Norfolk and Western #611 Excursion 2016:
Following my ride behind former Norfolk and Western J class 4-8-4 #611, I ended up missing my train back to Washington and in order to get home, I had to spend over $320 to get home. I decided to see if #611 would be running in Virginia next year I would ride behind it again. Afterward, I would do a “Make-up trip” to redo the segment that I missed.
After checking on FireUp611.com, I was initially looking for excursions out of Lynchburg where I rode it last year. This year, no excursions originated from Lynchburg.
However, there were a couple excursions with #611 out of Manassas which is between Lynchburg and Washington DC in June which I decided to attend.
My final plan was to take the Maple Leaf to Schenectady and overnight there. The next day, I would ride Amtrak train #280 to New York and transfer to the Southbound Crescent to Manassas. I would ride behind #611 the day after I arrived in Manassas before heading to Lynchburg and spending a couple days there. From Lynchburg, I would ride a Regional train back to Alexandria and fly home as I originally intended last year. The trip unfolded as follows.
June 2, 2016:
I got to Finch shortly after 7:00 am. I realized I had left the wire I use to transfer photos from my digital camera to my computer at home. I figured I could get another one at an electronics store somewhere on my trip. I had forgotten my cell phone charger on when I went to Chicago in 2013 for the 2200 series El car charter, but bought a new one on my trip which worked out as I kept the new cord in my bag.
The subway ride went okay until right after we left Queen; two stops before Union when we lost power. We were able to coast to King station. After a couple minutes the TTC crew announced they had lost power for an unknown reason. I decided to walk the rest of the way to Union. I got there at 7:50; 30 minutes before my train was scheduled to depart.
began 13 minutes before the train was scheduled to depart. I was seated in
Amfleet 1 coach #82590. I saw the train consist was a locomotive, two Amfleet 2
coaches, two Amfleet 1 coaches, and a cafe car with Business class seats. It
usually has three Amfleet 2 coaches, an Amfleet 1 coach, and a cafe car with
Business class seats. Either Amtrak changed the consist or an Amfleet 2 coach
was bad ordered in
I didn't let that bother me too much as I found a seat. I noticed forms for U.S. Customs were on the seats and not passed out later by the train crew. The train left on time.
Shortly after we left, I saw a VIA train pass, but I was unable to film it. I did film the combined VIA trains 52 and 62 when they passed.
When we passed VIA's Toronto Maintenance Center, I filmed the equipment in the yard. I saw at the west end former VIA RDC #6133 which is now owned by Rapido Trains. Rapido bought it at the last minute to save it from being scrapped.
My ticket was taken. I went to the cafe car for a drink as I was thirsty. The train stopped at Oakville. West of Oakville, I looked for the former TTC D40hf but it seemed to have been removed from the yard where it sat. I saw a few ex Hamilton C40LFs in a scrap yard.
The train stopped at Aldershot. There was a GO train stopped on track 4 in the station. It had a new style cab car. I photographed it.
The train passed through Bayview Junction. We then passed a CN GP28-2w and GP9. We passed through the CN yard in Hamilton. I saw an orange end cab switcher at the end of the yard, but I was unable to photograph it. I decided to fill out the card for Customs.
As we passed the big steel plant in Hamilton, I photographed CN end cab switcher #7304.
The train was passing somewhat slowly. A CN freight train passed us. We began picking up speed.
A little while later, I decided to go to the cafe car before it closed. The train passed through Grimsby non stop. We stopped at St. Catherines a few minutes later.
The bridge over the Welland Canal was down. We were approaching Niagara Falls, Ontario. We stopped at the station after a double stop. At Niagara Falls, Ontario, the VIA crew got off and the Amtrak crew got on. The Amtrak crew instructed me to move one coach back to Amfleet 1 coach #82600 in order to be able to easily get off in Schenectady. The train departed and crossed into the U.S. Once in the U.S, we passed the site of the new Niagara Falls New York station well under construction. It will have a high level platform. We went past then reversed into the present Niagara Falls, New York station.
We were made to get off and go through Customs. The agent who interviewed me was nice. I reboarded the train and soon the inspection was complete. My ticket was taken by the Amtrak conductor. I got off and took some photos of the train and some CSX power.
I then took two more pictures at the rear of the train and of the present Niagara Falls, New York station before it is replaced.
