Steve's Fall '97 Amtrak Journey
Sept 28 - Oct 7, 1997
Amtrak Silver Star - Train #92
Miami, FL to New York City, NY
The sixth segment of my rail journey was on the Amtrak Silver Star
from Miami, Florida to New York City.
Florida Tri-Rail Commuter Service
The above photo is not of the Amtrak Silver Star, but was a photo
taken of a Florida Tri-Rail Locomotive from my Viewliner window.
Thursday, Oct 2, 1997, 09:00 AM EDT, Miami, FL
Radio: Channel 66 - 161.100 - Miami,FL to Orlando,FL.
I stayed at the Howard Johnsons Hotel on Biscayne Boulevard last night.
With the AAA discount, it was only $79 per night before tax. The hotel
was quite nice, certainly much better than the Hotel Pennsylvania in
New York in terms of room quality and ammenities. My room was at the
end of the hall on the 7th floor. The room had two huge double beds
with a large sliding door window that went out to an open air balcony
overlooking the water, the cruise ships, and downtown Miami.
I notice that the Miami Metromover was directly across the street from
my hotel. After putting together information from a number of resources,
I found that it would have been possible for me to take the Metromover
to the Metrorail, the Metrorail to the Tri-State Rail, and the Tri-State
Rail to an Amtrak Station. If I had done that, I could have saved about
$30 in cab fares and experienced just about every mode of rail
transportation that Miami has to offer. Unfortunately, that route would
bypass the Miami Amtrak Station, since Tri-Rail doesn't serve that
station, and left a whole in my coverage of all the Amtrak miles. But,
for next time, if I'm ever just coming to visit this area, I know how
to avoid the $18 cab fare each way plus tip!
Thursday, Oct 2, 1997, 10:30 AM EDT, Miami, FL
Older Amtrak Sleeping Car No Longer In Use
(Editor's note: Pictured is a Heritage Slumbercoach, one of many formerly
operating on eastern long-distance trains. Many of these retired cars are stored
at the facility shown above, in Hileah, FL.)
Amtrak has a pretty nice setup in this station. It is a very modern
facility. I hear this is an industrial area and a rather bad part of
town. There is plenty of parking which pretty much goes unused because
of the questionable safety of leaving a vehicle here overnight.
They have a large model train setup behind enclosed glass. The layout is
of the Miami station and the area around the station. The model train
layout not only includes a model of the station, but also replicas of both
Amtrak trains and Florida Tri-Rail Trains. I didn't think of shooting any
video until afterwords. I guess my experience in Penn Station has got me
spooked about using a video camera in enclosed stations. I won't hesitate
to use the camera out on an open platform, but I'm a bit concerned about
taping in an enclosed station after that last experience.
There is a ton of available seats in the waiting room. Most of them
face the model railroad display. Above the display is a fairly good
size television set. They had "Weird Science" playing on it. I felt
a little self conscious pulling out and working on my computer in the
waiting room while a movie was playing about a couple of computer nerds
that live their life vicariously through their programs, but I did it
While I was working away, a dog that looked like a big black retriever
on a leash came over and sniffed all over my luggage and backpack! It
took me a moment to realize they were going around the station looking
for drugs. The lady behind me got up and ran away. Not that she had any
drugs. She left all her luggage on her seat. The agent was trying to
calm her saying that if she didn't bother the dog, the dog wouldn't
bother her. She just replied: "It has teeth, doesn't it? If it has teeth,
then it can bite!" After the agent left, she returned to her seat.
Thursday, Oct. 2, 1997, 11:10 AM EDT, Miami, FL
Florida Fun Train
The train left right on schedule! Bob, the Car Attendant, came by and
offered to explain about the room which I replied wouldn't be necessary.
He let me know that he would soon have coffee, tea, apple and orange
juice in the refreshment area along with ice. Bob also said that he
would have cookies and anything else that he might be able to obtain
from the Dining Car or Cafe Car available in the refreshment area and
that he would later be stopping by with some complimentary wine and mints.
He did live up to his word and made all those items available! Bob said
to just ring if there was anything at all that I needed.
