Friday, June 29, 2007

Chicago Bound

We’re on the Lake Shore Limited now chugging our way through the Boston suburbs and should be in Albany around 5:30 pm.

I had lunch in the Club Car and noticed a couple who I had seen in the Acela Lounge. He reminds me of Uncle Dick Weagly; I have a sneaking suspicion they may be brother and sister… I’m guessing they are returning to the mid-west somewhere…I’ll guess Minnesota. Or perhaps they will be going all the way across the country like me. They seem to be “of means” and obviously are grabbing a sleeper in Albany too. We’ll keep you posted.

We are now about an hour and a half out of Boston in the hill country west of Worcester – the second largest city in New England. I recall that this is where the Amtrak starts to climb into the foothills and ultimately, the Berkshires (you all know the James Taylor song where he sings, “…the Berkshires seemed dreamlike on account of the frosting…” – those Berkshires).

When I came though here 14 months ago it was late winter and the trees were all bare – no frosting. Despite the full vegetation now, there is still much to see. The track follows the extent bodies of water – the old railway architects certainly picked beautiful places to put their track.

We’ve passed through a number of small mill towns that seem to be fed by the river/stream that we are following. There was a beautiful mill and waterfall a few miles back. We’ll have to see if we can figure out what town that was. Very pretty.

7:00 pm

We finally arrived in Albany about an hour and a half late. The train experienced several delays, some due to “mechanical” issues and some related to the fact that CSX owns the lines and freight gets priority over people. All of the trainmen I’ve spoken to do not have nice things to say about CSX. I find out later that there was a high temperature restriction – when the temps get above 90, the trains need to stay under 45 mph. This was part of the delay. There was also a delay due to a traffic light that would not turn green. On two occasions we actually had to pull off to a siding and wait for another train to pass, then back up and resume our trip. That was a first.

In Albany I met Randy, an “Albanian” who was taking the Lake Shore Limited to Chicago for a conference. We had a nice chat and as I was the senior and resident expert on sleeper cars, I filled him in on what to expect.

There was a woman sitting in front of me with two boys. I noticed she was reading the Portland Press Herald, so I soon learned she was heading to Chicago with her son and nephew. She was concerned about the dining car being open once we go on the main train. I assured her I thought it would be open, and then checked with the information booth in Albany to confirm this.

When we arrived in Albany, I overheard a conductor’s radio report that the LSL coming up from NYC was running at least an hour late due to “a fatality.” This was later confirmed by people I met who were on that train. Apparently someone south of Poughkeepsie decided to commit suicide by Amtrak.

I also met Boyd and his wife, a Rhode Island native who was also heading to Portland, OR. They are going to a wedding. Boyd is retired railroad and his son also works for Amtrak. Boyd and his wife get to ride for free, but have to take coach. Boyd may come in handy.

The train from NYC did not arrive in Albany until almost eight. We finally boarded and I went to the dining car. It was now close to 8:30 and I met a professor from U Maine Farmington. We had a nice chat and ordered our meals, and I a bottle of their finest Chardonnay. We had just started eating our salads when the lights went out. It was a bit romantic for about five minutes. But then the 90 degree outside temperature started to invade the space and they stopped serving – railroad rules.

Those who had not ventured down to the dining car were ordered to stay in their rooms and seats while they tried and failed to fix the problem. Forty five more minutes and another engine hooked up and we are back in the light, but still sitting in Albany. It is now after 9:30 pm – we are about 2-1/2 hours late.

I return to my room and the fatigue of the day is getting to me. I take a shower then return to my roomette to listen to some music. Beddy-bye before 11:00.

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