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OTOL Midwest RailFest 2015 Trip Report


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#1 KevinKorell

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Posted 09 April 2017 - 04:03 PM

Trip Report
OTOL Midwest RailFest 2015
July 15-21, 2015
by Kevin Korell


 
Chapter 0: Introduction
 

The OTOL Midwest RailFest 2015 was conceived at first as a means of visiting Minneapolis and St. Paul to explore their growing light rail and commuter rail lines. What sweetened the deal was the moving of Amtrak's station in the area from Midway Station to St. Paul Union Depot, which is also served by the light rail.

 

On another front, one city that had eluded us for a decade and a half was Pittsburgh, which has its light rail system and two inclines.

 

Their lack of a day pass instrument was one contributor to our not getting there to ride the system, and another was the inconvenient Amtrak service from the east. When it became prudent to make it a 24-hour stopover on a westbound journey ultimately to the Twin Cities, it was included in this Fest.

 

Lastly, in all our years of either visiting or passing through Chicago we still have some rail lines we have not yet had the chance to ride, so one more day was added to the event to bring it to a full week.

 

Chapter 1: Preparation

 

With the destination cities known, the obligatory homepage was created, which inluded among other things a link to our itinerary for the 7-day event. Research began to create other pages describing expected transit fares and the radio scanner frequencies in each host city.

 

The group discussed where to dine and stay in each host city, and each participant went ahead with their own travel arrangements.
 

Chapter 2: Getting to the Fest

 

Half of the Fest's participants would join us later, so they either lived in or would later travel to Chicago or St. Paul. Our contingent from Florida, Penny Jacobs and Dick McCauley, took Amtrak's Silver Meteor to Philadelphia, arriving on Wednesday morning with plenty of advance time before our scheduled departure as a group. Others took transit, flew, or were driven to wherever they would board the first official train of our summer RailFest.



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#2 KevinKorell

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Posted 09 April 2017 - 04:18 PM

Chapter 3: Wednesday, July 15, 2015

 

Day One of our Fest saw two contingents of our group each meet in New York and Philadelphia, and then get together aboard the westbound Amtrak Pennsylvanian, which a total of 7 of us rode to Pittsburgh.

 

Chapter 3.1: Amtrak Pennsylvanian, Train #43(15), New York, NY and Philadelphia, PA to Pittsburgh, PA

 

Alan Burden and Jishnu Mukerji originated from New York City on this train, while in Philadelphia, meeting in the Club Acela were Penny, Dick, Chris Wyatt, Grace (Alan's mother), and me. The latter five got a Redcap to escort us to the platform.

 

The Pennsylvanian left New York City on time at 10:42 AM, and once all of us were aboard, departed from Philadelphia at 12:43 PM, one minute late. The train crossed its namesake state without incident. As always the train's crew narrated the ride between Altoona and Johnstown, noting the Horseshoe Curve and Gallatzin Tunnel. Schedule padding brought us into Pittsburgh at 7:54 PM, 11 minutes early.

 

Chapter 3.2: End of Wednesday's activities

 

Chris would be staying with family in the area, while the rest of us were staying at Doubletree by Hilton - Downtown Pittsburgh. While I'd had dinner aboard the train, the others had a late dinner at the hotel's restaurant, Bigelow Grille.

 

Our first day of travel over, we got a good night of sleep knowing we would be touring Pittsburgh the next day, followed by a shortened night of sleep after a late night train departure.



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#3 KevinKorell

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Posted 09 April 2017 - 04:23 PM

Chapter 4: Thursday, July 16, 2015

 

Thursday was our full day in Pittsburgh, during which we completed all of our planned activities in the city, and then late at night left town for Chicago.

 

Our host agency was Port Authority Transit (PAT). As mentioned before, their lack of a Day Pass would make it difficult for a group of railfans intending to ride all day to do so. The next best thing offered by PAT was its ConnectCard, a smart card that could be loaded ahead of time with the value needed for the day of riding. To do this, those under the age of 65 had to go ahead of time to PAT's headquarters building downtown to make the purchase. And thanks to Pennsylvania's lottery, seniors didn't need ConnectCards since they could travel all day for free.