Thursday, Oct. 2, 1997, 11:35 AM EDT, Hollywood, FL
Hollywood Train Station
Thursday, Oct. 2, 1997, 11:54 AM EDT, Ft. Lauderdale, FL
Near Ft. Lauderdale Airport
Thursday, Oct. 2, 1997, 12:14 PM EDT, Deerfield Beach, FL
Thursday, Oct. 2, 1997, 12:24 PM EDT, Delray Beach, FL
Thursday, Oct. 2, 1997, 12:50 PM EDT, West Palm Beach, FL
Bob just came to my room with a gift from the Amtrak Silver Service.
It was a box that contained a wine glass engraved with "Silver Star",
"Silver Meteor" and "Silver Palm" and a bottle of Sutter Home
Sauvignon Blanc from California! Well, I will save as souveniers the glass,
the box and even the paper stuffing because they all have Amtrak logos on
them. But, I won't be saving the wine since it doesn't say anything about
Amtrak on it and isn't even from the east coast! Down the hatch!
Thursday, Oct. 2, 1997, Sebring, FL
I don't know what time we stopped at Sebring as I was off having lunch
in the Dining Car. I was very fortunate to be seated with
Jose Zorrilla. He was just finishing
up lunch as I was seated at his table. We got to talking about train
travel and he brought up the internet. I explained what I did and quite
a bit about TrainWeb. He was traveling from Florida to Los Angeles, but
he booked his reservations only one month in advance. Since accommodations
on the Sunset Limited fill up pretty quickly, Amtrak Vacations booked
him via the Silver Star to New York, the Lakeshore Limited to Chicago,
and the Southwest Chief to Los Angeles. I don't want to put down Amtrak
Vacations as they can sometimes be a great place to book Air-Rail travel
and to get trip insurance for your Amtrak travel, but they didn't discuss
with him the options of going via the Sunset Limited or even the
ability to book a room all the way from Washington,DC to Los Angeles via
the Capital Limited / Southwest Chief through train. That is why I always
suggest checking with one of the travel agencies with a lot of experience
that are listed on the TrainWeb Agencies Page at
Jose Zorrilla seemed to be fairly experienced at exploring the web and
was aware of Amtrak's page on the web. We talked quite a bit about both
trains and the web and expect to meet this evening for dinner. We stayed
so long at lunch time that they had to politely kick us out so they could
start to get the car ready for dinner!
So far, this sleeping car is pretty empty. I'm in room 8 and Jose
Zorrilla is in room 12 and I think there are a couple of other people
in this car. Other than that, most rooms are empty. I suspect that
more might be joining us as we go through additional large cities in
the south like Orlando, Jacksonville, Savannah, etc. I'll keep my
eye on that.
The luncheon selection in these single level dining cars is usually
pretty limited, but I thought it was quite good. I had a grilled
breast of chicken sandwich which was served with some type of chicken
Thursday, Oct. 2, 1997, 3:10 PM EDT, Winter Haven, FL
Thursday, Oct. 2, 1997, 4:01 PM EDT, Kissimmee, FL
Radio: Channel 66 - 161.100 - Miami,FL to Orlando,FL.
Radio: Channel 32 - 160.590 - Orlando,FL to Denmark,SC.
The transition point from Channel 66 to Channel 32 is only approximate.
I know they were using Channel 66 in Winter Haven and were using Channel
32 by the time we got to Orlando. The switch was somewhere between those
Thursday, Oct. 2, 1997, 4:35 PM EDT, Orlando, FL
Three Japanese people with big professional movie cameras and sound
recording systems just walked by my window. This is far from the first
time I've seen Japanese film crews both on and off the Amtrak trains.
Do they have more movies about Amtrak in Japan than in the states?
The Engineer just said over the radio: "Smile! You're on Candid Camera!"
I've heard some people say that the Japanese are not interested in our
trains because their trains are so much more "high-tech," but you can't
convince me from my experiences that they aren't fascinated by the Amtrak
We left Kissimmee about 9 minutes late, but we arrived quite early into
Orlando. I didn't realize this until I started to think we must be
loosing a lot of time since we had to stay at the Orland station so long.
When the train started moving, I checked the clock and saw that it was
leaving right on time! Thus, the only reason the train stayed so long was
because it cannot leave until the scheduled departure time. Guess there
must have been some padding in the schedule for Orlando!
