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“…and that’s why everybody knows it’s fun to ride on a train!”

July 19, 2011, 9:31 PM

Yes, I’m back from my train trip to Durham, New Hampshire, where I got a lot accomplished in that small New England town. Actually, I got back on Friday, but you’ll forgive me for being a few days late, I’m sure.

The business part of this trip was actually pretty ho-hum. I knew going in what I was supposed to do, I did it, and it went without a hitch. Doesn’t make for great reading, so we’ll skip it.

The train trip was pretty fun. You would have never guessed that I would be one to enjoy the train trip immensely, now, would you? But yeah, it was a fun, new experience, and I went in ready to take it all in. In fact, I was just full of energy leaving the house on Tuesday. Enough that I made the decision: the hell with taking a cab to the Metro. I’m taking the bus. Seriously, I took the 51 to Glenmont. Here’s my luggage at the bus stop:

And there you go - my big suitcase, my work bag, and my camera bag, waiting neatly at the bus stop. All saw quite a bit of use by the end of the trip.
And there you go – my big suitcase, my work bag, and my camera bag, waiting neatly at the bus stop. All saw quite a bit of use by the end of the trip.

And then this was what my view of the train looked like on the Acela:

The view of the Acela Express from my seat

And this is what my seat area looked like on the way up:

Yes, I had the whole row to myself on the northbound trip. I sat in the window seat, and then I moused on the other seat's tray. This is also why I'm so glad I bought my netbook. Look how well it fits on that little tray!
Yes, I had the whole row to myself on the northbound trip. I sat in the window seat, and then I moused on the other seat’s tray. This is also why I’m so glad I bought my netbook. Look how well it fits on that little tray!

The view, meanwhile, was the best part about the Acela, especially through New York City and Connecticut. New York City is just cool to see, and then eastern Connecticut is absolutely gorgeous. The railroad tracks go through a far more attractive area than I-95 does, that’s for sure. I-95 through eastern Connecticut is boring and flat. The train has great views of houses, boats, and water.

New York City.
New York City.

A gorgeous waterfront house, somewhere in eastern Connecticut.
A gorgeous waterfront house, somewhere in eastern Connecticut.

Then when I got to Boston, I had to change trains, since Amtrak’s Downeaster service would be the one to take me the rest of the way. Thus I got to not only ride Acela Express rolling stock for the first time, but I also got to ride Amfleet cars for the first time as well. But first, I had to take the T in Boston…

In taking the T, I did something that most probably wouldn’t do. Everyone and their mother told me going into this trip that I should get off the Acela at Back Bay, because it was a one-seat T ride from Back Bay to North Station. I took the Acela all the way to South Station, however. Why? Because I’m a transit nerd. I don’t get to ride the Boston T very often, and I was going to ride as much of it as I could in what little time I had. So I made sure I had a transfer in there, so that I could ride not only the Orange Line, but also the Red Line. I think most (normal) people would be annoyed about having to take the T between train stations (especially taking two trains), but I enjoyed every minute of it. After all, I’m not normal. Reminds me of a photo of a bunch of railfans on a train platform with their cameras at the ready that was posted to either SubTalk or SubChat some years ago. Someone posted in response to it, “Dem ain’t people – dem’s FOAMERS!”

This also marks the first time that I’ve ever taken two different cities’ subway systems in a single day – WMATA and MBTA. You would think it would be WMATA and Baltimore that would be where I’d do that, but no – WMATA and Boston.

I got pictures, but the videos are what I want to show you now:


After getting off my Red Line train, it departs from Downtown Crossing station, headed to Alewife.


My Orange Line train departs North Station.

Then at North Station, it would be my luck that the only train on the whole board to be delayed was mine:

Guess which train is the only one on the board that is delayed.  Mine!

Figures, doesn’t it? That’s my train, #687, right there with the “DELAYED” mark next to it. Thankfully, it was only a ten-minute delay, so I was soon on my way. The Downeaster was not too bad, and my first Amfleet ride. The train was definitely a step down from the Acela, in that it ran more slowly, and the car was a little less flashy than the Acela. Realize, though, that the Acela is most likely Amtrak’s flagship service, while the Downeaster is a smaller route. The Downeaster’s consist is two locomotives, three coachclass cars, and one cafe/lounge/business-class car.

I rode business class, and this was my complimentary beverage:

Yes, it's milk. It does a body good, after all.
Yes, it’s milk. It does a body good, after all.

