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» RAILforum » Passenger Trains » Amtrak » Highlights on the CNOL and Crescent?

   
Author Topic: Highlights on the CNOL and Crescent?
Italiancanuck89
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I'll be taking the Crescent from NYP-NOL and the City of New Orleans NOL-CHI in a month or so. Anything interesting I should be looking for along the way? Thanks!
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Geoff Mayo
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I found the Crescent pretty boring. Once you've seen one pine tree, you've seen them all. Going past a few tanks in Alabama/Georgia somewhere was probably the 2nd highlight for me after the causeway crossing just outside of New Orleans.

The CONO was more interesting for me. First (going northbound) you have the "longest continuous rail curve in the world" (allegedly) - several miles of a very gently curving arc around Lake Pontchartrain. Once the engineer has removed the odd croc/alligator (can't remember which) from sunbathing on the track you then head up through fields and up the Mississippi Delta region. Soon you'll come to Memphis, by which time it will probably be dark so you'll get to see the lights. Sometime during the night you'll cross the Mississippi on a long, high bridge (Cairo, I believe). Finally, before arrival into Chicago, you'll take one of two possible long backup moves as there is no direct route into Chicago Union Station from the IC/CN line that you've taken all the way from New Orleans. Not the most scenic of trains but it is one of my favourites.

Geoff M.

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Geoff M.

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George Harris
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Definitely the longest curve unless anyone can think of another. Alligators, not crocodiles. The river you cross at Cairo IL is the Ohio River, but dose carry about 2/3 of the volume of water that forms the Lower Mississippi River. The line never crosses the Mississippi, it is on the east side of the river throughout.

Somehow I have never considered the Crescent boring. much of the country it goes through is Appalachian foothills, which is the beautiful eastern rolling hills. The exit from Washington DC with the monuments on the west side is particularly a nice view.

George

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Ocala Mike
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As I recall, the reverse move into CUS was fairly short. Lots of interesting "railfun" stuff around Chicago, and, if you're on time (the CONO is a pretty good timekeeper), you arrive right at the tail end of "commuter time" into the city with the big shoulders. Lots of Metra action.

Enjoy!

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Ocala Mike

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Gilbert B Norman
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Actually Mr. Geoff M, the "City" Xs the Ohio, and not the Mississippi, at Cairo.

On the Crescent, which I must admit I have never ridden post A-Day and possibly BR was still maintaining steam locomotives in your home town when I did so (well not quite), I largely agree with your assessment of the "scenic' route. There is some scenic value to X ing the Applachains between Atlanta and Birmingham. Also, there is an X ing of Lake Ponchartrain after Slidell.

But I hope, Mr. Canuck, that you will use Sleeper for your journeys. If anyone wants to do a "sleep on the cheap", trains serving New Orleans is where to do so. Owing to the present reduced demand, they offer exceptionally attractive rates. Just check the website to affirm (refute?) this thought.

Lastly, I think it will be a long, long time before New Orleans "is back'. While the city's promoters like to note the tourist area is 'back" and professional sports have returned (their "American" football team was a championship contender), the tourist area will become "Disneyfied' and resemble a "green zone'. The infrastructure for both transportation and petroleum distribution will of course remain (what other deepwater port in the World can claim direct access to a 3000 mile chain of navigable inland waterways?), but the personnel supporting such will become a corps of transients. Possibly this bleak outlook for a region I know some here hold "dear" will change when Democrats are again in the White House (especially should there be an African-American Democrat), but for the present, that assessment of mine stands.

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notelvis
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The tanks spotted from the Crescent were probably at the Army Depot just west of the station in Anniston.

I too find the ride on the Crescent between Atlanta and Birmingham to be fascinating. It's the Appalachian foothills with lots of curves, low cuts, and some hills to climb. If you're in the sleeper you may want to move back and see if you can find an empty coach seat with a window for this part of the ride. Six or seven cars back will give you plenty of views of the engines swinging into curves.

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David Pressley

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Climbing toward 5,000 posts like the Southwest Chief ascending Raton Pass. Cautiously, not nearly as fast as in the old days, and hoping to avoid premature reroutes.

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Henry Kisor
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Mr. Norman:

I enjoy your cynicism, mostly because I share it!

I have also noticed that sleepers on the City of New Orleans are inexpensive compared to the rest -- does this also mean that the entire passenger manifest is a light one? How many coaches does the City carry?

