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September 2004

 

By Amtrak to 'Camp Meeting'

[By Allen Brougham] . . .

Deerfoot Lodge is a Christian camp for boys located on Whitaker Lake several miles north of Speculator in the Adirondack Mountains of New York. It was my pleasure for three days this past month to reacquaint myself with the camp I had attended as a kid. While I have continued to support its ministry, I had not been to the place in 48 years. What a thrill!

The occasion was a celebration of the camp's 75th anniversary, a reunion for past participants, and a transition in leadership from its retiring camp director to his successor. I had learned of plans for the celebration more than a year ago, and I jumped upon the chance to get signed up.

All along I had planned to drive to the place, only casually thinking of the train as an alternative. But a few days before the date of the event, I said: "Why not?"

The train, of course, had been the ideal mode of travel when the camping program was established back in 1930. Even in 1956 - when I went there - a number of participants (but not I) took the train to Amsterdam, there to be met by an associate who would drive them the 50 or so miles to the camp.

So now, in 2004, I decided to live the historical experience of getting there by train - albeit with a rental car from the train station. But rather than making my transition at Amsterdam, I opted to book my travel to Albany. There, I reasoned, more flexible and dependable schedules were available, and getting a rental car might be less of a challenge.

A potential snag developed in that the Republican convention was scheduled to open in New York on the same day as my return trip. Amtrak passengers were duly advised that security concerns could delay service through Penn Station. Moreover, most trains that normally accepted passengers without reservations would now require them.

I had an Amtrak timetable showing schedules and connections, and I opted for the going trip leaving from Baltimore on train 172 at 7:47 in the morning, connecting in New York with a 28-minute connection to train 281 leaving at 10:45, arriving Albany at 1:15 in the afternoon.

I also logged onto Amtrak's website to see how that method might reflect an updated schedule. But the website showed neither train. In fact, the available trains shown on the website were somewhat less than suitable. At this point I began to reconsider the wisdom of taking the train at all, but I called Amtrak's 800 number (which I would have had to do anyway, being that I would use my retired employee discount privilege card). Eureka! I had no trouble at all booking via 172 and 281. The website's routing program was evidently in error. So much for that part of technology!

The reservation clerk even transferred me over to Hertz so I could arrange for a rental car in Albany. Hertz told me all I had to do when I arrived in Albany was to call a local number and a car would be brought to the station for me. Great!

Train 172 left on time from Baltimore and remained that way into New York. Curiously, it was nearly empty. Train 281 from New York to Albany, by contrast, was nearly full, and I had to settle for an aisle seat. At least it was on the river side, which I had been looking forward to since I had never before ridden the route through to Albany in daylight.

We were 25 minutes late into Albany, and it was here that I learned that arrangements are not always so seamless as they are supposed to be. For starters, none of the payphones were working properly. I got a dial tone, but upon dialing the number I had been given to reach Hertz, nothing happened... Finally, a friendly Amtrak conductor let me use her cell phone. I got through to Hertz, but I was told they do NOT bring rental cars to the train station - I would have to take a taxi to their office across the river in the downtown area. So I went out to the front of the station. No taxi. So I waited, and waited. Apparently, in the time I had spent wrestling with the stupid payphones, the taxis that had queued for the train I had arrived on had since vanished. I fretted that I could be stranded a lot longer - and the Hertz place would close at 5 o'clock - but after about 20 minutes a taxi did show up.

I got back to the station three days later in plenty of time to catch the returning train. I booked my journey on train 260 due to leave at 2 o'clock in the afternoon with a 45-minute connection in New York to train 189 back to Baltimore. With my ticket in hand I waited. But then I got paged. Train 260, I was told, had been annulled. Ouch! The agent said he would have to re-ticket me on train 286 due to leave at 3:15, with a later connection in New York. This might not have been so bad, except that 286 was marked up as running 30 minutes late. More delay! So I asked the agent: "What about train 48?"

Train 48, the Lake Shore Limited, was itself running late - but it would be leaving Albany at about the same time as the train that had been annulled. Could I ride on No. 48? Its New York section does not accept local travel south of Albany (I knew that), but under the circumstances, it would surely make sense to let me ride it - space permitting, of course.

Oh, no, NO, I could never ride THAT train, the agent said. The Albany stop was strictly for discharge. The gate keepers, guards on duty, and crew members would never let me board. (Railroad logic at its finest!)

By 2 o'clock - the time I had originally planned to leave Albany - I could see the Lake Shore Limited from the station window. There it was: its now-detached Boston section (#448) on one track, the New York section (#48) on another.

Meanwhile, train 286, the one I was now ticketed to ride, would not be in for another two hours. So I simply waited... Wouldn't it be great if the tooth fairy were to tap me on the shoulder and tell me that it would be all right to get aboard No. 48, en route to New York? But that would never happen, would it?

Ten minutes later, I was aboard No. 48, en route to New York.

I got an aisle seat on the river side of the train. Smoothly and swiftly we moved down the Hudson Valley - with its majestic view of the river, its boats, barges, picturesque lighthouses and stately homes - as seen from the route's premier train.

