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.
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.