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Washington, DC

Adventurers in New England

Chapter Twenty-Four

Train Ride from Norfolk to Washington D.C.

Northeast Regional  # 174

U.S. Capital, Mall, American History Museum, Jefferson Memorial

Washington, DC

Overnight on sleeping car to New Orleans

Amtrak Crescent # 19


Robin Bowers

July 1, 2015


Text and Photos by Author
The author retains all rights. No reproductions are allowed without the author's consent.

Comments are appreciated at...

    It was deep in the dark of night that Chris and I escaped the warmth and comfort of our room at the Tazewell.  Our taxi took us the short distance to the Norfolk Amtrak station, next to Harbor Park. If the Tide had been running at this damn awful time, we would have taken it.


# 174 ready for on schedule departure at 5:00 AM.

      Chris has planned our departure from Norfolk by a different route than how we arrived, all of which were new to me. Rather than going back across the bay, we would go inland and around the water. Our first stop would be Petersburg, about 30 minutes from Richmond. From Richmond to DC we would be traveling on previous tracks covered on Monday. Train # 174 runs Monday to Friday leaving at 5:00am and #88 runs Saturday and Sunday with a 6:15am departure. These are the only two trains serving Norfolk, however, there are also two bus departures. We boarded and found our seats. All the passengers quietly boarded and settled in for some quiet time in the dimly-lit car. We were pleased that the Wi-Fi worked so we could get on the computer during this trip.


    Petersburg began in 1645 as Fort Henry, a frontier fort and trading post. In 1781 a British force under Generals William Phillips and Benedict Arnold marched on the town, which was inadequately garrisoned by 1,000 men under Maj. Gen. Friedrich Von Steuben. After a short skirmish to cover his retreat, von Steuben withdrew across Pocahontas Bridge, burning it behind him.
    The 2,659-acre Petersburg National Battlefield two miles east of Petersburg was established to preserve and interpret the battlefields where ten months of grim trench warfare sapped the strength of Gen. Robert E. Lee's Confederate Army and led to the fall of Richmond. Petersburg was an important point through which supplies moved to Richmond, as five railroads converged at Petersburg with only one line leading to the capital city.

    Chris finished up the Amtrak system as we came onto the CSX mainline in Petersburg, Virginia and I took pictures with his camera as he did it.


Some of the many area's waterways.


James River.




At Richmond station.



Richmond, VA, Staples Mill Road Station.


My country home with white picket fence.


    This turn-of-the-20th-century railroad town originally was developed as a resort for Richmond residents. Later, the growing village assumed the name of a Kentucky estate belonging to Henry Clay, a statesman born nearby. When the railroad company gave land to the Methodist Church in 1866, the church moved its Randolph-Macon College to Ashland.







Auto train after its arrival from Sanford, FL in Lorton, VA.



Alexandria, VA.


The George Washington Masonic National Memorial.

    The 333-foot-tall landmark was inspired by the ancient lighthouse at Alexandria, Egypt. The Replica Room contains original furnishings of Alexandria Lodge No. 22, the lodge in Alexandria over which Washington was the first Worshipful Master under Virginia charter.

    If you are ever in the Alexandria area, please stop and visit here. I found my visit educational with such relics as a Washington family Bible, and a introduction to the symbols and allegory of the fraternal organization. Exhibits include The Family of Freemasonry, which explains the diverse world of the Masonic fraternity.

District of Columbia


Washington Monument.


L'Enfant Plaza Metro stop.

    The task of designing the republic's permanent capital fell upon French-born architect Pierre-Charles L'Enfant in 1791. His vision included two focal points: the Capitol and the President's Mansion. He placed these structures just far enough from each other to reinforce the separation of powers between the legislative and executive branches of government.



After our arrival in Union Station DC., I saw my first new baggage car.


Food Court on bottom floor of  Union Station.


Main floor with Amtrak ticket sales and boarding areas. Top floor has shops and restaurants.


    Built in 1907 during the heyday of railway travel, the Beaux Arts-style Union Station served as the gateway to Washington. Inspired by ancient Roman baths and triumphal arches, architect Daniel Burnham designed the station's main hall, distinguished by a 96-foot-tall barrel-vaulted ceiling made up of recessed, gilded panels. Statues adorn both the exterior and interior; a few of the 46 Roman legionnaires encircling the main hall were redesigned due to concern that their skimpy uniforms might scandalize passengers.


    It was a little after 10:00am when Chris and I checked our bags in the ClubAcela. This service at the private lounges is great for leaving your luggage while occupying your time between trains. I wanted to see the Mall and some museums while Chris wrote his stories in the lounge as he waited for his train.. Tonight we would go our separate ways after three weeks of traveling. He was going home via Chicago then the California Zephyr. His Capitol Limited departs at 4:05pm with arrival in Chicago at 8:45am.

