my dismay was out of service. Sad times there. So I took the stairs. The only time the system was really crowded was, as expected, after the fireworks (I did see some of the fireworks from the Iwo Jima Memorial in Rosslyn). During the fireworks, after I saw a little of it, I went over to Ballston, where there’s an IHOP restaurant near the station. That IHOP was a lot smaller than I’d expected. It looks huge from the side you see coming out of the Metro (really tall roof!), but it’s actually pretty small as these things go. After the fireworks, it was wall to wall people on the Metro.

I don’t think I’d ever seen Vienna crowded before yesterday. Usually, by the time you get to Vienna late at night after 11:00, it looks like this, like in this May 29, 2004 file photo:

Vienna station on a normal night

Here’s what Vienna looked like on July 4 after 11:00:

Vienna station on July 4, 2006 after the fireworks

Pretty full, if you ask me. Two escalators were turned off, and one (the right one in the picture) was running, going up. They probably could have gotten away with turning all three escalators up at this point, though, since by this point, the last revenue train to New Carrollton had already left the station.

Traffic to and from Vienna was interesting. Arriving at Vienna in the morning, it was like a Saturday on eastbound I-66. I sailed right in. Leaving Vienna late at night, I-66 westbound was absolutely packed, and it remained packed to about Manassas. Where all these people go from there, I don’t know, but following Manassas, the amount of traffic went down to the normal level for that time of night for the rest of the trip.

Besides railfanning, I had one other goal. Unfortunately, that goal did not get completed with flying colors like my railfanning goal was. My other goal was to finally meet Cindy Sheehan, the anti-war activist who camped out at Bush’s ranch in Texas last summer. Recall that Cindy Sheehan and her family ended up being in my Day of Activism photo set, before she was famous. On July 4, Cindy Sheehan was going to be participating in a fast in front of the White House. When I went by there at noon, I saw a lot of people, including Carol Moore, and the guy from Yellowcakewalk.net. The big event was a Code Pink demonstration:

Code Pink in front of the White House on July 4

I took a number of pictures, and got information on Cindy Sheehan’s schedule, because she wasn’t there at the time. I was told she’d be back in the park at 5:00. Come 5:00, I was back at McPherson Square station, having come in from railfanning to Largo. You may have heard on the news about all the tourists being shooed off the Mall and into the museums to get out of a very strong storm? Well, it scrubbed Cindy Sheehan’s 5:00 appearance at the park, and so that was the end of that, much to my dismay. I found out from a Code Pink representative that Sheehan would make no more appearances that day. Drat.

The storm was weird, though. It seems like it came in out of nowhere. At Largo, it was still sunny and nice. Then the train goes underground and stays underground for a while after Addison Road. I’d say that after Addison Road, I was underground for about five minutes, until the train surfaced again west of Benning Road station. There, out of the right side of the train, some very dark clouds were visible. Then when I got to McPherson Square, the clouds had opened up, and we had bright lightning, very loud thunder, heavy rain, and a bit of wind. I stayed by the station entrance under the VA Building.

So all in all, I had a fun day. Twenty-three trains… I think that’s a personal best.

Web site: Oren's Transit Page on Metro's July 4 service

Song: The Capitol Steps: "In the Metro". I was thinking of one of the lines where they say, "Will the Red Line take me to the Blue? Do I look like a freakin' map to you?" I was amused about that because normally, yes, every line touches every other line at least once. However, on July 4, the Red Line will NOT take you to the Blue, and requires two transfers (Metro Center to Rosslyn, where one can then catch Blue)

Quote: Me rattling the service pattern off to the Metro employee at Rosslyn, demonstrating that I had the whole thing memorized: "The Blue Line runs from Huntington to Rosslyn. The Yellow Line runs from Franconia-Springfield to Mt. Vernon Square. The Orange Line runs to both New Carrollton and Largo. The Red Line will be short-turning trains at Silver Spring, while the Green Line will be short-turning at Fort Totten. In addition, Smithsonian station is closed all day, and there will be a shuttle after the fireworks between L'Enfant Plaza and the Pentagon." The Metro employee was amazed that I was able to rattle the whole thing off like that.

Categories: DC trips, WMATA