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Salmon Again

Boston, MA to New Haven, CT

Amtrak Train 163, NortheastDirect/Minute Man, Boston South Station to New Haven Union Station, Club Class--March 23, 1999

Once more my wife and I brought our daughter to Boston for an early medical procedure, and once more I wanted to get home earlier -- in this case, to be with our son. I also had a meeting that night, but I didn't get to it...

As with past procedures, we were the first in line at the hospital, but this one went surprisingly quickly. I had made reservations on Amtrak's web site, but hadn't had the chance to pick up the ticket, which I usually try to do before leaving for Boston. So I planned to leave the hospital at 11:00 am, to have plenty of time to get to the train station and get my ticket. I expected I would have to leave Evelyn and Rebekah still in the post-anesthesia recovery area.

I didn't. We were all leaving at 10:15 am, so I helped my wife get our daughter and associated stuff to the car, and let them drive back to my aunt's house, while I turned to the Red Line.

South Station, Boston, MA to Union Station, New Haven, CT

I arrived at the station around 10:45 am, with more than enough time to pick up my ticket at one of Amtrak's automated ticket machines. Then I toured the Barbara's Booksellers kiosk, finding books I'd like to buy when they're out in paperback, and settled in with the book I'd brought at one of the tables that are scattered about in South Station. I got a fair amount of reading done before the boarding call for Train 163 sounded.

I've taken this train in Club Class twice before with the same attendant, so it was no surprise that she was serving the Club section of the Club/Dinette car again. I took one of the single seats -- which also happen to be on the shore side of the southbound train -- and got out my book again.

We headed out on time at 12:30 pm. Two tracks over the consist for Train 12, the Fast Mail, was standing after discharging its passengers twenty minutes before (it had been early). I saw two MHC's at its rear, and Amtrak F-40PH #203 coupled onto the last boxcar. I assume that it was there to pull the two MHC's away, though whether they'd be unloaded at the platform or elsewhere I don't know.

Coming through the cut that runs through a good deal of Boston (about Back Bay to beyond Forest Hills) I looked for signs of catenary work beginning, and didn't see any -- unless a regular pattern of four bolts projecting from the concrete was a beginning. I really couldn't tell.

Coming into the Route 128 station I saw something I rarely see on this route: a local freight moving! Conrail #2006 was leading two cars heading north as we paused at the old, low level platforms. Just beyond, real progress has been made on the new high level platforms, and a new enclosed building is taking shape.

Once past the Route 128 stop the Club attendant began her serving -- prior to that she does preparation and welcomes passengers aboard. I've noticed that she isn't terribly patient with those who seat themselves in the Club section without Club tickets! but she's quite solicitous toward those who have paid for the service.

She made a new announcement to me: that Amtrak is ending Club service prior to the start of the new high speed service. And if we'd like to write Amtrak about that, she had the address...

I'm not surprised that Club service will move exclusively to the high speed (Amtrak Acela Express) trains, but I hope I misinterpreted that it will end on NortheastDirect trains before the new ones begin running! I also hope that Custom Class service will continue to exist on what will be called Amtrak Acela Regional trains. Reserved seats can be a very good thing...

But they may intend to eliminate it fairly soon, because the menu was shorter than I've experienced before: two sandwiches, a Caesar's salad, and two hot entrees. I always go for the maximum, so I had the salmon. I'd had it before, and it doesn't disappoint. Curiously, though, there was no dessert -- a sign that the service isn't ordering food?

In most other ways, the ride was very nice. It was quite relaxing, the food and service were good, and it was a lovely day outside for sightseeing. The Connecticut shoreline really has some marvelous vistas, even if they aren't as dramatic as the Pacific coast traversed by the Coast Starlight. I noticed that the tide was well in, and much of the "neck" at Rocky Neck State Park in Connecticut was submerged.

Approaching Providence at 1:20, I saw a ballast train with side-dump hoppers on a siding. Interestingly enough, the cars were both Amtrak (orange with black lettering) and MBTA (black with white lettering). Amtrak MP-15 switcher #531 led them.

Leaving Providence station, we passed a Providence and Worcester freight (to our right). It had a locomotive at both ends, one of which was #2009. At the same time Amtrak Train 126 was pulling into the station. 126 is listed at having Club service, but I saw a Custom Class car at the end of the train...

We made good time along the shoreline, with relatively little standing and waiting for train meets. I was finished with my lunch by New London, and happily sipping coffee. With eating, I missed most of the train meets. Ah, well!

We must have picked up a delay somewhere, however, because we missed our entry into New Haven, and 3:30 found us waiting outside the station for a Shoreline East train to depart. Scheduled arrival was 3:20. With not a lot of time to spare (the son had a karate class to get to), I hopped off the train on its arrival, got most of the consist (I missed the lead locomotive) and met my father in the station for the short drive home.

Despite having to get my son from day care and dressed in his karate uniform, we were only about four minutes late for his 4:15 class. Not bad!

Consist Train 163:

Locomotives: (elephant style)

http://www.computerseraph.com/Trains/Travel03231999.html -- Revised: 1-Apr-99
Copyright © 1999 Eric S. Anderson

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