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Steve's Fall '97 Amtrak Journey
Sept 28 - Oct 7, 1997
American Airlines - Los Angeles to New York City

My 10 day journey started with a flight from Los Angeles to New York City. When I travel alone, I like to keep my time away from home as short as possible. It would be impossible for me to cover the Amtrak routes on the east coast if I attemted to do my entire journey by rail. Thus, I usually start my rail journey with an air flight that takes me near the furthest point.

Is it my imagination or are airline seats continuing to shrink? I spent all but the last hour of my flight planning my rail trip. In the last hour I decided to do some work on my computer. Good thing I didn't try to work on my notebook computer earlier. The maximum reclined seat in front of me prevented the notebook computer screen from opening to a viewable position! That has never happened to me before and I'm sure passengers seated in front of me have been reclined to the maximum position. Maybe someone has better knowledge about this but it seems to me that the airlines are puting seats closer and closer together in an attempt to carry as many people per flight as possible.

If you are contemplating your first trip by Amtrak, don't worry about encountering an experience like this on the train. I have never seen seats on any Amtrak train that are as small as or as tightly packed as coach seats on any airline. The width and distance between seats on different types of Amtrak passenger cars varies, but all have plenty of room compared to any airline coach seat. The largest seats with the greatest amount of leg room are the coach seats in the Amtrak Superliner Coach Cars and in the Metroliner Club Cars. The amount of legroom in those seats is enough for a child to stand between your seat and the seat in front of you without bumping knees! (Families traveling with small children in coach find this is often the favorite place that kids like to stand when they get out of their seats).

The more that I travel by airline the less I seem to appreciate it. I think this is only partially because I'm spoiled by the roominess and first class service of traveling by train. I'm sure part of it is because of the reduction of in-flight services, the higher density of airline seating, airport traffic & parking, and the ever growing intrusion of airport security. If I didn't need to fly one-way on these journeys so that I could explore the east coast by rail over a shorter period of time, I'd avoid flying all together!

The first time I ever flew into New York on a rail journey, I made the mistake of taking a taxi from JFK airport to my hotel. That cost a fortune! You even have to pay the toll through the tunnel in addition to the taxi fare! This time I took the Carey Bus service. The bus picks up passengers at every airline terminal and takes them downtown for about $13. From there they put you in a free shuttle van that takes you directly to your hotel, which was the Hotel Pennsylvania directly across from Penn Station in my case.

Hotel Pennsylvania, New York City

Sunday, Sept 28, 1997, 6:00 PM EDT, New York City, NY

Hotel Pennsylvania

I stayed in a "single" room in the Hotel Pennsylvania. Most modern hotels don't have a concept of a "single" room anymore. They all have either king or queen beds or even two king or queen beds per room. That way, every room in the hotel will fit the need of just about everyone. But, when the Hotel Pennsylvania was built, I guess they thought that some rooms should be singles. What you see in the photograph is the entire bed and the entire width of the room! You are not looking at just the left side of the bed, there is nothing but a wall beyond the right end of the photograph!

The room is pretty simple and inexpensive by New York City standards, about $99 to $109 per night. It is also directly across the street from Penn Station and even used to have a tunnel over to the station.

New York City Penn Station

Monday, Sept 29, 1997, 6:50 AM EDT, Penn Station, NY

New York City Penn Station

I got up this morning at 5:40 AM and was into the station at about 6:30 AM. As New York goes, the station was fairly empty. There were only a few dozen people in sight, but they all seemed to be heading to one destination or another. I stopped at one of the few bake shops that was already open and had coffee and a muffin. The people were friendly and the food was good.

I then proceeded to wander about the station with my video camera hoping to get some good shots that I could later convert to stills. From a bit of a distance, I taped the information booth. Shortly after that, the Amtrak staff person in the information booth called me over. In the typical New York fashion she informed me that it was "illegal" to video tape in the station and that I would be arrested if the police saw me doing it!

I thanked her for that information, put away my video camera and headed over to the Amtrak police to confirm her statement. The Amtrak police were very friendly. Sure enough, they confirmed that video taping in the station is not permitted without advance permission from Station Services. Any of you consititutional attornies know if that is true? In any case, I didn't plan to test my own limited knowledge of the constitution in this area of the law. The officer in the Amtrak Police station said that it was a matter of privacy. They were concerned that people not get taped who didn't intend to end up on film.

For those of you that fear this is a general policy throughout the Amtrak system, forget it. New York City is very unique in many respects and I'm sure this is one of them. I've never had any problems with video or still photos in any other station. It would have been nice if they had signs posted along with the "No Smoking" signs like "No Video Taping," but that might be inviting a challenge.

I noticed that the officer in the Amtrak Police station was using his computer. I asked if he ever surfed the web. He said he did and was aware of the Amtrak Police Web Site. I gave him my card and told him about TrainWeb. He wished me a good journey and I left the Amtrak Police Station with a friendly goodbye.

The above photograph is of the Amtrak Information Booth in Penn Station. To the left you can see some "push carts" that are not yet open because of the early hour. These are similar to the "push carts" that you often see in suburban shopping malls. If you look real close, especially in the full size photograph, you can see the lady leaving the Amtrak Information Booth. Little did I know then that the reason she was leaving was to come over to tell me that video-taping is not allowed in Penn Station!

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