Trans Atlantic Playtime.

By Paul Redford.

Another Trans-Atlantic trip doing diesels in the “land of the free”. The aims of this trip were:

Cover the Metro North branches for any FL9’s and P40’s that may be working.

Shore Line East again for P40’s if any out and also for the GP40’s.

MBTA to improve on how many I have had.

Metra/Chicago because you can on an East Pass.

VRE as I have only previously had 4 of their locos.

MARC between VRE moves.

Tri Rail again as I have not had that many.

Cover two pieces of required Amtrak route, namely Boston to Portland, ME and Kissimmee, FL to Winter Haven, FL (don’t ask about the latter, it is a long and painful story).

With the current pound/dollar exchange rate and the price of Amtrak Passes, ours was free with a box of cereals, or at least that is how it felt! I travelled to London and met my co-conspirator Nick Cotton (yes, Dot’s lad had escaped Walford), then we headed for the Holiday Inn at Heathrow for a nights stay before our flight the next day.

Day 1 – Saturday 28th April 2007.

Plan for the first day was to fly to New York JFK, train into New York Penn station to sort out the rovers etc, Amtrak to Stamford, CT, (saving the walk across New York with the luggage), then unit onward to South Norwalk, CT, for the Danbury branch shuttle and then into our hotel for the next two nights. It all worked very well with the added bonus of 834, one of my three required P40’s from the eight being leased by Metro North.

VS0039.30amLondon Heathrow to New York JFK.G-VWKD “Miss Behavin’”
Airtrain????New York JFK to Jamaica.
Train ??????Jamaica to New York Penn.LIRR 7553
Train 1404.30pmNew York Penn to Stamford.AMT 946
Train 65445.21pmStamford to South Norwalk.MNCRR 8508
Train 68466.11pmSouth Norwalk to Danbury.AMT 834

Day 2 – Sunday 29th April 2007.

The plan had been to cover the branches to Waterbury and Wassaic as my previous trip had shown these would get any FL9’s or P40’s out. However an E-mail contact had informed me that Southeast to Wassaic was a bus replacement service, so on to plan B.

Plan B was into New York, then a trip to Montauk on the Long Island Railroad, returning to Danbury by 11pm.

Train 68137.43amDanbury to South Norwalk.AMT 838
Train 65138.39am South Norwalk to New York Grand Central Terminal. MNCRR 8910
Train 6032 11.04am New York Penn to Jamaica. LIRR 9810
Train 8710 12.16pm Jamaica to Montauk. LIRR 413
Train 8705 3.37pm Montauk to Jamaica. LIRR 511+517
Train ???? Jamaica to New York Penn. LIRR 7059
Train 6562 9.07pm New York Grand Central Terminal to South Norwalk. MNCRR 8414
Train 6862 10.11pm South Norwalk to Danbury. AMT 834

The other shuttle was playing out on the return with a winning P40. It was my only winner as everything seen working on Long Island Railroad was dud. As a result we made an out and back run from New York to Montauk and went for something to eat.

Day 3 – Monday 30th April 2007.

As we had had both shuttles we got up for the last through train from Danbury to New York Grand Central Terminal, which we took as far as Stamford, where we missed Amtrak 842. I hadn’t realised that one of the ShoreLine East through trains worked back as the 8.10am Stamford to New Haven until it was too late.

We then headed to Boston for the next three nights in a central hotel and the afternoon and evening on the North Side. I managed three new locos including 1027, the only non early series F40 or GP40 seen on the North Side.

Train 18336.52am Danbury to Stamford.MNCRR 230
Train 170 9.18am Stamford to Boston South. AMT 657
Train 269 2.20pm Boston North to Wakefield. MBTA 1004
Train 226 3.30pm Wakefield to Boston North. MBTA 1130
Train 359 4.20pm Boston North to Anderson. MBTA 1004
Train 232 5.05pm Anderson to Boston North. MBTA 1001
Train 281 5.30pm Boston North to Malden Center. MBTA 1013
Train 282 5.47pm Malden Center to Boston North. MBTA 1010
Train 237 6.55pm Boston North to Winchester. MBTA 1027
Train 338 7.17pm Winchester to Boston North. MBTA 1004

Nick is more of a track basher than I am and so he was off doing his own thing. I was looking for new locos but unfortunately the diagrams I had were out of date. This, coupled with the fact that platforms were posted only 5 to 10 minutes before departure and there seemed to be no logic to which train worked the next turn, meant that I found the best approach to be out with the required loco and then straight back to Boston to look for the next one.