 

Chapter 4.1: Port Authority Transit Bus G2, Federal Building to Duquesne Incline

 

We only ride buses on Fests when we must, in order to get to a train. Such was the case here, as the day's first activity was to ride the Duquesne Incline which is not along a light rail line unlike its cousin that we would ride later in the day. Many westside bus routes pass the Duquesne Incline's lower station, but I picked the G2 as it also passes close to our Doubletree and also near Gateway Center where we would later be transferring to the light rail.

 

Chris would join us later on. The six of us who had stayed at Doubletree started out from a bus stop near the Federal Building, at the corner of Liberty and Grant Streets. Our bus came on time at 9:37 AM, and 9 minutes later we were getting off the same bus across the street from the Duquesne Incline. Conveniently there is a pedestrian bridge over busy Carson Street for bus passengers.

 

Chapter 4.2: Duquesne Incline, Lower Station to Upper Station

 

Chris had been driven here and met us at the Incline station. Our funicular ride began at 9:50 AM from the lower station, and took all of four minutes to get to the top. Once there, we admired the view of the city, and looked at the museum displays around the small station.

 

Chapter 4.3: Duquesne Incline, Upper Station to Lower Station

 

After 16 minutes at the top, we decided we'd had enough, and began our downward trip. Six of us left the upper station at 10:10 AM, only then realizing that we were missing one person. When we got to the bottom we awaited the one left behind who was on the next run shortly thereafter.

 

Chapter 4.4: Port Authority Transit Bus G2, Duquesne Incline to Gateway Center

 

Despite the short wait, we still were ahead of our itinerary's schedule, and would remain so for the rest of our time in Pittsburgh (until late at night when Amtrak would break that streak!). The next G2 bus came at 10:27 AM, and off we went back towards downtown Pittsburgh 20 minutes ahead of our itinerary. This ride only lasted four minutes, as we arrived and disembarked at Gateway Center at 10:31. We then walked across the street to the Gateway Center light rail station. It had been relocated there when the Northside extension was added to the system.

 

Chapter 4.5: Port Authority Transit Blue Line, Gateway Center to Allegheny

 

Being ahead of schedule, we took the next available light rail vehicle at 10:41 AM to Allegheny, which just happened to be the Blue Line; the itinerary had us on the Red Line. That got us to the Allegheny endpoint station at 10:46 AM, almost half an hour ahead of the planned itinerary.

 

Chapter 4.6: Port Authority Transit Blue Line, Allegheny to South Hills Village

 

Further decision making was necessary, since we could have remained on the same vehicle and done the Library branch of the Blue Line first. However, this would have gotten us to our lunch stop much later and possibly resulted in lunch being too close to dinnertime. So we waited for a while at Allegheny until the next Blue Line vehicle headed for South Hills Village as planned. We departed from Allegheny at 11:01 AM, still 25 minutes ahead of our original program for our only end-to-end light rail ride of the day. Arrival at South Hills Village was at 11:39 AM. More time would thus be available if desired for our lunch break.

 

Chapter 4.7: Lunch at South Hills Village

 

I went inside the South Hills Village mall to have lunch in their food court. The other 6 people decided on the outparcel Eat'nPark restaurant. After having lunch, we met at the light rail station to continue our exploration of Pittsburgh's transit system.

 

Chapter 4.8: Port Authority Transit Blue Line, South Hills Village to Washington Junction

 

We found ourselves will full bellies and ready to continue our journey from South Hills Village, so we took the next Blue Line vehicle which departed at 1:12 PM, half an hour in advance of the itinerary. This trip arrived at Washington Junction, the meeting point of the two branches of the Blue Line, at 1:18 PM. We then used a pedestrian crossing to access the station's outbound platform.

 

During our 26 minute layover there, we also saw a test train sitting on the center of the station's three tracks. This track is often used for layups when either branch (usually the Library branch) acts as a shuttle.

 

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Chapter 4.9: Port Authority Transit Blue Line, Washington Junction to Library

 

At 1:44 PM, we were once again in transit, still half an hour ahead of our plans. The longer Library branch runs mostly past house-lined suburban streets. Along the 15-minute ride from Washington Junction, the line could easily be mistaken for the Media or Sharon Hill lines of SEPTA on the other end of the state. The line comes to an abrupt end at the Library Station in South Park Township. We were discharged on the outbound platform at 1:59 PM, and we then crossed at a pedestrian grade crossing to the inbound platform. Our light rail vehicle, meanwhile, continued south onto a switch for a brief layover during which time its operator changed ends.

