Location: [Home] [Train Travels] New Haven to Boston -- Reversed
Does this trip seem backwards? After all, I live in New Haven, so going to Boston is travel away from home. Yet this time, a round-trip between the two cities originates and ends in Boston -- or very nearly so. Huh?
This trip was the result of intersecting commitments. Our daughter Rebekah had her regularly scheduled examination under anesthesia in Boston on January 12, to be followed by appointments with her ocularist on January 13 and 14. I, however, had a meeting scheduled for the evening of January 12 which I could not miss, nor did I want to miss any of the medical appointments. We had planned to drive up, as we stay with family members who do not have convenient rail connections to Boston nearby. But that didn't mean I couldn't use the train to get back and forth for this meeting...
So I checked Amtrak's web site, and made my reservations. I chose the Minute Man rather than the later Patriot because I thought I'd need to do some work between arriving at home and leaving for my meeting -- a wise decision. I decided, after some hesitation, to spend the extra dollars on Club Class for the Boston to New Haven leg. I suspected I'd have little time to eat after Bekah came out of anesthesia, and I was simply curious about the Club Class experience. For the Fast Mail I simply ordered a coach ticket, as it has no extra accomodations.
I went to New Haven's Union Station the night before we were to leave for Boston to pick up the tickets. I decided to check out one of the new Quik-Trak machines that were added in New Haven this fall. At the machine's request, I slid my credit card in and out of the slot, and then fetched out the paper which bore my reservation number, expecting to have to punch it in. To my surprise, the display showed my Internet-booked trip already -- clearly it had looked up the reservation using my card number. I simply hit the screen to print the tickets, and I was done. Wow!
After staying with my aunt and uncle in North Reading, MA, the night before, we brought Rebekah in to the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary for the exam. The weather coming in was an ugly snow about two inches deep, but the highway crews had so far only been laying salt and sand. The trucks I saw didn't even have plow blades mounted, let alone lowered! It took us an hour and fifteen minutes to make a trip which should have been 30 minutes.
The results of the examination made my ticket back to Boston unnecessary, as Rebekah's appointments with the ocularist needed to be deferred. Evelyn decided to spend another night in North Reading with Rebekah before driving home. So I shouldered my briefcase and made my way to South Station.
I left somewhat early, expecting that the weather could slow my progress across town, but to my surprise I stepped from the stairs straight aboard a waiting Red Line rapid-transit train at the Charles/MGH stop. I was at South Station fifteen minutes later, with forty-five minutes still to go before my 12:30 pm departure. I spent some time, as I often do, glancing at the shelves of the "Barbara's Bestsellers" book kiosk -- and, as I often do, left with a new book.
To my surprise, there was no early boarding announcement for Club Class passengers, as there frequently is for those with children, mobility problems, or extra service on Amtrak trains. But then, I thought that the train arrived on the track 8 platform rather late, too. The boarding call went out at 12:15, so I carried my briefcase out onto the platform.
It was a pleasant surprise that the Club Class car was at the back of the train rather than the front, as that meant a much shorter walk. This was a Club/Dinette, with the First Class area at the back of the car and the Dinette area forward. The Club seats were large and covered with a plush cloth in a red and grey pattern, and arranged with single seats to the left side and double seats to the right. It did not have electrical outlets at every seat. I settled into one of the single seats, after helping one of my fellow passengers, who was six months pregnant, put her luggage in the overhead rack.
Shortly before we left our attendant appeared, apologizing that her preparations were running a little late and that she would have lunch ready for us as soon as she could. I'm guessing that the last train using this set of cars may have been late and left less time for cleanup and turnaround. From the cafe service area ahead I could hear her speaking with the lounge attendant, who asked her how he could help. I thought that augured well for service on this trip.
We left Boston on schedule at 12:30 pm, and made the short stop at Back Bay Station just down the tracks. I saw lots of construction workers and equipment on either side of the South Station Yard as we passed through it. I don't what's being built, but there were pile drivers, cranes, and earthmoving vehicles aplenty. South of Back Bay, I began to notice that the catenary poles for the electrification of this route were rising, which I hadn't seen much of in Massachusetts before.
The Club attendant came through and took our tickets, but instead of collecting the stubs for the conductor she simply placed them in the overhead strip. As she did she also took orders for drinks. Since she commented on our destinations, I think she mostly wanted to know where we were going. After a while, she stood at the front of the Club Class area and described the lunch menu, which included a Chef's salad, two sandwiches, and two hot entrees. When she came to take my order, I asked for the baked salmon. I'd had a very good salmon aboard the Southwest Chief last spring, but I wasn't quite sure what to expect from an Amfleet lounge kitchen. Since I was only going as far as New Haven, she told me she'd bring my meal as soon as she could.
A couple others with sandwiches and one man who had ordered before me got served before I did, so I'd guess it was after 1:30 pm when my meal arrived. The attendant brought it on a plastic tray, which bore a rectangular plastic plate containing the salmon, potatoes, and broccoli/carrot vegetables, a small salt and pepper shaker, metal silverware, cloth napkin, mint, and roll and butter. To my delight, the meal was excellent. The salmon was good, and had an accompanying sauce with it. The vegetables were passable, and the potatoes were simply excellent. The meal was obviously prepared ahead and warmed airline style, but it had been very well done.
When I'd finished the attendant took my tray, asked if I'd like dessert, and to my yes brought a superb chocolate cheesecake and coffee.
During our stop in Providence, the conductor warned boarding passengers that this was not the train to Boston -- I've heard this warning before, and I've also seen someone who had boarded the wrong train before! As we left, train 170 pulled into the station northbound. Hopefully nobody who should have been on our train remained to board that thinking they were going south!
Beyond Providence, we did not make any of the other Rhode Island stops. We did hit a slow order section just east of Westerly, RI, where we crawled along as we waited for Train 172 to go by. Just inside Connecticut I saw quite a lot of the hi-rail equipped bucket trucks on the south track as they performed wire work.
Coming into New London proper, I noticed a great deal of lumber sitting on a wharf and barge which is served by the Central New England Railway (formerly Vermont Central). I'm not sure whether it was being loaded or unloaded. Beyond New London's old brick station, Amtrak has a small maintenance of way yard, which rarely contains more than a wreck crane, flatcars, and old passenger cars turned MOW crew cars. This day it also hosted two Amtrak MP-15 switcher locomotives, numbers 538 and 531.
Beyond New London, I could enjoy gazing out the window at the views along the Sound as we raced along the shoreline. Rocky Neck State Park looked particularly beautiful this day, with flat glistening sand. I saw no people on the beach, and I'm sure it was very, very cold!
We pulled into New Haven, having made no other stops, at 3:25 pm, about five minutes late. I took a stroll down the platform to get the consist, and then walked into the station. From there I watched the F-40 which had hauled us from Boston pull away, and AEM-7 #943 back onto the front of the train. Still five minutes late, the Minute Man resumed its journey to Washington at 3:40 pm.
As for me, I waited another fifteen minutes before my father could pick me up after getting my son Brendan from the school bus stop. After that, it was back to the computer keyboard for me, getting ready for the meeting that night.