Day 4 – Tuesday 1st May 2007.

Today I started on the South Side, picking up a couple before returning to Stamford to cover ShoreLine East’s afternoon rush. Amtrak 842 was clawed back from the previous day and I managed to pick up my last ConnDOT/SLE GP40. Result!

Train 801 6.25am Boston South to Route 128. MBTA 1028
Train 806 7.24am Route 128 to Boston South. MBTA 1026
Train 751 8.10am Boston South to Readville. MBTA 1025
Train 792 9.00am Readville to Boston South. MBTA 1050
Train 173 11.40am Boston South to Stamford. AMT 662
Train 1640 4.50pm Stamford to Bridgeport. SLE 6694
Train 1644 5.36pm Bridgeport to New Haven. AMT 842
Train 1646 6.38pm New Haven to Guildford. SLE 6699
Train 1656 7.18pm Guildford to Old Saybrook. SLE 6698
Train 94 8.00pm Old Saybrook to Boston South. AMT 942+912

Day 5 – Wednesday 2nd May 2007.

Today’s plan is to cover a couple of MBTA trains on the North Side followed by a round trip to Portland, ME, on Amtrak and then more MBTA North Side on the return. Of the required locos seen I pick up 3 of 4. A good days cranking!

Train 257 7.55am Boston North to Reading. MBTA 1001
Train 209 8.49am Reading to Haverhill. MBTA 1128
Train 681 9.52am Haverhill to Portland. AMT 196
Train 686 3.00pm Portland to Boston North. AMT 153
Train 335 5.50pm Boston North to Anderson. MBTA 1134
Train 336 6.35pmAnderson to Boston North. MBTA 1115

Day 6 – Thursday 3rd May 2007.

More moves on the South Side this morning with three more winners before taking the Amtrak train to Albany to connect with the Lake Shore Limited to Chicago.

Train 905 7.02am Boston South to Canton Junction. MBTA 1126
Train 832 7.41am Canton Junction to Boston South. MBTA 1062
Train 803 8.30am Boston South to Route 128. MBTA 1056
Train 812 8.59am Route 128 to Boston Back Bay. MBTA 1061
Train 707 9.20am Boston Back Bay to Endicott. MBTA 1064
Train 712 9.44am Endicott to Readville. MBTA 1036
Train 754 9.55am Readville to Boston South. MBTA 1028
Train 449 12.00pm Boston South to Albany Rensselaer. AMT 108
Train 49 7.05pm Albany Rensselaer to Chicago Union. AMT 204+95

Day 7 – Friday 4th May 2007.

Our arrival in Chicago was around 2 hours late at 11.00am. Check in to our downtown hotel was followed by a plan to cover the Fox Lake and Antioch lines which worked well.

Train 2217 12.30pm Chicago Union to Western Avenue. Metra 426
Train 2117 12.44pm Western Avenue to Fox Lake. Metra 212
Train 2140 2.45pm Fox Lake to Prairie Crossing. Metra 212
Train 116 3.18pm Prairie Crossing to Buffalo Grove. Metra 420
Train 107 3.51pm Buffalo Grove to Antioch. Metra 211
Train 118 5.07pm Antioch to Chicago Union. Metra 211

The station at Prairie Crossing is essentially one site but the platforms are about 5 minutes apart.You can see the lights of one from the other.

Day 8 – Saturday 5th May 2007

Nick went to do some track with the $5.00 weekend pass while I went into spin and win mode with great success, having 8 new with only 416 dud. It seems that where they have them, lines are using the newer power at weekends so for those wanting the older F40’s a weekday visit is preferable. We leave Chicago on the Cardinal Route which is required by Nick and is one I have not done for a number of years.