 

Chapter 4.10: Port Authority Transit Blue Line, Library to Washington Junction

 

The same Blue Line vehicle picked us up for our inbound trip at 2:08 PM, and we were on our way back to Washington Junction. We arrived there at 2:24 PM and detrained to await the next Red Line vehicle on the same platform.

 

Chapter 4.11: Port Authority Transit Red Line, Washington Junction to Station Square

 

During this time of the day, rather than running as far as Castle Shannon, the Red Line extends to South Hills Village where the yard is. It is therefore easier to change between the Blue Line's Library Branch and the Red Line here rather than at the Willow station, since the latter requires a longer walk to get to the Red Line's Overbrook Junction station.

 

Our wait was just 3 minutes. At 2:27 PM we departed for the last time from Washington Junction on an inbound Red Line car. At Overbrook Junction our vehicle split off onto the last set of trackage yet for us to traverse, the Red Line via Beechview. We arrived at Station Square, our destination for this segment, at 2:55 PM. This put us 24 minutes ahead of the day's planned itinerary.

 

From the station of the same name we walked through the Station Square area to the Monongehela Incline.

 

Chapter 4.12: Monongahela Incline, Lower Station to Upper Station

 

At the Monongahela Incline, we boarded the next car headed up the mountain, which left at 3:06 PM. Like its sister Duquesne Incline, the entire ride took 4 minutes. Once at the top, we looked over the city from a different perspective. After we had exhausted our options for sightseeing, we decided to follow the tourist-oriented trailblazer signs designed to support local businesses, and went to have a snack at DiFiore's Ice Cream Delite. We then walked back to the Incline station for the downward trip.

 

Chapter 4.13: Monongahela Incline, Upper Station to Lower Station

 

Our last Incline ride of the Fest departed from the upper station at 3:54 PM, and at 3:58 when we detrained at the bottom, our rail activities were essentially done. We only had dinner dinner-related travel ahead of us before our long wait for our westbound Amtrak train.

 

The original idea was to have dinner there at Station Square, or as an alternative, at one of the restaurants at the Rivers Casino (across from the Allegheny light rail endpoint station). However since the consensus was to return to the Doubletree Hotel and eat in its restaurant, we headed directly to the light rail station to travel over the Monongahela River to Downtown Pittsburgh.

 

Chapter 4.14: Port Authority Transit Blue Line, Station Square to Steel Plaza

 

The next inbound car was a Blue Line trip headed for Allegheny (as all inbound trips are). We left Station Square at 4:11 PM, and 3 minutes later we were detraining at Steel Plaza. Once at street level at that station, we simply had to walk across the street to the Doubletree.

 

Chapter 4.15: In Pittsburgh

 

As we have done on past Fests, the long wait for our late night train departure would primarily take place at the hotel that most of us had stayed in the night before. We arranged with the front desk to have their shuttle van take us to the station around 11 PM, about an hour before scheduled departure. Then we went to eat at the Bigelow Grille, which five had enjoyed the previous evening. All 7 of us would be there this time.

 

After a great meal, we were on our own to wait in the lobby or do whatever we wished. With some value still on my ConnectCard, I decided to burn it by riding light rail again - first from Steel Plaza to South Hills Junction, then back to Allegheny, and finally back to Steel Plaza once more. Some took walks within a few blocks of the hotel, while others just remained in the lobby or visited the bar.

 

At the agreed-upon time, the hotel van took us to the Amtrak station, where we would complete our wait. We already knew by now that the Capitol Limited was running close to an hour behind schedule.

 

In the station, many were waiting for the same train. One individual with mental issues was causing a disturbance and eventually had to be removed from the premises due to his odd behavior and abusive language.

 

Chapter 4.16: Amtrak Capitol Limited, Train #29(16), Pittsburgh, PA to Chicago, IL

 

We finally boarded the Capitol Limited, and by 12:56 we were on our way out of Pittsburgh, 57 minutes late. Our rooms were already made up for us in night mode, so it was immediately time to prepare for bed.

 

Chapter 4.17: End of Thursday's activities

 

Thursday ended with 7 of us going to sleep on our only official overnight long distance trip of this Fest.



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#4 KevinKorell

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Posted 09 April 2017 - 04:28 PM

Chapter 5: Friday, July 17, 2015

 

On Friday, the Pittsburgh Seven arrived in Chicago, and hooked up with five more members of our group there to take the westbound Empire Builder to St. Paul.

