Location: [Home] [Train Travels] Club Class from Boston
Why do I take so many trips between Boston and New Haven? We have a daughter who is treated for retinal cancer at the Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary and Massachusetts General Hospital, and that requires lots of trips. February 1999 required even more than usual.
On February 2, Rebekah had eye surgery. It was scheduled early in the day, which meant we drove to a nearby town to stay the night before. We have recently decided to stay the night after procedures as well, to give her more time for recovery from anesthesia -- but I had an important standing commitment in Connecticut that Tuesday evening. Unless we wanted to drive two cars (and who does?) that meant the train. Fortunately, I'm more than agreeable.
I decided to buy the Club Class service. I like having a reserved seat, even at the first station on the line. I didn't expect to have time to eat lunch at the hospital, and I'd enjoyed the meal two weeks earlier. I think it's a pretty stiff increase -- $39 -- but after a day in the hospital, I rather hoped it would have some therapeutic effect.
I made my reservations on the Amtrak Web site, and picked up the ticket at a self-serve machine in New Haven Union Station.
I followed my familiar route from the hospital to South Station: the Red Line rapid transit light rail. I had enough time to relax a little and do some browsing at Barbara's Bestsellers, a remarkably well-stocked book kiosk in the station. The speaker announced boarding on track 7 at about 12:20 pm, ten minutes before departure.
As with my last time aboard the Minute Man, the Club Class car was a Club/Dinette at the rear of the train. I was somewhat surprised at how far down the platform the train stood, probably about two or three car lengths. The seats were already filling; I of course still had no trouble finding an empty single chair on the left side of the train.
The attendant, who was the same woman who had served me in January, was explaining to a man with a laptop computer that this car hadn't been refurbished to include electrical power at each seat. She did point him to a double seat opposite me that did have an outlet. He pointed out, with some justice, that Amtrak's advertising does say that Club Class includes at-seat electricity. I've actually never seen it in one of the Club/Dinettes, though I have in some ordinary coaches.
I settled in with a book, and nearly didn't notice when the train pulled out gently at 12:30 pm, right on time. Just beyond the yard, one of the old drawbridges had been completely replaced with a new, immovable span, and workers look to be getting ready to replace the other. An MBTA commuter rail train's F-40PH paced us through the yard as it headed across the small channel toward the South Shore.
The attendant was again very attentive and hospitable, though she had more customers this time. Over two-thirds of the seats were filled by Providence, and we gained new passengers with every stop. She brought around beverages and a snack, and then took meal orders. I ordered beef burgundy, hoping it would not be over seasoned, and in the meantime enjoyed my pretzels and cranberry juice and book.
Somewhat later, somewhere in Rhode Island, the attendant came to me and confessed that she'd mistakenly given my order to someone else who had ordered the same thing but for a later time. Since the meals have to be heated individually, I did wonder if there would be time to eat it before we arrived in New Haven!
At 2:20 pm, shortly before arriving in New London, we passed close alongside an Amtrak ballast train. I didn't get the locomotive numbers, but I suspect they were Amtrak MP-15 switcher locomotives numbers 538 and 531, which I'd seen in a small Maintenance of Way yard in January.
When lunch did arrive we were just leaving New London, and it was again quite good. Two beef filets stood in a nice sauce (not over seasoned) accompanied by mashed potatoes and cooked carrots. I was pretty hungry and the food was tasty, so I had no problem finishing it and the apple crisp dessert well before arrival in New Haven. While eating I watched the striking shoreline scenery, especially noting the passage behind Rocky Neck state park, which is among my favorite sights along the way.
At 2:40 pm the train crossed the Connecticut River, and entered Old Saybrook. To my surprise we passed a mixed freight train sitting either on a siding or the mainline track to our right. I didn't see the locomotive, so I'm not even sure if it had one.
I made certain to look for the place where the main line crosses the Branford Steam Railroad; I still haven't spotted the actual junction. This very short line runs from a junction with this mainline to its terminus at a Tilcon quarry in the town I live in, North Branford. For some reason the main crosses the short line on a bridge, and from it I spotted a string of empty hopper cars below.
The Branford Steam Railroad uses diesel, not steam: the name comes from the early days of this century, when one of the trolley companies was the Branford Electric Railway. The technology changes have left the name behind...At 3:18 pm, just a bit early, train 163 halted at the Amtrak platform in New Haven Union Station. The attendant suggested we exit through the front (dinette) part of the car, as the canopy didn't reach to the rear door on the train, so I did. The rain, and the fact that my father-in-law was probably waiting for me in the pick-up zone, prevented my getting a full consist. Nor did I have a chance to stay and watch the AEM-7 take its place. Ah, well. I was home, and able to do what I had to do, and I was in far better shape than I'd have been in after a two and a half hour drive.