Then as the Downeaster approached Durham station, the conductor came over and told me that my stop was coming up, and that they would be doing the stop from the center of the consist. So I gathered up my stuff and was ready to depart. Got off the train, and there I was, just kind of plopped in this small New Hampshire town.

But first things first. I had some rail photos to take:

The conductor was all smiles as the train departed Durham. I really liked this conductor, and thought he did a great job.
The conductor was all smiles as the train departed Durham. I really liked this conductor, and thought he did a great job.

And goodbye to the Downeaster, as it continued on its run to Portland, Maine.
And goodbye to the Downeaster, as it continued on its run to Portland, Maine.

Welcome to Durham, New Hampshire!
Welcome to Durham, New Hampshire!

It was a bit surreal getting off the train and arriving in Durham. Realize that I’d spent most of the day on Amtrak and in big cities. Now this was a tiny town, and I was just kind of dropped in it by the train, which then departed. Ever seen on television or in the movies where someone just kind of finds themself in the middle of nowhere or is dropped off in the middle of somewhere strange, and then the vehicle that brought them there leaves? That’s what this felt like. I was like, oooooookaaaaaaay…

But I managed. I got the name of a cab company from the folks at the UNH Dairy Bar, and soon I was at my hotel (a Holiday Inn Express). The hotel wasn’t too bad, though the amenities were a little bit lacking. I was determined to exercise while I was on this trip, and without access to a lap pool, I decided I was going to use the hotel’s fitness center. This “fitness center” consisted of two treadmills and an exercise bike facing a television. And a mirrored wall. Apparently, it’s not a fitness center until you have a mirrored wall. I hate mirrored walls, because I don’t like seeing myself exercise. That’s just the way it is. I also got exercise by virtue of not having a car on this trip and having to walk everywhere, plus I vowed to take the stairs at the hotel, and did that.

Then the big surprise in the hotel was the shower. Take a look:

The shower in my hotel room

The reason this was such a surprise was because this is identical to the showers in my parents’ house. Seriously, identical. I spent years getting clean in a shower that looked just like this. I stepped in there and felt instantly at home. Talk about an interesting coincidence, eh?

Durham, meanwhile, is just lovely. It’s very much a college town, and as it was the summer, it was quite quiet. I would love to spend a few days in Durham during the spring or summer on a pleasure trip, being able to concentrate on photography up there, because it is really photogenic up here, and I would so enjoy it.

And then on Friday, home again. I had a great trip, but you know how it is – it’s always a good feeling to get back home after a trip, no matter how great the trip was. Now of all of my Amtrak rides, catching the Downeaster going back home was the only part that really made me a little nervous. Realize that I had never caught a train on a mid-line station before. I had always boarded Amtrak trains from various Union Station-like locations. Never a platform-in-the-middle-of-the-line stop. So catching that made me a little nervous. I ended up waiting almost an hour for the train, by my own choice. I would rather be hanging out at the platform waiting for the train, rather than having to scramble to get there to meet the train. But everything went without a hitch, and then came the train:

The Downeaster arrives to pick me up at Durham station

And that was that. I took the Downeaster to North Station, took the T to South Station, had lunch at South Station (I regretted not getting to really have lunch on the way up), and then got the Acela back to DC. I had the row to myself again from Boston to New York, but then had a rowmate from New York to BWI. Once again, eastern Connecticut impressed me:

Boats on the water in eastern Connecticut

And so did New York City:

Hell's Gate Bridge!
Hell’s Gate Bridge!

And then on the train from New York, I had a little happy hour on the train, enjoying an adult beverage:

And then on the train from New York, I had a little happy hour on the train, enjoying an adult beverage.

Yes, I had a bottle of Sam Adams. Not a bad beer, though I admit I like beers with fruit flavors a bit more for whatever reason. But as Amtrak doesn’t sell fruit beers, I went with Sam Adams.

And then when I got to Union Station, I found my way to the Metro, and then home. Getting home, I think I was out in like 20 minutes. Good, productive trips are tiring, too.

Web site: Newick's Lobster House. That was the name of the seafood restaurant that I went to on Wednesday that I couldn't think of in the Video Journal.

Song: Another one of my Boston T videos, this one showing the train going around a curve.

Quote: By the way, if you're ever going up to Durham, I have a dining recommendation for you: Libby's Bar and Grill. I enjoyed it, and the service was really good.

Categories: Amtrak, MBTA, Ride On