I then got back on the train and logged into Amtrak's Wi-Fi. I also worked on this report some more.
The train left Niagara Falls, New York on time. Soon, we were approaching downtown Buffalo. We stopped at Buffalo Exchange Street station. Several people got on here, but I didn't get a seatmate. We soon departed.
I looked out the right side of the train hoping to photograph the fishbowl I saw when I rode the Toronto bound Maple Leaf last December, but it was gone. We stopped at Buffalo Depew station a few minutes later.
After leaving Depew, the cafe car finally opened up. I went there for lunch. At one point, the train stopped due to track work and freight traffic. We were underway again a little while later.
The train stopped at Rochester. The temporary station was still being used. East of Rochester, Amtrak train #63 passed. I saw it was being led by P42 #184 which was repainted into Amtrak's Phase 4 livery. I recorded the coaches, but missed the locomotive.
while later, we passed a long lash up of locomotive; mostly CSX, but a
We soon arrived at Syracuse. Syracuse was a smoke stop. I stepped off and photographed the train.
I then got back on the train. We departed a few minutes later. It was raining. Shortly after we left, we stopped to let a westbound CSX intermodel pass. We were underway again a few minutes later. Train #281 passed and I attempted to film it. I went to the cafe car for a drink.
We stopped at Rome a little while later. East of Rome, the train stopped. After a westbound CSX freight passed, we were underway again.
The train stopped in Utica. At Utica, I saw the crew of the Adirondack Scenic Railway doing some switching. We pulled in on track 1 which is the furthest track from the station. We soon departed.
East of Utica, we went under an overpass. I saw several cows walking across the bridge! That's kind of unusual to see.
A westbound CSX freight passed led by a Norfolk Southern locomotive.
Amtrak train #283 passed, but I was unable to film it. We stopped in Amsterdam a little while later.
We were soon approaching Schenectady. I readied my stuff in preparation to get off. Train #64 arrived into Schenectady 13 minutes early! I got off and photographed the train.
I then left the station and photographed the train from the street.
The train did not depart on time. While I was waiting, I photographed some buses.
The train was waiting for Train #291 from New York because east of Schenectady, the line is single track. I filmed train #291 pulling in and then filmed #64 departing.
I then walked to my hotel which was three blocks from the station. This hotel was a boutique hotel. I checked in and went to my room for a little while. I headed out. I decided to try and see the westbound Lake Shore Limited. I was wondering if the Boston section was still running as a stub train or the trains combined once again.
When the train pulled in I noticed three things: There was only a single locomotive leading. Previously, I've never seen the Lake Shore west of Albany with no less than two locomotives. Second thing I noticed was a former Metroliner coach owned by the Department of Transportation! Third, the train had all the sleepers at the front, followed by a diner, lounge, and coaches meaning the Boston section was still running as a stub train. I filmed the train pulling in and photographed the DOT Metroliner.
I filmed the train pulling out and went to Wendy's for dinner. I phoned home and let my mom know I was in Schenectady. After dinner, I stopped at a nearby gas station and bought a bottle of lemonade. I walked back to my hotel where I went online and worked on this report. I eventually set the alarm on my phone and called it a night.
June 3, 2016:
I got up at 7:30 am and got dressed. I finished packing and checked out of my hotel. I had breakfast at Burger King. After breakfast, I stopped at a convenience store for some Pepsi and to get some Advil as I had a headache.
When I was waiting to cross the street to go to the station, I saw an errant cyclist get hit by a car! Fortunately he was okay and he rode off.
After that little bit of excitement, I headed to the station. I learned the train was on time. I saw a Norfolk Southern freight train pass.
After awhile, I took the incredibly slow elevator up to track level and waited for my train. Train #280 actually arrived 18 minutes early! I filmed the train pulling in.
I was seated in Amfleet 1 coach #82659. After sitting for awhile, the train left on time.
When we passed Amtrak's maintenance yard in Albany, I filmed the equipment in the yard. I saw the cars and F40 from Amtrak's Exhibit train and P40 #822 would be leading the stub train #448 to Boston later that afternoon. I also saw P32AC-DM #710 which is the second P32AC-DM to have been overhauled and repainted into Amtrak's Phase 3 livery.
We soon stopped at the station. This was a smoke stop. I stepped off and photographed the train.
