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New York to Washington DC Amtrak query

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Railroad advice sought!

 

In October we're visiting New York then going on to Washington DC by Amtrak.  Is there anything (rail) of particular interest that we should look out for on the journey?

 

Thanks.

 

Bill

 

I've just discovered that the Michael Portillo Great American train journey series is going to be repeated starting next Monday at 15.45 on BBC 2, which covered this route among others.   Excellent series, but any specifically rail interest would be gratefully received.

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Are you looking for things to see out of the window or reasons to stop and explore a local area? I can't think of too much to see apart from crossing misc lines and thinking "I wonder where that goes"

Edited by ChrisH-UK

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I've done the trip and honestly can't remember much about the journey. What I do remember is Washington Station which was a fantastic piece of architecture, and has been turned into a shopping and eating place.

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Half of Washington Union station is tremendous. The other half is grim.

 

I don't remember any particularly noteworthy scenes out of the window. There are a few high viaducts where you can see a lot of stuff, but I don't remember anything specific. I was pretty wide eyed the whole time though.

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Are you looking for things to see out of the window or reasons to stop and explore a local area? I can't think of too much to see apart from crossing misc lines and thinking "I wonder where that goes"

We're just doing the whole trip in one journey, a "more interesting than flying" sort of thing. Just a thought that there could be unusual bridge or marshaling yard or  loco depot or whatever seen from the train.

Washington Union station sounds good. 

Thanks to all.

Bill

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We did the same journey March last year. First time in the US and having flown into New York and being in the city for a few days, this was my first view of the US countryside. There are a few yards to be seen plus there is the Amtrak depot on theBay wayou though I can't remember where.

 

We opted for the North East Regional train which was far cheaper than the Acela and it is loco hauled.

 

I can dig out some photos that I took en route if you are interested.

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Apart from the Acela trains , everything Amtrak is loco hauled between New York and Washington by Siemens built ACS-64 locomotives - the Northeast Regional trains are perfectly comfortable for that journey - you'll certainly find it an eye opener in terms of space.

 

Railway wise , there are a couple of yards on the way , certainly around Philadelphia and Baltimore , and you'll also pass trains run by the various commuter agencies such as New Jersey Transit , SEPTA and MARC , and more than likely spot the odd Norfolk Southern loco lurking in one of those aforementioned yards.

 

In the Wilmington DE area , there are the big Amtrak works at Bear - these are on the left hand side of the train as you head south , where you can catch a glimpse of some of the electric fleet as well as stored locos.

 

As you approach Washington Union station , on the right hand side will be Ivy City depot - which services Amtrak diesels and electrics , as well as coaching stock , and there is also another part of the facility used by both MARC and VRE commuter rail , both of which use loco hauled trains.

 

Union Station itself has 2 parts - a high level terminus where your train will likely arrive , also used by MARC commuter trains . and some low level through platforms on the left hand side as you arrive. These are where the regional and long distance through trains go and change power from electric to diesel as Washington is now the limit of electrification. One line will contain a "stack" of P42 diesels waiting to re-engine southbound trains. Also you should see a few traditional Amtrak switcher which also seem to lurk around down here.

 

In addition , Virginia Railway Express commuter trains (diesel push-pull) also use the low level platforms for services to Fredericksburg & Manassas.

 

If you have time to kill in the DC area , it's worth taking a trip to either L'Enfant Plaza or Alexandria stations - both of these see Amtrak and VRE trains as well as some CSX freight.

Edited by Supaned
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No railway interest but when in Washington Georgetown is a very nice area to visit . You can go there by metro or underground, whatever it's called, which is of some interest. Take photo ID as you'll need it to get served a drink . I was 47 at the time (and I look it!) but was still asked for ID. Nice bars and Restaurants down by the river . From memory you can see the airliners line up for approach to Washington Reagan too

Edited by Legend
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While in New York you MUST visit Grand Central Terminal.  It's essential to see what a great New York station can be, and remember that in many ways the original Penn Station was even grander.  The current Penn Station is a dump, an embarrassment of a place for a major US city, nothing more than a glorified subway (underground) station. 

