JWG (jwg) wrote,

via Amtrak from Charlotte to Philadelphia

rsc and I took the Carolinian, the Amtrak train that goes from Charlotte, NC to New York yesterday. This was part of our trip to Philadelphia from Boston via Atlanta where we visited bratman and Tony.

We like to travel by train and when exploring the various possibilities of how to get from Atlanta to Philadelphia we saw that this train travels by day (as opposed to the Crescent which is mostly by night when it leaves Atlanta). And choosing this gave us a couple of days to drive in the NC mountains on the Blue Ridge Parkway. This train leaves Charlotte at 7:50 am and is supposed to get to Philadelphia at 7:27. We'd been tracking its ontimeness for several weeks and saw that it usually was somewhere between 1/2 hour and an hour late.

The trip was uneventful. Since it was the day before Thanksgiving it was a full train (4 passenger cars and a cafe car), particularly from Raleigh. Although we had stuff to read, I read no more than 3/4 of a Harvard Magazine. Train geek that I am I spent some time looking at the time table to see when we would pass southbound trains. I think we saw all but one and assumed they were in the order that they were supposed to be but it is hard to tell when 2 79 mph trains pass each other just a few feet from each other. Most of time was spent just gazing out the window. As is typical with US public transportation systems, the PA system didn't usually work well, but the first conductor's announcements were clear and she was cool. When she got to the part about wearing shoes when wandering about she said "you never can tell where the floor has been".

True to form, the train was 25 minutes late (I just checked and today's was 4 minutes late). The lateness was partly due to the undue large amount of time spent at each stop. Instead of the 90 second european/japanese stop it was usually six to eight minutes. There was only one conductor for the three cars in front of the cafe and since these stops are all low platform they only open one door so that the conductor can assist people. This takes lots of extra time and then even after that they wait around for a couple of minutes when loading is done (perhaps waiting from dispatcher clearance to proceed). Just a bit more attention to maintenance and to procedure and this train would have been on time. Shave a bit more than 1 minute off each of the ~18 stops and it would have been on time.

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