     I am taking the southern route home. The Crescent to New Orleans departs here at 6:30pm with arrival tomorrow night at 7:30pm. then a Fourth of July weekend lay over, after which will be my last train train ride - to home. I will be taking the Sunset Limited from end point to end point. This will be my first time on both trains and all new trackage for me.

    After having decided that I need to return to the station by 6:00pm, I left the station and walked across Columbus circle to the US Capital. 


Outside Union Station.



A 1912 monument to Christopher Columbus made up of three flagpoles, a semicircular fountain and a 15-foot statue of the explorer, who faces the Capitol.


    After crossing Columbus circle, I walked down 1st Street approaching the Capital. The north side is the Senate's hood with its office buildings. The south side is overseen by the House gang. The west side is used for the inauguration ceremonies and the east side faces the Supreme Court and Library of Congress.


East side with Senate building nearest.

    Although the United States Capitol is not located at the geographical center of Washington, D.C., it is the origin point where the District's four quadrants meet. Pierre Charles L'Enfant's plan for the new federal city called for an inspiring domed structure atop Jenkins Hill - or as the French-born architect and engineer referred to it in 1791, "a pedestal waiting for a monument."

    The quadrant initials - N.W., N.E., S.W., and S.E. - are an integral part of any Washington address; they determine which of four possible location is correct.


Senate building east side.


Statue of Freedom.


East side.

    The site for the seat of the federal government was selected by George Washington and Pierre L'Enfant; Washington laid the cornerstone on Sept 18, 1793. This monumental building - based on Dr. William Thornton's 1792 design with revisions and expansions by subsequent architects over a 200-year period- is 751 feet long and 350 feet wide at its widest point. It contains approximately 540 rooms. The 19.5-foot-tall Statue of Freedom is located atop the cast-iron dome.



    Supreme Court Building is at 1 1st St. N. E. between Maryland Ave. and E. Capital St. N.E., facing the Capitol. The country's highest judicial body holds its sessions at this imposing white marble edifice, anchored by lofty Corinthian columns. Although the Supreme Court began hearing cases as early as 1790, the building, design by noted architect Cass Gilbert, was not completed until 1935; prior to that the court sat in various locations.

    Inscribed over the entrance is the court's statement of purpose: "Equal Justice Under Law." Panels on the massive bronze doors depict the history of the development of law. All sessions are open to the public; seating is on a first-come, first-served basis. I have had several meals at the lunchroom located in the building. The seated female figure to the left is titled "Contemplation of Justice," while the male counterpart opposite her is called "Guardian of Law."


View from steps of Supreme Court on 1 st. Street.

    Leaving the Capital grounds, I cross 1st St. to the Supreme Court side and walk down it to the Library of Congress at 1st and Independence Av.


A beautiful fountain along1st Street features the Roman god Neptune and his court greets you at the Jefferson Building.

    Library of Congress is across from the United States Capitol at Independence Ave. and 1st St. S.E. All told, the collections housed in this three-building complex number more than 160 million items, including more than 37 million books and other printed materials; millions of manuscripts; and voluminous collections of maps, prints, photographs, musical scores, recordings, newspapers and the papers of 23 U.S. presidents.

    The library's beginnings were humble in comparison; it was founded in 1800 to serve the needs of congressional members, and the small collection of books was housed in the United States Capitol. Thomas Jefferson's personal collection of nearly 6,500 volumes, now displayed in Thomas Jefferson Building, was purchased by Congress after the original collection was destroyed when British troops burned the city in 1814. It formed the basis on what was to become the national library.

    James Madison Memorial Building, at 101 Independence Ave. S.E. across from the Thomas Jefferson Building, is one of three buildings comprising the Library of Congress. Opened in 1980, it is contemporary in design and contains reading rooms. Two areas, the Performing Arts Gallery and the Geography and Map Corridor, have rotating exhibitions. On the top floor is a lunchroom with views looking southwest towards the Navy Yard, the Potomac River and Washington National Airport. I have dined there several times during my visits.

    John Adams Building, e. of the Thomas Jefferson Building on 2nd St. S.E. at Independence Ave. S.E., is one of three buildings comprising the Library of Congress. This 1939 Art Deco edifice offers a general business and science reading room that is open to researchers only.



Framed by circular windows are the busts of nine important authors.

        The first of the three to open in (in 1897), the Jefferson Building also stands out for its richly ornamental Italian Renaissance architecture. The octagonal Main Reading Room is visually stunning, a feast of elaborately painted vaulting, sculptures, paintings, murals and mosaics. Walk-in visitors can view the room from the Visitors Gallery. It is definitely worth a stop just to view the room.

    Passing the Jefferson Building, I turned right and headed west on Independence Ave to my next stop. It was after a few visits to D.C., that I had my first encounter with this sweet gem and now I try to visit on every trip. If you need a few minutes of peace and quite, come to this secret place.