 

 

Before leaving the UK you might consider getting a GPS app like Scout for your smartphone.  It will let you download maps ahead of time so that you don't use data running Google Maps etc.  With it you'll be able to figure out which bridge you're crossing, which yard you're passing etc.

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We did the same journey March last year. First time in the US and having flown into New York and being in the city for a few days, this was my first view of the US countryside. There are a few yards to be seen plus there is the Amtrak depot on theBay wayou though I can't remember where.

 

We opted for the North East Regional train which was far cheaper than the Acela and it is loco hauled.

 

I can dig out some photos that I took en route if you are interested.

It's the North East regional train that we are booked on. As you say.considerably cheaper!  Yes please for any photos.

 

Thanks to Supaned for the route details. just the job, and Legend for the Washington details.

 

Bill 

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The current Penn Station is a dump, an embarrassment of a place for a major US city, nothing more than a glorified subway (underground) station.

 

In what way could it be described as "glorified"?

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While in New York you MUST visit Grand Central Terminal.  It's essential to see what a great New York station can be, and remember that in many ways the original Penn Station was even grander.  The current Penn Station is a dump, an embarrassment of a place for a major US city, nothing more than a glorified subway (underground) station. 

 

 

Before leaving the UK you might consider getting a GPS app like Scout for your smartphone.  It will let you download maps ahead of time so that you don't use data running Google Maps etc.  With it you'll be able to figure out which bridge you're crossing, which yard you're passing etc.

Grand Central station definitely on list. Friends who've just visited NY said they went to Highline Park, a converted elevated railway now a walkway in West Manhattan, which had good views.

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While in New York you MUST visit Grand Central Terminal.  It's essential to see what a great New York station can be, and remember that in many ways the original Penn Station was even grander.  The current Penn Station is a dump, an embarrassment of a place for a major US city, nothing more than a glorified subway (underground) station. 

 

 

Before leaving the UK you might consider getting a GPS app like Scout for your smartphone.  It will let you download maps ahead of time so that you don't use data running Google Maps etc.  With it you'll be able to figure out which bridge you're crossing, which yard you're passing etc.

 

 

In what way could it be described as "glorified"?

 

Penn isnt THAT bad....ok maybe its a little disappointing, and especially after the past "Summer of Hell", but I find it charming.

 

But yes, Grand Central is very "grand" and has luckily held a lot of its original charm and atmosphere.  

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Grand Central station definitely on list. Friends who've just visited NY said they went to Highline Park, a converted elevated railway now a walkway in West Manhattan, which had good views.

Yes Highline is definitely worth a visit.  Was very popular too!

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Yes Grand Central in NY is very grand and very atmospheric, appearing in several films . You can't actually see any trains though. I can recommend the Oyster Restaurant in the basement which actually sells a decent fish and chips at reasonable price. On the other hand if you fancy a little lubrication have a cocktail in the bar on one of the side balconies. It overlooks the concourse and is a pleasant way of watching the world go past.

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Photo heavy!  All photos were taken from inside our train.  All photos in order of the journey and are looking south/east.  I can't remember where everything is!

 

Leaving Penn Station showing how dark it is!

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After a long tunnel you emerge a few miles out of New York

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Passing an Acela

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One of the many Norfolk Southern Locos we saw on freight

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Old looking abandoned diesel (not sure where)

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Approaching Philadelphia.  There are some very run down houses along here

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Amtrak Depot

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Running along through and alongside some lakes

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Aberdeen!

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Loco 639 had hauled us all the way

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However our train was going further and 85 took the train forward (I think to Richmond)

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It was a lovely journey and I am sure you will enjoy it.  As a memento, after returning home I purchased a Kato n gauge set with an electric and coaches.  On top of that I bought a couple of diesels to do the changeover at Washington!

 

After a few days in Washington we flew to Seattle from Baltimore airport, using the Marc Train to get to the airport.  Super powered with a  loco and three coaches!

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Edited by kintbury jon
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Half of Washington Union station is tremendous. The other half is grim.

Sounds like Washington DC in general, it's a Jeckyl and Hyde city.

