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Amtrak Three Rivers
Steve's March 22 & 23, 1998 Travelogue
http://www.trainweb.com/travel/stevelog/sg980322.html

Steve's rail travel on the Amtrak Three Rivers from Chicago, Illinois to Philadelphia, Pennsylvania on Sunday and Monday, March 22 & 23, 1998.

If you've read this travelogue before, but not since Tuesday, March 24, then go to the bottom of this page for the latest additions!

Click here for photos from this journey!

SUN 09:20 PM CT 03/22/98 Chicago, IL - Ch 13 160.305

I don't travel coach a lot, so I don't know if the boarding procedure that they used is common. I should have used the Red Cap service and avoided the hassle, and the risk of not finding a seat with an electric outlet for my notebook computer.

Since the previous let of my journey was in a sleeping car on the Southwest Chief, I was allowed to use the Metropolitan Lounge in Chicago. About 8:40 PM, 20 minutes before departure time for the Three Rivers, they did ask for anyone that needed boarding assistance. If you have a lot of bags, or if you just want to board before the crowd, use the Red Cap service. It is worth the tip, which is customary but not mandatory. That is what I should have done. Usually, they board the people from the Metropolitan Lounge right after the Red Cap assisted people are boarded but before the regular lounge. Unfortunately, they forgot that announcement. I did ask at the desk if Train 40 was boarding yet and the desk person apologized that she had forgotten about me!

I proceeded down to the gate and was just a couple of people away from the front of the line. Everytime I have traveled coach, there has only been 3 levels of boarding: (1) Red Cap assisted people, (2) Metropolitan Lounge people, and (3) Regular Lounge People. This time they decided to use many levels of boarding! First, they had everyone over the age of 60 board. Second, they had families traveling with small children board. Third, they had couples board. And last, you guessed it, people traveling alone!

So, I was in the last group to board. At least I was #3 in that group. Once we got to the cars, they were sorting people by destination. It looks like everyone going almost all the way to the east coast is being placed into the last car. That is the car that I boarded.

They are using Amfleet equipment. This could be Amfleet II equipment. I really haven't learned to tell the difference. This car still has the old orange decor. It is not blue like the Concept 2000 cars or some of the Metroliners that I have been in. However, the windows do seem to be bigger than the old Amfleets that used to be used on the Amtrak San Diegans. My eye level is right in the middle of the window when I'm sitting up and the window is so large that I will be able to see out even when leaning back.

After I boarded the train, I was about to head further down the aisle to seek an electric outlet. I remember that it was something like seat 18 or 22. As I was about a quarter of the way down the aisle, I suddenly got worried that there may be no window seats available further down. I noticed that the seat right next to where I was standing was vacant. Just my luck, there was also an electric outlet at the seat! These are seat numbers 15 and 16. Not only that, but there is a great window view from this seat! Most seats that I have ever seen with electric outlets had a limited window view. The electric outlets always seem to be below the partition between the windows. But, for some reason, there is still a pretty big window view from this seat!

Already off to a great start. About 1000 feet out of the station we had a mechanical problem and were delayed for about 15 minutes. On the good side, if you are going to have a breakdown, the middle of the Amtrak mechanical yard is a good place to have it! We got under way again at 9:37 P.M. and are still making our way through the yard.

SUN 09:49 PM CT 03/22/98 Hammond-Whiting,IN - Ch ?? 16?.???

I noticed a sign in the toilet that said to please not flush the toilet while the train is in the station. I thought that was odd because toilets that dump directly to the tracks have been banned by the government for a few years. It was the main reason Amtrak had to pull the old sleepers and many Santa Fe Hi-Level Cars out of service. Reading further, the sign explained that Amtrak Employees might be under the car inspecting equipment. Well, I guess it doesn't dump to the tracks, but whatever it does, it must be a problem to anyone looking under the train! The toilets on this equipment seems to work fine, but they sure do seem to make a lot more noise when flushing than the toilets in the Superliners!

Shortly after we left this station they turned out all of the lights and plunged us into almost total darkness! The only lights on are a few very tiny emergency lights. They are in the middle of the ceiling over the aisle and are spaced 6 to 10 feet apart. They are about the size of the overhead light in your car, but I don't think they are as bright as the light in your car. There is also a glowing sign that reads "EXIT CAFE ^ Toilet This End". Other than that, there are no lights on. Nobody in front of me has their seat light on and I can only see one person behind me with it on. Thus, the car is very dark. The brightest source of light from where I'm sitting is the glow of my notebook computer screen and I have turned down the brightness of that.

Detector: CH 8 160.230 MP 193.6 11:17 PM ET
Detector: CH 8 160.230 MP 168.8
Detector: CH 8 160.230 MP 152.6

MON 12:37 AM ET 03/23/98 Nappanee,IN - Ch 08 160.230

I guess we are still running about 20 minutes late. Looks like we dropped off 2 people at that stop. There is just a little bit of snow on the ground. Looks like it was left over from a few days ago.