Train 1303 8.30am Chicago Union to Hollywood. Metra 401
Train 1306 9.08am Hollywood to Chicago Union. Metra 185+213
Train 509 10.30am Chicago LaSalle Street to Beverly Hills 103rd Street. Metra 410
Train 510 11.19am Beverly Hills 103rd Street to Chicago LaSalle Street. Metra 406
Train 325 12.35pm Chicago OTC to Evanston, Main Street. Metra 138
Train 338 1.02pm Evanston, Main Street to Chicago OTC. Metra 136
Train 2711 2.30pm Chicago Union to Western Avenue. Metra 423
Train 2716 2.57pm Western Avenue to Chicago Union. Metra 416
Train 50 5.45pm Chicago Union to Alexandria, VA. AMT 155

Day 9 – Sunday 6th May 2007.

Lazy day on board the Cardinal heading to Alexandria, VA, where we booked into the Holiday Inn for the next three nights. In the evening we check out routes to the station, ticket availability and bars!

Day 10 – Monday 7th May 2007.

I buy a five day pass for 3 zones on VRE at just over $40.00 which should be much more useful than buying pieces and probably cheaper. As stated at the start of the report, the plan is to do Virginia Rail Express over the next three days filling in with moves on MARC commuter services. This proves successful getting 10 winners on VRE and 6 on MARC.

Train 324 6.33am Alexandria to Washington Union. VRE V20
Train 67 7.30am Washington Union to Alexandria. AMT 158
Train 310 8.54am Alexandria to Washington Union. VRE V22
Train 414 9.30am Washington Union to Odenton. MARC 71
Train 521 10.12am Odenton to New Carrollton. MARC 60
Train 416 10.41am New Carrollton to Odenton. MARC 57
Train 423 11.12am Odenton to Washington Union. MARC 71
Train 301 12.55pm Washington Union to Crystal City. VRE V07
Train 325 1.26pm Crystal City to Alexandria. VRE V09
Metro Alexandria to Washington Union.
Train 305 4.05pm Washington Union to Alexandria. VRE V04
Train 307 5.06pm Alexandria to Franconia. VRE V03+V33
Train 311 6.30pm Franconia to Quantico. VRE V01
Train 66 7.15pm Quantico to Alexandria. AMT 158

Day 11 – Tuesday 8th May 2007.

More of the same, only different!

Train 324 6.33am Alexandria to Washington Union. VRE V10
Train 67 7.30am Washington Union to Alexandria. AMT 158
Train 310 8.54am Alexandria to Washington Union. VRE V05
Train 414 9.30am Washington Union to Odenton. MARC 58
Train 521 10.12am Odenton to Seabrook. MARC 66
Train 416 10.45am Seabrook to Odenton. MARC 57
Train 423 11.12am Odenton to Washington Union. MARC 58
Train 422 1.20pm Washington Union to Odenton. MARC 57
Train 429 2.03pm Odenton to New Carrollton. MARC 62
Train 424 2.26pm New Carrollton to Odenton. MARC 67
Train 431 3.08pm Odenton to Washington Union. MARC 57
Train 530 4.24pm Washington Union to New Carrollton. MARC 4910
Metro New Carrollton to L’Enfant Plaza.
Train 313 6.46pm L’Enfant Plaza to Alexandria. VRE V05

The metro move from New Carrollton to L’Enfant Plaza proved to be a bit of a farce. There are no directions from the Metro station at L’Enfant to the VRE station. Pick the wrong exit and you are left with no idea where the VRE station is.

Day 12 – Wednesday 9th May 2007.

Time to pick up some last newies before heading for the B & O museum at Baltimore where a switcher is giving rides. Then it is back to DC to collect the bags before returning to Baltimore for the train to Miami, FL, so that we get the electric loco too.

Train 328 7.31am Alexandria to Washington Union. VRE V23
Train 844 8.05am Washington Union to Baltimore Camden. MARC 61+60
Museum Ride. B&O 1200
Train 429 1.40pm Baltimore Penn to Washington Union. MARC 57
Train 178 4.05pm Washington Union to Baltimore Penn. AMT 911
Train 97 3.15pm Baltimore Penn to Washington Union. AMT 651
Train 97 3.15pm Washington Union to Fort Lauderdale. AMT 15+184

Day 13 – Thursday 10th May 2007.