I saw work was being done and two of the platform tracks were out of service. However, another new track had been added so the Lakeshore Limited's passengers can easily cross from train 48 to 448 and from train 449 to 49.
I saw Amtrak train #63 pulling in led by P32AC-DM #704; the first overhauled P32AC-DM to have been painted in the phase 3 livery. I photographed the train and filmed it pulling in.
I saw the train had the same exact coaches as I had ridden the day before. The Amfleet 2 coaches were behind the locomotive and would presumably be locked by the border making them pointless to be in the consist instead of Amfleet 1s. If Amtrak didn't have enough Amfleet 2s, the two Amfleet 2 coaches should be the second and third coaches in the train.
I then got back on the train and we departed on time. Amtrak train #69 passed, but I was unable to film it. After awhile, I went to the cafe car and bought a chocolate bar. The train stopped at Hudson.
A little while after that, the train stopped in Rhinecliff. We soon departed.
We passed a Metro North commuter train and then stopped at Poughkeepsie. We departed Poughkeepsie after picking up some passengers. As we approached Croton-Harmon, I attempted to photograph the former Erie Lackawanna “Phoebe Snow” coaches.
We stopped at Croton Harmon moments later. When we left, we were about 40 minutes from New York's Penn Station. South of Croton Harmon, we passed what looked like a prison.
South of Croton, a northbound Amtrak train passed, but I was unable to film it. I phoned my friend Dan because he said there might be a possibility to meet at Penn Station. However, I learned something had come up and we would be unable to meet.
As we passed non stop through Yonkers, I saw an MTA bus garage with a fishbowl in the back, but I was unable to film it. I did film some MTA subway trains at the Kawasaki plant near the station.
A little while later, we were approaching New York. I readied my stuff in preparation to get off. Train #280 arrived 10 minutes early. I got off and photographed the train.
I then went upstairs into Penn Station. The first thing I did was look for a shop where I could buy a cord for my camera to replace the one I had forgotten at home. After a few minutes, I found a store with a cord that worked. I bought it and then I bought lunch.
I then sat down in the Amtrak departure lounge and went online and worked on this report some more. I also tested out my new USB micro cable and it worked well.
After awhile, I decided to head out and try to line up for boarding the Crescent because in the past, it's been full when I've ridden it.
The Crescent began boarding at 2:00 pm. I saw there was a Heritage diner, but I didn't believe I would have time for a sit down dinner in the diner before I got off in Manassas. I was seated in Amfleet 2 coach #25013. I got a window seat on the left hand side of the train. The train left on time.
We passed through the Hudson River tunnel and headed into the state of New Jersey. I photographed a New Jersey Transit commuter train.
The train stopped at Newark. We departed a few minutes later. South of Newark, we passed a yard full of Amtrak MOW hoppers. I could see Newark International Airport from the train.
We passed a Regional train heading north. A little while later, a Keystone train passed. In Brunswick, we passed a yard with some old Heritage baggage cars in the #1700 series as well as a Heritage coach in the Phase 3 livery. Presumably, those cars are used in MOW duties.
A northbound Acela Express train passed. We stopped at Trenton a little while later. A Northeast Regional train raced passed heading north.
We passed a SEPTA commuter train meaning we were getting close to Philadelphia. We passed the area where last year, Northeast Regional train #188 took a curve too fast and derailed killing 8 passengers. I filmed the yard with a former Amtrak E unit which had seen better days. I had noticed that unit last year when I rode the Crescent back to New York from Birmingham after I returned from Montgomery. An Acela Express train passed. I saw a graffiti covered caboose near someone's yard. We passed an Amtrak maintenance train. We passed over Girard Street where SEPTA's PCC-2s run.
Outside Philadelphia station, I saw P42 #145 painted in Phase 3 for Amtrak's 40th anniversary back in 2011 and attempted to photograph the unit.
I had now managed to see all the units on Amtrak's roster presently repainted into Phase 3. The train stopped in Philadelphia. We departed and crossed into the state of Delaware. Outside of Wilmington, I filmed Amtrak's Bear, Delaware shops. I noticed stored P40 #828 in the Phase 4 livery, a retired HHP-8 and some retired AEM-7 electrics. A few weeks from now, Amtrak is planning a farewell to the AEM-7 excursion from Washington DC to Philadelphia and back. I won't be able to attend because it's too close to this trip. Maybe if I had made the train last year, I would have.
