We continue our excursion from Washington to points south. With the Capitol Limited getting into Washington reasonably close to time, a same-day connection to any of the southern trains is possible. But given the stakes on this trip, I did not want to gamble with a blown connection in Washington followed by a delayed arrival in Florida.
That made possible a day of sight-seeing in Our Nation's Capital, with the cherry trees still in bloom.
Back at the station, an opportunity to look around. Our President may be no fan of the long-distance trains, but that doesn't stop the tobacconist from taking commercial advantage.
Behind, fittingly east of the main waiting room (devoid of benches) is the East Hall, apparently more retail space. Here, curiously, there are a few benches.
In Washington, the first-class lounge is called "Club Acela," not "Metropolitan Lounge." There's nobody selling Blue Ribbon and Blue Moon there, although there is a tavern within the station that will sell colored water in blue cans, or headache in a glass. Sorry, barkeeps, two or three light beers plus a pale ale lose the sale!
But inside Club Acela, there is some authentic railroad art. Start with this poster, which was racy by 1920s standards.
Nearby, the premium electric service to Milwaukee gets its due.
As is the custom in Official Washington, there is also a television, tuned to CNN, and the breathless coverage is all about Our President's love child with a domestic in the Trump Hotel. Or something. Whatever. It's almost time to leave all of that behind for nearly three weeks.
Amtrak 97 Silver Meteor, Washington to Ft. Lauderdale, 12-13 April 2018.
Motor 655 hands off to Genesis diesels 48 - 19 at Washington.
The train is marshalled almost as God or Thomas Rice would ordain: Amfleet II coaches 25081 - 25030 - 25115 - 25043; Amfleet II lounge 28018; new Viewliner dining car 68013 Hartford (delivered November 2017); Viewliner sleeping cars 62049 - 62018 - 62031, new Viewliner profile baggage car 61062.
The train is a New York and Miami service only: Silver Star 95 handles the Tampa cars. Leave Washington 7.28 (three minutes late, although my watch is not matched to a standard clock, dare we say close enough for government work?) Dinner reservations for sleeper passengers boarding Washington are from departure, proceed forward. There's still real food on offer, and, as is often the case, secret train enthusiasts indulging in their pleasure. Thus we talk about the challenges of getting passenger trains over a busy railroad (sorry, the recessing sidings that used to be every forty miles or so disappeared long ago, the Tropicana train is likely to get in the way of a passenger train somewhere!) Alexandria 7.46 - 7.49, sun setting; Fredericksburg 8:37 - 8:39, no chance to see the battle monument west of the tracks; Richmond Staples Mill 9.35 - 9.49; Petersburg 10.35 - 10.39, bedtime.
The railway gods must still be pleased with me, the sun is shining through the window and the next stop is Savannah, 7.11 - 7.24. The stock of the day train, due to leave at 8.20, is at an adjacent platform. That train will reach The Pennsylvania Station just before midnight. There is also a day train linking Chicago, the Research Triangle, and the Corridor roaming part of the route. That's the rudiments of a proper rail schedule, with day trips practicable for and from numerous intermediate stops.
South of Savannah, the Meteor does take on some of the roles of a day train. Among the passengers, a rocket engineer enroute from Charlottesville to Orlando for a launch at Cape Canaveral; although the government space program has been minimal ever since the Space Shuttle, which apparently existed only to shuttle cargo to the International Space Station, quit flying, there are still regular launches from the Cape. Jesup 8.15 - 8.20, rudimentary passenger facilities, but no second stop. Arrive Jacksonville 9.41.
Jacksonville used to be a major passenger terminal, where Atlantic Coast Line would hand trains off to Florida East Coast, and both Coast Line and Seaboard would combine cars from the Northeast or Cincinnati or Chicago and St. Louis into formations for the East Coast or for the Gulf resorts. No more, and no more use of the major station, but diesels still get fueled and coaches watered, and the new engineer takes over.
Leave Jacksonville 9.57; Palatka 10.59 - 11.01, stop outside DeLand 11.45 - 11.51, DeLand station 11.58 - 12.02; enter Sun Rail service area, stop between DeLand and Winter Park to meet a Sun Rail train, 12.16 - 12.17 (despite being slightly off schedule, this is not bad at all, are we meeting a delayed train P316?); Winter Park 12.43 - 12.47; Strates Shows carnival train in yard between Winter Park and Orlando; Orlando 12.59 - 1.18; meet 98 at the station; there's a Tupperware station on Sun Rail?? (Not on the official schedule, but sure looked like a sign so stating.) Lunchtime, chat with a passenger on at DeLand, returning to his business in Hollywood. Ah, for a network of regional trains: if 97 is sadly out of course, he's having a very bad day.
Kissimmee 1.38 - 1.44; pass Auburndale 2.17 (now remote-controlled, this used to be a hand-thrown junction); big Blue Lake Citrus plant at Winter Haven 2.25 - 2.29; double stop at Sebring 3.03 - 3.12 and 3.13 - 3.14; meet 92 south of Sebring. We're holding a steady sixty to 79 mph most of the way, there's just a lot of Florida to cross; pass Okechobee (now a stop only for the Star) 3.46; Tri Rail territory begins at West Palm Beach, stop 4.37 - 4.43; double stop at Delray 5.05 - 5.07 and 5.08 - 5.08, using the shorter Tri Rail platform there, a few of the old Seaboard stations survive only as ruins; Deerfield Beach 5.18 - 5.22; into Fort Lauderdale at 5.37 on my watch, it's the advertised 5.43 on the station digital clocks. Remember that snow on April 9? Not here.
The baggage that I checked ahead from Washington is safely inside the station.
Now it's time for a margarita.
Thanks for looking in.