 

Chapter 5.0: Amtrak Capitol Limited, Train #29(16), Pittsburgh, PA to Chicago, IL (continued)

 

We awoke at various times and drifted into the dining car for breakfast. We knew that our train had lost more time overnight. We left Toledo at 6:43 AM, roughly one hour 20 minutes down. Then our train stopped for a while somewhere west of Toledo for freight traffic. By the time we finally reached Elkhart at 9:29 AM, we were exactly 2 hours late.

 

In South Bend, we were joined by Dave Korkhouse and his wife Cinda, who were seated in the coach section of our train. Our Capitol Limited now with nine of us aboard arrived into Chicago at 10:40 AM, one hour 55 minutes late but still with plenty of time to catch the Empire Builder.

 

Chapter 5.1: In Chicago

 

We were joined in Chicago by Bill Magee, Steve Weagant, and Rosalyn Winston, bringing our total to 12. We based ourselves in the Metropolitan Lounge, but split up to get lunch at various places. We were all together once more well before we were called to board the westbound Empire Builder.

 

Chapter 5.2: Amtrak Empire Builder, Train #7/27(17), Chicago, IL to St. Paul-Minneapolis, MN

 

About half an hour before its scheduled departure time, we were escorted out of the lounge to board the westbound Empire Builder. With 12 of us travelling together, we were naturally scattered throughout the train. Four of the group were in the 2730 Portland sleeper at the rear of the train, while the other eight were dispersed among the two full Seattle sleepers, 0730 and 0731. None from our group were in the Transition sleeper, 0732.

 

It appeared that the attendant who greeted us, John, was extremely busy. He believed before departure that he would be the only sleeper attendant for the 0730, 0731, and 0732 cars. He still managed to greet everyone with a smile and minimized his apparent plight. Meanwhile, it was obvious at 2:15 PM that we had not departed at the advertised time. We later found out that our delayed departure, which happened at 2:39 PM, was because we waited for a second sleeper attendant who was late to arrive. We should have already been leaving from Glenview by then.

 

After John spoke with me, he realized that we had a group who was spread among the train. After the lead service attendant from the dining car spoke with me about the group reservation, John from near my roomette made a general announcement heard by the entire train that I had made the dinner reservation for all 12 people.

 

Now operating out of our window, we lost more time up the line when we got behind a Metra commuter train. We left Glenview 44 minutes late at 3:23 PM, 44 minutes late. Milwaukee was our first leg stretch stop. However platform construction necessitated our train making a triple spot in order to handle all passengers. By the time we departed at 4:56 PM, we were now one hour 4 minutes late.

 

Roughly half an hour after we left Milwaukee, we were called for the 5:30 dinner seating. Our group of 12 neatly took three tables of four. Service in the dining car was excellent. Our main server was Lynne, and she was helped by Rose, who brought out the meals to some of us. Dave, the lead service attendant, was very nice and efficient too.

 

We did not lose much more time as we headed west across Wisconsin. Our stops at Columbus, Portage, and Wisconsin Dells all came at a little over one hour late. We stopped at Tomah and LaCrosse at 7:38 and 8:22 PM respectively, both one hour 11 minutes down. Shortly after the LaCrosse station stop, we crossed the Mississippi River into Minnesota.

 

Winona, MN was another place we could get off the train to walk around. Afterwards, we departed from there at 9:05 PM. Then came Red Wing at 10:14 PM, now 1 hour 25 minutes late. Some of our final run into St. Paul would be made up with padding. We got there at 11:05 PM, officially 1 hour 12 minutes down. We detrained into St. Paul Union Depot.

 

 Chapter 5.3: End of Friday's activities

 

After the 12 of us detrained, we got to our hotels either by walking, Metro Green Line, taxi, or car service. As the day ended, almost everyone was in their rooms at the Doubletree by Hilton -St. Paul Downtown. I however spent my first night at the Embassy Suites by Hilton - St. Paul Downtown to increase my Hilton Honors stay count for the year. Severe thunderstorms hit the Twin Cities area that evening. Had our train arrived even half an hour later we would have been in dangerous and very wet conditions for whatever means we got to our respective hotels.



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Posted 09 April 2017 - 04:33 PM

Chapter 6: Saturday, July 18, 2015

 

Saturday was the fourth day of Midwest RailFest 2016, and our full activity day in the Twin Cities.