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Ocala Mike
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When I rode it in late November, Henry, there were only two coaches, and I had a "double" seat to myself the whole run, NOL - CHI.

I was exhausted from having pretty much driven through the night, so I slept like a baby through most of the trip.

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Ocala Mike

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delvyrails
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Only two coaches? Surely, this train needs a ridership boost from an eastward extension.

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John Pawson

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Geoff Mayo
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River and gator corrections noted.

Regarding the scenery on the Crescent, a lot of the time it was hard to see anything BUT the trees as they're tall and right by the track. I've had a quick flick through my photos and nothing grabs my attention. Still, each has their own opinion.

The back-up move in to/out of Chicago is about 1.2 miles on the usual (?) route; about 1.4 miles on the alternative route. That's long enough for me!

Geoff M.

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Geoff M.

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Ocala Mike
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Geoff, I guess it was long enough for the conductor hanging off the end of the sleeper bringing up the rear too. Incidentally, the sleeper is placed forward of the diner on #58 these days, so a coach brings up the rear.

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Ocala Mike

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notelvis
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I prefer sleepers behind the diner.....like when I'm trying to sleep and don't want to listen to the horn all night.

Best sleep I've had on a train lately was on the 422 sleeper from El Paso to St. Louis. Being on the rear of the train did wonders. Not moving for four hours during the night in San Antonio helped to.

Let me qualify my earlier Crescent remarks....the fascinating trips I have made between Atlanta and Birmingham have been in November and December.......when the leaves are down.

Otherwise, I'm as likely to fly to San Francisco and ride the California Zephyr back to Denver as I am to book a trip on the Crescent. My ride on that train last week was my first on #19 or #20 in four years.

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David Pressley

Advocating for passenger trains since 1973!

Climbing toward 5,000 posts like the Southwest Chief ascending Raton Pass. Cautiously, not nearly as fast as in the old days, and hoping to avoid premature reroutes.

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dilly
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quote:
Originally posted by notelvis:


Let me qualify my earlier Crescent remarks....the fascinating trips I have made between Atlanta and Birmingham have been in November and December.......when the leaves are down.

Unfortunately, the "trees, trees, and more trees" phenomenon is a hallmark of most of Amtrak's eastern routes during the warmer months.

Apart from the old industrial sites along the NEC, a fleeting glimpse of Washington D.C., the aforementioned military tanks, and Lake Ponchartrain, there really isn't much to see from the Crescent between early June and late September. Both sides of the tracks are walled with dense woodlands and foliage virtually all the way to New Orleans (kudzu anyone?). For that reason, it's my least favorite Amtrak route in warm weather.

It's also why I prefer taking the eastern trains in winter, including the Lake Shore Limited. You see much, much more when all the leaves, shrubs, and weeds aren't blocking your view.

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George Harris
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The trees, trees, and more trees phenomena was born some 50 years ago when it became more difficult financially to justify the cost of keeping the right of way clear to the fence line. Of course it took several years for the trees to get tall enough to notice. By now, with a lot of right ow ways supporting 30 to 50 year old trees that have limbs right up to the ballast, you have two main problems: 1. Any significant storm dumps limbs and whole trees on the tracks, and 2. If you decided to clear the right of way down to grass only again, the environmentalists would be after your blood.

Eliminating open wire pole lines for communication and signal wires made it possible for the railroad system to still function without having to do brush cutting to keep the wire lines clear. Before that time, cutting trees happened when they began to cause trouble with the telephone and signal lines. Now, most of these lines, if they still exist, are buried cable.

George

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Geoff Mayo
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quote:
Originally posted by Gilbert B Norman:
BR was still maintaining steam locomotives in your home town when I did so (well not quite)

Off-topic, but you might be fleetingly interested to know that the former building works are largely still there - one is now the "Great Western Designer Outlet Village" - a shopping centre with seconds and end-of-line designer clothes and homewares.

Regarding the trees, yes, my trips have been in summer which might explain my lack of views!

Geoff M.

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Geoff M.

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Amtrak207
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Just watch out for my engine when you go.
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RRRICH
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What is "BR?"
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George Harris
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quote:
Originally posted by RRRICH:
What is "BR?"