South of Wilmington, we passed some old Heritage baggage cars on a siding. I decided to go to the cafe car for a snack. The dining car began service. At one point, I saw a yard with some Amtrak MHC cars. Several minutes later, we passed a carnival. We also passed a freight yard on the left side of the train that had a boxcar on its side, but I was unable to photograph it. I did photograph a Norfolk Southern hi-nose Geep. We passed through a tunnel and stopped in Baltimore a few minutes later. It was raining out.
A couple MARC commuter trains pulled in led by HHP-8s. Train #19 departed and stopped a minute later. We were soon underway again. We passed through another tunnel. After we left the tunnel, I filmed an Acela Express as it passed.
Amtrak's northbound Palmetto passed, but I was unable to film it. The rain appeared to have stopped so hopefully it wouldn't be raining when the train arrived in Manassas.
The train passed through New Carrollton non stop. We were getting close to Washington DC.
When we passed the Amtrak yard in Washington, I saw P42 #42; the Veterans unit which participated at Streamliners at Spencer; just before #611's restoration began. As we pulled into Union Station, I saw it was still raining. We soon stopped.
Despite the rail, I got off and took some photographs.
I saw Amtrak switcher #533 pulling in with three Amfleet 1 coaches. I photographed that movement.
#533 was removed from the train. I went as close as I thought was safe to the front of the train. Between the baggage car and the Viewliner sleepers was an Amfleet 2 coach. It was being used as Business Class; a service recently started on the Crescent. However, I'm not sure how it differed from the Amfleet 2 coaches in coach class which are identical. I then photographed the baggage car again.
I also photographed P42s #189 and #120 which were on the track next to us. I figured they would be the diesels that would lead the train south of Washington. I would turn out to be right. #189 had an ad promoting the Heartland Flyer in Oklahoma. That unit was obviously far from Oklahoma.
ACS-64 #633 which had led the train from New York was removed and moved light to a few tracks over and was parked with three sister locomotives. I filmed #633 passing and photographed it and a private car.
Meanwhile, #189 and #120 were moved and coupled up to the train. I attempted to film and photograph the coupling move.
I then walked back to my coach and took one more photo of the Amfleet 1 coaches switcher #533 brought.
I got back on the train. HEP was restored a few minutes later. Meanwhile, ACS-64 #603 was moved and coupled up to the three Amfleet 1 coaches.
A Regional train pulled in on the track next to us. However, at our scheduled departure time of 6:30, the train didn't leave. The Amtrak crew made an inaudible announcement about the delay.
Another Regional train pulled in on the track to our left. The sun started coming out so this delay MIGHT have been good for something. Train #19 finally departed Washington 26 minutes late.
We were traveling slowly. So slowly, a CSX freight began overtaking us. I could see Washington National Airport at one point; where I will hopefully take off from on Tuesday. I saw a few planes waiting to take off.
We finally picked up speed that we were moving faster than the freight train. However, it would be short lived as we slowed.
Amtrak train #80 passed, but I was unable to film it. We began speeding up and overtaking the freight. At one point, I saw a rainbow. The freight pulled ahead again as we slowed for our stop in Alexandria. When we stopped, the last car of the freight passed. A southbound Amtrak Regional pulled into Alexandria on the track next to us. Train #19 departed 37 minutes late. I filmed the regional train on the track next to us as we departed.
We passed a Norfolk Southern local freight. We were soon in a forest. I figured we were getting close to Manassas. I readied my stuff in preparation to get off.
We overtook a Virginia Railway Express commuter train. A few minutes later, we arrived into Manassas 40 minutes late. I got off and photographed the train.
I then filmed the train departing. In the distance, I could see #611 and its train. I photographed a caboose and two freight cars across the street from the station.
A few minutes later, the commuter train we overtook pulled in. I photographed it.
I thought my hotel was closer to the station than it actually was. It took me over an hour, but part of the time, I stopped to have dinner at a McDonald's. I finally arrived and checked in. I then phoned a cab and arranged for a taxi to take me to the station tomorrow. I also worked on this report some more.
After a little while, I went to a grocery store and bought some milk. I set the alarm on my phone for 5:55 am and soon called it a night.
Click here to read about my weekend riding and watching the #611: N&W 611 excursion 2016 part 2