Another easy day on Amtrak doing mostly nothing, heading for Florida.

Day 14 – Friday 11th May 2007.

Today is spent doing Tri-Rail moves. Of the 8 locos out I require 5.

Train P604 6.08am Fort Lauderdale to Pompano Beach. FTR 813
Train P605 6.30am Pompano Beach to Fort Lauderdale. FTR 803
Train P607 7.03am Fort Lauderdale to Hollywood. FTR 816
Train P609 7.58am Hollywood to Miami Airport. FTR 811
Train P612 9.28am Miami Airport to Hollywood. FTR 811
Train P613 9.58am Hollywood to Metrorail. FTR 808
Train P614 10.28am Metrorail to Hollywood. FTR 816
Train P615 10.58am Hollywood to Metrorail. FTR 804
Train P622 2.35pm Metrorail to Fort Lauderdale. FTR 804
Train P627 4.13pm Fort Lauderdale to Hollywood. FTR 802
Train P632 5.54pm Hollywood to Fort Lauderdale. FTR 816

Day 15 – Saturday 12th May 2007.

While waiting for the train to Miami Airport, Amtrak train 98 the Northbound Silver Meteor came in with P32BWH 515 as the second loco. This meant a swap of the Miami switcher but fortunately 515 was not required.

Now for a brief demonstration of the farce that is the airline industry and some of its employees. We arrive at the airport early to find our flight is renumbered and brought forward by 35 minutes, something we had not been informed of beforehand. Our flights were booked with Continental but operated by Delta to New York and Virgin for the journey to the UK. As a result I was unsure of whom to check in with. The Continental representative who was supposed to be helping passengers was pig ignorant but she did eventually direct us to her “intellectual” twin on the Delta Airlines check in desk. We asked for seats near the front of the aircraft, for a quick get away when we arrived in New York, with a window and could we check through for the Trans Atlantic journey too. We were allocated seats near the rear of the aircraft with no window and were then redirected to the AirItalia desk to check in on our code share flight! We went to airport information and were given a free phone number to ring Virgin who confirmed our booking on the flight home. At 11.36 ½, the 11.37 arrival which would form our 12.24 departure to New York was shown as arriving at 12.59 with a departure of 13.15. I doubted Delta’s ability to turn an aircraft round in 16 minutes and I was proved right. We went to the departure gate where the airline representative proved to be far more helpful than her colleagues who we had previously dealt with. She listened to requests and we were reallocated window seats near the front of the aircraft. She also gave us a more realistic assessment of the departure time as 13.45 with an arrival in New York of 16.00. She was polite and helpful and a real breath of fresh air compared to others we had dealt with already. The fact that somebody working for a service industry had given good service rather left us in shock!!

The flight departed at 13.55 and landed at JFK at 16.35. We then had a 50 minute guided tour of the taxi ways whilst ground staff debated whether we would fit on the allocated gate. We were reallocated to the next gate and finally docked at 17.25. Then it was a mad dash off the plane, through the terminal and onto airtrain to the next terminal, up to check in for the Virgin flight and we made it with 10 minutes to spare before it closed. As airlines are a service industry they should not be surprised when complaints are made about poor service.

Train P661 7.43am Fort Lauderdale to Miami Airport. FTR 808
DL078 12.24pm Miami to New York JFK. N943DL
VS004 6.30pm New York JFK to London Heathrow. G-VYOU

Final Notes and Observations.

Overall a good trip, although no FL9’s. We were warned of this in advance and the Amtrak P40’s and clearing ShoreLine East were probably the highlights. The power and services on each system were “as booked” so nothing to report there. The comments about Prairie Crossing station on Metra may prove to be of use to someone else wanting to do the lines. On VRE the purchase of a 5 day unlimited use ticket was something that had not been available before. For the 3 zones to Franconia (where the Metro ends) it was just over $40.00. Single fares are in the region of $4.50 per move and it is possible that this would save you money. It has the added advantage of instant validity on a train and with the $2.00 step up fare it is available for use on Amtrak without a seat reservation, although you must pre purchase the step up fare before boarding the train. This makes doing Amtrak diesels in Virginia possible.

Return to Reviews