Thursday, Oct. 2, 1997, 4:53 PM EDT, Winter Park, FL
Thursday, Oct. 2, 1997, 5:17 PM EDT, Sanford, FL
I know in some parts of the country people appear to have a very strong
accent relative to people from other parts of the country. However, the
southern drawl of the Engineer of our train is so strong that I can't
make out a single word that he utters over the radio! Hopefully, the
Conductors and Dispatchers are much more used to that accent and can
understand it a lot better than I can! I can understand the Conductor
completely when he talks on the radio.
Thursday, Oct. 2, 1997, 5:39 PM EDT, DeLand, FL
As I was going down the corridor in my Viewliner Sleeping Car, I
was wondering what she was doing standing out in the middle of the
corridor. Then I realized her mother was probably using the toilet
and there is noplace to go when your travel companion kicks you out
of a Viewliner Bedroom while you wait for them to use the toilet.
Thursday, Oct. 2, 1997, 6:27 PM EDT, Palatka, FL
Thursday, Oct. 2, 1997, 8:12 PM EDT, Jacksonville, FL
I just returned from a pleasant dinner with Jose Zorrilla. This time I
brought an Amtrak National Timetable, an Amtrak Northeast Timetable and
and updated San Diegan schedule for him, items which were not provided
to him by Amtrak Vacations. He should find these quite useful for the
rest of this trip and in planning future trips. We continued our
discussion of trains, computers and the internet over dinner.
Since I had a late lunch, I had my dinner at the 7 PM seating instead
of the earlier 5:30 PM seating. We both had the stuffed red peppers.
Looks like we even have a bit in common over our eating philosophy.
I try to just eat one meal each day when I'm on the train, but he
manages to do that all the time. When I first started traveling by
train, I used to eat all 3 meals plus any snacks or happy hour
munchies provided. Like a cruise ship, that will leave you with more
pounds when you get off the train than you had when you got on.
Since then, I've learned to always skip at least one meal each day
on the train and to not even eat two meals if I'm not hungry at the
dinner call. There is no rule that says that you have to eat everything
that is provided just because it is included with the price of your
ticket! The one thing that is not included in your ticket is a personal
trainer to help you get the weight off that you might gain on the
Both of us feel the most important thing is to reduce fat in the diet
and that the best way to do that is to limit meat consumption. I'll
have an occassional steak maybe once a month or maybe a fast-food
hamburger once in a while, but generally I stick to either chicken or
turkey and will always pick an interesting vegetarian dish whenever
available. That is one thing I like about Amtrak travel. They always
have a vegetarian item on the menu and it is often something interesting
This time they had stuffed red peppers. They were stuffed with rice and
black beans instead of meat plus some very mild salsa. They also had
a bit of cheese. I could taste the cheese but I didn't see any. It was
served with two types of mellon, red grapes, a salad and a roll. I had
the same item on my trip down on the Silver Palm. It was just as good
this time as it was on the trip down which was quite good! I ordered
a glass of white zinfandel to go with that and skipped desert. Some type
of peanut butter pie and key lime pie was on the desert offering. I just
had a cup of coffee as my desert. Although the meal is complimentary,
alcoholic beverages are a little extra. My wine was $3. After dinner, we
both left a tip and headed off to our rooms.
On the way out, we realized we missed a chance to step off the train
for about a half hour. We got into Jacksonville, Florida, a little early
and the train had to await its scheduled departure time at 8:12 PM.
They were just closing up and getting ready to head off.
On my way through the sleepers I noticed that they had filled up
quite nicely, just as I had predicted. I guessed a lot of people would
be boarding at places like Orlando and Jacksonville, and they did!
Here is a little note for those of you that need to charge batteries
on the train: you need to be careful. Trains do lose power from time
to time. With most modern chargers, this can be a problem. Many new
chargers will first discharge the battery before it starts to charge
up the battery. It is very important to do that with NiCads if you
don't want them damaged by the "memory effect." If you charge a battery
on the train and the train loses power for a short while, many of these
new chargers will start the "decharge/recharge" cycle all over again!
Thus, if it seems to be taking much longer than usual to charge up your
battery, it may be that the train lost power for a short time during
the charge cycle.