At Yonkers we had an extended stay for a security sweep. An officer with an explosives-sniffing dog came through. No exceptions were taken. In all, we were delayed by just over 20 minutes for this and some congestion due to track and station work on the Metro-North portion of the line.

When we got to New York, it was just a couple of minutes past the time of No. 189, the connecting train I had originally planned on taking to Baltimore. But maybe it would be late!

As I was ascending the steps into Penn Station, I could hear an announcement for a train going toward Baltimore. It was not No. 189, but an even earlier train that was running even later.

The conductor, when I explained that my ticketing had been the result of a service disruption, allowed me to get aboard.

Indeed, just nine minutes after I had arrived in New York, I was leaving toward Baltimore. Now THAT is a GREAT way to make a connection...

In fact, I got back to Baltimore only 20 minutes later than I had originally planned.

 

Frank Albright Retires

[By Allen Brougham] . . .

Harry Franklin Albright, veteran CSXT yardmaster at Brunswick, Maryland, has retired following 37 years of service. His retirement is effective September 1.

Frank, 60, began with the B&O Railroad as a clerk in March 1967. His career included duty as a clerk and ticket agent at the Martinsburg, West Virginia, train station; as an agent at Hagerstown, Maryland; as a mobile agent at Winchester, Virginia; and as a tower operator.

As an operator he served at Hancock, West Cumbo, Miller, Martinsburg, and Harpers Ferry station, all in West Virginia. He says he enjoyed working at West Cumbo the most.

He was promoted to yardmaster in 1981.

Frank's father, the late Cecil Albright, was a B&O car inspector.

Originally from Hedgesville, West Virginia, Frank graduated from Hedgesville High School in 1963, and went to work as a mutual clerk at the Charles Town Racetrack. He continued to work there until 1973, which included a six-year period in which he worked two jobs, including his one with the B&O.

Now living in Martinsburg, Frank intends to spend his time in retirement by golfing, gardening and traveling. His ultimate goal is to move south to Florida, but he says he "might not make it past South Carolina."

His family includes his wife Linda, two sons, one daughter, and two grandchildren.

 

An Evening at Mance

[By Wade H. Massie] . . .

On Saturday, August 14th, I had the opportunity to attend a very interesting railroad slide show. Unlike most slide shows, this one was held outdoors, adjacent to the CSX main on the east slope of Sand Patch. The location was the Mance Training Camp, an outstanding venue for such a show. Earlier in the week, the weather forecast looked very favorable for the 14th, with a prediction of sunny but cool weather. Unfortunately, as Saturday drew near, it appeared that hurricane Charley might make its presence felt with rain in the Alleghenies. Sure enough, on Saturday afternoon the sky was dark gray and a storm seemed imminent. Luckily, the skies cleared as evening approached, and the stage was set for a cool, dry night of slides.

With a campfire providing a warm glow and much needed warmth, the slides began shortly after 8:30PM. CSX, which had been fairly quiet for much of the day, ran numerous trains during the first 90 minutes of slides. Nothing provides a better soundtrack for a slide show than a heavy eastbound in dynamics descending the grade, or Amtrak's Capitol Limited working uphill at speed. Trains and slides remained plentiful for the duration of the night, and the slide show wrapped up after midnight.

The last trackside slide show I attended was the Cherry Run Railroad Club show at Orange, Virginia, in 1998. In the future, I will try not to allow six years to pass between shows.

I have a possible location picked out for one in the Pittsburgh area, and with a little luck, trackside slide shows might become an annual tradition.

I'd like to thank Roger and Dave Snyder, without whom this slide show would not have been possible.

Gathered around the campfire before the start of the show (left to right): Wade Massie and dog Buddy, Mike Filoni, Matt Atkinson, E. Roy Ward, Dave Snyder and Roger Snyder.

 

Amtrak to Eliminate Mail

Amtrak has announced that it will eliminate the haulage of mail on its passenger trains effective sometime in October.

 

CSXT Receives Nine Bids for B&O Cluster

CSXT says it has received nine bids for the B&O Cluster, a line between Cumberland, Maryland, and Cowen and Brooklyn Junction, West Virginia, which CSXT had offered for sale or lease. The company expects to have the bids evaluated by the middle of this month. It is possible that none of the bids will be accepted, at which point CSXT would continue to operate the line, according to the company.

 

Indiana & Ohio to Buy CSXT's Midland Subdivision

Indiana & Ohio Railroad, a subsidiary of RailAmerica, has notified the Surface Transportation Board of its intent to purchase 107 miles of CSXT's Midland Subdivision between Cincinnati and Columbus, Ohio, and to lease the related real estate from CSXT, "subject to negotiation and execution of a definitive agreement." According to a RailAmerica press release, Indiana & Ohio anticipates moving approximately 18,000 carloads annually over the line.

 

Amtrak Over-the-Road Train Performance

How the host carriers compare - August 2004

[By Allen Brougham] . . .

The survey was conducted using randomly selected examples from each of the host carriers between August 1 and August 28. It is offered as a guide to how the host carriers compare with the others.

The figures (minutes of delay per 1,000 train miles) for the seven major host carriers in August were as follows: