We had 4 interesting Amtrak trips during the official part of the Fest. Our OBS crews ran the gamut from horrible to excellent. Our timekeeping was pretty good on all trains, with never a real significant delay into our destinations. We had one conductor out of Memphis who made a bad name for himself by complaining we were not following his policies, which don't mirror those followed for other Amtrak trains and at other stations. The rest appeared glad to have us on board.
Those going home to points on the east coast ended up in a 3-train race. The Capitol Limited won, but we really lost as our designated connecting train out of Washington died a few miles into its trip.
In Atlanta we aced all of MARTA's heavy rail system, and also took a round trip on the airport's SkyTrain people mover.
And our close second favorite activity, eating, was amply accomplished at the Georgia Peach restaurant. The food was great and we were served very well.
New Orleans was the only place we spent two nights, by nature of the Amtrak schedule and our need to spend a full day there. New Orleans RTA let us down on a few occasions. First, the Riverfront Streetcar was not running beyond Julia to the announced end of the line at John Churchill Chase. One must wonder if they ever feel like going out to the real end of the line, because I recall myself being dumped there before. Another issue was that the Riverfront Streetcar was not running Downriver of Canal Street. The best part of the line, the part through the French Quarter where you can really see the river not blocked by the Riverwalk Marketplace, was closed for some sort of construction, also unannounced. And lastly, more than one of us had problems with the onboard readers handling the DayPasses, which inevitably get bent, perspired on, or otherwise mutilated just by nature of the summer weather and the fact we were making many uses of them.
On the positive side, we did ride the entire St. Charles Streetcar line in the morning, and made two trips up the Canal Streetcar line, visiting the Cemeteries end before lunch and the Museums branch in the afternoon. I also dug deep in my pockets and treated everyone to a round trip ferry ride on the Mississippi River. Some went in search of local delicacies for dinner, but the majority went into Harrah's Casino and filled up from their lavish buffet.
In Memphis the goal was to ride three trolley lines. The Riverfront Loop and Main Street Trolley are really one in the same, as a ride on Riverfront northbound covers the entire Main Street route. The Madison Avenue trolley provided us with our only letdown, as the innermost portion of the route, the part that normally intersects with the other routes, was closed due to building demolition. It turns out that they were only running one trolley on the line, and one bus, and only the bus made a loop downtown. So we had long waits for the bus and then the trolley at its temporary western terminus by the Autozone Park stadium. Rather than wait for the bus again, we walked to various locations for lunch. So we did ride most of the Madison Avenue line, and took about three turns on the Riverfront Loop, broken by detraining and reboarding at various locations. By virtue of that we also covered the Main Street line.
Dinner in Memphis was at Spaghetti Warehouse, where most of us had a very filling Italian dinner. No, we didn't sit in the restaurant's trademark trolley, but our bodies were parked in the seats of operable trolleys most of Friday. This group has arrived by trolley or light rail at other branches of this restaurant in Dallas (2005) and Tampa (2008). Before anyone says "What about 2010?", that one was the west coast's version, Old Spaghetti Factory in Portland.
Some time was also killed by taking the monorail round trip to Mud Island, and walking the mock Mississippi River next to the real one. Whether near either Mississippi River, it was still very hot out there, so most spent the time in the air conditioned lobby near the monorail station escalators.
The Chicago Curse continues, and even with my keeping a Chicago itinerary separate from our main one as a superstition, we still had some issues. We did not get to ride any CTA lines. We came into town a little late because of weather related signal problems, and that same weather caused flooding on the outer end of the Pink Line as well as much of the Blue Line, which would have been its backup activity. Four people were involved in a round trip to Elburn on the METRA UP-West line, and meanwhile some took round trips to either Glenview or Milwaukee on various Amtrak Hiawatha trains.
And that is the wrap-up of our rail related activities. Please remind me if anything was overlooked. Next is all the post-fest housekeeping that has to take place to give the group credit for the routes we covered, posting of the final actual times compared to the planned itinerary, updating our Fest history page, and a few other odds and ends, culminating with the grand prize, the long-form trip report. I will post updates as replies to this thread as the different elements are updated.
If you shot any group photos and have them posted to a photo-sharing site, please provide that link in this thread so others who could not attend can enjoy them. Also we would like to use mainly group shots to accompany the eventual report.
I think everyone rode at least one Amtrak train, so if you have not done so, please report your Amtrak mileage to Bill in the July thread. At present we have another week until he closes it to make way for August.
Thanks again to everybody for coming and making this Fest yet another exciting event. Hope to see you all again in January and again next July!