If you look down this schedule, you will see that the next stop is at 6 AM! That is a long gap between stops! That is about the time I wake up. So, I guess I'll go to sleep now and might wake up for the day by the time we get to the next stop!

Detector: CH 8 160.230 MP 093.9
Detector: CH 8 160.230 MP 077.9

MON 04:21 AM ET 03/23/98 Fostoria,OH - Ch 08 160.230

Fostoria does not have a time listed on the schedule. It is a station that is suppose to be added soon. We did stop there, but I don't know if it was to let passengers on and off though. Fostoria appeared to be a big CSX fuel facility with lots of CSX locomotives in a rail yard with fuel tanks. I wasn't sure if we were stopping to put fuel in our locomotive or were at a station. I could not see a station.

Detector: CH 8 160.230 MP 102.0
Detector: CH 8 160.230 MP 081.3

MON 06:41 AM ET 03/23/98 Youngstown,OH - Ch 08 160.230

This is the first place where I definitely know that we did stop to drop off and pick up passengers since Nappanee! A few did get on here, but I didn't notice if any got off.

When I travel on the Amtrak San Diegans, I sometimes fall asleep and do enjoy a very comfortable nap on the train. These are essentially the same Amfleet coaches and also very similar to the San Diegan Horizon coaches. But, I found it very difficult to get comfortable to sleep on this train. I don't know what the difference is. I did sleep quite a bit, but I'm sure that I awoke dozens of times during the night trying to find a comfortable position. I guess I'm just spoiled by traveling in the Sleeping Car all the time.

Detector: CH 46 160.230 07:00 AM ET
Detector: CH 46 160.230 07:20 AM ET Wampum,PA

MON 08:38 AM ET 03/23/98 Pittsburgh,PA - Ch 46 160.230

Looks like we made up any time that we lost. We arrived a few minutes early into Pittsburgh. So far, it looks like the best side of the train to sit on would have been the south side. For part of this journey since dawn there has been a river on that side of the train. There hasn't been too much of interest on the north side of the train yet.

On this train they kept the cafe car open all night. They didn't close it until about 30 minutes before arrival into Pittsburgh. They said they would have it open again about 30 minutes after leaving Pittsburgh. Alcoholic beverages are not served after 1 AM Centeral Time, 2 AM Eastern Time.

From where I am sitting, I can only see the platforms of the Pittsburgh station. Like many stations in the larger cities, it was built to handle many more trains than visit it now. It appears to have enough platforms to simultaneously handle 6 to 8 trains. Most likely they only use 1 or 2 of these platforms now. I can see that the tracks have been ripped out from at least 2 of the platforms.

These platforms are completely covered. I can see one car and one truck parked right on a couple of the unused platforms. I imagine these are vehicles of employees that want to keep their vehicles out of the sun, rain and snow. Speaking of which, it might be lightly raining. There are droplets of water coming down and hiting the windows beyond the platform covering. But, the sun is also out and shining brightly. I don't know if this is a sun shower or if there is just some water leaking down from the platform covering, maybe from melting snow.

They are definitely refilling the trains water tanks at this station. Since they have closed the cafe, I imagine they are bringing new supplies on board. I'm not sure what other servicing they do of the train at this stop. I'll try to keep my eye out for a fuel truck to see if they fuel it at this station.

I just heard over the radio: "this train has 23 cars, not 24." Wow! I didn't know it had so many cars! Those have to be express cars. I think I am in the very last passenger coach car which is why I didn't get to see much of the train while boarding. I walked through 3 cars to get to the cafe car. The Conductor had said that the cafe car was at the very head end of the coaches. Thus, I think there are only 4, maybe 5, coaches and then the cafe car. I'm going to have to get a chance to get out and examine this train. It must have a heck of a lot of express cars on it!

MON 09:01 AM ET 03/23/98 Pittsburgh,PA - Ch 46 160.230

Detector: CH 46 160.230 09:09 AM ET MP 350.0
Detector: CH 46 160.230 09:16 AM ET

MON 09:49 AM ET 03/23/98 Greensburg,PA - Ch 46 160.230

Detector: CH 46 160.230 09:51 AM ET Greensburg

MON --:-- AM ET 03/23/98 Latrobe,PA - Ch 46 160.230 (Doesn't Stop)

Detector: CH 46 160.230 10:06 AM ET Hillside Train Speed 66 MPH
Detector: CH 46 160.230 10:17 AM ET MP 295.0

MON 10:40 AM ET 03/23/98 Johnstown,PA - Ch 46 160.230

Detector: CH 46 160.230 11:00 AM ET
Detector: CH 46 160.230 11:25 AM ET MP 243

At 11:25 AM we just went around the famouse Horseshoe Curve! At the same time we were going around, a freight train was going around in the other direction. Because our train has over 20 cars, I could see the front and back ends of our train at the same time. We are being pulled by 2 Genesis locomotives. I could also see the freight train on both sides of the Horseshoe Curve at the same time. The south side of this train is definitely the side to sit on when heading east.