    United States Botanic Garden is at 100 Maryland Ave. S.W. on the w. side of the Capitol between Maryland and Independence Aves. S.W. Open to the public since 1850, it celebrates plants as living things that not only display an incredible range of beauty but provide livelihood and meaning to cultures around the world. Better yet, this is a wonderfully relaxing change of pace from D.C.'s hustle and bustle.


    The National Garden, adjoining the Conservatory, is an outdoor garden that's at its best in the summer. The First Ladies Water Garden is a beautiful place to sit by a fountain and relax. The national flower is saluted at the Rose Garden; plants in the Butterfly Garden attract you know what.


The Regional Garden, above, features species native to the Mid-Atlantic region, which has an uncommonly rich variety of the flora due to its location between colder and warmer sections of the country.


The Rose Garden is an ongoing experiment, showcasing roses that thrive in the Mid-Atlantic when grown using organic methods.


Bromeliaceae, Ananas Comosus, pineapple, South America.


    The glass-walled Conservatory is the garden's indoor facility. Enter into the Garden Court, an oasis of lush greenery, exotic flowers and two skinny reflecting pools, with wooden benches where you can sit for a spell. Most of the Conservatory is given over to lofty palms, hardwood trees and foliage plants luxuriating in a climate-controlled environment. Climb up the Canopy Walk, a metal stairway that offers various bird's-eye perspectives of the tropical habitat.













    Another place I like to visit when time permits is Bartholdi Park which is directly across Independence Ave. S.W. from the United States Botanic Garden Conservatory. This two acre demonstration garden showcases innovative plant combinations in a variety of styles and design themes. The plantings, at their peak of color and lushness during the summer months, are constantly updated to spotlight new varieties, design trends and garden maintenance.

    The Fountain of Light and Water is the park's lovely highlight. It is also called the Bartholdi Fountain in honor of Frederic Auguste Bartholdi, the French sculptor famous for designing the Statue of Liberty; he created the historic, black cast-iron fountain standing at its center for the 1876 Centennial Exposition in Philadelphia. Energy-efficient globe lights come on at sunset, illuminating the fountain and casting a soft glow.

    After finishing my tour I exited the Conservatory and saw the West side of the Capital. From here I passed the National Museum of the American Indian and continued walking down Jefferson Dr. beside the Mall.


West side of Capital where the inaugurations are held overlooking the Mall.



    National Museum of the American Indian is on the National Mall at 4th St. and Independence Ave. S.W. between the National Air and Space Museum and the United States Botanic Garden. This Smithsonian museum is one of three facilities - the others are in New York and Maryland - presenting the art, customs and history of the Western Hemisphere's Native people.

    The curvilinear building of Kasota buff-colored limestone simulates natural rock formations sculpted over time by wind and water. Design features such as a prism window to mark the solstices and an entrance facing east toward the morning sun are representative on Native cultures.




The Mall as I have never seen it.




Taken from 14th Street.

    The Washington Monument grounds divide the Mall into two distinct sections. To the east are the United States Capitol, the United States Botanic Garden and Smithsonian museums. To the west are the Lincoln, Vietnam, Korean War Veterans and World War II memorials,  Constitution Gardens and the Reflecting Pool. The distance between the steps of the Lincoln Memorial and the Capitol building is approximately 2 miles. The Mall is the dividing line between D.C.'s Northwest and Southwest quadrants and is divided into two separate sections by 14th Street.

    This was my destination as my next stop was across the corner, a stop I always try to make on every visit to the District. After my first visit I was hooked.

New museum under construction.



National Museum of African American History & Culture.


    National Museum of American History is on Constitution Ave. between 12th and 14sts. N.W. It presents the cultural, social, technological and political development of the United States.


    Ground floor windows are the location of the museum's cafeteria, Stars & Stripes Cafe where I like to eat when in this part of the city.

Going thru security was easy and I then went all over to see old standbys and the new additions.


Building a Lego flag.


Simulators for pay and play.




    It was getting close to 1 pm and I was ready for lunch so I went downstairs to the Stars & Stripes Cafe and dined on a BBQ Pulled Pork sandwich with a drink. Afterwards, with a full tummy I was ready to explore America's Attic.   






    FOOD: Transforming the American Table 1950-2000 offers visitors a look at the stage where one of the world's best-known cooks worked her culinary magic; "French Chef" Julia Child donated the kitchen from her Cambridge, Massachusetts home to the museum.

































Los Angeles and Long Beach ports are located in lower left. My home is about 3 inches from the water in center of picture.




These glass-fronted cases are filled with rotating displays that highlight objects and new acquisitions from the museum's vast collections.


