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Sandusky To Elyria On The Pennsylvanian

Sandusky To Elyria, Ohio On Amtrak's Pennsylvanian
Saturday, August 25th, 2001

   Today I needed an excuse to get out and take a ride on Amtrak while I was out here working at Cedar Point. I had been given a gift card for my birthday from my Parents to my favorite Electronics store, Best Buy, so I figured that since the closest one to Sandusky was in Elyria, and that Amtrak stopped there, then I would ride Amtrak, and spend the day in Elyria. I made reservations 2 nights prior with Amtrak and was given the necessary information to ride the train and pay the conductor onboard since both Sandusky and Elyria Stations are not staffed. I was to give both my reservation number and protect code numbers to the conductor and pay him when I boarded the train. There was some confusion on my part as to how this whole system worked, but the conductor explained everything and I paid the conductor and the quick 33 minute trip ran smoothly. First, I boarded in Sandusky on Train #44, the Pennsylvanian, which other than the Lake Shore Limited, is the only train that stops in Sandusky. (The Capitol Limited does travel past the Sandusky Station but doesn't stop there). The photo above shows the train arriving in Sandusky behind P42DC #55. This train has a rather unique consist (at least I've never seen something like this before). First, it almost always has 2 P42's for power, then it consists of maybe 2 or 3 Material Handling Cars, followed by 1 Amfleet I Cafe Car, then 3 Horizon Fleet Coaches. The rest of the train is generally always a string of 20 road-railers!!! On some days, one of the coaches may be an Amfleet II coach in place of one of the Horizons, but generally there's not much deviation from that consist.
   Today, I boarded Horizon Fleet Coach #54541. This was the first time I had rode in one of these coaches since 1996 when I rode in one on the Lake Shore. It turns out that Amtrak took a bunch of these coaches, which were initially designed to be 82 seat commuter coaches, and refurbished them into 60 seat long-distance coaches. The car I rode in in 1996 was still in its commuter configuration and the seats were very close together and had no foot rests. All I can say is what a difference a refurb job makes! Now in their long-distance configuration, the coaches have foot rests in front of each seat, the seats are padded a little more, making them that much more comfortable, and they recline nicely. The car was decorated with an updated decor and had digital display boards on each end of the car telling you where the bathroom and cafe car were located. The trip to Elyria was short, as I said before, only just over a half hour but like most all Amtrak trips I've taken in the past, it was a decent trip nonetheless. In the photo to the right, you'll see the Amtrak Station in Elyria, nothing more than a prefabricated garden shed, its very small and only consists of a waiting room, and 2 bathrooms. The station isn't staffed so if you need Amtrak info, there is a pay phone outside. I found out that a group of local railfans take care of the building for Elyria, which is nice. This station is served by the Pennsylvanian as well as the Lake Shore Limited and is located around 30 miles west of Cleveland. Shortly after I took this slide, I proceeded to head to Best Buy, although I've never been to this area before, so I had to do some exploring in order to get to the Midway Mall (where Best Buy is located).
   I did download some maps the night before that told me I was no more than a couple miles from the mall, so I figured I would walk, I was given some vague directions by a gas station attendant once I got there and ended up going on a wild goose chase in 85 degree air in order to find the place!!! First, I walked a good mile and a half only to find out that the "highway" the gas station attendant told me to take, was a 4 lane DIVIDED highway with a nice "Pedestrians and Bicycles Prohibited" sign so that basically meant I couldn't walk down the highway, which was Rte. 57 for anyone who lives in that area. I ended up walking back about a half a mile to a gas station where I got a taxi to take me to the mall, it turns out I was less than 1 mile from the mall when I arrived at the "highway" by walking! Anyways, I made it to Best Buy and picked up the CD Player I wanted (Thanks Mom & Dad for the gift card!!!) and took another taxi back to the Amtrak Station. I had another hour before my train arrived and a quick call to Amtrak told me that it was on time, but its last update was out of Pittsburgh shortly after 2pm, so I figured better to be early than late, and I hung out at the station for an hour, among the freights that came by were this NS freight pictured to the left, with C40-9W #9154 leading at 7:04pm. I had a nice chat with Paul Duda who was there videotaping the trains. If you plan on railfanning in this area, the best views later in the day are of westbounds as you have the advantage of the sun being behind you, eastbounds are good to photograph in the morning hours. NS controls this section of the Chicago line up to Milepost 181 where CSX takes over. Not too far east of this location is Berea where the large interlocking tower still stands and the old Conrail Big 4 Line connects with the Chicago Line. NS controls this area where CSX freights head down the Big 4 to Greenwich, Ohio where they connect with the CSX line to Chicago, the line CSX double-tracked back in 1998 in anticipation of increased freight traffic after their takeover of their portion of Conrail.
   By 7:22pm, my train, #43, the Chicago-bound Pennsylvanian arrived in Elyria running 46 minutes late. This time, the train had a new P42, #150 leading with its usual consist, but this train had at least 1 Amfleet II Coach included with 2 Horizon Coaches, I rode in Horizon Coach #54527, and the 34 minute ride back to Sandusky ran smoothly.
   For the day, it was a good one, I just wish I would have done my homework a little more in finding my way to Best Buy, but all in all, a decent day on 2 nice Amtrak trains. This was my first experience riding these trains, which run every day between Chicago and Philadelphia. I do recommend that you try to buy your tickets ahead of time from a travel agent or through Amtrak's web site so as to save any confusion once you board the train. Until my next trip, where I hope to travel to Cleveland, Happy Railfanning...