On December 9, 2006, we took a cab to Worcester's grand Union Station. This magnificent structure was built in 1909 and completely renovated and restored five or six years ago. Although recently restored commuter rail service to Boston has become very popular, the availability of daily Amtrak service to Chicago is little known or appreciated in the city. On most days, only a few people board the train. This in spite of the fact that Worcester (pronounced "wooster" or locally "woostah", with the double o sounded as in the word "book") was until recently the second largest city in New England. It was slightly surpassed by Providence, RI in the 2000 census.
Until a few years ago, there were also one or two trains through Worcester following the so-called "inland route" to New York City via Springfield, Hartford and New Haven. Those have been discontinued and the best way to get to NYP on Amtrak is from Boston along the 'shore route".
We were unable to check our two large bags, as the Amtrak office is now manned only Monday through Friday. The train arrived about on time as it usually does here, having come only 40 miles or so from its origin point in Boston. The consist is typically two coaches, a cafe car and a baggage car. One half of the cafe car is designated the Business Class section, and we were ticketed for that "luxury". It provides somewhat roomier seating, a newspaper and a free non-alcoholic drink from the cafe. We had brought a few snacks, preferring not to buy the highly-priced food items whenever possible.
Not long ago, this train (#449, the Boston section of the Lake Shore Limited) had a sleeper and was combined with the New York section at Albany. Today it is merely a stub train. All passengers must detrain at Albany, go into the station and await the arrival and boarding call for the New York section, train #49.
From Worcester, the track follows a circuitous route through the hilly country of central Massachusetts. Springfield is the next stop, and many more boarded the train there. Then comes the climb over the Berkshire Hills of western Mass. following the Westfield River upstream to a high point near the tiny town of Washington at about 1440 ft. above sea level. Attentive travelers can spot the original stone-arch bridges of the original line off to the side where the track has been re-routed. This section of the railroad dates from the early 1840's. Then it's downhill along upper reaches of the Housatonic River. a brief stop is made at Pittsfield.
I have detailed topographic maps of this Worcester to Albany route with the train track highlighted. They are cut and assembled into a looseleaf notebook. Since this was our 38th westbound trip on this route, I did not bring that along this time. In the interest of traveling "light", I also did not bring my scanner, a decision to be regretted later in New Mexico.
We arrived early in Albany and entered the station, a new, modern structure just opened a couple of years ago. We were now finally able to check two large bags through to our destination. After quite a wait, train 49 boarded about 15 minutes before departure at 7:05 PM
We got organized in our roomette sleeper in car #62004 Beach View. As many know, the single-level trains in the east feature the Viewliner sleepers, Amtrak's newest sleeping accommodations. A few of its features are as follows: toilet in every room, upper bunk that slides up and down remaining horizontal and windows for the upper bunk occupant. I find that there is more headroom in the upper bunk than in the roomette bunks on the Superliner sleepers. We were able to go to the diner for supper before the train departed. This diner was using menu #2 in the relatively new "diner light" system. We have found these meals to be quite satisfactory. Our beds had been made up when we returned to the sleeper after our meal.
The next morning we got up around 7:00 AM and soon went to the diner. There were only a few in the car and we were allowed to sit on opposite sides of the booth. My usual breakfast order under the old system had been scrambled egg and grits. Today that is no longer a choice. Today, however, they were in fact offering plain eggs, any style, as the newer Bob Evans Special was not available. I was quite happy about this.
The train was still running on time, but later fell behind because of freight traffic near Elkhart and beyond. I was unable to use the shower because the warm water in the sleeper was not working. We finally reached Chicago at 11:10 AM (schedule time was 9:45). This didn't matter, of course, because our next train would leave at 3:15 PM.
At Chicago we quickly entered the Metropolitan Lounge, recently enlarged. As usual, we went to get lunch from the Corner Bakery upstairs in the Food Court. The lounge provides free drinks and occasionally small pastries. The lounge was not as crowded as we have sometimes witnessed. I went outside and took a walk on the streets. I will add the next segment of this trip in a later posting.
Posts: 120 | From: Worcester, Massachusetts | Registered: Jan 2007
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