To address any concerns or assumptions, I'd like to present what is going through my mind about a potential January 2011 event.
When we last met in August of this year, we essentially "aced" not only the Long Island Railroad, but everything in the New York/New Jersey/Connecticut area. Save for any new starts, such as the HBLRT extension in Bayone, we no longer have any rail transit routes to ride for the first time as a group. That does not mean we cannot repeat anything. It is realized that between 2001 and the present, some of you may have missed some of our Fests.
The New YorkCity metropolitan area is not the only location being considered. Also possible are Fests in Western Pennsylvania (Pittsburgh & Johnstown) and North Carolina (mainly Charlotte). Following are some pros and cons of each choice:
1. New York City area
Again keeping in mind that anything future in the New York City/New Jersey/Connecticut area would be a repeat and thus geared to those who would be new to the lines we would ride, the only way to do this would be to hold a New York Request Fest. Based on requests from potential participants, we can hopefully put together a program of rail activities to fill up two days. These requests would have to be within reason. For example, a Port Jervis round trip (as we did in 2003) is no longer possible during winter daylight hours due to schedule changes.
Such a "Request Fest" would also work in other Eastern cities, such as Philadelphia or Boston. If one in the New York area is the chosen option, then those who have made to our events every year for the last decade may find things redundant. Our goals for a fun-filled day would remain the same, but the faces might be a little different than they were last time around.
Originally a 3-day event (including rail trips to and from the Northeast), it was expanded to 4 days when it became a possible candidate for a fest in the winter. This ensures that we can ride the Piedmont and Charlotte's light rail during daylight hours.
Pro: Charlotte offers a choice of many hotels, and they appear to be reasonably priced.
Pro: The midday frequency of the Piedmont that started this past summer ensures that we would be able to ride the entire trip in daylight, don't have to arise too early, or arrive at our destination too late.
Con: The current location of the Amtrak station is about a mile north of Uptown (Charlotte's term for "Downtown"). This would necessitate a taxicab or bus trip to get between the station and your chosen hotel. The #11 bus runs along Tryon Street in front of the station driveway.
Con: The Piedmont does not have a cafe car; food service is strictly vending machines. This would be an issue as the midday trip runs during lunchtime.
Con: This past summer, CATS discontinued the Charlotte Trolley due to budget issues. While the heritage trolley used the same tracks as the light rail line, it was a novelty. Without it, the only rail activity in Charlotte would be the light rail, which takes almost half an hour each way end to end. Because of the stretched out schedule, we would be involved in an "official" ride just about one hour of the day.
Some hotels in Charlotte claim to have shuttles that serve the Amtrak station, so perhaps those could be sought out if this option is chosen. Also, Amtrak is slated to move to a new intermodal transportation center in a few years, so that could be a reason to wait until then.
In planning, Pittsburgh was always considered to be a 4-day event (Saturday and Tuesday are strictly trips on the Pennsylvanian from and to Northeast cities). This is due to the nature of Amtrak's schedule. Both trains coming from the east get there late at night, and both going towards the east depart early in the morning. So 2 days would be dedicated to the area. One of the two is intentionally scheduled for Sunday, when the Pennsylvanian runs eastbound later. This allows for a side trip to Johnstown to ride that city's Incline, to bolster the experience of having ridden Pittsburgh's two remaining Inclines.
Pro: One reason to visit Pittsburgh very soon is that the Brown Line (formerly the 52 Allentown) is proposed to be eliminated by March 2011.
Pro: Pittsburgh does offer a lot of hotels, many within easy walking distance of the light rail lines and the Amtrak station.
Con: Pittsburgh is a very railfan-unfriendly city. There is no DayPass instrument. The complex fare structure on the light rail lines includes zone fares and surcharges based on the time of day.
Con: A fare increase will most likely take place by the time we would have this Fest, so the financial blow will be even worse. It is possble that one end to end trip during the rush hour could cost as much as 4 or 5 bucks a pop.
Con: While the extension under construction to the North Side is a good thing, the old Gateway Center station has been permanently closed, with all trains turning at Wood Avenue. A new Gateway Center station will open as part of the extension. We would therefore miss this section of the orginal subway.
4. Do nothing
Having no Rail Fest in January 2011 is always an option. As I said at the start, I would not be heartbroken if we didn't have any Fest at that time. But perhaps some of you have come to expect them at that time. I would just as well not have to worry about standing outside in frigid or snowy weather. If not enough interest is shown, Option #4 can easily be invoked.
The above has no bearing on other plans, such as next July's Southeast RailFest, visiting Atlanta, New Orleans, and Memphis, and featuring Amtrak trips on the Crescent and City of New Orleans. Hopefully past business will be cleared up by then and we can look forward to another great summer event. Of course this is no official announcement; it is pending my vacation time being approved. More than likely it should be known for sure by mid-winter.
Meanwhile, I hope to announce something regarding January by around Thanksgiving, so you can begin making your plans to attend (or not). What happens then is up to YOU. If you favor Option #1, please state your choices for what we should do. Primarily this is up to those who have not been to every Fest or have never ridden particular rail lines. The more interest is shown, the more likely we avoid the dreaded Option #4.