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OTOL Virginia RailFest 2017 trip report


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#1 KevinKorell

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Posted 30 April 2017 - 02:40 PM

Trip Report

 

OTOL Virginia RailFest 2017

 

January 14-15, 2017

 

 

Chapter 0: Introduction

 

OTOL Virginia RailFest 2017 was born out of a lack of other things to do on the East Coast. Not many new rail facilities had opened on the East Coast giving us a reason to visit. Since the group had not yet been able to officially ride the DC Streetcar, we decided to base ourselves in the Washington, DC area and do Amtrak trips out of there.

 

I came up with several scenarios, both day and overnight trips. After presenting the options to our potential participants, it was agreed that two daytime round trips (one on Saturday, one on Sunday) was most preferred.

 

Chapter 1: Preparation

 

The day trips chosen were Washington to Richmond one day, and Washington to Charlottesville the other. Since the thrice-weekly schedule of the Cardinal only allows such a trip on a Sunday, that trip was chosen meaning we would go to Richmond on Saturday. Because the departure to Charlottesville is later than the one chosen for Richmond, we would take our DC Streetcar round trip on Sunday in advance of the Cardinal trip. Thus our Fest's itinerary was born. It was one element of the homepage that provided other links to useful information related to this event.

 

Participants made their hotel and travel plans, and then all that remained was getting ourselves to Washington to partake of this event.

 

Chapter 2: Friday, January 13, 2017

 

Most out of town participants used this day to get to the Washington, DC area, whether by Amtrak or flying. Because of the diversity of where everyone was coming from and relatively late arrivals into town, we did not meet as a group for dinner. Mike Hammond and I did have pizza near his hotel and took an evening run on the Metro Silver Line to Wiehle/Reston East and back.



Kevin Korell


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#2 KevinKorell

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Posted 30 April 2017 - 06:12 PM

Chapter 3: Saturday, January 14, 2017

 

Our activity for Saturday was a round trip between Washington and Richmond's Staples Mill Road Station, southbound on the Palmetto and northbound on the Carolinian.

 

Chapter 3.0: Meeting in Washington

 

We had nine people get together in Amtrak's Club Acela. Meeting were Jishnu Mukerji, Jack Suslak, Steve Weagant, Penny Jacobs, Mike Hammond, Grace Burden, Alan Burden, Ross Kudlick, and me. Meeting us later were Preston Holland and Kate Warren. Boarding began around 9:40 AM.

 

Chapter 3.1: Amtrak Train #89, Palmetto: Washington, DC to Richmond, VA

 

Already aboard the Palmetto having originated from points north were Maurice Carson, Stephen Montero, and John Corbett. That brought our total for the day to 14 people. Of the 14, we had nine (Jishnu, Steve M., Steve W., Mike, Penny, Grace, Alan, Ross, and me) in Business Class, and the other five in Coach Class.

 

Our journey on this segment started out well enough as we left Washington, DC on time at 10:00 AM. Would that good luck last? We left Alexandria at 10:21 AM, three minutes off the advertised. Not insurmountable yet, especially knowing there were no more scheduled intermediate stops on this train.

Just past Quantico, in the vicinity of Aquia Harbour, we came to a stop. The crew came on the public address system and informed us that we had to wait for two trains to pass. Presumably there was trackwork ahead. We sat there for 40 minutes, during which time one long freight train passed by us. We eventually started moving again, and then soon passed Northeast Regional Train #88, which was also delayed.

 

The rest of our southbound trip had no further delays. We arrived at Richmond's Staples Mill Road Station at 12:51 PM, 40 minutes late. We had about two hours dwell originally, but now with one hour 21 minutes we still had enough time to seek lunch.

 

Chapter 3.2: In Richmond

 

Although we didn't all walk over there together, about half of our group visited the McDonald's nearby. Others walked elsewhere to find lunch, while the rest just remained within the station. Afterwards, all 14 of us were back at the station to await the northbound Carolinian, which was running on time.

 

Chapter 3.3: Amtrak Train #80, Carolinian: Richmond, VA to Washington, DC

 

Although the Carolinian left Richmond on time at 2:12 PM, CSX delayed us getting onto their mainline from the station siding. This caused us to be no more than nine minutes late at the Fredericksburg and Quantico stations. Along the way we passed Northeast Regional #195 and the southbound Auto Train #53.

 

Thanks to usual padding, we were only three minutes down at Alexandria. When we arrived at Washington's Union Station at 4:21 PM, we were eight minutes early! Delay? What delay? Maurice remained aboard the Carolinian to go home (and return back for the Cardinal trip the next day). The rest of us went into Union Station, where Kate and Preston left us. Eleven people remained together for dinner.

 

Chapter 3.4: Dinner in Washington

 

Although dinner had not been pre-planned this time, we easily agreed to dine at Uno Pizzeria & Grill within Union Station. We had been there two years ago and they had served us well. They did not disappoint again, as our service was excellent and quick.

 

Chapter 3.5: End of Saturday's activities

 

Following dinner, we went our separate ways to ponder one very successful day of train riding past, and another to come.



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#3 KevinKorell

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Posted 30 April 2017 - 06:21 PM

Chapter 4: Sunday, January 15, 2017

 

Sunday's activities had two major elements: A round trip on the DC Streetcar, and an Amtrak round trip to Charlottesville, VA on the Cardinal.