MON 11:42 AM ET 03/23/98 Altoona,PA - Ch 46 16?.230

I'm definitely on the wrong side of the train! There are some old Penn Central railroad cars sitting on the other side of the train. I'm just going to have to take this journey again someday and make sure I get seats on the south side of the train if I'm heading east again.

Detector: CH 46 160.230 11:50 AM ET

MON 12:00 AM ET 03/23/98 Tyrone,PA - Ch 46 160.230 (Doesn't Stop)

Detector: CH 46 160.230 12:23 PM ET

MON 12:30 PM ET 03/23/98 Huntingdon,PA - Ch 46 160.230

Detector: CH 46 160.230 12:23 PM ET Newton-Hamilton Train Speed 77

MON 01:15 PM ET 03/23/98 Lewistown,PA - Ch 46 160.230


The Lewistown-Junction Train Station.

Detector: CH 46 160.230 01:23 PM ET Shawnee
Detector: CH 46 160.230 01:37 PM ET MP 148
Detector: CH 46 160.230 01:44 PM ET Thompson Town
Detector: CH 46 160.230 02:08 PM ET Aquaduct

MON 03:00 PM ET 03/23/98 Harrisburg,PA - Ch 35 160.635

I noticed that there is now overhead electrical power above the tracks. I think this started right here at Harrisburg. I don't know if they swapped out our locomotives for electrics, but I will have to check on that. Looking at the Northeast Timetable, the only trains that I see that might use this overhead electric power for most of their journey is the Keystone Service.

MON --:-- PM ET 03/23/98 Elizabethtown,PA - Ch 35 160.635 (Doesn't Stop)

MON 3:39 PM ET 03/23/98 Lancaster,PA - Ch 35 160.635

I just noticed that some of these stations use high-level platforms. Since high-level platforms are not used by Amtrak anywhere out west, I haven't been paying any attention to that. I guess the high-level platforms come in pretty useful with the Amfleet cars as it saves the time of putting down and taking up the steps.

This ride has suddenly become very rocky. I took my camcorder off the seat-back table. I was afraid that the bouncing up and down might cause some harm to it. Hopefully it won't cause any problem for my PC. When the bouncing gets real bad, I have a hard time keeping my fingers on the keys! Fortunately this level of vibration is pretty rare. I think these vibrations are caused when a train goes very fast over tracks which are not up to par for handling that speed. The tracks may be well withing the safety range of handling this speed, but they are not within the precision range of proving a smooth ride.

It looks like we are running about 25 minutes behind schedule. I'll probably make my last entry in this travelogue in Paoli and then finish anything further from the hotel.

MON --:-- PM ET 03/23/98 Downingtown,PA - Ch ?? 16?.??? (Doesn't Stop)

MON 04:05 PM ET 03/23/98 Paoli,PA - Ch ?? 16?.???

MON --:-- PM ET 03/23/98 Ardmore,PA - Ch ?? 16?.??? (Doesn't Stop)

MON 05:00 PM ET 03/23/98 Philadelphia,PA - Ch ?? 16?.???

Made it to the hotel! The train arrived late into Philadelphia by about only 20 minutes or less. Actually, I'm writing this follow-up from my hotel near Newport News, Virginia the following day. Thus, everything I write from here on will be past tense.

Checking my e-mail, I found that I already had clarification waiting for me about the type of car I was riding in on the Amtrak Three Rivers! Gene Poon, who writes for Rail Travel News, and Tommy Batts, who provides Amtrak information and photos on the web at www.trainweb.com/amtraktb, wrote that I was definitely riding on an Amfleet II Car. These are the differences that they listed: The windows ARE bigger, the numbers are in the 25000 class, and there is 1 instead of 2 vestibule/entry doors. The Amfleet II Cars also have leg and foot rests. Thanks go to Gene Poon and Tommy Batts for that information! I see that I still have a lot to learn about riding coach!

I also received e-mail from Carol Larsen who has contributed a number of travelogues to TrainWeb that you can read at: http://trainweb.com/travelogues/logcarol.htm. Carol castigated me for not writing any travelogue at all for the segment of my rail journey on the Southwest Chief! Probably, rightly so. My excuse was that I have provided many travelogues for this route and another wasn't terribly necessary. Since my travelogues have very little to do with the scenery along the way, I guess that excuse didn't make much sense. My travelogues pretty much cover the events along the way. So, in a nutshell, here is the real story: I had quite a bit of work to catch up on, including a special project that is going to take a couple of months for me to complete which will add an extremely useful tool to TrainWeb for both our visitors and our sponsors. I worked that entire segment of the trip and only left my room one time for a meal. Since I didn't get a chance to really interact with anyone on the train and nothing special happened on the train (the Southwest Chief is one of the most reliable trains), there wasn't a whole lot to write about! Not a great excuse, but it will have to make do.