British Rail
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sojourner
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Hmm, I have been on the Crescent only round trip NYC to Atlanta in late November, and northbound last mid-October from Charlottesville. All three times riding coach. But I have been many times on the portion between NYC and Washington DC. So, OK, the latter is definitely not the world's most scenic ride, and maybe to train fans the Crescent after DC isn't so interesting, but hey, I liked it all right. . . .

Let's see . . . Leaving NYC, if you have a sleeper, take advantage of the ACELA lounge, at least to use the toilet. And if you get to Penn Station early you can leave your luggage in the ACELA lounge for free and wander around (for example, go see the Empire State building and Herald Square, maybe Macys--all nearby). (If you are checking your luggage--i.e., not taking it with you on the train, you can do that at Penn Station too, of course, but do keep an overnight bag!) If you are going coach, and the train seems like it will be crowded, you may want to invest in a Red Cap (you have to give him a tip, $1 a bag is what I've been told, unless you have something really big and heavy) who will put you on early. HAve him put you at a good window seat (one that isn't block by portions of train wall) on the left side facing forward--between NYC and DC there is more to see on that side, IMO. If your sleeper is on the right side, you can go into the lounge/diner. (The trains with Viewliners--which all trains leaving NYC have to be, because double decker Superliners don't fit in the tunnels between Manhattan and New Jersey--well, those Viewliner trains do not have the really nice double-decker observation cars but still, the lounge will do.)

Anyway, as you leave NYC, you go under the Hudson in a tunnel and emerge and soon can see a bit of the city skyline on your left (this is better northbound, when you approach it) and then, near Newark's Ironbound district, interesting metalwork of bridges and canals and other industrial stuff. Passing Elizabeth NJ you see a few older buildings worth looking at (a little). The rest of the part of New Jersey you go through is very much what the famous New Yorker cartoon cover showed, in my humble opinion. Although I do get a kick out of Metropark; imagine calling a place Metropark. Who thinks of these things? New Brunswick has a few interesting buildings--it is where Rutgers is. And I think you cross the Raritan here, which just flooded badly yesterday (a lot of the towns in the news are on the Raritan, I think). In due time (not too long) you come to Trenton, NJ (the state capitol) and leaving, cross the Delaware, where on the right is a bridge that says Trenton Makes, the World Takes. Then you begin to go through North Philadelphia, much of which looks like Dresden in World War II, I'm afraid. But as you near Philly proper there are those lovely boathouses on the Schuylkill on your left, near the easily recognize art museum) and the city skyline (much of it quite new--there had been a law nothing should be higher than the city hall--of Rocky fame--but then in the 80s I think the law was changed and some modern skyscrapers were built.

After Philadelphia on the left are some water views, and also hideous steelworking yards (I think) with flames, that is around Chester PA. There's a neat bridge too. You come to Wilmington, with some buildings worth looking at. Then as you come into Maryland there is some nice scenery from time to time as you cross what I think is Chesapeake Bay, one time a very attractive town with marina. Oh, and there is Baltimore--the row houses are kinda neat (though not pretty), remind me of the film Marnie (though that was a Hollywood set).

As you come into Washington DC there is an unfortunate amount of slummy stuff, but when you get Union Station, there likely will be enough of a stopover for you to run out and see a tad of the station. Make sure you get to the ornate part away from the fast food places where you first come in from the tracks. But remember your gate, and don't miss your train! Also, as you head back to reboard, you might stop (as I like to do) at Ben n Jerry for a cup (overpriced) of ice cream to take on the train, get a scoop of the Baileys Irish Cream one and a scoop of some really rich chocolate.

As you leave DC, though, you ought to try to move to the right side of the train--or, if you are in a sleeper on the other side, get to the lounge/diner from where you can see the right side, because you can see Washington Monument, Bureau of Engraving, and esp nice view of Jefferson Memorial. You then cross the Potomac (near the Pentagon) and stop in Alexandria, around where there is the fairly impressive George Washington Memorial Masonic Temple. (You cannot see the quaint old part of Alexandria; train staton is not down there.)

Then the Virginia countryside is pretty, even with the trees. And in Culpeper you can see something of the nice old town, if it's still light when you get there.

The next morning there is a neat gorge in Georgia, around Toccoa, I think? At least, I thought it was neat. But I don't remember much else because it was late November when I went to Atlanta and rather foggy.

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