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From - Sat Feb 20 13:24:02 1999
Date: Mon, 8 Feb 1999 11:07:56 -0500
From: Joe Kurland
Subject: Observations from the RPO

Aboard the Silver Star, thursday, 2/4/99

We rode Amtrak from Albany to New York City this morning--first time I've had the opportunity to come into Penn Station from the recently reopened tracks that go down the west side of Manhattan. The trainset is the one used for the "Ethan Allen" that goes to Rutland, VT with it's mountain scene painted on the baggage car. I like the idea of painting a scene on the car, but think it would like nicer for the painting to cover the entire side of the car instead of just the space between the two doors, and there's no need for the painting of the train to take up such a large portion of the painting. After all, everyone can see that it's an Amtrak train even if no train were in the picture. Even though there is a baggage car, they're not accepting checked baggage for this train and we have to carry everything aboard and check it at Penn Station in New York City.

For those who are interested in New Haven locomotives, I saw a pair of A units (don't really know what kind they were) the lead unit in Metro-North colors, the following painted in New Haven orange, white and black. They were headed north into Croton-Harmon not pulling anything. Any engine with a NH paint scheme may be a museum piece, but it appeared to be in regular service. Just thought you might like to know, and wondered if anyone knows more about these old timers.

I, for one, really like to see colorful old paint schemes kept in service even when the railroads they're from are no longer in existence. I think of the beautiful old passenger car paint jobs and wish that Amtrak had kept them. Although Amtrak is getting a little more inventive with their paint jobs, their colors have been, for the most part, boring for the last 25 or so years.

Not boring, though, was the way this portion of the trip started out. A few casually dressed but oddly spiffily groomed men walked up to some men sitting in the middle of our coach, asked them if they had any weapons, asked them off the train with their well stuffed duffel bags. There was no complaining and by the time we got a glimpse out the window, the handcuffs were on. You never know what goes on behind the scenes, but some passengers who were on the train with us said that the police are very careful, observant and thorough in tracking criminals in Penn Station and were not making random searches based only on appearances.

Once we're out of the tunnel, Aaron (5) is looking at the scenery passing by the window. He identifies the factory buildings he see's in Newark, NJ as being Holyoke buildings because they look like the Lyman Mill factory building on my Holyoke HO module.

I don't remember this ever being done before, but they changed engines in Philadelphia. I thought they usually run electric all the way to DC. I'm wondering if they're short of electric power north of Philly or if there's a diesel that had to be used between Washington and Philly and now needed to be returned. But I never did find out.

Washington Union Station seems to be a bit busier that last time I was through here. Some new looking trains marked Virginia Railway Express. Lots of commuters on the platform at L'enfant.

We're in the coach behind the lounge and since DC the door to our coach isn't closing. I asked the conductor if he could do something about it to keep the cigarette smoke out. He said it was busted and that he couldn't. I saw him try to do something in the electrical controls, and he finally put up a sign on the door asking people to shut the door by hand. Electrically operated doors are convenient until they don't work. But why are they made to stay open when they don't work instead of closed. Or why don't they train someone on the on-board crew to fix such things en route. Seems like I've encountered broken doors on many trips. There are many, many smokers on the train today and some of them are so impatient about their habit that they're sneaking into the rest room to smoke between smoking periods. During the long late evening smoking period it gets so bad in the coach my lungs feel like they are burning.

It's just after midnight and I'll have to look in the schedule to see where we are. A beautiful old station building. Inside a fence is a Seaboard diesel and caboose. A sign on the station says National Railroad Museum, and in a small glass enclosed cross between a building and glass exhibit case is an ancient steam engine. It looks no more than about 14 feet long, not including its tender. I can't read the plaque at this distance. The rear end of it is dome shaped, and I don't think it has an enclosed cab.

Lookiing in the schedule tells me that the National Railroad Museum appears to have been in Hamlet NC.

Friday, 2/5/99

Walking through the train yesterday we noticed a private car at the end. At Jacksonville this morning we got out to walk on the platform and saw that there were two dark olive green (speaking of boring color schemes) Conrail "office cars" on the end of the train that were being detached at Jacksonville. The conductor says that with CSX having bought Conrail, CSX wanted the cars brought down to CSX territory, probably to be repainted. Leaving the station, we see a large number of newly painted CSX boxcars and wonder if they were also recent aquisitions from Conrail.

Also at the Jacksonville station are several RoadRailer wheelsets right next to the platform where you can walk right up to them.

Pulled into West Palm Beach station 7 minutes ahead of schedule.

Joe Kurland

Riding real trains can be as much fun as Models.

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