    After three hours of looking, reading and picture taking, it was near 4 pm and I was ready to move on. Exiting on Constitution Ave. I walked up to 12th St turned right and headed to Madison Dr. At Madison Dr. NW and 12th St I came across a really great find. It was stop # 4 for a new bus service called DC Circulator National Mall Service. The route starts at Union Station goes down the Mall and then over to the Tidal Basin around the Lincoln Memorial and then return via the Mall to Union Station. I could have used this service on past visits and is great for seeing different museums and sites not located next to each other. They run every ten minutes with $1.00 fare, Senior: 50 cents. This bus route is a new service started about three weeks ago. I boarded the next bus, paid my $.50 and rode to stop # 7 the Thomas Jefferson Memorial. I still had two hours before being back at Union Station and by using this bus I received bonus time to visit a place I've only seen from a far.


Inside you will find venerable historic items like the Star-Spangled Banner, a compass used by explorers Lewis and Clark and Cold War-era submarines, as well as pop culture mementos like Dorothy's ruby slippers from "The Wizard of Oz." Another highlight is the collection of first ladies gowns.

Thomas Jefferson Memorial



Looking out over the Tidal Basin to the MLK, Jr Memorial.


Plane on approach to Washington National Airport.


Shoreline of the Tidal Basin.



    Thomas Jefferson Memorial stands on s.e. bank of the Tidal Basin. It honors the country's third president, the author of the Declaration of Independence and the founder of the University of Virginia. During his two terms as president, Jefferson negotiated the 1803 Louisiana Purchase, which nearly doubled the size of the United States, and sponsored the monumental expedition of Meriwether Lewis and William Clark to the Pacific Northwest, which paved the way for 19th century westward expansion.

    A grand series of steps leads to the portico the opens into the rotunda, where a circular dome is supported by Ionic columns. Designed by John Russell Pope, the memorial was modeled on the Pantheon in Rome. The focal point of the interior space is Rudolph Evans' 19-foot-tall bronze statue of Jefferson, clad in a long, open coat over a button-down vest. Panels on the white marble walls are inscribed with some of most significant writings.

     In November 1939 President Franklin D. Roosevelt laid the cornerstone for the memorial, and he dedicated it on Apr. 13, 1943, the 200th anniversary of Jefferson's birth. A plaster model  of the statesman's likeness stood in place of the bronze statue until metal restrictions were lifted after World War II. The memorial's beauty is enhanced in late March or early April, when the Yoshino cherry trees lining the Tidal Basin are swathed in clouds of pale pink blossoms; during these few days there may be no lovelier spot.







Potomac River.


Airport is close by.



Water fun on the Tidal Basin.



    After about one hour I took the next bus back to Union Station. The bus went on Ohio Dr. along the Potomac to the next stop # 8; the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial/ Franklin Delano Roosevelt Memorial.



We pass the Arlington Memorial Bridge and then stop # 9 at Lincoln Memorial.


    After turning on to Constitution Ave. we hit big city rush hour traffic where it doesn't move in either direction. The minutes were steadily getting closer to 6 pm but we were not getting closer to Union Station. Now I was getting worried about being late. Plan A stay on bus. Plan B get off and walk. Walking should take 30 minutes. Will the bus get there in under 30 minutes? I opted for the bus and hoped the traffic would break up soon so I could arrive on schedule. 



View from Constitution Ave of The Ellipse and the White House.

We turned down 15th St and then turned again to go up Jefferson Dr. toward the Capital and then Louisiana Ave to Union Station and the walk across Columbus Circle to the station. After arriving I proceeded to the Amtrak counter and found out that my train was over two hours LATE. Well that was a unnecessary worry about getting back on time. Lesson: Call Julie and get up-to-date information on your train status and save some worry.


    Now with extra wait time I roamed the station and went into several shops. I stopped in a liquor store and bought a fine bottle of rum and six-pack of Pepsi for a night cap later in my room and maybe a cocktail tomorrow while riding the rails.


    I returned to ClubAcela, repacked my luggage and then waited. In the few private lounges that I have been in, this one is in the top range. Just to have the quiet from the main waiting area is worth it, plus soft drinks and snacks too. And baggage storage is a treat. About 8:15pm we were led to train 19, the Crescent and car 1910, room 3. After boarding and getting settled in, we were told to proceed to the dining car for our late dinner.


  Dining car on the Crescent where I had the Salmon which was very good.

    Afterwards I returned to my room and prepared to spend my first night in the Viewliner Roomettes with a non-enclosed toilet and wash basin. Upon waking tomorrow I should be in the state of Georgia.

   Tomorrow - Riding the Crescent through the south.

Return to last Chapter Twenty-three - Day in Norfolk

Robin's trips

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Text and Photos by Author

The author retains all rights. No reproductions are allowed without the author's consent.

Comments are appreciated at...