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November 29, 2004

Annals of incompetent railroad operation, Vol. 2

Just to add symmetry to the problematic ride up to New York:

1. The train back to D.C. was a "Holiday Special" from New Jersey Transit and thus went at a top speed of 79 mph as opposed to the 125 of which Amtrak trains are capable. This alone added 45 minutes to the three-hour trip, but that was scheduled.

2. The Metroliner ahead of us, already 20 minutes behind on departure from New York, broke down in Jersey but managed to pull into Newark Airport station, where everybody left. We took on all of their passengers, most of whom ended up standing. There was a Metroliner a few minutes behind us, but they didn't split up the train, leaving our creaky commuter train to take the entire burden.

3. No new passengers at Metropark or Trenton, whether they had tickets or not. Of course, the announcement came after some people had already boarded the train. We had to wait for them to get off.

Luckilly, I had a window seat and didn't need to use a bathroom or the cafe car (there wasn't one, of course). One benefit of the slower trip was the ability to see in greater detail some of the scenery you usually miss as it blurs by on the faster train or miss entirely on the interstate if you drive. Near the train tracks in northern New Jersey is an industrial wasteland that goes on for miles and miles -- fascinating auto wrecks, strange rusting equipment that requires stretches the imagination to divine its use and other strange things. One day I'd like to check out these railside attractions with a good camera, some heavy boots and an up-to-date tetanus shot.

The other side of the coin are the houses that back up to the railroad track, partially blocked off by sound-absorbing fences. But the fences are not as high as the train windows, so you can see peoples' pools, lawn furniture and other things not really designed for public view. On public land abutting the tracks, you can see people fishing on creeks that pass below the tracks and the occasional cop pulled over next to the rail line to catch a nap. Travel at slower speeds, while frustrating, can be interesting if you care to pay attention.

Post Author: rj3 | 09:21 AM | Link | TrackBacks
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