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Welcome to Club Acela…

July 18, 2010, 3:05 PM

Welcome to Club Acela in Union Station. This is where the people with sleeper accommodations stay before boarding their train. But first you have to get there, and we got Alstom 6083 from Glenmont. I was disappointed to find that Mom had not read my Distinguishing Metro Rail Cars page, and thus was not able to identify our train as an Alstom. Of course, Mom was a little anxious about the whole thing. I ride Metro every day. I know what to look for, and I know the drill. She was hurrying, and I wasn’t. The destination sign wasn’t lit. The train won’t leave until the destination sign is lit. I quoted Jerry Seinfeld when he spoke about riding horses: “All right, hopalong, I know the trail.”

Then at Union Station, we went to the Swatch store. Mom ended up getting three watches (can never have enough of those), and then we went down to Gourmet Station in the food court. I love that place – it has some really good food. I first discovered it on a DC trip back in 2005 or so, and have always enjoyed it. Then after that, off to the club…

Meanwhile, I’m going to be hitting the Twitter pretty hard on this trip, and so if you’re not already following me, you should. And I’ve already been uploading to Twitpic, like this one where the sign talks about “safety and security”. Don’t you love it when people will throw around “security” for anything? I would dare say that the requirement to be on board two minutes before departure is more about maintaining the schedule than it is about safety or security. After all, they have a train system to run. You can’t run a train system effectively when people are late. Let’s just be honest about it. People have become accustomed to hearing people justifying everything by saying “security” for everything. Honesty is the best policy. You need to do this to maintain the schedule? SAY SO!

So we’ll be on the train in no time… see you in Chicago!

Categories: Amtrak, WMATA

No more beautiful a day to get kicked out of the WMATA Rail Rodeo…

May 11, 2009, 8:05 PM

So Saturday was fun. I got together with Matthew Tilley, and we went to the WMATA Rail Rodeo at Branch Avenue Yard, went up to Dupont Circle (I had to stop by my office), and then checked out Amtrak’s National Train Day events at Union Station. The day didn’t go quite as expected, but we still had a lot of fun.

Starting out, of course, I picked Matthew up at his house. This would put my new GPS device, an early birthday present from my parents (thanks, Mom!), to the test. It did very well, and sent me on a very quick and easy route there, and one I would not have thought of – essentially the back way into Matthew’s neighborhood.

After I picked Matthew up, we got back on the Beltway, and rode over to Branch Avenue Yard to watch the rail rodeo in action. The WMATA Rail Rodeo, for those not familiar, is an annual event where Metro’s rail employees get to show off their skills in various competitions. The event is usually open to the public. I’d been wanting to go to the Rail Rodeo for some time, and this year, I finally did my homework ahead of time, writing Metro’s customer service department back in late February to find out the tentative date, and following up in late April to confirm that date.

Arriving at Branch Avenue Yard, we stopped at the security checkpoint at the gate, and indicated that we were here to see the rail rodeo. The security guard asked if we worked for Metro (we didn’t), checked my driver’s license, and waved us in. We parked, and asked a few Metro employees we found where the activity was. They weren’t too sure themselves. Okay, fine. We’re resourceful. So we went about finding out for ourselves. Matthew and I soon found ourselves in the shop building, where WMATA mechanics perform routine maintenance on the trains.

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Categories: Amtrak, Matthew, WMATA

And once again, I’m on the receiving end of an Amtrak transaction, this time in Staunton, however…

December 31, 2008, 8:23 PM

Yay, Sis is here! Mom, Dad, and I met up with Chris’s mother, and we all went to greet Sis and her fiance Chris as they got off the train in Staunton. We took the Sable. They took the Cardinal from Chicago, and we were there to meet them. So we all got to the train station around 3 PM, and in came an Amtrak train. We thought it was us, but the conductor then announced that this train was going to Chicago, and thus not the train we were waiting for. So we went into the tiny little waiting room to wait. Interestingly enough, the Cardinal has to single-track through Staunton, as the station is only served by one track. Sis actually got caught up in the single-tracking, as they had to wait for the westbound Cardinal to clear the single-track area before they could proceed. Let me also comment that I will never take Union Station for granted again, since that station’s all nice and indoors and heated and has things to do while you wait. It was very cold and windy in Staunton today, and so waiting outside was not fun. And then waiting in the little waiting room is dull because there’s nothing to do. Just some benches.

Then Katie texted me. As it turns out, my cell phone’s text message chime, which is four bell rings (think the out-of-time bell on Wheel of Fortune), sounds exactly like the bell on the Amtrak trains when they make a station stop. Thus my text tone got everyone’s attention, thinking that the train had arrived. After it was brought to my attention that lots of people were reacting every time I got a text, I explained to everyone that it was my phone. But eventually, the eastbound Cardinal arrived.

