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Dan Chazin's Trip on the Amtrak Twilight Shoreliner
New York-Boston
TrainWeb.com/travelogues/dchazin/1998i23a/1998i23a.html

It's 12:25 a.m. on Wednesday, September 23, 1998, and I've just arrived at Penn Station, New York to board the northbound Twilight Shoreliner to Boston. I left my house at about 11:10 p.m. and walked to Route 4, from where I took the #171 bus to the George Washington Bridge Bus Station, and then I took the A train down to Penn Station. I had to wait awhile for the subway, and it made all the local stops at this hour of the night, so the trip ended up being rather slow.

When I arrived at Penn Station, I noticed that the monitor showed that my train had already arrived on Track 14. So I walked down to that track (although the track for the departure of the train was not yet shown on the monitor). Interestingly, a NJ Transit North Jersey Coast train was boarding on Track 13, on the opposite side of the same platform. When I got down to the platform, I noticed that there was no engine on the train. I left my suitcase in a coach and then went back upstairs to purchase a ticket. Although all ticket windows are closed at this hour, tickets may be purchased with a credit card from vending machines. I found that, since this is a reserved train, the basic one-way fare is $50.00, and that a Custom Class ticket costs $63.00 -- only $13.00 more. So I decided to pay the extra charge for a Custom Class ticket, which offers roomier seating, complimentary beverages, and access to the Twilight Lounge -- a dinette car with tables.

I then went back down to the platform, moved my suitcase to the Custom Class car, and walked down to check out the train. Tonight, the Twilight Shoreliner has two AEM-7 electric engines, two MHC cars, three handicapped-modified Amfleet I coaches, a cafe car without tables, a 60-seat Custom Class coach, the Twilight Lounge, and a Viewliner sleeper (Village View). Interestingly, all three coaches have been retrofitted with strips of electric plugs along the seats, but my Custom Class car is not so equipped, and both plugs are blocked by seats. I will have to find some other place to use and/or recharge my computer when its batteries run low. There are only about five people in my car, and the regular coaches also have many pairs of empty seats.

Soon, an attendant came around and gave me a small pillow and a blanket (it seems that on this train, pillows are provided to everyone, but blankets are provided only to Custom Class passengers). We left Penn Station at 1:02 a.m., just two minutes late. I moved over to the left side of the train for the beautiful view of the Hell Gate Bridge, with the Manhattan skyline in the background. Then, since I wasn't very tired, I walked back to the lounge car, where I obtained a can of cranberry juice, and wrote out some checks to pay bills. This Twilight Lounge car features tablecloths and candles on all the tables -- something I have never seen in a lounge car on any other train.

I returned to my seat and rested for awhile. At 2:39 a.m., we pulled into the New Haven station. Here, our electric engines were replaced by diesel F-40 engines #207 and #268. The New Haven-Boston line is one of the few places where these engines are still being used by Amtrak, most having been retired in favor of newer equipment. I walked down to the station, which is one of the most beautiful stations in the Northeast Corridor. I noticed that the tracks in the station had recently been renumbered. There are 8 tracks, with numbers extending up to Track 10 -- except that the fourth track, for some very strange reason, is now designated Track 23!

Soon, I returned to the platform and reboarded the train. We are scheduled to leave New Haven at 3:05 a.m., but we did not actually depart until 3:20 a.m., apparently because of additional time needed to load mail onto the train. Although we are now 15 minutes late, this should not affect our arrival time in Boston, since there is plenty of slack built into our schedule. (Indeed, the weekend Twilight Shoreliner is not scheduled to leave New Haven until 3:20 a.m., and it arrives at Boston the same time as our train.)

I rested at my seat for about an hour, and then went back to the lounge car, where I did some work with my computer. In the meantime, the batteries on my computer were running low, so I decided to plug it into an outlet located in a large compartment in the front of the car, where there was a public phone. Then I obtained a cup of tea and a muffin. (The drinks were all free, but I had to pay for the muffin.) At 4:20 a.m., we made a brief stop at the beautiful, historic station in New London. This brought back memories of the many times I had taken the Montrealer to Montreal, with a long stop at New London which permitted me to get off and walk around. I understand that Amtrak is looking to construct a new station here in New London, but the old station is still in use for now.

We also made brief stops at Mystic, Westerly and Kingston. Before we arrived at Providence, I walked through the train and found that there were only 59 passengers aboard the four standard coach cars on the train (including the cafe car) -- nowhere near the capacity of the train. I did have the opportunity to examine the manifest a little later, and noticed that all rooms in the sleeper (with the exception of the handicapped bedroom) appeared to be occupied by passengers.

We arrived at the Providence station at 5:28 a.m. Our train is not scheduled to depart Providence until 6:00 a.m., so this gave me some time to look around the station. This is a very new station, constructed as part of a project to move the Amtrak line away from its historic location through the city. The platforms are rather bleak looking, and the exterior of the station building is quite austere, but the waiting room is very attractive, with a high domed ceiling and curved wooden benches. Although I have passed through this station a number of times, this is the first instance in which I have had a chance to walk upstairs and take a good look at the station. I was amused to note that, on the train arrival board, our train was still shown as the Night Owl. Presumably, no one had bothered to reprogram the board since the Twilight Shoreliner started operating, over a year ago.

I also noticed in the station some new bi-level MBTA cars, part of an early morning commuter train to Boston. These cars, which featured 3-and-2 seating, seemed quite attractive. Apparently, of the four tracks in the Providence station, two tracks are used by Amtrak, and the other two tracks are used by the MBTA for commuter service to Boston.

We departed Providence on time at 6:00 a.m. (The long station stop at Providence exists merely to enable the train to arrive at Boston at the fairly reasonable hour of 6:55 a.m., thus allowing sleeping car passengers a little more rest.) It was now beginning to get light out, so I could see some of the scenery. I noticed that the new catenary for the New Haven-Boston electrification project had been installed for some distance north of Attleboro. (Further north, the installation of the catenary has not been completed, and around South Station, it has not even been started.) At 6:30 a.m., we passed over the historic Canton Viaduct, built in the early 1830s, and still being used for today's high-speed trains. The top of the viaduct has recently been widened in preparation for the new American Flyer trains, but the lower part remains largely as constructed in the 1830s. I had visited this viaduct on my last two trips to the Boston area, but it is difficult to appreciate its significance while traveling over it on a train. I also noticed the beautiful old Canton Junction station just north of the viaduct. A high pedestrian overpass has recently been constructed at this station, with a long, complicated set of ramps to make it handicapped accessible.

After brief stops at the Route 128 and Back Bay stations, we arrived at South Station in Boston at 6:54 a.m., one minute early. This station was renovated a few years ago, but some of its beauty has been marred by the construction of a parking garage over the platforms. However, there still is some open space between the front of the garage and the station building itself. As I walked towards the station, I noticed F-40-TC engine #197 in front of an Amtrak train on an adjacent track. The engine was not coupled to the train behind it (which had another engine attached at the opposite end of the train), so it apparently had been used as a switch engine to pull this outbound train into the station. My friend Matt Donnelly, who follows the whereabouts of all these F-40-TC engines with great interest, should be delighted to hear this news! I walked through the station, and boarded the Red Line subway train on my way to Harvard Square, where I arrived only 15 minutes or so later. (Parenthetically, I might add that I was rather surprised to find that the full fare on the Boston subway -- commonly referred to as the "T" -- is only 85 cents!).

This was my second trip on the Twilight Shoreliner, and I again found it to be a pleasant, comfortable way to take an overnight trip from New York to Washington and Boston.

Many more rail travelogues for you to read:
Dan Chazin / Other Writers


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