 

Chapter 6.1: Meeting in St. Paul

 

I would be switching hotels as previously planned for the second evening, so I took my luggage with me and left it in another participant's room for the day until I could check-in later. Thus all of us were at the Doubletree to begin our day. Cinda and Dick elected to remain in St. Paul. Rosalyn would be taking an Uber car later on to the Mall of America and would meet us later there. The rest of us travelled on the Metro Green Line one stop from Central Station to St. Paul Union Depot. Once there, we walked around touring the station on our own. We met Jeb Rach there, who lives in Minnesota and would be our "local" guide for the day.

 

Chapter 6.2: Metro Transit Green Line, St. Paul Union Depot to Downtown East

 

Before we all had left home, we were aware of a Metro Transit Saturday morning service disruption on the light rail around the construction site of US Bank Stadium. However, that disruption was supposed to wrap up around 11 AM. With a planned late start anyway due to the previous late night arrival, we expected to travel after the work was supposed to have been done. We would come to find out that we could not do so.

 

Our first "official" trip in the area started out with 10 of us (Alan, Grace, Penny, Dave, Bill, Jishnu, Jeb, Steve, Chris, and me) on the Metro Green Line from St. Paul Union Depot at 11:22 AM. Things went well through St. Paul as we made our way west along University Avenue. Then at 11:51 AM in Minneapolis at Stadium Village near TCF Bank Stadium, we were told to get off the light rail vehicle and were directed to a shuttle bus that would take us the rest of the way to downtown Minneapolis.

 

The substitute bus left Stadium Village at 11:58 AM. The bus ride traced the light rail route, but it wasn't the same as riding the rails. We knew that later in the day the light rail service would be restored so we would be able to travel this section by rail. We got off the bus at 12:05 PM near the Downtown East station (since renamed as US Bank Stadium station) and found ourselves indeed in a heavy construction zone. We now had to find another bus stop for the opposite direction for a Metro Blue Line substitute bus.

 

Chapter 6.3: Metro Transit Blue Line, Downtown East to Mall of America

 

The next substitute bus left the Downtown East area at 12:19 PM, and took us to the Franklin Avenue station, where the Metro Blue Line would resume rail service. The 10 of us hustled up to the elevated station, and three minutes after leaving the bus, we departed from Franklin Avenue at 12:28 PM.

 

The rest of our trip by light rail was uneventful as we travelled through Minneapolis, under the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport, and then through Bloomington to the eventual end of the line at Mall of America. We got there at 12:56 PM, which because of the two substitute buses we had to ride, was 20 minutes later than we had intended.

 

Chapter 6.4: Lunch at Mall of America

 

Any shopping mall is expected to be most crowded on a Saturday. Here at the country's largest mall, Mall of America, there was no exception. To make matters more complicated, there was a free Becky G concert taking place at one of the center courts. Still, we found various places to eat, and I even got to "mall walk" all three levels before we again met at the designated exit near the light rail station. By now, Rosalyn had joined us so we had 11 people together for the rest of the afternoon.

 

Chapter 6.5: Metro Transit Blue Line, Mall of America to Target Field Station

 

Having had enough of the crowded mall, and because of our experiences earlier in the day, we decided to leave there 10 minutes earlier than our itinerary called for. Thus we departed from Mall of America at 2:33 PM headed for the other end of the Metro Blue Line at Target Field. This time, however, things were back to normal downtown, so our light rail vehicle remained on its usual route. We got to Target Field Station at 3:12 PM.

 

Being earlier than originally planned, we had some extra time to spend until our Northstar trip, which would depart at 4:00 PM. We were able to go down to the platform and wait next to the train until we were let aboard shortly before departure.

 

Chapter 6.6: Metro Transit Northstar, Target Field Station to Big Lake

 

Out outbound Northstar train left Target Field Station at exactly 4:00 PM. It was a nice ride over the Mississippi River and then up the BNSF line, although we did stop for a few minutes to let some freight traffic pass before coming to our first intermediate stop at Fridley. We arrived at the endpoint station of Big River at 4:56 PM, just four minutes late. Off the train briefly, we walked around and awaited the word we could re-board for inbound run of the same equipment.