Actually, I had even left my computer running while I went off to eat.
Fotunately, when the power goes out, the battery in the notebook
computer keeps everything running just like a back-up power supply.
Thus, nothing was lost during the short power outage while I was
away at dinner.
Well, here we are in Jacksonville, Florida! The city that I passed
through yesterday, am here again today, and will be returning to on
Saturday for about 10 hours to wait for the westbound Sunset Limited.
The road frequency is still Channel 32, 160.590. The wording has
changed. It starts out with "Equipment Defect Detector." I thought
it was going to say "Equipment Defect Detected." Maybe the Engineer
though so too. The train decellerated in the middle of that sentence,
sort of like your car would do if you just took your foot off the
gas without applying the brakes. But, then the train quickly
re-accelerated as the detector finished its report.
Thursday, Oct. 2, 1997, 10:30 PM EDT, Savannah, GA
Thursday, Oct. 2, 1997, 11:54 PM EDT, Denmark, SC
Radio: Channel 66 - 161.100 - Denmark,SC to Rocky Mount,NC.
Radio: Channel 32 - 160.590 - Heading north after Rocky Mount,NC.
The transition point from Channel 66 to Channel 32 is only approximate.
I know they were using Channel 66 in Columbia,SC when I went to sleep
and were using Channel 32 when I woke up just before arriving in
Rocky Mount,NC. The switch was somewhere between those
Friday, Oct. 3, 1997, 01:08 AM EDT, Columbia, SC
Friday, Oct. 3, 1997, ??:?? AM EDT, Camden, SC
Friday, Oct. 3, 1997, ??:?? AM EDT, Hamlet, NC
Friday, Oct. 3, 1997, ??:?? AM EDT, Southern Pines (Pinehurst), NC
Friday, Oct. 3, 1997, ??:?? AM EDT, Raleigh, NC
Friday, Oct. 3, 1997, 07:55 AM EDT, Rocky Mount, NC
I woke up to find that we were running about an hour late and that
the road channel had switched from 66 back to 32 again. An hour late
isn't too bad. They could make some of it up. Between Washington,DC
and New York City,NY, this train only drops people off and doesn't
pick anyone up. That is the only circumstance under which the train
is allowed to leave ahead of schedule since nobody is expecting to
board the train at a set time. The schedule allows the train up to
4 hours and 50 minutes to get from Washington, DC to New York, NY.
That would be an average speed over 225 miles of about 50 miles per
hour. That stretch of track is the Northeast Corridor (NEC) which
has no freight interference and no grade crossings and where trains
commonly run up to and over 100 miles per hour! Thus, if we don't
have any further delays, my guess is that we will still come into
New York early, even though we are already running about one hour
The dining car made their first announcement over the P.A., which was
to call numbers for people who were awaiting seating for breakfast.
That has to mean this train is quite full! Usually the first call to
breakfast is to let people know that breakfast is being served and
to come down to the diner if you want breakfast. If they are already
calling numbers, that means the diner filled up with just the people
who tried to get in early before the first announcement.
Friday, Oct. 3, 1997, 09:20 AM EDT, Petersburg, VA
Friday, Oct. 3, 1997, 10:02 AM EDT, Richmond, VA
Marina at inlet to Potomic River south of Lorton, VA
Auto Train in Lorton, Virginia
Friday, Oct. 3, 1997, 11:40 AM EDT, Alexandria, VA
George Washington National Masonic Memorial
Friday, Oct. 3, 1997, 12:44 PM EDT, Washington, DC
Friday, Oct. 3, 1997, 01:24 PM EDT, Baltimore, MD
Friday, Oct. 3, 1997, 02:27 PM EDT, Wilmington, DE
Friday, Oct. 3, 1997, 03:04 PM EDT, Philadelphia, PA
Radio: Channel 32 - 160.590 - Heading North Out Of Rocky Mount,NC.
Radio: Channel 54 - 160.920 - Wilmington,DE to New York,NY.
The transition point from Channel 32 to Channel 54 is only approximate.
I know they were using Channel 32 in Petersburg,VA and then were using
Channel 54 in Wilmington,DE. The change could have been anywhere between
those two stations, even as early as Washington,DC.