 

Chapter 4.0: Meeting in Washington

 

Many of us met in the Club Acela, while others hooked up with us just outside in the station just outside the facility. Three who walked from a nearby hotel, would instead meet the group at the streetcar stop on the H Street (Hopscotch) Bridge. Nine of us coming from the station walked through its bus terminal/parking garage and out to the streetcar platform.

 

All told, 12 of us would be making this eastbound trip. Returning from Saturday were Steve W., Kate, Preston, Ross, Penny, Mike, Grace, Alan, John, and me. Joining us for the first time were Don Weinstein and his wife Fayone, who would be taking the streetcar trip only.

 

Chapter 4.1: DC Streetcar, Union Station to Oklahoma Avenue

 

The group of 12 left the Union Station platform on the bridge at 8:41 AM. The system was obviously not following an expected schedule of leaving the start point every quarter hour, so this car was either 4 minutes early or 11 minutes late.

 

After a smooth and uneventful trip, we got to the other end of the line at Benning Road & Oklahoma Avenue at 9:06 AM. There to greet us were Chris Wyatt and Steve M., who had slept later than expected and who decided to take a car to meet us at that end to at least be able to ride one way with us.

 

With a slight breeze it was a little uncomfortable on the platform there, as we had to wait outside while the same streetcar pulled beyond the station to a tail track and then returned on the westbound track.

 

Chapter 4.2: DC Streetcar, Oklahoma Avenue to Union Station

 

After the streetcar returned and the doors opened for boarding, our group (now 14) did so. The car left Oklahoma Avenue at 9:13 AM for its 25 minute run to Union Station. We got there at 9:38 AM.

 

Leaving us after the streetcar run were Grace, Alan, Fayone, Don, Kate, and Preston. The remaining 8 were later joined in the station by Jack and John.

 

Chapter 4.3: Amtrak Train #51, Cardinal: Washington, DC to Charlottesville, VA

 

When the Cardinal was called in the Club Acela, 10 of us were led down to the platform and soon boarded the train. Already on the train and returning from the previous day was Maurice. For this trip, Steve W., Mike, Penny, Jishnu, Ross, and I were in Business Class, while John, Maurice, Steve M., Chris, and Jack were Coach Class. Our total travelling party for the rest of the day would be 11, although on neither Cardinal segment would we all be together.

 

The westbound Cardinal departed from Washington one minute late, at 11:01 AM, and we remained just a little off schedule for the entire trip. During the journey many of us went to the cafe car to partake of lunch, and for those in Business Class, claim our complimentary soft drinks.

 

The train arrived in Charlottesville at 1:45 PM, just two minutes tardy. We still, therefore, had a little over 90 minutes dwell time before our return trip, which we knew was also running close to schedule.

 

Chapter 4.4: In Charlottesville

 

Several from the group passed the time at the nearby World of Beer, while others walked around town or remained near the station. All were back inside the small waiting room well before the announcements were made in advance of our next train's arrival.

 

Chapter 4.5: Amtrak Train #50, Cardinal: Charlottesville, VA to Washington, DC

 

The same eleven people boarded the eastbound Cardinal for our return trip to Washington. On this journey, since Business Class was not available, four people (Steve M., Chris, Penny, and Jishnu) shared accommodations in daytime mode while the other seven went in coach. There was a little confusion for those in coach in boarding the train as there often is when crew assigns seats. In the end, the seven of us did get to sit together in one general section of the same coach.

 

Those who were in the sleeping car reported that the adjacent Business Class car was totally empty. Whereas we all (from the time the Fest was announced until just before we left on the trip) had experienced a "Sold Out" condition when trying to reserve a preferred seat in Business, in fact every seat was physically available but could not be reserved. The crew, when asked about it, was just as baffled.

 

We departed Charlottesville right on time at 3:19 PM. We lost some time up to Culpeper, and with a double spot there, we left 7 minutes late at 4:42 PM. Around Manassas, the four from our group in the sleeping car were called for a quick dinner. Our train left Manassas at 5:16 PM, 6 minutes down. However, the way trains are scheduled into Alexandria and Washington, we knew we more than likely would not be late into the latter.

 

Alexandria came at 5:47 PM, which was 12 minutes early. As this is (as well as all stations up to New York on this train) a discharge-only stop, we departed quickly and headed into the nation's capital. We came to a stop in Washington Union Station at 6:06 PM, officially 13 minutes early.

 

Chapter 4.6: End of Sunday's activities

 

Steve M., Chris, and Maurice would remain aboard this train to points north, while the other eight detrained to either head for home in the Washington area or to hotels for one more night. A few of us who got off in Washington (and hadn't eaten earlier) partook of Union Station's lower level food court for a late dinner. From there we said our final goodbyes and split up. A few would see one another once more on Monday on their respective trips home.



Kevin Korell


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Howell, NJ

#4 KevinKorell

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Posted 30 April 2017 - 06:24 PM

Chapter 5: Conclusion

 

Success once more for our group as everyone had a wonderful weekend on the rails. We made the best out of what little we did. For the most part, the weather and the Amtrak trains cooperated for us.

 

For the future, while it had not at that time been announced, we were aware our next event together would be our summer trip, namely OTOL Missouri-Texas RailFest 2017, which would take us to Kansas City, St. Louis, and Dallas.



Kevin Korell


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Howell, NJ

#5 steve4031

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Posted 30 April 2017 - 11:04 PM

As always, these trip reports bring back great memories.




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