 

Chapter 6.7: Metro Transit Northstar, Big Lake to Target Field Station

 

After we left Big Lake at 5:10 PM, we retraced our travels back towards Minneapolis. This time there were no delays, so we ultimately came back into Target Field Station at 5:58 PM, four minutes early. Having detrained we made our way up to the light rail level of the station. By now, there was a country music concert going on at adjacent Target Field, so it was noisy and also more crowded outside. From here we would be in smaller groups the rest of the day.

 

Chapter 6.8: Metro Transit Green Line, Target Field Station to dinner locations

 

Dave elected not to have dinner in Minneapolis; he would head straight to St. Paul to have dinner there with Cinda. Dave later reported that his Metro Green Line train was delayed due to some type of police activity.

 

The rest of us boarded one of two light rail trains that brought us to either Downtown East or West Bank, depending on where we would be having dinner.

 

Chapter 6.9: Dinner in Minneapolis

 

With our group having agreed previously to split and go to more than one restaurant, five (Jeb, Alan, Bill, Chris, Penny) chose to go to a pub called Republic, while the other five (Jishnu, Grace, Rosalyn, Steve, and I) opted for Old Spaghetti Factory. Both subsets of our group reported good meals and great service. The group at Republic was joined by Jeb's then girlfriend Chelsea, so they had six people from that point.

 

Chapter 6.10: Metro Transit Green Line, Dinner locations to Central Station, St. Paul

 

Since the 2 groups finished at different times, we were on different Metro Green Line trains to return to St. Paul. Thus we still as a group got the light rail trackage that we had missed due to the earlier service disruption. Everyone got off their respective trains at Central Station, the stop closest to the Doubletree.

 

Chapter 6.11: End of Saturday's activities

 

Now with everyone having returned to St. Paul, we were back in our rooms to prepare for our Sunday Amtrak run to Chicago. Tracking the progress of the eastbound Empire Builder, we already knew it was running very late. We had an in-person evening meeting in the hotel lobby to discuss what our plans would be for Sunday morning, including when to arise and how we would get ourselves from the hotel to St. Paul Union Depot.



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Posted 09 April 2017 - 04:37 PM

Chapter 7: Sunday, July 19, 2015

 

Sunday was dedicated to our eastbound Empire Builder trip from St. Paul to Chicago.

 

Chapter 7.1: Meeting in St. Paul

 

The group met once more in the Doubletree lobby after check-out and prepared to go to Union Depot. Our train was still running a few hours late. Bill would be leaving us to take a bus to the airport and his flight home. Jeb would be coming with us to Chicago for that element of the Fest.

 

Chapter 7.2: Metro Transit Green Line, Central Station to St. Paul Union Depot

 

This trip to the station we had our full luggage to move. While a few may have gotten from the hotel to the rail station by other means such as car service, the majority decided to just take the Metro Green Line light rail one stop to the depot.

 

The 12 of us were able to use the small First Class Lounge within St. Paul Union Depot. Not too many comfortable seats, but it still set us off from the coach passengers outside. In advance of general boarding for our train, an attendant came in and led us to another holding area at the top of the escalator that leads down to the platform. When he instructed us to do so, we went down to our train and boarded our respective accommodations.

 

Chapter 7.3: Amtrak Empire Builder, Train #8/28(17), St. Paul-Minneapolis, MN to Chicago, IL

 

Kevin Noell had been travelling on his own, and he had been aboard the coach section of this train since Seattle. Thus when the 12 of us boarded, our group was now 13 people. Once again those of us in the sleeper accommodations were spread out throughout the train.

 

The eastbound Empire Builder left St. Paul at 11:59 AM, three hours 56 minutes late. Of the 12 in sleeper who had boarded, two were in the 2830 Portland sleeper and the rest in the Seattle section. I was in the 0830 car, and the other nine were in the 0831 car. My attendant on this trip was horrible. She rarely made an appearance, and had a little boy with her "assisting" her to perform her duties. The boy was actually the child of another passenger. Those in the 0831 car also reported that their attendant was sub-par.

 

Our only meal on this trip was lunch, and it came about an hour into our trip as we had a 1:00 seating. Our server was Noelani, who understood our railfan interests and loved to ride trains herself. She did a professional job. The rest of the staff appeared to be great as well, although we really did not interface with them much.