First, a photo of the locomotive, for the railfan in me. I left without my real camera totally without thinking, unfortunately, and didn't realize it until too late.
First, a photo of the locomotive, for the railfan in me. I left without my real camera totally without thinking, unfortunately, and didn’t realize it until too late.

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Categories: Amtrak, Family, Staunton

A belated reportback is better than no reportback at all, I suppose.

May 25, 2008, 5:29 PM

Hey, I’ve been busy. So sue me. But I must report back that Katie and I had a great time last weekend. We went all over the place, and had a great time.

However, it started out somewhat rough – Katie took the train up to DC, specifically the Cardinal. And it was late. According to AmtrakDelays.com, on May 16, the eastbound Cardinal, train #50, was an hour and 42 minutes late arriving in Staunton, where Katie got on. Then at Union Station, where I was waiting for her, the train managed to rack up another 44 minutes of delays, and thus ended up getting in at 8:21 PM. That would make it two hours and 26 minutes late. This thing was supposed to show up at 5:55 PM, which would have fit my schedule quite nicely. Leave work, take Metro to Union Station, wait a few minutes, get Katie, and then ride back to Glenmont. However, I found out about the Staunton delay from Katie well in advance, so no problems there. I compensated other places as far as that delay went, and ended up staying later at work, since there were a few things I needed to take care of anyway, and planned to arrive in time for the new delayed arrival. Okay.

So arriving at Union Station, I got in, and immediately checked the boards to see what the deal was. Another delay. Lovely. So I ended up just kind of wandering around Union Station for the next two hours, as I had nothing else to do. I was totally unprepared for a longer delay. However, I did have my iPod, and so at least I got to listen to Randi Rhodes (now on Nova M Radio!). And with headphones on was how I passed a good hour or so of that delay, as I went in and out of stores, seeing what amused me. I also managed to find a relatively quiet corner of the station to make a phone call, finding out about how things were going on the train from Katie. That quiet spot ended up being in a far corner of the parking garage, interestingly enough. But hey, it was nice out, so it worked. I got to watch train movements north of the station, and found out that the initial delay was due to weather, and then heavy rail traffic caused the delays closer in. Okay. Beyond the control of either one of us. What are you going to do, I suppose.

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Realized I’d not finished telling you about Chicago…

January 6, 2008, 11:55 AM

It’s also been more than a week since the last time I posted an entry here. My, how time flies. Happy new year, everyone!

We went back to the Magnificent Mile on Saturday, and Mom and Sis kind of dragged me around a bunch of stores down there again. But then things got better. John Hancock Center! While the ladies continued to shop, I got to take a ride up a very tall building once again, and went to the top of Hancock. And let me tell you something… between the Sears Tower and the Hancock Center, go for Hancock. The John Hancock Center, unlike the Sears Tower, knows what you came there to do. You came to see the view. It’s just one line past the ticket counter and up to the elevators. This is compared to Sears Tower, where it’s multiple lines, each for a different thing, plus a movie. Additionally, the elevators on John Hancock made my ears pop, while the ones at the Sears Tower didn’t. Kind of cool if you ask me…

Then later in the day, while everyone else went to a play, I got to railfan Chicago! Yaaaaaaaaay! I got to travel on parts of every line except Blue and Yellow, and got to see what “blinker” doors were all about on the Pink Line. Those railfan photos will eventually make it to Transit Center after that site comes back.

Then Sunday, before we left, we got to go around the Loop a bit, after checking our luggage at Union Station. We went to “The Honorable Richard J. Daley Plaza”, where, in The Blues Brothers, Jake and Elwood paid the tax assessment for the orphanage where they once lived. We also got to see the big Christmas tree at the former Marshall Fields flagship store (now Macy’s), and then went around to Millennium Park, where we saw the Cloud Gate, aka “The Bean”, and also the Crown Fountain, which consists of two tall glass-brick video screens showing images of various people’s faces. There’s also water involved here, but as it was like twenty degrees outside, the water was not running.

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Categories: Amtrak, Chicago, CTA

Waiting to ride…

December 26, 2007, 3:14 PM

And Mom and I are playing the waiting game in the Acela Lounge at Union Station in DC, waiting for the boarding call for the Capitol Limited. This will be fun, taking the train to Chicago. So far, we’ve already taken a Barwood cab to Glenmont, and a 4000-series Breda car to Union Station. And then a big “Superliner” car. Should be fun.

Then on the train, we’ve got a “Roomette”, which gives us a little room with a table and electrical connections for all of our various electronic toys. I’ve got some movies, and of course the Lappy. After all, 17 hours on a train requires a little entertainment.

Then the soon-to-be-Mrs-Lysy (my sister) is going to meet us at the train station tomorrow morning, and show us all around for the next few days. All in all, I’m excited!

Categories: Amtrak