The only touring I was able to do was on foot on my own because most of the tours had already finished for the day. The tours beginning this morning, even the 2-hour bus tours didn't begin until 10 AM! I should have spent an entire day and two nights in New York City but my schedule is very tight. I had fun, though cautious, watching and walking with the people on the streets of New York City. I didn't venture too far away--about six blocks in each direction. For dinner I ate at a place called "Tad's Steaks" which was pretty good, but expensive! You had to think fast when ordering and listen carefully to what the clerk asked. I've never heard people talk so rapidly and bluntly. If you didn't understand them, they would get nasty if they had to repeat themselves. The people in front of me got practically yelled at because their English was not too good. I woke up late, about 8:AM so I decided to skip breakfast at "Dunk 'n Donuts" across the street. I heard their coffee was superb there.
I went immediately to the Metropolitan Lounge when I arrived at Penn Station. I was an hour early so I dropped off my luggage and hit the streets again to see if I can get a photo of the Empire State Building. My big fluffy down jacket concealed my 35mm SLR camera quite nicely. If I saw a photo opportunity, I was going to take it out quickly, shoot the photo, stash the camera and move on. The weather was not good and the top half of the Empire State Building was in the clouds! With that photo shoot a bust, I went back to Penn Station and relaxed in the Metropolitan lounge. Oops, I forgot to mail two postcards I wrote! Just as I remembered forgetting to mail the postcards, an announcement came over the P.A. that it was time to board my train! I frantically looked around for a mailbox so the postcards would at least have a New York City postmark! Time was running out so I had to abandon the mailbox search. I knew from a previous visit that there was a mailbox in front of the Jacksonville, FL station. It looks like I might get home before my postcards arrive.
My car attendant, Johnny, greeted me at the door and instructed me where to find my room. In my Viewliner Standard Bedroom there were two Silver Service train schedules, coat hangers, Passenger Safety Card and three magazines: Car and Driver, Golf Digest and Nation's Business. I wonder if they are mine to keep or do I leave them in the room for the next passenger? I will take Car and Driver for there are a few articles I wish to read on the next train and during my wait in Orlando. The reading lights seem to be missing the magnification lense that directs the light beam precisely. Maybe it's designed like this but it seems like not enough light will be sufficient for reading. The light opposite me is the same. I should try another room and see if its lights are like these. I can always use the lights above and behind my seat.
Johnny came by and handed me a Silver Service gift pack which included: shower cap, Shampoo, Lotion, toothpaste, toothbrush, mouthwash and Pear Nectar soap. A very loud raspy buzz has begun over the P.A. speakers. I believe this too was mentioned in another travelogue and that only by completely shutting off the P.A. in the entire car can the noise be silenced. The buzz would go for maybe a minute and silence for two, and so on. This went on for about 10 minutes before it finally stopped for good. P.A. announcements continued to come through with no further buzzing, so the problem must have been fixed.
Amtrak owns the tracks from Boston to Washington DC and locomotives are electrically powered by 7000 horsepower AEM7s, 6000 horsepower E60MAs and on occasion, FL9As. There are three parallel tracks that run the entire length between New York City to Washington DC. We ran on the west track, reserved for regular speed trains and the East and center tracks were reserved for the high-speed Metroliners. With a Metroliner train running every hour, we would meet one traveling in the opposite direction every half hour. We were only overtaken once by a Metroliner traveling in the same direction though. On this train was a passenger that had missed the train in New York City! She rode a Metroliner to Washington DC to get ahead of the Silver Star. I ate with her at dinner.
The Onboard Services Chief is Jack Hammill and he presented me with a meal voucher for the dining car. I thought they did away with those meal vouchers and it was up to the dining car staff to keep a watchful eye out to see who comes in from where (coach passengers from the rear, sleeping car passengers from the front).
We arrived in Newark 10 minutes early and I thought it was a good time to get a train consist. I started walking briskly to the front of the train when I heard someone yell at me. I couldn't understand what he was saying and I turned around to see who it was. It was an Oriental man dressed in an overcoat and I remember seeing him around the train in New York City. I think he was the car attendant in the sleeper behind mine. He motioned me to get back on the train and then he turned around to talk to some people standing next to him. I was going to ignore him and keep walking but I remembered that this stop was to receive passengers only and the doors would be closing to the sleepers once the people were on board. I then went over to get a closer look at him and re-board as he motioned. He said nothing and didn't even make eye contact. He was the car attendant in the car behind mine it turned out. In the Viewliner sleeping cars, only one end of the car has an exit door on both sides. They had these cars arranged so that the exit doors to each car were together in one vestibule. Only one door was open for both cars and since all passengers who were boarding at Newark had boarded, the car attendant wanted to close up. The train didn't actually depart for 10 minutes so there would have been plenty of time. I just don't like being yelled at when I want to do something! Worst case scenario was I would have had to run down to the Coaches to get back on.