 

At our stations in Winona and through Wisconsin, we remained around four hours late. We had been warned that the cafe car would be closing well in advance of our Chicago arrival, so I headed there to get a quick dinner before Milwaukee rather than waiting for Chicago around 8 PM. In Milwaukee we spent 10 minutes and made a double spot. Glenview came at 7:23 PM, four hours 11 minutes down. Then through the magic of schedule padding we came to a stop at Chicago's Union Station at 7:48 PM, 3 hours 53 minutes late. And that wrapped up the final official long distance journey of this Fest.

 

Chapter 7.4: End of Sunday's activities

 

Sunday ended with those who don't live in the Chicago area comfortable in their hotel rooms. Dave and Cinda went home to Indiana, but Dave would return to Chicago on Monday with a friend to join us for our Monday activities there.



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Posted 09 April 2017 - 04:45 PM

Chapter 8: Monday, July 20, 2015

 

Today was our one full activity day in the Windy City. We would ride several Metra commuter rail trains, Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) rapid transit heavy rail, and the O'Hare Airport Transportation System (ATS) at O'Hare International Airport.

 

Chapter 8.1: Meeting in Chicago

 

Eight people convened at Chicago's Union Station to kick off Monday's train riding activities. Returning from previous involvement were Dave, Grace, Alan, Chris, Kevin N, Jishnu, and me. Joining us today was Dave's friend Don Sillence.

 

Chapter 8.2: Metra North Central Service, Train #103, Chicago Union Station to Antioch

 

Our Metra train left Chicago on time at 9:00 AM. Along the way at Rosemont at 9:34 AM, Jeb boarded this train; he had been staying nearby in the O'Hare Airport vicinity. That brought us up to 9 people. Another hour after that, we arrived at the end of the line in Antioch and detrained.

 

Our train departed to lay up somewhere north of the station; it would also represent our southbound trip later on. Most of us waiting in or around the station, while a few explored the town during our 26 minute layover.

 

Chapter 8.3: Metra North Central Service, Train #114, Antioch to O'Hare Transfer

 

Our return trip departed with nine of us aboard precisely on time at 11:00 AM. On this trip we would not travel all the way to downtown Chicago, but the plan was to detrain at O'Hare Transfer and use a bus connection to the on-airport ATS people mover and eventually return to Chicago via the CTA Blue Line. Arrival at O'Hare Transfer was 11:59 AM, one minute late.

 

Chapter 8.4: Airport shuttle bus, Parking Lot F to Parking Lot E

 

We had to wait 6 minutes for the bus, and once aboard it was a 5-minute ride between the airport's remote parking lots F and E. We got to the ATS station at Parking Lot E at 12:10 PM.

 

Chapter 8.5: Airport Transportation System (ATS), Parking Lot E to Terminal 1

 

We rode the ATS in its entirety, leaving Lot E at 12:13 PM and arriving at the other end at Terminal 1 at 12:23 PM.

 

Chapter 8.6: At O'Hare Airport

 

From the ATS station we negotiated various passageways through the airport to head towards the CTA station for the long subway ride to the Loop.

 

Chapter 8.7: Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) Blue Line, O'Hare to Clark/Lake

 

We departed from O'Hare on the Blue Line at 12:39 PM. An uneventful inbound trip brought the 9 of us to our transfer point at Clark/Lake at 1:19 PM. Here, Don and Dave left us to grab lunch; they would join us later for the afternoon Metra trip to Blue Island. The other 7 made the transfer to the CTA Green Line.

 

Chapter 8.8: Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) Green Line, Clark/Lake to Randolph/Wabash

 

At 1:24 PM we left on a Green Line train for a 4-minute trip to the Randolph/Wabash station. When we descended to the street from the elevated station, Penny met us on that corner. Eight of us walked over to Millennium Station where we would have lunch, and from where our next train would depart in roughly 1-1/2 hours.

 

Chapter 8.9: Lunch in Chicago

 

Those together at this point had lunch at various eateries within the station, and later convened in the waiting area. We were rejoined there by Don and Dave, and by Steve and Rosalyn so we were up to a dozen once more.

 

Chapter 8.10: Metra Electric, Train #227, Chicago Millennium Station to Vermont Street, Blue Island

 

This trip began with our group of 12 aboard at Millennium Station. We departed on time at 3:05 PM, which was nice since we had a 10-minute connection to make on the far end of the line. However, there were some delays en route, and I began to get nervous about our making the next train. The preferred Rock Island District train would be an express over the route that bypasses Chicago's Beverly neighborhood, where local trains stop every few blocks and thus take much longer. If we were to miss that train, a local via Beverly would be running a few minutes later.