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Probably the most interesting bridge would be the Susquehanna River bridge. It goes over the mouth of the Susquehanna so it is a long bridge with a movable span in the middle (I'm not sure if it moves these days). To the south you have views over the north end of Chesapeake Bay and (on the west side) the very pretty town of Havre de Grace (the railroad passes over the north end of the town). To the north you can see (in order) the Rte. 40, CSX (ex B&O) and I95 bridges, and in the distance, Conowingo dam.

 

The two pictures before Aberdeen above look to be taken looking south from the Susquehanna bridge.

 

Adrian

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There is a branch of the New York Transit Museum in one corner of Grand Central.

Any trainspotting in NYC stations is frustrated by the trains being on either a different level or behind walls. There is a good view of the yards from the north end of the High Line. 

If you want to buy a Metropass (subway & bus), IIRC the ticket sellers only take money. There are machines that take credit cards but only the green ones take Canadian credit cards and this might apply to UK as well.

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What a great thread!! You say 'We're going...' so you can each look out opposite sides of the train and alert the other - one of those journeys. The up-to-date info above says it all and all I can add is the jaw-dropping thrill of looking out of the first coach's gangway window at the massive GG1 rockin'n'rolling. Sorry - Oct. 1974

Jason

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Photo heavy!  All photos were taken from inside our train.  All photos in order of the journey and are looking south/east.  I can't remember where everything is!

 

 

 

 

 

The Budd tail-car in picture 7 is a corker. Definitely pre-war, I think. Can't quite read any lettering except Pullman. 

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The Budd tail-car in picture 7 is a corker. Definitely pre-war, I think. Can't quite read any lettering except Pullman. 

I can't read the name. If I could I could probably figure out the provenance of it. Definitely Budd and, as you say, likely pre-war. Looks to be a sleeper-buffet-lounge-observation car.

 

Further investigation suggests that it is one of the ex-NYC Brook cars (5 bedroom observation buffet lounge), built in 1949 for various services. I believe all seven of these cars are still in existence.

 

Here is Babbling Brook:

http://rrpicturearchives.net/showPicture.aspx?id=3574207

 

More:

http://rrpicturearchives.net/rspicture.aspx?id=523336

 

Adrian

Edited by Adrian Wintle

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There is a branch of the New York Transit Museum in one corner of Grand Central.

Any trainspotting in NYC stations is frustrated by the trains being on either a different level or behind walls. There is a good view of the yards from the north end of the High Line. 

If you want to buy a Metropass (subway & bus), IIRC the ticket sellers only take money. There are machines that take credit cards but only the green ones take Canadian credit cards and this might apply to UK as well.

 

you can buy a metrocard (7 days for $32) with either a UK switch or credit card (or cash) if using a credit card remember to put 00000 in when it asks for the zip code, only problem I had was it wouldn't do more than 2 transactions on a card, so as I needed 5 cards, I had to do 2 on switch, 2 on credit card & 1 with cash . 

 

In grand central I found it quite easy to access the platforms even without a ticket - couple of pics at EWR & Grand Central

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On a city break in NY in April I managed to get away from the family long enough to do a trip to Penn station Newark, NJ, outward via PATH and back via NJ Transit to Hoboken, changing at Secaucus Jc. Loco-hauled trains, some double-deck, on NJ Transit, and while the area could never be called scenic, the journeys were full of railway and industrial interest.

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I did New York to Washington on a "Day return" back in 1991. We went down on "The Montrealer" if I remember correctly. Not very scenic, but it  was my first trip on an American train.

 

To me the large Yank stations are lousy, glam glitter & shops "up top" but cramped and dingy train side. Anyhow our few hours in Washington was superb. We walked from the station (which had back then a nice model railroad store !!)  to the state Capital Grant Memorial, then down to the Lincoln Memorial. Lots too see along the way, Washington Monument, Constitution gardens, Several museums (we visited the Smithsonian National Space & Air museum). etc. Also The White House is just alongside. Walking round outside we saw a uniformed guard with an Alsatian dog, the dog wore a coat emblazoned "Secret Police" - I remember saying "You've blown your cover Fido" - the guard was not amused !!!

 

I liked New York & Washington - but it's San Francisco for me any day !!!

 

Brit15

Edited by APOLLO
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