A large group of about 40 people boarded the train last night and all
came to the diner at the same time at 6:30 AM for breakfast. Since the
diner doesn't even hold that many people, that created quite a problem!
Some people that tried to enter the dining car before 7 AM didn't get
seated until after 8:30 AM! I wasn't even out of bed at that time so
I avoided that problem. Lunch was my first meal of the day.
The lunch crowd wasn't too large. I came in on the first call, there
were plenty of empty seats, and I stayed through the last call. Since
so many people had to eat breakfast later than they expected, it was
probably still to early for many to be hungry for lunch yet.
We are currently running about 1 hours and 20 minutes late. That should
still be plenty of time for me to get into New York to catch the
southbound Silver Meteor at 7:05 PM this evening. But, if this train
falls behind much further, I'm going to have to seriously start to
consider getting off at Newark, New Jersey, and taking the Silver Meteor
south out of there at 7:23 PM.
Friday, Oct. 3, 1997, 03:46 PM EDT, Trenton, NJ
Friday, Oct. 3, 1997, 04:24 PM EDT, Newark, NJ
Friday, Oct. 3, 1997, 04:45 PM EDT, New York, NY
The train arrived into Penn Station in New York in plenty of time for
me to make my connecting train at 7:05 PM. Arriving late just means I
have less time to wait in the Metropolitan Lounge.
Metropolitan Lounge - New York Penn Station
The lounge was pretty crowded when I arrived. As a matter of fact,
the entire station was very crowded when I arrived. This is right
in the middle of the rush hour in New York and people are rushing to
take trains everywhere. They have some type of Executive Club here
at the New York Amtrak Station. It seems to be a plan where certain
commuters with upgrade rail accommodations also get access to the
Metropolitan Lounge. Plus, there are just a lot of trains coming and
going at this hour in the in New York!
In most of the Amtrak Metropolitan Lounges, you can find electricity
for your computer and you will find pay telephones. Sometimes you can
even find a phone line that I you can use with a credit card with your
computer. Most of the Metropolitan Lounges also have at least one
computer for use by the people in the lounge. There is seldom anyone
ever using those computers. They usually have one or more online
services installed such as America Online, but I don't remember ever
seing one with a modem hooked up. The computer in the New York Lounge
was running Windows 3.11, but you had to know to type "win" to get it
going since it came up to a "C:>" prompt when booted up. Two different
older versions of America Online were installed, but there wasn't any
modem hooked up. There was a phone jack, but I didn't try it with my
computer to see if it was live. There were phones in various places
around the lounge, but I didn't check to see if they were the type
that you could plug in your telephone and use with a credit card.
- Sleeping Car Attendant: Robert (Bob) McIntosh
- Chief of Onboard Services: C. A. Harrington
- Ch 66 - No Defects - Total Axles 052 - Ft. Lauderdale
- Ch 66 - No Defects - Total Axles 052 - Amatol (sp?), Florida
- Ch 66 - No Defects - Total Axles 052 - West Palm Beach
- Ch 66 - Mile Post 952.1 - (btw W. Palm Beach & Sebring, FL)
- Ch 66 - Mile Post 829.3 - (btw Sebring & Winter Haven, FL)
- Ch 32 - No Defects - Total Axles 052 - Orange City, Florida
(btw Sanford & DeLand, FL)
- Ch 32 - Mile Post 592.0 - (btw Jacksonville,FL & Savannah,GA)
- Ch 32 - Mile Post 572.0 - (btw Jacksonville,FL & Savannah,GA)
- Ch 32 - Mile Post 551.1 - (btw Jacksonville,FL & Savannah,GA)
Train Length 1240 - Total Axles 060
(where did we get 8 more axles?)
- Ch 66 - Mile Post 414.1 - (btw Savannah,GA & Denmark,SC)
- Ch 66 - Mile Post 395.4 - (btw Denmark,SC & Columbia,SC)
- Ch 66 - Mile Post 371.6 - (btw Denmark,SC & Columbia,SC)
- Ch 32 - Mile Post 033.7 - (btw Rocky Mount,NC & Petersburg,VA)
- Ch 32 - Mile Post 017.4 - (btw Petersburg,VA & Richmond,VA)