There is an item that is the outcome of my trip on the Amtrak Southwest Chief that I would like to expand on. I brought my videocamera along on the trip as I have done for the past several months. However, this time, I also brought along my tripod. This tripod is a special light-weight one that I purchased for $29.95 just for this trip. I had to carry it in its original box as it did not fit in my roller suitcase nor in my backpack. Even if I had bought one that would fit, there was just no room with everything else that I needed.

I sat on one seat in my Standard Bedroom and folded the other seat down flat, the way it is when it is turned into a bed. I set the tripod up on that surface. If you are traveling alone, you might want to open up flat the chair across from you, even if you don't need it for a tripod! It is very comfortable just for resting your legs and feet. Then, it is more like having a couch in your room instead of just two facing single seats! When I open up the table to use my computer, the flat seat becomes additional workspace surface right next to the computer which is really handy!

I ran the videocam continuously during all the daylight hours of the entire journey. Unfortunately, I only had 4 tapes and could only save 8 hours of the journey. Whenever I thought I had captured something on the tape worth saving, I'd put it aside and not reuse it. Power was not a problem since I ran the videocamera from the AC outlet instead of from a battery.

I was so pleased with how well this turned out that I decided to do the same for the rest of the journey! The only problem now, was obtaining enough blank tapes! The following describes how I solved that problem:

Once I arrived in Chicago, I put my luggage in a locker. Even though they would give me a place to store it in the Metropolitan Lounge, I don't like leaving my luggage unsecured for hours where I can't see it. I'm not so worried about theft as I'm worried a traveler or Red Cap will mistake it for another piece of luggage and send it off on the wrong train! After putting my stuff in the locker, I went to the change machine and got enough quarters to handle the maximum charge for the day. I don't want to come back to claim my luggage a few minutes before departure time only to find the change machine out of order!

Next, I went to the taxi stand. As long as the station is open, the line of available taxis seems to be never ending! I got into a cab and asked the driver to take me to the nearest general department store. He seemed confused, so I mentioned a few names: "K-Mart, Thrifty, Target, Walgreens." That last one rung a bell and off we went! I doubt it was the closest store to the station, but it was probably the only one that the driver was familiar with. Just taking a guess, I purchased 8 double packs of Video8 tape which would give me 32 hours of recording time. Also, I purchased more AA batteries of which I forgot to bring more than one extra pack with me. The taxi had waited outside for me, so I just got back in and headed back to the station. My calculations show that I should have plenty of tape for the remaining daylight hours of my rail journey.

I'm not sure exactly what I plan to do with these tapes, but I have a number of ideas of things I can do with these recordings in the future. It will give me a chance to get any assortment of stills of scenery along the way that I want for new material that I may compose about the Amtrak routes. The video can also be used in the creation of future rail related videos, either by myself or others that produce a video on the topic. Unless I change my mind, I will probably continue to record these videos of scenery along the routes whenever I travel alone. I'll try to get one made from each side of the train as time goes on, but will probably not repeat recording the same route unless the hours of daylight travel have expanded or changed. Also, I doubt I'll make the videos when traveling with friends or family. There just isn't enough room for the people and the camera! Besides, it also picks up the sound which would include all conversations in the room!

Well, back to the Amtrak Three Rivers. I packed up and got ready to leave the train around Paoli, Pennsylvania. Though I wasn't able to confirm the radio channel, I suspect that it ramained Channel 35 160.635 almost to Philadelphia. Once in Philadelphia, it may have changed to the channel used on the Northeast Corridor which I believe is (Channel 54 160.930), or to a channel used just by Philadelphia if there is one.

I took a cab to the Holiday Inn at 400 Arch Street. I found that the cab fare can run anywhere from about $7 to $10 depending on the driver, the traffic and the route they take. The hotel itself was $95 per night with the Auto Club discount, but that becomes more like $120 or so after taxes and such. The room was large and pleasant. There was a restaurant downstairs and room service available until late. I would not mind staying at this hotel again.

I arrived at the hotel just a bit after 5 P.M. The train for the next segment of my journey was scheduled to leave out of Philadelphia at 4:05 AM. Thus, I wouldn't be staying in the room very long. As things turned out, as I shall explain, I spent a bit less time than I even first expected in the room!

The rest of what I have to talk about really belongs with the rail travel segment on the Amtrak Twilight Shoreliner. You can CLICK HERE to go the travelogue of that segment of my journey now!


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