Old 10-12-2009, 01:31 PM   #1
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Default The Ticket Buying Hobo

On Monday, October 5th, my wife and I boarded Amtrak at Pittsburgh’s Penn Station. For my wife, it was a day to see the Fall foliage. We should have waited another week, but our vacation times were already scheduled through our employers. For me, it was a day to travel through well known railroading places like the Gallitzin Tunnels, Horseshoe Curve, and the Rockville Bridge to name a few. Unfortunately, I did not take any photos from the train due to murky, water-spotted windows. They allowed for great scenery viewing, but would have made terrible photos to shoot through them, so I will link to others’ photos.

Our day started by arriving at Penn Station at around 0650 with nothing but my camera. We tried to retrieve our tickets from the kiosk, but the reader would not read the bar code. The ticket agent gave us our tickets, and we were soon on the platform, ready to board.

My wife had never ridden Amtrak before, let alone the Pennsylvanian. She asked what side to sit on. I told her to take the side away from the platform, as we would be on the inside of the Horseshoe Curve. I let her have the window seat, since I rode from Pittsburgh to Altoona and back last year with my brother, and fellow contributor, John.

Departing Pittsburgh, we pass by thousands of morning commuters on their way in to the city to start another week’s work. In Braddock, we pass by a 3 unit Union RR job headed into the US Steel works. We pass by the Pitcairn Intermodal facility, and make our scheduled stops at Greensburg, Latrobe, and Johnstown. We catch a glimpse of the Johnstown Incline, and are on our way east again, and pass by South Fork and the Cresson Locomotive Facility before going through the Gallitzin Tunnel and around Horseshoe Curve before stopping at Altoona. Our eastbound leg is roughly half complete.

Continuing on east, we pass by the Juniata Shops and Rose Yard. After we stop at Tyrone, we go through the tunnel at Spruce Creek and make our stops at Huntingdon and Lewistown. Going through Lewistown, we see Juniata Valley RR working the small yard there, and are back on our way to our destination of Harrisburg. We grab lunch from the Café Car since we don’t know if there will be any fast food within walking distance once at Harrisburg.

Coming into Harrisburg, we cross over the Susquehanna on the famous Rockville Bridge and make the right toward Harrisburg passing by Rutherford Yard. We saw some NS passenger cars. It was hard to tell whether they were part of the OCS or geometry cars due to being hidden by freight. We roll in to the Harrisburg Transportation Center on time, and have approximately 1˝ hour to kill until our westbound Pennsylvanian arrives to bring us back home. It was decent activity from the Mulberry St. Bridge with 2 road freights and 2 locals going both directions on the old Reading in the hour that we were there. My only complaint is the too high safety wall directly over the Amtrak catenaries. I understand the reasoning, but it would be nice to have railfan portals cut like in the safety fence at Gallitzin, and the Center Interlocking at Youngstown. Here are my only successes from the bridge due to the lack of lit angles, and getting ripped by clouds:
Image © Kevin Ashbaugh
PhotoID: 299875
Photograph © Kevin Ashbaugh

Image © Kevin Ashbaugh
PhotoID: 300005
Photograph © Kevin Ashbaugh

We walk back into the transportation center early to use the restroom before boarding. The agents open the platform for boarding, and I venture off to take a shot of a Keystone Service regional waiting for the afternoon rush to start. I asked if I could sneak off for a shot or 2 of the GG-1, and was granted the "I can’t tell you that you can but…", but that entailed me going through an active construction zone on the platform, and I opted to pass today.
Image © Kevin Ashbaugh
PhotoID: 299810
Photograph © Kevin Ashbaugh

We board, and are on our way back home. Sitting on the opposite side of the tracks, we get a better view of the scenery that we couldn’t so well see in the morning. The farther west we travel, the lower the sun goes. Coming back into Pittsburgh, it is pretty well dark at 1945 in the evening, and the city lights are spectacular. We left Harrisburg six minutes late, and the engineer made up 1 minute to Altoona. After Altoona, he must have poured the coals in since we made it back to Pittsburgh approximately 20 minutes early.
Image © Kevin Ashbaugh
PhotoID: 300008
Photograph © Kevin Ashbaugh

So I ask. Have any of you ridden Amtrak, "Just Because"? Not to get from one point to the other for business, vacation, etc., but just to ride it to see the scenery. As railfans, we shoot all of these different areas with trains going by in our photos, but have you ever wanted to see these same areas from the rails? To actually FEEL the decent in altitude riding down the slide and around Horseshoe Curve for example. For most, it is the closest that we will get to seeing America’s great railroading feats for the reason that they were built. To move trains. Our great photos are nothing but a by-product of their real purpose.
A Picture Is Worth 1000 Words. A Memory Is Worth 1000 Pictures.

Last edited by EMTRailfan; 10-12-2009 at 02:21 PM.
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Old 10-14-2009, 04:33 PM   #2
Joe the Photog
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I've wanted to ride Amtrak just for the heck of it and still might take the Silver Star down to Florida one day. But for those of us here in the Midlands of South Carolina, Amtrak runs in the dead of night and, from what I hear, can be anywhere from 15 minutes to four hours late. I used to see the south bound train at 4 a.m. on my way to work when the station listed it as a 12:24 a.m. train.

Maybe one day.

Great post and pictures, too.
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Old 11-11-2009, 12:49 AM   #3
lost bouy
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4 hours is not that late for the amtrak silver (late) star, it once arrived in Cary, NC 9 hours late! Well I ride amtrak for train watching sometimes, when I get sick of the same old place.
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