In my observations, the attitude of this crew in is not so good and they don't seem to like dealing with the passengers. My car attendant, Jonny is nice enough but he isn't going out of his way to please. He has NO coffee for us in this car because his "stuff" didn't get put on because he came from another train. Sounds like Amtrak or Johnny forgot his supplies. Jonny did say to go back to the sleeper car behind us of us and get coffee from there. I didn't like that car attendant and I think he does have a bad attitude! Not for yelling at me but I've seen him short with a couple of people getting on at Richmond, VA.
Tonight's dinner was good, all served on Amtrak china, including the glasses for beverages. I had the Neptune Fantasy which was fried shrimp, crab patties, Cole slaw and corn on the cob. A dinner salad was included and I had a diet cola to wash it all down. They did have desert available and I had the special pie called "Keyshore." It has something to do with the Florida Keys. It was a lemon custard on top of a graham cracker crumb crust. Delicious! Too bad they don't have what I really wanted: the chocolate cake with peanut butter in the middle.
At 10 PM I went back SIX cars to the Coaches so I could get off the train in Raleigh to meet my half sister, who said she would meet the train. We pulled into Raleigh at 10:09 PM, 10 minutes early so that would make for a nice visit. In short, she didn't show because she forgot what day I was coming through! I told her three times and even wrote it on a piece of paper for her. I didn't have her phone number or I would have called her. We saw each other a few days before I left on my trip so it was no big deal that we missed each other. I thought it would have been fun for her to meet me at the train and then see me off, all in the span of 10 minutes!
I got up at 6:45 AM and headed down to the dining car for breakfast. The man I sat with was going to Winter Park, FL, and gave me some suggestions for things to do in Orlando. My first choice was out of the question--travel to the Epcot Center! I was told that it takes a day just to see it.
Here in Jacksonville, I immediately noticed the station re-modeling that was done since my last visit two years ago. Very well done. On the track next to us were freight car wheel truck assemblies. I don't know if they were going to assemble freight cars or road railers but I took several photos of them. The morning light was perfect for a head end shot so I ran up there where another man was shooting photos. He asked me to take a photo of him with his camera and I did the same. He did take a photo of me and it came out perfect. The last time I had someone take a photo with my camera, they couldn't get it to work. Actually, it was my old point 'n shoot model. I had this camera set in "Manual" mode already focused so the shutter would release when the button was pushed. If the camera is in auto-focus mode, then the shutter release button must be depressed half way and held until the "in-focus" LED glows solid green. That indicates that the image is in focus and ready to be photographed. Most people are in a hurry and don't want to be bothered with that, especially if they aren't familiar with the camera. When I photographed the man with his camera, I set mine up so he would only have to push the button when he used mine. Since the photo came out well, I might make it a Christmas card next year!
Generous schedule padding between Orlando and Winter park helped the train make up 17 minutes. After getting off the train, I dashed up to the head end with baggage in tow and photographed the locomotives and consist. It was a beautiful day and the lighting was perfect for photos too. Next I explored the Orlando station inside and out. What a beautiful old station! It's white inside and out and the architecture reminds me of the Santa Barbara depot. I took several photographs of it with and without trains in the foreground.
The Orlando Amtrak station does not have luggage lockers, but there is a baggage attendant that has his "desk" outside of the station to the north side of the platform. Actually, his desk is a rolling luggage platform that has boxes of destination tags and baggage supplies, etc. I took my camera out and had the attendant store my bags for the next six hours that I would be there. There were NO bus schedules in the station either! I walked outside and a cab driver approached me and asked me where I wanted to go. My reply: "To the bus stop over there." With no information about the bus route going past the depot, I waited for 45 minutes before a bus came and the fare was 85 cents to ride it into town. The center of Orlando was only a couple of miles away, but I didn't feel like making the hike both ways. There was nothing to see along the way, mainly businesses and industry.Just before we arrived in Orlando, I saw a steam locomotive and a few cars attached to it including a dome car. I had to return and photograph it. It was surprisingly cold for Orlando. I expected it to be in the mid 70s but it was no more than 61 degrees with a stiff cold breeze from the north. The wind chill made it seem like 45 so I'm glad I had my thick coat, which has sprung a leak! On occasion I will see a tiny goose feather floating about when I pick up my jacket. Along the way, I picked up a couple of postcards and mailed them to relatives. I will probably beat my postcards home! I ate a late lunch at a place called UNO Restaurant and Pizzeria where I had an individual-sized pepperoni pizza.