 

Ultimately, our Metra Electric train arrived in Blue Island at 3:58 PM, six minutes down. I had already warned everyone that we would need to hustle and get across a street and another set of tracks before the inbound train would arrive. We did so, and made it to the platform with little time to spare and our inbound train already visible in the distance.

 

Chapter 8.11: Metra Rock Island District, Train #420, Vermont Street, Blue Island to Chicago La Salle Street Station

 

Our group made it onto this train and easily found seats since this was an inbound run opposing the rush hour. We left Blue Island on time at 4:02 PM, four minutes after we had arrived on the outbound Metra Electric train. I enjoyed the adrenaline rush of 12 of us successfully making such a tight connection. Our train came into La Salle Street Station at 4:29 PM, right on time. From here, we said goodbye and split up for the day.

 

Chapter 8.12: End of Monday's activities

 

Some would leave town towards home later that evening. Out of those still in the area, 5 people (Dick, Penny, Chris, Kevin N., and Jishnu) took an evening points run out to Mendota and back on the Illinois Zephyr/Carl Sandburg. I had to remain in Chicago to switch hotels and do my laundry.



Kevin Korell


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Howell, NJ

#8 KevinKorell

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Posted 09 April 2017 - 04:47 PM

Chapter 9: Tuesday, July 21, 2015

 

Tuesday was the seventh and final day of our summer event. It was over after five of us took an Amtrak round trip to Glenview.

 

Chapter 9.1: Meeting in Chicago

 

With our dwindling numbers now down to five, those still together met one last time to do our last official event, a round trip on Amtrak's Hiawatha Service between Chicago and Glenview. The 5 people were Kevin N., Jishnu, Dick, Penny, and me.

 

Chapter 9.2: Amtrak Hiawatha Service, Train #333, Chicago Union Station to Glenview, IL

 

Our trip began at 10:20 AM as our Hiawatha train departed Chicago on time. With our goal of earning 200 easy Amtrak Guest Rewards points with the 100-point minimum per trip still in effect, we were observant of the crew's whereabouts since we would be getting off 22 minutes into their trip. As we got closer to Glenview, the train's first stop, it became apparent that we would not get our e-tickets scanned. Penny took everyone's tickets and found the crew in another car, getting all of us scanned so that our trip would not be in vain. We arrived in Glenview on time at 10:42 AM. We went inside the station for a short while since we were a little early for lunch.

 

Chapter 9.3: Lunch in Glenview

 

Our small group split up for lunch, with two going for pizza at Viccino's Pizza Company and the other three opting for the pub setting at Grandpa's Place. We still had an hour to eat and get back to the station platform before our next train.

 

Chapter 9.4: Amtrak Hiawatha Service, Train #334, Glenview, IL to Chicago Union Station

 

The very last train to carry group members as part of our official Fest was the southbound Hiawatha back to Chicago. Due to leave Glenview at 12:01 PM, it was running a bit late, and actually left at 12:08 PM, 7 minutes late. This time our tickets were scanned by the crew upon boarding, so we didn't have that worry during our trip. Arrival in Chicago came at 12:32 PM, three minutes down.

 

Chapter 9.5: End of Tuesday's activities

 

Our Fest was over, but our travels were not, as participants still needed to get home or continue their travels elsewhere.



Kevin Korell


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Howell, NJ

#9 KevinKorell

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Posted 09 April 2017 - 04:49 PM

Chapter 10: Getting home from the Fest

 

Just as happened with our getting together in various places and by different means, so were our trips home. Some flew, some took Amtrak directly, and some made the Fest part of a longer journey. For me, it meant another five days of travel that took me through Kansas City, St. Louis, Nashville, and Atlanta before I finally arrived home the following Sunday.

 

Chapter 11: Conclusion

 

We enjoyed our activities in Pittsburgh, Chicago, and the Twin Cities, and once more we accomplished everything we came to do. I hope it was not only fun but educational as well, as a total of 14 of us got to take a look at rail transportation in those places.

 

As usual on any Fest, we discussed future venues for our trips. While no definitive options were reached, we eventually ended up doing the OTOL New York RailFest 2016 six months later. For the following summer, our options at that point were unknown due to uncertainty with when various rail lines would be open for business.



Kevin Korell


OTOL Board Leader


Howell, NJ




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